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

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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Happy Birthday George

Today is George’s birthday. I’m feeling his absence a lot today. There’s this hollowness inside me I can’t fill. It’s almost like his death is very real today, which is odd because I know he’s not coming back. But I can’t explain it. I feel very off and sad. This morning I watched a video we had made when we used to blog, and it made me so happy to hear his voice, and see him smile. But then it’s gone. I have to search for it if I want to hear it. I allowed my mind to float back in time to when we grabbed a cab to his birthday party in K-town. We had just started dating and it was carefree, wonderful, and fleeting. I was embarrassed by the age difference, but I couldn’t get enough of him. I miss his sense of humor, I miss his lightheartedness, I miss his laughter, I miss his sense of calmness through all the chaos. I miss him so much. But I’m so thankful I got to be with him.image

My grief

imageCan you imagine having someone love you so much that even after 2 and a half years they still write about how much they love you? To leave this earth with so much love to carry you on? The love I shared with George propelled me to become a better person. I can confidently say I am more social now than I was when he was alive. I say hello to my neighbors, to strangers, just because a friendly gesture might change their entire day. Just like when people show kindness to me it makes my day that much better.  I shouldn’t be ashamed of my grief. But I am.

Grief is love turned inside out. I feel ashamed and weak but I love George. I lost my love once and I recently lost another through an ended relationship, so I can’t help but sit here and be reminded of losing him. I close my eyes and I can see his jaundiced face, but I also try to remember his rosy cheeks and bright blue eyes. His big grin, and his wrinkled forehead, and perfectly shaped eyebrows which I was so envious of. But I remember how he treated me, his words, his touch, and how happy I was with him. I love him so much and my grief is proportioned to how deep the love ran. So much so I continue to write about him, talk about what a wonderful man he was and how he impacted my life. If only we can all be so lucky.

I’ve taken giant leaps forward, but lately I have been taking steps back. But I’m still looking in the direction I want to go. I want to be back on track and continuing to flourish and achieve. I also know people care about me and having me not be my “normal” self is hard to watch. Creates discomfort because I’m not the cheery Julia I usually am. But I come back, I’ve been stringing together lots of happy moments in the day. But I need to grieve. My world became too heavy and I crumbled under the pressure. I fell but I will put one foot forward to get back up again. And because I’ve done this once before I will get back quicker.

I feel weak, but I am not weak. Grief is not a weakness. It’s human nature. If I could suppress this overwhelming feeling of loss, what would separate me from an animal or a machine?  I’ll never stop loving him, and he’ll always have a presence in my life. And if carrying that love is frowned upon, then I don’t know. He changed my life. And he still does. If only we all can be so lucky to leave this earth knowing someone loves us immeasurably.

Goodbye.

 

George Pillows

imageA package was delivered to my apartment on Friday. My dad had told me my cousin made a couple pillows for me and I was really excited when they arrived. She made the pillows out of George’s old neckties. She also made me a cute little clutch purse too. I ripped open the box and there they were. These beautiful patchwork pillows of memories. Staring down at the patterns of each tie, memories pour back. I remembered work days I’d go meet him for lunch in Midtown, fancy dates he would take me on, ties I bought for him, and some I remember he’d get toothpaste on and quickly changed before catching the train. Some he’d wear more than others, and when I traced my fingers over the designs, I remember seeing them hanging in the closets, still knotted and ready to go.

I called my cousin and thanked her over and over again. I had forgotten about the ties, and it was such a wonderful and thoughtful gift. She’s also so talented and I still can’t believe how awesome they came out. I get to rest my head and hug a piece of him again. It makes me feel so complete having them. This losing a loved one is such a process, but having family and people who care makes the journey easier. A lot of self-discovery involved, but I’m glad I have a tremendous bulwark of support.

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

Under Lockdown

How desperately I wish I could title this post Under Pressure and I could come up with a witty Freddie Mercury saying to accompany it, but unfortunately the pressure cooker is turned off and I’ve become ostracized in Connecticut. On Sunday evening, I become feverish and by Monday I was confined to my bed until basically Wednesday when I revisited the doctor. I’ve been feeling better since, but this morning my car keys were stripped from me- have I mentioned I’m 28 years old?- and the locks on the doors quickly fastened. I am on ailing lockdown.

I was planning on returning to New Jersey on Monday, but with the high fevers and feeble attempt at pretending everything was okay, my parents felt it was in my best interest to spend the week at home. I was 100% planning on returning to NJ this weekend once the thunderstorms passed through New England. Except this morning my phone started quacking again, and when I picked up it was my doctor. She had some bad news for me:

“This will be as much of a surprise for you as it is for me, but your blood work came back and you have mono. Not just a slight case of it, you’ll need at least 2 weeks of bed rest.”

Before I could hang the phone up, I swear I heard the locks on the doors make a thud sound, and my mom telling me, there’s no way in hell I’m going back to NJ until next weekend. I need to get better. Damnit, I put up a fight on why I needed to go home, and as I was pleading my case she took the car keys. It’s completely over the top and I know it is, and now I really feel like I’ve regressed back in time. I thought that you could only get mono once? Also, I thought at a certain age you’re no longer supposed to be susceptible to mono? I feel like whenever I come back to Connecticut I immediately turn back between the ages of 15-20. It’s insane.

So I have mono. Yet again. It’s kind of funny because last time I was single for a long period of time was in 2006. I really hadn’t been single since July of 2006 until well George died. Maybe mono is my body’s way of setting up book ends? Or it’s the universe telling me to take a break, slow it down, take care of yourself.

I know Mono is called the kissing disease, and sure I’ve made out with a few people, but I think I gave myself this one. I was doing 2 a day/ 3 a day workouts like 4-5 times a week for the last month. I was working out 10-16 days in a row, and on my “rest days” I was still cranking out either 30-45 minutes of biking or jogging. Was I burning the candle at both ends? Yeah, but it felt good. I loved that I could control my effort entirely. I also went gluten-free in the month of July, and that may have added more stress than needed as well. This whole getting severely sick came as a surprise because I felt I was doing a good job taking care of myself. It also comes at a horrible time because I’m just starting to get in some of the best shape I’ve been in, in awhile and I’m training for a triathlon in September. this is certainly going to hurt the training I’ve already laid down.

1 more week of lockdown in Connecticut, and hopefully I’ll sleep this virus out of my body. I haven’t cried a ton this month. Perhaps the grief manifested into something I could no longer ignore. I’ve heard that happens. Time to recognize.

mono can tame me

mono can tame me

George wants me to smile

For the last 3 and a half days I’ve been incredibly sick. Fevers hovering between 100.8-102.3, some serious stuff that have my organs working overtime. Which reminds me one of George’s favorite bands was XTC. Organs working overtime…senses working overtime. Do you see the correlation? Okay, so I’ve been having some really weird and delusional dreams since getting sick. The worst  came last night into this morning. Really messed my world up.

If you follow me on Instagram I’m always hashtagging “ineedtimetravel” knowing well that it won’t happen. So as I was weaving back and forth from the edge of oblivion at one point I looked up and fully BELIEVED I was back in our Park Slope apartment. I shuffled over in the bed to press against him to only have my feet drop to the floor. I was in a twin bed in my mother’s office room. From that point, somewhat hazy I went to the bathroom and in mid stream my mom barged in asking if anything was wrong. Matters had gone from confusing to embarrassing very quickly. I apologize if this is too informative, but unfortunately these are details of my life I am fully aware I am publishing to the web. But there’s a moral to this I promise.

I went to the walk in clinic to get my throat checked out, yet they wanted me to disrobe entirely and wear the medical gown… Okay I obliged. But all the PA did was take a gander at my nose, ears and throat and prescribe me antibiotics. I’m still unsure why I needed to disrobe for that.

After my mom brought me to the walk in clinic to get medicine- by the way I do feel like I’ve regressed 12 years and its 2002 having a parent drive me around- I came home to a message one of my high school friends sent me. It was very thoughtful and sweet but the opening line was “a love like this comes only once in a lifetime.” I reread those words a dozen more times and that empty spot in my heart began to grow. I hope I don’t only find love once in my lifetime. I’ll have such an unfulfilling future. I think love is the greatest thing this world has to offer and to share it with someone is the most amazing sensation imaginable. And I want it again. I want to lose myself in a person and get into nonsensical arguments about matching Halloween costumes.

As I felt the sadness bearing down, my phone started quacking at me and it was a NYC area code. I picked it up and as I mentioned above I am very sick at the moment. I don’t have a voice. The voice on the other end was shocked to hear me. “Is this Julia?” I croaked yes. He asked if I was okay and I reaffirmed what he must have already assumed; I’m sick. He then reminded me who he was and where we had met and said he’d call me back in a week. Then hung up. I put the phone down next to me and just started laughing. I gave my phone number to this guy in April! But what’s taken him so long to call? Just kidding I suck at returning phone calls.

I felt like George had his hand in all the bizarreness of today. Beginning with having my mom walk in on me on the bathroom to having a guy I met several months ago give me a ring. George loved awkward comedy and today it was at its finest. I think he wanted to see a show, so he set it all in motion beginning with the complete mind twister of feeling like I was back in Park Slope in total and complete bliss.

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