Anniversary

Does Not Have to Be

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Reminders from Facebook and Google Photos distract me from what I ought to be doing.

With each “On this day last year” alert, I’m jolted back in time. Sometimes one year. Other times four.

My phone told me on this day last year, I was sipping strong coffee out of small cups in Cuba. Warming in the sun, our guides told me to put on sunscreen. My see-through skin (their words, not mine) needed protection.

When I returned, one week later, I packed up my desk and transformed a bedroom into an office. I haven’t left this space much since. What unraveled has frayed into the thousands of stories we all now carry from living during a pandemic. Instagram is exploding with memes comparing March 2020 to March 2021. Will they be similar? Will the month hold the same amount of uncertainty, trauma, and loss as last year? Few fail to talk publicly about the trauma we are collective digesting right now.

With each announcement of a friend or colleague getting a vaccine, I can feel adrenaline swish within me. Yes, I want to be safe and I know when the people I love get to the front of the line, I’ll weep with relief. What their proclamations fail to hold, however, is the hurt we’ve been carrying and the continued wait so many of us still face.

I want to say, “Congrats. You’re out in the world. I’m not quite there yet. And can you get my mom to the front of the line?”

Sinking back in the black office chair, I meditate myself back to March 2017. I cautiously move back through time, recalling glimpses of how I felt one year after Dad’s passing.

I was intentional about doing everything different, as if the clothes I wore, or the food I ate could prevent a chain reaction leading to another disaster. I remember I was house sitting. My family had decided to spend the day apart. Our collective pain was too much to bear. I think it was grey. I wasn’t sure how to create something new in his absence. Maybe I went for a walk?

Eventually, I ended up at my mom’s house, perched on the wicker bar stool in the kitchen.

Staring at the sink, I coached myself out of a place of hopeful desperation, “March 18th of this year does not have to be March 18th of last year. Does it?”

Anniversaries are important. Marking what you’ve been through is vital to honoring the growth you’ve endured as time passes. The phrase, “does not have to be” frees our spirits from the tethers connecting us to our past traumas.

This March, I find myself triggered as we all reflect on the anniversary of a pandemic year. Whether you mark the start of the shut downs this week, or next, we all have been absorbing the trauma of 2020 for quite some time. Memes and comedians and politicians poke at my fears. Who would ever want to relive a month like that again?

This March does not have to be like last March.

Feel sad. Feel hopeful. Feel envious of those who are vaccinated.

Do not, however, dwell in the impending doom of waiting for last year’s next shoe to drop.

You’ve grown in this darkness. I promise. Even if events unfold in ways you don’t want this March, you are not the same person as you were in March of 2020. This March will not be last March. What a beautiful thing.

Roll With It

Tonight, I walked in the door to snow covering my living room floor.

Flakes the size of paper towels mixed with fibers of carpet.

Wait. No. Not snow. Just paper towels. Shredded. All over two stories of my house.

This has happened before, as once Dylan and I forgot to pick up the paper towel roll from the floor that we use to clean up after our damn dog.

She did it again.

Snow. Covering the whole living room.

In that moment, as in most, I had two choices.

  1. Get mad and yell at the dog.
  2. Roll with it.

I chose to roll with it. I stuck her outside and headed up stairs, unloaded my stuff, sat and stared at the mess. I called a friend, she didn’t answer so I left a voicemail instead.

And then I opened up my inbox to attend to an exiting offer I’ve been procrastinating on because I’m scared. Called that phone number, left another message.

Then I went to my kitchen, got a huge garbage sack, and picked up all the snow… er, paper towels. Shreds.

People keep offering advice on how to combat our dog’s anxiety. Doggy day-care, Rover, CBD treats, take her to work. I’ve got a reason most of those won’t work. What do I do instead? I roll with it.

Somethings don’t need immediate fixing.

roll

I haven’t been writing much here because I’ve been processing in my head. Two weekends ago, I lived through another anniversary of Dad’s death. I wonder if it will be like this every year – waking and wondering who will text me that day. Some folks I thought for sure would speak up stayed quiet. Odd how such a significant day can go unmarked for so many people I know who lost him too.

Other surprising me people asked if we have traditions to mark the day? No traditions yet, we’re only on year two. I think it takes at least three years of doing something to make it a tradition. They knew I was dreading that day.

The 18th.

Ugh.

I woke on Sunday, March 18th and Psalm 118:24 came into my head.

This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

It was not March 18, 2016. That day sucked. It was now March 18, 2018. This day did not have to suck. I wondered how to go about marking the day, honoring Dad, and living in the present.

I had choices.

  1. Sit, grieve, feel sad and somber.
  2. Get outside, live, do things in remembrance of him. Roll with it.

Honestly, I did a little bit of both.

Without a plan, and a little less pain than the previous year, I didn’t have an agenda when I woke up. I wanted to feel good and alive. I needed to feel like I was rolling with the huge, sucker-stomach punch that I was faced with when Dad left this world.

I sat and felt sad for an hour. I wrote him a letter with tears streaming down my face. I drank my coffee and I felt his absence and smiled when a friend sent me flowers. Again. Then I got up and we left the house.

I made Dylan go to Dunkin’ Donuts with me and we bought three. One for me, one for him, one for Dad. We went to a park nearby – the one where Dad taught me to ice-skate, and we played trolls, and the one he could see from his office window in the last few years of his life.

I sat on a bench eating my chocolate glazed with sprinkles, hoping for a break in the crowds. Dylan poked me in the side, whispering, “Go!” and I scurried under the branches, donut in hand.

I left an Old-Fashioned cake tucked in the mouth of that alligator statue, where Dad would have looked when he usually walked by.

I hate vandalism and public littering and breaking all rules. I felt like the branch I hit my head on when running back to Dylan was a bit of karma. I felt good and I smiled. Dad would love this. He’d laugh. And he’d probably say, “Well that was a waste of a perfectly good donut.”

We went to dinner later that night, at the house I grew up in. My grief-molded family moved in our new forms and made big ol’ bacon burgers and beans. We sat at this old table and chewed sacredly, quietly without him.

We laughed and were proud of our choices that led us to this second year date.

A constant, patience testing, grace-filled, beautiful choice. To roll with it.

 

Self Care for the See Ya Laters

Happy Labor Day! I for one am enjoying the opportunity to stay in my pajamas until eleven am. I have plans for coffee, and reading a book, and having dinner with friends. That is what days off should be about. I am procrastinating some fairly large tasks for the week ahead, and saying “Today, I choose self care.” The anxiety of what I should be accomplishing to manage my life can begin tomorrow.

This weekend I bought a Real Simple Magazine. One of the articles was talking about how hard it can be to make friends as an adult. I was shocked by a stat that said that on average, people change groups of friends every seven years. While I love my friends dearly, I thought to myself, hmm, its almost time for a new batch of friends. I simply mean that life choices and changes, especially in the second half of your twenties, draw you away from your tribe created in college and perhaps the terrifying years of when you are all moving home and floating a little bit. When you pass over twenty five, we all start to seem a little bit more ‘legit’ – whatever that means – and these legitimate choices of career, and partners, and lifestyle preferences push friendships into the great unknown. As a loyal person, this makes me sad. As a realist, this makes me understand, ‘heck, these changes have nothing to do with me as a person, it just happens.’

This past month I said “see ya later” (not good-bye – that is too final) to three friends going off to grad school – Boston, California, Scotland. I had friends start new teaching jobs, new outdoor adventure jobs, and I chose to leave behind a tribe when I started a new job – even if the location is literally across the street.  Through all of these swinging doors I’m learning how to take care of myself. I’m trying to ignore comparison, sending light and love across the country, and gaining new pen pals. Also choking back a sob, a healthy sob, that we are entering into the next new chapter of life with threads still connecting us.

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It is easy for me, in times of change, to beat myself up. I feel I should have a better handle on the unknown outcomes of my choices. My therapist gently reminded me that it is ok to be anxious about some of these changes – I’ve never done them before. My need to be perfectly predicting is preposterous. So this week, I’ve adopted this beautiful mantra above and allow myself to cultivate new thoughts as I change and grow at rates un-measureable. I didn’t create the image above, just took it from Pinterest, so to whomever did – I love it.

Also this week was my first wedding anniversary! Hard to believe 365 days have already gone by as a wife. It is so fun to celebrate and reminisce about one of the best days of my life. I know there are many more good days to come. We spent the day at the farmers market, bopping around town with a latte in hand, and looking in shops, admiring beautiful things. We went to our favor restaurant for dinner and exchanged small gifts. My favorite part, though, was coming home and watching a movie, sharing a whole bottle of prosecco and nibbling on Cheez-Its. Word to the wise – don’t get the reduced fat.

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There is a lot of pressure to make a first anniversary astounding. I’d say we had a great day, but it was the little snack of crackers and bubbles with my man that made my beautiful heart oh, so happy.