Why I write

Photo 119George 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.

 

Missing Earring

At the end of each Wilkes University writing residency they always throw a banquet/party. I loved those closing residency outings and when George graduated with his Masters (before me) we went to the banquet together. As we were heading out to Wilkes, we were hanging out together in his dorm room and at one point he insisted that we leave. I remember looking at him somewhat mystified because we would be there painfully early. And finally, he stood up uneasily and said, “we need to leave because I don’t trust myself around you. I like you.” I never suspected he liked me and it took me by surprise. Those few words were all we needed for the most beautiful love story anyone could imagine. Sometimes I can’t even believe it happened.

At the banquet/party we had a great time with our friends, professors and other faculty, then afterwards a bunch of us headed back to George and Scott’s (grad friend also) shared dorm room. I was pretty inebriated so I made the decision to crash in their common room, where there was no couch so I had to sleep on the floor. At one point, when staring up at the ceiling I decided I no longer wanted to sleep on the floor but share the bed with George. A dorm bed. I knocked on his door, and as he opened the door all I saw was his wide grin. I asked if I could sleep next to him and he said sure. Immediately laying side-by-side we both felt how perfectly we fit together. I know what many of you are thinking, and no we did not do anything, although there were attempts made.

As he had his arm tossed over my waist, he started kissing my neck and ear, and eventually fell asleep. I woke up the next morning VERY early, at about 6a and rolled out from underneath his arm. I was terribly sluggish, ill and somewhat confused. I called my roommate at the time to come pick me up. Hours later, George called me to see if I wanted to go out to lunch with him and a few others. I said sure and met up with them. I went to lunch wearing a full face of make up from the night before and in sweats. I was struggling. As we were at lunch, George leaned over and told me I forgot something in his bed. I twisted my head quickly, and just stared at him. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a silver earring. I reached up to my left ear, and it was bear while the right earring was dangling. I grabbed it from him and laughed.

Last Spring I was getting out of my car at work and wearing the same earring from that night. And one of them went missing. I was pissed because I loved those earrings and George always acknowledged them when I wore them. He remembered when I lost them in his bed. When he died, I opened my draw at my desk at work where the lone earring rests now. Losing that earring in his bed the first night we spent together was foreshadowing of what was to come. A perfect pair now separated by the entropy that comes with cancer.

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Stop and realize

When George and I started dating I was just moving back home to Connecticut after living 2 years in Pennsylvania. He was working and living in NYC and my move to CT made it the perfect storm for us to become involved with one another. Just a train ride away. He must have really loved me because he was 41 at the time and I was 23 and living at home in CT with my parents… I always thought it was incredibly awkward but funny that he was going to his girlfriend’s parents house for the weekend in his 40’s. But he was an amazing sport about it all.

Some of my graduate school friends have been reaching out to me lately about how amazing our love story is. They really saw it from the beginning and had first row seats to see it blossom and flourish. I knew it was special. I’ve always known because arguably it was “love at first sight.” I would come home from graduate school and talk about George to my parents and I was just so smitten from the get go. Which is strange to think about because I was in a relationship at the time with someone who wasn’t George and he was in one with another woman too. But when we got together it was like a locomotive without breaks. We flew and it was amazing the entire time. My ultimate concern is do love like these only come once in a lifetime? Will I be able to find it again? I don’t know. I just go-go-go with my days and if something great happens, awesome. If it doesn’t, well maybe tomorrow it will. Widowhood can lead to a  precarious livelihood. I’m learning it more and more as I descend this journey. As a wid friend put it, it’s a continuous balancing act from day to day. We have emotional extremes.

George made me a better person when we were together. It was apparent in my attitude toward life and everything. Even in his death I believe he continues to allow me to grow, mature and improve myself. I try to live my life to make him proud, but I do have moments where I’m not okay with my decisions. But I don’t dwell, I learn from them. I know he would want me to be happy and live life to the fullest. Like he did.

Okay, I’m not going to stretch this out too much. Basically, I have to learn to love myself and in order to I needed to start taking care of myself. Here’s a side-by-side picture from February to today. All my friends probably are sick of seeing this, but I didn’t realize how drastic of a change it was. George would need a double take of me and then probably tell me my arms are too muscular. But that’s okay, I love it and I am proud. I want to continue to improve and strengthen my soul, body and mind.

SoulCycle + cross training + running + lifting = Boom, transformation.

SoulCycle + cross training + running + lifting = Boom, transformation.

It’s not getting easier

It seems the weather outside seems as fickle as I am. Yesterday it was 45 degrees and this afternoon, when I woke up… it was 8 degrees. I’ve been having serious insomnia problems. Hence why most of my posts are at 2:30a. I’m committed today to going to bed at midnight. I have to wake up early tomorrow and get breakfast for my assistant and me. My assistant has been amazing throughout this whole thing. From the moment George’s health started to spiral downward in the Spring to when I found out he was terminal in September to when I had to miss work for 2 weeks due to hospice and his death. She’s been a champ and I couldn’t have asked for a better assistant to support me.

I was crying a lot today. My sadness was crippling. I couldn’t bring myself to do anything until about 8pm today when I finally started cooking. Cooking does help me feel better. I don’t think I’ve ever been as sad as today. My dog was just looking at me, and when I looked at him I wept saying, “He’s never coming home.” I want the shock back. With the gradual fog lifting, this is too painful to endure. So with so much sadness, I decided it was time to revisit the grief journal. I did the first two writing prompts in my grief journal and now I’m going to do the third. This one is brutal.

Dear George,

What you never understood is how important you are/were in helping me grow up. We met when I was only 22 and just months out of college. I had never been more than 15 minutes from home and after college, living in Wilkes Barre was hard and I needed a friend like you. The moment I saw you walk into the classroom, I was smitten. I would talk to my parents and tell them about the man from Atlanta. I looked forward to seeing you whenever the Wilkes University residencies came. You were a light in the darkness during that time. When we started dating, I disliked who I had become and when you would tell me how beautiful I was, I never believed it. And it was because I didn’t love myself and couldn’t fathom why anyone could love me. But you did. You made me a complete person. And when I was complete I became happy, and it changed my attitude about life. Your love was so powerful and I don’t think you ever realized how much you impacted me. You helped me become a better and more understanding person. Having you in my life made me the happiest I’ve ever been. And now without you, I’ve never been this depressed and lonely. Your love meant everything to me.

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Mission Accomplished

As I mentioned, yesterday would’ve been my 3 month anniversary being married to the greatest human being to enter my life. I decided that I would spend as much of the day doing what George and I liked to do around Christmas and that would be go to the shops at Union Square and Bryant Park. Well with several obstacles in my way I did eventually get to both places, but it was abbreviated visits.

This morning George’s work called me to tell me they were going to drop off his personal items to my apartment while picking up some of the company owned computers. Because of George’s cancer he wasn’t always in the best shape to go to work so he worked from home 3 days a week starting back in May. Now the big secret comes out on why I always took Tuesday’s off. With lacrosse I have a very nontraditional work schedule so often times I would be out recruiting on weekends, and having on-campus visits during the week. So when George was home on Tuesdays, I quickly decided Tuesdays would be my day off too. We treated Tuesdays like a Saturday by making it banana pancake day. George claimed I made the best banana pancakes, but I think he was just being nice.

Anyway, getting away from my tangent, around 1pm his work finally came and we made the exchanges. Once they left, I started to go through the boxes, because George said prior to becoming disoriented that he still had some of our wedding checks to deposit. I slowly started going through the boxes in search of those checks, but found something more appealing that he had written.

In our master’s program, once you finished your thesis, script, or book (it was a writing master’s program), you had the write an acknowledgement page. His last paragraph he wrote, “To Julia who is a great inspiration to everything in my life. We met at Wilkes and when we are famous we will return to Wilkes to speak about how great we are. Julia, you’ve given me a perspective I had a long time ago; a perspective I had forgotten. Thanks for getting it back for me. You are my love, my muse and my favorite distraction.” To read his words in black and white on a paper sent me into a frenzy. I wanted more of his words, his notes, his thoughts in front of me so I ripped through the boxes from his work looking for more. Between pictures and work scribbles I couldn’t find anything else. So I sat down with his acknowledgement page and read it over and over. It’s pure and honest, and it’s my George.

When I realized that I needed to get to NYC, it was almost 430. I made a goal of getting into the city by 3:30. I rushed outside but there was a monumental distraction. The sunset over Tribeca was breathtaking, and I didn’t need anymore convincing, George had painted me a beautiful sunset. The order of the day was planned out so I would leave at the perfect time to see the salmon streaked skyline. Absolutely stunning.

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I spent about 15 minutes in Union Square before I met my friends at Shake Shack. George always ranted and raved about Shake Shack but we never went together and this was my first time going. Afterwards we all went together to the National Arts Club in Gramercy to meet up with George’s best friend. Being inside of the National Arts Club was an experience that was not like anything else I’ve done. Right when you walk in the floors are a stunning marble and the chandeliers sparkle. In one room, there’s Tiffany glass ceilings and throughout the building there’s amazing christmas lights spiraling on railings and pillars and around not just 1 but 2 christmas trees. In every nook there’s statues and on every wall there’s several paintings. It’s just an amazing building and being there made me feel so incredibly lucky. My friends and I cut our stay short so we could make it to the Bryant Park shops and we got there just before they were closing up. I still got my annual Hot Chocolate from Max Brenners and bought last minute holiday presents. All in all, it was a good day and I could feel George was celebrating with me.

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