Happy 3 year anniversary

Today would’ve been three years married to George. A undercurrent of sadness lingered around all day. I cried on my way to work, cried in my office and then cried on my way home. I taught spin class tonight and sitting astride the bike I felt so happy for having the opportunity to feel so much love. I just feel his presence whenever I’m riding. I can’t explain it. It’s just there. A calmness takes over and I feel it in my muscle fibers and it burrows deep into my bones. He loved biking and when my legs go round and round, I know I’m doing something I was programmed to do. I’m making memories with him still when I’m on a bike, indoor or outdoor.

This was my first anniversary where I’ve spent it pretty alone. The first one I was at Times Square cycle for survival and then went to sacred heart’s alumni game. Last year I spent the second anniversary out on the town with my boyfriend. And this year, went to work. Nothing eventful. And I’m happy I did nothing. I felt like I could really sit down and reflect. Think about George and how much I miss him. Think about the day we got married, how exciting and emotional it was. Seeing all the interesting people at the Manhattan court house. This life I’ve been living without him and how different it is. Wonder what it would be like if he was still alive. I allowed my brain to wander. It was peaceful, and I’m glad for once I didn’t try to distract myself from the chaos.

life moves forward, and so have I.

I love you George. And I always will.

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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.

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

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

Second Christmas

imageThere are no firsts anymore. Each day is a repeat. Last year on Christmas I was in California sitting outside in the sun watching Netflix on my iPad as everyone opened gifts and spent family time together. I wanted to disappear. I didn’t want to exist a year ago. Christmas last year was the one month mark since George died. Today it’s the 13 month mark since he was in my life.

In a year so much has changed. I remember demanding to be taken back to the hotel last year because the hate, dread and sadness that swallowed my soul was too much to bear. I was suffocating with each breath. My life meant nothing without him.

Today I reflect back on that time and though the struggle was horrendous, it has made me who I am now. I dont think I can convey how dark those early months were. I just didn’t wish to be present. I was stuck between the devastation of reality and the yearning for the past. But today I look forward for the wonders of tomorrow. I love each day, regardless of how difficult they can be.

I have transformed my life simply because I couldn’t continue to loath. I would feel guilty about being so sad because I know All George would want me to be is happy, and when I felt those blips of contentment I would feel guilty about not grieving enough. I sound like a broken record but I had to relearn how to live and embrace the opportunities that present themselves.

imageThis year has been a whirlwind, but when I look in the mirror, when I think about where I was at this time a year ago, I just can’t help but be completely proud of how far I’ve come. It’s imperative during the grieving process to find one thing that provides you the feeling of control. Something that will help steer as everything you know begins to fall and reform. It will never feel normal, nothing will ever be the same, but change shouldn’t be feared. As much as you may want everything to remain, that life and reality cannot exist without that one person. So it’s every individuals job to carve out a new path, a new route in this journey that provides stimulation and meaning. Today I am proud of myself for surviving this first year without George. But as time comes between us, his love and our time together will always be the paving on my journey. I think about him and tell him I miss him everyday.

I felt him on my 9.5 mile run today. I heard his voice as my legs began to cramp up, because nothing in this world can motivate me the way he does. He’s my guy. He’s my fuel. A love so powerful that it goes beyond this world.

My second Christmas as a widow. The pain does lessen but the love is still strong.

The Ransom

In 7 days George dies.

My world froze in time and a geyser of misery erupted. The pain and disorientation consumed my days and left me trying to stanch the flow in any way possible. So much so that I did things I regret, lost friends I cared for, and compromised who I am. Eventually I learned that time keeps moving forward. Time became my silent killer. It keeps moving forward and waits for no one. Either you’re moving with it or you live in the past.

But as I was drowning, never once did I stop trying to get to shore. I wanted to reinvent and feel in control. And for awhile I wasn’t gasping anymore. I was finally touching land. But then the scab split open and the misery poured down on me again and pulled me back under. I’ve lost my footing. Except this time I have clarity. I see what’s happening, and I know what’s coming for me. It’s worse this time around. I’m not in shock, I’m not wondering if he’ll still be alive tomorrow. He’s not. And I’m watching this replay and I don’t want to feel it happen again.

Im watching the worst movie created and I know what happens to the hero in the end.

Each day I can see his gaunt face, and icy blue eyes when I wake up. When I go into work, when I come home and when I go to sleep, I see his face every time I blink. And I can’t do anything. My brain won’t shut off.

I’m awake in a nightmare once again. My grief and memory are holding me ransom. But what’s the exchange?

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Beginning of the end

A year ago today, I had just finished walking Bodie and as I stepped out of the apartment complex I saw George walking back in. I was befuddled on why he wasn’t at work considering he left an hour or so ago.

When I asked him why he wasn’t at work he looked confused and said he wasn’t feeling well. I told him he should think about calling his doctors and see what they have to say.

He went into the hospital a year ago today.

I’m reliving these memories, with the curtain of shock lifted, and it’s more painful now then it was when it was happening. It’s like watching a movie when you already know what’s going to happen.

I can’t believe its almost been a year. I never spent more then 2 weeks away from him.

New nightmares

Lately Ive been having nightmares. Not the kind where you desperately want to wake up from but the kind where you are so disoriented once you do wake up. They leave me upset and confused, and are really pulling at a string that is in the back of my mind.

Im approaching the 1 year mark, and I really miss George. I’ve always missed him, but as of lately when I wake up from these strange dreams and when I get home from work I just want to see him. I just want to talk to him and tell him everything that’s been going on for the last year. As I write this I can picture the excitement in his eyes and his enthusiasm about my accomplishments. He would tell me something funny that happened to him at work or the terrible music his spin instructor played. I just really miss the uneventful moments we used to have. Those seemed like the best moments now that they’re gone.

But back to the dreams. So in my life I’ve had reoccurring dreams. Usually involving a car accident. I haven’t had one of those recently. But lately I have them where I see George and he doesn’t recognize me. I’ll go out and he’ll be at the field or the house and he just wouldn’t know who I am. It really freaks me out. I do not look how I used to. But I know if he were alive he would be so proud of me and be happy that I’m becoming healthier. But without the reassurance I fear that he will not remember me.

During this grief journey I wanted to become someone different. But now that I have, am I afraid of letting go? Another wid asked me this a couple weeks ago and I arrogantly said I have let go. But maybe I’m just hiding and my mind is reminding me. I don’t know. People say those who pass watch over you, sometimes I feel him. When I ran across the Golden Gate Bridge I did. When I go into NYC I feel him sometimes. This grief stuff is really kicking my ass. The lead up to this one year mark has been playing my nerves like a fiddle. I’m cracking as the days crawl closer.

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Widow weight

imageI feel like I have a boulder dragging behind me everyday since I got the news George was dying. The day he passed that boulder became a mountain and rather than dragging it, I turned around and stared at it. The unforgiving hopelessness and the perpetual wondering if I can carry on consumed my mind, but eventually the massive rock formation returned to a manageable size, and I’m back to tugging it along day to day. But unfortunately, as of late, it is getting heavier and more difficult to manage. I’m staring down a long windy road, and the shadow of this boulder is darkening the path in front of me.

Ive been getting increasingly irritable and angry as the first anniversaries pull closer. I try really hard to distract my mind, but the beats are becoming louder and the melody is crescendoing. I cannot control my anxiety nor do I believe I should continue to do so. I think this is an appropriate emotional reaction to something so unavoidably damaging. For the sake of how I will be viewed at work, I have been deflecting discussions about my grief. But this week, during a 4 hour sexual assault forum, I became very agitated and I realized that this grief must be felt. So I’m slowly turning around to stare at what I assume has transformed into a mountain. I’ll stare at it and give up any efforts of trying to scale or get around it.  It’s so gigantic that all I can do is hum and haw until I find a new direction.

I find a tremendous amount of comfort in exercising and escaping to my own little world. When the endorphins are pumping I feel at peace for minutes, hours and sometimes days. But lately, my normal routines aren’t enough. I’m starting to increase the intensity and duration. The discomfort fuels me. Today I biked 45km and ran 10km afterwards. When I was running I had a painful cramp in my side for 5km of it but I decided I couldn’t stop and needed to keep going. Physical pain is nothing compared to the emotional pain I’m enduring right now. So I just go. As I plugged along on my run, I do wonder if George would be proud of me. And sometimes I think he would, but other times I don’t think he would recognize me. I barely recognize myself. I’m not the same girl I used to be. I’m stronger now, but because I’m stronger I will crumble slower but I’m afraid it might take longer to build myself back up.

Can someone wake me when this nightmare is over?