Time Heals All Wounds….and Other Lies

All my life I knew exactly what day my grandmother died. I knew this not because I was there, I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be born for 6 more months. I knew it because my Mom was always sad on that day. Ten, twenty years post, and still that one day in January…always a bad day.

So I kind of figure I will be sad tomorrow. I’m planning on it, but I’m kind of annoyed about it. What right does a day on the calendar have to control my emotions. That doesn’t seem fair. Especially such a run of the mill date. Mother’s Day, ok, you are a special day and I give you permission to make me sad but November 16th? Who do you think you are? You’re not special.

I guess it is special. I will have made it one whole year without my mom. In some ways it feels much longer, in others ways much less. One thing that feels just the same is how unfair it all is. I personally don’t think those feelings will ever change. A common phrase is “time heals all wounds.” What a pile of shit. It does not. No amount of time is going to change the facts. The fact is that when I was 24 my mom died. And she’ll never see me get married. And just like me, my kids will never know their maternal grandmother. And I don’t get to turn to her in times of crisis. And I don’t get to share with her all the great times. And it’s been a year and those are still the painful facts. And you know what, ten, twenty years from now I’ll probably still think its unfair, and I get to think that.

Because if there is one thing that has changed with time this past year it is how I’m dealing with her being gone. In the beginning I kept feeling like I just needed to get through this. I quickly realized that what I need to get through was the rest of my life. And that sounded awful. “Getting through life” and “living life” are not nearly the same thing. Once I realized that it was a lot easier to give myself permission to feel however I wanted. And that included, angry, frustrated, annoyed, nostalgic, and happy, sometimes all at once. If you give yourself some slack and accept that you’re allowed to feel whatever you are feeling life is a lot easier. I don’t think that applies just to grieving either I think that applies to everything. I don’t see why they don’t teach you that in Kindergarten, could save the world a lot of time.

This is my favorite picture of my parents ever. It's one of the things I let myself feel, annoyed, angry, nostalgic, and happy about all at once.

This is my favorite picture of my parents ever. It’s one of the things I let myself feel, annoyed, angry, nostalgic, and happy about all at once.

While I’m reflecting and knowledge sharing, this past year I’ve also learned a couple other things I think are useful. The one most pertinent to this post is that everyone grieves differently…and that’s ok. I, personally, mostly grieve in private. To me, those are intimate feelings tied deeply to who I am as a person, so I just assume keep those to myself. Some people don’t grieve like that. Some people grieve outwardly, publicly, loudly. And that is ok too. Because you know what? No one has figured out how to grieve perfectly. In fact, I think it might be the one thing humans are just not meant to figure out. We might one day discover time travel or how to get to other parts of space, but I don’t think we’ll ever discover a perfect way to deal with death. Because we’ve been trying for millennia and we haven’t gotten it down. Hundreds if not thousands of religions have been part of the scene over time and not one has a fool-proof solve for how to lose a loved one and not be sad. Even modern medicine with its many feats can’t give you a pill that just gets you over it (I’m not counting anti-depressants because arguably to be prescribed them you’d need to suffer a lot of grief first). So grieve how you want, and I’m not going judge you.

Tomorrow, might be a bad day. It also might be a perfectly fine day. We will have to wait and see. It will, like all the days over the past year, be a day I miss my mom. What it will not be is just another day to get through. I’m putting my foot down on that one. November 16th, I’m going to live you tomorrow with whatever you bring and you can’t stop me.

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Progress

So when you lose someone people tell you “it will get easier with time.” This like most everything society has been trained to say when someone dies a load of bullshit. It does not get easier over time to not have a mom. Sorry, it just doesn’t.

However, over time the complex feelings that you carry around because that is your truth do change. I could see how people might mistake that for easier. It’s not, it’s just different and more manageable.

Case in point: I don’t remember my dreams all that often but sometimes I have dreams and my mom is in them. In the beginning when I would wake up from dreams where she was there I’d be pretty much a complete mess. However, today I woke up from one of those dreams and instead of wanting to crawl into a hole and hide the rest of the day I thought “it was nice to see her.”

That might be a crazy person thing to think but I really don’t care. I’m going to take it as a sign of progress. Not that it’s getting easier to have lost my amazing mom, but that me and my subconscious are finding some really creative ways to deal with it.

I think that really all I can hope for. Mom, it was nice to see you last night, I hope you’re enjoying watching me write this while I listen to the playlist I made for your retirement party. Maybe next time I dream we can do The Twist.

Knowing When It’s Right

No, this is not a post about finding a Valentine. I have absolutely no idea how to do that right. This is actually a really belated post about my trip to San Francisco.

Like Austin, SF was also on the list of cities I considered calling home post-college before I landed my first job and was able to stay in Boston for a while longer. (Other cities on that list are Seattle, Atlanta, and NYC, though I remove NYC pretty much every other day) So in early December when I saw JetBlue was having a sale that could get me there for under $250 I couldn’t help myself.

It also happened that my BFF’s b-day was one of the sale weekends, so it was pretty much a sign from the universe I needed to be there. If I had any doubts about whether or not I should have taken this trip they were erased once I boarded my flight and realized I got a whole row to myself and could therefore lay down and sleep the whole way. What a beautiful way to spend money that I should have been using to pay off debt. (oops, #sorryimnotsorry).

Until this trip the farthest west I’d ever been was Austin, but I always thought I’d like SF. Here are some reasons why:

  1. I crush public transit, driving makes me nervous
  2. I love the LGBT community and find my closest/best/most inspiring/most fun friends are often part of it
  3. Wine
  4. Water, sometimes knowing I can’t get to the ocean in 45 min makes me claustrophobic

I was completely right about all the reasons above. All of those things contributed to an amazing weekend there. Here’s some photo evidence of a time well had:

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I really loved Philz Coffee. That was a last day discovery and the moment I took my first sip I knew I’d made a huge mistake missing out on drinking it exclusively for the previous 48 hours. I’m not exaggerating. Other than my friends it’s the #1 thing I miss about that place now that I’m back.

San Francisco is a beautiful city and I loved my time there. However, the best part of the trip was the confirmation it gave me that I’ve landed in the right place. I missed Austin while I was out there. Not in a “I miss my bed and my stuff way” but in a “I miss breakfast tacos, and being warm and dry, and juice, and yoga, and brisket” way.

I’m a city girl through and through; I thrive in cities and wilt in suburbs. However, San Francisco is a huge city. Which isn’t bad. But right now I’m really happy in my small city. Am I taking SF off the list? Absolutely not. It still has a spot. I just know now that I’m in the right place on the list for the person that I am in this moment and that’s a really awesome feeling. It’s also a significantly better souvenir than the 80 count Ghirardelli bag of chocolates I may or may not have considered bringing home with me.

Amanda, noun

dictionary

According to the interwebs Oscar Wilde once said “I think it is very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.”

I’ve always thought about this quote in reference to that one friend you have who just can’t seem to exist in the world without a boyfriend. She gets out of one relationship, spends one night on the town taking shots and telling you how excited she is to be single with you, and by morning she’s on to the next one. I think everybody has one of those friends. I always kind a thought Oscar was talking to them with this quote.

He couldn’t have been talking to me (and for the record I am aware he’s dead and not actually talking to anyone presently, but that’s not the point). I’m an only child for goodness-sake. I am good at being alone. I’ve had lots of experience. This is Amanda, party of one, and it’s been raging for 24 years so I’ve got this down…

….right?

Friday night as I was lying on the floor of my new one-bedroom apartment I came to the realization that I was wrong. I might have been good at being alone as a child, but it’s been a long while since I’ve consistently hung out with just me.

With the exception of my first summer home from college I’ve lived with at least one roommate and as many as five, often including a best friend, for the last 6 years. More than once in my life, have I hung out with one person so much that we’ve received a “TomKat”-esque nickname. When I really think hard about it, with the exception of going to museums, there are almost no activities that I actively pursue solo, and even more that I solidly refuse to embark on alone.

I had a boss in college that pointed out to me that I draw energy from being around other people. The moment she mentioned it I knew it was true. But I’m only realizing now just how good I had gotten at keeping that energy pool full and never being alone.

When I decided to move to Austin, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do about my living situation. I wasn’t sold on living by myself. I notice when people ask me how I like living alone that they appear to expect a more emphatically positive response. The truth is it’s fine. But so was having roommates as far as I’m concerned. (Though knowing all the food in the fridge is mine and I can eat it, toss it, save it as I see fit is kind of life changing.)

This new realization about how I’ve been defining myself with whole groups of people is what is making living alone exciting. Don’t get me wrong. I’m making new friends, and I’m excited to start settling into new social circles. But I’m glad that I’m coming home to an empty apartment, and that sometimes I don’t have any plans for the weekend. Not because that inherently makes me happy or is what I like, but because it’s forcing me to be alone, and that is helping me grow.

And that is what this whole thing is about. That is what 24 (and maybe 25 and 26) is about for me…growth. I’ve got to make sure that when you look me up in the dictionary you’re getting an accurate definition and not one written by someone else. I might have been lying on the floor of my half-furnished downtown apartment on a Friday night with a glass of red wine and Orange is the New Black on Netflix when I realized all this – but hey, I’m sure some words/definitions has weirder etymologies.