I Think It’s Getting Better?

Just a few days ago I wrote to y’all about my anxiety, my frustration and my helplessness. Since I began therapy a year ago, I’ve been trying to not compartmentalize my emotions as much and instead attempt to actually feel them and deal with them at the moment they happen. Well that turned out to be a mess! As I told a friend today, it’s like I’m trying to stop a waterfall with my hands. Every feeling and thought overwhelms me until I feel like I’m drowning.

So I began my extra anti-anxiety/depressant med a few days ago. I truly felt like a zombie the next day and ate a lot of sugar and salt throughout the day just to function (and comfort). But Thursday was a little better. I got to talk with my sister and a few friends and it was doable.

And today? Today was pretty ok. I didn’t go to work but had a meeting via Zoom. I got to laugh with some of my colleagues, ask questions, offer a little assistance, and generally felt good when it was over. I felt…worthy, competent, maybe appreciated in a weird way? Then I had to race to my appointments at the hospital, tests to have done before my distal pancreatectomy in June. The tests were not horribly unpleasant, but I wasn’t able to drink coffee or eat until 3pm, so I was a little fuzzy. It did remind me of what it feels like to have pancreatitis again, though, and not being able to eat or drink coffee and having your brain be foggy and just wanting to eat absolutely anything. I started to think about the upcoming surgery (and knowing I won’t be able to eat for several days then) and decided I just couldn’t. Back to stuffing shit into my brain boxes so I don’t have to deal with it!

As soon as my CT scan was done, I decided to go directly to the hospital cafeteria for coffee and a gluten-free blueberry muffin (which are especially delicious when you haven’t eaten in 20 hours). Normally I immediately leave the hospital after any kind of appointment. I’ve been there so much in the past few years for myself and my family that I don’t like to linger. I always have this feeling like if I stay for a bit, Fate will think I should stick around and something will happen to someone I love. I know. That makes no sense but my brain often doesn’t.

But…Dad died in this hospital. I’ve been thinking of him so much this past week, missing him SO much, desperately wanting to talk to him and be hugged by him again. I needed him. He’s not here. The last time I heard his voice and said he loved me was in this hospital. So today….today I lingered. I got my coffee and muffin and sat down in the eating area. I didn’t read my book or look at my phone. I just tore my muffin into bits, popped them into my mouth and washed it all down with Snickerdoodle coffee. I didn’t think of anything in particular. I didn’t think about the fact that this hospital was the last place I had a conversation with my brother, the last place I saw and touched my father, but also the place where my son was born and the place that saved my husband’s life. There is so much grief and joy for me associated with this hospital that it’s difficult to even know what I’m feeling.

So instead of trying to identify what I was feeling or thinking, I just sat. I watched a few people, but mostly I enjoyed what I was eating and drinking and concentrated on the tastes and textures. I lived in the moment. It’s something I wish I could do more.

There’s always tomorrow I suppose.

Here’s wishing all of you more times of living in the moment. ❤ Hugs to you, friends.

Worry, Concern, Apprehension

Anxiety: “The state of feeling nervous or worried that something bad is going to happen.”–Oxford Learner’s Dictionary. The Mayo Clinic defines anxiety as an “intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and feeling tired may occur.”

Have you ever had an anxiety attack? Not a panic attack–where you truly feel like you’re dying–but a sudden feeling of anxiousness and worry and maybe have trouble breathing? For the past few days, since we came back from our “vacation,” I’ve had a few of these attacks. This “vacation” was time away from home, but not nearly enough relaxing. There was a LOT of stress between the actual traveling (slept in an airport, spent 7 hours in another one) and visiting family and honestly…me being me. Trying to make everyone happy at least some of the time is what I tend to do in ALL situations–family, friends, work. And this was a visit to some family we haven’t seen in a while and I knew it was bound to be stressful but…was it really any worse than any other visit?

After arriving home (10 hours later than we were supposed to) and enjoying sleeping in my own bed again, I felt a bit off. Again, that’s to be expected. Post vacation blues are a real thing, hence my large brownie for breakfast that next morning. I spent several hours doing laundry, emptying suitcases, vacuuming, and feeling productive. Then I headed to my scheduled therapy appointment…and completely lost it.

I’ve been told that sometimes when you completely relax, emotions and memories and pain can all rise to the surface because your body and mind are no longer going at top speed. And although I didn’t get a lot of that relaxing time, I did have at least a few hours where I just swam in the sun or dozed in a dark, cool room or walked along a secluded lakeside path. But I thought about so little during those times nor did I think of much again until I sat in my therapist’s office. And even then I just FELT everything. I was completely overwhelmed with grief and confusion and loss and maybe wishing for something I can’t have?

I don’t know.

All I know is that I couldn’t leave my therapist’s office. I could not stand up. I did not know how to leave, how to take one step in front of the other and walk out her door. I was sobbing and asked her to give me an assignment because I knew if I had one thing to focus on, I could at least leave her office and get to my car. So she did, and somehow I left the building.

The next afternoon I was on my way to drop my son off at the mall when all of a sudden the noises I could hear were literally taking my breath away. The radio was on, my son was talking, his phone might have been playing something, we just passed a bunch of kids on bikes…it all became too much. I had to pull over, shut off the radio and asked him to just stop for a minute so I could breathe. I closed my eyes, took a few breaths, and I was better. He asked if I was ok, and I said not really, but would be. I cried a few miles later and we talked about how this trip, this “vacation” affected us both. The horrible traveling really got to my son, as well as the heat and possibly a bit too much visiting. 🙂 He then played us some 80s music as we continued on to the mall and we both felt immensely better.

On Sunday I had planned to run and boost up my endorphins. But a friend called and needed my husband and I, and honestly, I was glad he did. Focusing on someone else’s problems and/or pain is a great way to distract you from your own! It also resolved some issues that have lingered for nearly 30 years, so I’m grateful for that and the fact we were able to help and be there for our friend.

But today, as I drove my son to school, anxiety overwhelmed me once again. There was no music, no noise, no talking even. I didn’t need to pull over this time, but I did need to take many deep breaths and try to just focus on the road. Once I dropped my son off, I called my doctor and asked to double my antianxiety meds. (I’m currently on the lowest dose possible and have been for nearly two years.) He said I could, so tonight I’ll give it a shot and see how the next few weeks go.

I started to write this tonight to try and figure out what is going on in my brain. I don’t know if I’m much closer to any answer, but it felt good to get something out on “paper.” Although my therapy can be tremendously helpful, my secondary form of therapy, aka blogging, can also clarify situations, problems, ideas or emotions enough for me to at least carry on until I can figure things out.

So…as always…thank you for listening. If you ever feel this high level of anxiety, please reach out to get some help, ok? Even if it’s just to talk to someone for a little bit. You can always reach out to me, too. You don’t have to know me but know I can listen. I’m not a professional so please reach out to a counselor or therapist if that’s what you need, but if you need a sounding board, I’m happy to help.

Take care, all. ❤

Surviving

Today is my 3-year anniversary as the director of a small public library. I’ve worked at the library for over 16 years, but was given the gift of leading the library for the past three years. It’s no secret that I love what I do, and as much as I don’t believe in “things happen for a reason” or “soul mates” or even “destiny,” I think being a rural public librarian is the absolute perfect profession for me. Do I still dream of becoming a writer and actually making a living from it? Of course! But I know my writing isn’t good enough for that to happen, not without a lot more effort and practice and education. Right now, though, my heart is with librarianship.

As I talked to my husband today about everything that’s happened since I became director, I couldn’t help but choke back a sob. How did I make it through it all? Let me give you the timeline:

February 2019: Become director of the library. This was 2 months after my husband had been laid off. He was unemployed when I got this job. It was 18 1/2 months after my brother died. That may not seem relevant, but his life and death impact me in ways most people cannot understand.

March 2019: My funny, sweet, lovely father dies on St. Patrick’s Day.

May 2019: My husband gets a new job. Yes!

June 2019: I break my arm while walking with my son. I break it so badly that a plate and nine screws had to be implanted in my upper arm.

September 2019: My mother becomes ill and I make the choice to place her in hospice care.

October 2019: My loving, supportive, bad-ass mom dies on October 4th. She left this planet five minutes after I left her bedside.

January 2020: After the difficulties of 2019, we decide to plan a fabulous Florida vacation with a cruise.

February 2020: Husband goes into the hospital with pneumonia and the flu, then ends up on a ventilator and in a coma. Both our son and I have the flu, too, and for two weeks we wait. I answer questions from the doctors because they cannot wake him up from the comatose state they put him into. Questions about kidney failure and brain damage are thrown around. Yet on Valentine’s Day, he finally wakes up. ❤

March 2020: While my husband continues to recover at home, I manage pancreatitis at home. I know if I go to the hospital, there won’t be anyone to take care of my husband or son. So I drink fluids, get blood drawn every other day for my doctor to keep tabs on me, and I go to work to keep us all afloat. Then COVID-19 hits the U.S. and I close the library on the evening of March 16th and we cancel our dream vacation.

April 2020: We celebrate our son becoming a teenager with a family party via Zoom. Not quite what we had planned.

May 2020: While working from home, I go for a lunchtime walk and am bitten by the neighbor’s dog. My husband rushes me to the doctor for stitches and to check out all the puncture wounds on my legs. We re-open the library this month for curbside services.

June 2020: We re-open the library doors.

August 2020: I run a half-marathon because I can.

September 2020: I run another half-marathon on Mom’s birthday in memory of her bad-assery.

January/February 2021: I start training for a marathon. Just weeks later I get a stress fracture in my right leg. We watch our beloved cat, Miso, have a seizure and die in front of our eyes as my husband calls the vet and my son and I cry and try to comfort the sweetest cat that ever lived. We all hold him in our arms afterwards and cry until bedtime.

March/April 2021: I start taking walks and short runs again. My sanity is somewhat restored.

June 2021: Our son “graduates” from 8th grade. My husband has a widow maker of a heart attack on June 15th. He only survives because he was near a university medical center.

August 2021: The boy enters high school.

September 2021: Husband goes back to work.

Late October 2021: Husband told by doctor to stop working until he has another heart surgery.

November 2021: Two stents placed in husband’s heart. His energy improves dramatically!

January 2022: I have a procedure on my pancreas to determine if I have cancerous tumors or the possibility of cancer forming on said tumors. Still waiting for the results.

And there you have it. There were MANY activities and emotions not mentioned, and a lot of those were fabulous. I smiled every day, I think. They weren’t all real, but many of them were. I laughed nearly every day. I, like so many of you, juggled lots of other crap we don’t talk about because it’s life—flat tires, sick pets, stress from work and COVID and paying bills and EVERYTHING.

But…I’ve also read over 800 books since I became director. (Many of them middle-school novels.) I’ve written blog posts and poems and reports and letters. I’ve made new friends, some of them being my library patrons. I’ve created new connections at the library, both personally and professionally. I’m trying to lead the library into being the center of the community, and with the amazing support from the Board, the volunteers, and the residents, I think we can do it.

Yes, WE.

If I’ve learned anything from these past three years, it’s that I can’t do my work by myself. I can’t succeed alone. I have an incredible staff, support system and library users that makes the library a wonderful place to be a part of.

But I also know that I would never have survived these three years without my family and friends. Never. I received gift cards and meals when my husband was in the hospital. People sent me cards when my parents died and gave me hugs when I needed them. They were also there to just listen. I have friends all around the country and so many of them reached out in various ways over the past few years. Sometimes just listening is all I needed. And that’s why you reading this blog has also helped me. Tremendously.

So…thank you. I think that’s really all I’m trying to say tonight. Thank you for being in my life. Thank you for supporting me in however you know how. Thanks for being you.

Now go to your local library. They need your support even more these days. And remember, keep reading. It doesn’t matter what it is. I am not a judgy librarian! Read what you want and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If they do, tell them your librarian said to screw off. ❤

Just Me

There was a lot of hope for 2021–vaccines, life going back to normal, I was training for a marathon, and my family was just grateful that my husband survived his sickness and came out of a coma in February of 2020.

Some of what we hoped for happened–we got the vaccines, life got better. Then the variants came and so many more people have died and so many people refuse vaccines and life will always be different. I was able to fly to a conference in Nevada and to see a dear friend in Kentucky in the fall, but now many flights are canceled around the globe due to COVID and quarantine times. I had a stress fracture and stopped training for a marathon but was able to run again later in the year. My husband had a widow maker of a heart attack on June 15th and has had several surgeries since. Things got better, then worse. Two steps forward and life looked good, then another setback. Like Anne Lamott says in her book Dusk Night Dawn, “It’s like tucking an octopus into bed at night: new arms keep popping out.”

Now a new year is coming. 2022 is nearly here. I honestly haven’t talked to anyone who is hopeful about it. Everyone is exhausted and burnt out and just tries to get through each day without losing their shit.

We have to find something to look forward to. SOMETHING. As I’ve said many times before, I usually love the new year. I like clean slates, fresh starts, new beginnings, and every other cliche you can think of. Sometimes I think of a new year as a New You (or rather new me). I often have resolutions, but they’re really more like goals. I’ll be disappointed if I don’t reach them, but I try. I’ll survive if they don’t come to fruition.

I’m going to try again to train for a marathon, although I can’t say I’m super positive about it. My body has hurt a lot lately and I’m mostly running to maintain some kind of fitness level until I can figure out what’s what. If I can’t train right away, I’ll work on that 15 pounds I want/need to lose (depending on the moment). And keep going to therapy to deal with that incessant want/need to lose the 15 pounds.

These are things, though, that are just part of my current life–running, losing weight, trying to be healthy. My real goal for 2022? I really, really want to do something new each month. I’ve wanted to LEARN something new each month before, but that doesn’t always happen. That can still be included, but I want to DO something I’ve never done every month. Just once a month. Sometimes it may just be making a new dessert because I just don’t have the money or resources to do what I’d like. But other times?

Here’s a short list of activities I’d like to do in 2022 that seem feasible:

  1. Try out a sensory deprivation tank at Float 207.
  2. Watch all the films that are nominated for Best Picture with my son and watch the Oscars on March 27th with him. Make pizza or nachos with him, too. I suppose I want to try and recreate what my brother and I used to do (although I think I only watched every film for the Oscars once).
  3. Zip line
  4. Get a monthly massage (I suppose this isn’t really trying something new yet making time to take care of myself seems new. I’ve had so few massages in my life but when I do, I always think “why don’t I do this more?!?”)
  5. Find something to be grateful for each day. This is a tough one for me. It shouldn’t be but sometimes I am so Eeyore-like that I can’t get out of my own way, you know?
  6. Get my passport!
  7. Visit new places, especially state parks
  8. Run somewhere new. I’d like to run in a new place each month, even just a new trail or a different road. Maybe that can be my running goal for the year if the marathon doesn’t work out.
  9. Ride on a snowmobile

I have other pursuits, but many I might not be able to do. I’d like to work on my writing, come up with a few goals. Maybe write a few poems again. I’m not sure about that yet, but I do know that writing often brings me joy…or sometimes relief, like a deep breath that I didn’t know I needed. I’d also like to organize and digitize my photos. I have so many pictures of my own and from my parents and it seems pretty overwhelming, although I think it’s the emotional piece that is what seems insurmountable. Sometimes I can face grief head on, and other times I just avoid situations that make me remember. Like so many other things in life, it just depends on the day.

My family and I have joked and said “2022 is our year!” Then we immediately roll our eyes and knock on wood and tell each other to not say that anymore since we said that about 2019, 2020 AND 2021 and look how those friggin’ years turned out! Perhaps our resolution or goal for 2022 should just be to survive. It’s something that many were not able to do in 2021.

Maybe surviving and thriving? I don’t know, friends. I just don’t know anymore.

Nonetheless, I will keep shooting for my “new activity” each month and if that starts to feel like too much, I’ll just shoot for reading a new book each month. That one, as long as I’m living, I know I can achieve.

Good luck to all of you. Be safe. I’d love to hear your goals and resolutions and wishes for the future.

Happy New Year and may you feel loved and appreciated in 2022.

Dad’s Day

My “long” run today was more of a trudge. It was a warm and sunny 36 degrees, but the wind was gusting at 30mph and cut right through my clothes. I took breaths through my scarf because my chest started to hurt from the cold. I wanted to do 5 miles and since this was going to be a rough one, I let my mind wander as much as possible to distract me from the wind and the heavy legs. I thought of the visit I had yesterday with a few of my lovely friends and how it truly lifted my spirits. I thought of the upcoming family Christmas party and how wonderful it will be to host it again since we couldn’t get together last year. Then I realized I hadn’t invited my stepmom yet…which led me to thoughts of my dad.

Today is December 12th. On this day in 1987, my father took his last drink. He had been a drinker his whole life, and looking back, he figured he was an alcoholic by the age of 15. His grandparents often gave him sips or actual drinks of beer from the time he was just a toddler. Eventually the addiction destroyed many of his relationships, including his marriage to my mother. He was such a different person when he drank.

This photo of my parents showed Dad in his favorite chair, wearing his typical outfit of a white t-shirt and suspenders. Looks like he was grooving to the music on the headphones. I’m pretty sure he was tipsy in this picture, but I could be wrong. Usually when he started drinking, he was ok. Sometimes fun-loving, a good time. But in the later years, he became angry and violent and it was a shit show.

But on this day in 1987, that all changed. I found out who my father really was. And he was the most incredibly kind man, who loved to laugh and loved his family fiercely. He spent the next 30 years of his life trying to make amends to those he hurt while drinking. Even on his deathbed, he regretted so many of his decisions and thought he had not done enough to apologize. But that wasn’t true. I believe he went above and beyond to reform, to admit wrong doing and to apologize. We tried to reassure him of this fact as he lay dying, and I truly hope he heard and believed us.

I don’t want this to be a sad post today. This is to celebrate my father and his courage and hard work to make his life better. While I thought of him on my run, I thought maybe of visiting his grave. But I don’t really feel him there. Not usually. Instead, I thought of the conversations we had on our Sunday visits during the last year of his life. While I trudged along on the dirt road, I thought of all the times Dad called to ask how the road was to see if he should drive to my house that way or the long way. Or the stories he told about that exact road and how when my parents were married, they got stuck on that road a few times while visiting my grandmother.

I just thought about Dad most of the day. Were there tears? Of course. But I also laughed out loud, thinking about my Papa and his silliness. I miss him. Tremendously. And I’m so, so proud of him.

I love you, Dad. ❤

Back in a Flash

I hate you, Facebook Memories.

I began my morning and thought I’d check in on Facebook before I started work. What comes up? The year 2016 in photos–the last full year I had my brother. He was there in my memories, pics of our Halloween tour of the local winery. Other photos of me where I looked so fucking happy…some I know weren’t real smiles, but others showed genuine happiness. I look at that Holly and want to scream at her. “Tell Phil every single thing you’ve ever wanted to! Go and see him each day. Take time off and take your boy along and just be with Phil. Do nothing and everything with him.”

I miss him. I miss my brother so damn much.

Typically, I love this time of year but everything is still tinged with sadness. And mornings like these? It’s hard to function. It’s difficult to not just say, “Fuck it. I’m not going to work today.” I know I could legitimately do that, but my mother’s voice is telling me to just go to work and you’ll feel better. My own inner voice is also saying, “Don’t let your staff and patrons down. Just go and you’ll be ok.”

So I went.

I went about my day, doing whatever needed to be done–working on reports, paying bills, answering emails. I still felt like I was in a fog, but it was manageable. Then I went to make a cup of tea, something I rarely do. But I was freezing and needed something warm and there sat a box of Earl Grey tea on top of the fridge at work. It’s been there for months, but today I really saw it…and thought of Phil. This was one of his favorite teas. I picked up the box, started to cry and whispered, “You’re everywhere today, aren’t you?”

If only he was. If only I could talk to my big brother, ask him questions I know he’d have answers for, or at least have a joke for them. I wish he could see his nephew and realize that he’d be able to see him eye to eye now. I’d love to hear them laugh together and share some dirty joke or discuss Star Wars films. I just…I just wish he was here.

You know, I’ve been desperate over the past few months to get down to a particular weight. I’ve obsessively counted calories, added a few extra miles to my long runs, and lifted weights. But absolutely nothing happened. I actually gained another 5 pounds instead. (Of course, I now realize I wasn’t counting some calories accurately, but that’s another story.) As I was telling my therapist about my weight dilemma, she asked why that weight. Why this arbitrary number? I told her that I know I feel good at that weight–it’s a little more than when I was running A LOT and when people thought I was sick because they thought I looked too thin. But it’s a weight where I felt good in my body…and the weight I was at when Phil died.

After I said those words to my therapist, my body became very still. I looked at her and let out a sob. I covered my mouth and shook my head. It was such an epiphany, an a-ha moment, and a gut-wrenching grief-inducing realization.

I think I’ve been trying to find my way back to a time when my brother was here and my parents were here, and although life was still difficult and complicated, it just wasn’t quite so lonely or sad.

But I know I can’t do that. Rationally, I know that no matter how much weight I lose, my family will not come back. Of course I know that. Will that stop me from trying to lose weight? Nope. Do I still want to find a way to be happy in this body of mine? Yes. Will losing the weight do that? Probably not. But my pants will fit better.

And hopefully my therapist can help me with the rest of it.

Friends, if you’re out there and you’re missing someone so much that you just want to turn back time and have one more conversation or hug or “I love you,” please know that I hear you. I understand and I wish for that, too. I might not be the one you want to talk with, but I’m here and I’ll listen.

Take care, friends.

Voices of the Past

Holidays can be tough for those missing their family–either if they’re no longer near you or are no longer on this planet. Last week was the 5th Thanksgiving without my brother and the third without either of my parents. Typically, my little family of three spends Thanksgiving by ourselves and my brother used to come over to spend it with us, while his partner slept during the day (he worked nights). After my brother died, we always brought my mom over to spend the day with us. Now, though, we invite my brother’s partner to have dinner with us and it remains the four of us. On Thursday we toasted our lost family with our drinks and chatted about all of them throughout the day. It wasn’t a horrible day.

That night, my son and I sat down to watch a movie, and we got on the subject of my mother. My boy was comparing the grandmother on the Garfield Thanksgiving special to his grammy, my mom. We started to talk about Mom’s laugh and I realized that I couldn’t remember it. At all. I could picture her laughing, like this photo when she tried out our Bowflex for the first time back in 2001 and it nearly catapulted her backwards. But every time I pictured Mom laughing, it was silent. I just could not imagine what her laugh sounded like. I started to tear up, grasping at my memories of her, trying to find something that would trigger that laugh in my head. I could hear her voice, I could smell her perfume, even feel her hands in mine. But her laughter was gone.

When my teenage son saw my eyes and the look on my face, he tried to imitate his grandmother’s laugh. He could clearly hear it and was doing everything he could to share that with me. After a couple of failed attempts, he found it. He created a laugh that was enough like hers that I could hear it again. I closed my eyes and listened.

I cried a little and thanked my son. He was so relieved–not only because I didn’t break down into sobs, but also that he could find a way to share Mom with me, to share *his* memories of his grandmother with me. If anything could warm the cockles of my heart, it was that!

Unfortunately, as I write this, I still can’t remember her laugh. I’m hoping someone has a video with a clear laugh track of Mom on it. I hear my brother’s laughter nearly every time my son laughs, and I can easily hear my father’s deep, gruff chuckle. But not my mother’s. So until I find that video, I’ll have to consult my boy whenever I need to hear Mom’s laughter. I envy his gift.

If you do have the opportunity to record your loved ones’ voices or laughter, I suggest you do it (and have others do it to you). It may sound like a morbid activity, but if something like hearing your parents’ laugh can make your day, then wouldn’t you want that to listen to after they’re gone?

Have a good week, friends. Find laughter wherever and whenever you can. ❤

Finding Community

Let me begin with thanking so many of you for sending your good thoughts, vibes and prayers my family’s way last week. My husband got through his heart surgery and everything looks great. Two stents were placed in his arteries instead of one, since they found a clogged artery they didn’t know about, but now blood is actually getting to a majority of his heart. His energy has skyrocketed and I think he may be on his way back to the living. Now he just needs to clean up his act by eating right and exercising. Not everyone gets a second chance, so hopefully with encouragement he’ll be ok and take advantage of this rare opportunity.

And now…back to running. 😉

Sundays are typically my long run days. I was up to 10 miles a few weeks ago, but ratcheted it down to just 4, then have slowly been building back up again. Today was a 10K (6.2 miles) day, and although I felt good and ready when I left my house, the feeling didn’t last. I had a hot flash around mile 1, which is a weird thing to have when you’re already sweating. I felt completely depleted by the end of mile 2. I almost called my husband to ask him to bring me a banana or maybe drive me back home, but then in my head I heard my friend Heather say, “I take walking breaks. It’s really ok!” So I stopped beating myself up and walked for a few minutes and sipped from my electrolyte drink that tasted awful. But the combo gave me a bit of energy and I pushed on. By 2.5 miles, I started to feel better. I was tremendously slow and walked up nearly every hill (except the giant hill I tried to run up and then realized I was so hunched over that I could touch the ground), but the run was finally feeling good.

I was ok with being slow today, but I wanted to feel good. I wanted those endorphins to kick in. Hell, I just wanted to feel like myself. I’ve had so many moments in the past few years when I don’t feel like me. Do you ever have that? Like you feel out of sorts, like something isn’t right but you don’t know what that is? Now that I’m perimenopausal, I certainly feel like that more and more. It’s not just the physical–the hot flashes, the 15-20 pound weight gain since 2017, the occasional lethargy. But also the mental and emotional changes and challenges that are not necessarily due to perimenopause–the occasional emotional outburst, the grief, the anger, the stress of so much loss–and trying to find a way to not only take care of myself (which admittedly I’ve been pretty bad at), but also to take care of my son and husband AND to be a support for my friends and the rest of my family.

After living through the deaths of my brother and parents, watching my husband nearly die twice and supporting a stressed and grieving child, then managing to get through (and currently going through) all the logistical shit people don’t tell you about (burials, funerals, wills, estates, financial loss while recovering from illness), I have learned a lot. But I also received a HUGE load of emotional support from my friends and family. And I want to give that back in spades. I know I still don’t have the right words to say to someone after a loved one dies, but I often say that I’m here if you need anything and often suggest a meal or time together or even $20 if I have it. I don’t say any of that unless I mean it. Occasionally someone will take me up on it and ask for help. And I’m grateful. When I was desperate, I did reach out to my friends and asked for help. Nearly every time they were more than happy to lend a hand or an ear. That’s what being a friend is. (And more than once I did NOT ask for any assistance, yet some friends helped me anyway. Because they are that awesome.)

Reach out to your friends and family this week. Contact the ones you want to. I give you permission to not bother with those folks who continually disappoint or hurt you. I know that the holidays can mean being forced to spend time with people you might not want to. Admittedly, I had a great family and loved to spend time with them. Not all the time, mind you, but enough. I know our family was lucky that way. But if you don’t have that kind of family but one that is toxic and treats you badly, I hope you get to have dinner with your chosen family this week. If you can’t do that, then please find SOMETHING that makes you happy this week, ok? Preferably nothing that can harm you. Go for a hike, pet a cat, read a great book, have a glass of good wine, walk a dog, eat pie, bake a pie, have sex, go for a run, buy new shoes–whatever makes you feel good!

And if you need a hand or an ear, I’ll do my best to lend you one or the other. I’ll try to be here for you, as you’ve been there for me.

Until then, I’ll try to keep running amidst hot flashes and cold mornings. You’d think they’d cancel each other, right? Sadly, no, but at least your voices in my head will keep me going. (I’m standing up straight, Sonya!)

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. ❤

Just Run

It’s been a wacky few weeks at work and home. There seems to be a lot of anger and fear drifting from place to place and person to person. Tension is high yet I don’t feel stressed until the evening, when my chest feels tight and I realize I haven’t taken a deep breath for much of the day.

Except when I run.

The anniversary of my mother’s death was a few days ago and the days leading up to it, I didn’t think much about it. I tried to push my emotions down deep and the memories away.

And then I ran.

During a typical 5k weekday morning run, I kept feeling this odd pressure one inch above my right wrist. It felt just like my mother wrapping her fingers around my arm, like when we would compare how skinny our wrists were. We could both easily wrap our fingers around each others forearms with our fingers touching because we both had (and have) bird arms. I ran down the road and kept glancing at my right arm. I started to laugh out loud until a sob escaped my lips.

But I kept running.

Tonight, after seeing Facebook memories of my mother keep popping up on my phone, I decided I had too much energy to burn off and went for an early evening run at 5pm. It was another weird day filled with putting out fires and forgetting my wallet and going to dentist appointments and a failed attempt to get my son a flu shot. So a run sounded good, even though I usually despise afternoon or evening runs. My body and mind are typically too tired during that time of day, but today I thought I could handle it.

The first mile and a half were lovely. The light streaming through the colorful leaves at that time of day were gorgeous. Then as I was passing this swamp:

Something made a HUGE splash and scared the shit out of me. I actually screamed. No idea if something fell from a tree, if it was a bullfrog, or just the Swamp Thing. Whatever it was, it completely threw me off. My usual turn-off is just up the hill from here and I made it there but I immediately ran out of gas. I started to trudge along for a few minutes, then walked for a minute. My breathing was off and I thought I might have to call home. I started to think about what I ate today and realized it wasn’t much. I felt depleted because I didn’t have any fuel left. Or so I thought.

I took it easy for the next mile, ran fairly slowly, watched five chickens hanging out in a field. Then for my last half mile, my second wind gusted through me and I flew home. I felt so light and free and fierce. The feeling was fleeting, but I tried to capture it:

I expect life to be busy and somewhat stressful for the next few months. I hope things will get better, but I will also try to remember that I don’t have control over everything. I will try to find that inner ferocity that I forget I have but something my mother exuded. Although I’m not good at letting shit go, I’ll do my best.

And sometimes I’ll say “fuck it all” and just run.

Quiet

Ever have one of those days where you just want to be quiet? Probably sounds like a silly question coming from a librarian, although in my public library we don’t encourage quiet. We encourage interaction and communication. But today was not a particularly busy day, and I was grateful for that.

Today I wanted everyone around me to speak in monotones and I said as few words as possible. I could still listen to people talk, but I didn’t want to hear any loud voices or screaming. Laughing was ok, though. My eyes felt partially closed all day and I felt like I was underwater….no. That’s not a good analogy. I’d panic if I was underwater for more than two seconds. Everything just seemed…fuzzy.

I think it’s Grief Vision. This is how I felt when I was in-between deaths and burials or funerals, or the weeks afterward. Grief Vision makes everything look kind of cloudy and I’m tired and a bit apathetic towards the world. Today I wasn’t tremendously sad, but I felt lonely. Lonely for the people who are no longer here. Not just for those that have died, but even for those I can’t see in person due to distance or disagreements.

I know this all stems from the fact that it’s Mom’s birthday today. She should have been 75. I’m at the point when I can remember her and smile or laugh at things we did together. I have residual disappointment from some of her actions, but the fact is those actions were not directed towards me which has always placed me in a weird place. I will love my mother until the day I die. I do wish I could have asked her a few questions, but to be honest, I’m not sure I would have. I was always afraid of disappointing her or having Mom angry with me. She rarely was, but that could be because I have the “good girl syndrome.” When you grow up in a messed up home, I think you choose a role to play or your personality pushes you towards a task within your family. Some rebel and act out, some stay quiet and hide, and others try to be extra “good,” hoping to make peace within the family. That last one was and is me through and through and it’s time to stop.

Is it a bad thing, being a good person? No, of course not. But if you’re always trying to be that good person for someone else, it’s not always good for YOU. I don’t regret many of the decisions I made in the past so I could be that good person for my family, but I’m trying to make good choices for me now.

One of those choices was to visit Mom’s grave. This initially felt like I was doing this for Mom, to be that good daughter who always did the right thing–visited on all holidays and every Saturday, kept track of doctor appointments and medicines to refill, placed her in a nursing home that dealt with Alzheimer’s patients. Ok. That last one was something Mom didn’t appreciate but I think it was the right thing to do. Maybe?

Anyway, I went to Mom’s grave because it was her birthday and she should have coffee. I bought a Dunkin Donut’s coffee…then realized I locked my keys in the car. Let me say I have NEVER done this. Not once in my 32 years of driving and car ownership. (Although someone may have another story that I truly don’t remember, so forgive me if my memory is faulty. It happens.) Unbelievably, I was extremely calm about the whole thing. I called my husband and asked for my spare key (we live 35 minutes away). I sat outside with my pumpkin spice coffee (sorry, Mom, but I’m drinking this) and waited. As I sat there, soaking in the warm afternoon sun in the crisp fall air, I had an epiphany. Can’t these long orangutan arms fit through the one partially opened car window?

Yup. They can.

I called the husband, told him I got into the car and I was off to the cemetery.

Each time I go to Mom or Dad’s grave, I always bring a blanket to sit on. That’s what I did today, and placed the coffee beside Mom’s stone. Then I laid my head on Mom’s name and started to sob. I don’t remember the last time Mom held me, but I imagined it this evening. I let the stress and tension and anger and fear and sadness drain from my body, or at least that’s what I hoped was happening. It was somewhat cathartic and completely exhausting. I sat up when I could cry no longer, and drank my coffee, apologizing to Mom for drinking it…and the fact that it was pumpkin flavored…and talked to her for a while. I laughed out loud thinking about what her reaction would be to my/her drink and I complimented her on the view. Mom has some pretty fabulous trees around her along with some of her friends beside her and behind her.

As I traced Mom’s name on her stone with my finger, I realized that this visit really was for me. It might have started out trying to do the right thing for Mom, but I think it ended up being the right thing for me. I needed to be near my mother somehow, and being in the town I grew up in and in the town where I knew my mother best, it was the closest I could be to her.

It wasn’t a hug, but it was something. ❤