The 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.
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.
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.
The months after George passed I wanted so badly for time to rewind, and everything to go back to normal. Getting out of bed each day was a struggle, but there isn’t any other choice but to put both feet on the ground and keep moving forward. I’d be mindless through the days, running on autopilot, but when the fog lifted and realized I was powered by memories of a past life, I had to figure out how to remain positive under unbearable conditions.
This is when I started using fitness as a tool for displacing my grief and stress. Looking back, I believe I used and still use fitness as an avoidance, or an emotional replacement for my loss. But hurling my body up a hill when all I wanted to do was cry felt amazing. It gave me power, it allowed me to sort my thoughts and begin to believe tomorrow will be better than today. No matter how bad the grief was, the next day it would be better, and fitness showed me that open door. Clipping into a bike and sprinting for 30 seconds wasn’t enough, so the instructor challenged the class to 45 seconds. Could I do it? Of course, because I believed at the end it would be better then what it was at the time.
Believing you are worthy of happiness, worthy of satisfaction can change the outcome of any situation. But there’s a different between being worthy and entitled. Only one person can control how you feel. I had to make myself believe I could be strong again. Grief is powerful and how it’s channeled can mold your new life. I wanted to feel strong, so I chose to also transform my body to look strong. The changes also impacted my mind and self confidence. I knew I had to go on. If you think you can’t go on, you’re already defeated. Kill or be killed. So if you look forward to what’s around the corner, there might be a new lifestyle, adventure or path that awaits. Sometimes we need to be willing to step out of our comfort zones, make necessary changes and see what will happen. Even in during the darkest days, there’s a sun behind those clouds.
“There is a pain so utter that it swallows substance up
Then covers the abyss with trance—
So memory can step around—across—upon it
As one within a swoon goes safely where an open-eye would drop him—
—Bone by bone” ~Emily Dickinson
The weeks and the first couple months immediately after George passed are vague and hard to remember. One of the only reasons I can recall them is because of this blog. The words from my early posts read like another person wrote them. The voice is so foreign to me and the dealings are as if another person that wasn’t me went through it. Yet the two weeks prior to his death are crystal in my mind. I remember the meals I ate, clothes I wore, conversations I had with work, his mom, my parents, his friends, it’s so interesting what the mind will do in order to protect oneself.
Disassociation is a common term that’s thrown around during the grieving process. It’s when your mind separates from what is going on around you. Most common disassociation is daydreaming. During those weeks, I would just stare off, never really being fully present. I have no idea how I went back to work a week after he passed, nor do I fully comprehend how I coached the 2014 lacrosse season. But I did, and rather well if I can toot my own horn here. But as I’ve learned more about disassociation, I’ve realized this is just the minds way of protecting against traumatic events. Almost like a crutch to get by and not really process the thoughts and information that is occurring at that time.
Disassociation can be seen most often at gyms. When the music is blaring, while someone is humming to a song as they lift, or when they’re running with their headphones in. These are all ways to disassociate. There’s an entire fitness movement dedicated to disassociating which is one I love and that’s spin or SoulCycle. Becoming part of the tribe, finding your soul, joining a community. It all centers around leaving all your stresses outside of the classroom doors. And it’s how I jumped into this health and wellness, and why I feel it’s important to embrace that feeling of separation from time to time. Especially during those harder work days, or work outs. Grit your teeth, lower your eyes, acknowledge it will be tough, and know you can do it. Know you’ll give it your best shot, because anything less won’t suffice. So jam those headphones in, stare off in the distance during your yoga classes and count the seconds until you change poses, because what makes us work doubly hard now will pay off down the road. Sprint, jog, walk or crawl, what you need to do to get there, that’s your pace to decide. Don’t allow anyone to judge you on the path you take unless they are walking that journey along side.
For the past month I’ve been having a difficult time falling asleep without using melatonin or other sleep supplements. So as I type this I’m laying in bed at 1a waiting for them to kick in. I’m sure I’ll be extremely tired and irritable tomorrow. Coffee will be my savior, and I shall drink several cups guaranteed.
Today I was invited to try a new gym in Montgomery and see if I like the boot camp style. I’ve done boot camp classes before but this one was a bit different and was mentally very tough and the workout varied. So it wasn’t as aggravating as other boot camp style workouts I’ve done in the past. I was asked if I’d like to teach one a week at a super early time slot. It’s under consideration. I have to say, I love love love teaching and coaching fitness. It truly is my calling and seeing how hard people work and get the results they’re looking for swell my heart.
But that’s not the point of this post. The workout was tough and many times I wanted to stop but kept pushing through. I did the workout with my new assistant coach, and she too was feeling beaten down by the exercises. But we both sweated our butts off and we completed it. She mentioned how she was impressed how quickly I got through it and would complete an exercise and move on to the next station. I was impressed with her resilience and ability to adjust, and not quit. I loved that actually, she just didn’t quit until she finished. I think my players will really admire that about her too because this day and age it’s rare to have. But I sat and thought about her words and my mind set during the work out.
the physical pain of any workout can never match the emotional pain I’ve been through. I don’t focus on how bad I hurt during an exercise, I just look forward to when it will be done. Sort of like grief, I always wanted the next day to come hoping it would be better. With working out, I will never skip a rep or compromise my form, because it will be over and I control it. With losing George, I was out of control. Losing him has continued to fuel me and has forced a different midset as I venture into every day life. Part of my every day is exercise and fitness. He’s shaped my work ethic and how I approach it. He’s like my motor. It’s pretty cool when you sit down and really think about it.
On Friday I got dolled up and headed out. I grabbed a purse that I don’t use tremendously often but I did year ago when I first got it. My sister gifted me a George Gina and Lucy purse in 2009 and I remember being so excited for it. I would carry that thing everywhere. George would comment about how it’s in my favorite color purple.
Before I headed out, I checked all the pockets to see if there’s any old receipts or trash. There were some old coffee and metro receipts, and I think one movie ticket. But then I dug deeper into the front pocket and pulled out a buckeye. Hard little round nugget with a darkened slit that looks like an eye. I remember walking past Rockefellars grave in the Cleveland cemetery and George picking up the buckeye. He handed it to me, grinning, and reminding me how the nut looks like a bucks eye. I dropped it in my purse to remember our trip to his hometown of Bay Village, just outside Cleveland.
Today I found a towel I used when we lived together in Jersey City. I pushed my face into it and it smelled like George. His scent stung in my nostrils and my heart swelled. But then it cracked like a glass in boiling water. It was too much.
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.
“The interval between the decay of the old and the formation and establishment of the new constitutes a period of transition which must always necessarily be one of uncertainty, confusion, error, and wild and fierce fanaticism.”
College summer recruiting is a necessary evil of my job. I shouldn’t call it an evil, but a necessary means to success. Watch, evaluate, contact potential student athletes and draw them to be interested in your school and grasp the vision you’re trying to establish and create with the program. I’ve spent thousands of hours doing this with sometimes great results and other years flipping over every rock possible. The summers I spent going to tournaments, camps, writing emails until 2 in the morning, the moment George passed away it filled me with so much regret. Hours spent chasing players and not spending with him. Unfocused while we’re together because I’m texting and writing recruits. It filled me with regret for so long, but this summer recruiting has been reinvented. It’s been fun for me!
Almost every weekend I’m traveling to attend showcases and I’m really enjoying the process. It’s been a great distraction for me and I’ve been enjoying meeting new people and interacting with the players. I’m helping growing the sport in Alabama and it’s very fulfilling. I’m happy. I feel like myself again. Rain or shine, it’s good to be looking forward to what I do best. And im so excited for what’s around the corner with my program and my career.
Can 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.