8 Years Today

I did not write last year. I still feel conflicted about that. I was busy with the distractions of life, sure. But mostly I just couldn’t bring the words up. I couldn’t write about how the 7 year mark brought little shift around the grief, anger, despair and rave once again about the pain of it all. I also couldn’t find the words to express the new ways I was experiencing life both in an enjoyment of and anguish. Reflecting upon this time last year, I see where I was deeply entrenched in the Patterns around my various traumas and simply had nothing to say that felt acceptable to write the World.

I am unsure that this year’s post will be any easier around the expression piece. Yet I am writing.

I don’t have the acute agony to write about at this point. It feels normal. It is there. This agony. Is it still considered acute? It is more like void that can never filled. I have come to realize that is simply a part of my baseline of being in this world. Many days I enjoy life, I smile, and even laugh on occasion, and the agony is still there. I’ve learned that having one emotion doesn’t ‘cancel out’ or ‘even the field’ on another. If anything, in the last couple of years I’ve learned that in order to truly be present and feel any of the ‘desirable’ emotions like joy, happiness, contentment or peace; I also have to be open to the pain, grief, anger and despair that is often up. This often seems like entirely too much to truly feel in one moment. At times, I sit in complete silence, unable to wrench a single sound from my throat even as every muscle in my body contracts from waves of anguish and rage, somehow shackling all movement but the tremors of tension my individual muscle groups exude. Grief and despair seem to suspend my actual heartbeat, time doesn’t exist here, what gasping breath I can get is gone in a second and the weight on my chest lasts an eternity. It is utter agony. My physical body literally can only experience the various emotions I contain for so long before it tries to tear itself apart. As someone who has been run over, crushed and dragged by horses many times; I feel I can honestly say the expression of ‘I feel like I got run over by X’ and it is exactly how my body feels after such intensity.

In all honesty this ‘dark’ anniversary from an outside perspective looks pretty quiet. I may not sleep much around this time – but I’ll fall asleep for a few hours rather suddenly from what I’ve come to see as simply sheer exhaustion from witnessing the various thoughts and emotions I experience instead of just reacting to them. I’m often too tired to do things I really enjoy – like hunting a spot to view the Northern Lights outside of the city. Years past I’ve often judge myself harshly for this type of weakness. For ‘allowing’ this date to dictate me so, to miss parts of a class or the start of the Iditarod yet again. Instead, I have come to a wary place of peace around the fact that grief has its own timeline – and doesn’t give a rats ass what the world or the people in my life think it should be.

I personally struggle the most with being around people on this day. I really do not care to force a smile because it would make someone else feel better. Or to put a little ’emotion’ in my voice so it doesn’t come off as less than alive. I also have no desire to inflict my frustration at the lack of understanding and space upon those who probably do not know or may not remember why I am extra dark today. Most of all, I simply do not want to feel more than I already do on this day, to be around people and their own stuff. This year I have many things I could do, and few things I want to do. Choices like being around various friends and events, or space and quiet.

A sleepless night has left me with no profound words to share – only that this day is here. 8 years of eternity since I heard my Mother’s laugh.

~ Joannie

 

Joy in Grief – Mom’s birthday. 

This day arrives as it usually does for myself and I believe most of my siblings, quietly with grief and memories of a time when we had celebration. While it was and is in subtle ways a joyous date, there is great sorrow. Today is my Mother’s birthday. And she is not here. No phone calls to be made. No cards to write. No meals served with love or visits to be had. Not even Grandparents to call on their daughter’s birthday. It is sad, this day. It is lonely. It is also full of memories of when it was bursting with life. This contradiction we live in. It could tear one apart. 
I don’t feel overwhelmed by this date. Once, I believe I did. Now it arrives with a quiet awareness of what is and what was. I am painfully familiar with this Place, where the deep bottomless well of grief resides. Most of the external world cannot see it. I rarely bring these notable dates up within my day to day life. I wonder at that. How hard it still is to share. Within the context of my siblings and a few close friends it is almost always acknowledged and never forgotten. This feels good that outside of our crazy external world, there is still connection of what is real. What continues to move us.

I cannot find happiness or peace on this date. I also do not feel that I need to. For I can find joy – not in the traditional sense of ‘happiness’ but in the upwelling of emotion that has flavors of gratitude, delight and appreciation for the years we did get. For the context of this grief is to have known the other side of pure joy. I may not smile much on this date, but I can feel the love that is still present even after these years of sadness and despair. I don’t know what it looks like for everyone, but rare it is that I have seen a Mother so wholly loved as mine was and very much still is. How can this not bring tears of joy and not just sorrow? 

This pain we feel, it’s very real and soul deep. Words skip along the surface like stones on a stream, never sinking below the easily seen shallows and ending up on the other bank. Being told to only remember the good times is dismissive of our pain. I cannot say in place of my siblings, but for me, it is okay if you cannot connect with my pain, my grief, my reality. But do not ask me to separate from it. Do not ask me to smile for your sake. Not all of us can run from a lack of comfort, please do not burden me or my family with an inability to be uncomfortable with loss and grief. 

If I could- I would gladly hug each of my brothers and sister and tell them that I know the joy in the pain on this day. And that it is okay if they do too. That whatever it is they feel, it is okay. These feelings and emotions do not need to define you. Instead I am 4 time zones away and hope my words will reach them. I hope they find something in the ways I am able to be there for them. 

I have love on this day. I have grief and acute sadness. I have joy and a bittersweetness of memories. I have appreciation for those who see and a lack of patience of those who cannot. I don’t know what else I could give my Mother on this day other than just being me. For that is all she ever wanted for every one of her children – to have peace, love and purpose in their lives. To find joy. And mostly, to be who we are. And to grow. 

Happy Birthday Mom.

This grief, it tears apart my heart, just as the love around you keeps it going and strong. This contradiction I live in. 

~ Joannie

November 12th Has Come Again

It is Mom’s Birthday today. As I have already said in years past – it is often a rewrite about how much she meant. How much I (and everyone) misses her. How much she is still loved. I don’t have much in the way of ‘new’ to write about. She would be 56 today. She should be here. Receiving love from her family – close and afar. And like all the other years, she is not. I could rail on and on about the unfairness of it all. I know people older than me that still have ALL their Grandparents, not just their parents. I cannot tell you that it is easier now that more than a few years have past. That any of the grief is less or that the hole in ones’ chest is suddenly smaller. All I can tell you is that the older I get, the more I understand just how amazing my Mother was. How much of who I am is because of her. How growing up with her has given me the expectation that people are so much more than they ever let themselves be and sadly – often are.

I doubt I will ever sit down on November 12th and think ‘It’s okay she isn’t here’. But even the first year and every one after, I have thought every day – not just on her birthday, that I am grateful in the most sincere way of what time I did get. I don’t really know how that can be, when I would give anything, including my own life to have her here to live a full lifetime. But it is. I don’t have much else to say this Birthday other than this short – rather poorly written poem about her.

 

One Moment or a Hundred within everyday

I see something that is you

Hear something that is you

Feel something that is you.

 

The color Red

So passionate and alive

A Cardinal’s call

Warm and protective.

 

A Dragonfly

The guide of your heart

A light in the dark

The joys in change.

 

The Autumn Leaves

Flashing colors that you danced among

Fires of the heart and soul

Nature’s celebration of your birth.

 

Waterfalls on the landscape

The heights which you climbed

The mist on your hair

The simple delights.

 

Music in the air

Flutes whispering

Drums dancing a primal beat

Loons calling to the heart.

 

My Mother had such a way about her, sometimes the memories feel like dreams themselves ~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

November 12th is Here Again

“My mother is a poem that I could never write”

I couldn’t agree more. Every time I go to write about her, I grasp for words. I look back upon what I have just written and shake my head at the ways it falls short. Yet not writing about her at all is even worse, it feels that like the rest of the world I have moved on from memory. So I write my hollow thoughts.

Today is her birthday. Every year I wonder if it will be different, easier maybe. And so far every year it’s not. I noticed that loss of a loved one is somewhat like chronic pain: as you learn to live with it, people actually believe you’re better.  Yet in reality, you’re just getting damn good at hiding it, treating it when it flares up so you don’t totally lose yourself to it. Everyday it’s the same fight; every night you feel the same pain. Only now, its familiar. Sometimes you can even trick yourself that it’s not there because you’re so used to it, see; but soon as you relax and let yourself pause, there it is, and it’s a world of hurt. But to most people in your life, if you said the words ‘I’m sad today’, they would ask why. Even though the answer is always the same.

Below: One year Dad had to work during Mom’s Birthday. While flowers wasn’t something he did often, this particular year he went all out and had these sent to her. Needless to say Mom was pretty impressed and had a great time with the surprise.

Mom with her Birthday Flowers from Dad

Mom with her Birthday Flowers from Dad

As a child it is not unusual to think your Mom is basically a deity incarnate. As an adult it is a little more unusual. While my Mother was human, sometimes a little too intense or loud, she had the tendency to take on too much chaos with her big heart. She was also utterly amazing. The way Mom loved us kids is inspiring to what the human heart is capable of. Whatever interests we had: sports, books, travel, music, art; she did her absolute best to not only support it, but be involved. She learned about it if she didn’t already know something of the subject and would engage us in conversations about it. She also pushed us; to try new things, to meet new people, to move outside of the comfort zone and experience things. She wasn’t afraid to revise her perception of something or someone. She would teach and lead others as if born to it, and then in the next moment, go to a class or seminar with us and be a model student.

Every year I feel like I’m just re-writing the same words. ‘Mom was the best’ ‘I really miss her’ etc. I guess I can take some comfort in that my feelings don’t change with time. Over the years I notice things that I wish I could have shared with her: an idea, a new artist she might like, thoughts about my life, the people in it, the world and how it affects me. To hear her thoughts and dreams as they changed and evolved. To get lost in our infamous half-day conversations (5 hours could go by and still there were subjects to be covered).

It’s her Birthday and all I want to do is light up her eyes by telling her how much she means to me. To plot with the younger kids on what to cook and to share with them the secret way to make the Bailey’s cake that she loves.

Mom’s Birthday is a mixed bag of emotions for me. On one hand I am so damn grateful and happy that I had her as my Mom, that we had so many great Birthdays. Yet on the other hand I am in a place that has no words, that there will be no more Birthday plotting. That all I have are memories. That my siblings and I don’t get to make new ones with her. I’m grateful for the time we did have, yet horribly envious of people 3 times my age whose Moms are still here.

She would only be 55 today. I know that she would look maybe 40. Be able to keep up with her teenage kids and their sports, have the energy for whatever dance/yoga/gym class she would be currently in while running the farm, family business and many other side projects.

I can honestly say my Mom was most loving, caring and strongest – in every sense of the word – woman I know.

Mom in her Bodybuilding Days

Mom in her Bodybuilding Days

Above: One of my most favorite pictures of her – just when she was getting big with her body building competitions.

Enjoy every Birthday with whomever you think of as Mom – blood or not.

~ J

Fall Adventures in the Mix & Joannie’s Birthday

Autumn is near, the Equinox today and the winds of change are ever upon us. Fall used to be my favorite time of the year. Slowly I am getting some of my passion for it back. I still struggle with the memories of happier times and the last birthday that Mom was here for – I wrote about it in 2011 Here: https://lifeofjourney.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/my-belated-birthday/

For the second time this year, I will be at Tracker School in the company of my Element Sisters – Tracy, Linda & Afsoon – for a difficult time period. I feel there is significance in this timing. The other class took place this past March on the anniversary of Mom’s death.

My very first class with my ‘Element Sisters’ – where it all began – a year ago  I wrote about Here: https://lifeofjourney.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/philosophy-vision-quest-life-changing-times-at-tracker-school-august-2012/

What I’m up to:

I had a great weekend (Sept 7th -9th) in New York camping on the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation – a large and beautiful park where my Wilderness Fusion classes take place.

Words do not come readily to describe my weekend with Wilderness Fusion, other than it was extremely challenging and I found much-needed cognizance of my self.

The following two weeks after Wilderness Fusion, I spent in Maryland – predominately Ocean City, visiting with family and friends. I enjoyed the Ocean, visiting Assateague Island and taking a bit of down time in between appointments online, errands and planning my next adventures.

Most will know that for the end of September (Sept 22nd – Oct 1st) I will be at Tracker School integrating myself deeply (and probably getting my ass kicked) into Philosophy 2 & 3 with my wonderful Element Sisters and many other friends and class mates!

What is next?

I’ve had a few ‘possible’ trips in the mix, Hawaii being one of them. In addition to Hawaii though, I’ve had an even grander adventure possibility that I have been working on for the last couple of months that I am now officially doing (I will get to Hawaii one of these days..). A much desired destination of New Zealand! Yes, NEW ZEALAND!!! Australia is a possibility if the plane tickets are cheap enough – but New Zealand is for sure!

Details to come, for now I am going with my good friend Carleigh in December to backpack both Islands till the end of January, which brings me to the reason for this quick and rather lacking post of mine: I am asking all family and friends who planned on sending me a card or a small gift (Starbucks card, etc.) for my birthday next week, to instead please add whatever amount (hey I’m not picky – take that 5 bucks that you would have given me for a nice coffee) to my Travel Fund. I need some gear (frame backpack that will work for my rather messed up back.. etc) and of course the plane tickets aren’t cheap. I’m going to just go ahead and add here that Christmas gifts can be funneled in the same direction since I will actually be in New Zealand over Christmas.

Normally when people ask me ‘what do you want for your Birthday’ (Christmas too) I say ‘Nothing’ – or a bookstore gift card at the most. Holidays are pretty bittersweet for me and with my piss poor attitude about them in the last few years most people get me nothing nowadays (Except Lorien, because she doesn’t give a shit that I told her she cannot get me anything anymore). As I have changed in the last year, I’ve realized that while it doesn’t matter much if I still get nothing since this is my normal expectation, if people would like to ‘gift’ me – I can accept it and point them in the direction of what would be meaningful/useful for myself. So here I am, trying on a new hat (Yep that is a nod to you Barbara Myerson).

I hope your Autumn is filled with exciting prospects as mine has been thus far. I hope to write more about my adventures and maybe even edit some of this blog of mine… For now, I hit the road to New Jersey in 5 hours!

Open Roads ~ J

Mother’s Day

Another Mother’s Day arrives. This year I have no one to call – not Mom, not Grammy Gail Roissier. It’s a strange feeling, seeing everyone post on Facebook about their mom and grandmothers. All the loved mothers talking about what their families did with them to mark the day. Brunch, flowers, silly gifts, family time, breakfast in bed, all actions I can remember plotting with my brothers once. Who would pick up what, how to smuggle food into the house without her knowing, making sure all the little kids got a chance to sign the cards, delegate who was cleaning what so things were ready. Much like her birthday; we loved making her smile by showing up with coffee, cards and shit-eating grins to ‘surprise’ her like we did every year.  Now I find myself asking people if they can do x today then apologizing when I realize that unlike me, they have women to celebrate with in their lives.

This year’s Mother’s day is particularly sad. Mom, Grammy Gail now too and a good friend’s Mom just passed a few days ago. Sadness all around. For some strange reason it was the thought that ‘ I’ve no one to call this year..’ that really hit me. I’ve a few friends who are moms themselves, sure, and Barbara Myerson often likes to ‘mother’ me; but they have their own families to wish them a Mother’s Day. So I think of my siblings, reach out to the boys and check in.

I think George Washington summed it up beautifully in this quote ~

“My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.”

I cannot agree more. Even the things Mom did not teach us, she set the basis up for us to be able to learn them. People often compliment me, and I always think in that moment ‘it is because of Mom that I am this way’. It’s a testament to her love and care in the time they did have, that in a place where they are blundering young adult idjits trying to find their way in life without her, my brothers are truly caring and special men.

I hope that whoever you are, if you have the chance to look in your Mother’s eyes and tell her what she means to you (yes she knows, but hearing it aloud is like realizing it all over again), that you will. Regardless of where in life you are, what challenges you’ve had together and even if she was less then what you needed at times, that you still tell her what is in your heart. ~ This goes for everyone regardless of how your mom figure is related to you!

I’m happy for the memories we did make. I’m sad for the ones we won’t. Happy Mother’s Day people.

Grammy Gail Roissier, Mom & Joannie

Grammy Gail Roissier, Mom & Joannie

In Memory of my Mom – Reneé and my Grammy Gail ~ Joannie.