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.

Away for Christmas, again

I have this tendency to be away from Connecticut around Christmas. The first year after George passed away I was in California, and the uncertainty and inability to control my emotions haunts me. I always figured I’d never feel that way again because his passing was so fresh. Well here I am, in Florida, sort of feeling the same way again. Not to the extreme, but reflecting and feeling a bit down.

I’m here with my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and niece for the time being. Tomorrow I’m going to hop into my car and head west to St.Petersburg to see my grandmother. My oldest brother flies here in the next couple days. There’s so much unconditional love swirling around me, but my mind is unfocused. My thoughts are fleeting and skipping, kind of like how a rock hops on water. And then there’s that one thought that hangs on and it’s all I can think about. These thoughts that hang on are my insecurities. I know it. I have one which is sinking further and further. It’s making me mad, uneasy, upset, and for what good reason? There isn’t one. It’s stupid and petty, but it hangs there to piss me off and torture me.

George visited me in my dream last night. I wish I could remember the premise of it, but all that I do remember is I lost my engagement ring, and then I found it again. But it was too big for my finger, and I tried hard to hide that it no longer fit. I felt ashamed and embarrassed when I had to show him the ring. What does this mean? I always felt so safe with George, but this dream had a different feeling for me. When I first started losing the weight and transforming, I worried he would no longer recognize me. I am not the same woman I was when he was alive. I’m different now. Maybe this just indicates change and need to push forward. Whatever it means, I am moving along to the next great adventure tomorrow. And maybe along the way, I’ll know what my unconscious mind was trying to reveal to me.

Until then, I’ll lay back with my hands behind my head, Bodie at my feet and my mind skipping along the water until it finally finds the one thought I can sink into.248949_685832100299_1317340_n

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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How fortunate am I?

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Behind my eyes, there’s an endless montage of pictures. On occasion, I stop to look at one of the images that cuts across my vision, and depending what’s there, I can instantly be brought to tears. When I’m participating in physical activity- like running, the montage quickly turns into a flip book and a hurricane of bi-polar emotions makes landfall. There’s nothing more embarrassing than whimpering on the elliptical machine, and then having a full break down while stretching. “She lost her husband, how unfortunate to hear.” “She’s so young too.”

I started packing my apartment up today. I should use the word “started” very loosely. I attempted to pack my apartment up today. That’s better and more accurate. I was able to do 2 bins worth before I found the birthday card George gave me on my 28th birthday… which was 23 days before he died. Yeah, this shitstorm happened really fast. Just to give a quick synopsis for any new readers:

  • married 9/19
  • wedding reception 10/19
  • honeymoon 10/21-10/25
  • 28th birthday 11/2
  • hospitalized 11/15
  • at home hospice 11/19 (2 months of marriage for you mathletes)
  • death 11/25

At first I thought the card might have been from my parents, so I opened it up, and when I realized it was the card George gave me, wow did I lose it. Even my dog was worried, he jumped on the bed and was barking at me in a high pitch. “What’s wrong! Don’t cry! Pet me!” When I collected myself I put the card in the bin I was preparing and then I saw a journal George got me and I opened it up and the first page said “Julia- you’re my favorite story. Keep writing it down. All my love, George.” Well, that was a sign. Stop packing and write. So here I am, writing.

There was one image that popped up a lot today and it was when we picnicked in Prospect Park. We used to grab sandwiches at La Bagel Delight or S’Nice and walk to Prospect Park with our dog and just lay a blanket on the grass, eat and then cuddle. Sometimes the horseback riders would trot by, and Bodie would perk up and examine the enormous dog-like things clopping by. We then would take Bodie to the doggie pond and he would splash into the water carefree until we had to pull him out. Reciting this memory, I can feel the sunlight hitting my skin. I can smell the pollen in the air, and hear the laughter of people walking by when they would stop to see the little terrier going nuts in the water. I miss holding his hand, in the special way that we did because I hated sweaty palms. I loved how much bigger his hand was to mine, and how when he would hold on to it I felt instantly protected and safe. I miss how he would always grab my butt at inappropriate times. I want to hear his voice telling me how beautiful I am. Instead, I have pictures and notes that will remind me of those fortunate times we had together. No new memories will be made, but all I can do is immerse myself in what we had. But all I want is to have him back. How fortunate am I? I’m in love with memories.

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UPS package waiting

DSCN0994My eyes are starting to open wider and see the gloom that he is gone. He will not be physically returning to me. This week has been particularly difficult because each day I seem to fall further into grief. I’m crying more and harder when I’m alone. I still put the brave face on when I’m at work, but there’s those moments when a deep dark upchuck of grief happens and I have to close my door to hide in my misery. It’s become more of the same, and less and less coaches are tip toeing around it. It’s a lesson to many of them that this is grief in its finest form.

I met with my bereavement counselor today and that was a breath of fresh air. Although she says chamomile like camo-mile, but I can look pass her faults. She’s such a nice woman, and she always reminds me that, although it’s a terrible group to be a part of, I’m in an exclusive club of young widows under 30 years old. I’d like to refund my membership please.

Without revealing too much of what today’s session was about, she was comforting with all the feelings that are starting to bubble up are “normal.” Watching someone die of liver failure is traumatic and even more so when you just returned from your honeymoon the month before and all of a sudden your life changes. I told her I’m still blogging and she commended me on that, but also mentioned I should keep a gratitude journal as well. I think I’ll do that, but not on wordpress. I don’t think people need to read about my delicious salad bowl from chipotle that my assistant got me for lunch.

After I saw her, I went home and upon getting home I received notice that I had a package waiting for me. I went to get the package and immediately saw there was target tape on it. It is a wedding gift.

When I open the package, there were three smaller packages inside: a bamboo cutting board, flower urn, and shoe rack. The stitches that were loosely holding my heart together after meeting with my counselor ripped open, seam by seam. It was sent from one of George’s good friends, and I KNOW THE INTENTIONS ARE GOOD. But, all I can really respond with is- really?

Tomorrow I get the keys to my new apartment. It’s time.

Okay, time for a writing prompt:

Dear George,

What I want you to know about me is I was always honest and loyal to you. You had my heart from when I first saw you. I tried to hide it, but as you noticed I would always act differently around you then anyone else. When we started dating, I was inexperienced with love, and didn’t know what was happening, and when you first said “I love you,” I couldn’t believe it so instead I got angry. I loved you, but didn’t trust you. And it was because I wasn’t honest with myself. As I opened up to you- and fell madly in love- you brought the best out of me. Anything in the world, I could talk to you about it. If something was bothering me, I never was embarrassed to talk to you. Even when there was the mishap in New Mexico; you still lovingly gazed into my eyes and said, we’ll pretend it never happened. And through everything in our time together, my loyalty to you runs deep. Even now. And I’m not sure if you knew or felt that, but I want you to know. You protected me when we were together and I hope you’ll do the same now.