Make the days count

Have you ever thought about how we count life? When we’re pregnant we count life in weeks. Full term is traditionally 38-40 weeks. When we are firstborn life is counted in months. My 3 new great nieces are each 9 months old. When we live life we count life in years, I am 37 years young. When we are dying it feels like it starts all over again. Sometimes it’s counted in years like the 10 years dad lived past his first expiration date. Sometimes it’s months like theĀ 3-6 months he was given on his 3rd and final expiration date. Sometimes it comes down to weeks like the 6 weeks my Dad ended up living after that “big family meeting” talking about how it was different this time. And finally, days like the 2 1/2 days dad lived after his “Surge”.

Now that dad is gone I find myself counting again. First it was two days since Dad died, then two weeks since Dad’s been gone, today it’s been two months since Dad passed. Happy Valentine’s Day to me.

So I think today what do I count now?

I have many choices in dealing with my grief and I choose to continue to count! Today is my new day to be. Yes I’m sad. Yes I’m still tired. But I still choose to count! Count the times I go to bed smiling. Count the times I get to talk to one of my 8 siblings. Count the days that my husband tells me he loves me. Count the letters I receive from students saying thank you in some small way. Count the days that I can love myself the way my dad loved me. Count the days that I can wake up and workout focusing on making my body stronger and healthier. Count the days that I cook for myself knowing that’s one of my many skills and love languages. Count the days I really practice what I preach and take time for self-care.

So now I count everything because everything counts. Dad had surpassed all trials and tribulations while sick and so when he was given 3-6 months I knew something was different and yet I still thought I had time. I’ll never forget how those 3-6 months turned into 6 weeks. Six very, very quick weeks. So now I count everything because everything counts! Every year, every month, every week, every day, hell every minute counts!

Every time I don’t love on me I feel like that counts against everything Dad instilled in me. Every second he loved me I have a chance to love me too.

As the great Muhammad Ali said, “Don’t count the days. Make the days count!”

 

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Grief feels like Fear

I’m in a writing group for grief. There I said it. I’m in a support group. That sounds weird to me. Not because I’m opposed to support groups or group therapy. I’m just confused as to how I found myself in one.  It just sounds so weird. So many years of complaining about the lack of self-care and finally when the shit hits the fan and I hit my knees I finally find support. Just seems weird.

C.S. Lewis, in A Grief Observed, wrote “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” This is the newest prompt. How does this make you feel? What does this bring up for me? Yada yada yada…

What does it bring up for me? God knows I can’t share all of that publicly but I can say emphatically that grief has brought more fear than I ever knew I could feel.


When Popi first died I feared falling asleep. I didn’t want to have to face another day. You know? That dread of waking up to a new reality. The reality without him. The one that said I didn’t do enough, say enough, spend enough time. The reality that says everything is different. I feared falling asleep and having to wake up.

I feared going home. I feared walking into my parent’s house and having to be happy. I feared having to go through his stuff. I feared having to be that vulnerable again and possibly breaking down again because I saw his shirt, his books, his photo, his notes all over the house, or his side of the bed where he spent most of this last year. I feared that being in that space meant I had to feel a particular way. I feared being fake.

As the days and weeks have passed I have I have learned to fear sleep and going home less. In fact I now look forward to both. Some days I won’t lie I do fear sleep but that’s still a mystery as to why. Going home, not so bad. I enjoy time with family and it’s ok dad’s not there. I mean he spent most of the last year asleep or resting in his room. So his absence isn’t much different. 

I will tell you the thing that grief has made me fear the most to which I am also most surprised at, is joy. I fear any sort of joy. I fear being happy. I fear being in a good mood. I fear a good night’s sleep and a good workout. I fear crossing the finish line at my Half Marathon in March. I fear promotions and making new friends. I fear presentations and connections. I fear finishing my first book and when it gets published. I fear good music and good weather. I fear funny moments and the ridiculous ones. I fear anything that might possibly make me happy. I fear with all my heart that moment I finally learn I’m pregnant and that moment that our child breathes their first breath. I fear joy.

I fear pure joy. I fear this because those are the moments when I miss him the most. Those are the moments which I pick up my phone to shoot a quick text. Those are the moments I start to dial his number. Those are the moments I miss his voice. Those are the moments I hurt.

I fear joy. I fear joy more than sadness and hurt. I have an amazing support system who I can always turn to for sadness and hurt. Yes he was a part of that but he was the first one I went to for joy. He’s the one who’s smile I could hear on the other side of the phone. He’s the one who when he knew about it, it meant the joy was real. It meant I could celebrate and let’s be honest until he knew it meant it hadn’t really happened.

Grief has made me fear joy. This week has sucked and the joy I felt has knocked me back to the day he passed. That sadness and that pain. The joy I felt made me sad. So I need to run. I haven’t decided if it’s physically run or figuratively but all I know is I feel that urge. That urge to run. So today or maybe tomorrow I’ll go on another long run. 

I hope I can make that happen because I don’t like being sad. Now I don’t like being happy either. Not sure what life will look like now.

-run JKO run

Exhaustion

-2.2 down….now 79 to go

All I want to do is run. Literally and figuratively. If you remember this blog is about trying to figure out what I’m running from. Why is it so hard for me to lose the weight that’s weighing me down? What do I need to start running too. But right now I am just exhausted and the idea of running makes me want to vomit. 

I mean extremely exhausted. Let’s be honest it’s not a normal human feeling. It’s the feeling one expects to have after you run a half marathon. It’s the feeling the morning after you had 4 too many shots of crown. It’s the feeling you have from listening to people cry for 8 hours straight for three weeks in a row. It’s the feeling you get when you have no sleep. Like an actual zero minutes of sleep. 

It’s the pain you get when you wake up and you feel robbed of rest. It’s the fear you get driving home fighting to stay awake. It’s the feeling in your body that weighs you down.  As tragic as the feeling is it normally has an explanation. 

In my twenties I got my first taste of exhaustion. I was the queen of all nighters. In fact I found a use for my irregular insomnia. I never really needed sleep. Then one day I was exhausted. Then another. Then another. I knew something was wrong and went to get checked out. “Sinus infection. You have a really bad sinus infection. That’s why you’re so tired. You’re not actually getting sleep.” Mind blowing magic. A prescription for 100 Sudafed pills. (Who, by the way, needs that many pills? Clearly I don’t look like I cook meth in my basement). 

I keep hoping I have a sinus infection. Or hell maybe I started drinking in my sleep. Anything, any sort of explanation to help me understand this exhaustion. I try to work out but not even knowing my half marathon is creeping up is getting me going. 

This exhaustion makes me want to run away and hide under a rock. Not because I’m depressed and want isolation but because I just want to sleep for a week. Well let’s be real it is partly because I want to run away and hide under a fucking rock. Instead of hiding I decided to start a grief group and we talked about how grief is the hardest and most exhausting thing you’ll ever do. So I guess I do have an explanation. Turns out I’m still sad and it’s wearing me the hell out!

Today, I decided to suck it up and finally go running. David, my husband, so patient and kind (after much communication of my needs) always asks if I want to go to the gym. He knows to only ask once and to leave the huff and puffs and snide comments for after he shuts the door behind him. Today, today I said yes. I mean so much so that I slept in my running clothes so I had zero excuse. 

I of course had trouble with my headphones and didn’t get a good pace until 15 minutes in when I gave up and switched headphones with David. Instead of getting frustrated and sitting in the car I did the math and figured out that if I can keep a 3.7 pace at the half I can complete it in 3:30:00. This kept me moving. Albeit an hour slower than my goal it’s still exciting.  To be true to myself right now I’ll just be excited to cross the finish line. I almost completed 5 miles today. 

With 49 days left until the Rock and Roll half I struggled to complete 5 miles. My ankle and knees are killing me and I developed a huge blister on the instep of my foot. It’s like amateur at the Apollo. 

I posted on Instagram talking about how training for a half while grieving is not as easy as I thought. In fact it’s painful, just not happening, and yet in my exhaustion I will complete it. I will cross that finish line. I will be one step closer to figuring out what I’m running from and reach another goal!

Yesterday and today I was exhausted. Tomorrow I might be as well but as Popi said, “Every day in every way, my life gets better and better and better.”
– run JKO run 

When is honesty to hard to hear?

While on hold, my “personal banker” closing an account that I’ve had since 1996 due to it being hacked looks over at me and awkwardly tries to cover the silence. “So what you doing this weekend?”

Without looking up from my phone I said, “Going to my dad’s funeral.” I could hear her gasp. I stopped reading, looked up and made eye contact. Her face was trying to morph back into professionalism all the while she began to fight back the uneasy tears. 

“Oh my God. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s ok. So what are you doing?” I’m amazing at deflection. 

 It’s funny how those who have “normal” social skills can read facial expressions to understand how your words impact others. I realized that I sounded harsh and cold. To be honest that brought a little smile to my face. That meant I was coming back. That meant my brutal honesty that I deliver with consistency is back. Sometimes I wonder is honesty to hard to hear?

Most think because I’m kind and empathetic that I’m emotional. I’m not. I don’t cry in front of people on a regular. I can say things that normally destroy people without emotion as if I’m ordering off a menu. I was taught to be honest above all. I am very literal and my honesty is often hard to hear. 

“I’m watching football.” Her mouth open gasping for the right thing to say.

“Oh fun!” I put my phone down, giving her my focused attention. 

“Were you close to your dad?” She looked at me absolutely devastated. 

I paused knowing in that moment I had the choice to be genuine or be the cold version that helps me survive. “Yes.” Deep breath. “Very close.” I decided to let my eyes fill with tears. A decision I haven’t had in a few weeks. During these last few weeks I haven’t been able to control that. The tears come like a sneeze, out of the blue or with a few seconds of warning and unable to stop. 

“Wow. I can’t even imagine.” She talked about health and her father’s refusal to take care of himself. I nodded appropriately and gave my therapeutic response of self-care and how we can make a difference in our generation. My tears never fell because I was focused on her now. Back in a very comfortable and neat box. 

She tended to the phone call to close my account. I realize it’s a double whammy. Closing an account I’ve had for almost 2 decades and emotionally preparing myself for saying goodbye publicly to the man I loved the most. 

Please don’t get me wrong. I cry. I just don’t do it publicly. In fact before I walked into the bank I had just wiped the uncontrollable tears. It’s nice though to know I can say my dad is dead with ice cold in my voice. That means I’m a step closer to being me again. 

As close as I am to being me again I am reminded that this has been a shitty week. A week full of tears. A week full of fetal position sadness. A week full of emptiness. A week full of me staring at my dad (or the box his ashes are in) and not knowing what to say. A week full of going through photos trying to create an album knowing that you don’t have enough photos of your dad because it just wasn’t his thing. A week full of pain realizing you wish you had made him take more photos. A week full of wishing you’d spent more time in person. A week full of realizations that you worked too fucking much and could have spent time sharing his air. Yeah I’m crying now writing this in case you wanted to know.

The hardest thing I’ve done was click create a slideshow on the photos I had put together for the person we are having create a slideshow. Like that with the press of play I was a sobbing mess. I cried for hours as I watched over and over and over. This week I have been perfecting the slide show as a tribute for me to have. The tribute to almost 76 years of life. The tribute to the almost 4 decades of my life with a man who was my sanity, my best friend, my Fixer of everything. Almost 9 minutes of memories and yet that doesn’t feel like it’s doing him justice. 

Unfortunately, much of my life we were too poor to even have a camera. That sucks ass and let’s be honest it’s ok because I spent most of much childhood in the moment as opposed to now where I spend most of my life trying to capture all the moments I can! 

Not many people could capture his smile like I could. Today I miss that smile. That smile that could be heard through the phone. That smile that shined every time I walked through the door. That smile that waved gently goodbye as I left the hospital the night before he died. That smile that would have shook his head at me for making that poor banker feel bad with my cold honesty. 

Today I miss my Popi. 


– run JKO run

Grief is foreverĀ 

Wellness Wednesday: Having been a grief counselor I know so much about how grief works. For instance did you know that most people don’t truly begin to grieve until about month 4 but the average recovery time is 18 to 24 months? My personal belief which I have shared with many people is that grief is a never ending process because sometimes grief isn’t being sad and in tears, sometimes it’s celebrating, it’s sharing memories, it’s honoring that person in what you say and do. Grief will be with your forever. Grief is your personal response to your loss. No judgement. No right, no wrong. Just what you need to do for wellness.

– run JKO run

Happy 2017!

Two years ago today my dad told me, “Jamie, there are only 8 people out of 26 who are still alive on this drug trial. I’m one of them.” He told me very casually that he was facing mortality and for the second time he told me he was not going to live much longer. He lived two weeks short of another two years. 

All life has an expiration date. Sometimes you get a heads up. Sometimes you don’t. As you ring in the end of 2016 and celebrate the coming of 2017 know that each day makes a difference. Know that happiness is a choice. Live each day in a way that you are proud of who you are when you wake up because tomorrow is not promised. As you make your goals for the new year set them big! Shoot for the stars! Celebrate you! You are a blessing and every breath you take and every word you speak has the chance to make a difference to those around you. Don’t waste life on busyness. Be intentional about what it is important to you and schedule your priorities. 

Happy New Year!!!!


– run JKO run

What’s the best help you can give? Just show up!

Today I had a touching conversation with someone I highly respect about grief. I’ve been surprised at who has “shown up” in the past month since my father died and was sharing this with him. He shared, “One thing I have learned is that no matter how uneasy it can be or how awkward the conversation is sometimes it’s most important to show up! To sit with them through that awkward and get to the part where you connect!”

My thoughts and suggestion for you to help those who are grieving, bring dinner, bring coffee, call just to say I love you or leave a message that might make them smile, drive two hours just to give a hug, come sit with someone while they stare at the wall, come do laundry, come sit on the couch while you let them take a nap, bring over ice cream and a movie, send random texts to check in and to make them laugh, just sit there with them and share their air. There will be a moment when you get over the awkward “are you ok” question and you will connect. 

The test of true friendship isn’t saying the right thing in heartbreak. It’s showing up when you don’t know what to say, checking in when you know the pain is still raw, letting them share the stories they need to and calling them out when you know they’re being fake. Most importantly do not tell someone, “Let me know what I can do for you.” Someone who is grieving has no idea what they need. They just need you to show up.

– run JKO run