Winds of Change

Remember that hug I was craving from my dad? Saturday morning, I had a dream that Dad was here and hugged me. Just like I remembered and longed for. I awoke lighter and in a much better mood than I had been in all week. I just felt…comforted. Throughout the rest of the long weekend, I tried to finish up projects at home or do a bit of cleaning that I had put off. It felt like something was changing and I felt more focused.

What I didn’t realize was that Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, was about to begin. (I may not be Jewish, but I love the thought and feeling of a new year.) It’s also a new school year, which to me feels like a fresh start, even if I’m not the one going to school. And 12 weeks to the day from his heart attack, my husband went back to work today. As soon as I got home, I ran to his office to ask how the day went. “I thought I was going to die,” he said. I reminded him that was an extremely poor choice of words since he nearly did die the last time he went to work! But, all in all, it wasn’t a horrible day for him. Exhausting, yes, but not horrendous.

Our son started high school last week, too–a huge change for us all, but also a cleanish slate for him. Some of his friendships have become more intense recently and he’s just beginning to make new friends, too. He wants to join clubs and actually do things outside of the home and a screen! He’s maturing, yet like most teens, is emitting hormones and emotional outbursts. It’s wonderful and scary and it all makes me hug him a little tighter each day, trying to hold onto every single moment that he’s here.

It seems, though, that everything around me is changing. I see some of my friendships and relationships changing, and I see that in others’ relationships, too. People in my community have left their jobs for other places, better for them but worse for us. People in the town where I work are having to leave because the healthcare services they need are no longer in that community. Yet new residents are moving in to both towns where I live and work and they’re happy to be there. Here in Maine, most people are masking again, regardless of vaccination status. More and more people are getting the vaccine and more people are dying once again–the majority being unvaccinated.

Yet…we all just keep trying to live our lives, day by day. Change is hard. No matter if the changes you’re facing are “good” or “bad”, change is a stressor. Major life-event stressors include marriage, moving, having a child–all good things, yet other life-event stressors are divorce, death of a loved one and job loss. Big changes are difficult, and no one ever put a pandemic on the list. I think it’s caused such a range of stress and emotion in each person, and continues to do so.

Maybe for some people it means they’re just done with certain humans on the planet. They can no longer hear what they have to say, nor do they care. And honestly, I think that’s ok if they’re not outright hurting those humans. It is their choice to be around people whose ideas are like their own, who stand for what they stand for.

But…I don’t think I can do that. If you know me and my husband, you know that I can’t do that. I live with and love a person with polar opposite views than mine on so, so many issues. And to be honest, if we had met when I was 30 instead of 22, we probably would never have married. I was open to new thoughts and opinions in my 20s, but now?

Yes, it’s difficult.

But the value of a human being is not just from their political or religious affiliation. We are made up of so much more than our views on an issue or a hot button topic. We are made up of acts of love and kindness–paying for that coffee for the person in line behind you or stopping to lend a hand to a child that fell of her bike. We’re made of shared moments like holding someone’s hand in a hospital waiting room or listening to stories of your mother from her friends and family after she’s left this earth or even that second when you catch someone’s eye and smile and you both know that you’re ok, at least for the moment.

I know I can’t convince you all (or any) to reach out and talk to someone tomorrow whose opinions you don’t agree with or understand. It’s ok. You don’t have to. But I do ask that you try and understand those of us that love others with differing points of view.

Or…don’t. I’d like to change your mind. I’d like you to think that there are more people out there with commonalities than differences. More good than not. But I don’t know what the right words are.

Do you?

Another One

I tried to live today like I want my year to be. I wanted to run, read, do a little cleaning, watch a movie, spend time with my son and husband, and eat sushi–all activities I’d like to do for the rest of the year. I actually got to do all of those things, but nothing quite turned out the way I wanted or expected.

My 5k run wasn’t horrible as far as speed or conditions, but I felt absolutely uncomfortable in my body. If you watched me run, you probably thought I had major tics or was having a seizure. I kept moving my shoulders, trying to relax, tucking and untucking my shirt, adjusting my hat, and just flailing about. Nothing felt quite right. I could only focus for a few seconds here and there, but mostly it was just crappy. BUT, the sunshine was wonderful, little wind, and the 27 degrees felt much better than it sounds.

I didn’t read what I should have, but I read the last in a graphic novel series (Fence) that my son and I have been reading and it’s highly enjoyable. I feel no guilt whatsoever for not reading anything for work or my committee.

My son and I took down the outside Christmas lights and decorations. I wish I had a photo of my son taking down Darth Vader and hugging him close. It was damn adorable. My husband made us a lovely ham dinner for lunch and I got a smidge of vacuuming done, but no other cleaning took place. I ended up doing a bit of yoga instead and I think my time was well spent.

For a while everyone did their own thing, so I watched “Blackbird” starring Susan Sarandon. Have you seen it? It’s about a woman who wants to end her life because her ALS is starting to restrict what she can do. She invites her family over for the weekend so they can spend time together and say goodbye. Not really uplifting per se, but I feel very strongly about dying with dignity and wish every state in this country would allow people to die how they choose. Most people don’t even get the chance to die where they want much less dying how they want to.

I didn’t intend to watch this film today, but I borrowed it from the library a few weeks ago and it’s been sitting in front of our television since then. I couldn’t remember what it was about until I put it in and figured, “What the hell.” I’ll be honest, though, I haven’t finished it yet. I just watched a scene where the woman with ALS gives everyone a gift at the table, including her wedding ring which she gives to her husband. I was crying before we got to that part and completely lost it at that moment. I figured it was a good time to stop.

We picked up sushi from our favorite restaurant and brought it home for dinner. We decided we’d have a nice living room picnic and watch “Titans” on HBO Max. Of course, the one thing I really wanted was mistakenly left out of our order–miso soup! It always makes me feel better for anything that ails me. I whined for a few minutes then ate my absolutely fantastic raw fish and rice with my family. At one point my son and I argued and there was slamming of a door and sighing and generally feeling pissed off, and then the moment passed and we finished eating and we were ok. The three of us sat around after watching an episode and just chatted and laughed and enjoyed the moment.

My lovely son being the person he is, stopped and said, “You know this is great. Just hanging out, talking and laughing. This is really great.”

It is. It is really great. THAT is what I want this year and next year and every year I’m on this planet to be. I want it comprised of good conversation, lots of laughing and loving, good food, exercise, reading, time outside–preferably while feeling good inside this body but I’ll work on that. There will always be disappointments and disagreements and grief and stress and more crying than you would think is possible. But I also know there will also be at least a few surprises and encouraging words and acts of kindness and moments of happiness and laughing and many memories. There are so many good memories with those we’ve lost as well as with those that are still here. But there are more good memories to be made.

So let’s go make those good memories, ok? Even a great conversation over the phone or on Zoom can create a great memory. Let’s connect while we can and while we’re still here.

Hugs to you all, my friends.

And then….

It’s 2020. The roaring twenties? A new year, a new decade, maybe even a new you? I used to love the beginning of the new year–a fresh start, a clean slate. Time to start eating better, exercising more, doing new things, achieving those goals I couldn’t get to last year, and becoming a new person.

Starting over used to really appeal to me. I used to love the thought that I could become a new person, someone I would like more and others would like me more, too. I really thought that losing weight would do that for me. So I did it. I lost over 85 pounds and kept it off for nearly a decade. As a matter of fact, 10 years ago yesterday I began running. I had already lost the weight I had intended, but now I wanted to challenge myself. And so I did. I became a runner. I became that crazy lady you saw at 5:30 on a winter morning with the head lamp running in the dark. I ran some road races but really just ran for me. Did I like this new person I had become? Sometimes. But not completely like I thought I would.

And then 2017 came along. I started to struggle with running because of injuries and motivation. And then my brother died and I didn’t want to live anymore. I didn’t know how to and I honestly didn’t really care to. But I did. I even tried to run some but often I’d start to sob in the middle of the runs or stop a half mile before home and drop to my knees because the darkness just overcame me and I couldn’t put one step in front of the other.

So I stopped. I started to care for both of my parents off and on and tried to parent my son the best I could and still be a wife that was semi-present at least and still work 40 hours a week. I stopped caring for myself or about myself. I was no longer moving forward but backward and if I was lucky, sideways.

Then my husband was laid off. Backwards I went. Then I got a new job directing the library I had loved for over 13 years. A few steps sideways and one forward.

Then my beautiful, hilarious, sweet dad died. Back and back and back…

Then my husband got a new job. A hop forward. Then I broke my arm so badly I needed a metal plate and 9 screws and 6 months later I still can’t completely move it. A step to the back.

And then my mom died. My loving, badass mom. Backwards I fell. Literally. (I passed out the evening of my mother’s service.)

And now we’re here. January 1st, 2020. Am I a new person? Well…yes. I’ve become a new person over and over and over in the past two and half years. Every time an “and then” occurred, I became a new person. Every one of these life-altering events made me into a new person. A different person. I don’t always like the new person I’ve become or am becoming, but that’s something I have to figure out. I don’t even know who I am most of the time, but that’s something else for me to discover and manage.

I do know that losing the 20 pounds I gained these past 2 1/2 years will not make me a new person or happier. Will I try and lose it? Of course! I need to be a healthy me and I need to fit in my clothes better because restrictive clothing makes me a very grumpy Holly and no one needs that. But will I try and lose it by going on a diet? No. I can’t be that person anymore. I’ll eat as best I can, but I’m hoping that running will help me lose some of it.

I hope I do not become that person I used to be that constantly posted my stats or photos of running because honestly? I hated those assholes for the past 2 1/2 years when I didn’t have it in me to run. Look, I know we all need to do it sometimes. We need that encouragement or pat on the back. I get it, I do! I’ve done it many times, too! But I’ve also been on the other side where I couldn’t run due to injury or grief and I felt like my friends were rubbing my nose in it. “Look what I can do and you can’t or won’t, you lazy bitch!” (Hey, I know you didn’t say it and probably didn’t even think it, but my mind just went there.)

So let’s make a deal. I’ll post this photo of the end of my run on Christmas Day.

Me in my dooryard at the end of my first 5K run in eons. This was a happy moment. Just before this run, I had been sitting in my living room sobbing and rocking myself while I thought about my family. There is so much photos don’t say.

This will be it for at least a week. Of course, I’ll probably be on the treadmill or in front of my tv for the next 2 months due to Maine weather, but whatever. Feel free to keep doing whatever you’re doing and posting what you’re posting. If I start being annoying with running posts, tell me to pipe down and give it a rest. I will probably oblige because I’ve been there.

Or I’ll tell you to fuck off because my pants are still too tight and I’m cranky. But I’ll still love you. That much I can promise.