Emotionally inducing memories

IMG_0248Right now I’m at the Women’s Coach Alliance conference in Denver, Colorado. There’s an incredible aura throughout this entire event. Amazing speakers, strong women from all walks of life and different backgrounds. Today, I lost it and I do get embarrassed about it. But what people view as vulnerable, in actuality it’s my strength. Vulnerability would be me hiding from the truth. The inability to accept what has brought me to this point in my life. Being widowed is my fabric, and it makes me strong. It is not my weakness.

We had a sports life coach come up this morning to give her presentation and she talked about living our lives as 10s. Always aiming to live in the 10 moments. At that point she asked the room what are some 10 out of 10 moments. People discussed winning a championship, impacting players lives, getting married, birth of a child, etc. And my brain flickers with a story board of moments. All of them landing on 1 specific moment and that was when I spoke in Time Square for the kick off of Cycle for Survival on 9/19/14. What would’ve been my first wedding anniversary.

My stomach clenched, my heart began racing, my palms were sweaty. I was back reliving that moment as I sat in the back of the classroom watching her ask if there’s any other moments. My hand ascended up and I began telling the story and then the tears dribbled down my cheeks and my voice became lost in my throat. I could only display the emotional effect of that day. The power, the value, the meaning and the importance of standing in Time Square talking about the greatest love story there ever was replayed behind my eyes.

I recently wrote an article for Hope For Widows Foundation, check it out:

http://hopeforwidows.org/triathlon-grief-fear-strength/

But I’m getting more and more of these memories returning back to me and evoking such a tremendous emotional response. Is it because of the returning loneliness due to the deployment? Am I beginning to process grief? Did I not process it well enough the first time? I don’t know what’s happening to me. It might be because I’m out of coaching and for once I’m taking time to myself. I have no clue. But it’s a weird mixture of sadness, excitement, power, and resolution. I feel invigorated, refreshed and prepared for the next grand adventure to see where it’ll lead me.IMG_0235

 

 

Return to Widow Groups

IMG_8075I recently have returned to the widow message boards. I do this every once in awhile. This time I didn’t do it to seek out assistance or to vent. I needed a reminder of the men and women who I share this tragic emblem with. I’m a part of a club, and I need to remember to offer support and guidance to my fellow wids.

I have been having trouble dealing with my boyfriend’s deployment, and I have been feeling lonely, but it’s nothing like when George died. Nothing could ever compare to that. But having an empty bed again does hurt.

I’m looking to put together a grief group here in Montgomery. It’s not just aimed at those who are going through loss of a spouse. I’m learning that grief comes in all different forms. I do think I’m having grief issues connected to the deployment. I also think the change of career is triggering some emotions too. And it made me think of all the other wives, husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends who are going through deployment, or other life changes.

I also think this article I just wrote on berries triggered grief. Good grief that was a hard article to write. Har-har-har.

George would be proud of me, I know he would. So I keep that in the back of my mind. This hiccup will pass and I will learn another valuable life lesson when it’s all over. And then I’ll be that much better pushing forward.

Returning to Food Writing

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I’ve always hated this picture

George and I used to maintain a food blog called George and Julia Eat Manhattan. We also transitioned to George and Julia’s Vegan Underground as we took on a new dietary lifestyle. Today I finished an article highlighting the health benefits of carrots.

It was weird reading about the benefits of carrots to treating cancers. Specifically liver cancers. I love carrots. I eat them often but I remember George didn’t like carrots. He thought they tasted bitter, so when we juiced he wanted sans carrots. As I’m reading all the benefits carrots do to liver I feel a little guilty. Like, I should’ve fucking known this already. I knew carrots has anti-inflammatory properties and help with vision, but I didn’t know vitamin A is converted in the liver.

Is it normal to feel this kind of regret and guilt? I couldn’t save him, his doctors couldn’t save him, so why do I think some carrots could’ve saved him. It’s so nonsensical but damnit. I miss him. When I come back to Connecticut, it’s hard to shake the void. I miss George and coming home sometimes reminds me he’s not here anymore.

I also really miss my boyfriend. He’s deployed right now and I think it’s stirring up some unresolved grief.

I’m really happy to be here in Connecticut though. I love spending time with my parents and hanging around the house. I fall into reclusive behavior when I’m home and don’t really tell anyone when I’m back too often. I guess it’s a force of habit.IMG_4546

Career Change

IMG_4422It might be time to edit my website…

I’m no longer coaching college lacrosse. For the last 10 years it has been my life, my everything, my first true love. But about 2 weeks ago I met with my athletic director and it was decided that this might not be the route I should take.

I’m not upset about this. I’m excited, I’m seizing opportunities left and right, I’m ENJOYING this stress-free time. I no longer need to censor and edit myself, I can finally go out in public to places where if someone sees me acting carelessly it doesn’t reflect on some other greater entity. There’s no more perpetual worry about what my players are doing or acting, did I respond to the recruit, what events am I signed up for. I feel a tremendous amount of relief.

I’ve been applying for jobs in new career fields. I had a phone interview today with an insurance company. I’ve never really worked in finance, but I didn’t hide it and they seemed more interested in my personality than my experience. They told me to call them back if it’s a job I’m interested in pursuing. I interviewed yesterday with a non-profit. I want to learn how to grant-write and help create a better place for people to co-exist in. I have an in-person interview on Thursday. I’ve been offered a handful of writing freelance jobs. Finally using my master’s degree the way it was intended to. Finally, I am working as a group fitness instructor and really taking the time to expand my knowledge and skills by reading more and more about fitness trends, techniques, and concepts.

I am happy. I am relaxed. I am excited for this new adventure.

My cortisol levels has decreased tremendously too. I can tell because my belly is flattening out, and my skin is clearing up. Yeah, I’ve managed to lose inches since departing Huntingdon. All this sudden change has been interesting to say the least. In addition, my boyfriend is deployed so I’m by myself here in Alabama. But my support system has been coming through. I’ve been running with a running group. Going out with my kickball teammates and friends. I feel like I’m living a life that I was supposed to be doing and it made me think about the first season without George.

I believe the luster began to wear off the moment he died. That 2014 team is forever my favorite because they saved my life. They gave me a purpose. But most importantly, they inspired me to find new passions, to find meaning in all of the madness going on around me. And college coaching, for right now, is not my purpose. Maybe I’ll move back towards it at another time, but it’s time for me to figure out how to build my own nest.

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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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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Pressing stress

November is such an interesting month. My birthday came and went, and in my professional life this is the most important recruiting month of the year. Plus on top of it all the third anniversary is waiting for me on the 25th. It’s been a bit of a task balancing it all. I’m excited, busy, but under it all there’s this stress building. It came crashing down on Friday when I knew I had too much on my plate. I had to sign a lease for my new house, but I had 4 recruits on campus doing overnights. I also was running my first recruiting showcase on Saturday. Plus I was still needing to manage my current players on the team and make sure they’re doing well in their lives. I crumbled, I crashed, I burned, but I made it through. Everything went smoothly.

This week has always been a little sad for me. Tomorrow will be the last night/day George is home with me. On the 15th he goes to the hospital 3 years ago, and then on the 19th he comes home to hospice care. These next 10 days are tough. Those memories are still so fresh, and I sometimes wish they would disappear. Why can’t I remember what happened in 2012 so clearly? Replace 2013 with memories from then? Actually I do remember 2012… I was recruiting, I went to the IWLCA convention and I wasn’t with George. I was doing my job. And there you have it, it’s this ongoing conflict I have with the most important aspect of my job: recruiting. It takes me away from my life, but it’s a necessary sacrifice I have to make in order to be successful. In order for my school and team to prosper. So I have come to grips with it.

I’ve also noticed that when times are good, I don’t think about George as much as a should. It’s when things take a turn for worse I think about him. I think about all the lessons I learned from him and how he impacted my life and affected the people around him. I look to him for answers, and wish he was around for me to talk to so I could flush and work out ideas. I feel bad I don’t think of him as much during the good times. But I do think about him when I get noticed. I always think he has his hand in some things that happen in my life.

For the months of November and December I was selected to this thing called ‘The List’ in RSVP Magazine. It’s a group of influential young professionals in the River Region the magazine highlights. I was highlighted for this issue, and the month is so serendipitous I can’t help but think he was involved. I just need to get to December.

Here’s the link: https://issuu.com/rsvpmontgomery/docs/novdecscreen16

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Carrying a toad

Today one of my close college friends/teammates came down to visit, and we went to one of our favorite college spots. There’s this little diner that was turned into a Thai restaurant so we always refer to it as the Thai diner. We were talking about what it means to lose someone and how to cope with it. A couple years ago this friend’s father suddenly passed away, so when George died we quickly started talking about grief. She and I are both college coaches and often mingle with the same type people. I was asking her a slew of questions on how to deal with other coaches, and dealing with a team when unable to control your own emotions. During this conversation I had an epiphany:

I am a head lacrosse coach at a small university and I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on my players to hold strong for me and how I’m expecting them to come back from winter break in tip top shape so we can immediately get to work on building a strong foundation for our season. When all this horror began with George getting terminal so quickly, my team was always in the back of my mind. How will this affect them? How will they deal with this? How can I lead them when I don’t even know what I want? What will they think of me if and when I have a breakdown? But then I realized, it’s not all about them. Just like any relationship, it takes both sides to compromise if it’s going to be successful and stand the test of time. I need to get back in shape just as much as they do. I need to be emotionally stable by our first game. I need to by sharp and decisive by our first practice. There’s nothing in life that can ever prepare someone for this. Hell, I played Division 1 lacrosse, and as difficult as it was to have two-a-days in pre-season, nothing in my life has ever been this challenging. It’s a Sisyphean task, but just like the competitor I am, whenever I see a challenge I will encounter it head on. Even if that rock rolls back on me two dozen times. I need to come back ready for my team so they can rely on me just as much as I have with them.

George was always a great listener whenever it came to my team and the problems and stresses that come with coaching. Whether it’s a regret from something I said at practice, or if it was an issue with behavior of a player, he was always supportive and gave excellent advice. Although, he tended to side with the girls rather than me. But it kept me grounded. He was my id to my superego when it came to coaching.

He would come to all the weekend games to support me and my team. One time last season, it was our final conference game and we needed it to clinch a spot in playoffs and during warm ups, he called one of my junior starters over to him. I was speaking with the officials so I didn’t see it happening. All of a sudden, my player was running over to me yelling, “Coach, I need to give you something!” She held her hands out, and a softball sized toad was just staring up at me. “George wanted me to give this to you.” I looked at the toad again, then at her face. She was panting heavily because she didn’t care for reptiles of any sort, and then I glance across the field and George was standing there, grinning ear to ear waving at me. I told her to run back towards him and give him the toad. I was so angry because this was just before a game and I needed her to be focused. We ended up winning, and the player he handed the toad to scored the first goal of the game 8 seconds in. After the game I didn’t really care that he handed her the toad, or even distracted her. I just asked him not to do it again in the future. On the way home he was just laughing because he thought it was so funny how both me and my player reacted. He just knew how to lighten the mood regardless of the situation. And I need to remember that as I carry on. He was the best sideline coach I’ve ever had.

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