The Thing

“When you’ve lived through the unexpected or out of order death of someone you love, your heart has, by definition, already been pushed too far.”  Megan Devine, Refugeingrief.com

Until about a week ago, I had never clicked on a cute puppy video.

The last time I wrote, I wasn’t in a good place. I was doing too much remembering and feeling overwhelming sadness. I know you all want to read my blog in the hopes that I’ve found humor in doing something stupid (like The Cleanse), or that I’ve realized how strong I am and how far I’ve come.  I want to write those things too. My head and my heart are not in the same place they were last time I wrote. They are different-but unfortunately not in a good way.

It hasn’t been often in the past 3+ years that I’ve felt true anger towards Jake. Anger at Jake is not an emotion that has been a typical part of my experience. Others have shared that they are mad at Jake for what he did and I’ve been ready to jump out of my skin to come to his defense. Because I know this wasn’t about the rest of us. This was about his unbearable pain.

[Quick aside…I have had a hard time with my memory for the past 3+ years. It has gotten better–or rather, I’ve worked a lot on strategies to help me remember–like every day stuff. I rarely know if I am telling someone the same story or fact I just told them 5 minutes ago (and they are just being too polite to tell me) or if I swear I actually remember sending that email, but searching my mailbox, I see that never did (it’s not even in my drafts!). So, if I repeat myself in my blog posts, it’s because I really don’t remember all that I’ve shared throughout the past 3 years or so. Yes-it’s in black and white and I can go back and re-read. But, I can’t actually bring myself to go back and read any of them. (Occasionally, I go back and read about my cleanse–just to remind myself why I shouldn’t be considering doing another one….)]

When Jake was still on life support at the hospital, I don’t remember how it was decided or who I was with (although I remember all the chairs were taken by ‘us’-Jake’s family and friends). I do remember exactly where I was (the neuro ICU waiting room at a circular table) when ‘we’ decided that I didn’t have to tell my kids exactly what happened. It was decided that I would tell them that “daddy hurt his head and the doctors couldn’t fix it. So, he died at the hospital”. This was not a lie. It just wasn’t every detail. My kids were 9, 7, 4 and 2 at the time. Judge all you want because I don’t now and I have never cared what anybody else’s thoughts/feelings were about that decision. My kids. Not yours. My husband. Not yours. THE FATHER OF MY BABIES. (Should I say it again? Not yours.)

Starting earlier this year, my older boys’ (now ages 12 and 9) counselor and I went through meetings, emails, and phone calls trying to decide if it was a smart idea to tell the kids, and if so, when and how to do it. We consulted for months and when we had decided that at least the older two should be told, we spent more months planning out the best time, place, and way to do so. I told very few people and they were the ones I knew would support my decision (even if I changed my mind) rather than judge it or give me their unsolicited opinion. This ultimately was a decision I made for my kids. The date/time was planned out about 6-8 weeks in advance. So, I had plenty of time to go over it again and again and again in my mind. The nauseous feeling and dread became too familiar. This would be the second worst thing they had ever been told in their lives.

In July, in their counselor’s office with the counselor present, I told my oldest boys how their dad hurt his head.  They were both completely shocked. My oldest son flat-out told me that he didn’t believe it. My nine-year old though–his response, to this day, has me questioning if telling them was the right thing to do. Words will never convey what I saw in his body, his face, and his eyes. I hurt that little boy in a way that he’s never been hurt before. He couldn’t get mad at Jake. Jake isn’t here anymore. But I am here and I’m the one who told him. He screamed at me that I should never have told him. He asked me why I would ever tell him such a horrible thing. He cried hard and questioned why I couldn’t let him be not knowing. He ran out of the office.

At some point the counselor returned with my son. He moved his body as far away from me as he could possibly get. I was distraught. Clearly I had made the wrong choice and I just wanted to go back to 20 minutes earlier-immediately before the session started–and make a different decision about telling them. But as I tell my kids almost daily–once the words come out of your mouth, you can never put them back. The session only lasted long enough for the boys to decide that we shouldn’t tell the younger two siblings (now age 7 and 5). My oldest son believed that waiting until they were much older was the best possible option. My younger son stated that if I really loved them, I wouldn’t ever tell them the truth. He looked me right in the eye for the first time in the previous 25 minutes and said, “No parent should ever tell a kid anything like that…ever”.

I do have very strong beliefs that nobody knows my children and our family as well as I do.  Ultimately, I will make the big, hard, horrible decisions.  However, this also means that I had to come home that day, and every day since then, and try to manage this THING by myself.  It’s so much more than holding them and reassuring them how much their daddy loved them.  I wish it were that easy.

In the past few weeks, anger has been coursing through my body.  In my entire life, I haven’t had nearly enough experience with anger to comprehend and manage what I’ve been feeling lately.  Maybe it falls just short of uncontrollable?  I’m a little scared that it might end up there.  The urges I have had to break things, tear Jake’s pictures down, slam glass photo frames against the wall and just let out raw, primal screams and cries..are like none I’ve ever felt before.  Every day, I try to manage how I feel, how my kids feel and how I feel about what my kids are feeling.  None of it is good.  With each passing day, as I observe each child’s behaviors, reactions, play, language, drawings…everything–a tiny piece of my hope that’s not very big to begin with, but still there for now–the hope that my kids will be okay and that I will be okay–seems to get chipped away.  Because no matter what I do or don’t do, no matter how much I keep trying–I will never make things okay for them.  Their innocent little brains were altered the day they lost their daddy.  It gets worse daily.  I feel like a helpless bystander.  Their poor little brains and hearts were changed again on the day I chose to sit down and tell my boys that yes…their daddy hurt his head and the doctors couldn’t help him so he died at the hospital.  He hurt his head, because he shot himself.  In the head.

My 9-year-old son screamed at me: “WHAT?  WHAT?  He shot himself?  Like with a gun? WHERE?  Why did he have a gun? WHY DIDN’T YOU STOP HIM?!?!”

So, yeah, I’m fucking angry.  Yes.  I’m angry at Jake.

The THING is-my anger isn’t about “the day I told my poor children that their daddy shot himself in the head”.  I’m angry because it’s every fucking day.

This has nothing to do with how difficult it is to somehow figure out everyday life logistics as the only parent of 4 young kiddos.  I’m not angry about that.  I’ve learned to plow ahead and do what I can to figure that shit out.  I have help.  I ask for help.  People are kind.

This anger has everything to do with the fact that my kids live every moment with loss and confusion and unfairness.  These are well-worn ruts in their brains.  These have become entwined and entangled throughout their beings so that this THING is a significant part of who they are and who they are going to become.

When I get an email from a teacher about behavior/emotional outbursts in class, or a “character counts” slip from the after school care (which means a kid did something to show poor character), or a parent lets me know about my son’s behavior at soccer practice, or a very young sports coach (super young–super awesome kid) gets up the courage to talk to me about my kid being a little jerk at practice and coach would love to hear some of my thoughts about how to manage said son’s jerkiness (he put it way nicer than that-that was just the automatic translation going on in my head while he was telling me)–I keep myself up at night trying to figure out how I’m going to help them.  All kids have stuff going on.  But it’s very hard NOT to compare when my kids have this THING and I have nobody to share this with.  The one person that I could share this THING with, who would feel it the way I do, is the one who is gone.  If he weren’t gone, I wouldn’t have this THING stuck in my brain and my body every minute of the day.

The shit that goes on at home–sometimes it seems like the kinds of shit that all kids do.  I read blogs and see videos and read posts on social media about other kids doing the same exact stupid shit as mine.  It’s annoying and it’s frustrating and it drives me crazy.  But that stuff–doesn’t worry me.  I don’t lie awake at night thinking about that stuff. It’s other stuff.  Deeper stuffReally painful stuff that humans aren’t meant to feel, live with, or manage. That’s the stuff I see in my children every day that chips away at what’s left of my hope.

In my line of work, we ‘encourage’ the people we work with to be specific with their language.  I actually have the rule that my students can’t use the words “stuff” or “thing”.  But I can’t find a word to convey the THING–the super big THING-that my family lives with every day.  There is no word.  So, it’s the THING.

My daughter loves to draw and write.  One morning she drew a picture.  When she showed it to me, my heart broke and I asked “Is that you?” as I pointed to the girl in the picture.  She replied, “No, that’s you mommy.  You’re very sad”.  UGH.  This is an example of the THING.  Because my kids rarely see me sad.  I try my damnedest to keep that smile on my face, make silly jokes, use weird voices when reading stories, and dance around the family room with them every day.  But my daughter must see through me somehow.  I wonder if her next picture will be a portrait of her mom punching a wall or breaking some glassware (not by accident).  I hope not.  I’m hoping that in writing this post, I will feel some sort of relief from this terrible, angry feeling that I’ve been living with lately.

So, I don’t excuse my kids’ stupid, jerky behavior.  Well-meaning people have said to me, “You can’t blame everything on Jake dying” (which, by the way, makes me angry because I don’t).  Anyway, I can’t live in parallel universes to compare if they would do the same stuff if Jake was alive.   But I know, without a doubt, that the THING has become a part of them and that most definitely would not have happened if their daddy was still here and I hate that.

I definitely need more cute puppy videos in my life.  I just wish puppies could fix everything.

(Too much pressure to put on puppies. I know. No need to contact animal rights groups.)

 

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Hell Week

I wasn’t going to post again during this week-hell week. The last week in August every year.

Three years ago today, August 30, they took my Jake off life support. I lied on his chest and listened to his heartbeat. It continued beating for a good minute after they turned off the machine. I was hopeful. I heard his heart beating. I listened and begged him and begged his heart to keep beating. It beat more slowly. I strained to hear more. Then, it completely stopped. I listened to my husband’s heart stop beating.

It’s a down day. I’m trying hard to stay busy. I tell my brain to “stop” when it starts drifting back there.

Pulling together school schedules, sports practices, child care, work schedule, skill clinics, games, end of summer playdates, backpacks, school supplies, etc…I feel like I am just being pulled under more and more with each minute. I’m wondering how am I supposed to keep doing this-how am I supposed to be everything to these 4 kids when I feel frozen like this? Because all of the above are just a fraction of their physical needs. They have mental, social and emotional needs…I don’t know how to do this.

The news is very sad. There are terrible things happening everywhere-locally, nationally, and worldwide. I worry and my anxiety grows because I know there is so much suffering outside of my house and outside of my family.

I do have a tiny bit of hope today….because I remember. I remember that I’ve been through days when I felt like this.  A lot of them. That knowledge, that remembering, is what keeps me from feeling hopeless. I have to hold on to that.

Here we go again…

So.

Here we go again. It’s the Saturday before the Wednesday.

Before you think I’ve completely lost it-in 2014, the 23rd of August fell on a Saturday. That was the first day that Jake asked to be taken to the hospital for severe depression and suicidal thoughts. They gave him a prescription for Ativan (which has side effects including suicidal thoughts) and a pamphlet recommending that he take a nice bath.

The worst day of our lives was four days later.  Wednesday, August 27, 2014. In my opinion, this sculpture best captures the pain we endured that day. I remembering lying on the floor, feeling like I was filled with stones.  This year-like the past two-I am continuously re-living every day between the Saturday and the Wednesday. Every conversation. Every text message. Every meal. Every event. Everything.

Here’s the thing. I honestly believed–I had myself convinced–that I was going to be okay this year. This year would be different. Haha! I know better!

At the end of last year, I registered to run a 1/2 marathon on August 27th of this year. I didn’t really think about what that meant for me. For the most part, it just meant doing something healthier than I’ve done the past two years (in case you missed it, 1st year mark–beer and whiskey shots, 2nd year mark–didn’t leave my bed). I guess in the back of my mind I also figured I would be honoring Jake (who we all know was an avid runner), by running that day.

But, recently, I’ve really been thinking about this. I don’t ever want to honor or memorialize August 27th in any way. So, why am I running this stupid race on August 27th?

Because it’s not about Jake. I’m running, jogging, walking, and possibly crawling across that finish line to honor myself. I’m running to honor the fact that my kids and I, Jake’s family, Jake’s friends, and my family lived through that awful day.  I’m honoring all the people affected by this loss–the widening concentric circles that I’ve talked about in the past. Friends, old and new, who were there to support all of us who loved him-because it has sucked for them too. It sucks to watch people you love hurting.

On August 27, 2014, the unimaginable actually happened.  There are those of us that at times thought that we might not make it through such heavy, debilitating pain. So, when I run this Sunday, I’ll be thinking of all us who somehow lived through that day…and every day after. My body and brain may feel like they are filled with stones, just like the sculpture-but I’m going to drag them both across the finish line no matter what it takes. And I’ll be taking you all with me.  XO

So I Keep Living

“So I Kept Living”

I was walking down an unfamiliar street and saw the sign with the above words in a window of a juice place (ha! ironically-see previous post). I stopped in my tracks and stood there staring at it. Didn’t move for at least a minute. Four words that when put together that way were so powerful that I stood on the street for a full minute and processed them. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I have taken some time to go back and re-read my old posts about how I navigate my world without Jake. There are numerous trends throughout my story, but one emotion stuck out for me. Whoa. I’ve been ANGRY. Like really, really angry. Not angry at Jake so much (although there was some of that), but just at people, places, things, ideas, dreams, rocks….. Somehow, in the past few years I arrived at a place where I was pissed at a rock.

It’s been almost three years. I have felt so incredibly low many times. I have spent days in bed (and sometimes still do, although those days are fewer now), had to make to do lists that included “take a shower” and “eat some food”, hated Wednesdays, then the 27th of each month, then holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. I’ve gone out of my way to avoid places that I had been to with Jake. I couldn’t even drive by them. I’ve gone through phases where I drank too much and didn’t eat enough. Even had times when I was tempted to shake the person in front of me in line at the grocery store because I was irritated that they were being too chatty with the cashier and scream “DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT MY HUSBAND DIED AND I AM VERY SAD AND ANGRY AND THIS IS NOT HOW I PICTURED MY LIFE SO CAN YOU PLEASE SHUT UP BECAUSE I WANT TO BUY THESE MICROWAVEABLE PANCAKES FOR MY KIDS AND GET MY DIRTY ASS BACK TO BED!”

It became very routine for me to wake up in the morning full of purpose and expectations.  But, it usually took less than 20 minutes before I was back into “survival mode” and just looking forward to going to bed again that night.  I blame a little of this on the weather since last September.  In Seattle, the weather from September until this past week (late June!) has been miserable, nasty, rainy and gray all day everyday.  Experiencing this weather for so many months has been rough on most people who live here.  Like many others, my mental health depends on exercise, specifically, trail running.  I used to run in downpours and freezing cold.  But it has been so bad that all my trails became running water creeks and pretty much impossible to run without wearing giant fly fishing boots (which I haven’t actually tried to run in but I imagine it’s pretty tricky).  The combination of sadness, anger at everything, grief, longing, depressing weather, and not being able to take care of myself physically was debilitating.  In reality, although I thought I was angry at everything and everyone else, I was really most angry at myself.  Angry at myself for not having more strength, patience, and energy.  Angry at myself for not being the mom/daughter/sister/friend that I really wanted to be.  Angry that I had to rely on help from others (every day) that I knew I would never be able to repay/reciprocate.  REALLY angry at myself for not attempting my trail runs through raging rivers wearing fly fishing boots and a full on snow suit (because obviously I am such a wuss).

A shift in thinking crept up on me when I was so busy being angry.  My cousin was having a fancy destination wedding in Turks & Caicos.  When I first received the invitation, my immediate reaction was “No.  Of course I can’t go”.  As the weeks went by, I started wondering if I could actually do it.  Little by little I realized there were ways I could overcome the “obstacles” to taking this trip of a lifetime.  Rather than being bitter and resentful because life put me in this “position” where I obviously could not take trips or do anything fun–ever, I started planning.  I started out by asking for help.  (Unheard of–right?) HUGE pleas for help and months of planning/organizing/reorganizing led me to an incredible, stunning, beautiful, relaxing and SUPER FUN vacation-it was better than I had even imagined!  One day during that vacation, I received some really upsetting news about an old friend who recently found out that he was very sick and undergoing treatment.  Even though I was in the midst of all the beauty and fun, I plunged once again.  A lot of crying and a lot of anger (including the urges to punch anybody who walked by me that I thought looked ‘douche-y’) led me to what I now refer to as “poor choice Monday”.  (I won’t go into exact detail about the ultimate poor choice I made that day, but I will give you a hint.  It involved rum drinks and did not end well.)  The next morning though, I woke up with these thoughts:  I don’t want to ever say “someday maybe“.  I don’t want to keep waiting for “things” to fall into place so I can climb out of the darkness.  I don’t want to wake up one day and realize I hadn’t danced around the kitchen with my kids before they became too cool to do that with me because it was vital that I got the laundry done.  Most of all, I don’t ever want to say “It’s too late” ever again.

I started running again and going to my favorite gym ever in the history of gyms.  After I was leaving my first class back, I was stopped short by that sign at the juice store.  As I stood and stared (and to be honest I was probably talking out loud to myself), it struck me how profound those words were.  I kept living, and because of that, I can keep living!By no means do I expect to find myself skipping happily through meadows and mountains whistling along with the birds or conversing with squirrels (although you never know…).  I don’t expect that my feelings of being overwhelmed will completely go away (after all, we ALL get overwhelmed).  I don’t foresee any time in my future when I won’t need help from others.  But I’m really hopeful that I can be kinder to myself.

I have a lot to say–too much for one post!  Stay tuned for future posts about:

  • My feelings about “13 Reasons Why” and the Michelle Carter case
  • Three Years
  • Trying to stay “rooted in gratitude”
  • How I am really doing with this developing hopeful attitude
  • Future “poor choices” like trying a juice cleanse again

 

The Cleansing

I know that blogs are “supposed to be” centered around a specific theme. However, I’m trying to get rid of the “should haves” and “supposed tos” in my life so things are about to get crazy up in here!

A couple of days ago, I got a wild hair up my ass. I went to a cold pressed juicing place with the intention of trying a juice and maybe choking down a wheatgrass shot. Well, I ended up spending a pretty penny on a 3-day juicing cleanse. The juice is only good for a few days, so I planned to start the very next day. The salespeople told me to drink water to stay hydrated. They told me to go for walks instead of runs because I may be lightheaded. Meanwhile, my mind was thinking “pffft. I totally got this AND I’m going to keep up my strict workout routine!”

I’d really like to share my experience!

Day One/Juice One–something green with kale and stuff in it. Doesn’t taste so bad considering it’s green and has kale and other “good for you” crap in it.
Juice Two–something citrus-y with fruit and mint. Different, but good.
Juice Three-back to the kale and spinach base. I can choke it down.

*Then I sit on the couch for a second and fall fast asleep. Almost late for work.*

Juice Four-Something red. It has beets in it. This was a juice that I could see myself drinking on a semi-regular basis. Go figure. Maybe it’s because it wasn’t green.

*At this point-I become lightheaded. Dizzy, Start of a headache. I remember I’m also supposed to be sipping green water (can’t they do something about all the green?) throughout the day. This stuff was nasty.*

Juice Five-something green based. Can barely bring it to my mouth. Trying to force down a few sips and the 5th grader I was working with asks “Well, if its making you feel so bad, why are you doing it?”. I paused and said “That’s a really good question. You’re wiser than I am kid”.

Somewhere during Juice Five (which I couldn’t finish) I get nauseous, feverish, and the worst headache I can remember having since I had migraines in grad school. My face feels like it’s on fire. I’m practically lying on the desk as I work with my student. My heart is beating really fast and I feel short of breath. I wonder how I’m going to make it through the work day. I might have the flu.

Juice Six–Really kind of yummy–almond/vanilla based. Last juice of the day. Withdrawal symptoms remain.

I throw out remainder of Juice 5, as well as green water.

By the time I get home, I think I’m hallucinating.

I crawl into bed without even brushing my teeth or washing my face! My head is pounding and I think I’m going to vomit. I can’t even function.

I am up about seven times during the night to pee. At least seven.

The morning comes and my headache has dulled. I wonder for a brief moment if I can get through another day of cleansing.
After all, I spent a pretty penny on this shit. I open Juice #1 and start to drink it.

My 9-year-old pulls out the coffee. “Mom–PLEASE drink some coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. I’ll even make it for you!”

12-year-old says “Just drink water, mom. That doesn’t make you sick.”

At this point, children have more common sense than I do.

The whole “not eating” part wasn’t bad at all, because you are sipping these juices practically every minute, (or drinking the green water in between).
But–ugh–I was so sick! I need to be able to function in my life! I have a job and kids. I drive a car (they should have laws against driving while you are on a cleanse by the way)! I’m thinking-well-this is what detox means. When people are overcoming an addiction, they go through physical withdrawal symptoms like this.

Then I decide-

Life is short. Eat the fucking cookie.

Knowing Alone

You don’t know.
I’m glad you don’t know.
There are so many things I know that I didn’t know before.
I keep learning things that I don’t want to know.

It hurts to be alone with these things I’ve never wanted to know.

Still, nobody can know them except for me.

I know sadness. I know pain. I live grief. But I don’t know what to say to you about your sadness, pain and grief. I know that words never brought me comfort.  Not much has made sense in the AFTER. I’m not saying that there aren’t words out there that can bring someone suffering a loss some comfort and peace. But I don’t know what they are.

I just know what you don’t know.

You don’t know how the most innocuous statements can trigger me so unexpectedly.  Like when my son was in his honor choir concert and the announcer man was talking about the importance of music in schools and thanking all the parents for getting their kids to the extra practices on time because that is a “part of parenting”.  Fine statement, right?  But I started crying. Because getting my kids to practices doesn’t seem like “part of parenting” to me at all.    It seems more like being “part of cruise directing”.  Because parenting for me is not about the logistics of getting 4 different kids to different places at the same times.  I have so many wonderful people helping me with that part.  Parenting for me is living, in my mind, the worst possible case scenario for anything and everything that happens with my kids. The phone rings and before I can pick it up I’m already sitting at Harborview at the bedside of someone I love waiting for the doctor to call time of death.  Reliving. Parenting for me is listening to my youngest son cry “I want to be with you” when I’m walking out the door for the fourth evening that week and leaving him with a sitter because I either have to work or attend another one of my kids’ events that will run past his bedtime.  It’s wondering what sort of damage I’m adding to what’s already been done.

You don’t know the sadness that comes with the knowledge that my support group has grown too large.  There are too many of us.  There is a waitlist to get in.  You don’t know that as much as we all need that support group, every one of us is ready to give up our place so that nobody has to be on a fucking waitlist to get some help.

You don’t know that my mind races so quickly I can’t even keep up with the thoughts.  Or maybe it races so I don’t get stuck on any of the more horrific thoughts.  Like how every time my pre-teen son gets upset and slams the door to his room, I am petrified–beyond petrified–that he’s going to hurt himself–because of something I said or didn’t say and because it “runs in the family”.

You don’t know how it actually feels like a physical punch to my gut-it practically doubles me over in pain, every time I walk into the preschool and see an announcement for an upcoming “Daddy-Daughter Dance”.  I know that sign is posted there.  But it’s like a sneaky, scary monster hiding behind the door that jumps out at me.  I am startled by it,  every single time. You don’t know this because there’s no way you would.  What you see is my Kristen suit and a smile on my face as I greet my little guy who may or may not be happy to see me (depending on whatever matters to a 5-year-old at any given moment).

You don’t know how difficult it is to watch one of my kids do something really cool (like the honor choir) and know without a doubt that my husband would be so proud of him.  But how sad it is for my husband that he doesn’t get to be here.  Even more sad for my kids who don’t have their dad in the audience to support them.  I can be present at as many events as I can physically attend, but I can never make up for daddy’s absence at these events.

You don’t know how I can’t get good mental health counseling for my children.  Good counselors do not accept Medicaid.  Counselors will accept cash.  I will give them cash to help my children.  But then I sit through session after session wondering why I’m listening to this person who is not there.  Who doesn’t know.  At the end of the day, there is just me.  I am the only person on this earth that loves and cares for my kids the way I do.  At the end of the day, I am alone in this parenting.

You don’t know how my 6-year-old daughter’s counselor has been listing off the characteristics of a child with ADHD and I’m thinking–“Holy shit.  She’s talking about me.  I have ADHD”. Then in the next moment I’m sitting on my hands to keep from tearing my hair out because what does this ADHD stuff have to do with my child’s anger and grief? I am paying CASH for fucks sake.  PLEASE stop reading this book to my child about how all dogs have ADHD.  I’m about to scream.

You don’t know how counselors that I pay CASH for come up with ever-loving complicated “systems” of reinforcement and consequences for my kids.  They don’t know how asking me to pull together and maintain this “system” is maybe the thing that will put me over the edge.  But I still try.  They tell me that I need to put together a “simple” collage book with my child-one that’s all about said child and daddy.  Put it in a plastic baggie and close it with duct tape so it can never get dirty or wet.  WHAT?  I don’t have time to check my kids’ homework, let alone spend time ALONE with one child (what are the other kids doing at this time?) to make a book that they can’t ever take out of the bag?  Maybe this is my newly, self-diagnosed ADHD kicking in-but I don’t understand the sense of that.

You don’t know how much my body shook as I held my mother-in-law last weekend because she is going in for major surgery and I know she is terrified that she won’t come out.  You don’t know how I locked myself in her bathroom and cried because–oh my gosh.  Because of so many things.  My kids cannot suffer another loss.  I cannot lose her.  I have grown to love her and appreciate her.  We have a relationship. She is Jake’s mother.  Jake would’ve been by her side every step of the way, giving her courage and making her laugh.  I have no courage to offer.  I have fear.

You don’t know how much I hate myself for wanting to do things for myself.  I’m not just talking about a “nice bath” or a girls’ weekend getaway.  I am not going to pretend to be selfless or some kind of martyr.  I want things too-things that don’t have to do with the kids at all!  But I know kicking and screaming and flailing myself around on the floor doesn’t actually work.  I don’t know how to make it work and if I figured it out-would I just hate myself for actually doing that thing for myself?  In our modern American culture, people give you lip-service about how moms need to take care of themselves in order to take care of their kids–the whole airplane/oxygen mask thing.  But then society frowns upon moms who do just that.  Because how are we supposed to squeeze in “me” time between extra honor choir practices, birthday parties, “mandatory volunteer hours” (okay what the fuck is that even supposed to mean?), work, counseling, laundry, sports practices, math team, school projects that are supposed to be completed with “limited parental involvement”, all while making sure our kids are eating organic, well-balanced meals, brushing their teeth WELL, flossing (haha), showering WITH soap, changing (and/or wearing) underwear, and taking them on field trips to homeless shelters so they can truly understand how privileged they are?   I want more than that.  I hate how selfish that sounds.  But that’s my true confession.

You don’t know these things, because how would you?  Just like I don’t know you.  I don’t know what to say to loved ones who have lost (or are losing) their loved ones.  I don’t know what to say to strangers who are suffering loss.  I don’t know what’s under your suit-the things that hurt you and scare you.  But it’s so important that I realize that I don’t know and you don’t know.  The best looking, fanciest, perfectly creased, cleanest suit could be hiding fear, pain, grief, trauma, illness, anxiety, nightmares, sadness, panic, anger, guilt, regrets and more.  I wish I had known more about what was under the Jake suit before it was too late.

 

 

 

 

Imperfect

NOTE: This entry was written on separate dates divided by illness and burnt broccoli which could likely account for the lack of cohesiveness throughout.  I’m publishing it anyway:-)

1/18/2017: Well, it happened.  For the first time since Jake died, I got sick! I haven’t been sick in about five years.  I believe because I drink a ton of water regularly and started taking EmergenC at the very first cough, I would feel better in short order.  I think I had truly convinced myself that I would never get sick again…like, ever.  My 5-year-old happened to test positive for the flu at the same time.  Thankfully, my parents were able to take flu boy for a few days which not only enabled me to go to work, but also kept him away from the other kids.  This morning I realized that while my parents should be enjoying their retirement and their grandchildren, they have inadvertently become the kids’ “second parent”.  I appreciate them more than I can even say.  For the past couple of years, I’ve been adamant that these are MY kids and I will make the decisions and nobody else has a say.  But can I even believe that?  When my parents have shouldered so much of the responsibility?  I don’t know.  I’m actually asking.

In the thick of it, when all 4 are going crazy and pictures are falling off the walls because they are like a herd of hippos stomping through my house, and my 5-year-old (who I believe has Oppositional-Defiant Disorder…but I’m also really hoping that it’s a passing phase) is refusing to wear clothes so I have to sit outside his bedroom door holding it shut until he puts some clothes on and he’s screaming and crying and yelling really awful things at me…yes..I am the only one there.  Some form of that scenario takes place on a regular basis.  But just every once in a while I find myself wishing that I had someone here to hold me and tell me that everything is going to be alright.

In case anyone was wondering…YES..it is definitely possible to burn steamed broccoli.  Also, YES..it is possible to make this mistake more than once. So, I completely lost my train of thought.

Some weird coincidences have been happening lately.  I went to a New Years Eve party and didn’t know many people.  I was chatting with the woman hosting the party and as we were talking, we realized that she had gone to high school with Jake.  She knew Jake and all of his friends.  She pulled out her yearbook.  I looked at his yearbook picture and couldn’t tear myself away from it.  Here was this..kid.  In high school, on the football team, tons of friends..with a big smile on his face and that kid had no clue of his fate.  This thinking led me down the rabbit hole of “what if he had never met me? Would he still be alive?” and then that illogical desperation of wishful thinking that we could turn back time to when that picture was taken and alter the course of…everything.

The following weekend I was conversing with a teacher from my kids’ school and it turned out that he went to the same college as Jake AND was there at the same time.

The weekend after that I went trail running with a group of people.  I knew some, but not everybody.  (They were very fast…I had a hard time keeping up with their pace).  I’d like to say I was having a conversation, but really I was just listening to someone talk to me because no way could I talk! She brought up the Innocence Project (not many people know about it, but it was one of Jake’s “things”.  He strongly supported that organization.  I’ve never heard anybody talk about it before) at the exact moment that we came to “the” rock.  I’ve posted about the rock in a previous blog. Before and after.  img_0068-1 img_3646

I had to separate from the group and go up there to remember. It was/is ridiculously hard for me to look at this same rock—-empty. The rock is still present.  Jake is not.  I bawled.  I haven’t cried like that in a long time.  Jake had been there, at that rock, with his kids and I, once again–having no idea what was in store for him.  Someday I will find better words to explain this really indescribable feeling.

When I finally re-joined the pack, my dear friend told me she had had a dream about Jake.  She never really knew Jake-I barely knew her before Jake died.  We became close friends in the AFTER.  She told me how she dreamt that she was at some kind of wedding or big event and Jake walked in, wearing a suit and sat down at a table with a big smile on his face.

Could it be possible?  I want to believe that in these different experiences, Jake is there with me.  However, being the data-driven, scientific evidence, reproducible results girl that I am, always returns to “These are merely coincidences that you are assigning meaning to”.  But lately I have been wondering-what if?  What if I had some faith..in something?  Is it possible to “give faith a chance” and see how it works out for me?  Just believe….without proof.  I don’t know.  Again-I’m actually asking.

CONTINUED 1/22/2017:  So, I started this post earlier in the week while I was in denial.  I had the flu.  I didn’t admit it to myself until 3-4 days in.  Haha! I started taking Tamiflu and do believe it shortened the length and severity of the virus.  But man alive, that medicine is disgusting.  No wonder my kids balk about taking it.  At least I have experience with doing shots (which helped! Positive side of doing shots a long, long time ago…).

My two oldest (ages 9 and 12) boys see a counselor.  During a recent session, my oldest was saying a lot about treasuring the people we love and how much he treasures his family and friends.  He used those words.  Soon afterwards, I overheard my 12-year-old saying mean things to his brother.  I reminded him about what he said to the counselor.  He looked at me and said “Well, of course I still treasure him.  I love him.  He’s my brother.  But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t annoy me!”  I didn’t respond.  I was in awe that my 12-year-old boy was able to articulate in such simple terms, such a profound thought.  Because, I’ve been throwing this idea around in my head for some time.

I know sometimes when I’m with my girlfriends, they are worried about complaining about their husbands around me.  They might be thinking “At least I still have my husband” or anything along those lines.  One friend was surprised that I could empathize with her frustrations.  Here is a true fact-being dead, does not make you perfect.  I have beaten myself up to the point where my bruises on the inside will never go away-because I keep on beating myself up over not doing ‘whatever’ enough when Jake was alive.  But when you take two human beings and put them together to interact, there are bound to be ideas, hopefully many, that are diverse and even conflicting between those two people.  I grew up believing that princes saved princesses and that “they lived happily ever after”.  Nobody ever told me that could never happen.  I know I’m not the only one.  When we registered for our wedding, I registered for more glassware/barware than the dive bar in town even owns.  We had never been big on entertaining before we got married.  But I had this idea in my head that “happily ever after” meant hosting fiestas with a variety of cocktails in their appropriate glassware, and having dinner parties where I would definitely need twelve water goblets.  This was my mindset when I was planning to be married. It didn’t really occur to me that he was not perfect.  I am not perfect.  Our relationship wasn’t perfect.  We loved each other and treasured each other, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t irritate, anger, and have moments of genuine “non-appreciation” for each other. So, yes, I can empathize with relationship struggles and challenges.  (I haven’t found the compassion within myself to feel very sorry for those people whose lives’ biggest problems include having non-matching embroidery on their Christmas stockings because Pottery Barn discontinued that font, however.  I can’t shed tears with you over that one.  Working on it though.)

I know that these things are true:

  • human beings are not perfect,
  • human beings are very complicated,
  • relationships between human beings are complicated,
  • human beings can love someone and not really like that same person at times.

Here is what I am trying to tell myself is true:

  • all of the above are okay.

I do wish that as a society we were all more open about this.  Perfection is an idea.  It cannot be proven.  This is a fact. I absolutely can prove that I am human.  But I cannot prove perfection, because this is an abstract concept and everybody’s ideas about this concept are different.  Every person on this planet has their own idea of perfection.  Most of us strive to achieve it.  But why?  And more importantly-why the hell do we try to put on this face of perfection for the world?  It’s insanity!

I’ve never really wondered “what is my purpose in life?”  Of course, because I already knew.  My “purpose” was to grow up, be an upstanding citizen with a good job, live happily ever after with my husband and kids, and during retirement sit on a porch swing with my husband, sip iced tea and hold hands while watching the sunset.  Obviously, that was not a “purpose”.  That was my fairy tale ending.  I’ve started thinking about it though.  I’ve decided for myself (not for everybody else), that I am always going to have multiple “purposes”.  In the BEFORE, it was about raising my kids to be happy and kind people.  In the AFTER, it’s about doing my best to raise my kids to hopefully be happy and kind people while managing their feelings and beings about the overlooming fact that they lost a parent tragically, and suddenly, and way too young.  It’s about doing my imperfect best when my heart is broken because my 5-year-old doesn’t recognize his daddy in the pictures all over the house.  It’s about doing my imperfect best when my 6-year-old says she is going to ask Santa to bring daddy back to life because Santa is magic and he can do anything.  It’s about doing my imperfect best when my 9-year-old starts crying because he is “the only kid in class” who doesn’t have a dad.  It’s about doing my imperfect best when my 12-year-old takes on the un-asked-for burden of being the “man” of the house before he even hits puberty. All of this while trying to raise my kids to hopefully be happy and kind people (even when I’m down and out with the stupid flu). A lot of days, my imperfect best, is not even very good.   But, I need to be okay with that.  Not just okay with the suit I wear for the world, but really okay with that for me.  The real, raw, selfish, generous, loving, hating, compassionate, not-so-compassionate, thoughtful, thoughtless, imperfect Kristen that only I know about.  I need to be okay with her.

When we lose somebody suddenly, some of the first words out of anybody’s mouth are “treasure every moment with your loved ones because you never know….”.  This is a fantastic sentiment.  But because we are imperfect and complicated human beings that interact with other imperfect and complicated human beings, there are going to be times when we don’t necessarily show our appreciation to our loved ones.  We feel angry.  We feel annoyed.  We are not very nice.  But we still treasure.  There are no similes I can come up with for comparison.  This just is.  We can only try our imperfect best and aim to keep our inner bruising at a minimum.

Jake always encouraged me to write.  It turns out, Jake had a story.  He still does.  But he’s not here to tell it.  I will tell Jake’s story.  I will tell it the way he told it to me, the way he didn’t tell it to me, and the way I found out about it going through his belongings after he died.  Jake was my beautifully imperfect best friend and love.  And I have his perfectly tragic story to tell.