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.

 

 

two types

When getting mail or doing laundry, I often peruse through the stacks of magazines neighbors in the condo building leave behind after getting their fill of stick-thin models and foodie recipes.  I once put a huge stack of National Geographic’s in there and it sadly took days for them to disappear but the fitness and fashion magazines are gone within hours.  Welcome to Hawaii.

I flipped through an abandoned magazine and ran across an unexpected article, “The Long Goodbye” by Laura Fraiser.  It’s her story of slowing down and finding time to grieve over the unexpected death of her mother.  A quote resonate with me:

“…there are two types of people in the world–those who have lost their mom, those who haven’t…”

I have to say I agree.  It’s the club no one signs up for but sooner or later joins.

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.

Article: How Did Grief Get an Expiration Date? By Lynne Hughes

How Did Grief Get an Expiration Date?

by Lynne HughesFounder of Comfort Zone Camp for Grieving Children

Certain things need an expiration date. Milk, eggs, mayonnaise, meat, fish — there is a time we need to be done with them, and throw them away. I get all that. But does grief have an expiration date? For some reason, there seems to be an acceptable shelf life — 6 to 12 months — and then grief should be off the shelf, out of the home and permanently removed with the weekly trash service. If it was only that simple…

The grief expiration date myth must come from people who have never experienced a close death — otherwise they would know the truth. Everyone fears facing such a loss. They are hopeful that should death touch their world, it will only take 6 to 12 months to recover. No one wants someone they love to die. So, until faced with the reality, it’s easier to think ‘this won’t happen to me, AND if it does it will only be bad for a finite, short  amount of time and then there’s an expiration date and it is magically all gone.’ What a wonderful world that would be.

I’ve heard time and time again there is a societal expectation to “get over” grief in six months, and at the longest, a year. Those who aren’t grieving believe it, and often those who are also believe it — this sets grieving people up for false, and ultimately disappointing Continue reading

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.

Big Island wanderings

Lately I have acted unlike myself though I am sure that is not unusual under the circumstances.  I spent Labor Day weekend on Big Island, mostly diving, snorkeling and meeting up with some friends.  Though I couldn’t for the life of me commit to any particular action.  Nothing felt quite right. In each instant, I would change my mind and decide that, yes, I should go do this or that instead.  Or wait, maybe not.  Maybe I should do this other thing.

I started the 2-hour drive toward a friend’s house from Kona, though ended up stopping to snorkel for a while and then later ended up at a black sand beach.  As I drove by a Bed & Breakfast I contemplated staying the night there.  But wait, I was supposed to stay at my friends house on the other side of the island.  So I drove on.  When I arrived, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself and decided going to bed was the best option.

The next day, I planned go to a birthday party and camp on the volcano but instead took off in my rental car and drove to the other side of the island without knowing where I was going or where I was staying.  It eventually became dark and I figured I needed to sleep somewhere.  I ended up Continue reading

Other-worldly

Below is a quote from Dr. Leeat Granek in Slate Magazines’, What Grief is Really Like, series. It really stood out to me.  The expression of devastation is how I often feel.  Yes I knew it would be hard, but the grief seems almost other-worldly.  I find it comforting to know I’m not alone in this feeling.

 “When my mom died, I couldn’t ride two subway stops without sobbing. I knew it was going to hurt, but I didn’t know it was going to devastate me. “

A new unanticipated and unwelcome anniversary

Hard to believe it’s been a month.  Four weeks ago to the date she breathed her last conscious breath.  Four days later she died.

My mind feels cloudy, my body, heavy.  Like I’m a candle slowly melting.  It’s not an entirely unpleasant feeling.  There is a sense of relief in letting go.  Not so much a letting go of my mother, I expect that will take a long while if at all, but accepting who I am in this moment.  Accepting that my life has changed, I’ve changed, my family’s changed.  How I exist in the world is no longer the same.  Twenty-nine days ago I was a different person.  Twenty-nine days ago my life changed forever.

I know a sense of normalcy will eventually surface but from what I hear it will be a new “normal”.  And that makes sense to me.  I don’t feel a sense of hopelessness but an anxious anticipation of what is ahead.  The grief journey is new to me.  I don’t know what to expect or how I will “best” get through this. Something tells me that perhaps it would be best to accept that I don’t know.  What I do know is I need to take it day by day, moment by moment.  And be kind to myself; kind to others.  Comfort myself, let myself be comforted by others.  The road ahead seems dark, but I have to believe this too shall pass.

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

Learning a new way to be

When it’s hot, I like to jump in the pool for a quick swim before I go to bed. I swim the modified backstroke, looking up toward the stars as I glide over the water.  I feel like a water bug that juts across streams and ponds, practically walking on water.  Blooming plumeria trees fill the air with a wonderful aroma – one of my favorites.  I see heads peaking outside their windows: who is in the pool this late?

I was swimming on Sunday at Kamainas, thinking of my mother and hoping to see a honu (sea turtle).  That if I saw one, it would somehow be a sign.  Of what? I don’t know.  But I love sea turtles and without sounding too corny, I think they are very special.  Shortly after, I looked down as I swam and there is the biggest honu I’ve seen at Kamainas directly below me.  It was feeding on some of the algae growing on a large rock.  Most of the time, they swim away once a human is hovering above them.  But this one just stayed there, floating around the rock as I ducked down below to get a closer look. Perhaps it was older, wiser and understood it was a protected species.  As if it knew we weren’t supposed to touch or harm it.  Or maybe Continue reading

Where is she?

For the past month, I feel like left this realm and entered another.  And now I’m back.  It’s amazing how your entire life can change within a matter of seconds.  A senseless misfortune and here we are.  And this happens every day.  Eventually we all will die and someone very close to us will die at some point.

It frightens me because I don’t know where she is.  In yoga class this morning I was pondering if she could see me; feel me.  But I don’t know.  What I do know is she is gone.  I get a sense of peace about it though.  It’s not a feeling of distance, but maybe time.  I’m not sure what that means.  Does that mean I think I’ll see her again?  I really can’t say I know.

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