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

New Year, still me. Thank goodness.

How do I express that everything has changed, yet nothing at all?  Accepting that life will never be what it was.  With the New Year, I wanted to leave the sadness and grief of my mothers’ death behind, embarking on a new year with new expectations on myself and the future.  But that doesn’t change me.  All the intentions and determination in the world cannot change who I am in the moment.  You cannot command the grieving process or feelings to act in a certain way.  If only it were that easy.

I wanted to push the past behind me, move forward.  And in many ways I have.  I have accepted the past several months were difficult and painful: that some areas in my life were put on hold.

In a world where progress is measured in success and “moving on”, it’s difficult to honor the grieving process as work in itself.  I may not have been as productive in certain areas as I could have been, but I was (and am) working my ass off in other ways: grieving (action word).  If only you could put that on your resume.

In some ways I’m surprised that I Continue reading

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.

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.

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