Back in Cali: Day 1

So here I’ve landed, in North Hollywood for the evening where my brother and his wife live.  The name is deceiving: one would think it’s exciting but the city is actually in the Valley which is far from interesting.  In fact, I haven’t left the apartment all day.  So being cooped up in an apartment with no car is not what I was dreaming my first day back in California would be like.  But so it is…

My first goal (and I’m trying to break them down into bite-size pieces) is to buy a car.  I’m going to focus solely on this otherwise I fear I will continue to overwhelm myself which I’ve already managed to do so this evening.

I don’t like feeling homeless, I suppose no one does.  My plans seem to change day by day which is maddening but part of the process of moving.  I miss my friends, I miss the warm balmy weather, I miss familiarity.  I feel a heaviness in the pit of my stomach and a deep sadness for what I’ve left behind.  I wait it out, as I know from experience this is how grief works.

I missed not surfing today as I’d gotten into the routine of going every day.  I’m excited to check out the surf breaks in northern California, but it may be a while until I get a wetsuit and new board.  My old one should be arriving in a month or so.

I’m sure this is the beginning of what will be a long process of letting go.  Though I’m open to the possibility of it being easy and not long.  I have to remember I’m resilient, I’ve done this before, and I know how it works here: it’s where I’m from.  Whether I like it or not, it is a part of who I am.

What I do know for sure is I had an amazing time in Hawaii and I’ll never forget it.  It feels strange to refer to my time in Hawaii in past-tense.   I still ponder about how a place so seemingly perfect couldn’t be what I need right now.  Though I’m already mentally planning my visit back.

 

 

Aloha isn’t just a cliche, it’s the real deal.

I think the idea (and reality) of me leaving has hit.  I had my last day in the office Thursday to distract me, then my going away BBQ yesterday.  Now it’s just me and half-filled boxes spread around the apartment, waiting to be packed and sealed.  I feel overwhelmed which is expected though I was hoping to stay zen until I stepped on the plane (and hopefully after).  I don’t feel ready for this.  So I’ll go through the motions as I need to and slowly get there, though I don’t have much time.  Worst case scenario, I leave it all behind.

I’m getting somewhat exhausted at saying goodbye.  I feel appreciated and loved, but in some ways I just want to leave already and get it over with.  It’s a little bit like a bandaid slowly getting pulled off.  Then I feel awkward about it all: the attention, the sadness, the guilt over leaving, the “nice to know you’s”, “we’ll be in touch”, “let me know how you’re doing”, and so on.  Simultaneously I’m trying to process and navigate through the feelings I’m experiencing, as they fluctuate from moment to moment.  And where is there space for grief?  I am no stranger to grief and the pit in my stomach, heaviness and a deep sense of sadness is all there, waiting to have the attention it needs.

How do I leave behind all the memories here?  So much has happened, so much has changed.  Will I be the same person when I leave?  I am not the same person who came here over 5 years ago.  I’ve learned to slow down and really enjoy life in a way I never knew how. I’ve learned to value quality of life over career and status and to see people for who they are versus what they do.  I have shed some of the seriousness I have carried with me my entire life and learned to laugh unabashedly.  I found and lost love, became motherless, and experienced one of the greater losses in my life.  I’m older and wiser, and have weathered storms I could’ve never imagined to have rained down on me.

Yet I move on, trying to be brave as I start over in a place I call home, even though it’s been 15 years since I’ve lived there.  Will it still feel like home?  I don’t know.   I don’t know what is ahead of me and I’m scared but thrilled about the opportunities that have already arisen.  

So much of me wishes I didn’t have to go, but everything within me knows it’s time.  I will back, even if just as a visitor.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned while here is that “aloha” is not only real, it’s a state of mind.  Hawaii will always have a place in my  heart.  It always has.

 

 

Leaving Aloha? Nah, I take it with me.

I started this blog exactly five years ago, five months after I moved to Hawaii from Washington, DC.  Strange how I felt the need to write something here after 1.5 years of nothing.  Though maybe it’s not that strange considering I’ve recently decided to move back to the mainland in March and one of the drivers behind starting this blog was my move here.  I suppose you can say it’s been a long time coming, but to many it has been a bit of a surprise.  I still haven’t completely come out of the closet about it, as it increases my anxiety levels and can send me spinning.  What I don’t want to hear is: why are you leaving? why would you leave? do you have a job? don’t leave! (and so on).  I have no idea how to answer these questions and when I do I feel at a loss for words.  Conflicted captures how I feel quite well.

Yet, the excitement of starting over somewhere new (yet familiar) has taken ahold of me.  After 15 years away from California, I’m ready to go back to the place I consider home.  I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get to know my family as an adult and to be close to friends I’ve been apart from for years.

Hawaii has been exactly what I needed these past 5.5 years and most definitely what I needed after 10 years in DC.  I can truly say it’s been nothing short of amazing.  I’ve experienced much loss and heartache, but being surrounded by such beauty and amazing people has transformed me into what I like to think is a better person.  Of course I could have had similar transformations elsewhere, but Hawaii does have a magical way about it.

Sadness comes over me as I think of leaving all this behind, but it’s time.  And there’s no saying I won’t be back, there’s always that possibility, though my entire being knows it’s time to go.  I wonder if I’ve always known this as I’ve never truly let myself settle in here and I’ve lived my life as if I’m passing through.  On many levels I wish I could have made it work for me, but I realize I want something different, at least for now.

Oh Hawaii, you will always have a place in my heart.  When I close my eyes I’ll see the crystal blue water, sunshine reflecting off the surf and green mountains in the distance.  I’ll imagine myself on a beautiful sunny day, paddling for a wave, popping up and gliding down the face, hearing the powerful rush of the wave breaking behind me.  I’ll see my friends sitting on their boards next to me as we wait for a set to come in, laughing and smiling.  I’ll never forget you Hawaii and all the joy and laughter you’ve brought into my life.  Mahalo!

 

IMG_0320

One of my favorite spots on the island: Diamond Head Lookout.  Oh how I’ll miss you…

 

This Tornado loves you*

photo by Darryl Torckler/The Image Bank/Getty Images

I’ve lost sight in these past few days, possibly weeks, of who I am and what I want to be (as a person).  Caught up in my swirling thoughts, I have been running, trying to figure out what is next.  In this confusion, I have created inner and outer turmoil.  I feel like a tornado, lost in the spinning, pulling those in around me and dizzying them into confusion.

There has been a lot of change in the past couple of weeks and I am trying to learn to sit and wait for a new path to emerge.  Instead of chasing after something to fill the empty space and distract me from the anxiety of the unknown, I want to just sit.  It’s unlike me and I fear complacency and sloth.

It hit me today that it will be a year my mother died in just a few weeks.  Will I be okay?  As I sit here and write, I do wonder.  The grief can hit you like a tidal wave and drown all your senses in pain.

Almost a year, hard to believe.  The pain hasn’t gone away, though it has lessened.  I’ve had dreams and memories of her lately, though even more so, longing.  I long for a mother.  Not the one who raised me but the mother I’ve needed and wanted for so, so very long.

* Song by Neko Case

Merry Christmas?

Hard to believe it’s Christmas already.  I wish it were more merry, but why should I expect that?  It’s our first Christmas without my mother.  I had high expectations on myself, that I could be cheery and upbeat, helping out with Christmas dinner or sprucing up the house.  But when in the house, I can’t seem to do more than lay around, paralyzed and overwhelmed by grief.  Reminders of her are everywhere; who she was fills the rooms and hallways.

It would be too severe to say I am where I left off after she died.  What has occurred is the reality of her death has slammed me in the face.  I feel in shock, stunned by the finality of it all.  The emptiness that remains.  The house is definitely not the same without her here and there is no way I can hide from the stark reality that she will never be back.  I want to run out the door, leaving everything behind and never come back.  But I can’t.

It is easier to forget when you are far away.

My Failed Attempt to Ignore 9/11

I was going to ignore that today was 9/11.  But when I turned on the radio this morning,  it was of course the main topic of discussion, as it should be.  Then I went to a church service and it was the theme of the sermon, again, as it should be.

The incidents on 9/11 in the US were indeed horrible and we were all affected on that day.  I was in Washington, DC at the time and lived just 8 blocks from the Capitol and congressional buildings.  I didn’t have a TV so I walked down to an Irish bar that opened up it’s doors early for others like myself.  It was mostly full of hill staffers in suits.  They were streaming out of the Capitol and into the streets, walking who knows where.

It’s horrible to think of the approximately 3,000 people who died that day from the attacks.  Though what first went through my mind when I heard the preacher say that number was what about the millions who’ve died in Congo over the years of war?  Acts of terrorism in the Congo are being committed every day, particularly against women.  That is just one out of many examples of unrecognized atrocities around the world.  It is of course not a numbers game, I realize this.  It is not the death toll that matters.  Though what does seem to matter is that the voices which cry out are heard.   The US, being a superpower is of course going to have one of the loudest voices on this planet.  And even more importantly, a voice that will  most certainly be heard.

Though honestly, at this moment, I feel detached from both the deaths of 9/11 and such devastation in places like Congo.  In fact, I don’t really care.  There was a time when I would tear up thinking about such losses, but all I can think about now is the loss in my own life.  As it should be.

What I mostly thought about this morning during the sermon was I want to see my mother’s death commemorated every year on newspaper front pages and magazines.  I want NPR to spend the day discussing my mother.  I would like to see two huge beams of light streaming out of New York City in remembrance of my mom.  She had nothing to do with New York, but I want that recognition.

Realistically, I know these things will never happen, but to me, her death deserves just as much time, attention and honor.

I want to scream from the tops of New York City sky scrapers and let everyone know that my loss is greater than theirs.

Good article for helping those who grieve

From Slate Magazine:

How To Help Friends in Mourning

Condolence notes? Casseroles? What our grief survey revealed.

By Meghan O’Rourke and Leea

t GranekPosted Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011, at 7:30 AM ET

Illustration by Deanna Staffo. Click image to expand.This article is one of a series about grief. Click here to read our original articles on grief and to look at the accompanying survey. Click here to read Meghan O’Rourke’s series on grief, which became the book The Long Goodbye.

What is grief really like? Earlier this spring, we posted a survey on Slate asking this question. Struck by how poorly our culture seems to understand the complexities of grief (each of us had lost our mothers to cancer and had written about the experience), we wanted to hear from readers about the lived reality of loss. As we noted in our first article about Continue reading

Kindred spirits, lounging by the pool, and pollaroid memories

I was at the pool up the street from my parents house yesterday and met with some friends from my childhood.  The early 80’s pool furniture looked the same to me, though I do believe it had been long since replaced.  A man in his 50’s was lying on one of the deck chairs, smoking and drinking a 40-oz. canned Natural Light.  I arrived before my friends, jumped in the water, and swam vigorous laps in what was a very small pool.  He tried to talk to me a few times, but I would say a few words than immediately submerge myself.  I think he got the idea.

It never ceases to surprise me when I go back home and how different the perspective my child self is from my adult self.  Everything is so much smaller.  The large houses in my neighborhood look small, the buildings around town look small, and most definitely, the neighborhood pool looked small.  Numerous memories have been made at that pool.  The neighborhood kids and I would Continue reading