Right 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:
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.
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.
Visiting connecticut did wonders for my confidence, self esteem and just overall well being. I can always rely on the unconditional love of my family to stanch any flow.
I visited Brooklyn with my best friend from HS and college and we walked through park slope and I showed him the apartment George and I lived. We also walked through prospect park. I haven’t been back there since he died. I loved it. It felt so good being back there and remembering all the bike rides, walks, runs, hang outs George and I had there. It was beautiful. I love Brooklyn.
However, upon return to Alabama I do feel all out of sorts again. I hate being so far away from my family, but I do have a growing community here. This afternoon my assistant and I went to NYC Gyros on Commerce St and the owner takes my spin classes in Mondays. It was awesome! He was so friendly and genuinely happy to see me visit his restaurant. Plus the food there is incredible. But when I was sitting there I thought about all the people who pass through your life, whether you interact directly with them or if they are peripheral. I’ve noticed I’ve been doing something with tinder… Yes tinder. I’ve been pretty engaged with people’s back stories. Like what makes them, where they come from, who we know in common, etc. It’s been a fun distraction and I’ve met some really interesting people on there. I know it get a wrap for a hook up site, but the journey’s people have gone through are fascinating. And it has really made me appreciate what I have and not so much have me miss what I can’t have anymore. It also has mustered up some creativity and I’ve started writing fiction again. It’s been awhile since I’ve written fiction, but I feel inspired to create a fanciful life to escape to. Plus I’m surrounded with incredible history here in Montgomery. It was bound to stir up the creative juices.
Raise your glass up to the memories.
Tomorrow I’m packing up my things, grabbing my dog and I’m heading home. As much as I’m moving along, I need to get out of here. With my season ending, my daily routine has been jolted because there is no more practices, game preparation, and scouting. On top of that having to deal with the dissolved relationship and now figuring out how to deal with these gaping holes between events, I concluded the ultimate resolution is I need to leave. So I’m gone. Give myself some mental health days to regroup and surround myself around old friends, former teammates and of course my wonderful parents.
As the days continue to fall forward, I am so grateful for the community around me in Montgomery. This morning I taught my Wednesday morning spin class, and when I first started teaching at Metro I only had 3 people in class. Now I consistently have 10 people, and they are incredibly caring, sweet and jovial. One of the riders texted me after class saying how much they enjoy my class and my energy and enthusiasm, and I started crying when I read it. I’ve found so much salvation and peace of mind when I’m astride a spin bike. I try to put out to everyone how much I love being there with them and sharing the power of fitness and how it can transform you in more ways than just your body.
I started cycling because George loved it so much and it was just one of the slices that made him who he was. He’d pump the tires on his bike before going to sleep so he could bike to work in the mornings. He tried so desperately to get me into biking that he would encourage me to bike to Penn Station before catching the train to Madison, NJ. When I was away, him and his best friends would ride around NYC finding the best restaurants, hitting up Broadway shows or concerts. He loaned his road bike out to his friend, just so someone else could enjoy biking as much as he did. When he was in Atlanta he founded the Atlanta Biking Group. When I’m on a bike- outdoor or indoor- I feel like it connects me to him. So it’s not a surprise I’m falling back on the power of cycling. It helped me throughout the initial grieving process, and in this recent bout of grief it’s supporting me again.
I feel this grief is solely brought on by the sudden changes. I was afraid to fully commit to having to deal with myself just by myself. I don’t have my team to commit myself to, but I do have my program, which I’ve been focusing in on. I’ve been doing clinics, setting up my summer schedule, finding camps to go to. Marketing and promoting Huntingdon Lacrosse. But I can’t help but feel disconnected, and I’m hoping this trip home will allow me to resolve and allow the wound to scab back over.
George and I had a food blog. We used to poodle around NYC looking for the best of the best, good deals, good vegan options, busts, and of course home recipes. It was a hobby with both enjoyed and a way we bonded. Blogging was a staple in our relationship and writing was the foundation of it. We met in a creative writing master’s program. So I write because I desire to find the words to redevelop and unlock the memories I had with him which serves as a means for me to feel connected and work through losing him. My posts aren’t as frequent now as they were in the early months, but my grief and feeling of loss isn’t as prevalent.
My method of operation to combat grief first was with writing, and then fitness. Now I pretty much have the fluctuating emotions in check. Beginning of the new year it was rearing its ugly head, but again the power of words helped me sort through it. The phrase time heals all wounds is accurate. But it’s naive to think I’m the same person I was 2 years ago. I was active in changing my spirit and mind by changing my body too. Early on my thoughts would drift to those moments when George was gaunt and jaundiced. His cheeks sunk inward, and his lips chapped from the medicine and the blue in his eyes popped because of the yellowish tint where it should’ve been white. But even when that was happening he still told jokes, he still made me laugh, he expressed so much love to everyone around him. And because of his joy of life it made me feel guilty that I was crippled by his absence. I knew if I was sad he would be devastated, so I worked on bettering myself from within. Finding reason to get out of bed. And luckily I had a responsibility of coaching my lacrosse team and running a program, but even more simplistic than that, I had a sweet little man I needed to care for.
Bodie grieved along with me. He would cry behind doors, snuggled close to George’s pillow, and just occupy his side of the bed. Those nights he hopped off the bed and whine just on the other side of the door tore me up inside. One time he did it at 430a and I called my mom because it was so sad. But together we changed and those dark memories became better. I remember the times George would play the guitar and make songs about Bodie and his love of his blue ball. Those times we walked through Prospect Park to the doggy beach and met other terriers for Bo to play with and then ignore just seconds later. I don’t remember the days he was dying as clearly, and it’s a blessing.
Writing allowed me to remember the good times, sort through my sorrow, find meaning in the memories, and bridge my old life to the one I continue to build now.
Ive been seeing Mike for over 7 months now. It’s going very well, though we’ve had our struggles. I’m now in my 30s and I’ve seen many of my friends get married and also see a select few have to go through divorce. I’ve noticed that some of the ones going through divorce suffer from a form of grief. Which isn’t a surprise because their life is drastically changing and sometimes dealing with those emotions are very difficult and confusing. It’s not the same, clearly, as a spouse passing but I’m empathetic to the drastic life changes and the struggle to get back into the dating game.
I feel complete when I’m around Mike. Life is good, and the companionship makes dealing with stress, whether it’s from work or not exceeding self-expectations, much more tolerable. He makes me feel special and it makes me feel special and unique. This weekend I had games and we went 0-2, but he supported me all weekend long and helped me not dwell on the losses but see the good in them more. He’s been following my team all season long and reminds me how far the team has come since the first game. And sometimes coaching gets the best of me and I really can get hung up on the wins and losses. I have expectations for myself and I set the bar high and if I can’t achieve or deliver I do get down on myself quickly. And to put it bluntly, I can be a real bitch. He’s been a good balance to me.
I think about old Julia and how immature I would be with wins and losses versus now. I remember when I was coaching at Sacred Heart I would be so angry after losses and just be downright mean to George. He would support and do things not so different than Mike but I wasn’t receptive to it. I just think of how far and how much I’ve grown up and how now I’m capable of separation of work and personal life, and have a functioning relationship. Our past certainly molds us into the people we are, but how we come out of the worst situations and how we learn really does build us and forms our character. Take care of the little things and once those add up the big things will follow.
I took a big leap of faith moving to Alabama, and I’m glad I did. I’m happy with how things are turning out, and I feel more levelheaded. Lacrosse is going well, life is improving, and the relationship stuff is coming together. I really do feel like I can give my all to every aspect of my life, and for awhile there I didn’t think I was capable of that kind of balance.
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.
A 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.
Im not sure if I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but I thought I would revisit the days after George came home and told me he was dying. Not conversation a 27 year old is prepared for, nor was I able to process the information adequately as my mom tends to bring up til this day.
when George sat me down and told me he wasn’t getting better and he was going to die, he mentioned to me I can go see a therapist about him dying. A death therapist you could call it. He had been visiting her weekly since he was diagnosed with cancer and reassured me she was helpful. I brushed it off and said I didn’t need to go. I told him she wouldn’t have been of help to me. To this day I cannot confirm nor deny if my life would be better only if I visited her.
Some nights when George would come home from the city, we would have dinner together at home and just hang out. Usually my legs would be crossed over his lap and I would be tapping away at a game on my iPad. He would bring up his cancer and I would just shrug it off and keep playing pointless games on my iPad. At one point he told me I was using the games as distraction because I was in denial and of course I denied such an absurd accusation. I now see that I was using it as a scapegoat because I was in denial.
ive been noticing lately I’m sliding back into that trend. When the going gets tough I bury my head into my iPhone. Clicking through apps, checking emails, basically avoiding the issue in front of me. Tonight I was at Mike’s apartment and I started to do that, and he even told me to put my phone down and It made me remember those nights with George I wish I could have back. Nights I wish I could hold his hand rather than tap tap away.
Nothing gold can stay, and I learned that the hardest way possible. I love a distraction, but enjoying the time and moments right now are crucial, because in a flash everything can change. I just needed to remind myself about what’s important at and what is just an illusion.
When George was receiving treatments he would go to the hospital and then come home. In his final months, I took Tuesday’s off too. The idea of taking Tuesday’s off has lingered. I do work on Tuesdays but I tend to use Tuesday’s as a rest day. I don’t know why this has held on, but for some reason I just go with it.
When Tuesday’s would roll around George and I would get brunch and then head into the city. Sometimes he had early appointments and I would hop on the path train and meet him for lunch. I remember how peaceful it was to be hand in hand with him. Walking around NYC or Jersey City. I miss those Tuesday’s. I miss him. I have a love/hate with my current affairs. I wish he was around to share my life with, but I wouldn’t be here if he was still around. I wouldn’t be having this experience at Huntingdon or in Alabama if he was still alive. The platitude of everything happens for a reason is so hackneyed, but I’ve done all right for myself all things considered. I’ve done better than all right, I’m thriving. But those thoughts of what if still haunt me. I think they always will. And they pop up frequently whenever I have this cloud of melancholy hovering.