let it flow

it is the cusp of autumn here in the south.  i know some places up north have already faced snow, meanwhile we are trucking in at 85 degrees still.  the leaves are changing though, and falling, crunching under our feet as we run out the door and getting tracked into the house as we come in.

we are starting to settle.  the dust is starting to clear, numb is wearing off.  and i am faced with life, the reality of life, and for the first time in this, i feel ready.  ready for a job, ready to interact with people again and not have them know every detail about the situation, ready to cook for my family, ready to be emotionally available to my kids so they can process their grief.  

when everything first happened, i felt so apart from society, so marked and scarred.  it was crazy to me that i could be walking around doing normal things and these people around me didn't know what happened.  you almost have this compulsion to spill it to everyone, to tell them what's going on, to explain to them how fire came and swept through your life and you didn't see it coming.  

it's remarkable how everything heals.  the capacity of a human to endure pain is amazing to me.  i honestly wasn't sure how anyone could survive what i have been through before i underwent it.  and looking back i still question, was that me?  how did i not break?  where did this flexibility for pain come from?  

we just bounce back right?  and even more than that we ascribe meaning and significance to the pain, with the realization and understanding that great things are born from it.  webster's defines great as "of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average" 

above average, what we all strive for.  born from pain.  it is a puzzle i turn in my mind a dozen times a day.  and there are no answers.

but to bring us to today, to bring us to the ringside moment.  the rope goes up and i am back in the ring.  broken but undefeated.  bring it, i am READY.

on having your own identity.

we train ourselves to always look for the positive in situations.  this is a skill that's honed, a professional development over a lifetime.  you know when this gets awkward?  when it relates to death.  for some reason we think our brain shouldn't go there.  it should have the boundaries of knowing that nothing good can come from death.

my brain is such a muddled place recently, it is a ball of yarn that will most likely never completely unravel.  i still spend a lot of time just in thought, thinking about why i did what i did, the impact it's had on my life.

when a marriage ends, there is this very real part of you that sheds that part of you like a coat that doesn't fit anymore.  and it doesn't really matter how/why it ends.  i failed for a large portion of our relationship to carve out an identity for myself outside of being jim's wife and my children's mother.  and the reality of that is that deficit started when i met him.

our love story so unique and palpable - a whirlwind of five months from meeting to married, was entirely dependent on a very unique world perspective at the time.  i was so unhappy and being with him made me so happy, i bounced on my old life.  which, at the time, seemed positive.  i had a lot of unhealthy habits that it wasn't necessarily a bad thing to get rid of everything.  but i went from being lost by myself to lost in a relationship.  i'm honestly not sure what a healthy marriage looks like, i had a great one, but was it healthy?  is anyone's healthy?  does forcing ourselves to belong to one person for the entirety of our lives, the length of which is ever expanding, lead to personal development or does it stifle it?

i was talking to my counselor who said that some sociologists are looking into whether marriage is antiquated with the lengthening life span.  if you asked me today, i would say i don't really believe in the idea right now.  i'm more into creating family.  i don't think you necessarily need marriage to do that.  i also think forcing a coat on that has long since shrunk can be stifling and unnecessary.

ok.  i'll end here and even though i hate them, i am throwing out a PSA on this post, if you are married and in my life this is not about you.  i promise.  just put that idea out of your head.  my paintbrush is broad here, referring to all of society and the evolution of our construct.

dating in 2016, also huge LOL at even posting this.

Half of me can’t even believe I am writing this post.  Dating is gruesome, isn’t it?  Like most of life, I suppose.

The weekend that Jim died I was standing there, a wreck, while my phone was blowing up.  Alayne goes “who is texting you so much?”

I respond “oh those are just my tinder matches” 

and I know that not everybody gets the hilarity and all I can say is until you are in the fire, you don’t see the need for a respite from getting burned.

anyways, i was talking to my therapist about dating and i commented “single, widowed mom, sole custody of two kids… it’s a tough sell” and it is.  

i have this story that literally leaves people speechless.  most people when they hear it don’t even really know how to interact with me much less get involved romantically.  and i know eventually it won’t be such a big part of my identity, this widowed, grieving mom, but right now it is and if i want anything to do with the person then it’s like they have to know it.  

again, it’s a tough sell. 

i remember when alayne was dating and i was in the “smug married” camp and i would literally be listening to her dating stories while secretly thinking to myself “thank GOD you don’t have to do that, dating with the internet sounds horrible” well jokes on me, not only am i internet dating but i also have my entire story on basically every social media outlet, including this blog.

here are common openers from online dating that literally lead to a dead end for me:
“what brought you to raleigh?”
“what do you do for work?”
“what’s your IG?”

the first date i went on, God bless this guy.  i picked that poor soul because i knew i didn’t like him and i just wanted to get what would most likely be an extremely awkward date out of the way so if i actually did like someone in the future, i would be chill, the opposite of myself normally.

do you know how hard it is to date if you don’t want them to know anything about you?  i sat there at coffee for an hour and gave no info about myself, he didn’t know i had kids, didn’t know i was married, nothing.  i sat there and silently shredded a napkin into my lap and was AWKWARD, gave him a hug goodbye, hopped in my minivan and drove away.

i can only imagine that he got out of that experience thinking “what the hell”

and then the time comes when you do start to like people again, and it’s hard and messy and difficult and my requirements right now are crazy.  i want all of the benefits of a relationship with none of the responsibility.  and then i can only imagine what most guys think about my situation, i would say half want to take advantage of what they perceive as my emotional vulnerability (nice try buddy!) and the other half are like “hmm…. no thank you” and i get it, i totally get it.  thank god i stayed skinny through all those pregnancies so at least i still look good otherwise this would be bordering impossible.  

and this is the tricky part too right?  everyone liked me when i am in pain because i needed help and it’s like seeing a puppy out in the rain, everyone wants to adopt it.  but then you bring the puppy in and it starts chewing up your shoes and you think “oh no puppy, oh no this is not how you act”

that’s why it’s so great to be down here.  no one to say “oh no, oh no bria, this is not how being a widow is done” by the way 100% of those people are not widowed because anyone who is will just tell you “do what you want, hall pass for the first year AT LEAST”

and so what do we do?  right, there is nothing to do but keep trying.  keep meeting people, keep making connections, keep throwing out lines.  if you have breath, then you want to be loved, if you want to be loved you gotta love too.


remember that britney spears song "overprotected" no, just me? because yeah i still listen to britney spears.

there is this tendency in all of us, to protect what matters of course.  i do it with my children, my dogs, my friends.  sometimes feeling helpless is worse than taking the pain personally.  usually it is, unless you are in a really extreme example.  God knows i'm going to go ape shit on the first guy that ever tried to mess around with addy.  sometimes i think about the road she is going to walk, with mean girls and bully, unrequited love and heartache... it's so hard to even imagine.  ultimately though, i know that in order for her to be her best i am going to have to release that grip.  that grip of trying to make everything perfect for her and instead just stand there in the paint with her, allow her to get hurt.

truly we can't really protect other people can we?  all we can do is struggle ourselves.  people spend too much time overthinking circumstances- at the end of the day it is what it is.  choose A or B, ultimately it doesn't really matter.  at this point there are two circumstances that could probably break me and none of them are in my control.  people spend so much time trying not to break me, underestimating my strength and looking only at my fragility that remains.  and ultimately too, that is another fallacy- overestimating our own importance.  we do this all the time with work right?  i used to manage all these pump files at my old job and i was not wrapped up when my water suddenly broke over the weekend two weeks early.  i ended up not returning after my maternity leave and you know what?  they survived, they managed all my pump files, shipped all my pumps.

it's this dichotomy again because every human being is unique and not one of us can be replaced, but in the same vein, all of us can be replaced.  miss one there's fifteen more coming 
is there anything i can offer the world that no one else would be able to come up with?  are we really unique or is there a futility in striving to make our stamp on the world?
dear jim,

we tried to do our family pictures today.  lane sucked his thumb the whole time and refused to be put down and addy was throwing a tantrum.  there were lots of family's there doing fall pics and i had to laugh when i saw one dad in his tucked in button down and styled hair just swear under his breath and go "and i'm done" and literally walk away from his two year old.  we all have those moments right?  being done.  it wasn't as hard as i thought it would be, probably because it didn't actually happen.  the photographer was like "well... if you want to come back and do another mini session.... i don't think i got much today"

I wish you were here to talk to.  I miss having my friend here.  It's so difficult babe.  The other night I couldn't sleep and I just thought about how if you were here it wouldn't be that big of a deal because you'd stay up and talk with me.  Remember that one night in our Streetsboro apartment where we were up at 3 in the morning making sandwiches after our fight?  Those times stick out to me.  There was one night in our Aurora house too, after we had fallen asleep on the couch that we stayed up in the family room and talked.  Those times were so special, the two of us, in our quiet house, kids asleep, the outside world felt so far away in those times.  It was more of a cocoon.

I think you'd like Raleigh if you gave it a chance.  It's hard to describe here.  I'm not completely at home yet, but I'm slipping into it a little bit.  Addy is doing well, really well actually.  You'd be so proud of her, Lane is Lane man.  That kid is a stinker, he is hitting me a lot but he also has the absolute sweetest voice when he just babbles to himself.  That's when he's my favorite, I'll be holding him or in the car or something and he'll just be staring off into space talking to himself.  His voice is so sweet.

We miss you and our sissy though.  God I miss you both.  There is still a feeling of life being an eternally long time before I get to see you both again.  I wish you were here, I hope you are happy.  We love you so much,
always and forever,

can't stop.

someone once asked me if everything that happened played like a movie in my head.  normally, the answer is no.  i would never sleep, never function if it did.  having a child die is beyond horrific.  knowing i'll never get to kiss her again, never see her eyes light up in a smile, never have an elly/mommy date.

i can't sleep tonight.  my thoughts go continuously to jim and elly.  every time my body relaxes into sleep, i am jerked awake.  my head is pounding and not even addy's breaths are lulling me to sleep.

people set off fireworks tonight, why on a thursday i'm not sure.  little did they know, the sounds of them caused a 29 year old single mom to go into a panic attack and hyperventilation state.  each one sounded like a gun shot and i could not snap out of it.  it went on for close to thirty minutes.

and that's the thing right, i walk around and look like i'm fine and look happy.  no one knows.  today i was at a kid's museum and there is a pretend ambulance with a pretend baby in it.  this sight of this always gives me great anxiety to the point where i really try to avoid even looking at it.  and i wondered, i thought, how many other people in this room have a trigger in here right now?

anger is only a secondary emotion.  and this week i have been angry.  raging at what was taken from me, angry at the world for not suffering with me, angry at people that are having babies and announcing pregnancy, angry at people who post that "love your spouse" shit on Facebook, angry at people-just because they're alive and my daughter isn't.  and it hurts right.  it still fucking hurts.  i still hurt.

it wasn't just jim that screwed me over, it's this whole cosmos.  i got a raw deal and i want to know why.  why are we here, why do we suffer, WHAT IS THE POINT?

i don't often share details about my kids and their grief process.  their journey is their own and i respect it.  lane's hasn't even started yet, i imagine i'll be dealing with that mostly in high school.  addy though, addy busted this one out the other day
"God let daddy die...  (long pause) it's God's fault"

today on the playground i saw three brothers playing.  two were playing together and the third one was alone.  the two playing together kept saying "michael, come on over bud, come play with us" as soon as the kid would get close they would leave him in the dust.

giving, just to take away.
having, just to lose.

we all play our roles.  ours seems to be ants, running around trying not to get recognized lest we be stepped on.  God, God seems to be a sadist.  giving just to take

let's stop covering up the bruises shall we.  i am not ok, we are not ok. 

to my daughter

dear a,

oh addy.  you turned four yesterday, you turned four and i failed you so badly on your birthday.  yesterday i had this moment when i was just yelling and being angry and you came up to me with this sad look on your face and just grabbed my hand.  you understand so much more than you let on baby.  i know you feel it too.  my relationship with you is so special, you take so much more of the load than you should.

to you who held my head when i was sobbing hysterically and patted my hair, "don't worry mommy, you're not alone"
to you who has literally saved my life with just your breathe when i've been close to the edge
to you who drapes your lanky body around mine just perfectly and nuzzles into my neck
to you who grabs my face and looks into my eyes when i'm angry and upset, searching for understanding

to you my daughter, i hope one day, when you have kids of your own you know how much i tried and how special you are to me.  i hope you know that i literally would not be here if not for your love.  i hope you know that no matter what you do with your life at 4 you have already saved mine and that is more than enough, i hope you know that our love is forever and ever and ever, i hope you know no matter who comes in and our of our lives we will always be that family of five, it might look different than other people's families, but that's ok, i hope you know that you can feel however you want to feel and look however you want to look and be whoever you want to be and THAT IS OK.

color inside the lines and i will love you
color outside the lines and i will love you

be a rule follower or breaker, live close or live far, travel or stay home, succeed or fail- I WILL LOVE YOU.

these days are not promised to us baby, let's take them for what they are.
to my love,

i reeked of self-doubt today.  i.could.not.pull.it.together.  there is a large part of me that blames you for this today.  all of me wants to blame you.  my steps were false, my figure was halting, my frustration was always present.

your beautiful little angel turned four today.  do you remember that day four years ago?  my water breaking at our stow house?  i've never seen you happier than in that moment.  jesus babe, she missed you so much today.  you couldn't find it in you to stick around for that?  we talked about it constantly, you and elly missing from our "party," half of her family not even around when she turns four, to be four and have lost half of your family already.  and then i'm yelling because i'm frustrated and sad and tired and i miss you too and i miss my daughter.  and it's all a mess.

even in my new reality there is still disbelief.  not as much as in ohio for sure, but a part.  a part of me still whispers (he can't have.that'snothim)

it wasn't you right?

today is not a day of thankfulness, today is not a day of #newblessings.  today is a day of wistfulness - to the girl i was even before we met.  today i am mad.  today i hate.  today i am frustrated and angry and not doing my best and not being my best.

beating my fists against an iron door, never to have it open.

it's a zero sum game and we've already lost.
dear elly,

friday is sissy's birthday.  you would have been seven months old.  always into numbers, your dad and i were so excited that your birthday was 3/7 the combination of the birthdays of your siblings.  i woke up thinking about you today baby, your warm body cradled into mine the last time i held you.  your peach fuzz of dark hair against your scalp.  how is it that i barely knew you and yet i miss you terribly, missing the soul that knew mine so well.

i remember on daddy's birthday i was holding you and drinking half a glass of wine and your brother and sister were just going nuts playing "playground" on our couch.  they were (rarely) completely occupying themselves and you and i were just hanging and i thought to myself "this is the most chill baby i have ever seen" part of me wishes i knew in that moment what was coming ten days later.

i woke up thinking about you today.  i haven't really been crying since i moved and i needed it today, which is partly why you are getting this letter.  i am sorry that i am using thoughts to you as an emotional release for me.  i hope you know how special you were to me, i am so sorry i wasn't a better mom, i'm sorry i failed.

you sit on my dresser, in this beautiful blue urn, it's probably the size of a teacup.  that small, diminutive nature of it breaks my heart open when i look at it.  today, it is not enough.  today, i want to hold you.  today, i am raging at what i lost when you left this world.  today, i want my baby.

ellybean, your sissy misses you.  she always pretends that i'm her sister now.  "mom, we are sisters, the two of us mom, you're my sister."  your brother misses you, it breaks my heart when i see him with another baby, i know he misses you.  oh elly, would i to have suffered a thousand deaths in your place i would do it.

there was a part of me that had a hard time grieving you after your daddy died.  i mean, truth be told, it shut me down for a while, then i could only look at your death as this bizarre catalyst for the hell i endured, and now it is finally separate again.  the death of my daughter once again, the burning scar it should be.

elly, i wish i was holding you today.  i wish the bittersweet pain of seeing you grow up was mine to bear.  i wish your dimpled thighs were against mine in our bed as i snuggled you in the morning, aghast that seven months with this chubby little monster have slipped by already.  i wish i was getting ready to dress you for your first halloween and that when i buy you something it doesn't feel so empty when it gets here to serve as a reminder of you.  i wish addy had her real sissy here, i wish you were ours elly.

love you baby, please give your daddy a kiss from all of us and give my mommy a hug from me because today i really miss her too.
love your mommy.  xoxoxxxx.