6 Years Today

The world moves faster than ever, each year fuller and longer, yet somehow short all at the same time. Like many of the previous years, I don’t have much in the way of new things to say. Maybe just a different way to say the same things. Who really knows anymore.

Similar to last year – I am en route to the East Coast for my WildernessFusion class. While the class does not fall on the true date this year, it is close enough that I feel as though I am again going to be sharing this rather Dark & Twisty place that is my mind during this week.

I have even less ‘updates’ to share than I did last year in terms of what my family is up to on this Anniversary. I, like many others, hope they are well.

For me personally, this time of year is incredibly difficult and rather despair-ridden. I often opt to stay busy or ‘distracted’ as my classes would call it, only touching just under the surface tension of the water that is the bottomless well of grief for just a moment, and even then barely feeling the temperature change. I occasionally remark on something, and then let it fade away just as quickly as it came up. At this point in my life I rather feel like I am inflicting my own Dark & Twisty upon those who are in my life. I have little-to-no faith that anyone could actually desire to be in my presence when in such a place.

At the 5-year mark I noted how much more anger and sadness was in my well of grief. This year I am noticing that under the anger, grief and sadness – is despair. Deep. Soul wrenching. Despair. Despair of the reality of the events. Despair that so many people walk around quoting ‘the tragedy’ in my life with no context. No understanding of what that feels like 24/7. What it means to live in such a reality. The fact that people even ask me questions like – do you still wonder “why did He do it?” or my personal favorite – “Do you feel like you’ve moved on yet?”.

Um.

No.

Fuck.

No.

Am I really supposed to? I cannot change the past, and pretending like it never happened just makes me crazy. So yes, I use the word despair versus sadness or grief on purpose.

I rarely go longer than a moment or two without thinking of my Mother in some context. I don’t know that I can, nor do I have the desire to remove her from my thoughts. She is in everything I hold dear. Nature. Dogs. Mountains. Adventure. People important to me. The list goes on. Often people ask me, “where did you learn such [insert praise words that I do not like – i.e courage, loyalty, strength, love, etc]?” and the answer is often in some form ‘My Mother’. She is entirely human – made up of faults and good intentions gone wrong – yet somehow, instead of running away from them or pretending that she wasn’t just as prone to such base, shallow whims as anyone else, she owned them. And that made her larger than life. The integrity of her commitment to living fully and deeply – even in the not-so-pretty places.

Often we would have these intense, complex talks, spanning hours or even days. Life, death, spirituality, love, greed, the human experience and just about anything you could think of. Often she would ask my perspective, my opinions – not just to have something to respond to, but because in her own words, I ‘had more depth than anyone’ she knew – and ‘there were things she needed to learn from me’. So many times she would say to me in full sincerity, “I don’t know why I was given this gift in life, why I was chosen, but I am truly privileged to be your Mother”.

I didn’t always understand, and still don’t fully grasp what she meant by that statement. I wish I could remember if I ever shared a similar sentiment with her. I deeply regret that I don’t know for sure that I did.  Because I am, even with everything that has happened, beyond lucky to have had such a great Mother, teacher and friend. Most of my time is spent in pursuit of the person my Mother insisted I am… One poorly placed step after another.

Much like Cheryl Strayed in the popular memoir – turned movie ‘Wild’, I am on a lifelong journey of living closely to my Mother in the physical reality of which she is no longer apart of, yet still very much alive in spirit.

My Life SHATTERED on this day 6 years ago. For reasons I shall not go into, I was already a struggling survivor of things less than ideal in life when Mom was killed. In an already Dark & Twisty world – Mom was my Sun. She was my champion. She was a humble reminder of what simple joy in the human experience can be. The power of unconditional love and the strength of choice. I wish I could express the depth of her meaning to myself and everyone she touched.

Renée in Alaska

Renée in Alaska

I see the understanding in others who have lost their mothers suddenly. They touch on places I personally struggle to get the words for. These little collections of sentences make me feel the depths of that well of grief where recounting the entire story of loss doesn’t even brush the surface.   Many of you may have read the book by Yann Martel or watched the movie they made recently of ‘Life of Pi’. From his book, he is narrating his story of losing his whole family, and says this:

“To lose a brother is to lose someone with whom you can share the experience of growing old, who is supposed to bring you a sister-in-law and nieces and nephews, creatures who people the tree of your life and give it new branches. To lose your father is to lose the one whose guidance and help you seek, who supports you like a tree trunk supports its branches. To lose your mother, well, that is like losing the sun above you. It is like losing–I’m sorry, I would rather not go on.”

I agree Mr. Martel.

Author Kristin Hannah also neatly sums up what it is like to go on living without your Mother figure:

“A daughter without her mother is a woman broken. It is a loss that turns to arthritis and settles deep into her bones. ”

And a more recent author (for me anyway) Cheryl Strayed – Wild:

“I didn’t get to grow up and pull away from her and bitch about her with my friends and confront her about the things I’d wished she’d done differently and then get older and understand that she had done the best she could and realize that what she had done was pretty damn good and take her fully back into my arms again. Her death had obliterated that. It had obliterated me. It had cut me short at the very height of my youthful arrogance. It had forced me to instantly grow up and forgive her every motherly fault at the same time that it kept me forever a child, my life both ended and begun in that premature place where we’d left off. She was my mother, but I was motherless. I was trapped by her, but utterly alone. She would always be the empty bowl that no one could full. I’d have to fill it myself again and again and again.

One of the worst things about losing my mother at the age I did was how very much there was to regret.”

All these quotes and more share a little tidbit of my reality. Both the wonder at having such a Mother, and the absolute agony of losing her before her time, in such a sudden and terrifying way. I both want to share these things with you, and never write them down let-alone speak them aloud.

And finally, for my family:

“The amount that she loved us was beyond her reach. It could not be quantified or contained. It was the ten thousand named things in the Tao Te Ching’s universe and then ten thousand more. Her love was full-throated and all-encompassing and unadorned. Every day she blew through her entire reserve.” ~ Cheryl Strayed.

And this is mine:

“What a gift we were given.

To know you.

To be known by you.

To love you.

To be so loved by you.

 

What a curse we bear.

To know your loss.

To feel your magic fade.

To live in agony.

To carry your light on.

 

What a contradiction we live in.

This gift.

This curse.

That love your love connects.”

~ J

5 Years Now Without Mom

I read the ‘4 Years Gone’ write up I did a year ago basically to the day, and I am struck by how much things have changed – and how much they haven’t. I could just copy/paste most of the words again for this year. The emotions, the thoughts, the memories; very little is different in those areas, even with another year for perspective. That in itself is a little scary. Makes me want to rage at those who quote that insufferable phrase ‘Time Heals All Wounds’. Dumb fuck who wrote that was clearly in-denial or hadn’t lost very much. I rarely feel angry, except at shallow empty words thrown in my face to ‘console’ me (but only them, in reality). Then the extraordinary pissed-off redhead temper comes out in force.

As you may have guessed, I don’t feel any less grief this year then I did the last 4. I do however feel more sadness than anger (or at least I believe I do) with the world. I also find myself looking back at my experiences with people those first few years, and having much more anger now than I did then, at the level of shit I went through. All it takes is a misguided statement made by a family member or friend and I feel the slow burn of angry pain that they still don’t get it. Maybe my increased sadness is that they and most of the world never will and its unfair of me to want them to be able to grasp the faintest idea of it.

Last year I attended a Tracker class with the 3 women who many know as my ‘Element Sisters’. Though I was around people and not trying to shove everything down, I also didn’t share much – and what I did share was mostly through the girls. Tracy, Linda and Afsoon’s support that year was the beginning of me not trying to hide 24/7. This year, the Healing School I have been apart of ran the 3rd class during the corresponding weekend (the dates are set when we sign up). So not only was I in another class, but this time it was even more hands-on with the emotions of life. Instead of fading into the background and only letting people know the significance of the dates via my Sisters, this year I had to do it myself and beforehand. Instead of standing on the edge of the 130+ group of classmates – many whom I didn’t know – I was in the middle of a very close knit group of 13 that I have worked with before. Not only did I not sit in silence all day, I shared my experience with classmates and friends, many of whom are quickly becoming true family.

I keenly feel the lack of contact from most people in my life, particularly this day. Lorien, best friend, person that Facebook says I am ‘In a relationship with’ and many people do believe that (which is totally okay by us) and the first person who ever sat with me in the long silences always makes contact this day. Even if its just through text. This year I had more people than I honestly know what to do with make contact with me. Interestingly most were not actual family members – or even old friends. I also shared my experience with feeling for the first time since the first weeks of 2009. In class, while words can be important and are often used to jumpstart an event, its the feeling, the emotion that we are most concerned about. I was the ‘group project’ to experience past events – all 12 classmates and the 3 instructors at the same time. Those of you who really know me, will realize that it is close to the last thing I would ever want to do, share ‘feelings’ while actually in contact with a shit-ton of people in person! But I did. Many may think that the ‘talking’ part is hard. Its not really, I’ve had to tell that fucking story over and over again. For family, for friends, for police, for doctors, and lawyers, therapists and teachers. I’m so not in touch with my emotions when I talk about the days leading up and shortly after Mom was killed, that I learned to ‘fake’ some reaction so as to not upset family or alarm the doctors for the first few years. In the past I’ve been accused of not caring, being a cold heartless bitch and having ‘something really really wrong with me’ because I can’t talk and feel at the same time very well. Clearly the world isn’t as ‘aware’ as they think they are about things like PTSD. The worst part was never how I felt talking about it, but how the other people felt. The shock, the disbelief, the looking for the silver lining, the inability to grasp, and of course; the wondering of how I ‘didn’t know’, which eventually leads to questioning of my intelligence, the darkness I must have to attract such people. The ways in which I am broken that I could be a part of such evil – even as a bystander. My grief, anger and pain I sit with everyday. Its the rest of the world and their judgements, their dismissal and lack of awareness that is so fucking impossible to be with.

By year 2 I had stopped calling people. Asking for people to sit with me (Lorien never had to be asked, but then I moved away) or be supportive. Some friends would take it upon themselves to be around in any way they could. Something I am very grateful for and applaud for dealing with my despair. It was a strange feeling to be the one who explained to the new people in my life (Shaun, classmates, etc) what the days leading up to the 4th meant to me. It was even more surreal when even after I explained that there is only ‘dark and twisty’ on that day that I found myself accepting them in my experience of it. – I will write up another post going into more detail for those interested.

I wish there was a positive spin I could put on things from the kids and Dad. But I am not really privy to their experience with this anymore. I texted the ones who have cell phones, reaching out in between the madness of driving through snow, DC traffic and flying to Alaska. To the younger kids it is probably more of ‘another day’ in the time span of not fun days that makeup this time of year. I can’t really say how they are doing other than just getting by. I like to think I have moved from the space of surviving to living, but some days I am not as convinced. Or maybe it is more of perspective, that in my own way I do live; in the moments possible, and when not, I survive.

I do know that the various places the boys and younger kids are, Mom still smiles. I watch my brothers as they mature, and even with their anger and pain and their struggles, at their core they are amazing young men. Every single one of my 8 siblings is unique, with their own talents. I hope for each one that one day they live, fully and lovingly, their own lives.

I see my Mother in every red sunrise and sunset. I spy a cardinal on a branch and think of her. A waterfall. The Mountains. Roadtrips. All these things she loved. All these things she inspired us children to love. Thinking back to one of the many gifts she bestowed upon her loved ones, I don’t think love was the biggest one. Or even hope. But maybe was inspiration. I have countless (literally, I forget the them often) stories of the people out there who were inspired to do and be more in life from knowing Mom.

Even in death my Mother somehow inspires people to live more fully. To laugh more often. To love more fully. To nurture and care for the lost children. Below: Early 90’s in Alaska, with (I believe) a baby Jeremy. She didn’t let things like having 3 young children, 9 dogs and winter keep her tied down. She had fun anywhere she was.

Mom in Alaska with a baby brother

Mom in Alaska with a baby brother

In one breath I can go back to my last day with Mom. The brightest most beautiful light. The hope. The love. The laughter. 5 years ago in the space of a moment. And in the same space, the 5 years is also an eternity of hell. Of pain. Of a deep black hole of grief that never goes away. A breath of love and an eternity of hell in just one moment. I walk in both worlds, as they are both true. It almost feels as though it should be strange, that just a breath of love can inspire someone to live through hell for eternity. But then that is the type of love my Mother inspired. Not strange at all. Beautiful.

~ J