there is this defining moment that is found in deep struggle.  i think there is a reason that so many successful people have had difficult backgrounds.  when you encounter great pain there is this mental decision that is made and one either succeeds farther than they ever imagined or one fails, and either direction one goes, it's usually in a big way.

when everything first happened, i remember feeling mad that i still had two kids to take care of.  like my life would have been easier if i didn't have any members of my family around and i could have just sold everything and become a hermit in the mountains for a while or something.

(also a disclaimer on feelings.  can we as a society, please stop being afraid of how we feel and acknowledge that they are not logical or good or bad, they are just there.  i have had very very dark feelings in this at times, but when i allow myself to feel them fully without judgment, they are more easily dissipated and seen for what feelings are, a temporary state of being.  i see it with addy all the time though, she'll say she's sad and the immediate response is "don't be sad" completing invalidating the way she feels and the fact that she is entitled to them.  second disclaimer, feelings can be powerful so if you are struggling in any way, please speak to someone and i feel it's important to note i see both a psychiatrist and a therapist throughout this)

annnnnnnyways.  i have had half of my immediate family members die before i turned 29.  i don't have my mom, i don't have my daughter, i don't have my spouse.  but you know what, i have addy and lane still with me.  i have these beautiful, pure beings in my life that i am enabling to enjoy their life, and that is meaningful.  it brings me so much happiness when i have them laughing and goofing off, because i know how hard we have to fight for those laughs.  i choose to still make memories with us three, i choose to still give them a childhood, i choose to still dig deep.  we could stop, right?  we could give up and roll over and say "it's too hard, we've lost too much, we aren't a family anymore" but we are, we are still a family.  it looks different than most, i have a daughter that's known to bust out twerking moves at any moment and we are usually playing beyonce a little too loudly, i might roll my eyes when lane starts crying because he wants to ride the train for the millionth time instead of validating his frustration, but we are doing it.  and it gets easier.

and those moments, those seemingly small moments of laughter and fun and love that most people don't pick up on.  those are worth gold to me, because i know, i know how easily it can slip away.  it is through the pain that i have discovered life's worth.  i count myself blessed, not because i lost, but because i have learned.  i have learned what matters, i have a lifetime of experience in less than thirty years.  and because of that, my children are equipped with a knowledge of what truly matters in life.

and so from another female boss, i am going to leave you with M.I.A. whose album, AIM, i cannot stop listening to.

Trying not to remember
My time in the fire
Cause ain't gonna tell ya
This war is never over
I ride through the sea like a pirate
Just to float in the water
Can't carry feelings
Like basket can't carry water
Ain't gonna tell ya
That I live strictly for the paper
Men are good, men are bad
And the war is never over

Survivor, survivor
Who said it was easy?
Survivor, survivor
They can never stop we

Gold and oil and dollars
Stars come and go
Just like every empire
I stay fly focus
I'm staying higher
Now power up your lighter
For you know you are a survivor
to lane,

hey bubba.  i don't know if you know how much i love you, it's a crazy lot.  we are funny- you and i, you have these moments of absolute independence and not giving a shit whether i'm around and then these moments where it's just obsession.  most of the time, it's just chill between us.  but when you go- boy, you give me hell.  today you were screaming because i couldn't figure out that you wanted to eat COLD BUTTERNUT SQUASH for breakfast.  seriously who does that, i don't even do that.  i warmed it up and you threw the bowl and said "NO! NO!" all the while screaming.

with you my fears are different, i don't worry about you so much.  you seem natural at life, in a way that most people in their forties still aren't.  when you were born it was as if you looked around and said "oh this again?"  you take everything in stride, thumb in your mouth, eyes open.  i remember when you were born, your little half whine - you didn't really even cry, you were just grumpy as shit, the corners of your mouth turned down.  up until the last second i kept telling jim, "what if they got it wrong, what if its actually a girl?!" sorry buddy.

i hope your joie de vivre takes you far in life.  i hope you know when it counts to stand up for yourself.  i hope you know that your smile will get you far, but your ingenuity and determination to make things work will get your farther.  i hope the estrogen doesn't overrun you in this house, i apologize in advance for when your sister is a teenager.  i hope you take it easy on me somewhat in your teenage years, try to reign it in more than your dad did please.  i hope you understand the significance of being a man raised by a woman.  i hope you know the fear i conquer in being your mom, in taking my stance on raising a boy.  i hope you know that if i seem absentminded, it's just because i have so much confidence in you.

i know what you will know.  you'll know that no means no, that a lack of response doesn't mean yes.  you'll know how to protect your sister.  you'll know that life doesn't come with a warranty and you will value it in every form, including and especially those weaker than you.  you'll know how to take care of yourself.  you'll know that i love you no matter what you do, who you love, or where you go.  you'll know that i'll always have your back, even when you're taller than me, which at this rate, is probably going to be third grade.  you will know your limits, and they will be firm.  you'll know how to show love.

bubba, you are a joy.  and your flirting game is already really strong buddy, lay low on it for a while- i don't want to be a grandma for a long time.

i love you forever to the moon,

it still comes.

you know how when you get a really deep wound, they tell you to apply pressure so you don't bleed out.

sometimes that's how this feels.  like i've just stopped the pain but it's there, under my fingertips, pulsing, waiting for my grip to slip.  it's nights like these, where i've read my poetry and sipped my tea, where addy's breaths are beside me, where i've taken my xanax and one two three... still.awake.

i think about him, sometimes i think i hear my children crying.  i almost always think that if i stay awake.  my worst fears, confirmed, another child slipped through my fingers.  when elly died people told me "this is the worst you'll ever live through" and i felt this sense of foreboding when it was said.  everything in me wanted to knock on wood and throw my hands up like "i'm not the one testing fate over here!" and that's the reality isn't it? there is no threshold to suffering.  there is no quota to be filled, some of us simply suffer more than others.

i would like to know that my days of intense, soul ripping loss are behind me, but they could very well not be.  sometimes that fear plays into my mind and i panic and worry and fret.  i'm not always strong.

i've worked so hard on my house here.  it was important to me, the first time i lived alone.  it was very defining, the decision making process, what i left, what i took.  there was no mediation, there was no deciding between the parties.  and then i arrived, tabula rasa, and it was crucial for me to breathe myself into my house.  for every nook and cranny to quietly say "this is bria"

but sometimes, sometimes it still feels lonely.  sometimes i miss my house saying "bria and jim."
sometimes i think about his touch and his smile and his laugh and his teasing and his friendship and i cry because i know, i know the loss.  i know the ache of carrying a past into the future.  i know what it's like to be burned.  i know what it feels like when forever ends when you are 28 years old and you watch your baby and husband die in a matter of days.

i have been sutured, but the scarring has not occurred.  healing has begun but it will never finish.  i have a necklace that i wear, a memorial of elly and jim, sometimes i have to take it off because the physical weight of carrying them around with me becomes too heavy to bear.  i haven't had it on in a couple of days.

i wish you would have stayed.

you don't have power and i don't care about being private

they want us to change
they say look at this, look at that
fix it, fix yourself, fix you
youuu are (WRONG)

lift, tuck, primp, pout
you are a girl
(don't you get it?)
you can't play with us

the weaker sex
the weakness is letting them in your mind
the weakness if found in letting their opinions define you

it is your flaws that make you beautiful
beauty is not found in perfection
beauty is not a straight edge grid
laid out, end to end (NO END in sight)

you fight, but you don't fight them
you fight yourself?
"self, you don't do this correctly""self, stop doing that"
remember (remember)

no one can love you AS MUCH as
YOU have the potential to love yourself
to love you must know, to know you must accept
there is knowledge to be found (within yourself)

your words? they do not define me
the truth is found in my soul
your stares? they do not affect me
i walk by unperturbed

you, they, them
do not define me.
my worth is found within myself (in my light)
i will share with you.

i am brave and i am not good or bad.
i am just authentic.
and i will share,
i will share this light

my privacy does not matter
i do not seek the power that it provides
it is the connection with you that i crave
it is knowing that strength and beauty

have been recognized in me
but even if (even if)
you refuse to recognize
i know the truth. and i stand firm.

the following.

the following is from a journal entry a little over a month ago.  sometimes i look back over my own writing and the wisdom in it catches me by surprise.  that's not to blow my own horn, it's more to say, it is so easy to lose sight of knowledge we keep within ourselves.  remind yourself of who you are, bring yourself back to the roots.

you look to them to either prove security or to prove it cannot be- either way, that is not their role.  it's not about them.  security cannot be found.  it's about having something broken that shouldn't have been forged in the first place.  the crystal pieces of illusion crashing around you do not lend themselves to building you stronger.
(pull back, pull back, pull back)
for you do not know who you are (pull back)
(pull back) for you must find it before it can be given
do not allow others to give you their idea of yourself
you are frightened but you are ok.  you will not make the same mistake twice.  your lesson - so brutally learned - will prevent future entrapment.  what you have learned has become a part of who you are.

they are not what you need
create something within yourself
"what's that" enough already- yes you can.

who knows what the future will bring- who are you to clasp your talons into it and dictate the purpose of the days, the purpose of people, and the purpose of your life?  let.go.

to my mom.

hi mom,

it feels weird to write this, after almost 21 years of not having you here.  i don't know why i've never written.  it probably has to do with children just wanting to shut doors on trauma, and before jim and elly died, i wasn't really in the habit of writing letters to any dead people.  i hope some part of you gets this.

i miss you so much.  i've cried so much for you this weekend.  just thinking about a myriad of things really, who you were as a person, how jealous i am of people that knew you as an adult when we never got that time together, what you would tell me as a single mom, what it would feel like to have you here...  this was the first time in almost seven years that i've cried for you by myself.  it felt lonely, an ache increased by another ache.  i didn't even know that could happen.  i just had to lean against my wall and cry quietly less addy overhear me again.

mommy.  i miss you.  i wish you were here.  i hope you get to hold elly.  she looks so much like you.  there are no words for the absence i feel in the wake of the void.  to lose on both ends of the spectrum, to have half of my immediate family ripped from my grasp, to feel the rope get cut shorter and shorter... it is a cruel world, at times.

i think about the things that you tried to teach me to value.  i was talking to anna the other day about when i was little, and we went to mexico every year for your treatments.  you would have me pack my clothes and shoes that didn't fit me anymore and give them away to children on the streets of tijuana.  do you remember my pink mary jane slides?  i loved those shoes so much and i was so sad they didn't fit anymore.  you told me all about the little kids who would need the shoes more than i did... you said i could pick out a special girl to give them to.  i still remember handing the girl those shoes and her sparkling, brown eyes and pretty, shy smile.

it wasn't until i relayed this story as an adult that i realized how rare it is for someone to care that their child is exposed to poverty, and for someone to make room in their suitcase specifically for things that no longer fit to give away.

i wish you were here to teach me lessons, i wish i could hear your laugh, i wish i could make you laugh.  i have a million wishes to wish on you.
did you meet jim?  will you tell him it's ok?  will you tell him i got this.  that i'm not mad but i'll miss him every day.  since you can't hold me, can you hold them for me?  since you can't kiss me, can you give them the kisses i can't?  since you can't whisper you love me, can you tell them i love them?

mom.  i wish i could hug you, i wish i could whisper thank you in your ear before you slipped away.  i probably never told you thank you, it's not a phrase that just drops from the mouths of children with any frequency.

mommy, i love you.  thank you for being my mom.  please watch over them for me.
i miss you so much.  i hope i get to hug you again some day.

the gap.

when you left (left me)
i had a gap
it was big (daunting)
like the grand canyon getting stuffed in
a sandwich bag

could i fill it?
of course,
i could and i tried

i tried (everything)
hair? clothes? shoes?
they all came pristine
in their boxes, unmarred by society

and every time they arrived
i seemed less dirty
less marred and scarred
here's your delivery ma'am

and i received them all as
third party as could be
"oh is this for me?"
i deserve (it) 's been a hard year

and then, the year passed. 2017-
it entered, quietly.  
slipping into my bed unannounced
after hours like a lover

and more packages came and i
i looked at them and said
thank you for coming but i 
i don't need you anymore

you see, there is no gap
i am whole
in my healing, i am whole
and out the door they went

and i leaned into myself
tapping into the energy that was always
(always) available to be made 
useful and complete

and i said thank you.
thank you to the packages
thank you to the temporary
and thank you to the permanent

vulnerability and being a writer.

i think most writers are probably introverts.  there is a certain level of self-awareness that must be present in order to articulate stories, especially if they are your own.  it is what makes writing so difficult for me at times.  i am, at my core, an introvert, yet i hit publish on some of the deepest, raw feelings.  in the beginning, it was a compulsion, i was in so much pain, pain that i could not have born alone.  so i shared, i hit publish.  now it has and continues to change, my pain is becoming more of mine to bear alone, my grief is becoming more and more inward.

once when we were dating, i wrote this essay, i guess you could call it, on jim and i.  just a random piece of my thoughts expressed in a certain fiction way.  i never showed it to him, i was too embarrassed, too afraid of what he would think.  i found it after he died and i was looking through my old posts, most of which are and continue to be drafts (thoughts for my head and not meant to be shared).  i showed it to alayne, she asked me if he ever saw it, and i shook my head no.  i was so sad in that moment, that i had let this avenue of intimacy go unexpressed.

and so i walk this line, of processing privately and yet feeling a compulsion to share my story, in hopes that some can say, "i identify."  it is an unraveling that i feel, will most likely, take a lifetime.  my friend shelby wrote a post which sparked this train of thought for me (found here).  there is a certain level of bravery and faith and trust that is exercised when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

i've been lucky so far.  i've only had one person bring up what i've written as an argument against me.  but this stuff is done every day, especially for writers, poets, musicians.  rolling stone rates albums like there can be a star level on people's souls.  i remember reading their review of sufjan stevens Carrie and Lowell, they gave it four out of five stars.  that album is one of the most personal and raw things i have ever listened to.  in my prior 28 years of existence, i had never experienced anything come close to touching on the grief of losing my mom or the abuse i experienced at a young age and that album touched it.  yet we have created this society where people's vulnerabilities are held up, judged, and rated.  it is an interesting and slightly disturbing concept to me.

there is a certain level of power in privacy.  do you remember when a million little pieces came out?  and everyone (Oprah) was in shock and awe over this guys honesty and vulnerability and then it came out that, you know, it wasn't all true?  i get it, i get creating a role for yourself and allowing that character to take on the vulnerability, to flesh things out as a fake until you get a handle on it.  i, at times, find myself jealous of actors.  who, when confronted with a reality they don't like, get to escape into another one.

yet, that does not seem to be my path in life.  i have this compulsion to keep pulling back my layers, to write only what i find is truth at that time, to not allow myself to escape into the fantasy but to keep hammering home reality over and over and over again.  to share my story again and again and again.  to shout about the pain and eventually the joy, in the hope that others will hear my shouts and know, they are not alone.