I Miss Her….

So I bought Marianne Williamson’s new book called A Course In Weight Loss.  I’d like to lose some weight, mostly because my knees hurt more than I’d like to admit and the only thing I can think to do is take some of the weight off of them.  I completely buy into the idea that our emotional and spiritual issues manifest in physical symptoms.  So I believe that taking a spiritual approach to my extra weight would be far more beneficial (and cheaper) then say joining Weight Watchers (which I’ve also considered).

I got the book in the mail before we went to Disney World and read the first few chapters.  My intention was to begin the 21 lessons as soon as we got home.  As of today, I can’t bring myself to start it.  The problem is with the first lesson.  The gist of that lesson is to take down the protective wall we have built around ourselves.  Our extra weight and emotional eating problems stem from holding on to this emotional baggage.

I asked myself what it is I’m holding onto after reading that chapter.  What is hurting me?  Who or what am I angry about?  Over the past few days something has been bubbling up.  It’s Amy.

It’s been over a year now.  I openly grieved for a reasonable amount of time and then I filed it away.  It’s  in a drawer called “Lost Soulmates” way back in the recesses of my mind.  I flipped this switch that seemed to make it impossible for me to grieve for anything at all.  When my grandmother died, I shed a few tears for my sweet mother and cousin because watching their grief broke my heart, but inside, I couldn’t feel my own.

Amy’s death was the most unfathomable thing that could have ever happened to me.  We were supposed to watch each other’s kids grow up and maybe move into a retirement community together when we were 85.  She was so ALIVE.  If I went back through my cell phone voice mailbox, I’m sure I’d hear the message Kristin left telling me about the birth of the twins.  She had a beautiful house with a nursery she’d decorated in a froggie theme for her little boys.  I made the trays of food for her baby shower and carefully moved all the gifts into the nursery.  In the last month of her life she lent me an ear and reassured me when I was going through a tough time.

A wonderful, sweet woman is with Amy’s husband now.  She is the mommy those little boys (who are now 14 mos old) know.  We are friends on Facebook.  I am happy to have a window into the boys’ lives but sometimes it hurts so much to look through it.

I’m not sure if it’s the holiday season or trying to address that darn wall, but I miss her so freakin bad right now.  It’s just not fair.  It was too early for her to go…

Learning From Loss

Today is October 25, 2010.  Last year on this day I experienced the first real loss of my life…the death of one of my best friends.  It was a loss that came out of no where and taught me a lesson in uncertainty.  There are deaths that you prepare yourself for (or at least as much as your imagination will allow you to prepare).  In adulthood, as your parents and grandparents age, you watch their health carefully and become more aware of their mortality.   When people you love get serious illnesses (such as cancer), as much as you want them to overcome, you realistically know anything could happen.  BUT you never expect that a young mother could deliver her twin babies on a Friday and die unexpectedly on Sunday.  Amy was the picture of health, finally embarking on the journey of motherhood she’d longed for.  I had plans for Amy… so many of us had plans for her.

This weekend, I was reading the book “Embracing Uncertainty” by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D.  Amy was on my mind as I started the chapter called “Embracing the Learning.”  In the chapter she talks about how everything is a learning experience and the key is to remember this fact during the bad times and the good times.  She included an exercise where you make a statement and follow it with the phrase “I can learn from this.”  She gave these first two vague examples:

“I lost my job…………I can learn from this.”

“I lost my relationship……………I can learn from this.”

The next example she gave was this:

“My best friend died……………I can learn from this.”

That last example was so specific that it felt like it was just for me.  I’d randomly picked this book off the shelf at the library and just happened to have started reading it the weekend of the anniversary of Amy’s death.

So what have I learned from my best friend’s death?

I learned that there are no guarantees in life and just because you make plans doesn’t mean they will come to fruition.  You have to let go of expectations because clinging to them only causes suffering.  I learned that my husband is the best thing that ever happened to me and I want to spend as much time as I am given making sure he knows that.  I was reminded that experiences are better than stuff.  The memories I have of the fun and love-filled times with Amy mean so much more to me than anything I could have (whether related to Amy or not).  I learned that I want to live life to the fullest because again there are no guarantees.

As I make the list of things that I learned I realize that time has shifted my energy.  The only thing good about experiencing such a shattered heart is that it has to remain open for a time.  When your heart is open, you feel more and can really live those lessons.  They permeate you (or can if you let them).  But over time the wound closes and you don’t always remember what you knew in the fragile moments.  Although I often think of how amazing and important my husband is, I don’t tell him nearly enough.  I’ve gone back to making plans and hoping, praying, clinging to outcomes.  Over the past months I’ve thought about the future far too often, instead of being present and full.

So on this anniversary, I will spend the day living fully, experiencing life, and possibly making memories to cherish.  I will tell my husband and my daughters how much I love them now.  I will wonder about our future but I will also embrace the uncertainty of it all.

Happy Birthday Amy…

Dear Amy,

So today is your birthday.  I still can’t believe you’re not here.  It’s been years since I’ve celebrated your birthday with you.  The last time I remember was your 21st.  I’m sure I was around for the 22nd and 23rd, but after that I moved away.  This has been a tough week for me and in a way I’m surprised because like I mentioned it’s been years since I celebrated one of them with you.   Those people who’ve been with you for most of them are having a spaghetti dinner for you tonight.  I wish I could be there.  Actually what I really wish is that I could call you up and say “ha, ha, now you’re 35 too, we’re so old.”  But you’ll never be old, just plastered in my memory forever as a 34-year-old expectant mom.  If I try real hard I can still see you waddling in the bedroom with that piece of cake for me.  Why is it again that you were supposed to be on bedrest but were serving me cake?  I’m sure a few people would have scolded me for letting you do that.

You know I really believe that you are still with me.  A few weeks ago as I was falling asleep I thought of you.  I thought about how I was on vacation and too busy to call you after the babies were born.  I had two days that I could have said congratulations and I loved you but I chose to wait until I got home.  By the time I got home it was too late.  I don’t really have any regrets about our friendship except for that one.  I went to sleep that night thinking about it and then you came to me in a dream.  It had been a long time since I’d dreamed about you and I don’t believe it was coincidental that I saw you on that particular night.

I wonder what you are experiencing these days.  Your mom talks about Heaven a lot.  I try to think of what Heaven is.  I like the way Sylvia Browne describes the other side.  Basically, if I’m remembering correctly, she says it is just layered on top of this side.  That we are totally intertwined and us humans are just too “closed” and stuck in our life drama to see it.  So I’d say that you are floating around seeing and feeling the underlying love in everything.  I’ve also wondered if you’re working some sort of magic out there too.  So many of your friends have gotten pregnant since you left, including friends who had struggled for years (like you did).  Not that you are the stork or anything, but maybe you’re just helping people get the timing right.

I know some people will read this and think I’m crazy.  I’m sure there is a logical explanation for so much of what I experience as you still being here.  On this one I don’t want to be logical, I want to be hopeful and faithful.  I’ll cling to the idea that no one really knows for sure.  I’ll count my frogs, my dreams, and the latest baby epidemic as gifts and messages from my favorite angel.  So keep them coming and let me hold you tightly in my heart until we meet again!!

I love and miss you.  Happy 35th Birthday, Little Mama (maybe that would have been my nickname for you)!

Les

PS:  I just reread this and have to say I soo wouldn’t have nicknamed you Little Mama…it’s pretty dorky. (And quite frankly it’s probably you who brought the dorkiness of that to my attention anyway!)

OpinionatedGift’s Click

I met OpinionatedGift through this blog and Twitter.  He left a nice comment, I clicked on his blog, read and instantly knew he was good people.  I have so enjoyed reading his thoughts and opinions over the last year.  He is a really good friend and someone I have a lot of respect for.  He was among the first group of people I asked to write a click story for me.  I’ve tried not to pressure him too much, but remind him every now and then that I’m still waiting for his click.  He always tells me he’s still thinking about it.  Last week I read the following post on his personal blog and I thought…that’s it.  I emailed and asked if I could share it here.  He kindly agreed.  You can follow him on Twitter here and read his blog here.

Twelve years ago this week I was spending my days going through my father’s apartment with my brother. Dad had shot himself on the 9th and his body was found by his oldest friend in New York on the 12th. Twelve years ago Wednesday.

Twelve years ago I was sifting through grief, memory and questions questions questions. Not the ones you might think. The fact is, when I got the call from my brother that the police had called him from Dad’s apartment, I knew what had happened. I’d hoped I was wrong. But I knew.

Mom said it best that night when we called to let her know. “He was always so sad”. It was true. He was also scared. Whatever the combination, he had a dim world view.

I loved my dad. He was basically a good man who never really dealt with his anger issues, his alcoholism or his strengths. A talented actor, he’d packed us up from Tucson Arizona, sold the Ford Falcon and got us on a train to New York City and went straight into substitute teaching and social work. His career as an actor was essentially small productions in holes in the wall (before the moniker “Off Off Broadway” was coined.) and extra work in movies.

As a kid I would listen while he would lament the vagaries of the business and how hard it was…and it instilled in me the belief that the business was indeed brutal. It didn’t stop me from wanting to be an actor. It didn’t stop me from thinking I could do better. But these things are insidious and the sins of the father are often visited upon the son. His beliefs did become mine and even when I achieved some pretty good if minor successes, my joy would be tainted by fear of the success not lasting.

Now to be sure, being an actor isn’t easy. It can be brutal, but I can see very clearly as I look back how my own thoughts and feelings that were inherited affected the way I approached my career and subsequently the way my career developed…or didn’t as it turns out.

Twelve years ago fears and doubts overtook my father to the point that he no longer was able to reason. This man who raced down the street with me…encouraged me to take the training wheels off my back when he knew I could. The man who when he saw I was floundering in my efforts to audition for the High School of Performing Arts bought a gazillion plays for me to look through and helped me find the right pieces and even coached me. A man who as a social worker had saved or improved as best he could, so many lives, wasn’t even able to remember a simple meditation technique because anxiety had overcome him.

He’d been given Buspar and started to take it, then stopped. 12 years ago it got so bad that he sat at the edge of his bed and ate the barrel of a .357 magnum. He left a note that was really more of an excuse than anything else. Fears of a cancer that didn’t exist.

Two weeks later, the girl he wanted to marry, a dancer from Japan was finally allowed back into the country. He’d become convinced it wouldn’t happen after months of legal back and forth. Fear of being alone and abandoned convinced him that his life wouldn’t work out as he desired. So it seems he decided to just stop trying.

12 years later I still wrestle with loving him and hating him. Remembering his capacity for compassion for everyone while he seemed to only have pity for himself. I am sometimes on the edge of forgiving him. And then I remember having to tell my daughter what happened. I remember how as she is now almost 20 years old, she can’t play chess because that’s what she used to do with Grandpa. I can’t quite do it.

For the past 12 years, for about 3 weeks before and after the anniversaries, he shows up in my dreams. Sometimes as if he’s never been gone, sometimes as if he’s only been on some trip in South America or something and we all just THOUGHT he was dead.I forget about it…forget it’s that time of year…sometimes even the days of his actual death or the day he was found go by entirely unnoticed. Sometimes not.

Twelve years later I can watch Dirty Harry make one line comments about his Magnum and still get a kick out of it. But when Heroes first aired and there was an episode with half a skull being cut off and brains removed, I get completely worked up.

I wrestle with fear too. And it’s not hard to see how it keeps me from acting. Clouds my thinking. I’ve made a decades long struggle of shifting from “can’t” to “can”. It hasn’t been easy.

Twelve years ago I cremated my father. Twelve years later I’m still cremating parts of his legacy so I can rise from the ashes.

Elizabeth’s Click

Elizabeth found my blog and responded to my “writer’s wanted” request by sending me this great click!  After you have enjoyed the story below you can visit her blog here.

I’ve never been able to run. I can remember sixth grade PE, sprinting the 50-yard dash and hating it. My arms and legs didn’t talk to each other, didn’t move in sync. I looked like a circus act, the girl spinning all the plates in different directions. My plates were my limbs.

I’ve always pitied “runners,” how they have to have their fix, whether on vacation, or down with the flu, despite flash flood warnings and lightening strikes. I despised their complaints about missing a run, how they were “off” that day because they didn’t get their six or nine miles in. Poor me, I’m a runner and couldn’t run today. Pull out the violin.

I’ve thought runners were running away from something, like people become newborn Christians after a tough divorce or alcoholics start hitting meetings after waking up one too many times in the gutter. I didn’t see the benefit of escapism, didn’t think I was hostage to any bonds that needed breaking.

Running was the last thing in life I wanted to do, right after swimming with sharks and joining the Marines.

Last summer, through a series of small and unrelated events, I discovered the true path of a runner: A runner isn’t sprinting away from anything, she’s running to something, or someone or somewhere so important to her that she simply cannot make it through the day if she doesn’t at least try to get there.

I get it now.

I’ve run three half marathons and pair of 10ks in the last several months. It’s only 13.1 miles a pop, but I’m proud of myself, proud of the hundreds of miles I’ve put into training. My confidence is at its peak; my body stronger than it’s ever been in my life. I’ve become an athlete at the age of 43. Unbelievable.

I am a leaner, lustier version of myself. I am the no-nonsense me everyone used to know, love and sometimes fear. I celebrate the return of the me who took bullshit from no one; the me who vowed never to become complacent or lose her way in life, but sadly did.

I no longer shun mirrors, and actually pause now and then to smile at myself. I seek, rather than refuse, confrontation, and as a result have enjoyed some thrilling showdowns. Modesty is out the window; bad news for my kids and the dressing room boy at the Gap, but good news for my creepy neighbor. My closet is a fun place to be again, especially because everything in it is new and smaller and sleeker. The bitch is back with a purse full of spark and sass.

I refuse to step on a scale for fear of getting lost in the numbers game. Pound for pound, I have no idea how much of me is gone. I used to joke that is doesn’t matter how you feel on the inside, but how good you look on the outside. I was so wrong. They’re intertwined: you can’t be beautiful on the outside if your insides are hurting. And if you’re beautiful on the inside, you’ll shine like a penny.

More benefits of my transformation? For the first time, my body is a fuel-burning machine. Thanks to its hum, I can eat whatever and whenever I want. I used to eat nothing and keep my weight. Now my taste buds dance and my body continues to carve what I think is becoming a delicious figure.

One of my brothers was inspired to walk after viewing my improved physique in running clothes. At 40, he’s seeing what a lot of guys his age are: that little fluff of dough that hangs over the belt. Chicks call theirs “muffin tops.” If I can galvanize him to better his health, my job as a big sister is complete.

Who are those I am running to? I run to my friend and soul mate, Chris, who I lost last summer without a goodbye but who cheers me on from above with a bunch of obnoxious claps. I run to my family, and to the promises of lifetime love and laughter I’ve made to my children. I run to their smiles and the smell of their skin, to their complete understanding why running is so important to Mommy. I run to my father, who I miss desperately, despite seeing him daily in the faces of my kids. I run to my mother, once so vital and strong, who I’m afraid can’t take care of herself anymore, and who finally seeks care from me. I run to three brothers who each need a big sister for different reasons; I want to be all of their reasons, every single one of their answers.

I run to my cousins (who invited me to my first half marathon) and their daughters, to the bond of four women united by the love of their mothers and the laughter that causes them to wet their pants. I run to friendships and decades, to intimacy without judgment or prompt, to those that love and respect the old me as much as the new one encourages them. I run to those that challenge and inspire me to be a better person, inside and out. I run to those I write to, to those who read between my lines, whether succinct or sauntering. I run to those who need me. I run to those that run to me.

Most of all, and this is the truly spectacular part, the concept I still can’t wrap my head entirely around. For the first time in my life, I see myself as something worth running to. I am running to myself. Away is no longer an option. Bring on the mileage.

Four Months

Yesterday, Gavin and Brantley turned four months old and tomorrow will mark four months since Amy passed away.  For those of you who are new to reading this blog, this post explains more.

I still think of Amy everyday.  Most of those days I have at least one misty-eyed moment.  This past week I’ve spent a lot of time on her Facebook page reading all of her “notes” and looking through her pictures.  The other day I was reading one where she’d answered the question “Who do you miss?”  Her answer was “living-Heather and Leslee, not living-Paw Paw.”  Who would have thought that we’d never have the chance to live in the same city again.  And who would have thought she’d be with “Paw Paw” so soon.

I am becoming friends with the woman (K) who is taking care of the babies and I keep up with her too, through Facebook.  She traded in her car a week or so ago and bought a Honda Odyssey so that she could trek the boys and her own son around.  I laughed because Amy HATED mini vans with a passion.  She swore she’d never buy one and I’m pretty sure she made fun of me when we bought ours.  K posts pictures of Gavin and Brantley pretty regularly and she updates her status with comments about diapers and laundry.  I love having the insight into what is going on with Amy’s family and I know K is a loving soul who is giving her all to the boys, but I still can’t believe it’s not Amy.  I forget sometimes, but only for a second and then it rushes over me again.  The boys are absolutely beautiful and I wish I could hear Amy describe them and tell me all about their schedules, quirks, likes, and dislikes.

I don’t really have that much to say.  I just wanted to make note of the significance of today and honor Amy.  I’ve been thinking about her a lot the last week.  One day I was sitting on the couch on my laptop when Callee came over and handed me the thank you card Amy had sent following the baby shower.  The card had been on top of the dresser that Callee is not tall enough to reach and between two books.  She’d done some climbing and searching to get to it.  I like to think it was Amy who put her up to it.  When I went to take it back the books were neat and organized.  She hadn’t disrupted anything in retrieving the card.

In the card Amy writes that she is grateful that her and I are closer than we have been in a long time.  And it was true.

I miss her.  I love her.  And I am so proud that she was my friend….

Waiting Room

Waiting Room (2-4-10)

I sat across from you

in that room

protruding bellies

surrounding us

Tears streaming down your face

knees bouncing

a hand reaches for yours

he tries to understand

can’t quite

grasp

the loss

and emptiness

Your sadness reaches me

I feel the weight of it

hold back my own tears

fight the desire

to kneel before you

hold your hands

sob with you

wish I could

tell you

about the Angel I know

the one who will hold

your baby

since she didn’t get the chance

to hold her own…..