Emotionally inducing memories

IMG_0248Right 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:

http://hopeforwidows.org/triathlon-grief-fear-strength/

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.IMG_0235

 

 

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.

Dealing with Deployment

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Feeling alone in a crowd

My heart has been heavy, like an anchor keeping me in a perpetual state of worry. I’m making a career change, and I’ve been offered a few jobs but nothing I can see myself truly embracing. I feel the most alive when I’m sucked into research, writing, and creating content. But there’s the deep sense of emptiness creeping up my backside and I’m unable to avoid it. I feel the jaws slowly penetrating my skin and digging deeper and deeper.

I’m feeling the absence. I’m feeling the weight of all the life changes hitting me from all angles. I am not okay. The thirst for control is bubbling and I’ve made necessary changes I know will provide me with that grip to hold on during this turbulence.

  • I remind myself there is an end point to this deployment, he will return in October. In October I’ll be able to hold his hand, feel his warmth, press my head into his clavicle. There is an end. But I cannot look up too soon because it will feel longer than it needs to. That’s a lesson I’ve learned from running. Don’t aim for the end too soon, save enough energy for that final push.
  • I’ve gone through far worse in my life than a 6 month deployment. There is an end to this.
  • I need to let go of what I cannot control
  • Don’t behave in ways you’ll regret– no alcohol.
  • Allow time for recovery– Keep my multiple work out days to a minimum.
  • Eat healthy on a budget– provides a mental stimulus to find deals
  • Track all receipts to prevent over spending
  • Take care of the dogs so they’ll take care of me

There’s moments in the day when I feel guilty for feeling sad. He’s in another country, sleeping on a bunk around other soldiers with little to no privacy, working 12 hour days. I’m here, in the comfort of our home, with a roof over my head, electricity running through the wires, and clean water at my expense.

The extent of my woes are I feel pressure to find a meaningful job, although all things considered I believe it’s my own personal pressure on the issue. Many who have been in a similar situation tell me I am in no rush. Enjoy this freedom. But it’s a lot to handle to be honest. I don’t want to make another mistake like I did taking the position at Huntingdon. It’s my best interest to separate from there because it was a poor professional decision. But it led me to him. And I need to shore up because I have 4 more months of alone time.

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

Career Change

IMG_4422It might be time to edit my website…

I’m no longer coaching college lacrosse. For the last 10 years it has been my life, my everything, my first true love. But about 2 weeks ago I met with my athletic director and it was decided that this might not be the route I should take.

I’m not upset about this. I’m excited, I’m seizing opportunities left and right, I’m ENJOYING this stress-free time. I no longer need to censor and edit myself, I can finally go out in public to places where if someone sees me acting carelessly it doesn’t reflect on some other greater entity. There’s no more perpetual worry about what my players are doing or acting, did I respond to the recruit, what events am I signed up for. I feel a tremendous amount of relief.

I’ve been applying for jobs in new career fields. I had a phone interview today with an insurance company. I’ve never really worked in finance, but I didn’t hide it and they seemed more interested in my personality than my experience. They told me to call them back if it’s a job I’m interested in pursuing. I interviewed yesterday with a non-profit. I want to learn how to grant-write and help create a better place for people to co-exist in. I have an in-person interview on Thursday. I’ve been offered a handful of writing freelance jobs. Finally using my master’s degree the way it was intended to. Finally, I am working as a group fitness instructor and really taking the time to expand my knowledge and skills by reading more and more about fitness trends, techniques, and concepts.

I am happy. I am relaxed. I am excited for this new adventure.

My cortisol levels has decreased tremendously too. I can tell because my belly is flattening out, and my skin is clearing up. Yeah, I’ve managed to lose inches since departing Huntingdon. All this sudden change has been interesting to say the least. In addition, my boyfriend is deployed so I’m by myself here in Alabama. But my support system has been coming through. I’ve been running with a running group. Going out with my kickball teammates and friends. I feel like I’m living a life that I was supposed to be doing and it made me think about the first season without George.

I believe the luster began to wear off the moment he died. That 2014 team is forever my favorite because they saved my life. They gave me a purpose. But most importantly, they inspired me to find new passions, to find meaning in all of the madness going on around me. And college coaching, for right now, is not my purpose. Maybe I’ll move back towards it at another time, but it’s time for me to figure out how to build my own nest.

Using Food to Heal

When the going gets tough, we tend to flee to the pantry. Grab a bag of chips, Oreos, candy, whatever it may be to try and eat our emotions. Or when a routine we’re familiar with gets broken and the fill the empty time we start drinking more, or snacking when we’re not even hungry. Does this seem familiar to you?

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Sometime we try to hide behind food. Eat to heal our pain and to shun the world away. But if we’re increasing our consumption and not countering it with increased exercise, doesn’t that just draw more attention to us? Receiving unwanted glances when we are at the grocery store, or a judging sigh from a colleague when ordering at a restaurant?

I’m guilty of using food to heal. I am no exception to this. Right now my world is spinning since my boyfriend left for training and soon will be leaving for his deployment. I feel the same uneasiness and the flighty thoughts are reappearing. The need to stay busy, to occupy every minute of every day with something has returned. So has the stress eating.

I’ve been craving sweets before bed. Almost like the sugar will provide me the same comfort that a warm body next to me will do. Some nights I’m stronger to resist than others. But there’s one thing I have learned over the years and that is there has to be boundaries. There has to be a limit to what is consumed. I do not diet because I don’t like to restrict, but I am mindful of what I consume. And I’m also aware that though the short term satisfaction might be ideal, the long term will not be.

The cravings are a feeling of losing control. I can control food, and how I react to it. If I had sweet snacks late at night, the next morning I make it my duty to perform 60-90 minutes of exercise. That way the calories I consumed can be incinerated quickly. This is my revenge against unwanted calories.

Stress eating does get the best of me once in awhile, but I make sure to have the weapons to combat it. Eat foods dense in nutrients, fuel my body correctly just in case those late night cravings happen. I also have realized when I make my own meals, I have less of these cravings. Like after George passed away, the feeling of making something gives a sense of accomplishment, so even though there’s a sense of loss right now and I’m trying to reestablish routines, I still can manage my personal reaction to what is going on in my own world and head. Nothing is too big to handle, just the effort level might be more than what we’re looking to give. But then what kind of sacrifices are you willing to make to take another step toward your goals?

I am willing to sacrifice time and sleep. I’ll cut my sleep short to go for a run and I’ll take extra time to cook my own meals if the feeling of accomplishment is my reward rather than having regret, and more complaints on why I’m not hitting my goals.

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Pressing stress

November is such an interesting month. My birthday came and went, and in my professional life this is the most important recruiting month of the year. Plus on top of it all the third anniversary is waiting for me on the 25th. It’s been a bit of a task balancing it all. I’m excited, busy, but under it all there’s this stress building. It came crashing down on Friday when I knew I had too much on my plate. I had to sign a lease for my new house, but I had 4 recruits on campus doing overnights. I also was running my first recruiting showcase on Saturday. Plus I was still needing to manage my current players on the team and make sure they’re doing well in their lives. I crumbled, I crashed, I burned, but I made it through. Everything went smoothly.

This week has always been a little sad for me. Tomorrow will be the last night/day George is home with me. On the 15th he goes to the hospital 3 years ago, and then on the 19th he comes home to hospice care. These next 10 days are tough. Those memories are still so fresh, and I sometimes wish they would disappear. Why can’t I remember what happened in 2012 so clearly? Replace 2013 with memories from then? Actually I do remember 2012… I was recruiting, I went to the IWLCA convention and I wasn’t with George. I was doing my job. And there you have it, it’s this ongoing conflict I have with the most important aspect of my job: recruiting. It takes me away from my life, but it’s a necessary sacrifice I have to make in order to be successful. In order for my school and team to prosper. So I have come to grips with it.

I’ve also noticed that when times are good, I don’t think about George as much as a should. It’s when things take a turn for worse I think about him. I think about all the lessons I learned from him and how he impacted my life and affected the people around him. I look to him for answers, and wish he was around for me to talk to so I could flush and work out ideas. I feel bad I don’t think of him as much during the good times. But I do think about him when I get noticed. I always think he has his hand in some things that happen in my life.

For the months of November and December I was selected to this thing called ‘The List’ in RSVP Magazine. It’s a group of influential young professionals in the River Region the magazine highlights. I was highlighted for this issue, and the month is so serendipitous I can’t help but think he was involved. I just need to get to December.

Here’s the link: https://issuu.com/rsvpmontgomery/docs/novdecscreen16

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Relax, rejuvenate, impregnate

This morning when I woke up, the weirdest sensation came over me. I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t happy, I was just alive and staring at the ceiling and thought, I’m alone. I woke up on George’s side of the bed and imagined that I was laying on him. Then I realized it was almost noon and I should really get going to work…

I decided to make myself a juice for brunch. I hadn’t made a fresh juice in a really long time, and I always get tons of vegetables delivered to my apartment on Mondays from the co-op. So I made a carrot, spinach, pear and kiwi juice. It really knocked the numbness out of me, to be honest. I drank that juice and felt really good. So good. Borderline happy. My thoughts were clear, my mood was stabilized and I think I only cried on the tail end of my ride to work, which is an enormous improvement, seeing that I usually cry from the moment I leave my complex to the time I pull into the parking spot at work about 45 minutes later…

This evening, I went to bereavement yoga at the hospice, which was basically described to me as geriatric yoga. For half of the class we were doing breathing and stretching exercises in the chair. I did them, but I admit I thought it was really a waste of time. But at the very end of the class I felt incredibly relaxed and rejuvenated. I cried a little bit during one of the breathing exercises at the end, but something the yoga instructor said really resonated with me. She said, in order to pass high school, you have to take tests. In order to pass in life, you have to overcome challenges. Grief is the ultimate challenge and a chapter in your life. It won’t be easy, but like every test or chapter, there’s a beginning- a middle- and end. I really liked that for some reason. I plan on going to bereavement yoga again next week, because I haven’t cried tonight and my mental mood is really strong.

As I mentioned, I haven’t cried tonight, but I got a strange email. It’s time to decide on whether I want to renew George’s cryobank. Before George started doing Chemo about 5 years ago, he froze some of his sperm while it was still good. I decided awhile back that I never want to have kids. But now with him being gone, and this being the last genetic link to him, I’m having second thoughts… I don’t want to have kids, but IF I WERE to have children, I’d want George to be the father. But how do you explain to a kid that their father was already dead when they were conceived? I don’t plan on impregnating myself this year, and probably not next year either. But I’d like to keep the option open. To spin off of yesterday’s post about dating, what happens if I meet a really wonderful person and explain to him that I want to have my dead husband’s child? Isn’t that a bit weird? Thinking about having a little George running around does warm me up… but I also really dislike babies and kids under the age of 10 years old. I think I’ll renew the cryobank, because I can’t even imagine ridding the world of the last genetic piece of the sweetest man ever.

I actually found this really funny paragraph George wrote about his frozen sperm:

“I am a Cancer Survivor with a very rare cancer.  I continue to participate clinical trials at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  Trial participants are strongly encourage to “bank their sperm.” The side effect of these experiments can bring into question the integrety of sperm and can even create impotence. 

 I have some particularly awesome semen on ice at a local sperm bank.  It may be the strongest and potent sperm I will ever produce again.  I’m not saying…but ah,  you know it is nice to have an option.  These cryobanks charge a yearly fee to keep it frozen using some sort of nitrogen freezing method.   So when people started asking what I wanted for my birthday…this is the first thing that came to mind.”

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Gusty return

The polar vortex is descending on NYC right now and the wind is deafening. High pitched whistles are endlessly swirling outside my window as I write this.

My 3 week hiatus of being away from the apartment has come to an end. I returned to work today and I proudly can say I kept my door open for the majority of the time I was in the office. There was only one point where my grief crept in and I couldn’t swallow it any longer. My dog knew I was sad, and he pawed his way to my lap and we just sat there for a half hour or so keeping each other company. He’s a sweet dog and a great companion for me. Usually he just wants to run around and say hi to the other coaches in the office.

When I came home to the apartment, I felt incredibly empty inside. I began reading the posts on YWBB.org to see if anyone else had experienced this overwhelming emptiness and I became distracted after a message I received from a friend about how they were thinking of me and hoping everything was okay. The mental state I was in at this point has been classified by the DSM V as “losing your shit.” I unwound quickly. The more I tried to keep it together, the quicker I unravelled. To be more productive than sitting on the couch sniffling, I started peeling potatoes and I sliced my finger pretty good. While tending to the wound, I started thinking about moving forward. Living life without George. And I quickly questioned, how is someone supposed to live when they feel dead inside? My heart is more than broken at this point. My heart has turned to rocks; Cold, hard, and inanimate. And the wooing gusts outside are mocking me. Joyfully rushing between buildings, stirring up a harmony of howls. I really wish I weren’t alone tonight.

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