I made it through the one year anniversary of my Mom's death with no tears. I wasn't striving for that (heaven knows I've learned the value of tears in this last year!), but it was such a good, positive day, focusing on things we love and miss.
Today, I sit at "work" (my internship site) and I can't seem to keep the tears from streaming. Not entirely sure why now, but I'm just going with it.
I post on FB, so then I tend to think that's enough, but I'll post about it again. We put messages in balloons and sent them off yesterday. I loved it, it felt like I was communicating with my mom in some way, and the kids loved it. Avee wrote for one of her messages, "What's it like up there?" She watched my face closely as I read what she wrote. She was prepared for me to think it was funny, but I could see in her face it was more than that. I smiled and told her, "I love that Avee" and I watched her own the thought. She was ready to disregard it as silly if I laughed. I see so much of me in her.
Bo wrote, "I think about you all the time" which did my heart good to see. I do too. And sometimes I feel like it's just me. Sometimes selfishly, I forget how big of a role she played in their lives too.
My sister and I were talking yesterday about how it still doesn't feel real. I thought I felt that way because I haven't lived near her for so many years; but my sister who never lived more than 5 blocks away her whole life, feels the same. I guess that's what happens when you're heart and soul are larger than life and you live on so vibrantly in the lives of other. Yesterday I thought a lot about if I'm living that kind of life.
One of the things about my mom being gone that consistently stings is not being able to share things with her. My heartaches, my victories, my struggles, my children....
I had a day a couple of weeks ago when I got some bad news and I couldn't wait to get off the phone to call my mom and talk to her about it. I hung up and immediately started to dial her. That was awful. I felt like the wind was knocked out of me and I was gasping for air for the next two or three hours. I called my cousin sobbing. I hadn't talked to her for a few months so I'm sure that was a really fun phone call for her. Talking to people in those moments who know just how deep the void is, is really helpful.
Anyway, I thought I'd document some of those things I'd like to tell her. The thing about telling my mom was, I was never bragging, never having a pity party, never stupid, never so wrong, never alone. Even if I was having a pity pary or being stupid, she didn't call it that.
J and I have navigated some difficult roads the past couple of years and we are good. I'm thinking less that I am someone who doesn't deserve him and recognizing more what an incredibly good team we make. I definitely think I scored a million times over, marrying him. But so did he, and I love seeing that play out in our lives.
I can hear my mom say, "Oh Angela, he is just darling. He's a good father, he's your friend, he cares about people, he's so sweet to me...don't you ever think for a minute he isn't wonderful. He is."
I've learned so much about myself in this last year that it blows my mind sometimes. I think I finally have something to write a book about! :) I love what I've learned. I've loved learning how weaknesses don't lessen you, they make you real and give you something to work for. I've learned that vulnerability is attractive. It's desireable. In my opinion it's a form of perfection. When I can get past my own belief that no one should see all of who I am, weak, strong, scared, confident, lonely, loved, ambitious, lazy, angry, calm, doubting, sure.... the doors it opens are so fulfilling. I've had experiences in the last several months where I had to just kind of hang up my fears of rejection and plunge right through a door of uncertainty. All the things I've done to protect myself, were protecting me from nothing. They were actually limiting me.
I don't even know if I can articulate these thoughts concisely. I have lived a long life of not letting myself be vulnerable, constructing exactly what I thought people should see. Peeling away those layers of self-imposed judgment has lightened my load. Instead of focusing energy on what I think people should see and know, I am able to focus my energies on taking things in, experiencing more fully, simply loving more. I. LOVE. It.
I can hear my mom say, "This is so WONDERFUL. You have always had the courage and strength to do things I could never do."
AJ is an angel. I look at her and think we've made perfection. For the fourth time. :) She is smart and funny and tenacious and even-tempered and opinionated and a "very communicative non-verbal". That is what they called her at the hospital in November. The other day J was reading to Bo on the couch and snapped a couple of times at the other kids to be quiet so he could read. AJ was puttering around humming/babbling to herself. She got kind of loud, but how do you tell a baby to be quiet when it's so darn cute? So J just read a little louder. AJ also got louder. He tried going a little louder without making any fuss about it. Soon, AJ was full on yelling her baby babble. It seemed so hilariously intentional but it just wasn't. Although J was probably annoyed that he couldn't simply read in peace, it was too funny not to laugh.
Sometimes I pull AJ to me and smoosh on her face and cover her neck in kisses like you would. I mourn that she won't know personally the greatness, the strength of character that she comes from. I ache that she won't get the lipstick reminder of your constant love. I try to watch her through different eyes, just to see what you would tell me about her. You always saw unique things about all of our children. I love your view of them.
I can hear my mom say, "She is soooooooo darling. All of your kids are--such perfect little personalities, all so unique!"
I love this program I am in. I never could have known what it would do to me, to my life. I can't believe I'm almost done. I am eager to be at home with my children and have some semblance of control over my schedule again. I am anxious to have those letters behind my name and the accomplishment of a very big goal. I am so proud to being doing this and to have accomplished this. But I also never want some of it to end. I am in a very nuturing, "mistakes are expected" environment with some really, REALLY incredible people surrounding me. I could live like this forever! But, I'm paying for it in money and time, so there will definitely be perks to it ending.
I can hear my mom say, "It's nice to have this experience, but life just has to move on, doesn't it?"
I remember starting this program 2 years ago and looking around the room at my classmates, feeling like an outsider, knowing I would never connect with any of them. My classmates rallied around me when AJ was in the hospital for a week and sent love, support, balloons, cards, cookies, phone calls and messages. Who are these people I was sure I'd never connect with? One always has my back. When you died, she was there. When the road was too hard, she pushed me through what had to be done. When I was withdrawing, she called me on it. I didn't even know she was doing it when she was. That's how connected we are. Another hears what I say and shows me regularly I matter. Not because she's trying, just because that's how she loves. She makes me feel smart, connected, funny, and can make me laugh until I cry. You know that's not easy. It's amazing how you can feel so "complete" with the relationships you have and then others come along and remind you that you aren't.
I can hear my mom say, "Oh you've made friends wherever you are, I can't believe you ever thought this would be different. I just can't get over what wonderful people ALL of your friends are! Who's that little one that...."
All of my friends are "little ones", just by comparison. :)
I wrote an essay for a contest with the American Counseling Association. I never really put myself out there to be judged. If you don't put yourself out there, you don't ever have to face rejection. I have become a master of avoiding even perceived rejection. I definitely didn't think I'd win anything, but I also knew I had nothing to lose. Winners get a free registration to the conference in March. I must admit, that was a strong motivator because I wouldn't be able to afford going otherwise, and all of my friends were going this year. Well I got runner up! At first I thought that was honorable mention, which is fine, it's still something! But then I found out there was a winner, and then 4 runners up, and I was one of them! That felt good. I was one of the top five out of nearly 300 essays. Funny thing is, even after winning I felt myself slip into what my counselor calls "the imposter syndrome". I immediately began thinking how I "fooled" everyone and it really wasn't great, and how all the other submissions must have been REALLY bad if I won....
It's so crazy that I do that to myself. I am a good writer. I wrote something that enough people liked that it got selected. I am going to own it.
I can hear my mom say, "I can't believe you doubted your writing ability, I could read what you write all, all day! Don't let it go to your head so you start writing poopy because you don't have to try! Hahaha, I know you wouldn't. Does that mean you're going to the conference? Are you going to be leaving those babies? It's hard on them Angela, don't think it isn't. They need their mom. I remember when I went to Boston...."
Bo submitted a science fair project the day it was due. I happily took him to Hobby Lobby and let him pick up the stuff he needed. I even felt proud of his initiative to get it done! Then I learned the actual fair was the next day. He was going to show up at the fair, with a project. I knew it didn't work that way so I started asking questions. He produced a permission slip that he said he could take with him the day of. It said, "Please sign and return no later than January 11th." It was February 6th. I lectured Bo pretty exstensively. Unpaid car payments get cars repoed. Unpaid mortgages get houses taken. He was given instructions with a deadline and he's not an exception to the rule.
The next morning he woke up with a rehearsed speech for his science teacher, taking responsibility for his slackerliness, and asking permission to still be allowed to participate. It was a humble and kind of darling "speech" he had memorized the night before, before falling asleep.
His teacher said yes. Of course I was happy that he didn't have to be disappointed, I can't help but feel that. But I was also a little annoyed that he wasn't getting told no. I felt like it would be a good natural consequence to help him increase responsibility. Oh well.
He came home three days after the fair grinning like a smug little turkey. His project won. This victory wasn't lost on him either. I had to just laugh it off. I guess he'll learn responsibility the hard way, somewhere else.
I can hear my mom laughing, "Oh dear", she'd say as she laughed, "You'll be dealing with a whole 'nother set of challenges with this one! You and J are the perfect parents for him though. I think about what a team you and J make and whoooooooeeeeee, you two pack a punch!"
We're waiting to see if J will get into PA school this year. I hate being in limbo like this. We met a guy who tried for 3 years to get into PA school and finally gave up and started another program. That kind of scared the bajeebies out of J. But, I know things will work out, even if not on the time frame we'd like. I just hate the waiting.
I can hear my mom, "Meeeeeee too! Ach! I hate waiting and worrying. You're better than me though, I don't sleep when I have to wait and worry---and then everything gets ugly really fast!"
Hmmm, I feel better already!