Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The one where the escalator wins

The city is out to get me.

Last week, I began my Monday morning commute by walking to the metro. As I normally do.

I stepped on the escalator to go down to the platform, and within 2 seconds, I realized that was a horrible decision.

The platform was PACKED full of people. So full- that the people exiting the escalator had no where to go. They started to pile up on each other. I heard them yelling and decided my only option to delay my impending doom was to start running UP the escalator that was sending me down.

I knew I had to be faster than the escalator so I was going as fast as I could; all the while, telling people at the top NOT to get on the escalator. Someone finally came to their senses and hit the emergency stop button.....but without warning. So my body- which was being projected upward fast- was projected down. I slammed into the escalator stairs. Someone helped me up, I walked over to a corner, and assessed the damage. There were tears. There was blood. But I pulled myself together and made it to work.


On Saturday. I'd finished running with my #OwnPaceSamePlace group, we enjoyed a cup of coffee, and all headed to our respective homes. It was a particularly windy and cold morning in DC. So instead of walking home as intended, I decided I could run.

While running down Louisiana Avenue, a huge gust of wind knocked a large branch out of a tree and it just so happened to land on me. The branch was probably 5 feet long. I tripped, staggered, and then stopped to look around. Did that REALLY just happen? Yes. Yes it did.

While I may have bruises, pulled muscles, and a nervous twitch, I'm alive and well.

That's all.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The one with the sighs.

I've had a lot of heavy sighs lately.

At home and at work. Just a lot of deep, heavy sighs. As though I've forgotten to breathe. Or as though I've been carrying a heavy load, have finally set it down, and taken a deep breath to regroup.

I only mention this because in the last several months, people have noticed my sighing. I don't mean to do it. It just happens. And people have made comments. "You good? You ok? Everything alright?"

This morning, a pastor at my church made a passing comment about a verse his family loves.

"Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing." (Psalm 5:1)

Consider my sighing.

I absolutely love this.

I mean, I know the Bible talks about how our tears have been recorded and the number of hairs on our head are numbered. But our sighs. Consider my sighs.

He is so deeply aware of every part of us. And cares about each and every part.

There is nothing that has been overlooked.

Consider my sighs, Lord.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The one with a phone call from Grace

Four years ago today, I received a phone call from my friend, Grace. 

Here's an excerpt from the blog I wrote after that phone call.

So. In my job hunt, I was contacting friends like crazy asking if they happened to know anyone in South Carolina. One of those friends I asked was Grace. Grace is not from Texas and I know she has a huge community of friends that does NOT live in Texas. So I called her up to see if she had any connections in the SC. She said she had some things she could check into and that she’d get back to me.

Well, a month later (2 weeks ago) I get a phone call from Grace. She said “I know you’ve been looking at South Carolina, but would you be interested in Florida?”

I went on to get some details from her…It would be a social media job in Tallahassee. I went ahead and emailed with Grace’s contact person and got more information. Seemed like it would be an interesting job. And the opportunity to work remotely would be a huge benefit. So I sent in a proposal on Thursday evening (Sept 8) and just waited. That weekend I was talking to a friend and I just explained that while this may seem like a crazy job to apply for (um, considering I know ZERO people in Tallahassee), I really felt as though I needed to knock on every door the Lord placed in front of me. A couple days later, my little sister, who is looking to move to Portland asked me if I thought it was bad she was ONLY applying for jobs in Portland. Thinking about my previous conversation with my friend Laura, I said “Caralyn…kinda like where I am right now- I just feel as though I need to be open to whatever the Lord might want. If I ONLY apply in South Carolina- I am saying to the Lord ‘this is your box. Work within it’ and I don’t want to do that.”

I encouraged her that Monday night to just knock on lots of doors and trust the Lord to open the right one. That’s really all I could offer since that’s what I was in the middle of living out.

On Wednesday, things started to shift a little bit at work. Left a little early and headed to the gym to run off some steam. Tweeted as I left work “God, today would be a great day to so something BIG. Thanks.” I called mom and in angry tears said “HE HAS GOT TO DO SOMETHING!!!!” She responded “Minda, you’re in the 11th hour.” My response was a heart wrenching “Mom….it’s more like 11.5!!!”After my workout I went home and sat on my couch. Yes. Just sat there. I heard my phone make it’s “You’ve got Mail” noise. I opened it up to find an email from the Tallahassee job offering me a position. 

I just stared. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t express any emotion. I just sat there. All I could say was “God, I knew you would do something. I knew it…..I Knew it…….I knew it.”

I called mom and dad with the info…Dad’s response was “Minda, I knew God answered prayers but didn’t know He answered tweets!”

With thumbs up from mom and dad….with a peace in my heart….with excitement of the unknown….with a stronger assurance that my God will provide….and in HIS perfect timing, I’ve accepted the job in Tallahassee Florida. 

More details to come- but that is part of the story.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The one with the basil

Last summer I purchased a basil plant. It lasted about a month before I went on vacation, forgot about it, and came home to a dead plant. A very dead plant. I threw it away.
Basil on left is not mine. Basil on right was mine.
Trust me. It was VERY dead.

This summer, I decided I'd do better. I'd be more intentional. I'd take better care of it.

{I probably should admit- last summer- I purchased the little plant and stuck it in a coffee cup. I didn't give it more soil. I didn't plant it. I just bought the plant and expected good things to come if I watered it.}

This summer, I bought the plant, I bought an actual pot, I bought more soil. I planted it into a bigger pot, gave it good soil, and watered it. I put it on my balcony where it would receive an ideal amount of sunlight.

This plant thrived. I'd made two batches of pesto. I watered it. I tended to it. Then I went on vacation. I came home to a withered basil plant. My first thought was "ugh, not again." But after realizing how much I'd invested in the plant already, I decided to give it some water and see what happened.

The next morning, I peeked out onto the balcony and saw my plant alive and well. Who knew!

I've continued to take care of this plant and now if the leaves get a little wilted, I water it and know that life will come.

Last month my boyfriend had come over and mentioned I needed to trim some of the plant. Not just pick the leaves to make pesto, but to cut back the leaves. He begins to chop. Not just a little bit, but huge chunks. I may or may not have freaked out a little on him. He chopped three stems when I yelled "Noooooo!" He said "this is good for it, Minda" and continued trimming. I finally caught my breath and said "ok, that's enough for now. Please. Stop." He would have kept going, but respecting my hyperventilation, he stopped.

I may have pet the plant and said "it's over! I promise." (That's just a rumor though.)

Two weeks later, I was sitting on my patio when I looked over at the plant and saw new, green life. The stems that had been chopped had regrown and were green. (As opposed to the yucky brown stems I'd evidently been trying to save.)  Green. Growth. Fresh. New.

I'm well aware that for thousands of years, people have been using the gardening/plant analogy in regards to the work Christ wants to do in our life. This is nothing new.

But when you've seen it first hand, it makes more sense.

Reminded today that He has invested much in me. Even gave His own Son for me.

He is not quick to throw me out, or to say I'm beyond help. Maybe sometimes I'm a little wilt-y and need some water. Maybe sometimes I'm REALLY wilt-y. Maybe sometimes I need some stems cut back. It will hurt. I'll hyperventilate. But I'll be ok, And new, green, fresh growth will come. Beautiful growth.

Growth is good.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The one about Planned Parenthood

*updated August 5*
There are now three FIVE really important videos that have surfaced about Planned Parenthood.

You may have seen them. 

You may have felt angry, nauseated, sick, sad, disgusted, surprised, horrified. Any of these would have been appropriate. 

It's important this information come out. 

What's also important is to remember that there are now hundreds of thousands of women who have had abortions also seeing this content for the first time. 

They are feeling the same thing, but on a level we probably can't even imagine.

There are women who have battled shame, depression, and guilt over their decision to abort their baby. (Not all women do. But there are some.)

There are women who have suffered much after their decision to abort their baby. 

And to hear this recent news, I can only imagine it's not easy. To be told their baby's organs and tissue was harvested and picked through when they'd previously been told it was just a mass of tissue....I can't imagine that's easy. To be, again, faced with the reality of what they did. I'm guessing that's not easy.

As you should ALWAYS do before going to the Facebook or Twitter to blast your opinions and thoughts...before you continue calling people monsters and murderers, take a second to evaluate your audience. Do you really know who's reading?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The one with the Tonsillectomy

Things to note: italicized comments are from my little sister, Caralyn, who was with me for a portion of the time. She's a nurse and can give some more realistic thoughts to balance out my emotionally and physically exhausted thoughts. Please excuse the typos, run-on sentences, or rambling thoughts.

Three weeks ago, I was certain I was going to be able to write a blog post about my tonsillectomy that would calm the fears of anyone else who googled 'adult tonsillectomy recovery' and read the same posts that I'd read.

I was certain my recovery wouldn't be as awful. Because what I'd read....surely it couldn't be THAT bad....right?

Not the case. Also, just a heads up- this is a long post. I’m well aware. But I wrote it with future adult tonsillectomy patients in mind. And if you’re scheduled to have one, I’m guessing you’re googling for information on your upcoming surgery. This is for you. :)

Thursday, June 25th
My surgery was scheduled for Thursday morning at 7:30am. As with most outpatient surgeries, they ask that you have no food or drink after midnight and arrive two hours prior to surgery. My mom had flown in from Texas to be there for surgery/recovery, and as we checked in- my nerves were pretty calm. I went in for a tonsillectomy, a deviated septum repair, and a bilateral turbinate reduction. (I’d also taken off 4 days of work, thinking that would be enough. Thursday surgery, Friday, then Monday and Tuesday of the following week. That may have been my dumbest move.)

I was given my fashionable gown and cap, had my IV plugged in, and my mom was able to come back to the holding room to see me off. The doctor came in to confirm all was well, talk about the surgery and give last minute instructions.

As they were wheeling me away, I looked back at mom, gave her a smile- and then I don't remember anything else until I woke up.

I remember waking up feeling so cold, starting to shake- and I began to cry. I couldn't open my eyes, but my eyes had tears streaming down. As much as I could muster, I whispered "I need Chapstick."

I remember hearing the nurses say "It's so funny the first things people say when coming off anesthesia."

I began shaking and the nurses starting putting blankets all around me. The nurse sitting by my bedside asked if I was in much pain. I nodded. He added something to my IV. I heard them say they were getting my mom and she'd be with me momentarily.

Evidently the surgery took longer than expected due to so much scar tissue from past infections on my tonsils.

Mom was at my side shortly after, followed by my sister, Caralyn. Both of them nurses.
I don't remember much from this point until it was time to go home. I knew I needed to use the restroom so they wheeled me over, let me go, then wheeled me to the front of the hospital where my roommate, Jaryn, was waiting with her car. I remember a lot of pain. And thinking to myself "Why are they letting me go home when it hurts this bad?"

[I felt bad for the PACU nurse with both of us there. There’s a certain level of awkwardness when you have that many nurses in so many different roles in a room. He was great. You, on the other hand, looked pitiful. and definitely post anesthesia stoned. lots of hand holding. we knew you were hurting, but staying there for a longer period of time wasn’t going to help anything. getting you home so we could get you settled into the routine was our focus. As long as we had your nausea under control, we were good. That last dose of zofran and pain meds definitely helped tide you over, at least for the car ride home.]

When I got home, I climbed in bed and my nurses took over. I had ice packs on my face and neck along with medicine ready to go. (Ice packs were key, FYI. If you’re ever planning to have this surgery…..GET ICE PACKS. The cold will help numb some of the pain on your face.)

Because of the nose surgery that also took place, my nose was packed and had to stay that way for 24 hours. Which means I couldn't breathe out of my nose. All breathing was required through my mouth. Where my tonsils and been. Where it hurt the most.

Ice. If you’re having this surgery, you will want to eat lots of ice. Nugget ice, preferably. We’d gotten a big bag of nugget ice from Chick-fil-a the night before surgery to have on hand. I’d read in previous posts from others that eating ice kept your throat from drying out and the cold ice would feel good on the surgical area.  They were right.

The next 24 hours were brutal. My nose continued to bleed through all the packing, my throat was on fire, and I was taking meds every 3.5 hours.
[to the people googling tonsillectomy recovery-- the bleeding wasn’t excessive. the gauze was never completely saturated when we changed it every few hours, but i’m sure it felt worse to her than it actually was. very normal post-op drainage in regards to that.]

Now. Let's talk about taking those meds. Swallowing pills was not really an option; we'd had three failed attempts to get the pain meds in liquid form as the pharmacies in my area didn’t carry it. So mom got a pill crusher and would crush my pills, mix them with baby food or applesauce, and feed them to me.

Which sounds like a great idea, until you actually have to swallow the food. This may have been the best option though as it really did force you to get some calories in.
[Small portions of food-- that’s key. suffer through the taste of crushed up meds and just be grateful for only 2 bites instead of 4-- that was quickly discovered]

I don't think I realized how often I swallow throughout the day- just normal saliva- until this surgery. It was all so painful. Because of the nose portion of the surgery, I'd been told my ears might have some pain as well. Pressure, and such.

They weren't kidding.

I didn’t sleep the first night. My mom and sister took shifts waking up every 30 minutes to feed me ice and to make sure I was ok.

[Waking up is a very loose term. Mom probably got a little more sleep mainly because i knew she would need it and I had been up the night before. I stayed up the first night with her, refilling the ice, trying not to wake Jaryn every time I had to go in the kitchen, and making sure we were on time with the medications. iPhone alarms are a beautiful thing.]

I think you should read that sentence again. They woke up EVERY THIRTY MINUTES. I was pretty much awake the entire night- but felt so loved and taken care of. Gosh. As someone who loves her sleep- their losing sleep on my account was a huge deal.

[oh, ha. I should read before I start adding to this. Love you too. but I’m a night shifter, and that’s what I do. People don’t stop hurting or getting sick just because the sun goes down. Mom is definitely the champ, mainly because she spent more time with you.]

Friday, June 26
The next morning my little sister had to return to NYC (to return a couple days later) and my mom and I went to the 24 hours follow up appointment. My roommate had worked from home so she could be available for such things. So grateful.

[Jaryn was a fantastic chauffeur. So glad she was there with you as well]

At the doctor’s office- they have to take the packing out. I wish that process was as easy as the sentence makes it seem. I won’t go into details other than to say I cried, almost passed out, and thought I was going to throw up. And that was after ONE side had been unpacked. The doctor still had to take the packing out of the other nostril.

He said everything looked great and that he wanted to see me the following week to pull the remaining stents out. He also assured me it would be much less painful than the packing had been.

We piled back up in the car, got home, and it was time for more meds.

The next three days, I mostly remember medicine, eating ice, and not sleeping.

I remember sleeping for about an hour one of the days- but when I woke up- my throat was on FIRE because for that hour- I’d stopped eating ice.

Thus began my decision process to not sleep. If I didn’t sleep- it wouldn’t hurt so bad. Speaking of sleeping, day 2 is also when I decided to set up camp in the living room in my big chair. Laying down wasn’t really an option. My uvula was so swollen that when I would lay down, I felt as though I was choking. So sitting up was key. I stacked pillows all around me, had my feet propped up, and basically spent the rest of the time upright.

So, Percocet, no sleep, and tons of pain. That doesn’t make for a good combo. I wanted to sleep so bad- but the fire in my mouth was too much to handle. So I stayed awake at night eating ice and watching Cupcake Wars.

I’d attempted other shows- but the no sleep and meds made it hard to focus or follow a storyline- so Cupcake Wars it was.

Sunday, June 28
Just for timeline sake, I think this is the first day I attempted to eat something other than applesauce or baby food. My mom made a scrambled egg, let it cool off, and I ate that.

Monday, June 29
On Monday, my mom left to go back home to Texas and I think I would have been more distraught had my little sister not had plans to arrive the same day. Mom left, I cried, Caralyn arrived, crisis averted.

Since she’d been there for the day of surgery, Caralyn knew the routine pretty well. Well. Routine is maybe too generous of a word. She hung out at my apartment refilling my ice cup, switching out ice packs for my face as needed, and made me as comfortable as possible.

[I, also, didn't sleep. I think I fell asleep for like an hour once, woke up to MINDA being in excruciating pain, and decided I could no longer sleep. We added the liquid Motrin into the mix on this day, mainly because she was still requiring the percocets every 3.5 hrs, and I was comfortable enough with her post op bleeding (or lack there of) to bring it in to the med cocktail.
People who are googling recovery--- don't add it sooner unless your doctor says it's okay. Ibuprofen and its friends can thin up the blood-- you don't want to end up in the ER because of post op bleeding. That would be terrible.]

Wednesday, July 1
Ah, yes. Wednesday. The day I thought I’d be back at work. That’s cute.

Jaryn, Caralyn, and myself all packed up again to go BACK to the doctor for my one week follow-up and to have the remaining stents pulled out of my nose. I should note, during this week, my nose was tender and sore, but the worst part was the ear pain I was experiencing. I’ve grown up having multiple ear infections, ear/sinus pressure, etc...But this took the {cup}cake. Maybe because I was already so miserable the pain was worse? But some days during the week- my ear pain was more noticeable than the tonsil pain. (And that is saying a LOT. I’d only need to swallow to remember it wasn’t THAT bad- but dang. It HURT.)

At the doctor’s appointment, the doctor said all looked normal for one week post-op. He took the stents out (much less painful than the packing) and sent me on my way. We did get another refill on pain meds- this time- finally in liquid form!

[Minda and mom were both concerned about how often she was requiring the meds-- I was less worried, and the doc eased that fear-- this wasn't going to be a chronic issue, the pain would subside, and when you need the pain control for something this acute... Take the pain meds. Be careful of the constipation though- narcotics slow the bowel, and in the end block you up. Stool softeners are your friend.]

On the subject of meds: I took Percocet the first five days. After day 5, we added children's Motrin to the mix (every 6 hours or so) to help with swelling. Something to note- get alcohol and dye-free Motrin. (Anything with alcohol or dye….think salt:open wound).

My tonsils were not the only thing that sustained ‘injury’ during surgery. My uvula and tongue were in pretty bad shape after. Not sure if that had something to do with being intubated, but my uvula was swollen to about triple it’s normal size. I felt as though it was choking me most days. Hence the need for Motrin, ice, and sitting upright. I

So. After the doctor’s appointment, we took Caralyn to Union Station where she headed back to NYC. (I should also note- this was the day I tried eating food other than baby food or applesauce. I had mac and cheese. Felt ok.)

That evening, Jaryn did a great job of making sure everything was covered for my first night without mom or Caralyn. Seriously. She was a champ. My bf Jordan was over as well and at one point, I got up to switch out my ice pack, opened the freezer, and started crying. This was day 7. I’d not been sleeping. Hungry. Exhausted. Still in pain and wondering when this would end. Mom and Caralyn were gone, and I hit my wall. Thanks to Jordan and Jaryn for both being super cool about all the tears. At this point, I needed to know this pain wasn’t going to last forever. I needed some light at the end of the tunnel. (I wouldn't get that for another 5 days.)

That night, Jaryn took over as nurse and was up every 45 minutes with me to make sure I had ice, ice packs, and water. Sacrifice, people. Sacrifice. It’s one thing when family does that for you- but when your roommate does it- that’s a whole different level.

[Here's my leaving opinion. I was really worried. Not that I didn't trust Jaryn, but I was really concerned about MINDA having the mental, emotional, and physical stamina to make it through the rest of the recovery without someone with her 24/7. She was exhausted from the lack of sleep, the constant pain, and the stress of everything on her body. I felt terrible leaving, but I had to work the next night. Mom and I did a lot of praying at this point]

Thursday, July 2
My roommate had an early flight out on Thursday for the July 4th weekend. I was a little nervous to be left alone, but felt strong enough that I could manage getting my own ice, ice packs, and medicine.

Day 8 and 9 I started replacing some of the Percocet with children's liquid tylenol. (Again, dye-free and alcohol free.) This was a HUGE moment for me. Since the surgery, I’d been taking the Percocet every 4 hours. And in all honesty, most times I couldn't even make it to the 4 hour mark. By 3.5 hours I was hurting. So to finally be able to slow down on the heavy meds, I felt relief. Even if it was just a mental thing.

Another tip. Do not….I repeat. Do NOT eat anything with citrus in it. {Think salt on open wound.} Just don’t do it. After surgery, there will be scabs. It’s gross. You can google images if you’d like. But I’d say don’t do it. Know there will be scabs. Your throat will be disgusting. Avoid citrus, anything with seeds, and any small food in general that could get stuck in those scabs.

July 5
Day 11 was my “dear God this is almost over” moment. I’d slowed down on the meds, was eating more food, and actually got out of the house! My bf took me for a drive to Sonic (45 minutes away) for a milkshake :) I do love a good Sonic drink!

July 6, Monday
I worked half day from home this day. This was day 12. Around 1pm I turned my computer off and rested. I was glad to finally be back on my computer and lucid enough to actually get some work done. From this point on, the recovery was about gaining strength back. Yes, I was still taking meds but mostly the tylenol. I’d cut back on the percocet and was returning to my normal self. Thankfully I was recovering enough to end my week on vacation in the Carolina’s with family. I flew out Thursday morning and returned a week later.

July 25, Saturday
Today, 4 weeks post surgery, I’d say I’m at about 95% back to normal. I just finished my first full week back in the office and I’m tired. I rode the metro, walked a ton, and I’m feeling it. Yawning and sneezing are uncomfortable. My nose is still tender. Drinking through a straw is a VERY weird sensation, and actually, taking a drink in general is uncomfortable. I’m re-learning how to eat and drink. My taste buds are way off, but I’m slowly getting back to a good place.

In no way am I ready to say it was worth it- but now that I’m finished with the worst, I’m guessing that day will come.

At some point in the near future, I will do a post dedicated to all the dear friends who came by, brought gifts, and basically saw me at one of my worst times. I had visitors every single day and they made the recovery so much brighter. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Sharing this here because I don't want to forget this.

Today is the end of sheloshim for my beloved husband—the first thirty days. Judaism calls for a period of intense mourning known as shiva that lasts seven days after a loved one is buried. After shiva, most normal activities can be resumed, but it is the end of sheloshim that marks the completion of religious mourning for a spouse.
A childhood friend of mine who is now a rabbi recently told me that the most powerful one-line prayer he has ever read is: “Let me not die while I am still alive.” I would have never understood that prayer before losing Dave. Now I do.
I think when tragedy occurs, it presents a choice. You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning. These past thirty days, I have spent many of my moments lost in that void. And I know that many future moments will be consumed by the vast emptiness as well.
But when I can, I want to choose life and meaning.
And this is why I am writing: to mark the end of sheloshim and to give back some of what others have given to me. While the experience of grief is profoundly personal, the bravery of those who have shared their own experiences has helped pull me through. Some who opened their hearts were my closest friends. Others were total strangers who have shared wisdom and advice publicly. So I am sharing what I have learned in the hope that it helps someone else. In the hope that there can be some meaning from this tragedy.
I have lived thirty years in these thirty days. I am thirty years sadder. I feel like I am thirty years wiser.
I have gained a more profound understanding of what it is to be a mother, both through the depth of the agony I feel when my children scream and cry and from the connection my mother has to my pain. She has tried to fill the empty space in my bed, holding me each night until I cry myself to sleep. She has fought to hold back her own tears to make room for mine. She has explained to me that the anguish I am feeling is both my own and my children’s, and I understood that she was right as I saw the pain in her own eyes.
I have learned that I never really knew what to say to others in need. I think I got this all wrong before; I tried to assure people that it would be okay, thinking that hope was the most comforting thing I could offer. A friend of mine with late-stage cancer told me that the worst thing people could say to him was “It is going to be okay.” That voice in his head would scream, How do you know it is going to be okay? Do you not understand that I might die? I learned this past month what he was trying to teach me. Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not. When people say to me, “You and your children will find happiness again,” my heart tells me, Yes, I believe that, but I know I will never feel pure joy again. Those who have said, “You will find a new normal, but it will never be as good” comfort me more because they know and speak the truth. Even a simple “How are you?”—almost always asked with the best of intentions—is better replaced with “How are you today?” When I am asked “How are you?” I stop myself from shouting, My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am? When I hear “How are you today?” I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.
I have learned some practical stuff that matters. Although we now know that Dave died immediately, I didn’t know that in the ambulance. The trip to the hospital was unbearably slow. I still hate every car that did not move to the side, every person who cared more about arriving at their destination a few minutes earlier than making room for us to pass. I have noticed this while driving in many countries and cities. Let’s all move out of the way. Someone’s parent or partner or child might depend on it.
I have learned how ephemeral everything can feel—and maybe everything is. That whatever rug you are standing on can be pulled right out from under you with absolutely no warning. In the last thirty days, I have heard from too many women who lost a spouse and then had multiple rugs pulled out from under them. Some lack support networks and struggle alone as they face emotional distress and financial insecurity. It seems so wrong to me that we abandon these women and their families when they are in greatest need.
I have learned to ask for help—and I have learned how much help I need. Until now, I have been the older sister, the COO, the doer and the planner. I did not plan this, and when it happened, I was not capable of doing much of anything. Those closest to me took over. They planned. They arranged. They told me where to sit and reminded me to eat. They are still doing so much to support me and my children.
I have learned that resilience can be learned. Adam M. Grant taught me that three things are critical to resilience and that I can work on all three. Personalization—realizing it is not my fault. He told me to ban the word “sorry.” To tell myself over and over, This is not my fault. Permanence—remembering that I won’t feel like this forever. This will get better. Pervasiveness—this does not have to affect every area of my life; the ability to compartmentalize is healthy.
For me, starting the transition back to work has been a savior, a chance to feel useful and connected. But I quickly discovered that even those connections had changed. Many of my co-workers had a look of fear in their eyes as I approached. I knew why—they wanted to help but weren’t sure how. Should I mention it? Should I not mention it? If I mention it, what the hell do I say? I realized that to restore that closeness with my colleagues that has always been so important to me, I needed to let them in. And that meant being more open and vulnerable than I ever wanted to be. I told those I work with most closely that they could ask me their honest questions and I would answer. I also said it was okay for them to talk about how they felt. One colleague admitted she’d been driving by my house frequently, not sure if she should come in. Another said he was paralyzed when I was around, worried he might say the wrong thing. Speaking openly replaced the fear of doing and saying the wrong thing. One of my favorite cartoons of all time has an elephant in a room answering the phone, saying, “It’s the elephant.” Once I addressed the elephant, we were able to kick him out of the room.
At the same time, there are moments when I can’t let people in. I went to Portfolio Night at school where kids show their parents around the classroom to look at their work hung on the walls. So many of the parents—all of whom have been so kind—tried to make eye contact or say something they thought would be comforting. I looked down the entire time so no one could catch my eye for fear of breaking down. I hope they understood.
I have learned gratitude. Real gratitude for the things I took for granted before—like life. As heartbroken as I am, I look at my children each day and rejoice that they are alive. I appreciate every smile, every hug. I no longer take each day for granted. When a friend told me that he hates birthdays and so he was not celebrating his, I looked at him and said through tears, “Celebrate your birthday, goddammit. You are lucky to have each one.” My next birthday will be depressing as hell, but I am determined to celebrate it in my heart more than I have ever celebrated a birthday before.
I am truly grateful to the many who have offered their sympathy. A colleague told me that his wife, whom I have never met, decided to show her support by going back to school to get her degree—something she had been putting off for years. Yes! When the circumstances allow, I believe as much as ever in leaning in. And so many men—from those I know well to those I will likely never know—are honoring Dave’s life by spending more time with their families.
I can’t even express the gratitude I feel to my family and friends who have done so much and reassured me that they will continue to be there. In the brutal moments when I am overtaken by the void, when the months and years stretch out in front of me endless and empty, only their faces pull me out of the isolation and fear. My appreciation for them knows no bounds.
I was talking to one of these friends about a father-child activity that Dave is not here to do. We came up with a plan to fill in for Dave. I cried to him, “But I want Dave. I want option A.” He put his arm around me and said, “Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the shit out of option B.”
Dave, to honor your memory and raise your children as they deserve to be raised, I promise to do all I can to kick the shit out of option B. And even though sheloshim has ended, I still mourn for option A. I will always mourn for option A. As Bono sang, “There is no end to grief . . . and there is no end to love.” I love you, Dave.