family, gratitude, health and wellness

That Was Fun

It’s a real gift to access any bit of information that you need on demand. I could have just done the math, but the answer to my question was a tap away, so I just looked it up. 

It’s been exactly four months and 23 days since I lost my dad. 146 days. I know what this length of time has felt like, but I wasn’t aware of the exact number. It’s already felt like at least a year. 

So much has happened, including vacations, the transition back to work, and the celebration of birthdays, family milestones and gatherings. I’ve been blessed to have my family with me, direct household and extended; at least one member close by at all times, even at work. 

It’s a rare occurrence when I am completely alone with the time and space to just be involved in my own thoughts with no other tasks or to do’s. These times often occur in the car on solo drives from here to there, 10-15 minutes at most. When I’m behind the wheel, especially on sunny cloudless blue-sky days, I reminisce. I remember the days that he would drive us back home from San Francisco from my grandma’s house. We never said much on those drives, but I still felt safe and connected to him. Other memories include road trips up to the lake for a camping trip, or back down from the mountains, heading home from a ski weekend in Tahoe. 

Sunny day windshield memories live on in my mind, and the most recent ones hurt the most. The day of his funeral and burial was one of the most beautiful days I’d ever seen in the Bay Area. The convoy from Vallejo to San Francisco was a bittersweet tribute to his life, and I had no choice but to catalog a new memory in my mind. The way the sunlight hit the hearse and that little back window with the weird curtains to shade his casket was a new memory of saying goodbye to Dad. 

I said goodbye yet again a month or so ago, and it caught me off guard. Mom and I spent the morning preparing Dad’s truck to be officially handed down to a dear family member. We made sure it started and we cleaned it up a bit. We decided to bring it back to my house. She drove the truck, and I followed her and drove behind for the 12 minute journey back home. There wasn’t one cloud to be found in the sky.

Once the tears came, I decided to make it a full on emotional release. I cued up my Bob Marley playlist, and watched dad’s truck lead the way back home. Every turn and stop gave me glimpses and memories of him picking me up from school, and towing the family boat. I wasn’t able to see him through the window or in the side view mirror driving this time.  

Mom and I arrived safely and parked the vehicles in the driveway. I wiped away the remaining sun-blinding tears so I could ask her how the truck was running. She was happy and excited that it was running well.   

“That was fun!”, she said.

I was so thankful for that little moment and those three words. The simple statement reminded me that the memories that I invite back into my mind are fun memories. The outer layer of sadness from loss is real, but the fun times that I’ll always know are still there, just like those cloudless blue sky days.

https://howlongagogo.com/

declutter

The Discomfort of Home

I was brave today. I went back to my childhood home, all by myself. I returned to the place where my father passed away unexpectedly in his sleep on Memorial Day, 23 days ago. Since that Monday, the meaning of mom and dad’s house has evolved. Daily life has also definitely changed into what supportive friends of mine have referred to as a “new normal”.

Before May 27th, I treasured the routine of seeing him every morning, Monday through Friday, for a small amount of time before work. It was half an hour at most. The ritual would include a morning hug, a check-in, a chuckle or two as we observed my daughter and son playing, a debrief of the latest family events or our favorite TV series, and of course, the hug goodbye along with, “Have a good day”. This was all part of the transition time when I would hand off my toddler son to him and my mom for the day. He would be under their loving care while I was at work. My daughter would also be with them after school twice a week. I was grateful for all of it.

Today I found the courage to be sad. Going back to the only house my parents and  I ever knew throughout my entire childhood, and the place where my own children knew as Grandma and Grandpa’s House brought me into strange new depths of sorrow.  My most recent and raw memory of walking through the front door is when I saw my father in the same room where we sat and talked every morning, shockingly lifeless, but peacefully gone. This heartbreaking memory is important for my journey of grieving, but I know it’s also somewhat unproductive.

My actions today however, if I do say so myself, were productive. I was ready to go back. My mom was out of town with my aunt and uncle, so I knew it would be helpful to check on the house, and do a few light chores. I mentally geared up. I took deep breaths and went about life in the new routine.

Months ago, a random stray chicken from the neighborhood found himself in my parents’ front yard and they started feeding him. My dad would have wanted to make sure I gave him some food. So I fed the chicken. It had been waiting for me based on his sporadic and somewhat aggressive clucking and ruffling of feathers. I found odd comfort in this moment. It helped me continue on. It reminded me about how my dad would always find ways to lighten up the mood.

I went inside and powered up the CD player that took me a few minutes to figure out. I played a mixed CD that my dad had burned (compiled) years ago. I blasted the early 2000 jams. I fed the fish and watered the plants in the backyard.

Then, as anticipated, I sat down at the table where my dad and I used to sit, and I cried. My latest strategy for crying is to just take a few deep cleansing breaths, tilt my head back, stare at the ceiling or sky, and just let it out. Amidst the deep sadness, I accessed a feeling that was reminiscent of what I would feel when I sat in that very spot, with him sitting across from me in the mornings. I felt relief. It wasn’t the same kind that I may have felt a month or so ago when he was still here. However, the emotion reminded me that somehow, I can still find peace with any situation, deep, dark, sadness included, as long as I have just a teeny bit of courage.   


How have you mourned the loss of a loved one?       

balance, health and wellness, mindful

Kleenex Box Donations, Please

Sometimes I underestimate the power of a really good cry. I am fully aware of the healthy alternatives to bottling up my emotions and letting them all spew out at once unexpectedly. Exercise is probably best. Meditation would be next on my list.

But bottled emotion is like convenience food for my mental health sometimes. It’s easy. It helps me move on with life. However, eventually, my mind has to get rid of the waste and the thought patterns that no longer serve me. Bawling my eyes out is sometimes the way to go. It feels good after it’s all said and done. Kind of.

It’s obviously unnerving when a crying fest gets rolling and reaches the point of no return. The other night, my speaking ability reached the ultimate level of talk-yell-crying. It’s a way of communicating that involves trying to FORCE the words out while desperately trying catch breath. Why even bother trying to verbalize anything? Probably because it has to just come out somehow.

Everything that was bothering me just worked its way out in big spurts of jumbled phrases. Sadness and anger fueled the tears. The feeling of insecurity and disappointment in myself and my twisted view of thinking that I’m not good enough kept the waterworks running. Anxiety was definitely in the mix. Exhaustion? You bet. I accessed emotions that I had conveniently tucked away weeks before. My husband was there to listen, and try to make sense of it all. I don’t know what I would do without him.

There has been SO MUCH INPUT in my life lately. Visual, auditory, digital, sentimental, emergency, you name it. Processing it and taking action has been a challenge. Over the course of the last 5 days, I have become so much more appreciative of others’ experiences, struggles, and perspectives. Everyone who is involved in my life has something so meaningful and genuine to share with me. I’m thankful for it all.

And sometimes, I just need time to cry about it. 

The next morning, I pulled it together, threw my hair in a bun and chose to wear glasses and a T-shirt to work. Thank goodness it was College Wear Wednesday. I also skipped a shower. I took all necessary steps to remedy and treat the eye and face puffiness.

I received compliments about my appearance throughout the day. Mr. Custodian noticed how lovely my hair looks when it’s up. A parent in my room said I look adorable, and I informed her it was my “no time” look. She said she wished she could pull it off. My students questioned my glasses, but they liked them (supposedly).

glasses
The “No Time” look

The words gave me the boost I needed. I was noticed. I was acknowledged. I felt loved. However, I am all of the above, all of the time. My husband and my own children are the first to let me know at the start of every day. Sometimes I carelessly overlook it when I’m stressed. 

There are so many people out there who have not found their support system yet. This week I learned that everyone is allowed to be in tune with their mental state, and seek out connection with others. It takes a lot of courage to be on the listening end. It takes a lot to be the one who offers the space to connect with someone who is vulnerable or sad. This message just so happened to be promoted to the students at my school all week. It impacted me as well. Reach out. Connect. Be brave.

Check out the link to Start With Hello Week and the Sandy Hook Promise. I was inspired and my perspective was regained. Coincidentally, it was the best kind of reset and recharge that I needed. 

Start With Hello Week

balance, health, mindful, working mom

Red Light Realization

I received an early birthday gift this weekend. On Saturday afternoon while my daughter and I were running errands, we were in the middle of a classic, long-winded, captive audience car conversation. The long winded one was me of course, and the captive one in the backseat had to listen to mommy instead of Spotify for this ride. We were discussing the age differences between various members of our immediate and extended family. I proceeded to tell her that I’m turning 39 in
4 weeks.

Then by some coincidental timing on the roadway, and a wonderful opportunity to be silly, my daughter decided to make the most out of reading the “SPEED LIMIT 40” sign in the most dramatic voice possible. We both cracked up.

I slowed to a stop at the next red light and then I realized something. I’m not turning 39. I’m turning 38. YES. HAPPY EARLY BIRTHDAY TO ME.

bday wish
We caught some “wishes” during our family walk later on that evening. 

My slight miscalculation brought on some relief, excitement, and a little bit of embarrassment. Am I obsessing over turning the big 4-0 in a couple of years? Maybe. And maybe I should download an app for an accurate countdown.

The truth is, I have encountered a few “reality check” moments and close-to-home realizations over the last week or so that have been exciting, humbling, sad, and scary. Health, wellness, and the opportunity to travel and achieve life goals translates differently in your late 30’s as compared to living life in your early 20’s. At least it has for me. I feel like I finally “get it” with a lot of things in life. But then again, I probably don’t. Either way, all I can do is choose how I react to upcoming events, whether I’m ready for them or not. It’s a good thing I’m not ready to be 39 yet.

Until then,

T minus 3 and a half weeks-ish until the big 3-8. How should I celebrate? What does turning 40 mean to you?