Saturday, January 24, 2015

Stupid Dreams

I am getting really sick of bad dreams. Ever since my nephew died, I have been plagued by bad dreams and nightmares. I just found out that my sister-in-law and other family in Idaho have been as well. I guess it's not an unusual reaction to grief, but it is getting really old. My dreams are mostly about my children, or I just wake up frightened or panicky and can't remember the dream. Last night I had a bad dream about a dear friend. I told her it was only a matter of time until my brain's cycling would include her. I have been very overprotective of my family and friends for the past couple of months. I guess my brain just feels the need to freak me out even more at night. How do you get your brain to just chill the frick out? Ugh.

My brain seems to be going overtime - all the time. It's not always a bad thing. I've been processing a lot. My oldest daughter and I went to see Imitation Game the other day. It is the story of Alan Turing, and the movie shows some of the horrific bullying that he endured as a child. It was pretty triggering. It really got me thinking though. Some people feel like we just have to "move past" what happened to us as children. I'm beginning to believe that what happens to us always sticks with us. It always shapes our experiences. It only stops controlling us when we stop allowing it to define us. We never "move past," we just learn that we are more than the sum of our experiences.

I went to a wedding today. I realized that it was the first wedding I'd gone to since my nephew Nick married his love Suzy. It was weird. It was also my church's first same sex wedding. I was honored to sing in the choir. I was also a little glad that I didn't really know the couple. I kept thinking about Nick and Suzy, and I'm pretty sure I would have just bawled if I'd known this couple better.

The whole "crying thing" has been on my mind a lot lately, too. It seems like my heart just gets ripped up all the time. I'm beginning to be okay with that, too. Yes, sometimes it's exhausting, but I don't think I hate that. It hurts, but I think I'd rather feel things fully. That's weird to say, but I also feel joy deep inside of me in ways that I haven't always. I often feel like I am on an emotional roller coaster, but right now - that's okay. I have always spent a great deal of time with self protection, but I am strong. I get the shit kicked out of me and get back up and keep going. Terrible things are going to keep happening. I can't change that, but I can live. I don't want to stuff who I am. People will either like me for me, or they won't. That is their choice not mine. I'm not going to change who I am to please other people anymore.

I would appreciate it my brain would begin to work things out in a way that doesn't include nightly terror, however. So, how about it brain? New tactic maybe?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

When a chapter comes to an end

The past few days I have spent in the mountains with a really great group of people. I have the opportunity to sing for our university's top auditioned choir, and every year between the fall and spring semesters we have a retreat in Estes Park. It's pretty fabulous. We sing and bond, and it is wonderful. I am graduating in December which means this was my last retreat. I spent some time during the retreat out on the big porch overlooking the Rocky Mountains. It was peaceful and contemplative. I could feel that this portion of my life is coming to an end. I love this school, the department, and the people. Singing with the Chorale felt very bittersweet. I absolutely adore our director, and she is amazing. I love the people. Yet, I still felt this tug for it to be over. There's an emotional part of me that really wants to hang onto it all. The rational part of my brain though is whispering, "It's almost over, and that's okay. It's getting time for you to move on." Looking around at our "circle of friendship" on the last night, I savored every second and tried to get clear snapshots in my brain. The experience is something that I will always treasure, and I am forever changed by it. I think I'm ready to finish. I'm almost ready for the next chapter.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Trying to stay upright

I had no idea what to title this post, but "trying to stay upright" sounded fitting. Last night we had a lot of ice, and I, of course, took quite a tumble. I landed on my elbow, and as I laid there on the frozen sidewalk crying out in pain, all I could think of was, "Are you kidding me?!" As a choral conductor, my right elbow is, well, pretty much my most important body part. I was so afraid that I had broken it. I had private conducting lessons, my own choir, a pretty cool thing that hasn't been announced yet (which I will keep quiet even though nobody reads this blog anymore and it is just for me!), and grad school coming up (hoping to get my masters in choral conducting), plus, I am supposed to play the viola in the school sinfonietta this semester. Luckily, my elbow is just very bruised. I'm a little paranoid about falling though. I've been going to the gym and jogging. Olivia and Raymond talked me into running a half marathon with them later this year, so I have started training. I can't run far yet. I ran 1.2 miles yesterday, so I only have to add 11.9 by May. Ugh. It's all good..... I couldn't run today though because it would be too jarring for my elbow. That was really frustrating. I hate trying to get on track and having things knock me off. I can't do anything right now because moving around hurts.

I know this will sound whiny, but I am just ready for things to go smoothly for a while. I am so tired of having to "be strong," "make lemonade out of lemons," "go with the flow," and all that other bullshit. For the past four years, everything I have done has scared me, but I've done it anyway. I've fallen flat on my face, but gotten up and kept going. I have things thrown at me, and I've handled them. I feel like I should feel pretty awesome sauce about all of that, but honestly, I am just tired. I'm beaten down. Sometimes I look back on the past four years and see how I have succeeded, but sometimes I just see the struggle.

I'm grouchy, I'm in pain, and I am rambling......

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Living on the edge of panic

Yes - living on the edge of panic seems to encompass most of my life. I never feel "good enough" to do it all. After the end of last semester, I told myself that my new mantra is, "I am capable." I think I should put that on big poster board all over the house. I get so overwhelmed and feel as if there is no way that I could possibly do everything that needs to be done. I feel as if I will always fail. Yet, here I am still moving forward. Even after the hell of losing my nephew last semester, I managed to pull out pretty darn good grades. I had a 17 hour semester and my grades were all As and one A-. Not bad. I AM actually capable.

Right now, school is starting in two weeks, and I feel like I am NOT ready. I am trying to pull together everything for the restart of the choir, and I am still scrambling to find singers and replace three that left - two just told me this week. I am trying hard to get my home life organized - no small feat to manage the affairs of seven busy people. I'm trying to make a place for joy in my heart, but sometimes the grief really wants to take over. I AM capable - darn it. I am capable, and I will figure everything out.

On Sunday, I looked at a friend and said, "Can I have a hug?" She gave me an awesome, strong hug. It was a little boost that I needed. I didn't tell her, "Hey, I feel like I'm drowning, and I need a life line!" That's what I feel like sometimes though. Since I can't stalk her and beg for hugs every day, I am trying to find buoys to hold onto. I'm trying hard to be mindful with everything. It's so easy for me to check out. I don't know what I'm doing, but I am plowing ahead anyway. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Treasure map

I have a lot to say in my mind, but not much of it wants to come out today. In honor of my quest to return to blogging, I am going to make a short post anyway. A couple of days ago, I made a treasure map for this year. I've always wanted to do that, and some years I've even gathered the supplies and made headway. This year, I have a complete map. I pretty much love it. It's strange how it is already changing the way I look at my days. It keeps the things in the forefront of my mind. I've made decisions after thinking about the map. Crazy. It's just cut out pictures and words from old magazines that I bought at the thrift store for $.69 each. I have the word "peace" on my map. Church is where I find peace. It's a little strange that I've found such a home where I have. I grew up Seventh-day Adventist, and they pretty much hate everything that Catholics stand for. I had a teacher who spent an entire day trying to convince us that the pope was behind the assassination of JFK. The Episcopal church is different from the Catholic church, of course, but in the eyes of the SDA, they're quite similar. There is something about the ritual and ceremony that really speaks to me and brings me peace. I find things at this church that I have never found anywhere else. I'm slowly figuring out why I love my "new" church so much. One thing I realized today is that I have a sense of history with this church. The rituals in this church connect me with a history that I've never experienced.

I don't know how the year will play out or if my treasure map will really influence the year at all. I am curious to find out. Maybe I will blog about the changes I make because of the map. Thinking of Nick and trying to honor him by truly living is causing me to look at things in a very different way.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

What to write....

November 2, 2010, I decided to make some big changes in my life. I had been just coasting through life not really living, and I was miserable. I knew I did not want to continue on the way I had. I wrote a blog post about deciding that it was okay to cry (Which incidentally I took to heart, and pretty much have not stopped crying in over four years. Who knew years worth of tears would take so long to come out?). Since then, I have only written 8 posts, and in those posts have been very little personal information. I'm not sure I remember how to blog anymore. I think that writing is important to me though. In the past four years, I have gone back to college, graduated - summa cum laude (go me!), gone back to school again, double majored, accomplished more than I ever thought I could, performed in a school musical, inducted into two honor societies, elected chapter president of one of those honor societies, selected to participate in a conducting master class, started a choir, and dealt with heartbreaking personal tragedies.

My whole life I have struggled with depression. Interestingly, living an inauthentic life tended to smooth that part over somewhat. I think I just lived in a constant state of minor depression. Choosing to fully live life and to confront my fears head on has also brought the depression into full view. In four years of college, I have survived three bouts of suicidal depression. The last one was a real doozy. Two of the worst years of my life have been since I went back to school. 2012 brought me to my knees. 2014 nearly ended me. I have always entered into a new year with optimism and deep hope. There is something about that arbitrary date that brings such promise. I always make New Year's resolutions, and I nearly always make great progress with them. This year is different. This year I enter the new year with a deep sense of apprehension. The thing I keep saying over and over is, "I just want to survive."

Nearly two months ago, my beloved nephew was killed in a vehicle crash. When I first heard, I think I was in deep shock. I didn't even cry for hours. I just sat there comforting my children and staring into space unable or unwilling to believe it. I'm not really certain still how to process it all. Some days I'm just angry. Other days there is a deep, constant ache. Still other days, I cry at for practically any reason - a broken glass, a misplaced shoe, a sad story on FB. The anger also feels like it shows up sometimes arbitrarily. Other times, it is pretty obvious the source. Today on the way to rehearsal, some idiot nearly caused a major crash when she pulled in front of me without looking. The things that came out of my mouth were decidedly un-Christian. I place great value in kindness, and I try to live my life with kindness as an important value. I feel like it has taken a backseat over the past couple of months.

Grief sucks. I wrote this about grief recently: "Sometimes grief is like a massive winter wind gust. It hits you out of nowhere. It overwhelms you with icy wind that gets into every pore. It leaves you shivering uncontrollably. Sometimes grief is like a pesky, little pebble in your shoe that is there every moment of every day that you cannot ignore begging for attention that you don't want to give it. Then sometimes grief is like a constant downpour that you get caught in without an umbrella. It completely covers you and you cannot escape it. Grief sucks.

Right now, I feel incredibly selfish. It has been less than a year since I survived (and yes, I have taken to saying "survived") my worst bout of suicidal depression. Late February to early April, I was in a horrendous, massive hole of suicidal depression. When I started school in the fall, I wrote a little about it for a Women's Studies class that I was taking. I said that I felt very protective of my space because after surviving that, I felt a little like I'd been hit by a truck. I still felt like I was recovering when my nephew was killed. People who deal with that level of depression know that when you're "over it," it feels in some way like "remission." We don't know when or if it is going to come back. We assume that it will and hope that it won't. The terror of being stalked by the suicidal monster is constant and draining. I'm afraid to truly give myself to grief because I am afraid that the monster will attack when I am down. I also know that hiding from grief allows the monster a foothold. It is a serious catch-22.

My nephew was an incredible young man. I loved watching him grow and learn. I loved being a part of his life. His spirit was infectious. I have always been afraid of everything. I think that is the biggest reason that school has been so challenging for me. I do things of which I am afraid every damn day. Everything I do is a stretch outside of my comfort zone. I'm so exhausted after four years. Nick was an inspiration to people, including me. He was the biggest reason I kept going to school after we came back from saying goodbye. He once told me that he was proud of me for going back to school. I had to keep going. I finished out that semester with very good grades: all As and one A-. Now, I have to do it for me though. I have had wonderful people to help me along. It really has to be me now though. Nick has inspired me to totally live large. I started this process by working through my fears. I am a different person than I was four years ago. I faced my fears, but I honestly still did that with a big brick barrier surrounding me.

On Monday of finals week in December, I had a conducting final. My professor is someone for whom I have the greatest respect, but she is also quite intimidating. I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to perform for her and do well without being so fearful. It's something that I have worked on for all performances. I think I managed to just learn to really check out. I stopped falling on my face, but everything I did was, "Not bad, but not great either." Something happened at that final. I was stripped raw somehow. I was scared to death. My knees were shaking, my hands were shaking, my mouth was dry, my fingers were freezing - all the makings of a disaster for me. Then something amazing happened. I killed it. In spite of the fear, in spite of the physical symptoms - I killed it. I did not check out. I was fully present for every second. I felt every movement, every tremble. I truly lived that moment, and I killed it. It wasn't perfect. I made mistakes. I still killed it. Nick inspired me to live. Nick inspired me to be fully present for what I love. It was quite a moment for me. I made another change as well. When I got my feedback form, I had negative feedback on a particular technique. Normally, it would have really bothered me, and I would have obsessed over how to fix it. I've watched the video over and over. I also realized that this one particular thing is something this professor has had an issue with the entire time she's been instructing me. Here's the thing, and this is a big one for me, I am okay with it. She doesn't like it, and I am okay with that because I do like it. If you know how obsessive and anal retentive I can be, you understand how huge this is. I like the way I do this thing, and she doesn't, and I am okay with that.

This particular blog post has been a little all over the place, but that is the way I am right now. I don't know what this year is going to be like. I am learning to embrace the unknown rather than fear it. I've spent my life in fear. Nick is inspiring me to live in anticipation. It's a process of baby steps. It's a bit of a dance with forward steps followed by backward steps which hopefully keep some kind of forward momentum. My theme for this year is mindfulness. I don't want to just survive. I want to learn to truly live. I want to be fully present for everything. That is a little terrifying, but if you aren't fully present for the demons, I don't think you can be fully present for the joy either. I've come through so much. I am going to face this year with my Nick's spirit holding my hand. It's not fair because I should be the one behind him, giving him encouragement, being the weird aunt in the cheering section waving the slightly embarrassing signs, and saying outdated things like, "Rock on Dude!" He was taken from us. The only way I know to honor his memory is to live. I know if there's a way, he'll be by my side whispering in my ear, "You can do it!"