Cycle for Survival Alabama edition

So this past Saturday, January 28th, I organized the first Cycle for Survival in Alabama at the gym I teach spin at, Metro Fitness. It was successful and I was super pleased with the turn out of support!

I’m not going to go into detail about the event, but I want to discuss the importance of Cycle for Survival to me.

Cycle for Survival gives me so much hope, excitement, strength and focus. I truly believe in what they are doing for the developments in treating rare cancers, and I also like love the feeling it provides me leading up to the event and after. It gives me goosebumps knowing that in a day, so many people around the country are also supporting and raising awareness and funds for rare cancer research. It also gives me time to reflect and think about all the lessons, joys, and triumphs I shared with George. He too loved participating in Cycle for Survival. So when I’m on the bike, I feel connected with him, and on the days of Cycle for Survival, I feel like I am working for him. I am pedaling stronger than I ever had before, because I want to make him proud.

This year in Alabama, I didn’t have my closest friends around for support, I didn’t have my family nearby, but I did have a community there. I really appreciate the generosity of the people in Montgomery and beyond. Without their support this wouldn’t have been as successful as it was. We have neared the $3,000 mark and it’s a fantastic feeling to know that this money will go towards saving someone’s life and making a difference.

Each year around this time, I make new memories with George and it helps propel me forward. Allows me to feel stronger and I know the money raised is going toward something meaningful and will offer strength to others battling cancers.

I love Cycle for Survival.

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Using Food to Heal

When the going gets tough, we tend to flee to the pantry. Grab a bag of chips, Oreos, candy, whatever it may be to try and eat our emotions. Or when a routine we’re familiar with gets broken and the fill the empty time we start drinking more, or snacking when we’re not even hungry. Does this seem familiar to you?

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Sometime we try to hide behind food. Eat to heal our pain and to shun the world away. But if we’re increasing our consumption and not countering it with increased exercise, doesn’t that just draw more attention to us? Receiving unwanted glances when we are at the grocery store, or a judging sigh from a colleague when ordering at a restaurant?

I’m guilty of using food to heal. I am no exception to this. Right now my world is spinning since my boyfriend left for training and soon will be leaving for his deployment. I feel the same uneasiness and the flighty thoughts are reappearing. The need to stay busy, to occupy every minute of every day with something has returned. So has the stress eating.

I’ve been craving sweets before bed. Almost like the sugar will provide me the same comfort that a warm body next to me will do. Some nights I’m stronger to resist than others. But there’s one thing I have learned over the years and that is there has to be boundaries. There has to be a limit to what is consumed. I do not diet because I don’t like to restrict, but I am mindful of what I consume. And I’m also aware that though the short term satisfaction might be ideal, the long term will not be.

The cravings are a feeling of losing control. I can control food, and how I react to it. If I had sweet snacks late at night, the next morning I make it my duty to perform 60-90 minutes of exercise. That way the calories I consumed can be incinerated quickly. This is my revenge against unwanted calories.

Stress eating does get the best of me once in awhile, but I make sure to have the weapons to combat it. Eat foods dense in nutrients, fuel my body correctly just in case those late night cravings happen. I also have realized when I make my own meals, I have less of these cravings. Like after George passed away, the feeling of making something gives a sense of accomplishment, so even though there’s a sense of loss right now and I’m trying to reestablish routines, I still can manage my personal reaction to what is going on in my own world and head. Nothing is too big to handle, just the effort level might be more than what we’re looking to give. But then what kind of sacrifices are you willing to make to take another step toward your goals?

I am willing to sacrifice time and sleep. I’ll cut my sleep short to go for a run and I’ll take extra time to cook my own meals if the feeling of accomplishment is my reward rather than having regret, and more complaints on why I’m not hitting my goals.

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Gaining Weight

As of late, I feel so much has been put on me. I’m as fragile as an egg-shell nowadays. I sit in my car on my way to work crying, and when I’m home, I sit in my car just because I feel it blocks out the world for moments at a time. I’ve chewed my nails to nubs, and the burning in my joints to flee are coming back. Cinder blocks are resting on my shoulders from the moment I wake up and get out of the warm cocoon of bed. I am struggling right now, I feel like so much of what’s going on around me is out of my control.

I’m worried about my job. I’m worried about my team. I’m worried about my online class. I’m worried about failing. I’m worried about letting people down. I don’t think I’m doing a good job.

Every inch of me is telling me to find something to distract the growing vines of desolation burrowing inside of me and digging deeper and deeper. But these feelings are fleeting. I know it will get better but weathering the storm right now seems like an inconvenience. So much has happened in a month between my grandmother dying, moving, never having time off, and then having someone I care deeply for be sent away for nine weeks, I feel like the weight of it all is crushing me. Making it harder to get my legs under me and move step by step.img_6167

I went for a run today. My mind was a vacuum and all my thoughts came and went like a flash. But one thing was apparent as I was running. My lows are extremely low and my highs are to the sky. I need balance and right now but there is no fulcrum.

Tomorrow has to be better.

Revisiting the grief

Once in awhile I wonder what was the purpose of writing this blog. I did it because George and I loved blogging together, we had two food blogs, so I felt it was a way for me to continue a connection with him. But over time, the appeal and shine loses its luster. But recently I revisited those old posts and to know how far I’ve come in this journey is incredible.

I’m trying to organize my thoughts and posts a little bit and try some fluidity with them. But very much like grief, things just happen and there’s no control over them. I look at the old posts and they flip flop between miserable, excited, self-loathing, angry, manic, numb, and just getting by.

New Years is around the corner and I haven’t had a lot of luck with New Years. I think my first New Years after George passed was one of my best ones, just because I was with my friend Lindsay just reflecting on the shit year we had (2013) and how perhaps 2014 would be better. Little Chinese food, wine and One Tree Hill. It was memorable and she’s still one of my best friends and I love her for being there to do nothing with me as the calendar year flipped.

Good friends make suffering better. Always remember that. A strong support system will hold you up, even during the worst storms.

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Fourth Christmas

img_6221The Florida sky is black with tiny little white flickering stars smiling down. It’s hard being away for Christmas, especially when it’s not the frozen snow draped New England I know and love. My grandmother passed away on the very early morning of Christmas Eve. My family is all down here to spend one last Christmas with her because her health was quickly deteriorating. But before their planes landed she was gone. And we all are here together dumbfounded on what to do next. My mom is grieving, I see what she is doing and it’s all too familiar. Misplacing every day items, like where she parked her car (yes this happened), and manically picking up tons of items to store or throw away. The process of occupying the mind is here. It’s stirring a lot of emotions in all of us. We all lost a loved one, but it’s making all of us look around at each other and remember all the others we have lost too. Like my grandparents on my dad’s side, and of course George.

I sat next to my grandmother holding her hand as she wiggled and twisted from the pain. Bodie was balancing on my lap, and my brain just went somewhere else. My dad reminded me how I must be a pro at this now. I smirked and said there’s this little spot in my brain I know is there and it takes care of me.

oh it’s there all right. I went on a 6 mile run at high noon after she passed away. Even the devil wouldn’t have gone on a run with how the sun was beating down and the humidity was creeping up. I grieve by finding strength to push forward. To search for something to heal me.

This Christmas we all hung out at my grandmothers apartment. Helping my mom clean up, making lists of what needs to be done, and of course being with one another. When I was in the car with my brother, niece and sister-in-law I thought of something I did for George while he was slowing dying. I totally forgot about it but something rang it in. I remember putting his headphones in when he was in the coma and playing his favorite bands. I remember him reacting to it and being so excited. I remember how I wondered if he could still react if there was a chance he would get better. The evening my dad and I left my grandmother to go back to the hotel, she was talking and cracking jokes. We both thought she had some time before the inevitable. Then 3 hours later just before 1a she was gone.

Merry Christmas, squeeze your loved ones extra tight.

 

Return of the numbness

This afternoon I arrived to the gulf coast side of Florida to see my 90 year old grandmother. She isn’t doing well, and she’s in the midst of congestive heart failure. Her watery cough is one that’s far too familiar. She looks at me with her sky blue eyes and she tries to smile, but her breaths are too shallow and trips her. And there they are, those watery coughs. I snuggled into that part of my brain today that protects me. I distracted myself with work and looking up nonsense online. I know these are signs of denial. I just don’t want to face the grief that will be washing ashore again soon.

Family is arriving tomorrow, we’all keep each other afloat. And I’m so glad I have Bodie here with me. I’m also thankful I packed my running shoes. It’s time to hit the road for another lengthy trot. Those endorphins are my best weapon against the unpredictable demons that grief carries with it.

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Away for Christmas, again

I have this tendency to be away from Connecticut around Christmas. The first year after George passed away I was in California, and the uncertainty and inability to control my emotions haunts me. I always figured I’d never feel that way again because his passing was so fresh. Well here I am, in Florida, sort of feeling the same way again. Not to the extreme, but reflecting and feeling a bit down.

I’m here with my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and niece for the time being. Tomorrow I’m going to hop into my car and head west to St.Petersburg to see my grandmother. My oldest brother flies here in the next couple days. There’s so much unconditional love swirling around me, but my mind is unfocused. My thoughts are fleeting and skipping, kind of like how a rock hops on water. And then there’s that one thought that hangs on and it’s all I can think about. These thoughts that hang on are my insecurities. I know it. I have one which is sinking further and further. It’s making me mad, uneasy, upset, and for what good reason? There isn’t one. It’s stupid and petty, but it hangs there to piss me off and torture me.

George visited me in my dream last night. I wish I could remember the premise of it, but all that I do remember is I lost my engagement ring, and then I found it again. But it was too big for my finger, and I tried hard to hide that it no longer fit. I felt ashamed and embarrassed when I had to show him the ring. What does this mean? I always felt so safe with George, but this dream had a different feeling for me. When I first started losing the weight and transforming, I worried he would no longer recognize me. I am not the same woman I was when he was alive. I’m different now. Maybe this just indicates change and need to push forward. Whatever it means, I am moving along to the next great adventure tomorrow. And maybe along the way, I’ll know what my unconscious mind was trying to reveal to me.

Until then, I’ll lay back with my hands behind my head, Bodie at my feet and my mind skipping along the water until it finally finds the one thought I can sink into.248949_685832100299_1317340_n

Ask for a sign

I ask George for a sign and a sign I shall receive! I’m over the three year mark of being widowed, and I remember when I would meet other widows who are at the 3 year or beyond and wonder if they still think about their spouse every day.  The answer is YES!

Not a day goes by I don’t think about George. My mind still wanders to the times we had together. It drifts wondering what life would be like if he were alive. I wonder if he magically appeared if he would like this new, revamped version of his wife. I wonder if he would like the people I spend my time with. What his advice would be to me if I were to vent about my problems. I just wonder. And sometimes all that wondering manifests and the longing for him comes back and then in those moments where I feel weak, I walk outside in the cool air, gaze up at the shimmering stars and the crescent moon and ask George to give me a sign. Please let me know I’m not screwing up my life and you’re still with me.

I ask for a sign, and he delivers. Every. Single. Time. It’s uncanny, seriously.

Over the past month a few of my friends have asked me to go to the Camellia Bowl. It’s a college football game in Montgomery where two teams head to the city to compete. I’ve turned down the offer a few times, because I have little to no interest in going. Plus I’m moving on the day of the game. So the Camellia Bowl has not been on my mind whatsoever and has little impact on my daily activities. Then a work colleague mentions to me about a week ago one of the teams to play in the bowl game is practicing at Huntingdon. I asked him what team it was and he said it’ll be University of Toledo.

If my heart had a tail, it would be wagging nonstop. I’m grinning, even as I write this I’m smiling. It’s almost to the point of appearing manic, but I can’t help it, this is so bizarre! I couldn’t believe UT was going to be coming to Huntingdon. What are the odds! George’s sister went to UT and his family lives in Toledo! If it were Bowling Green I would’ve fainted. George went to Bowling Green, but you know what UT is just as good! Plus the UT mascot is the Rockets and George’s high school mascot at Bay Village was a Rocket too. I just cannot help but see this as a sign. He’s here, he’s with me, he’s watching over me to make sure I don’t crash and burn.

One thing I’ve mentioned and I tend to talk and look for George when I feel defeated. And I should look for him when greatness happens too. I need to get better at that. But for now, I can’t wait to see UT practicing out there on the stadium field, and know George has given me a little Holiday message this year.

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3 years widowed

IMG_0881The three year mark came and went on November 25th. It was a weird lead up to it. I felt the anxiety, I leaned into it, cried, then it just went away. I’m sort of numb from it all, I’m neither happy nor sad, I’m just existing. There’s some things that I’ve pushed aside to focus on myself though. Right now I need to be focusing on my scheduling for 2018, but I’ve decided to use these days off as days off to recharge. So when I get a scheduling email I just respond back I’ll take a look when I’m back into the office on Monday. Coaching creates a very loose and nontraditional routine for work. I usually dig it, but right now I need some Julia time. I need some grief time.

Grieving is a lot like working out. There is no one path that is correct. Everyone does it differently and which ever helps the most is the right way for that individual. Some people like therapy for grief, others like to meditate. Some like boot camp style work outs, others like running. Which ever way the person chooses to deal or heal, that is okay. Not doing anything at all is the problem. So on the 25th I led a 90 minute spin class, and though it was slim attendance, it felt good. I felt my muscles burning, my heart pumping and my mood improve. I watched a movie that day too and just being there felt good. I did think about George and losing him and the morning of his passing. But I also thought about how beloved he was. How many lives his warmth and incredible disposition influenced and touched in his short years on earth. And he is a gem. I do feel lucky to have loved him. I do feel lucky to have felt a passion so great that it continues to impact me daily. I am lucky and I need to remember and remind myself of it when the tear soaked labyrinth appears.

 

Thanksgiving shopping

The day after Thanksgiving will mark 3 years since George passed. This will be my 4th Thanksgiving without him. As I was shopping for groceries for the holiday,  I looked around me at all the people rushing around inspecting turkeys and sweet potatoes, staring at which brand of cranberry sauce to buy, and barking orders at children to put things back. I gazed down at my cart barely half filled and a single bag of salad laying on top of everything and then it hit me, this holiday doesn’t have the same meaning for me anymore.

I’m not going home this year. I decided to stay in Montgomery due to fiscal and convenience. I feel bad that I’m not going home, but I also know that sometimes going home is like an opiate and just covers the pain of being alone. I need to feel the loneliness.

I am thankful for 364 days of the year. Losing him and dealing with the grief forced me to make huge life decisions. The thing about emotional pain is it can either tear you apart, or create an opportunity for change. And I’m so thankful for the love I shared with him and the relationships I’ve created and strengthened with those since he’s passed. But this holiday is a reminder of what I lost rather than what I’ve gained. And shopping alone for a holiday I used to love had me feeling hopeless, depressed and longing for a life that feels so foreign to me now.

I miss him a lot.

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