This week the year of firsts came to an end; first Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s Day, etc. without my mom. It was a bittersweet day on Wednesday, relief knowing the first year, which I had always thought would be the most difficult, and sadness knowing I had gone a whole year without being able to talk to my mom the way I used to. There was also a sense of pride in knowing I had come through it pretty much intact as well. Yes, I’ve had my moments of being puddled on the floor, but I’ve discovered that those moments pass and that I’m strong enough to go on with my life. I’ve learned a lot about myself this year, and it’s been the most important education of my life. I think the main lesson has been the need to not give into the fear of the unknown. There were so many times during my transcription course when I didn’t think I could go on, it was too hard, and I just doubted myself so much it nearly paralyzed me. But I also knew that my mom would want me to continue and fight through it, so I did, and now I’m working again. That’s been immensely important for my psyche and self-esteem.
When my mom died, I had largely shut myself off from the world because of my stuttering. Part of the reason was that I had been so burnt out taking care of my mom, that I just didn’t have the energy to deal with my speech issues anymore. The other part was my neighbor who had brainwashed me into thinking I was disabled and unable to speak for myself. It was only after he assaulted me, which I now feel was an attempt to convince me that I was helpless to do anything about his advances because I needed his help in order to function, that I realized I had to stand on my own. Stuttering or not, I had to face the world head on and not hide anymore. I’ve had some missteps since then, but now I feel solidly on my own path to where I was meant to be. And even though I know my mom isn’t physically with me anymore, I know that no matter where I go, she is always with me in spirit. I know that even though she is far away, she is still closer than I think.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – The experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” – Brene Brown
This week I’ve been working on my final exam for a general transcription course that I’ve been taking. The final exam consists of seven reports I have to transcribe and send in to be graded. If I receive an average score that is above 80%, I will be offered an internship at a transcription company and possibly a job. It has been amazing how the croaky voice of self-doubt has been continuously whispering in my ear the entire time. Why are our brains hardwired to question ourselves when we are trying to move forward in our lives? Stepping into the unknown can be nerve-wracking enough without having a voice in your head saying, “You can’t do this,” and every variation of this negative thinking. It puts you at what seems like an impasse. You have two choices: the first is to remain where and who you are, in the safety of your current situation or you can fight through the blockade of doubt and move forward towards a new future. I’ve put my construction hat on and have been blasting through the uncertainty and trying to get through my exam despite the incessant voice in my head. It hasn’t been easy, though. I’ve done more procrastinating then I care to admit but I know I need to complete this exam. This need to see this through is a greater force than the doubt. I’m being propelled forward by dreams and goals that I have for myself, and those two things cannot exist in the past, only in the future.
Update: I got my first exam back and got an A- on it! One down, six to go….fingers crossed.
Sorry I’ve been quiet for a few days now. I was doing fine. Getting the house ready for Christmas and thinking I was dealing with my grief pretty well. And then wham! I got caught in a massive riptide of grief that dragged me off my feet, and I’ve been trying to find my footing again ever since. I had heard that the first Christmas after a significant loss is hard. Hard is the most useless word to describe it. For me, it has been utterly debilitating to the point that I can’t do anything much except cry. The pain I’ve felt the past two days has been spiritually excruciating. I miss my mom more now than at any other time during this grief “process.” Yesterday I thought I’d try to make myself feel better by putting the lights on my little tree. After finishing, I was looking at it thinking how cold and harsh the lights looked this year. There was no soft twinkling glow at all. There was no anticipation of the upcoming holiday that I had been looking for. I felt even more miserable and also thought about taking the lights down again and putting the tree away. I’ve contemplated not having Christmas at all this year because the pain is just so intense. I’m not seeing the world as it is right now and I know it. I’ve heard of rose-colored glasses; I wonder what color grief colored glasses are. I’m thinking a swampy greenish-brown color. I feel like I’m just treading water until the day that I’m dreading arrives and departs as it does every year, just surviving instead of living. I don’t know how to change my mentality but I know I want to. I hate feeling this way. My mom wouldn’t want me to feel this way. But if I try to swim against the grief, I know it will just drag me out of my life even further, and I’ll drown. So I’ll just keep treading and try to move forward towards Christmas and hope I find a way to get through it without her.
Yesterday, my niece and nephew came for a visit. I had them help with a few things while they were here including taking my mom’s bed apart. Seeing the pieces of the bed my mom has slept in for over 40 years was very emotional but having to walk by it every day had gotten to be much too painful and I knew it was time to remove it. Hours after they had left when I was getting ready to go upstairs for the night, I went into my mom’s room and looked at the dark empty space where her bed had been and asked if she was okay with my removing her bed. I wasn’t expecting an answer, how could she answer me? Taking one last look, I went into the front hall and turned on the lights, one in the downstairs and one in the upstairs. Climbing the stairs, the light behind me blinked on and off one time. “Once for yes, twice for no.” flashed through my mind and I stopped mid-step dumbfounded. Could it have been her? I don’t know. There was no accompanying cold or air or feeling like she was there, but I’d like to think it was a sign from her — a sign that she’s okay with me moving on and changing the house to suit my new needs. It’s also comforting to know that her spirit is still around watching over me.
“If you’re willing.” This is how my neighbor, who assaulted me in September, began his email to me saying he is interested in doing snow removal for me this winter. Just the fact that he sent the email in the first place set my teeth on edge but the way he began it just pushed me over the edge. It made me think he was implying that I had caused the trouble between us and not his never-ending unwanted advances towards me. It’s been two months since I had any contact with him and this missive from him just showed how much he didn’t understand what he had done to me. The extra anxiety I’ve felt at night when everything is dark and my dog is barking as if he’s seen or heard something. The going over everything time and again to make sure I didn’t send any mixed signals to him. I didn’t; by the way, I was always set in my stance on not wanting anything romantic from him. I took a night to decide what to say in response and decided upon this opening sentence.
“What I’m not willing to do is allow the man who assaulted me back into my life in any capacity.”
I thought it was succinct and very to the point. I sent it and haven’t heard anything back, so maybe my neighbor has crawled back under his rock again. I hope this is the end of this nightmare but somehow I feel like that as long as we live across from each other, I will always have to stay on my toes.
I’m just checking in.
To tell you all how I’ve been
I keep surfacing for air
And looking here and there
To see if the grief is gone
To see if life can go on.
But grief’s a cheeky bugger
And not much of a hugger
He tends to sneak up on me
From behind where I cannot see
So I quickly dive back down
Trying to find smiles in all the frowns
And try to be patient with me
Because that’s what mom would want to see.
The last few days have been particularly rough for me. The realization that Thanksgiving, a holiday my mom loved, will also fall on the six month anniversary of her death has hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ve allowed the grief to take the reins for now and haven’t been able to do too much more than recover from the endless crying I’ve been experiencing. I’m not posting this for sympathy, it’s just the reality of my life right now. It’s important to allow my grief to take its course and be patient with myself during this healing process. I’m not sure if I’m going to be posting much over the next little while and I wanted to let you all know why. It’s time to focus on myself and being careful with my feelings and not pushing myself past what it’s able to do during this time.
Why are emotions strongest
When I feel most fragile?
When my soul is like glass
With spider web cracks
Moving across it.
Ready to shatter at the
That is when the
Of grief wrap around
My psyche and start
Sharp points dig in
And I gasp for breath
Waiting for it to pass.