Another half marathon

On Saturday I ran in another half marathon. We don’t have Equinox gyms down in Montgomery so I used the Montgomery Marathon as my tool to raise money for Cycle for Survival. Obviously I wasn’t cycling, but I feel strongly about raising money for rare cancer research. And I love cycle for survival and how they use the money raised. Running 13 miles is not an easy task and whenever I’m running I think about all the people who no longer can run or be active because of cancer. And being active and controlling the effort level of what you put in while you still can is really a gift. So I do these races and when my legs are cramping and my sides are hurting and my mind wants me to stop, I keep pushing because I know if George was still alive he would keep fighting. And when he was alive he kept pushing and believing in everything his doctors were doing for him. So I do too. I want to push myself to the breaking point because he did.

People lose their limbs or ability to walk because of cancer. Or they’re hooked up to a drip for days and fighting for their lives. For that moment to go outside and live life the way they dreamed. So I run for those people. I run, cycle and raise money yearly because I believe the doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering are the front line of battle to cure rare cancers. If I can help just one family, it’s worth it.

Ive been dating Mike now for 7 months and this was my second half marathon while we’ve been together. He’s very supportive of my excessive cardio habits, and reminds me he will never do a race with me and though I wish one day maybe, he makes me feel special about it. I do think being in the south, the focus on physical fitness isn’t like what it is in NYC, but he’s very complimentary of when I do distances over 5 miles. He’s also very athletic and I do like being with someone who takes care of themselves physically. I never realized how important that aspect is in my happiness in a relationship. But having it there I don’t want to be without it.

My legs are very sore today but for all it’s worth, the only thing I would change is I should’ve trained a bit better, but I’m proud I completed another half.

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Got you on my mind

imageIm not sure what it is, but I cannot stop thinking about George. I miss him so much. And damn Facebook keeps showing me memories from years ago, and it’s like everyday I’m reminded he’s dead.

I was at work the other day and was looking up stats from last season and I ran into an article written about me when I took the job. I felt like I was reading about someone else’s life. I was so disassociated from reality at that moment, and the words read like fiction to me. I’ve been spending a lot of time registering what’s going on around me, and I feel distant. Like someone picked me up and dropped me in the middle of Alabama and said “here make a life for yourself.” And I’m kind of trying. I miss my family a lot too. I miss my friends. I miss my old life.

My grandmother was widowed in her late 50’s, and she would be considered a young widow too. My family has said her life ended the minute my grandfather passed. After he passed she traveled around the world. But then settled down in Florida where she still lives. Even though it’s been 31 years since he’s passed, she talks about him like he was here yesterday. It’s been a little over 2 years without George, and it feels like an eternity ago since he was alive, but at the same time I feel like it was just yesterday we were still together. I  feel like I take two steps forward and then 10 backwards.

i don’t know if I feel sorry for myself, or why this sudden strike of longing is coming up, but it’s affecting me. It’s affecting how I feel, how I react, my decisions, and of course my mood. I feel more independent than I ever have before, but I feel the numbness slowly crawling back. Lean into it, allow the grief to come, and I do. It’s the hopelessness and numbness that scares me. It comes on so strong, and it swaddles me and it controls me. I stop caring about myself. I know it’s knocking, I feel the clunking footsteps following behind me. I need to be different.

 

President James Garfield crashed my birthday weekend

12189853_10100800020754279_9000497672418306689_nI turned 30 years old yesterday. George and I used to talk about my 30th birthday a lot. He said he was going to throw me a party for it, and for some reason I’ve always looked forward to turning 30. When I took the job here at Huntingdon College, the moment I signed my lease to my sweet apartment, I promised myself I was going to party in Nashville. Which is only 4 hours north of here.

So why Nashville? I am a Andrew Jackson fan. The Jacksonian era is my favorite time in American history, and he’s also my favorite president and politician. I wanted to ring in this new lease on life with my favorite president. When looking for activities to do, and things to see in Nashville besides Jackson’s Hermitage, I discovered that there was going to be a half marathon on Halloween. Ring in my 30s by running one last half marathon in my 20s? Oh hell yeah.

So I signed up for the race, booked a great hotel near Vanderbilt, and the birthday weekend festivities started to roll forward. Accompanying me was my Airman who I met down here in Montgomery in the dog park. Jackson was my favorite president and commander, Mike is my favorite Airman and fellow history nerd. Made sense.

Are you still with me? I’m sorry for the long drawn out anecdote in the beginning. We’ll get the birthday party crasher, President James Garfield.

I’ve had a lot of luck in the dating game. Beginning of this year I was seeing Tom, and due to taking the job in Alabama we broke up. Not on bad terms. Upon moving here, I wound up at the dog park on the hottest damn Sunday of the summer, and I met Mike. We’ve been dating ever since. I do recognize if the circumstances of my life didn’t go the way they did, neither Tom or Mike would be in my life. I remember standing outside one evening in the Alabama humidity and asked George to show me a sign if I’m making the right choices in my life, whether it’s dating, professional, emotional, etc. I just wanted him to show me a sign. I then forgot about it for awhile, and then came Packet Pick up mayhem of October 31, 2015.

I got to the packet pick up late on the day of the race. T-minus 20 minutes before start time. I was freaking out. But Mike was there to calm me down, and make fun of my annoying chirping of “where’s packet pick up?” We found the tent, and I gave my name and the woman handed me my bib number: 1881

As I was running I started thinking about 1881. Who was president? Was it our 19th president Rutherford B Hayes? Or was it Garfield? Maybe Chester A Arthur? But then my head went clear and I realized why 1881 was such a gnarly year. It was the year Garfield was assassinated. No joke, I had to hold back my tears. I love history, I really do, but I also recognize not many people love it as much as me, so I try to keep it together. But when I went out to Cleveland with George in 2010 we visited the cemetery where James Garfield is buried. It was the only time we went to a tomb of president.

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Such an eerie coincidence right? No it gets weirder. I make no bones about it. The number 19 is my favorite number, so what does this have to do with our 20th president? He was born on November 19th, and he died on September 19th. For those new to my widow blog, I married George on September 19th.

I’m a firm believer in signs. I feel like here and there George will put markers out for me to know he’s still with me. But he provided me with the surprise of James Garfield on my birthday weekend. I see this and I can’t help but think, yes the puzzle pieces are slowly fitting together and I like what I’m seeing.

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The happiest day of my life

imageThere has never been a more picturesque Connecticut Fall day since October 19, 2013. The sun was shining, and the cumulus clouds hung low and looked like huge cotton balls. The trees were sprinkled with multitudes of colors ranging from dark green to rust to radiant yellow. It was the perfect day to have a wedding. And I did. It was the wedding I never dreamed of because I never dreamed of having a wedding, but when it came time to decide on what would represent George and Julia the best, we knew there had to be live music and delicious food, and of course an open bar. It was the happiest day of my life.

Fast forward two years, I’m sitting at home alone in Montgomery, Alabama with memories of my former life swirling around me. I eat on a kitchen table George picked out, I watch a TV we won on The View, and memorabilia and novels on the mantle he either gave me, or remind me of him.

I float through days with my past lurking close behind. Memories of him dart through my mind quickly and as soon as they come they vanish as well. Not a day goes by I don’t think about him. I tell him I love him every day and I mumble I miss him before I go to bed. Today is different. There’s a steady stream of sadness in my heart. The life I missed out on because of cancer. The unrequited love I carry because of cancer. The undercurrent of heartache because of cancer. I hate what it has done to me. I will never celebrate an anniversary with him. I rarely say it but I am envious of my friends on their wedding anniversaries. They are doing what I’ll never have. They’re living a life they chose. I never wanted this. It wasn’t supposed to end up this way. I should be in midtown having a glorious dinner with my soulmate on a rooftop with the glow of the Empire State Building behind us. This is bullshit.

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It’s easy to be angry and negative during the grieving process. When the grief comes back I slip into the “woe is me,” and “why did this happen to me,” and the always impressive amounts self-loathing. The self-loathing changed my life for the better surprisingly enough, but when it rears its head, lord does it take it’s toll. I really do think only a wid can empathize. When I’m grieving and I look in the mirror, I’m disgusted with everything staring back at me. It’s as if I’m looking at another person. And when I look at photos from my time with George, I hate that girl who’s with him too.

Three things I love in Nashville

My grief has been bubbling to the surface more, and I know it’s because I’m entering that stretch of time where I remember the days leading to George’s death. My wedding reception is October 19th and I still remember the drive back to Connecticut on October 17th. A Thursday. And how George couldn’t stay awake for the whole trip so I remember singing along to Duran Duran. The days are like crystal heading into those final weeks in November. The mind is interesting like that. I want these memories to vanish, but they are the most vivid. It’s like I close my eyes and I’m watching a movie of my life.

This year the anxiety is more powerful than last. Last year was the first anniversaries and I didn’t know what to expect. So I walked cautiously and tip toed around anything that could be a possible trigger. This year the streets are filled with land mines. Various words are like grenades and arbitrary memories are shrapnel piercing my will to move forward. I miss him like crazy. I miss the life we had and the life we were supposed to build. But I’m grateful I got to experience a love like his. Because without it I wouldn’t be so damn determined to push along. To hope the next hour or day will be better.

My 30th birthday is in 2 weeks and I decided to treat myself to a trip to Nashville. It will be my last weekend in my 20s and I am going out in fashion. Three things I love: fitness, history and halloween, and I know George will be with me throughout the weekend. My favorite holiday is halloween, I love fitness and will be running a half marathon, and my favorite era in history is the Jacksonian era and I will be in the city of my favorite president, Andrew Jackson. I can’t think of a better way to cap off my 20’s and head into my 30s. I love that man so much for all the love we share and how it still propels me forward to do great things and be the best version of myself. I want to make him proud and if he catches a glimpse of me, he can smile and say “yeah that’s my wife.”image

Shadows chasing shadows

I can feel my grief in my muscles. The aches and tightness in my legs are constant reminders of the sadness that creeps into some of my days. I still find my release in fitness, and I grieve more some days, and on those days my body takes the punishment when my mind wants to run away. I’m feeling anxious tonight. This weekend is the first weekend of many recruiting trips. Recruiting plays a huge role in the success of my job, but I haven’t forgiven myself for spending so many weekends on the road when I should’ve been with George during his final weeks. When I got the phone call that he must go into hospice care, I was at a recruiting tournament in New Jersey. It was a Saturday at 9a and I remember getting to Memorial Sloan Kettering to speak with the social worker about hospice by 11:30a.

I hold on to so much regret.

Tonight I felt the uneasiness of grief creeping in so I laced up my sneakers and went for a night run. I am getting more comfortable about Montgomery and my neighborhood so the night run felt good. My sore muscles started to loosen up as I found my stride, and the grit of the pavement under my feet was a sweet reminder of how good it feels to hurl my body throughout the streets until my mind disappeared. At one point, the street lights shined down perfectly and I was chasing my shadow. The dark carbon copy stretched out in front of me, and I would chase her down until she lengthened and fell behind. And then at the next streetlight, she would creep into the lead and I would chase her again. There’s always going to be shadows from my last life hanging around, and I’ve been good about running away, but if I’m going to move past the shadows, do I have to face it head on?

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Reinventing in Southeast

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It’s been so long since I’ve updated this thing! Someone recently asked me why I hadn’t and I mentioned that nothing too exciting or out of the ordinary has happened so no need to update. But I think there’s a lot. What would have been my two year anniversary just came and went a week ago, and during the time I had recruits at Huntingdon. It was a good distraction, but just like most anniversaries, the lead up to it creates the most anxiety. The days leading up to September 19th were grueling, but when the 19th came, I felt good. Relaxed. Happy. I thought about George, I missed George, but I also remind myself how the love I have for him still has helped me improve and better myself. I’ve said it once and I’ll always say it, I am so lucky to have experienced a love like his. I can only wish when I leave this earth someone loves me as much as I love him.

I’ve been in Alabama for 2 months now, and I LOVE IT! In New Jersey there was this cloud of death and sadness that hovered around me. No matter what I did, I couldn’t shake it. I played by the grieving handbook and didn’t make any major life decisions in the first year of widowhood, but when this opportunity came about I did think it was George pointing me in the direction to reclaim my life. And I think I have. When someone dies, no one can prepare you for the financial aftermath and I was lucky to have support of my parents, and to have a great emergency nest. But the reality came that Drew paid me really poorly, and I never was able to recover financially from George’s passing. I was scraping by. Being down here for 2 months I’ve already rebounded back, and though I don’t think money provides happiness, it does provide security which helps with overall happiness.

In New Jersey I learned to cope with the emotions of losing George, but now I’m learning how to live without him. I am so glad I took this risk to move to Montgomery, because I feel so free and independent. There was an adjustment period, but it was because the culture and people of the South are so different than the North. I’m coaching the sport I love, interacting with passionate and determined young women, meeting all sorts of people from different walks of life, and last but not least, I am teaching spin classes at a gym nearby and every time I am on that bike, I know George is smiling at me. Life it good here in the gump. Plus I met a sweet Air Force fellow at the dog park, and Bodie and his dog have become best friends while we started dating. Can’t really complain. My bouts of grief only last minutes now rather than days. That’s one thing worth noting.

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I was eating a carrot

Are you afraid of the dark?

I’ve been in Montgomery, AL for almost two weeks now and my moving company has yet to deliver my items. However that’s for a later date, and no need to even go into that painful story. Tonight I was walking my dog, and as I’ve mentioned in past posts, I love night walks and looking up and seeing the bubbling stars in the blackness above. It stretches as far as the eye can imagine and just hangs there stuck in time. When you look at a star you’re looking at a time of the past, and it comforts me. I look at a star and someone in Iceland can be viewing the same one. It’s kind of cool actually.

As I was walking there was a group of 5 teenagers outside just hanging out. As I walked by one asked what kind of dog Bodie is. I told him and quickly after he followed up with “aren’t you afraid of walking alone in the dark?” Without hesitation, I said no. Then wondered if I should be. Night has always been a metaphor for death, all quiet and cold.

In NJ I would run outside late at night, and take Bodie for mile long walks in the dead of winter night. But the dark has never scared me. Even in Jersey City, after George died, I would walk Bodie at night wishing something heinous would happen to me. But it never did. I think the boy had some sort of innocence to him inquiring about my nightly walks, but the reality is I enjoy them. And until something so unsettling happens on those walks, I plan on continuing them.

I’ve always done things like this. I should be more cautious on my walks, maybe shorten them, but I tend to mind my own business and because of that I just figure others will let me be. Maybe that’s not the case down south, but so far it has been. Except for tonight, when it took a teenage boy to just wonder if I was scared. I’ve walked a long road to find strength, and in the beginning of this journey the stillness of night cradled me back to life.

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The Longest Break Up

As I mentioned in a few posts ago, I am moving to Alabama. It’s a very exciting time for me, but unfortunately it’s causing a rift in my personal life.  I’ve been dating the same guy for about 7 months now, and he is my first serious relationship after George’s passing. I’ve dated guys here and there, but usually I felt after a few dates they were going to be a bust. Tom is different. Our relationship is the first serious one for both of us after our last one. He’s not a widower, just to make that clear, he just had gotten out of a long relationship and took a year off. Though when it comes to my widow problems, he’s understanding of my lunacy, and lets me tell my memories of George whenever they begin to stir. I’ve noticed, a little bit with my own dating experience and reading about other widows, there’s often times a slight jealousy or resentment for the late spouse. I don’t get that with him. He just lets me be me.

But we are breaking up. The only fight/argument we’ve gotten into is about how we’ll break up. And that folks, is crushing. So with the move, I know that our relationship was coming to an end. And I thought I would be okay with it, and that life will go on. Since I was offered the position in May he has been dealing with the concept that I would be moving away, and though he was sulking for awhile, he has coped with it well. But something has happened, and I am losing my mind. I do not want to break up. I know there is something so special between us and I feel it. But we talked about and agreed that long distance was not going to happen, and I feel myself slipping back into grief. It’s not the same level of losing George, but it’s another great relationship that will end. And it makes me think of those final weeks I had with George and how I wish I enjoyed them so much more. It might be the process of packing up the apartment and all the upcoming life changes, but I am just sad.

Last night I started crying when Tom and I finished dinner, and he just kept asking what was wrong. Finally he said something that did upset me quite a bit, but I know he didn’t say it out of malice, but was trying to console me. He said, “I bet it feels like your world is breaking apart, but it’ll come back together and you’ll move on.” And immediately I started thinking about how all this change is a result of my world breaking apart. When George died, my world ripped open and I had to stanch the pain any way possible. And once I was able to sew it back together, the thread was a different color. And then I met Tom. It was a world as put together as possible. Breaking up with him is shaking my foundation I worked so hard to establish. But I also think all this moving and waiting is adding to it. I sometimes wish it would just move along faster and I can begin to thread the needle again with a new color.

I’ve always read the first break up after the loss of a spouse is difficult, but usually people break up because they can’t get along. We get along great, I just decided to change the course of my life and follow the signs.

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Moon of Alabama

One afternoon my boyfriend and I were out on a walk with Bodie and he started talking about Montgomery, Alabama. How it was an up and coming city of the south and that there was a lot of booming businesses and a lot of potential for career moves. I remember I shrugged it off and said “wasn’t Jefferson Davis inaugurated in Montgomery?” He didn’t know. But turns out Davis was. It was the first Capitol of the confederacy.

Just days later I looked on NCAA marketplace to see what jobs were beginning to be posted because toward the end of lacrosse season you begin to see the job carousel. The lacrosse world is very small and usually if there’s a surprise opening you can get the back story to it in just two phone calls. Gossip spreads quickly. But there it was, a school I had heard of once before and it was located in Montgomery, Alabama. The place that so arbitrarily came up in conversation less than a week before. I clicked on the school’s link and I was intrigued.

A week later I decided to apply.

Three days after I sent my resume I had a phone interview with a man in Atlanta about the college. His wife worked at Emory. George’s initial surgery to remove the tumor was at the Emory hospital. I couldn’t shake that this whole thing manifested so quickly and was more than just a coincidence.

I set up my on campus interview and I was in Alabama on what would have been 20 months married. The school was small and quaint. Something you would see in an ABC Family television show. Brick buildings, massive football stadium on one side of the campus and a baseball field and tennis courts on the other. And in the middle of campus there was a small quarter mile long park. Flush with green and the shadows of the trees were like lacework on the paved path. It was beautiful and nothing I was anticipating. The following day I was offered the job.

It has been less than 2 years since George passed. I feel myself aching to move and experience what is out there. I’ve always wanted to live south because in college when I was learning about southern history it felt like a distant world. Even when George was alive I talked about how I wanted to move with him to Texas if his work ever decided to relocate him. Well this isn’t Texas but I think George has given me the push to take a risk and have me live the way I dreamed of.

Ill be moving to Alabama this summer and taking over the Huntingdon Women’s Lacrosse Program. It’s my next adventure and I cannot wait to live in a place I’ve read so much about and be around people who actually know who William Yancey is.

My time at Drew was so special and the unconditional love and support I received during my darkest days has given me strength to want to continue living. The people I’ve met here in New Jersey have impacted my life and will have a special place in my memories. image