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.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The one where I have a boyfriend

So, there's this. 

I know. I've not posted much on this blog as of late. 

For many reasons.....

But for those who've been reading this blog since 2007 (can you believe I've been blogging that long?!) I thought I'd give a little update. And the name of that update is Jordan. :)

Questions? Ask away!

The one with a countdown.

My journal looked a bit like this today:
  • 8 days til I finish Whole30.
  • 7 days til my boyfriend gets back in town. (yes. more on that later.)
  • 10 days til I'm at the lake. You guys know how I feel about the lake.
  • 25 days until my surgery. (more on that later, too?)
There is a lot happening. A lot of change. A lot of counting down. A lot of stuff. 

And then I realized I'd written June 1 at the top of my journal. We're six months in to 2015 and I'm counting down to different events. 

When we count down or cross days off our calendar in anticipation for upcoming events, do we end up making less of our present day time, our present day events?

I feel as though I'm guilty of that the past month. 

There has been a lot of 'new' in 2015 for me. (ie: that 2nd bullet up there.)

One thing I've learned about myself is that I'm not the most adaptable person. Change is not my favorite. Plenty of people in my life are probably reading that statement and thinking "um, of course. We know this about you....and HAVE known this about you."

And maybe I've known it- but didn't want to admit it. 

But I'm here. Admitting it now. 

Change is hard for me. Adaptability is not one of my top 5 strengths. Responsibility? Empathy? Communication? Yes. Those are my strengths. Adaptability is not.

I'm learning. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The one where I ask for you to hold me accountable

In August of 2009 I began sending out a morning verse of the day to about 10 people.

There's a whole long story to explain WHY I started doing this- and you can ask me about it if you'd like. It's a story I prefer to tell in person.

But for the purposes of this post, just know I started doing this in 2009 and have been doing it ever since. The list of people who get this text has grown.

Monday-Friday at 8am about 80 people get a text message from me with a morning verse of the day. Two years ago I started a Twitter account to accommodate a couple people who wanted the verse of the day- but needed it at a different time of day - and last year- an Instagram account. @VOTDtweet. 

I've been challenged recently to 'do something' with these short devotionals. It's something I've WANTED to do, but didn't really know what or how. 

I've begun dreaming. And thinking. And forming a plan. I have roughly about 1500 short devotionals on my phone. Yes. On my phone. I need to move them off my phone and into a document so I can start moving forward with a plan. 

So I guess this is me saying "Hold me accountable! Ask me how I'm moving forward with this project."  :) In the meantime, if you'd like to follow along, you can do so on Twitter or Instagram at @VOTDtweet. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Running with friends can be intimidating. You want to run together but you have different paces, or maybe you need to stop and take a breather, but don't want to slow the other person down.

Maybe you can only run 2 miles while your friend wants to run 10.

Finding a good running friend isn't easy.

I've been really fortunate to have found one in Tallahassee (Alexis!) and here in DC. (Jess!)

Last weekend I was talking with some friends (Jason and Dan!) about running and needing that accountability especially when there are no races in the near future that you should be training for.

Insert lightbulb idea.

How about picking a place on the weekend. Setting a time. And saying "Run to this location. Be there at 11am! Then we can all enjoy a cup of coffee together."

This enables everyone to leave their place at their own time. Run their own pace. Run their own preferred mileage.  And still get to show up and enjoy a cup of coffee with friends after your run!

If you want to run 10 miles, you just need to start your run earlier and map out a course to get you to the set location on time. If you want to run 2 miles, same goes for you. If you can only run a half a mile and need an hour to do it- no judgement! No one needs to know what time you left your place or how far you ran. All we need to know is that you ran to the set location. Running half a mile still makes you a runner. If you want to run 2 miles but need to walk half of that- no judgement. You can still get to the set location.

And so begins #OwnPaceSamePlace running group.

Only one rule: You have to actually run to the set location.

But a couple added stipulations: You are not allowed to judge anyone on smell or appearance, and no judgement for those who uber home. (Seriously. You do you.)

I picked a Starbucks location in the District that seemed pretty central for most people.  Set the time at 11am- and we all arrived within 5 minutes of each other but had all started at different times this morning.

Today was the inaugural run. And it was FANTASTIC.  We had six friends show up, enjoyed a cup of coffee outside then all made our way home.

If you're interested in joining next week, let me know and I'll send you the next time/location. :)


Friday, February 20, 2015

The one with the.......bomb?

I just walked downstairs to get the mail. I put on my coat and shoes. I wasn't even going to walk outside, but it's well below freezing so boots and coat were needed.

I stepped off the elevator and turned the corner to find the mailboxes.

The mailroom area was empty and quiet except for a slow, steady beeping. I looked around. Nothing to be seen. The beeping was coming from inside the mailboxes. I stood there for two extra seconds to make sure I was not making something up. The beeping was loud. It was consistent. And it was definitely coming from inside the mailboxes. And it was freaking me out.

I ran outside (negative temps, people) and called my roommate. I said "would it be overreacting to find and tell someone about this?"

She said "nope." She said I should go to leasing office and tell them. Because....this is DC. You just never know.

So I did. Ok. Maybe I ran. I mean, I've watched every season of "24." Jack Bauer would have wanted me to run.

My heart pounding, my face FREEZING. I ran to leasing office and told manager "I could be overreacting but this is what is happening."

He stared at me like "who is this crazy woman." He asked "Are you serious?" I said "yes."

He called the on-call service. I left leasing office. I walked back to apartment to make sure I'd heard correctly and that I wasn't making this up.

I walked back in to my building and heard the beeping loud and clear.

I exited the building to find the mail man coming inside.

He asked "Did you hear a beeping in there?"

I said "yes, sir."

He laughed and said "I left my scanner in one of the boxes."

I said "um....well someone might be calling you because I just reported a suspicious beeping coming from a mailbox."

And I walked back inside from the cold and returned to my warm apartment. Heart racing. But grateful there wasn't a bomb. (And I did call leasing office to tell them the source of beeping so that no one else freaks out.)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

To my first valentine

I've had the same valentine for the last 30 years. When I started school, my valentine would come to my class dressed in a suit and tie with a single red rose. He'd interrupt class, halting any discussion verbs and adverbs, addition or fractions, or talk of the periodic table. He'd walk in, give me a rose, and hug me in front of the entire class. My senior year of high school, he gave me my first dozen roses.

Once I left for college, my valentine didn't let distance stop him. I would receive a package in the mail- most often to the day- with a card and gift.

I know a lot of single girls who dread the day. They dread watching everyone around them get flowers, packages, chocolate, etc. It's a reminder that they don't have a significant other.

For me? I've never dreaded the day. The day is a reminder that I DO have someone in my corner. Someone who will always be in my corner.

I'd watch classmates get gifts from their boyfriends. It didn't make me jealous. I knew a guy with a suit and tie would be coming for me.

I'd watch as coworkers have deliveries made to their offices. It didn't make me jealous. I knew something would be in my mailbox.

And even at the age of 30, I opened my package this morning while I ate my heart-shaped pancakes.

Dad, thanks for being my valentine. Thanks for making this day so special for me every year. Thanks for affirming me, for loving me. For making sure I never felt left out on this day.

You've got my heart.

Mom, I can't finish this post without recognizing you. Growing up, we always started Valentine's Day with a fun breakfast thanks to you. The pink and red wrapped gift on the table usually had some piece of jewelry that you'd picked out for us. You were always in the details. The small things. The little things. You made the little things the big things. Thanks for loving us so well.

And lastly. When I see dad's taking care of their girls on Valentine's Day- I want nothing more than to stand up and cheer you on. I want to tell you "You're doing it right! Don't ever stop! Keep going. Even if she rolls her eyes at you (which I may have done on more than one occasion.)" Most of my friends these days are becoming parents. Dads, you will be her first valentine. That's a role no one else can fill. Do it well. Set that bar high.