Sunday, April 29, 2012

Arriving at the Destination: Not Quite Paradise

When she was just a girl
She expected the world
But it flew away from her reach
And the bullets catch in her teeth
Life goes on, it gets so heavy
The wheel breaks the butterfly
Every tear a waterfall
In the night the stormy night she'll close her eyes
In the night the stormy night away she'd fly
Coldplay, Paradise

I will not say do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.
Gandalf, The Return of the King

In summary, I would expect to be asked what it feels like to have come out the other end of the long tunnel that is grief.  I am not sure I can answer that quite yet aside from what I've already told you before.  I still grieve, but I'm not so heartsick with it that I cannot feel happiness or look forward to things or even experience real joy.  The best way I can describe it is to tell you a story about my favorite piece of clothing: an embroidered silk Chinese jacket that I found in a vintage clothing shop on South Congress in Austin.  I   took myself down to this little cluster of shops near the South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse (one of the things I truly miss about Austin) one Saturday not long after Mother had died.  Even if you're not from Austin, you may know the area I'm talking about because it would later get some national exposure from the Wendy's commercial where the young man finds the old Where's the Beef t-shirt - that was shot along that strip of shops.  I guess I was feeling lost in the massive quiet after so many years of drama so I was looking for a diversion.  I had no real intention of buying anything, but I wandered into this shop where I know the woman who owns it has a lot of kimonos.  I love old clothing and I love Oriental styles in particular.  Combine the two and it's art, but, c'mon, who has cause to wear a kimono on a regular basis?  Well, long story short, she also had a few Chinese pieces, including this long, black silk number with brilliant embroidery.  She coaxed me a little, I caved and tried it on.  We discussed what you wear under it, how you accessorize a busy piece like it, etc. and next thing I know I owned it and a pair of simple red gem earrings.  I've never bought anything so expensive before or since.  I probably never will.  I sometimes think about it and feel really guilty for spending so much money on something I've worn only a few times, but I really, really love it.  I will have it for the rest of my life and eventually it will be Marissa's.  It's now a legacy - a part of me.  So, when I look at it there in the closest, I feel sort of conflicted, but, truth be told, I'm really glad I bought it.

The way I feel now is sort of like owning that jacket.  I am sort of secretly thrilled, like I got away with something, but there is some guilt associated with it too.  How dare I feel any sense of happiness in the face of such a tragic loss?  I've wrestled with that one a lot over the last almost three years - anytime I would laugh at a joke, or when the Steelers made it to the Super Bowl, or when Sid the Kid won the gold medal, but those were moments and this is life as a whole, so it is a big step out the door and once you realize what's happening, expect a little inner pressure to go backwards.  Please don't give into it.

I've always believed in Fate tempered by free will.  I didn't pick up on it just to justify my state of mind now.  I've always believed that Fate puts big moments in your life and you have the free will to determine what to do with them.  How I substantiate that claim might have to be for another time,  but let me just say, having been around a day or two, nothing has ever happened to dissuade me of that belief and plenty has happened that reinforced it.  With that in mind, I have to believe that Kelsey's father and I are still around for a purpose.  It seems wrong on the face of it.  The very nature of a parent is to believe in your very bones that your children will outlive you.  But, for some reason, that did not happen in my case.  I can let that interfere forever with my living the rest of my life, but then am I forsaking the purpose I must have for surviving?  My belief system says so.

Plus, someday I may have grandchildren.  What am I supposed to say to them when I can't get out of my own stupor to do the things grandmothers are supposed to do:  let them eat an extra piece of candy their mother doesn't want them to have, take them to the zoo, teach them to bake and let them make a holy mess of my kitchen, read The Hobbit to them?  I can't do those things if I turn my back on a full life.  It's just one example.  Yours will be different, but, trust me, they are there.

I don't know what my purpose is really.  That lies ahead.  Sometimes people will tell me I should write a book, but parenting an ED sufferer has been done, so have countless books on grief.  I think about writing a book about bad parenting and how to overcome it, because I think I have a lot to say on that particular subject.  But, in the meantime, the current bills call, and I have to spend a lot of my time at my day job, so it's all just sort of thoughts rattling around.  I tend to think I'll know it when it presents itself, so I'm patient for the moment.  I would counsel you to be the same.  If your loved one died of - say - cancer, don't necessarily force yourself to volunteer for cancer causes if it's painful.  I skitter around the borders of eating disorder causes personally.  I lived with it for so long as such a dominating force in all our lives, I can't quite make fighting it an advocation now.  But, I can't walk away from it either because I think of all those parents out there - scared and unsure what to do - and all those sufferers who feel the same way, and I can't leave them entirely behind.  That's me.  Others who have lost loved ones to it fight it 24/7 like a crusade.  Do I feel guilty that I don't do more?  Sure, sometimes.  But, I know that faking it doesn't help anybody.

Finally, I leave this series with this thought:  life is forever different.  You are forever different.  There is always that hole in your life.  I am so sorry for that.  But allow yourself to experience happiness when it comes to you.  The person you lost would want you to and maybe, at the very heart of it, that's the real reason you should bravely carry on:  because you owe it to your loved one who now lives because of your memories of them.

And so lying underneath those stormy skies
She'd say, "Oh, ohohohoh I know the sun must set to rise."

Monday, April 23, 2012

Roadmap, Part Three: The Headlong Flight

All the journeys of this great adventure 

It didn't always feel that way 

I wouldn't trade them because I made them 

The best I could, and that's enough to say 

Rush, Headlong Flight

On a rainy Saturday afternoon I took myself to see Titanic in Imax 3D, 100 years to the day from when the ship and 1,517 of its passengers went down to the bottom of the Atlantic.  I worried a little bit about it to be honest.  When Titanic first came out Kelsey was at that perfect age of impressionable romanticism.  She had started to notice that boys were sometimes intriguing creatures and to experience that little flutter when a cute one might look her way, letting his gaze linger just a little too long.  And she was hungry for knowledge and happened to have a teacher who was simply ga-ga over the legacy of the great ship.  So, before she even saw the movie, she knew everything there was to know about it.  And I do mean everything.  And I had to hear all about it all the time.  Now add that to the intoxicating romance of Jack and Rose - two individuals notably easy on the eyes - and it was a pre-teen's dream.  Of course a lot of people were caught up in it at the time, the movie was a huge success because it had a little bit of everything:  romance, drama, great nobility and great cowardice in the face of death and, of course, stuff blows up - or at least breaks apart in grand fashion.  But, like Rose, my memories of Titanic are sort of stuck in time and there is a price to pay to drudge them all up again.  I did okay with it.  Just like The Lord of the Rings, I managed to take it back from the past so it can be a part of my future.  Speaking of which, the largest bump in the road was the preview for The Hobbit, which I'd actually seen before, but not on a giant screen in 3D.  I cried.  The people around me must of thought I was nuts.  But, I cried for the fact that Kelsey would have loved this film and that she in all likelihood would have been sitting next to me at that moment watching that preview if she were still alive.  I told Greg later, I still plan on being right there at the midnight show the day it opens, but I know it will be hard and my heart will be heavy that I get that chance and my child does not.   And that is the thing about life after loss.  It goes on.  Peter Jackson made his movie despite one of his biggest fans not being around to see it, and the rest of us have to decide how to react to that.  To boycott it because it might be painful is to miss out on the wonder of it.  I reason, therefore, that I might as well go.  I'll have some bad moments, but then Gandalf will come and take me on a journey that has a dragon in it.  I wouldn't want to miss that!

And that is probably the next thing I would say to someone:  don't let your pain stop you from living your life.  Know that the ache of loss is just now a part of it.  It'll dull down over time, but I accept that there will probably always be flair ups, like someone who has broken a bone and can feel when bad weather is approaching.  The thing is, if I hadn't allowed myself to go back to Titanic (and, yes, I said it that way on purpose), I would have shut down a segment of memories of our time as a family that was actually pretty good.  And that would just compound the loss immeasurably.  Kelsey had such a short life and so much of it was hard, that it seems almost criminal to lose touch with the happy moments we shared.

Now, it took me a while to get to where I can say that with confidence.  I could NOT have faced going to The Return of the King or Titanic a year ago.  For you, of course, the challenge will be something else, but you know what I mean:  I'm talking about regaining the parts of your life that you think you can't face again because it will remind you too much of the person you've lost.  Whatever it is for you, my desire for you is to try and reclaim it.  It is reasonable to ask when you will know that you're ready.  But, I'm not the one to ask.  Only you will know really.  All I can tell you is that I'm not sure that I really knew I could handle it.  I just knew I got to the point where I was sure I wanted my life to be controlled by me, not my grief.

The funny thing is that I was so intent originally on remembering the bad stuff - all the issues we had as parents and the mistakes we made, the horror and struggles of ED, the blow back to the other aspects of our lives, including to Kelsey's kid sister - but I seemed afraid to face happier memories at first.   I don't know if that's normal - maybe that's further in that book I didn't finish - but all I can tell you now is I'm glad I overcame it.  Really, really glad.

The moral to this story:  sometimes the way forward is the way to reclaim the past.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Road Map, Part Two: Lighting the Dark and Lonely Road

I've been on the very road you're walking on
It doesn't have to be so dark and lonely
Takes a while until we can figure this thing out and turn it back around

- The Shins, It's Only Life

I watched The Village again the other day.  I hadn't realized that it had been so long, but once I was a few minutes into it I realized I hadn't seen it since before Kelsey died and my perception of the movie is now completely different.  I may have to amend my movie list to the Big 8 - it remains to be seen.  But I can tell you I had a big cry during this viewing at least.  However, I mention it because of the moral of the story:  you cannot isolate yourself from either sadness or the capacity for violence.  Hide where you will, it will find you.  I think that's important to know, and if I were to continue on with what I would say to someone, I would make sure I emphasize that over and over.  I think many of us want and are looking for a way out of the grieving process.  There isn't one except to get through it.  I'm telling you:  like I said before, you can try different legal or illegal avenues and all you will do is mask it, but that means it will hang around and wait for you.  You've got to sober up at some point and there it will be.  Might as well handle it now.  I know that's why I couldn't make it through that book I've mentioned multiple times; because it was bluntly honest about the process and the potential collateral damage.  I couldn't accept that at first and wanted to run from it.  I was completely intent on proving it wrong on every level.  Problem is, I can tell you now, almost three years later, you just cannot.  Unless you are a cold hearted bastard who doesn't love your family, you're going to have to wade through the process.  And sometimes you'll wonder why you're bothering.  I'll get to that.

But, in the meantime, sometimes life throws you a curve ball and it's hard to give yourself the right amount of space to do exactly that.   For me, there was Mother.  And I had other obligations to attend to.  So, what happened is that I attended to everything in a fairly half-ass manner.  I took care of my mom, but probably not like she deserved.  Certainly not in a manner that allows me to think back on her last days fondly and with any amount of pride that I made her comfortable.  It was a struggle, I'll just be honest.  I think I made the right Big Decisions, but it was the little stuff that suffered.  The caring and compassion.  I just had so little patience.  But, grieving properly - whatever that may mean - was being done in a slipshod fashion as well.  Once Mother was gone, then I moved on to plotting the move to Pittsburgh and again I managed to put the grieving process somewhere else in the brain besides front and center.  I figured at the time that it was the best thing for me.  Maybe it was.  The end result certainly was a good one.  But, if I thought somewhere deep inside that the grieving process was going on anyway while I was concentrating on something else and would expire without me having really thought about it, that was incorrect.  Once I got here, got the house mainly situated and the quiet settled in around me, I realized I was going to have to feel it.  And feel it I did.  I didn't always write about the most harrowing of some of those moments; I didn't want to scare anyone who might read it, but I can safely say now that grief doesn't burn itself out without your feeling every lick of every flame.  It demands it of you before it will consent to leave.  And, like that book I couldn't finish said, you get through some of those days simply by deciding you're going to, not because you really want to.    I felt like I really didn't care if I didn't wake up the next morning or not and would actually prefer not to,  so I just would do it anyway because I figured at some point that feeling would leave and I had to trust in that.  In the meantime, Cheyenne needed me.  It worked.  Here I am.

So, my point in relaying all of this is:  if that is how you feel now, dear reader, in the wake of a great loss, you are not going crazy, you are simply in the middle of the awful process that I wish for your sake you did not have to go through.  But, if you trust in the knowledge that eventually you will wake up in the morning and simply get up and get the coffee started without thinking about it, then you can make it for now.  The funny thing is, it's a little bit like surviving the worst migraine possible.  You don't realize how good simply feeling normal is until you've felt the exact opposite.   Give yourself the chance to experience that.

Everybody has to decide how best to get through those days, but going it alone is not what I would recommend.  I've said it a hundred times before; grief is a unique experience for each of us.  I am not back-tracking on that.  I was so scared at first by the dire predictions on marriages failing in the wake of losing a child, but I actually can tell you now that I'm slightly amazed any survive at all because each parent is struggling with a unique pain that is crippling them so they can't possibly help the other one. I see how easy it would be to resent the other spouse because they aren't grieving the way you think they should be.  Maybe the husband swallows the grief and locks it down tight inside himself while the wife is very open about it.  She thinks he's forgetting about their loss, while he think she's being disrespectful because she blabs about a very personal issue to every Tom, Dick or Harry who comes along.  Maybe she does that because he won't talk to her about it, but he hates that she prods him to, and round and round they go until the situation erodes and they split.  There can be a million variations to the theme, but don't be surprised that you feel as though you are at odds with the one person you thought would understand your pain the most.   Be prepared to get support from sources outside your own four walls, but don't blame your spouse for that need.  You'll have to determine who and what based on your unique circumstances.  Friends tried to get us to go to a support group.  It had worked wonders for them, but Greg wanted nothing to do with it.  You have to respect that from your spouse - coaxing a little is one thing.  I think if I'd tried to forcibly drag him, he would have shut down and resented it and me.  It wasn't the right salve for his wound.  But, for others, it's perfect.  Maybe private counseling works better.  Maybe, like me, writing about it is a good tool.  I actually would encourage anyone to give that a try - keep a journal, write letters even if you don't send them.  You don't have to keep a public blog, but just spilling it out on paper cannot be a bad thing.  But maybe you also find a friend who, while not really able to know exactly how you feel, is willing to just sit and listen when you need him/her to, including the middle of the night, if that's what it takes.  Maybe it's a shelter cat you adopt who cuddles up with you and purrs you to sleep and listens to you gently cry with no judgment or impatience.  You may have to experiment with some different things until you find what works best for you, but my most sincere advice is:  find that source of support and lean on it.  Don't be shy.  When you find the right outlet, you'll know it because they won't ever question the depth of your pain.  They'll accept that you feel it even if they don't.  It's okay to lean on others right now.  Life will find a way to let you pay it forward later if you're worried about that.

That's all for today, dear reader, I'm late for work!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Road Map, Part One: Accepting the Starting Point

Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened. 

Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. 

The Fellowship of the Ring, New Line Cinema 2002
We all know I have a suspect sense of direction in both driving and living, so take these next few posts with the appropriate grain of salt, but I have always hoped this self-serving blog would provide some comfort for somebody somewhere along the line.  So, with that in mind, here's how it is that I think I am still standing.  Hopefully someday someone in need of the simple belief that they can survive a blow like losing a family member can take away something useful to get through the next day, then the next...and so on until they no longer have to think about it and find they are simply living each of them once more.

In trying to decide how to approach this, I determined that I would basically lay it out as though I were talking to a friend who had just lost a loved one and wanted to know what to expect.  What would I say to that person?  After I got done reminding both them and myself that we are unique individuals with unique losses, so what I experienced is not necessarily going to hold true for them, I think I would have to unfortunately start out with some cold, hard truths.  First and foremost among them:

It sucks, it's painful and there are no shortcuts to escape that.  If you need some little modern medicinal help to get through the searing first days/weeks/months, then work with your doctor and do that, but if you over medicate, drown yourself in a bottle, bury yourself in work, or whatever else you come up with to try and numb the pain, it'll still be there waiting on you and you can't keep that up forever.  My advice is to get ready: life is very simply going to be awful for a while.

Also accept that things will never be the same.  Neither will you.  I think there was a time or two when I wondered when things would get back to "normal", then I'd stop myself and realize what an absurd statement that was.  What was our "normal" anyway?  Living with ED and addiction for nearly a decade, normal left my house eons ago.  But, even if that weren't the case, and some freak accident had taken my daughter, the statement would still hold true.  You will be forever changed.  Your life will be forever changed.  That is just a guarantee.  However, and it will be a while before you can really know how it will shake out, you may just find that some positive things will come from it.  That's hard to accept at first and may actually sound like pure heresy.  I'm not saying you'll ever prefer to have lost a loved one, but you may find that, with some time and distance, you are able to turn that pain into something that reaches outside the loss and helps others.  Probably the most prominent example I can think of is John Walsh of America's Most Wanted.  I mean, I don't watch it, and maybe he's gotten really, really rich from it so you can argue that it's pure self-service, but, like I said, it is the most prominent example I can think of.  There are others.  I am part of a support group of mothers of ED sufferers that was formed by a woman who lost her child to the disease.  She is very active in the fight against the disease.  Maybe she'll never be a household name, but I know a lot of moms who use the site to feel less alone as they battle the disease, and I know she's making a great impact.  Of course, maybe that won't be the right path for you.  That's okay too - more about that later.

Realize that, when it's all said and done, some of your friendships will have changed.  That too is not necessarily all a bad thing.  I have made new friends, renewed some old friendships, and cemented some other friendships in a way I could have never thought possible.   But, there are other people that are no longer a real part of my life.  Some wandered away from me, some I separated myself from.  It's sad, but it's inevitable.  If you haven't experienced a loss like mine, it's very hard to know what it's like and how to relate to the individual who has.  I made some people so uncomfortable they almost literally jumped if they ran into me unexpectedly.  Others tried to go on like nothing had changed, which meant they rattled on about this complaint or that disappointment or the latest gossip, and I found I couldn't relate to their worries any longer and had no room for them with everything else I was struggling with.

Know that you will be a pain in the ass sometimes.  I was.  Days when everything seems overwhelming and you hurt so bad that everything strikes you as wrong and awful and you'll lash out or, in some ways worse, retreat into yourself where no one can reach you.  It takes a lot of patience for your friends and loved ones to deal with that.  So, if some of them can't do it anymore, forgive them and let them move on gracefully.  If the ones who do try to stick it out say or do the wrong thing once in a while (because, trust me, they probably will), then understand that there is no right thing to say sometimes and love them just for the sake of trying, even if you have to separate yourself from them for a while in the process.

I have more to say, but, unfortunately, the other thing you have to realize about grief is that life inexorably moves on anyway.  Bills continue to come in, which means you have to continue to earn a living, and that you won't get paid for doing nothing.  So, that's where I find myself today.  Ready to log into work to earn my way in the world so I can turn around and give a healthy chunk to my tax accountant, who I hope is busily preparing my state and local returns as I write.   So, more later, dear friend.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Skating Lessons

This is not a story about sports.  Not really anyway.  This is a story of using the tools that get handed to you to get the job done.  Sometimes you think you're looking for wrench, when in fact a hammer works better.  To trot out another cliche, sometimes you pursue one path thinking it will take you to your destination, and before long you realize that you got there going another direction altogether.  As long as you get there.

For me, I came to Pennsylvania to try and find some peace of mind.  I thought being closer to the things and people that anchor me to my past would help put some salve on the shock of losing any real tie to a family.  And, to absolutely no one's surprise, I came here to be close to my Steelers.  And I won't discount that those reasons have not disappointed me.  But, when I have to think about the reasons I was able to make the statement I did in my previous post:  that I am about ready to put the grieving period behind me, I found that the primary tool used to piece me back together was a surprising one.

I've written about it before.  I've followed the Penguins for a while, but I have to confess, I was at one point a casual fan at best.  But, and I'll try and make it quick because hockey truly is not the point of all of this, when I was in town for a Steeler game a couple of years ago, I saw the Pens play the Devils.  It was one of those nights that happen for any team during a long season:  the Penguins stunk up the place.  They lost 5-0 and allowed Devils legendary goalie Marty Brodeur to his 105th career shut-out, which is an NHL record.  The Pittsburgh crowd gave him a standing ovation.  Sometime during that night I began the jump off the bandwagon to join the band.  I was amazed at the skill the players have to fly up and down the ice on thin blades, controlling not only their own bodies, but a bouncing round disc made of rubber while weaving a strategy of offense and defense at lightning speed.  Watching Brodeur's net-minding was like watching an artist at work.  It's hard to explain, but it's an amazing sport - fast paced, tough, but mixed with a grace and flow like nothing else I can think of.  It marries what I love about figure skating with what I worship about football.  Yet, it's hard to follow in Texas.

Here:  well, that's another story.  All 82 games are televised.  Plus games from other markets.  If you have to miss a game, there's a live streaming radio feed from the Penguins official website - all teams have it - plus I can order game highlights On Demand.  It's a veritable orgy of hockey if you want it.  And, I find that I do.  But, I didn't really think much about it until recently when I realized how exhilarated I felt watching each game.  It's so fast and furious that there's no time to think about anything but the course of the puck up and down the ice and the players who are driving it there or defending against it.  It's like an undulating wave, watch it long enough and it sends you into a trance-like state. The best thing about it is that it may break your heart one night, but it has the potential to lift you to a new high the next.  The season, like the game itself, is in constant motion.  Unlike football where one game can erode an entire season or a heartbreak last months (like Hines retiring), you have the opportunity to pick yourself off, dust off the ice shavings and begin again only a few days later.

I caught Hockey Fever first, but it has spread.  First to Marissa, then even to Greg, who bought himself a Malkin t-shirt when we went to a home game a few weeks ago.  But, I don't think I realized what it had done for us until I snuck a morning off from work to go with Marissa to the unveiling of a statue to honor one of the co-owners of the team, former Penguin player Mario Lemieux.  It was a glorious day and we both enjoyed ourselves so completely, just basking in the ability to be there and experience it, that I got to considering it later:  how almost odd it was that such a simple thing made us so very happy.  And I think it was then that I recognized that the feeling of joy had returned to my life.  I felt real honest joy standing down there on a breezy early spring morning with a bunch of total strangers.  Then I noticed how often I felt a sense of contentment doing anything that involves the game.  And that's when I knew:  I had survived the darkest of the dark days of grief.

For me, without even realizing it, this was what the doctor ordered.  For someone else, it will be something else.  I fell into this completely by happy accident.  But, however it is you find your own version of Hockey Fever, find it and then use it.  Use it to pull you through the long dark.

Funny, they call Mario Lemieux the Savior of Pittsburgh Hockey.  And he is.  But, he may well have saved me too without even trying.  That's how good he is.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

It Does Happen

I live now in what is sometimes referred to as the Rust Belt.  That phrase will bring to mind images of steel mills belching toxic black soot across the land and rivers that catch fire.  I have my own semi-famous story of the first time I saw - or actually really didn't see - the Pittsburgh skyline in the early 70's (tell you later).  There are still reminders of those times.  The radon remediation device that quietly hums along in my basement is one; the fact that I can tell what the air quality is just by how I feel when I walk up the stairs to my office in the morning is another.  But Nature is a resilient lady and spring is nothing if not glorious here.  If she resents what us humans have tried to do to her, she does not show it.  Everyday is a new and glorious surprise which does not seem to dissipate with my second sampling of it.  It's like a gift is given to the residents every year for surviving the long dark of winter (not that we really had one this year).  Everyday during spring we wake up to a different landscape.  The most amazing thing to me are all the trees that begin their season in bloom.  My neighbors, the infamous Mikes, have a set of trees that are in their second set of color.  They began the season blossoming into delicate white flowers, they now have morphed into two different tones of lavender, one lighter, one darker.  Eventually, they will shed the petals to make way for leaves the color of peridot that will eventually deepen to an emerald green that matches the general landscape here, that is such a lush, dark velvet that it makes you understand why immigrants of the Emerald Isle seemed to settle here in droves - it must have reminded them of the rolling hills of their homeland.  I don't smell coal dust in the air, I can smell fresh mown grass and rosemary when I walk the dogs in the morning.  Today I caught a whiff of lavender.  I liked spring in Texas, and I liked every season in Montana as long as you could see the mountains in the distance, but I cannot tell you in all honesty that I have ever experienced a miracle like spring in Pennsylvania.  It seems like the right setting to finally set aside grief and tell you that I am done with it.  And I am almost ready to do that.  Almost.

I will never be who I was.  Not surprisingly.  Any major event changes you forever for better or for worse.  And there is nothing more major than losing a child, no matter their age at the time.  I will never quite feel whole or like there is not that weight with me.  But, I gradually have come to realize that I experience joy now.  I laugh with an abandon that I had forgotten even existed.  I actually hope that new business associates do not discover my back story as I would rather be judged and dealt with based on what I know and what I do rather than out of some sort of pity evolving from what I lost.  I look forward to things.  Maybe above all else, that's the big one.  Sure I looked forward to football season or Sidney Crosby coming back, but I mean that I look forward to little things.  Even such little things as curling up with The Hunger Games anxious to see what comes next for Katniss.  A year ago I doubt I could have read it, this absorbing story that was a gift from a dear friend.  Children killing children would have been far too troubling, fiction or no.  Now I could barely put it down, sneaking in pages when I stopped to heat lunch or let the dogs out.   I don't wake up in the morning wishing I hadn't.  I don't go to bed at night hoping morning never finds me.

I still have Those Moments.  The moments, like seeing Angelina Jolie at the Oscars, where it feels as though I have been punched in the stomach.  Hard.  I still can reach a limit with my patience.  Like the recent conversation I had with someone where she innocently complained loudly and longly about all the things wrong with her and how that made it just impossible for her to do her work well, and I came oh-so-close to telling her she had no idea what real problems were and to count her blessings.  And I still have the moments when I would prefer the earth to just open up and swallow me whole as I see no real purpose for me to even be talking to that woman, having failed so miserably at the one job I had that really mattered;  being a mother.  And there are moments when something happens, I hear a new song, or I see something interesting and I think, "I wonder what Kelsey would think of that."  I'll never know.  But, the moments between those moments are becoming longer.

It didn't happen all at once and there wasn't a point where a switch just flipped and I knew I had made it out of the long, dark tunnel.  There was no A-ha Moment for this.  At some point I just sort of realized I felt differently.  At first I didn't trust it.  But I kept coming back to the same realization.  Finally, I had to accept it.  There are some things I credit for helping to pull me through, but a lot of it was just about time.  A lot of time.  That's not all, but it was the base ingredient.  I had to do some things to help myself along and some things came along and helped me when I least expected it.  Life is like that.  Full of surprises, some horrible, some wondrous.

All life's problems didn't evaporate with this realization.  Far from it.  But, maybe the thing grief leaves you with if you can survive it is a better ability to put things in a proper perspective.  And I am far from perfect.  Far, far from it.  But here I am.

I will share more thoughts on the journey and the destination another time.  For now, work still calls.  So, in the meantime, Happy Spring Everybody!