Twelve Years Gone

In 2006, a day after I hit the one year mark -I had my first panic attack.  The full blown panic that grabs hold of your insides and refuses to let them go.  The racing thoughts, struggle to breath and full on panic that comes with it.  At the time, I didn’t know what it was.  Just that I was officially, going crazy.  For good this time.  Looking back I realize now, it was because I had so much tied up in that anniversary day -I expected so much from that day and when nothing happened, when the day went on as if nothing had happened -everything came crashing in.

It was the start this journey, this path, this road.  This process, if you will.

One of my biggest worries, perhaps -was that I would actually -forget her.  That perhaps -and one day I would no longer remember the things that made her, her.  I would forget her smile, her laugh, the way her fingers wrapped around mine.  That one day I would forget what it felt like to walk into a room where she was.  That perhaps I would remember her -but not for who she really was to me.

It wasn’t long after that, that I realized I needed an outlet.  A way to enjoy her memories and pictures -a way, if you will -to remind myself that she did exist, and that I wasn’t going crazy.  A way to preserve these special things that meant the world to me.  The details.

I designed a website (that I have since closed down) that centered around her images.  I wrote pages after pages of words that made no sense -trying desperately, to understand what was happening…and eventually, I settled on creating a page for her -once a year.  At the time, I didn’t have any plans to stop.  I would create a page, every year -until the day I died.

…and for the past twelve years, that is exactly what I have done.  I have dug up old pictures, memories, quotes and sayings -I have spent weeks, sometimes months -trying to assemble something.  The pages weren’t perfect -yet I spent hours going over them attempting to perfect them.  Each year means something different, something special.  Each page holds the feelings and thoughts that were going through my mind.  It gave me a way to remember her -creatively, without going off the edge.

It gave me something to focus on, to apply myself to, to throw myself at.  A distraction, if you will.

2015, I thought, would be the last year.  A ten year mark.  What better way to put an end to an old habit.  But ten years proved to be just as challenging, if not more so, than that first year.  I needed the distraction.  I needed her pictures…I needed her memory.  And so I continued.  As uninspired and painful as it was -I made the page.

This year, I feel is the year.  The year I will finally put to rest, an old habit that got me through some tough times.

It isn’t because I am going to forget her.  It isn’t that I will stop remembering her.  It isn’t that I wish to stop sharing her with the world -because believe me, if I could, I would.  It is just that I have reached a place in my life, in my process -where I feel I need to move on.  I need to let go.

She will always be in my heart.  She will always be in my thoughts.  I will always smile when I think of her -and hope others do too.  I will still look at her pictures, remember her quirks and wish to hold her -but once more.

But I no longer need to throw myself into a project -once a year.  I no longer need a distraction.  Sure, I still miss her -I think I always will.  Sure, I still will remember her -everyday of every year.  Sure, I will still wonder how it’s possible that this much time has passed -without her.  But I need to let her go.

I have come to realize that I will never forget her.  There may be days where I can’t remember what her voice sounded like -but that too, comes back when I least expect it.  I will never forget her sparkling blue eyes, contagious laughter or sticky kisses.  I will never forget the way she smiled -and made others smile.  I will never forget her hugs.  I will never forget these things.  I no longer have the fear of forgetting.

I have come to realize that the tighter I hold her memory -the more I lose.  The more I let go -the more I gain…which has helped me realize

…that it is time to let her go…

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I love you my girl, I always will.

“Happy Birthday”

The words don’t even seem to matter this year. They don’t seem to mean anything. Anything I hoped to say, wished to say, would ever dream of saying left that day. Saying “Happy birthday” just doesn’t seem right. Nothing seems happy, nothing seems right. Being 16 shouldn’t be that hard. Turning 18 shouldn’t happen in the grave…and yet here we are. Trying to put the words “Happy” and “Birthday” in the same sentence on a day that seems anything but.

Happy birthday kid. I wish it were different. I wish, that life was simpler. Easier. Better. I wish that you wouldn’t have been dealt such a crappy hand. That I would have seen sooner. That help would have been there quicker. I wish you would have found peace here. That you didn’t feel this was your only option. I wish. So much.

But mostly I wish that today would be going so much differently.

There just aren’t words.

There never will be.

On what would have been your 18th, on the day you should have been celebrating your freedom…the only thing left to celebrate is that you are no longer trapped.  You are no longer held here.  In a world you fought against for years.  I hope you found some peace.  I really do.  I really hope it was worth it.  I’m sorry it wasn’t enough.  I’m sorry it never will be enough.

The world may forget.  They may not remember.  But I always will.  As hard as I try, I can’t forget you.  I wouldn’t want to.  You may not ever have known how much you changed my life, you may have never seen how much of a difference you made -and it may be too late now, but on what would have been your 18th, I can’t help but wish -if just for a minute -that somehow…you know.  And never forget.

Rest in Peace

I probably should be more upset, but after the year I’ve had -I find myself being jealous of those who pass on. I’m jealous that they get to leave this world behind and go onto the bigger and better, the unknown, the worlds that lay ahead. They get to be reunited with those who I love, and miss. They get to leave the pain and sorrow and sadness and depressing circles of endless days behind. They don’t have to deal with it anymore. They take their last breaths and with it, they are joined into a world I can only imagine as being the best. Ever.

He was a great guy. He was down to earth. Happy. Open. He loved. He laughed. He lived his dream. He saw a goal -and went for it. He lived without regrets -although I know he had regrets, because he talked about them. Openly. In hope that his kids, grandkids and great-grandkids, wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes. He didn’t let his regrets hold him back -but rather used them to spur him on.

He lived a simple life. A life that made him happy. After years of working himself to the bone, he retired early to live his dream. He was happy there. In the dessert. With no one around. A place he could run free in only his underwear, off grid and away from the world. It was his own paradise -one that made him smile, and left him content. It was simple -as was he. But he was happy…and so were those around him.

At 78 he had been married once. Married young. Divorced. Lost his wife. Then moved on to love many, many others. He would die engaged to the woman of his dreams. He would die happy.

Losing him doesn’t shatter my world, it doesn’t uproot my existence. But it does make me pause -as all deaths do. And remember.

Life is short…yet long. So long. It is a contradiction of itself.

Somehow, he had mastered living between the two worlds. He found peace in the dessert. Happiness for his soul. He had struck the cord between living this short -yet long life -with absolute perfection. And when his time came -he was ready. Truth be told -he was ready many, many years ago…but being the strong, solid man that he was -he lived each day to its fullest, leaving behind a solid legacy.

He will be missed, sure. Not just for who he is -but for everything he brought to life. The world will be a busier, more complicated place without him.

If I am honest -I am jealous. Not just that he is gone, but that he found the peace in the simple things. That he found a way to live out his days -making the world around him a better place. He cared for others -in a simple way. In his own way. In a way that made all the difference.

Rest in peace, grandpa. I know you will. Because you always did.

I’m Here…

“We haven’t heard from you in awhile!” they say. “We thought you left town again, where have you been?” “You haven’t been around in forever!” “What have you been doing -we haven’t seen you or heard from you in a long time?!” And they are right. Each and every one of them. I haven’t been around in awhile. If you haven’t seen me in a long time -you aren’t alone. I’ve been here. I haven’t gone anywhere. I just haven’t said anything. My words have been stuck somewhere between my heart and my throat. It just is easier to remain silent.

It has been a long bit. It isn’t that anything major has happened, it is just the little things that stack up and make everything seem so major. The things that would be easy to handle on their own -if not accompanied by 300 others. I remind myself -almost daily, that my issues are not that big. That I have no right to be this depressed over these things. That I need to get my sea legs back. That I need to do something -big. That these small issues are nothing. I try. Desperately to agree, because I know it’s true. These issues -they aren’t big. But oh, they feel big.

They are crushing blows to my heart, over and over again and again.

A friend who is wading the waters with me -going through many of the same things I am -issues that aren’t big but feel oh so big summed it up well by saying life feels as though it has thrown us the finger. Then laughed. Then thrown us to the ground. Then while we are down kicked, stomped and thrown dirt. As if that would be enough. Life has then laughed to our faces. Dangled the rope of hope and laughed as we lunged for it just as it was ripped away.

It sounds dramatic, but it sums it up. Oh so well. I don’t feel like getting up. I know that life will throw me down again and I don’t know if I will be able to get up again. I don’t grasp for the hope -because I know it will be ripped away. I don’t like good days -because I know I will pay, dearly. Most likely with sanity or a life. Both of which seem equal right about now.

Good people dying. Better people leaving. Evil prevailing. It is all just too much to grasp and so instead I close my mouth and hide under the covers -watching repeats of my favorite shows, if for nothing else to escape reality.

I’m here. I’m just quiet. Because I have nothing to say. I have no words. I have no thoughts.

Life handed me something -something I assumed I didn’t want, and was surprised to discover, that perhaps -I did want it. I accepted life’s offer -and was beaten over the head with it. I no longer want what life has to offer. I don’t want anything good that is has in store. I certainly don’t want any more promises of hope.

I will get my sea legs back, eventually. My words might return. My thoughts will reassemble. But the hope and trust that this world will one day become a better place? Is gone. I don’t think it will ever return. I’m not sure I even want it to. I just don’t want to see what life has to offer anymore. I am tired of being kicked and beaten. I am tired of getting up.

I’m here.

But that’s about it.

Happy Birthday My Girl

My words are slowly coming back, but they still are tangled and confusing -even to me. I tried to write something but didn’t get very far. October is a very confusing month for me. I thought about passing it up this year, but it just didn’t feel right.

Instead I will just say -Happy birthday my girl. Wherever you are.

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The Tangled Web of Confusion

Some years are better than other…easier, I should say. Some years are easier than others. Some years are more difficult than others. You would think that this many years into things I would be somewhere close to accepting the hand I have been dealt, but I’m not. The heart wants what the heart wants -and the heart wants anything but this.

This isn’t to say that there haven’t been some good moments sprinkled in, there have been good days, months, years even. Good times. But when this time of year rolls around, my heart gets covered with that black rain cloud and begins to wish for better times. Better days. Better years. Those better moments.

Last night while driving home I was overcome with the urge to veer off the road and into the nearest telephone pole. Ending it all. The pain, sadness, the overwhelming feelings of frustration and lack of control, all of it. It isn’t so much that I would do that -but the thought was enough to drive my already fragile mind over the edge.

I did all the things I am supposed to do -when life seems too much. When the desire to give up is stronger than the desire to hold on. I took a long shower, I thought about all the good, I told myself that it would be better in the morning. I reminded myself of all the quotes and sayings and stockpiles of happy times I have squirreled away for moments like these -but sometimes, in the deep, deep darkness -not even the largest amount of quotes can help.

Sometimes you just have to feel everything there is to feel -regardless of how difficult it might be, and trust that with the morning sun -there will be relief.

I straddle that line, so close sometimes -wishing for clarity, for relief…and perhaps, even for some answers. Some answers to untangle this mad web that I have created. The one that complicates things. The one that says “if only…” and “what if…” the one that becomes even more complicated as the days wear on and as the past comes up -again and again.

When the lines are crossed, when the feelings are intertwined, when its all rubs so close together that there is no seeing out…

I want to feel so badly, what he felt. To know, so strongly, what he thought. To get so close to know that there was absolutely nothing I could do -but the closer I get, the more I feel, the harder I realize the more I understand. I could have. If only. If only but a few minutes sooner. If only but a few days earlier.

The heart wants, so badly -to be close to her again. The mind, so badly -wants to understand what he was thinking.

The combination is confusing and frustrating, complicated and hard.

And the realization that the untangling of this complicated mess may never happen is enough to send me further over that invisible edge.

I just want it all to stop.

Drops in The Bucket

It’s been a week. A week of challenging days and rough moments. Nothing earth shatter or moving, nothing life altering -just normal, everyday life. With broken relationships and shattered dreams and crushed ideas of what this world should look like, what my life should look like. Selfishness getting the better of me, I don’t know. It’s been a week.

A week that I have went to bed way earlier than I even care to admit to. A week that I have pulled the covers over my head and wished it all away.

I tried to remind myself -over and over, that these things are just small issues in light of everything else. In light of people dying and getting sick, in light of so much else -these things are simple drops in the bucket. But the bucket is already so full, that these drops make everything seem like so much more than it already is.

Things are so carefully balanced upon each other right now, that the wrong move, wrong word, wrong look -can send me barreling over the edge…at a time in my life when I really need things to be steady, they are anything but. And I have to learn that it is ok.

I need to learn to take a time out, to properly manage my stress and frustrations and not turn into a basket case on people who are just starting to get to know me. I know that, for next time, but that doesn’t help -this time.

I get jealous, so so so jealous -of people who only have to deal with these seemingly simple issues, on their own…and then try to remind myself that they too, have other issues. They just know how to manage them better. Just last week, I met one of the happiest, friendliest, nicest people in the world. One of those people who ooze happiness on everyone they see -yet have a real deep sense of the world around them, enough to know just how to comfort you. And then I found out she is battling cancer.

With two young kids.

And a smile that could slay dragons.

…and here I am, bemoaning about my issues that could be here today and gone tomorrow yet somehow, bring me to my knees.

I want to be that person -who can smile and laugh through the worst of times, but I don’t know how. Because these small, insignificant problems I have today, seem like major mountains that will never be moved. I want to be that person -the one I know I can be, the one I know I once was. But I don’t know how to be. Because everything comes at once and threatens to overwhelm…and then it takes over.

There is no room for happiness, there is no room to see the light. There is no room for good. Because my life is so filled with the opposite.

But I refuse to let these moments define me. I refuse to be categorized as a negative person who refuses to see the light. I must come up. I must regain my footing, and I must do it quickly…because there are plenty of dragons out there that need slaying and I am tired of being one of them.

Especially Then

Sometimes, if I think about it long enough, it starts to press down. Like a ton of bricks, starting with just the one…and slowly adding two, then three…before long I can’t breath, because there are a ton of bricks sitting on my chest. There is no way to move them, no way to get out from under them. I try not to think about things, especially for long periods of time. For the most part, I do ok. I get up in the morning, we manage our way through the day, picking up things here and there -and then go back to bed.

Day after day. In and out. Up and down.

I can usually pinpoint where things start crashing in, that heavy feeling doesn’t come over night…its gradual. It starts with just a small opening, a simple thought, a what if…and instead of slamming the door shut, I leave it open -just a crack. Because maybe there is an avenue unexplored that would answer the gnawing questions on my mind.

A bad dream, an unsettled answer, a judging look -it doesn’t have to be anything big, just something to get the ball rolling, and before long I am buried, crushed beneath the bricks.

I try not to dwell on it too long, my past, the past, but every so often -it has a way of sneaking up on you. That is the thing about the past -you can leave it behind, but it will find its way in because no matter how hard you try, your past is a part of who you are. It makes you who you are today, it intertwines with your day to day thoughts, weaving in and out of your life, mostly unnoticed -but there. All along. And sometimes -it comes up. In the small, everyday things.

The common questions, the answers that are routine -it is there. Ever present, a constant reminder. You can run, but you cannot hide.

I do my best to avoid. To look to the future, to dwell in the present. To not be blind sighted by the past. But it is a part of who I am, like it or not. It shapes my thoughts, defines my fears and outlines my desires.

It doesn’t matter how much time has passed, it doesn’t matter how long it has been, or how deep the wound has be buried. It doesn’t matter.

I still miss her.

I still miss them.

I still miss them, every day.

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Even on the days that I don’t realize it. Especially, on those days.

Never Enough

The weeks leading up to the first day of school are often stressful and frustrating. While most people are counting down the days until they are able to drop their kids off and have a much needed break, I am racking my mind for ideas to keep a certain kids clothes on all season long. I am thinking up of all the possible things that could and will go wrong -and solutions for them. I am trying to remember if I signed all the papers, met all the people and agreed to all the things.

Chances are I missed something. Chances are there is going to be at least one person who judges our mishaps along the way, and while this silent judging rarely bothers me -it is a new school, with new teachers, new faces and new people to impress.

All this newness also means there are going to be the inevitable meltdowns along the way -from both the kid and myself. And probably a few teachers. When the school season finally does come to an end, we won’t sigh relief -because it will mean ironing out a new normal, a new routine, a new schedule -just after we got used to this one. I don’t complain about it, I don’t talk about it, and I rarely mention it. It is what it is -it comes with the responsibility and the process. We all have our thorns. This is mine. This back to school business.

I bought all the pencils and binders, books and packs. I bought shirts and shoes and jeans that I know won’t get worn. I bought a lunchbox that will carry his lunch to school and home again -day after blessed day, because hard as I try he will not eat unless he is in the comfort of his home and everything is as it should be. But still, I pack the lunch I know will get thrown away because someone might question if I don’t. I buy the shirts I know won’t get worn -because at least it will look as though I am trying. Not hard enough, never hard enough -but at least trying.

The morning starts the same way it does -every day. With a bowl of cereal and a pile of TV remotes. Quietly in the early hours of the morning he gets cereal and remotes and talks himself through his day. I don’t know what he says, or what he does -but I know it works and I know it doesn’t hurt anyone and so I let him go. I throw the cereal away a few hours later, right next to the cereal from the day before -because he doesn’t eat that kind. Only the other kind. Only after his morning routine. Only once the cereal has been thrown away and the remotes accounted for. Only then.

I try not to show the panic that has settled in next to the guilt, panic about how the day is going to go down, about how the year will pan about, about how nothing ever goes as planned and this certainly will be no different. Guilt over not doing enough, not trying hard enough, over doing too much and not enough. Circles upon circles of endless thoughts.

The drive in is quiet. I step around the fragile questions I am not sure if he has or not -trying to settle my nerves as much as his. Trying, desperately to make this seemingly mundane and normal task -just that, when it is anything but. Trying to fight away the thoughts that crowd my already fragile mind. Hoping, desperately, for a normal moment when it is anything but.

He walks through the school that we just visited not even two days ago as if he has been there for years. He ignores his teachers and gets straight to business making himself at home with something he shouldn’t be touching. “He will be fine.” I tell no one but myself, and then I leave. Because I know after years of doing this that ripping the Band-Aid off quickly is better than slowly.

I am alone with my thoughts for the first time in months. Alone with nothing but myself and the stale air. Alone. The perfect time for all the jumbled thoughts to align and make force. I only dropped one kid off this year. Only bought supplies for one backpack. Only arranged for one kid to go to school. Only made lunch for one box. Guilt for not trying hard enough. For pushing too hard. For not seeing things earlier. For not stepping in sooner. What went wrong, and why? The questions that never seem to have answers flood my mind, because for now -I can’t be bothered to push them aside.

This one has come so far -the one they said wouldn’t. The one they said would never make it to seventh grade -is now entering the seventh grade. The one they said wouldn’t understand laughs at his own jokes. The one they said wasn’t worth it. The one I drug, kicking and screaming, yelling and biting down the halls of school only to be called back ten minutes later because it wasn’t working today. The one that hid in the corner screaming for hours at a time. The one that fought, tooth and nail -everyday, all day. Is now walking into new situations like nobody’s business, leaving me in the dust -the way it should be.

But the one they said would be fine. The one they said was just having a rough year, a rough patch -just needing some extra time. The one they diagnosed, and treated -that one, isn’t here. For reasons I still have yet to understand. The one that was supposed to be ok -wasn’t. He wasn’t here for the first day of school. He won’t be here to get off the bus. Won’t be here to complain about his teachers or homework.

Too much, not enough. Never enough.

I try, because it’s the only thing I know how to do. Even when I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do. I try, because if I didn’t try I would give up. I try, because there is nothing else left to do. I try, because he deserves more -he deserves better. But it will never be enough. The intermingling of the thoughts, the twisting of ideas, the comprehending of the future. Binding the past with the present and trying to make a future.

It’s hard.

Because it’s never enough.