Sunday, December 16, 2018

A Year of Grieving.

I am writing this one year after my dad was placed in hospice care. He had been battling Stage 4 lung cancer with brain mets for four and a 1/2 years. Six months before hospice, we found out that the cancer had spread to the spinal fluid. He made it through the summer, just long enough to be at my wedding in September 2017. A couple of months later, the medication stopped working, and we knew it was time to call in the hospice troops.

It's a very strange feeling, to know that a person you love as much as I loved my dad, was going to die. I suppose we knew all along, but since he beat so many odds, we were always hopeful that he would keep pulling through. Until suddenly, he wasn't. During the 3 months that he was in hospice care, my dad and I had some incredible conversations. He never stopped telling me how much he loved me, or that I was pretty. We talked about heaven and angels, and how much he was looking forward to being reunited with his family. That's the beautiful, true, and oddly joyous part of the journey.

But what I haven't talked much about is this. During that time, I was praying for him to go. He was not in pain, but he was miserable. He could not get out of bed, he was eating very little, he was weak, and he just wasn't happy. I hated that for him. And, truthfully, I was also tired. Tired of being on constant alert, tired of waiting for him to call for one of us in the middle of the night. Tired of walking into the living room where he laid, wondering if he would still be there. I'd often close my eyes as I walked in, to prepare myself. So I began to pray that God would take him. I couldn't understand- if he was supposed to go, if it was his time, why wasn't he going? Why was God letting us just live in this constant state of fear?

The day that my dad took a downward turn was unexpected. I had been with him in the morning. He asked me for orange pop. I laughed, and then started to cry. I told him that I didn't understand this, and that he was a mystery to me. But, I gave him his orange pop, and gave him a kiss on the head, told him that I was going home for a bit to rest. A few hours later, my mom called me. She said that he was breathing kind of weird. I told her to call the nurse back, which she did. I rushed back over to the house, and could sense something was drastically different. He was barely speaking, and he looked scared. I remember asking him if he thought that maybe this was his time, and he nodded.

For the next three days, my entire family spent every moment at that house. There was often 4 or more of us in the room, surrounding him. He could no longer speak, and wasn't moving at all. We would occasionally get eye contact. The nurses and aides from the hospice were in a constant rotation. Very early in the morning on February 10th, I came downstairs to relieve my brother and immediately noticed that my dad's breathing had changed to a rapid breathing. I called my mom from my cell phone and told her to get downstairs. I ran back into the room where my brother and Sara were sleeping and told them I thought something was changing. My mom and I sat with my dad, holding his hand and telling him that we loved him. All of the sudden, his arm reached up to the sky. Let me remind you, he had not moved in three days. At all. In that moment, he took one last breath. I do believe my dad was trying to let us know that he was going somewhere amazing, and that someone was coming to get him. The comfort I have from that very last moment is one I can't possibly describe. It was my validation that he was going to be okay.

But, with that comfort, came guilt. I had been praying for him to go, and now he was gone. I immediately wanted to take back my words, my prayers, my wishes. I couldn't believe how stupid I was for doing that. And I have carried that guilt with me every day since. I buried it deep, so that I don't have to think about it, but it creeps up. It's there, and it is very real. It is a feeling I wouldn't wish upon anyone, because it has caused me to begin a war with myself.

In the year that has passed, I have learned so much about grief. That it can come out as anger, that it hits you at all different moments. I've learned that grief is complicated, because not one person grieves the same as anyone else. I've learned that some days I feel okay, and then feel guilty about feeling okay. I've learned I've already forgotten his voice. I've learned that it's lonely. There are very few people who ask me how I am doing. They ask how my mom is doing. And don't get me wrong, I know that losing your spouse is 10000 times harder than losing a parent. But it doesn't help. And when people ignore it, ignore that I am hurting deeply, that's also lonely. Grief skyrocketed my anxiety and my depression. The sadness that enveloped me over the last year was one I never want to experience, nor do I want anyone in my life to experience it.

I dedicated (and will continue to) dedicate a lot of my time to helping my mom. Going with her to different things, spending Sunday nights with her. A new form of guilt began to rise- am I doing enough for her? Am I spending enough time there? I'm not at home enough- am I hurting Tom while helping my mom? This began a separate battle in my mind, one that told me that I am not good enough. That dagger is one that still stings, and that I still carry with me.

And then there is the simple, yet oh so complex, truth of the matter- I just miss my dad. I miss his jokes, his encouragement, the way he wanted to be involved in my life. He was my phone call every day after work. I called him about the celebrations and I called him when I needed advice. He never shied away from telling me how proud he was of me. He built me up, and he recognized the things I was doing in my life. There were so many times this year when I needed to hear him. And I couldn't.

Three times since my dad passed, I've been compared to him. I do not agree. But I realized, I am trying to be like him. And truly, what a person to live up to. I will do my best. I won't ever replace that incredible man, but if I can display just some of the patience, kindness, and encouragement that he gave out into the world, I would be satisfied with that.

There are moments of light, of course. The connections I made with strangers in my grief group, the way I embraced and was embraced by The Barre Code community, how I grew closer with my coworkers, and most importantly, how strong my relationship with my mom has gotten. Those are things I do not take for granted, and I do not forget. But I cannot sit here and talk about my grief, without addressing my pain. I have to let it out somehow.

I do not write this piece for sympathy. I write it because it is the truth. It is a true reflection of how grief has affected me. This will likely not be the last time I write about grief, but boy did it feel good to let this out. My only hope is that someone else connects with this, and finds it helpful to know that they are not alone.

Dad, I miss you, I love you, I'm sorry, and I'm proud of you and the ever lasting impact you made on Earth.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Favorite Tweets!

This post is especially for Julie, Kristen, and Jess who promised me that they still enjoy my Favorite Tweets list. I am still active on Twitter- it's my favorite way to get news, see funny memes, and connect with people who have similar interests as me. So here we go, here are some of my favorite funny tweets this year:

And last but not least, a very special tweet from my three favorite people:

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Top 2018 Albums

This was an unusual year in music for me. The majority of my usual favorites did not release albums this year, so I found myself branching out a little bit. So, I actually included a couple of EP's on here that were so good, I couldn't stop listening. Those EP's made it pretty high up on my list! Let's get to the list, shall we?

10. Ariana Grande; Sweetner
No, this pop album doesn't include her latest hit "Thank U, Next", but it does include some great pop tunes. I've been saying for a couple of years now that Ariana Grande is the strongest female pop star we have, and I guess the rest of the world has caught on. She releases smash after smash, and even with all she's been through, she seems almost indestructible.

Top Tracks:
Get Well Soon "Want you to get better/my life is so controlled by all the what if's/is there anybody else who's mind does this/is there such a ladder to get up off this?"
No Tears Left To Cry "They point out all the colors in you, I see em too, and boy I like em"
Breathin Time goes by and I can't control my mind/Don't know what else to try, but you tell me every time/Just keep breathin' and breathin' and breathin' and breathin'

9. Brandi Carlile; By The Way, I Forgive You
This woman's voice is no joke. She is a story teller, which is a running theme amongst my favorite albums this year. A little folky, a lot of power. Give this one a good solid listen when you have the time to truly pay attention to the lyrics.

Top Tracks:
Every Time I Hear That Song:  They told me the best revenge would be a life well lived/and the strongest one that holds would be the hardest one to earn
Harder To Forgive:  I have suffered for the peace inside my mind/And some things are better left unsaid/While some things work out different when they're in your head
Party of One:  I am tired/I don't wanna go home anymore/I don't wanna throw stones anymore/I don't wanna take part in the war

8. Florence and The Machine,  High As Hope
Another powerhouse of a woman who can tell beautiful stories through song. Her lyrics and her vocals are haunting and beautiful. 

Top Tracks:
Sky Full of Song Be careful my darling/Be careful of what it takes/What I've seen so far/The good ones always seems to break
Big God: Sometimes I think it's gettin' better/And then it gets much worse/Is it just part of the process?Well, Jesus Christ, it hurts
HungerTell me what you need, oh, you look so free/The way you use your body, baby, come on and work it for me/Don't let it get you down, you're the best thing I've seen/We never found the answer but we knew one thing/We all have a hunger

7.  Imagine Dragons, Origins
Imagine Dragons came in hot at the end of the year with a new album, which I was not expecting since they just released one last year.  This band always has great tunes, and ones that lift me up and motivate me during tough workouts. Their grit is really something special.

Top Tracks:
Bullet In A Gun: How many voices go unheard?/How many lessons never learned?/How many artists fear the light,/Fear the pain, go insane?/Lose the mind, lose yourself
Bad Liar: So look me in the eyes, tell me what you see/Perfect paradise, tearin' at the seams/I wish I could escape, I don't wanna fake it
Natural: I can taste it, the end is upon us, I swear/Gonna make it/I'm gonna make it

6. NeedtoBreathe, Forever On Your Side (EP)
NeedtoBreathe has been one of my favorite bands for years. Like Imagine Dragons, they have a grit and power behind them. This EP only has 4 songs, but they are powerful songs. Can't wait for a full length album in the next few years!

Top Tracks:
BulletsI ain't made to carry/All this weight on my own/Oh, it's way too heavy/And I can't be that strong
Forever On Your Side (With Johnnyswim): Take my hand when you can't see the light/'Cause I'm forever on your side/I will carry you every time/'Cause I'm forever on your side

5. Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour
I kept hearing about this album and when I finally sat down and listened to it, I understood the hype. Kacey is a breath of fresh air and just what is needed in country music. Solid tunes with incredible lyrics! This album is like a warm hug. It's so tender and genuine.

Top Tracks:
Happy & Sad: And I'm the kind of person who starts getting kinda nervous/When I'm having the time of my life
Rainbow:Well, the sky is finally opened, the rain and wind stopped blowin'/But you're stuck out in the same old storm again/You hold tight to your umbrella, but darlin' I'm just tryin' to tell ya/That there's always been a rainbow hangin' over your head
Space Cowboy:When a horse wants to run, there ain't no sense in closing the gate/You can have your space, cowboy

4. David Cook, Chromance (EP)
This EP came out so long ago I almost forgot it was released in 2018. If you want to talk about underrated artists, David Cook is at the top of that list. He consistently delivers with incredible vocals and lyrics. IF you haven't given him a chance yet. here's your chance to give a solid EP a listen.

Top Tracks:
Gimme Heartbreak:I'm the puppet that's hanging from your thread/You're the name of my madness/I don't want to get you out of my head
Warfare: Baby this is warfare/This is a battle/If I can't have you/Nothing else matters/Fightin' for your love

3. Lauren Daigle, Look Up Child
I've known about Lauren Daigle for a couple of years now and have appreciated her refreshing, raspy take on Christian music. This album is really something special, it's incredibly strong and beautiful in both her vocals and the lyrics. It's brought me great comfort over these 12 months, and it's difficult to even pick my top tracks.

Inevitable: Set Your promise to play on repeat in my head/When You meet my anxiety put it to death
Rescue: I will never stop marching/To reach you in the middle of the hardest fight/It's true, I will rescue you
You Say: You say I am loved when I can't feel a thing/You say I am strong when I think I am weak/You say I am held when I am falling short/When I don't belong, oh You say I am Yours

2.  Lennon Stella; Love, Me
This EP is actually the reason I decided to include EP's on this list. I knocked off some of my favorte full length albums to make room. Listen here. Lennon Stella is going to be a force in the pop music industry, and I'm going to be so proud to say that I was HERE for it. Yes, she might be 12 years younger than me, but her songs are pure pop perfection and I cannot help but bop along when I am listening. If you are a sucker for pup music and can appreciate a little rasp, you will love this EP! 

Top Tracks (They are all golden, but here are the two I listen to the most)
La Di Da :Your empty words made for hurting me/So just before you take it too far/I'll hold my ears/Say la da da di da
Bad: I probably should've known better/I probably should've known better/Every word you said you was sweet but you was lying/Everything you covered up, making up just to keep to me from crying

1. A Star is Born Soundtrack
It's pretty unusual for me to list a soundtrack as my top album (I checked all my lists since 2009, and the only other soundtrack to make my list was the Pitch Perfect soundtrack in 2012, coming in at number 8). But this soundtrack is just so good. I probably don't need to tell you how incredible Lady Gaga is, I think by now people get that she has an amazing voice. But match her vocals with Bradley Cooper's rasp, and some incredible songwriting, and you have the perfect soundtrack! I even love the cheesy pop songs that are supposed to be horrible. (Heal me is SO good!). 

Top Tracks:
I'll Never Love Again: And I want to pretend that it's not true/Oh baby, that you're gone/'Cause my world keeps turning, and turning, and turning/And I'm not movin' on
Always Remember Us This Way: The part of me that's you will never die
Shallow: I'm off the deep end/watch as I dive in/I'll never meet the ground/crash through the surface where they can't hurt us/we're far from the shallow now

I've made a little playlist with my top tracks from each of these albums to give you a Sampler :)

2018 albums

A playlist featuring Ariana Grande, Brandi Carlile, Florence + The Machine, and others

I also made an Essential 15 playlist with some amazing jams from 2018:

the essential 15

A playlist featuring Bruno Mars, Sugarland, Shoshana Bean, and others

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Grief Aids

It should be no surprise that 2018 was a really rough year. The loss of my dad, and the grief that came with it, hit me hard. While that may seem "normal", it doesn't mean it was easy. I was also not expecting for my anxiety to go for a wild ride. The grief triggered anxiety, which triggered sadness. I speak about it now because I am tired of the stigma that surrounds mental health. And, to be quite frank, I'm tired of saying "I'm fine" or "I'm doing okay" in the rare occasion people ask how I'm doing. Mostly, I've found people don't want to talk about it.

I put immense pressure on myself to be the best daughter and wife that I could possibly be, and when I felt I had not lived up to the expectations I put on myself, I tore myself down. I got angry with myself when I saw an increase on the scale, knowing full well that I had gained a ton of muscle, but instead of believing that truth, I told myself lies about my body and my health. Also, grief can be very lonely, and I felt that. I felt it hard.

There's also the overwhelming obvious fact that my dad, my rock, is not here. Talking to him is not the same. He's not here. I can't pick up the phone and call him to share good news and to hear him say that he is proud of me. I can't call him when I need his advice. I can't get one of his hugs or look into his blue eyes. There were so many times this year when HE was the person I needed, and he wasn't here. And while it's true that he's looking out for me, and that he lives in my heart, and all those other cliche things people tell you about someone dying, it doesn't change the fact that he's. not. here.

That is not to say, though, that there were not moments where light shined through. There were, indeed, moments of healing. Which is really what I came here to talk about. I am not cured, and I may not even be "fine". But I am on my way to healing, at least a little bit, and I can recognize the people, places, and things that helped me to get to this point. I'm going to refer to them as my Grief Aids. Because, like a band aid, they did not cure me, but for a moment or two, they made me feel just a little bit better. I was trying to determine the best way to share these Grief Aids with you. I thought about making a long blog post listing all of them, but since I so rarely get comments on my blog, I am not sure that is the best way to do it anymore. So I have decided that throughout the month of December, I will post about these Grief Aids on Instagram. You will see people who have stood by me, music that has touched my heart, podcasts that served as a distraction, and more.

I have learned that it is important to hold onto the things that make you feel a little less alone. To use the tools that calm your anxieties before it gets out of hand. To turn to things that make you smile when all you want to do is cry. To grasp the things that make you feel alive, even for just a moment, when you feel numb. Life is hard, but it's possible to get through it, with little bursts of healing here and there.

Maybe the things that comforted me will bring the same to you. Maybe we can continue to share these tools, and have these conversations, instead of ignoring the pain and suffering.