Monday, April 30, 2012

This week - It's hard!

This week is hard.  

I'm trying to find the words for where I am right now but I'm at a loss. 

The memories of three years ago haunt me.  They feel more real right now.  

Three years ago. 

It feels like an eternity and a second at the same time.  It feels like forever ago that I last got to hug my mom.  It feels like ages since I heard her voice.  And at the same moment I cannot believe everything that has happened since I lost her.  All the moments she hasn't been here to share.  And I still reach for my phone to call her on my way home at night.

And I get angry.  So so so so so so freaking angry that she got robbed of these moments.  That I got robbed of these moments.  And sad. And tired. 

I'm not going to tie this post up with a pretty bow.  Find some big life lesson or attempt to have insight into my emotions.  Sometimes you just need to be mad.  And sad.  And tired.

Yeah, this week is hard!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Accountability - Week 8

It's here.  Tomorrow starts the official count down to the walk.  Tomorrow starts the official training schedule.  I am so excited.  I am so ready for this.  The first couple weeks should be a breeze but then miles start stacking up quickly.  My game face is on!  I am determined to rock this walk. 

And 8 weeks!  EIGHT WEEKS.  That's like two months.  I've been doing this accountability thing for two whole months and it's working.  

I've talked before about how easily I tend to give up on things.  I have to say I am very happy with how consistent I have been.  Sure, there are weeks where I haven't kept pace but looking back on the last 8 weeks I have been pretty steady. 

Every time I contemplate trading in my sneakers for the couch I think about my mom and how this is more than just a walk.  This is more than just raising money to beat breast cancer.  This is a promise I made to her.  This is a promise to keep fighting, to keep walking in her name.  It makes tying those laces a little bit easier. 

Accountability - Week 8
Weeks until Walk -24
Funds Raised to Date - $3693.14
Miles Walked to Date - 94.85
Monday - Rest
Tuesday - Raining
Wednesday - 4 miles
Thursday - Off
Friday - Should have walked but I didn't
Saturday - 4 miles around the University of Maryland
Sunday - 6 miles

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Emily's Question

I recently wrote this post over at Merelymothers.  Emily left a comment and asked me to write about how I got through the toughest times and if I have any tips or ideas for facing such a loss.  Emily shared that her mom has been diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimers Disease.

Emily, if you are reading this, first let me say that I am so sorry that you and your mother have to face this.  And thank you for reaching out.  Loss is such a hard and lonely process.  It's so very personal and no one will ever experience loss the exact same way you will.

I cannot begin to understand the emotions you are feeling.  The loss of my mom was, in comparison, sudden and unexpected.  It was acute on every level.  I didn't have a long time to to think about what was to come.  To play the future over in my head.  I can only imagine that the anticipation of what is to come is overwhelming and all encompassing. 

I think it is important to put out there that I am by no means an expert in grief and loss.  Personally, I don't think I have necessarily faced the loss in my life all that gracefully.  I don't think that I have done it right.  So I feel completely unqualified to be giving advice. But I have spent an enormous amount of time reflecting on where I am and where I have been and there are some lessons I learned and some things I have worked on that I will share with you.  These may (or may not) resonate with you or anyone else who has faced loss but they come from my very personal grieving experience.

Be kind to yourself.  This is something I have struggled with in life.  I have always been very critical of how I handle situations - I was the same way (and still am) when dealing with grief.  It is OK not to be OK.  It is OK to give yourself the space and time to deal with your emotions, what ever they are, in the moment.  Don't judge your process - because remember, grief and loss is personal.  It is your journey, don't compare it to anothers, don't expect to follow a prescribed path.

Take care of yourself.  Physically.  Grief and loss is hard on your system.  It will wear you down.  Exhaust you.  Eat.  Sleep.  Even at the worst of times, things felt more manageable after a good night of sleep. 

Take care of yourself.  Emotionally.  I am a huge (HUGE) proponent of therapy.  There is nothing to be ashamed of in getting professional help.  A good therapist will be able to help you verbalize and navigate your feelings.     

Everyone else around you will be grieving and dealing with loss too and they will not deal with it the same way you do.  I remember when I lost my mom all I wanted was to reach out and to latch onto someone else.  I wanted someone else to love me the way my mom did.  I wanted someone else to understand me the way my mom did.  My first realization was that no one else around me was capable to doing that because they were processing the loss of my mom as well.  They were stuck in their grief.  The second thing I realized is that you can't avoid grief simply by replacing the lost love.  There is no replacement. 

Similarly, I had to give space for others that are grieving.  It's not a pretty process.  People facing loss are necessarily selfish.  Their whole being is encompassed with how the loss is affecting THEM.  I found that my capacity and the capacity of those around me to truly understand how others were affected was simply not there.  It is so easy to get into the "I loved her more" "I miss her more" "the loss is the worst for me" game.  When you feel yourself going there, or see someone else going there, take a step back.  Those feelings are real, but they can be hurtful.  Grief is hard enough without it being a competition.

Embrace small moments of happiness.  Oh, I remember how guilty I felt when I first felt joy after losing my mom.  I remember how hard it was to reconcile grief and joy.  But those small moments of happiness are so important for the healing process.  They start as tiny little glimmers.  Don't ignore the glimmers.

Sit in the grief.  Don't run from it.  It will find you.  Cry.  Cry hard.  Cry ugly.  I had to hit the bottom to start climbing back up. And I hit it time and time again.  It's  OK!

Grief for me has been a two step forward, one step back process. Slow progress.  I start feeling like I am coping and things are much much better just to fall down again.  It happens.  It happens a lot.  I think it's OK.

Something my therapist told me (remember I'm a big fan of those guys): I may have lost my mom but she lives inside me.  She is part of me.  And because I carry her with me she lives on.  As long as I love her, she lives on.  As long as I continue to be the person she raised me to be, she lives on. There are days that sounds like such bull shit.  But on other days I have found immense comfort in that. 

And I'll end with this - I have found it simply amazing just how strong the human soul is at the moment it feels the weakest. 

I have only now started to be able to connect with the experiences others have had with grief and loss.  I have only now begun to see little ways this awful terrible thing has made me stronger and more resilient.  In a millisecond I would give all that strength and resiliency back to have my mom here but I guess what I am trying to say is even though it feels like it never will - it does get better.  Even though it feels like you never will - you will laugh again.  Even though it feels like you can't do it - you can.  You will.  I did.  I am.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Accountability Report - Week 7

This week I worked to get myself back on track and feel that overall I was successful.  I Would have liked to walk on Sunday but the weather got the best of me.

On a fundraising note I crossed the $3600 threshold.  I am less than $1000 away from my goal of $4600.  Today we are $3693.14 closer to a cure.  $3693.14 closer to daughters never having to go through what I did.  $3693.14 closer to never having to walk again!

I am so grateful for the generosity I have been shown.  The support, financially and emotionally has been overwhelming. 

Accountability - Week 7
Weeks until Walk -25
Funds Raised to Date - $3693.14
Monday - Rest
Tuesday - 3.4 miles
Wednesday - Off
Thursday - 3.4 miles
Friday - off
Saturday - 6 miles
Sunday - Rain rain go away -- couldn't get motivated to do anything!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

She's Up then She's Down

My mood swings have been epic this last week.

 I'm like a total Katy Perry song.  Have I ever told you that Sam looooooves Katy Perry.  When he was a new born California Girls could get him to stop crying. Now his favorite Sesame Street video is the banned Katy Perry video (Yup, hand over that Parent of the Year award)!  Anyway, where was I.

Oh, yes, my mood swings.  One minute I'm on the floor playing with the boys, the next minute I'm curled up in a ball crying.  One minute I'm laughing, the next minute I'm ready to take someone's head off.   Related to my mood is my absolute lack of patience. 

Lack of patience + mood swings + two toddlers = FAIL

I know that I'm going to have these stumbling blocks, these moments where I slip backwards.  But I don't want to.  Yesterday the boys were playing together.  Like really, laying on the ground both pushing trucks around, playing together.  And the sun was coming in the front window and I was all warm and glowy.  Because it was all just so perfect.

And then the sadness started to creep in.  It just started tugging at me, trying to pull me out of my warm and glowy place.  I didn't want to go.  I didn't want to give into the sadness because it was just too wonderful where I was.  So I pushed back against it.  I fought to stay in the moment, but I had already lost the moment.  I ended up in this weird kind of purgatory, straddling the joy and the sadness -- both pulling me in opposite directions -- both making it impossible to fully give into the other.   

I know I'm going to have these moments, days, weeks.  I know that grief is a process.  I know that it will probably be with me in some form for the rest of my life.  But I only have so many glowy moments and I'm sick of giving them up to the grief. 

And when I am being stretched to my limit by my emotions I struggle with my moods.  I become snappy and short fused and all the things I don't want to be which makes me frustrated which makes me more emotional which makes me more moody.  Anyone else exhausted?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Accountability - Week 6

It was a busy week (I feel like I say that a lot).  I didn't walk until late in the week and I realized I was cranky and anxious and blech.  I never understood people who said that they felt off when they didn't work out.  It appears I may now be one of those people!

Accountability - Week 6
Weeks until Walk -26
Funds Raised to Date - $3593.14
Monday - Busy
Tuesday - Busy
Wednesday - Busy
Thursday - Busy
Friday - 3 miles
Saturday - 5 miles
Sunday - 3.5 miles

Saturday, April 14, 2012

And Just Like that I'm Right Back Where I Started

I am going up to NJ next weekend to help clean out my Mom and Dad's house.

Honestly, since my mom died it's so hard to be there. 

And despite how well I think I'm doing on a day to day basis I feel myself slipping as the weekend gets closer.

This is hard to write because I feel so guilty for feeling this way.  I feel like I should be in a better place by now.  And I worry that these feelings will hurt my family's feelings which is the last thing I would want to do.

My anxiety is taking over.  The weight of what needs to be done to get my parent's house ready to sell is suffocating.    I know I need to do it.  I know I need to be there.  It's just so hard.  Three years later it is still so hard.

And As I was walking today I realized that it was just about three years ago that I raced up to New Jersey to be with my mom as she lost her battle.  And it's all too real, too close, too raw. 

It's always been hard - going home.  This time seems especially hard.  Maybe it's because I'm starting to feel better.  Maybe it's because I have found a way to find a sense of peace.  Maybe I have held New Jersey at a distance to protect myself.  No, I definitely have held it at a distance to protect myself.  And to go back there will bring those feelings back -- the feelings that I have been able to move past for the most part.  The thought of slipping back into the grief, the sadness, the anxiety, the helplessness has already exhausted me.

Am I my own worst enemy for anticipating this?  Why can't I just go?  It's one weekend.  I get to see my dad and my brother and the rest of my family.  Why can't I just embrace the good?  Why am I letting the anxiety seep in?  I hate that I feel this way.  I hate that I put this off until I can't put it off any longer.  I'm so frustrated with myself.  I feel like such a baby!  

How is it that I feel the loneliest and the most isolated when I am there?  I feel the most vulnerable when I am in the place that holds the best memories of the past, the place where I am surrounded by those that have always loved me.  I miss feeling like I am going home.  I miss feeling like I am safe.  I hate that I can't get back there. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Seeking Inspiration

A couple of weeks ago I spent some time adding new bloggers to my twitter feed and daily reading list.  One has cancer, one's sister died, one is a recovering addict, one is a struggling single mom, one's husband is on deployment.  The list goes on.

As I thought about this the other day my initial reaction was - gee Amanda, you seem to be spending a lot of time reading about other's misfortunes.  And I contemplated stopping.  Was I looking for others who felt despair?  Was I comparing my struggles with their struggles?  Was I looking for a reason for my heart to ache? 

I really wasn't sure why I was spending so much time with these strangers and their "problems."  I even downloaded a book last night written by a man who lost his mother, wife and 4 year old daughter in a horrific car crash. 

But as I was reading through my list of current favorite blogs this morning I realized something.  These are not blogs about despair, or the depths of human sorrow, or raw pain  These are blogs about overcoming that despair and sorrow and pain.  These are blogs about digging deep into your soul and facing some of the hardest moments.  These are blogs about resiliency and hope and faith.  These women and men are putting themselves out there, exposing their most vulnerable moments and sharing little glimmers, little moments of truth, little moments of strength.

When I first lost my mom I was too overcome with grief to even hope to find glimmers of truth or strength.  I was too jaded to have hope or faith.  But now, now I'm searching.  The wounds are not as raw.  The grief isn't as palpable.  And I'm searching to connect.  To connect to others' journeys.  To see the good that has come out of grief and loss and pain.  To know that there is something beautiful that can blossom from devastation.

 Lately, I've been grappling with how to bring meaning to my mom's death.  How to honor her in my daily life.  How to not let her presence in my life, and now lack of presence fade into the past, become an "event" in my life.  I'm scared that by moving past the devastation, that all encompassing grief, that I'm moving past her.  And I struggle with finding a way to hold her in the present.  I don't have an answer for this.  I've done grief and despair for a long time.  But I don't know what comes next.  I don't know how to do the next phase (whatever that phase is).         

I think this is why I'm drawn to the lives behind these blogs.  I think this is why I keep seeking out others who have faced difficulty.  I need to know how they do it.  I need to see how they do it.  I need their inspiration And their moments of wisdom and truth are helping me navigate my way into whatever lies ahead.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Accountability - Week 5

I got back into the swing of things this week.  We had our first "official" training walk led by team mate, Maura.  And, despite it being a crazy busy weekend, filled with company and food, I made walking a priority.

Accountability - Week 5
Weeks until Walk -27
Funds Raised to Date - $3518.14
Monday - Rest
Tuesday - 3.4 miles
Wednesday - Off
Thursday - 2.6 miles (Will was super cranky so we cut the walk short to get him  home and in bed)
Friday - Lots of shopping and cleaning and cooking
Saturday - 4.4 miles.  We had our first training walk (3.4 miles) which I walked to (adding an additional mile to the total)
Sunday - 3.4 miles

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I Interrupt this Regularly Scheduled Blog Post

I'm pretty excited about today! 

Why? You may ask.

Well, because I'm making my guest blogger debut over at Merelymothers.

I've been totally loving having this outlet to pour my heart into.  It's helped me process, helped me stay honest with myself, motivated me to keep training and generated a fair amount of donations for breast cancer research.  So when the opportunity to share my heart with another audience came I was both excited and kind of petrified.
It's pretty safe here.  Most the folks that read my blog know me.  They send encouraging words or at least bite their tongue when they don't agree with me.  Venturing out into the bigger blogging world is a little bit scary.  Kind of like starting a new job or going to a new school.  Not knowing if anyone is going to like you or want to sit with you at lunch or pick you for their kick ball team.  But most good things come when you stretch outside your comfort zone.  So stretch I will.

Merelymothers was created by a group of stay at home mom's as a place to share their thoughts and recommendations and support to other mom's.  One of the founding members, Dawn, has been a friend of Matt and mine for a long time and I've loved watching her little girl grow!

While I am not a stay at home mom, I think there are so many things that connect us as mothers regardless of your status as a domestic goddess or working warrior.  We face many of the same challenges, conquer the same obstacles, celebrate the same triumphs.  We are all MOMs!  And this sisterhood of motherhood and womanhood is just what I am celebrating today over at Merelymothers.  So head on over there and check it out.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Moment of Clairty

Today I was driving back to my office and was overwhelemed by the beauty around me.  The clarity of the world.  The wonder of nature and spring and cherry blossoms and bright blue skies. 

And I realized something, I haven't felt this wonder about life in general in a very long time. 

I'm in awe of my kids and there are days that their sheer existence brings me joy I didn't know possible.

But that feeling of being one with the World -- of feeling present and grateful of that presence has alluded me for some time. 

Today it felt like I took off a pair of tinted sun glasses and for the first time all the colors came into focus.  It made me catch my breath and marvel in just how much beauty there is. 

And in that moment I gave thanks.  I gave thanks for my life, for my husband, for my babies, for my family and my friends.  I gave thanks for the cherry blossoms, and the warm sun and the blue sky.  I gave thanks for what I have and the ability to go after what I want.

I can't really explain it adequately but I felt whole and full and it was wonderful.  I smiled and I laughed and I inhaled deeply.

Things are coming into focus and I'm seeing the colors again, in all their wonderful vibrancy. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Accountability - Week 4

Motivation was severely lacking this week.  Like big time.  My walking hit a wall.  My fundraising has hit a wall.

The big success was not climbing under a blanket with a big gallon of ice cream and a spoon.

Oh well.  A new week starts tomorrow.

On a very positive note, Maura, one of my teammates, crossed the $3000 mark this week bringing our team total to $9482.28.  We are so so close to crossing the $10,000 mark.  AND we are the 6th highest fundraising team for the DC walk.  Her big accomplishment helped motivate me on Friday!

Accountability - Week4
Weeks until Walk -28
Funds Raised to Date - $3518.14
Let's not even talk about Monday-Friday (unless you want to hear about my thoughts on the Hunger Games).
Saturday - 4.25 miles in my new fancy shoes.  Ouch
Sunday - 3.3 achy miles.  I'm sure paying for yesterday's mistake!

Next weekend we have our first official training walk.  Maura is a training walk leader and we are going to kick off with a 3.4 mile walk.  It will be fun to meet other three day participants.

Gearing Up

When you buy new shoes and custom fit insoles and the experts at the shoe store tell you to break them in slowly you should probably listen.

And not take them out for a 4 mile trial the day you buy them.

Because if, hypothetically, you decided to wear them for a 4 mile walk, I bet you'd be pretty sore.  Like very, I've-never-walked-more-than-around-the-grocery-store-before sore!  Hypothetically speaking.

But not me, I'm a good listener.  Or maybe I'm not. 

Because today - I'm pretty freaking sore. Oops!

Yesterday SGK had a shoe clinic at Road Runners that I took advantage of.

They talked about the right shoe and the right fit and the right sock.  They gave pointers on what to wear and what to drink and how to keep yourself comfortable (is that possible) and healthy while walking 60 miles over 3 days. 

Road Runners has this really neat system (albeit a pretty cheesy schtick that goes along with it) where they analyze your foot and the way you walk in order to custom fit an insole and pick the right shoe to give you the right amount of support for your planned activity. 

Best thing they give you 90 days to try out your shoes. 

I think I'm going to heed their advice from here on and take it a little slower in my new kicks. 

Happy Walking!