Drowning in Memories

I have come to the conclusion that the dark side of this second season is that as we age the losses come with more frequency. When we find our footing after torrential grief the button gets pushed again. And again.

My grandmother is making her way home to heaven. Towards the man she was married to and loved for over half a century. To a place she believes in with every fiber of her being. She’s given us several close calls this last year but the hospice staff tells us we won’t be granted a reprieve this time. Though I think Em and I will hold out hope until that final call comes.

My brain has become a time machine of memories. My grandma, I call her Mom, was a huge part of my childhood. My 17 year old mother had no idea what to do with a newborn born with a birth defect in need of constant medical attention. I was raised in my grandparents home during my formative years thus learning to call my grandma “Mom” from hearing my mother do so.

I have years of memories of being sent to stay with my grandmother when I was sick. When I was recovering from any one of the 50 surgeries I had before my 18th birthday. When I needed to be taken to endless doctor appointments. It was always Mom that I remember taking me. I am sure my mother was there somewhere but it’s Taco Bueno and Bennigan’s lunch dates with Mom that I remember across the street from Memorial City hospital. It’s ENDLESS pots of our families “slumghetti” recipe she would make when I was sick. (She swore after the third pot when Em was born she would never make it again. She did – she just didn’t eat it after that!) Recipes that can’t be recreated because they are missing the touch of love I’m sure she put in them.

I spent most of yesterday trying to remember the last time she made me any “slumghetti”. I can’t. I didn’t know it would be the last time. When we broke down her house last year the memories were packed away in boxes. Boxes I find myself wanting to open and just rewind time.

Mom and I’s relationship changed after PawPaw died. She swore it was because we loved him best. She just didn’t know how hard it was to be around her without him and with the knowledge that she too would leave me. First PawPaw, then Fred three years later, now her five years after that. I look around at people that I love dearly who aren’t getting any younger and I know this is one part of life I’m going to have to get a little stronger at. Does one ever really get good at saying goodbye?

Em & Mom

This picture is one of my favorite of Mom. That joy? She always had it when Em was around. I have siblings that would tell you she had it with me too, and I’m sure she did, but our bond was forged deep on the years she was there for me when people who should have been weren’t. With Em? She got to just do the joy. She knew I had Em in all the ways my mother let me down so she just got to love her the way a grandmother should. Even if she was her great grandmother. So precious for those two to have 20 years…how many great grandmothers get that? I know Em is drowning in more memories than I am but I also know there is a part of her that will be glad when Mom gets the one thing she has wanted for eight long years. To be with PawPaw again.

You have heard this from me more than once. You’ll probably always hear it from me. Life is short. Precious. Getting more so by the day. Hold those you love close. Appreciate those who are there for you because they want to be not because they have to be. Love HARD. It’s the only way to survive this life.

Blessings y’all – Amy

Invisible Boundaries

It may be as simple as you buy the laundry detergent your mom always used. Using the same kind of pens your first boss did (twenty years ago). Or never doing XYZ because someone important to you told you not to. Can you think of something you “always/never” do that you never stopped to think about why or that you just accepted as a fact without asking yourself why?

I ran smack into a couple of those this weekend. Let me explain. I’ve been watching the value of my Suburban for some time now with this crazy car economy. Wanting to get out of it at the end of the warranty and while I could get dang near as much as I paid for it (!). Then gas prices skyrocketed and I watched 25% of the value evaporate seemingly overnight last week. 🙄

Cue the tedious task of car shopping. In my family “we hate Fords”. Couldn’t tell you when or why that started but it’s a knowledge I grew up with from my grandpa. Yet – I felt myself drawn to the new Bronco’s. Went to look at those Saturday and that was a disaster story for another day and suffice to say – I still hate Fords. But the sporty feeling of the Bronco was clearly a Jeep knock off. The words that came out of my mouth were “I can’t have a Jeep”. The response I got was “why”.

“Fred said I can’t” – my answer

Awkward silence. Ummm. Yah. Invisible boundary. Rule I live(d) by without question. Fred’s reason, I knew, is that I drive like a crazy person and Jeep’s roll. But alas, I am a grown person capable of a) slowing the hell down and b) deciding what kind of car I want. I also wanted a truck. Because I love my yard and if you had ever seen what I hauled in that Suburban you would understand why I needed a truck. But a truck didn’t get me away from the reason I was moving away from the suburban…a gas guzzling beast of a vehicle.

A trip to the Jeep dealership landed me in wild never before thought of territory. A Jeep Gladiator. The very car I made fun of as “a Jeep that swallowed a truck and didn’t fully digest it”. 😬 But oooohhh it rides high enough that this short girl can see. Aaaahhhh it’s sporty. Ummmmm it has a truck bed. Well hell. It also comes in my favorite color – OCEAN BLUE. Dang it.

Meet my new gal. Currently being referred to as “Dory”. As in Finding Nemo. Not sure that’s the final name but sure is sticking so far.

When I say I went from one end of the emotional spectrum and back like I have NEVER on buying a car – geez. I was almost daring that dang sales guy to not giving me what I wanted for the suburban. Buying Dory meant crossing the invisible boundary in my mind laid by Fred about owning a Jeep. It meant letting go of driving a Suburban. Fred and I’s long time goal car and what I have driven since he died. Saying goodbye to driving a “mom” car and all the years spent shuffling kids and friends and STUFF everywhere. Saying goodbye really to that chapter of my life and this being another step towards this next chapter I’ve been working on for two years. It was dang hard.

With Tim’s sweet patient style and a few tears I got it done. And my challenge for you today is to ask yourself what you do in your life that is just because you “always” have. Or because it’s an invisible boundary someone (or you) laid for you. And then cross it. Big or small.

We only keep growing when we keep pushing ourselves. It’s hard. It takes work. Frankly it can suck eggs. But’s it’s what makes life interesting.

Blessings y’all – Amy

Over A Cliff

It’s no secret I’ve been in deep period of pain and self discovery the last couple of years. Long overdue grieving for the loss of my grandpa and my husband. Staring down the question of “who am I” when not defined by titles like mother or wife. I am damn proud of how far I’ve come. I haven’t done it alone and I know that. This very outlet had been part of the journey.

Lately I’ve been restless. Feeling disconnected from my faith. Questioning the growth. Losing my identity as an independent a bit as I’ve become part of an “us” again (def no regrets there!). I’ve recently begun listening to an audio book that has provoked some deep thinking.

I had an opportunity this weekend to share some of the feelings bubbling up with someone I trust implicitly with my thoughts. Between those conversations, my book, and what I believe is answered prayer I finally think I’m understanding where the restless is coming from.

I’ve reached a point in self discovery I could choose to be satisfied. OR this cliff I am standing on….the one that I can’t see ground below because it’s dark…I could choose to go over it and dig deeper. To return to the faith the distractions of life are pulling me from and hear what God was guiding me towards. I’ve done a lot of work. But I’ve also just stuck some of the feelings that are too painful in a box and put them on a shelf – compartmentalizing as the counselor calls it – and hoping to forget about them.

I kid you not….as I am writing this my bible app sent me this verse. Does it get any clearer than that?

It’s time to go over the cliff. To truly forgive those who have caused me pain and to forgive myself when I haven’t been the person I wanted to be. Yesterday is past and can only continue to hurt you if you can’t let go of it. It’s time to open the box, sort the feelings, and finish the journey. It’s time to love myself enough to finish the healing.

For those who have held my hand this far – I love you. I wouldn’t be on this planet today without you.

Choose you. Choose to believe that if you go over the cliff God will catch you.

Blessings y’all – Amy

False Evidence Appearing Real

Ever hear something once and it registers but your brain kind of dismisses it? Then when you see it again…in big letters on the motivation app on your phone…it smacks you in the face? Sometimes I wonder if that’s because the way it is presented is different or if it’s because we’re in a different headspace on the second or third (or thirtieth) time of being presented with a message.

F.E.A.R. – False Evidence Appearing Real.

Ask an anxiety sufferer and they will tell you their fear is VERY much real. To them (us/me) it IS. You “normal” folks think we have a screw loose. But you can tell me that the spider that is outside my front door is NOT going to somehow climb out from under my shoe and bite me while I’m squashing it and I’m still going to be safely inside the house trembling. It’s a SPIDER. They kill people with their bites. That’s the only bit of evidence my worried brain has retained and the logical “you are 135 lbs to his .05 lbs” never gets a chance to weigh in. (Huge shout out BTW to my bestie Becky for driving over with her spider spray and killing it for me!)

Another example. Ever walk into a room and conversation stops and you are SURE that everyone in that room had to be talking about you? No evidence to support that other than that fretful voice in your head saying “do I have a spot on my shirt, is my hair sticking up, did I put on pants”? It’s the F.E.A.R. of judgement, condemnation, and standing out that makes us sure that ill timed pause in conversation pertained to us. In reality, as humans, most of us are too involved in our own mess to notice anyone else’s.

A more personal example? I was adamant from the time Fred died that I couldn’t live alone. I didn’t know how, my world centered on my family, I am deaf enough that I am not safe, etc etc. That F.E.A.R. for four plus years damn near stopped my life. Alienated parts of my family. Made me so anxious, stressed, and afraid that my body turned on me. Like to the tune of 85 pounds lost in 11 months turned on me. Guess what? 99% of the time I prefer to be in my house by myself. I have no one to clean up after, my house never stinks, laundry “day” consists of about one load, I always have groceries and my favorite cookies in the pantry….you get the idea. Do I still wish I had someone to kill the spider/roach/whatever creepy crawly? Yep. Is that reason enough to live in fear trying to control everything out of my control to stop time? Nope. (Do I miss the time when my husband was alive and my kids were little? Every damn day.)

I was brought up taught to be afraid. Taught in childhood and young adulthood either by example or being told “don’t do this – it’ll hurt you”, “don’t say that – you’ll hurt my feelings”, and “do xyz – or something bad will happen”. Sometimes presented as rules but more often than not just presented as punishment when I did the “thing” I was being taught to be afraid of. Also taught later in life by trauma and loss that the world was something to be afraid of.

So how do we keep F.E.A.R. from running our life? I don’t have all the answers – I’m still a work in progress. Learning to push against those fears is HARD! But one thing I am finding that works is when I feel that familiar surge of panic/anxiety in my chest I stop and breathe. I ask myself “do I have any evidence that what I am afraid of can happen”? If I do – what is the worst case scenario? What is the best case? In most situations we land somewhere in the middle. (I did lose the battle on the spider!)

But it is a choice. It’s a choice to question, every day, until your curiosity and your heart are open and F.E.A.R. isn’t your driver. It’s a hard choice, the safe corner F.E.A.R. pushes you into is WAY more comfortable, but every time I’ve stared it down I’ve been dumbfounded at what I found on the other side.

See you there! Blessings y’all! – Amy

Permission vs Forgiveness

Are you an ask permission person or an ask forgiveness person? What I mean is this…is your life bound by societal rules, childhood subconsciously learned rules, social pressure rules…you get the idea. Or is your life a Katie-bar-the-door they can forgive me later kind of life? There isn’t really a middle spectrum in my opinion.

Me? I’m a permission gal. Always have been. Always want to do the right thing, say the right thing, or BE what everyone expects me to be. Even in my travels I’m asking permission – in a way – by discussing each trip with my circle before really taking the plunge. If even one person in that circle didn’t think whatever I had dreamed up was awesome my mind would immediately start to worry. Undo. Imagine worst case scenario. FEAR.

In a permission life there isn’t a lot of spontaneity. You are too afraid of going against the grain. Standing out. Being judged. What I failed to realize is that those rules (walls) were slowing moving in on me. Inch by inch, day by day, year after year. As the roles that literally defined me have disappeared those walls have closed in hard. Wife. Mother. Caretaker. Niece. Granddaughter. Employee. Friend. Some of these roles will always be in existence but either they have drastically changed or I am no longer content to exist solely as they have always defined me. It has gotten almost impossible to be content being every one else’s version of Amy.

My idea of a forgiveness kind of life is being free. The old adage “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” is ringing in my ears right about now. I imagine a forgiveness life means you are free to not think about every conversation in your head before you have it looking for and eliminating any landmines that might cause confrontation. Free to say (as Fred would have) “F*&$ ’em and feed ’em fish heads” if they don’t like it. Free from the stress of seeing all the bad (and only the bad) the world has to offer. Free from the anxiety of worrying about all the bad the world has to offer. Free to decide I want to go somewhere or do something without checking in with anyone to make sure it’s a good idea. Free to not let that sixth sense you have about people and situations completely immobilize you. Free to not apologize for my existence. Free to have the knowledge that I can am a smart, driven, capable person who can protect myself!

Along with recognizing my dissatisfaction of my roles I have come to realize that living a permission kind of life limits me. Comparing these two – both as I write this and in all the self work I’ve been doing – I can realize that a permission life was safe for me at one point in my life. It was what I needed for survival. It gave me stability and I knew what the rules are. As the universe is saying “stop hiding and start living” the permission life now feels like a concrete block pulling me to the bottom of the ocean faster than I can scream for help.

My real dilemma now is figuring out how to make the transition. My motivation app keeps me deluged in “greatness” and “chase your dreams” pep talks but my 43 year old brain hasn’t connected how to go from waiting on permission to figuring out and leaping towards my new “hell ya” season of life. I suspect the emotional weight I carry that keeps me feeling like I’m drowning is the insecurity of not knowing what rules I am living by now. What to do. Where I am going. Who my brain thinks it should be asking for permission. Who I freaking am for Pete’s sake.

My impatient immediate gratification self is going to have to learn how to just enjoy the journey. I know with work it will come in time. It’ll take repetitive conscious decisions to take actions different than I always have. Speaking openly and honestly on this blog is one of my “fuck ’em” decisions. (Ha! I didn’t do the expected thing and make the bleep ok!) You may not always like what I have to say but you damn sure are always going to know it came from my heart.

Blessings y’all – Amy