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!"

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