Category Archives: The Squeeze
But why Denver for a Bucket List Trip? I’ll explain.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to take a trip to a city I’ve never been to and see a concert. So, when a band or a musician I like goes on tour, I always look at the entire list of the cities they’re visiting to see what might work for a possible Bucket List Trip.
Several years ago, I booked a Bucket List Trip with my best friend to Las Vegas to see John Mayer. I bought our concert tickets and was ready for the trip of a lifetime.
And then John Mayer had to have surgery on his vocal chords, and he cancelled his tour. I refused to believe it until I checked my email and saw the refund from the ticket company. My friend and I still went to Vegas, and we had a blast, but it didn’t end up being one off my Bucket List.
As many of you know, I’ve been going through it (what I would consider Hell) since September, when my dad had brain surgery to remove a mass. He passed away in February, shortly after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
I am still very much in pain, and sometimes it feels worse than it did the day he died.
In November, after my dad’s surgery and diagnosis, I saw on Twitter that R&B artist Khalid was going on a new leg of his tour. I’d wanted to see him so badly, but the tickets were always so expensive.
I looked at the stops on his tour, and yes, he was coming to Austin, but he was also performing at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre – a place I have ALWAYS wanted to see a concert. If you’re not familiar with Red Rocks, it’s the only natural acoustically perfect concert venue in the world. Basically, it’s at the bottom of a canyon, and the pictures look insane.
The tickets for the show went on sale just a few weeks after I saw the tour list, and I vowed to get myself a ticket. So, on a Saturday morning between dance classes, I locked myself in a dressing room at the studio and purchased a ticket for the show at Red Rocks.At the time, I had no idea I’d be grieving, no idea that I would so desperately need a vacation, but alas, here we are, and I’m so thankful I’ve planned this trip for myself!
But I’ve been waitin’ all year to get the hell up outta here
and throw away my fears.
I started listening to Khalid about a year ago. I heard his single, “Location” on the radio during my commute to work and I liked it so much, I wrote it down in my phone.
Months later, I took a trip to Indianapolis to see friends, family, and a guy I liked. Well, one of my friends refused to see me, my family lied to me, and the guy turned out to be an asshole with a house straight out of an episode of “Hoarders” (and recently confessed to my best friend that he actually liked her all along).
I couldn’t get out of Indiana fast enough. When I got to the airport, I decided to download “Location” and I had it on repeat for a few days. Slowly, I started buying other songs off his album, “American Teen”, and before I knew it, I was listening to the entire album on a loop.
In September, when I flew to Chattanooga to see my dad before his surgery, I was listening to his album to comfort me while I was hysterically crying in the airport:
I cried for my entire Lyft ride to the airport, through security, and once I got to my gate, I found a corner and cried. I cried so hard that someone from TSA came to talk to me to see if I could calm down.
The truth is, how could I be any semblance of okay after what had just happened? In just four days, I’d received the news about my dad AND all of this drama that comes along with my dad’s side of the family had come crashing into my face.
I felt alone; I feel like I don’t have anyone rooting for me; and I was scared shitless that I’d never hear from my dad again. I knew one thing for a fact: I wouldn’t be getting updates from his partner anymore.
Two things stopped me from crying for my six hours of travel home: my trusty Khalid album, and the Dallas Cowboys’ burger kiosk at gate A21 in the DFW airport. It’s the second time I’ve eaten there, both times I was upset, and both times I’ve abandoned my vegan lifestyle to get the Cowboy Blues burger and it is so worth it.
It’s cheesy, but music has always comforted me, and it’s something my dad and I had in common. He loved all sorts of music, and my very first concert was with my parents, seeing one of my dad’s favorite bands, Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs.
So yes, I’m AMPED to see Khalid, and I’m as equally excited to see Red Rocks… I will probably cry over stimulation overload and I’m okay with that.
The thing about Red Rocks is that there’s always a 99% chance of rain given its location and natural setup. Part of planning for this trip meant reading lots of guides and other blogs from people who’ve been to Red Rocks before. From that, I learned what kind of shoes to wear, and what to pack: an empty water bottle, warm clothes, and a rain poncho.
The concert is rain or shine, and many times it does rain, and the concert keeps going. But sometimes, they cancel it. And I will be damned if this turns into another John Mayer/Vegas/Non-Bucket List trip!
I’ve kept this trip very close to my heart – I’ve only told a few people – because, well, this trip is for me. I’m traveling alone, as I often do, and I’m experiencing this on my own. So many people I know have been to Denver already and I wanted to keep things new to me – sometimes it puts a damper on things when people share their experience with a place before you even get there.
Ever since my dad’s passing, I’ve been very aware of my own mortality. I’ve always felt some sense of pressure to live life, and do things, and don’t regret a moment… but that feeling is very amplified as of late.
I’m also very aware of people around me and what they’re doing with their life: whether it’s planning and taking trips, or building a business, or having a family… I’m just here, and I feel like I’m being left behind. So, this trip is coming at a perfect time – a time when I feel like I need to just get out there and live, and do something I have only dreamt of doing.
I wanted to plan my own activities and make this trip a complete getaway. So, aside from the concert, I do have a list of restaurants and breweries that I want to indulge in, and I’ve got a few sightseeing things on my list. I also treated myself to a fabulous hotel right in Downtown Denver. I’m looking forward to a true adventure.
For the sake of being present, I’m keeping the social media documentation to a minimum. I plan on posting a few Instagram pictures (@OrangeJulius7), but will be staying off other channels.
I’ll tell you all about it when I get the chance.
On Saturday, I packed a backpack and headed about 40 minutes outside of Austin to Elgin, Texas, where New Republic Studios is located. I was going to my first ever Writer’s Retreat, and it was also the inaugural Writer’s Retreat hosted by the Austin Film Festival, where I’ve been volunteering for the last two years.
I have always wanted to go to some sort of writing retreat, and I was excited about this one because it was just a day event, so I could test the waters. When I registered, I got an email saying to just pack my writing supplies, lunch, and any snacks – everything else would be provided.
I feel like I always have so many ideas in my head for things to write, but I’m not very good at just sitting down and bringing it to fruition. This is a problem many writers face, especially if we’re doing other things to pay the bills (there’s no shame in that game) and/or if there’s no deadline or reason to write, other than to satisfy our minds. We are all guilty of putting ourselves and our needs last, right?
The thing is, one of the major projects on my mind involves my dad, and I’m still very emotional about it. I know that is a big reason I’ve been putting it off. I’m so emotional, in fact, that the entire WEEK leading up to the retreat, I felt anxiety and grief. I finally just had to keep telling myself that this retreat was for me, and if I went and didn’t feel comfortable working on that particular project, then I didn’t have to – I have so many other things I could work on. I also reminded myself that I was under no obligation to stay the entire time. If the retreat wasn’t beneficial to me, then I could leave.
So, I packed up my laptop, notepad, journal, pens, headphones, and lots of snacks, and headed on my way. The little road trip to Elgin was a treat in itself. I am a sucker for scenery, and some of these tattered curves seemed straight out of a Nicholas Sparks’ book – there were dusty roads, cattle, and rolling fields of bluebonnet. I even spotted a cardinal perched along the road!
When I got to New Republic Studios, I was impressed. I’ve been to movie and sound studios before, but this was such a neat setup. It’s right along the Colorado River, and has multiple studios for filming.
Upon checking in, we got a schedule for the day, and there was free cold brew coffee and snacks. A few different people welcomed us, and talked about the day, and how important it was that we were carving out this time to work on our craft.
Then, everyone sort of went their own way and got to work. Some people went to an optional improv hour, and others (including me) went to write. I chose a spot outside – it was such a beautiful day, and I feel like I don’t get outside enough.
I worked on my project about my dad for as long as I could, and I also worked on my blog some, but I spent hours just journaling. I started writing in my journal in October, when I felt like I couldn’t turn to my blog as an outlet, and I stopped writing in it about three days before my dad died. I think I was scared to even go there – but I filled many pages on Saturday!
I sat outside almost the entire day – moving to a shady spot in the afternoon. I’d packed a small blanket so I could sit in the grass, and that was nice.
However, one of the people who is affiliated with Austin Film Festival, was at an outdoor table for most of the day, and spent that entire time talking and laughing to a few other people. I don’t know if anyone else was bothered by this, but I definitely was. It’s really difficult for me to concentrate on my work when I can hear other conversations.
This was a Writer’s Retreat, not a talking retreat, and this was someone who had just given us a speech, “You are a writer, no one can write the story in the way you can.” And here he was being so loud that he even said, “Sorry if we’re being too loud,” but then continued to talk! How about not being sorry and simply being quiet?
I put in my headphones and listened to music for a little bit, but then I realized, what is the point of me sitting here with my headphones in? We all paid to be here, and I could sit anywhere with headphones in. So, I packed up and left about 30 minutes early. I’d gotten all I was going to get out of that day.
All in all, I really enjoyed myself. But I would encourage the Austin Film Festival staff to be more respectful to those of us who need a quieter environment.
I couldn’t help but think about how much it takes for some people to write. I have had this blog for more than 10 years, among other blogs I’ve had, and am always doing something that involves writing. And maybe I’m a rare breed, but I do feel like many writers will go out of their way to avoid actually sitting down to write.
This is something Stephen King talks about extensively in his memoir, that writing is something you just have to DO, even if it means locking yourself in a room and doing it, and it often doesn’t look like anything fun or glamorous.
I met so many people at the retreat who were scared to even call themselves writers – because they hadn’t been published or hadn’t had a movie made… it takes work! And even sometimes, the result might not be what you planned.
It certainly does help to have retreats and environments that support writing and creativity. But sometimes you’ve got to make those spaces for yourself, or you’ll never get it done.
After the day at the retreat, I felt relaxed, like my mind was a bit clearer. And that is something I haven’t felt in a really long time. I’m so thankful for that.
So two weeks ago, I got a giant news flash when I started wearing a pedometer given to me as a part of the United Healthcare Motion program. I found out, I don’t ever walk… like at all. During week 1, I walked 18,599 steps.
For week 2, I really wanted to amp things up and try to hit 10K steps at least one day. So, on Monday I took three long walks during my work day, which was nice. I could blow off steam and get some sunlight. I went to my usual two dance classes on Monday night, and when I went to bed, I’d gotten 8,091 steps – compared to the 2,954 steps I’d gotten the previous Monday.
I continued taking walks during the day all week at work, and I started parking my car further away and took the stairs instead of the elevator, and it was working – and I could also feel it in my legs and feet.
On Thursday, I took a mile-long walk at lunch, and then did my usual three-class Thursday, and I got 11,252 steps. When I’d hit 10K, a little trophy came up on my pedometer, and I earned $1 toward my health insurance. I was also so as hell when I laid down to go to bed that night.
I haven’t hit 10k since then, and I’m feeling much less obsessed over the pedometer today. For week 2, I got 47,607 steps in total – more than 2x what I got in week 1.
Here’s the thing: yes, I think it’s important to move and take steps, but it’s annoying and stressful to me to constantly be worried about how many steps I’m getting.
I make an effort to eat healthy and generally active, but I feel like an idiot when I’m marching in place while heating up my lunch in the break room just for the sake of satisfying an app. Is marching in place really that much better for my health than just standing in place? Also, what is the stress and obsession doing to my body?
I also simply DON’T like wearing the pedometer. It’s ugly, and well, it’s spray-tan season, so how is that supposed to work? There are issues, people.
I have also noticed that walking around my apartment complex in the evenings is not really gaining me any social points. I don’t have a baby or a dog or a husband, so me just taking laps around my little neighborhood just makes me look like a creep and/or a robber. Because of this, I am looking into purchasing a pet stroller for Blanche… because then it will look like I have a better reason for walking – my child, my cat, obviously.
We can just blame it all on this pedometer – this dollar-earning pedometer.
So, I don’t know. I am still wearing it today, and have two dance classes to take tonight, but I haven’t taken any walks today, and I don’t know if I will. I’m so obsessive over everything else in my life that I just don’t know if I have room for this one. We will see.
Speaking of obsessions, I just added 15 NEW listings in my Etsy shop – and I’m currently having a sale, so head over there if you’re in the market for new jewelry!
Meanwhile, I’ll be on “Magnolia Watch” all week – my Louisiana Magnolia bush has at least six buds on it (more than I’ve ever seen) and I’m constantly looking outside to see if they’ve opened. I love the scent!
About a month ago, the HR department at my job told us they’d be switching our healthcare provider. So when I enrolled, I saw that our new provider, United Healthcare, had a “Motion” program that involved getting a pedometer, setting fitness goals, and earning money toward our care. Sweet!
I have never really tracked my steps. I have been on diets before where I counted calories, and also tracked how much I worked out, but that’s about it. Several years ago, I wore a cheap pedometer as an experiment for an article I was writing. I remember being surprised at how tough it was to get steps and I’d be marching around my apartment at the end of the night (while brushing my teeth) trying to up my tally for the day.
Well, I guess I’ve learned no lesson, because after week 1 with my fancy pedometer, I’ve determined I must just be the laziest person ever.
Let me back up. After signing up for the Motion program, I got a credit of $55 that I could put toward a pedometer. I picked the one that was $55 – the cheapest option. It was black, tracked steps, and said it had an app you could sync with to see the stats on your phone. Works for me!
Another coworker signed up for the Motion program, too, and we got our pedometers in the mail just a few days later. I was told I would get a $40 “Swift Start” bonus if I put the pedometer on right away, so I did – I put it on last Monday around 5:30pm when I got it out of my mailbox and then I headed to my usual Monday night routine: two 1-hour dance classes back-to-back.
That Monday evening I got 2,954 steps.
The days following weren’t much different – I admittedly don’t really move once I get to work, which I have heard is WORSE than smoking cigarettes. I’ve heard repeatedly that we’re supposed to get 10,000 steps per day, and I barely got that in seven days. I know. I’m half ashamed.
However, I decided week one should just be an honest look at my life, and then now we make a change. Right? But I’ll admit that each day, only getting 2 or 3,000 steps, I was getting frustrated and I wondered how people got 14,000 steps each day?
I consulted other pedometer-wearers and they all said that getting steps is a challenge. You really have to set yourself up to get steps – whether it’s parking further away, or setting an alarm every hour to walk a few hundred steps.
A friend of mine tracks her steps and when we went to Vegas last year she would tell me when we’d hit 10K – and I remember thinking, “Wow, we’ve walked a TON,” and I felt very sore.
Hmmm. During week 1, I took a few less dance classes than normal, but I also rode a workout bike for 6 miles, and still only got 2,883 steps for the whole day. My best day was Saturday, where I took a 1-hour cardio class and then a 3-hour nap. Go figure.
So, this week – my goal is to walk more while I’m at work, even if that means simply taking a lap around the office every hour. It still may not get me to 10K, but it will be more than what I got last week… right?
If you track your steps, is there a trick that helps? Walk every hour? I’d love to know how you’re getting your steps in!
I’ve written a solid amount about the trouble I have had sleeping over the years. As a child, I have always had very vivid, colorful dreams while sleeping – but I also have had terrible, life-like nightmares (some of them I can still remember). I can recall many nights waking up in the early hours, scared from a nightmare, calling for my parents to come comfort me.
My parents, as far as I can remember, stayed up watching late-night talk shows. We always lived in relatively small houses, and I was comforted by the sound of the TV, and/or the hallway light still on. It made me feel safe knowing someone was still up, even if it was likely they were sleeping on the couch.
I don’t remember having sleep issues in high school or college, but since then, it’s been pretty bad. It started after a rough breakup several years ago. I had such bad nightmares that I would wakeup sweating, or crying, and I often couldn’t fall back asleep. After months of trouble, I started seeing a therapist.
After years of learning where my issues were coming from and how to cope, I hadn’t had a nightmare since. Until recently.
I know I am under stress and am still experiencing grief, so I’m not surprised to see the return of these dreams and nightmares. I will say that even though they are scary and force me awake, they aren’t as bad as they were years ago.
Still though, I am working to get myself some quality sleep. Yes, I am currently looking for a therapist, but I know that isn’t going to solve all of my sleep issues.
You see… I hardly ever just want to go to sleep. I know all of the things you’re supposed to do to get a good night’s sleep – set a bedtime, get ready for bed plenty of time before you actually want to fall asleep, don’t sleep with the TV on, don’t look at electronics at least 20 minutes before bed… la la la. I never do any of these things, because I often want to stay up and watch TV or read or work on my blog… it’s rough.
Over the years, I’ve tried various, all-natural sleeping pills and even the strongest of medicines cannot put me on my ass. My mind is always buzzing. However, I have been taking a sleeping pill as of late – really just to force myself to take the pill and tuck myself into bed.
I have found that I have to approach sleep with a combination attack: many things working together to get a quality sleep. I have tried sleepy tea, boiling bananas and drinking the water (which was so freaking boring that yeah, I fell asleep), essential oils, rigorous workouts, hot bubble baths… but this is what’s been working for me lately:
I have NOT been meditating lately and I’m paying for it. I’ve noticed that we tend to ignore the things our bodies often need the most – whether it’s exercise or healthy foods, water, or sleep, we just do the opposite. But when I was regularly meditating (about 10 minutes a day), I was getting a more restful, quality sleep.
I am still using the free version of the Calm app – it has tons of free content, especially for those who need help getting to sleep. Try it!
Essential oils on the skin:
I have an oil diffuser that I use regularly, but that isn’t enough to lull me to sleep. So, after trying a sleep oil blend (it’s Lavender, Vetivert and Camomile to calm both mind and body, soothing you to sleep) in my Birchbox, I bought a set that is a roller and pillow spray that helps me sleep. It’s not too intense, so it doesn’t bother my cat (who sleeps in the bed with me) and it’s not something I feel I have to scrub off in the morning. Perfect for travel, too!
I actually keep my roller and spray in a little cosmetic bag under my pillow so that if I’m settled into bed I don’t have to even move to get them. I also keep some lavender foot lotion in there, too! After a night of dance classes, sometimes I rub my feet and calves with it to help prevent soreness and relax before I try and sleep.
Tea and/or supplements:
I recently tried Moon Juice’s Dream Dust, and it was about the same as any sleepy/calming tea I’ve tried. Here’s the scoop on it:
Dream Dust® is an adaptogenic blend of tranquil superherbs and Chamomile Flower that help combat the effects of stress to soothe your tension for deep, nocturnal rest.*
Contains ingredients with proven benefits:
- Reduces stress to help promote more restful sleep*
- Helps to alleviate the effects of stress and tension*
- Helps promote better sleep*
I have also tried melatonin pills, and those usually help me sleep for about three hours.
As I said, I use a combination of all of these: meditation at some point during the day, a cup of tea or a melatonin pill about an hour before bed, and essential oils on my wrists as I’m hitting the pillow. It takes a village, y’all!
Ah, here we are, the final stage: Acceptance. This stage can come across as a giant sigh of relief, but the truth of the matter is, acceptance does not equal joy or mean that life goes back to the way it was.
Instead, it simply means that we are accepting life without our person; and we’re figuring out a way to create a new normal. This may mean that different people fill different roles, or that a daily routine looks a little different.
As I mentioned yesterday, my dad wasn’t a part of my daily life so not much changes in that regard. But I certainly feel different.
When I went to Tennessee for his memorial, a majority of my family was there, and it certainly felt so weird without my dad there. He was always keeping in touch with everyone and it would be strange to have all of us in a room without him. When my friend drove me back to Indiana the next day, things just felt a little colder, a little more empty.
I am still trying to learn a lot about my dad and the life he lived. Of the things I’ve heard, I’m starting to realize just how full of a life he did have, and how many obstacles he overcame in such a short time and did so without hesitation.
My dad wasn’t a man looking for fame or fortune – ultimately, I think he was just trying to find a little bit of happiness, perhaps even a touch of adventure in each day. He loved stories, loved meeting people, and even in the confines of what appears to be a reclusive last few years, he found joy in hobbies: fixing fountain pens, attending garage sales, reading, and playing chess competitively.
I am never going to be okay with my dad being gone. But I know my dad would be okay knowing that we are all going to try and find a way to go on without him here, physically. I hope this brings my family together – they’re pretty cool – and I know he’d like seeing us lean on each other.
My dad was cremated, and I flew my portion (1/7th) of his ashes from Indiana to Texas. Right now, they sit on my bookshelf while I wait to decide what I actually want to do with them. I know I’m scattering some of them, and am lightly planning that now. I know my other family members have their own ideas for how to honor my dad, too.
I have no idea how long a journey like this lasts. In college, a close friend unexpectedly passed away and I felt like my heart was ripped to shreds. I remember pulling over and calling my dad when I got the news.
That was almost 10 years ago, and sometimes I still get choked up about that loss. But I am someone who believes in spirits and signs, and I have a connection to radio waves (I know, it’s super weird but I hear meaningful songs nearly everywhere I go), and I’ve already seen a few signs from my dad.
Even just last night, I went to a dance class and we danced to Demi Lovato and DJ Khalid’s “I Believe”, and the lyrics almost brought me to tears: “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do, As long as you’ve got hope, you’ll find your way.”
I know we’re all going to come out of this on the other side, and I have always believed that we aren’t given anything we can’t handle.
Don’t look back at this time as a time of heartbreak and distress, remember me.
…I don’t want you to cry and weep, I want you to go on, living your life.
-Hanson, “With You In Your Dreams”
Thank you so much for reading my grief series – I know it was not a cheerful read. There will be more on this, I’m sure, as I continue on.
If you knew my dad, and have anything you’d like to share with me, please do not hesitate to email me at: Holly@thebitterlemon.com – I would love to hear from you.
Stage four isn’t that shocking – it’s depression. Why wouldn’t someone going through grief suffer from depression? I have been slogging through the darkness of depression and sadness since my dad’s surgery in late September.
Although depression can come in many forms for different people, for me, there was one telltale sign: things that normally made me happy, no longer did. That is why my blogging fell to the side, my Etsy shop (I stopped making jewelry), I stopped cooking and relied on meal delivery, and my sleep suffered.
Things are slowly getting better – and I know that it’s okay if I have a bad day – now is the time to go easy on myself.
Expectations when it comes to grief are really weird. I got cards in the mail from so many people, which was great, and I’m so thankful – I hung them all in my living room. But on the other hand, some people just expect me to go on and be normal, like nothing ever happened… And well, that’s just not how it’s going to be.
People respond differently to people who are grieving. They reach out. But depression is so very isolating. It’s hard to explain to anyone who has never been depressed how isolating it is. Grief comes and goes, but depression is unremitting.
-Key Redfield Johnson
Some days DO feel normal. After all, I didn’t talk to my dad on a regular basis. Before his surgery, I hadn’t talked to him in almost four years. But nothing can explain the finite feeling that is death. He is gone, and I can’t talk to him like I did before, no matter what I do.
Other days, I feel like I keep freaking seeing CANCER… BRAIN CANCER, everywhere. It’s in the books I read, it’s on TV, it’s online… and I just never want to see it again.
Right now, there are two 50-pound boxes of his things in my closet. I have dug out a few of the items – a wooden chess board and pieces that I’ve set up on my dresser, an antique fountain pen that’s on my home desk, a glass paperweight that’s on my desk at work, an LSU sweatshirt, an Atlanta baseball hat, and a half-used journal.
Some days, I wear the hat or sweatshirt – the last few nights, I’ve slept with the journal at the foot of my bed. Other days, I don’t want to even think about opening up the boxes to see what else is in there. I’m just not ready.
I’ve found that reading is a good escape – I’ve read three books in the last week. I’ve even cooked a few meals and am starting to gather materials to make a few pieces of jewelry for my Etsy shop.
I am someone who likes to DO things; I like to be productive. But even with the greatest intentions, sometimes I still end up laying in bed for long chunks of time. It is a slow process. Writing about my feelings – even at a surface level – has helped me this week. Planning for the future also helps, and gets me excited about things coming up this year.
I’m taking it day by day, as cliche as it sounds.
Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about the fifth and final stage of grief: Acceptance.
Stage three of grief is an interesting one. Bargaining refers to promises that may have been made before the person passed away. For example, praying and asking God to please spare your loved one; or perhaps making a promise that you’ll never do anything bad again if only this person can live longer.
These types of promises, or bargaining, may also occur after the person has passed, only now, they are imaginary. We may start to think back and wonder what if I’d done this, would the person have lived longer?
I’ll be honest, this really has not been a part of my grieving process, at least not yet. I know that there’s nothing I could have done to change the course of my dad’s life. I think many of us are probably in a position to think, well if we only took charge of our health or if we only exercised more, etc… but the truth is, our death is already planned. And it may not have anything to do with health or food or exercise.
I also know that my dad was given the best care possible once he entered Erlanger hospital, and I know he was grateful for all of his surgeons, doctors, and nurses along the way.
The thing is… guilt is also a part of stage three. And I cannot say I’ll walk away from this without feeling guilt. I wanted so badly to repair the relationship I had with my dad so that we could enjoy his final days, months, years laughing as we once did.
It’s a hard thing to imagine how somebody copes with grief and at the same time has to build a new life.
But despite everything I did, there was still a barrier. And the truth is, I will die not knowing what really happened there. There is one thing I did that I feel wrecked with guilt for, and I obviously can’t take it back.
Because of the nature of my dad’s death, I was blessed to have the opportunity to say goodbye. He was not capable of responding to me, but he was breathing, and I said – albeit through hysterical tears – everything I could think to say. And I apologized.
And that’s all I could do; and I just have to know that he heard me, and that he died knowing I was sorry, and that we were at peace with our past.
At this point, and as I continue coping, I know that I’m going to have to forgive myself, and the only real thing I can change, is how I act in the future.
Tomorrow, I’ll discuss Stage Four: Depression.
Already, anger has played a pretty big part in my grieving process. Actually, anger has had a role in the relationship I’ve had with my dad for many years.
As described by the experts, this stage of grief can be met with general feelings of anger, along with structured feelings of being angry at a specific person – maybe a doctor, or someone who wasn’t there during the time of loss.
I have had moments of being angry at a specific person, but I also do not want those feelings of anger over that person to overshadow my general sadness over my loss, if that makes any sense. I do not want my dad’s memory to be tarnished by one person is the best way I can put it.
I have also had incredible anger at the situation surrounding my dad, anger at work, and anger at the world for just not being an easy place for me right now. I’ve even gotten angry at Blanche!
At my dad’s memorial service, my great uncle said that memory is not something death can take from us. And for that I am so grateful. But, when it came time to share stories about my dad, many of the stories I have are of him being mad at me.
Of course, many of them are moments I can laugh about now; moments where he was just raising me, being tough on me, but they aren’t necessarily moments that describe him as a person. Or are they? My dad had a short fuse, and we butted heads countless times.
May love be what you remember most.
My feelings of anger are countered by my faith in destiny. I believe there are moments in our life that are planned – such as when and how we will die – but I also believe we choose our destinies. And my dad made choices that resulted in a situation that angered our family.
His death does not change those choices, and he was an adult, actively making those choices. To be completely angry is to deny that he made those choices.
My anger is also countered by the support I feel from my family and my friends – I have heard from so many of you, received so many hugs, and have shared tears with you. For that I am so grateful.
But yes, anger is still going to be there. Studies show that as a culture, we’re taught to suppress anger, even though it’s a very necessary, common feeling. Although I don’t consider myself an angry person, I’ve found anger to be a powerful part of this grief.
My anger has forced me to acknowledge a lot of things in my life that have otherwise floated by, and it’s given me the confidence to confront the people that are pissing me off! In a way it’s good, but of course, no one likes to get yelled at.
As I’ll continue to say, I’m coping. And it’s not really a pretty thing, but I’m just rolling with it.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about stage three: bargaining.
My dad was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer in October of 2017. I know that typically, the five stages of grief are part of the healing process after loss; after death. But I have been coping with symptoms of grief since I heard the news about a mass in his brain.
I quickly learned that this blog was not a place for me to air my grievances – it was only adding to my stress as I received horrible messages from outsiders. No matter how many supportive messages I got, it only takes one dig to stick with us.
So, I quit.
I barely made an appearance here – a place I thought was mine. But that is sometimes what happens when you put yourself out there, in any form. There are always going to be haters.
For the most part, I have stuck to my journal and have let most of my other creative outlets fall to the side – including my Etsy shop (I am slowly starting to get back to it). But in general, I have been merely just trying to get by; just trying to get out of bed, look half-decent to get to work on time; do my tasks; and get some sleep at night.
At that, is stage one: Denial.
My dad passed away on February 3. It was not a surprise, and at first, I took a giant sigh of relief when I heard the news. And then I apologized for feeling relief. But I wanted so badly for my dad to be at peace, and to know that he would no longer be in pain.
After that sigh, I’ve felt a multitude of things, and each day – hell, each moment – feels different. So, I’m using this week to explore the healing process as I’ve come to know it. I’m still working on a larger project that will further detail my dad’s life and our relationship; so parts of this may be vague, as I’m still not ready to open those parts of my memory just yet.
Before starting this blog series, I thought that denial was literally denying that a person was sick or had died. And I certainly have never felt that way. I took my dad’s condition very seriously.
In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and her co-author, a grief expert, David Kessler, identified the five stages of grief that we’ve come to understand as a necessary part of the healing process.
Instead, denial is us just trying to get through each day. We may question why we should go on or HOW we should go on, and I have been feeling this SO hard. During this stage, life may seem meaningless, or things that once seemed like a big deal just don’t matter as much.
The latter explains my feelings about work. I hate admitting that, but ever since my dad’s surgery, getting stressed over trivial things at work seemed beneath me. And they still do.
But grief is a walk alone.
Others can be there, and listen. But you will walk alone down your own path, at your own pace, with your sheared-off pain, your raw wounds, your denial, anger, and bitter loss. You’ll come to your own peace, hopefully… But it will be on your own, in your own time.
My dad’s memorial service was a week after his passing, but I knew that upon getting back into town, I had to refocus quickly and jump into dance rehearsals. I was in the middle of prepping for the showcase and I had two weeks to learn two routines and get my costumes together. It was a much-needed distraction.
But the day after the showcase, I felt so lost. I didn’t really know what to do with myself even though between work and dance and just general life, my days are pretty much laid out for me.
Since then, it’s gotten a little better – I know I must go on, and I know I have to continue to live the life I’ve dreamt of, especially now. None of us know just how much time we have, and I don’t want to ever be in my final days wishing I’d done more.
As you probably know, the stages of grief are not linear. They can come and go at any time – sometimes they last a minute, sometimes they may last months. Everyone deals differently.
Tomorrow, I’ll discuss stage two: Anger.
This album was the last one in my pile I gathered at the library last month. I was searching for new tunes to keep me distracted enough from crying every time I got into my Jeep to go somewhere.
If you’ve listened to Chris Stapleton’s debut album, “Traveller”, you probably know how and why it ended up on the bottom of my pile. I was driven to check it out from the library after seeing a news feature about Stapleton on “Sunday Today” (my favorite news program).
The feature aired the morning of the Grammy’s, as Stapleton was nominated. It also covered the entirety of his career, a major highlight being his performance of “Tennessee Whiskey” with Justin Timberlake at the 2015 Country Music Awards.
I will admit it was a moment that caught my ear and put Stapleton on my radar – his sound was bluesey, and that’s something I love.
But Stapleton has shared his story about his very popular debut; a piece of work he created after his father died in 2013. He took a road trip across the country with his wife, stretching across the West in an old Jeep.
Today marks one month since my dad passed away, and listening to this album over these last few weeks has been half-difficult and half-cathartic. Above all, I admire Stapleton for putting such raw emotions into a beautiful piece of art that will be enjoyed by many for years to come.
That’s the thing about being a creator – some of the best stuff comes from the darkest of places, and can be so helpful and rewarding to others.
The title track is one of my favorites, and honestly makes me think of every road trip I’ve ever taken – it’s upbeat, nostalgic, and it just gives me this image of driving with the windows down, overlooking a vast desert. I love it.
My heartbeat’s rhythm is a lonesome sound
Just like the rubber turning on the ground
Always lost and nowhere bound
I’m just a traveler on this earth
There’s a lot of talk of whiskey on this album; from “Tennessee Whiskey”, “Whiskey and You” and “Parachute”, it seems dark, but is probably honest.
My other favorite track has to be “Sometimes I Cry” – it basically sums up my life lately, and it was so bare and raw I can’t help but love it.
The entire Stapleton sound reminded me so much of Marc Broussard, an artist I’ve admired for many years. I don’t know who came first, but they have fantastic similarities.
I’m looking forward to checking out more of Stapleton’s music – I know there’s a few more albums to listen to for me to catch up. Blues music can bring out those deep cuts – it’s not pop music. Sometimes it’s difficult to hear, but there are times for that, too.
This month has been so hard, this week probably being one of the worst. When all of life’s distractions fall to the side, I’m sort of left with a feeling of what to do next. For now, I’m going through the motions, going easy on myself, and I’m starting to get a few things in an order I can appreciate.
On Thursday, I was half-listening to a webinar, when I heard a few things that caught my attention: “Your best work comes from a place of elegant excellence.”
Hmm… perhaps there’s some truth to that.
I’ve had so many memories and thoughts swirling around in my head, I’m due for a journaling session. I’ve got a few ideas brewing and I know I’m on the brink of something big – something that may help heal, too.
There are days that I can walk around like I’m alright
And I pretend to wear a smile on my face
And I could keep the pain from comin’ out of my eyes
But sometimes, sometimes,Sometimes I cry-Chris Stapleton
Last night, I put performances in my 5th showcase with Dance Austin Studio to bed. After our showcase in November, I said I was coming for you, Love Hangover, and that’s exactly what happened.
In the fall, my life took a turn when my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer. When I found out, we were in the thick of rehearsals and I remember just how difficult it was to retain choreography. But with lots of practice and support from fellow dancers, I did it.
This time around was similar. My dad passed away on February 3rd, and although it’s still very difficult for me to talk about publicly, I will say that my dance family has been incredibly supportive this month.
So many of my fellow dancers and instructors, and even the owner of the studio, reached out to me to offer their condolences and support. I got so many hugs before rehearsals, and even last night, dancers I don’t see often made sure I was okay to go on stage. I am so, so thankful for that.
Before my dad passed, I signed up to perform in two pieces at the showcase: broadway jazz and lyrical hip hop. The two pieces were some of the more difficult routines I’ve ever learned – continuing with my goal to keep pushing myself each time the opportunity arises.
I had to miss one rehearsal to attend my dad’s memorial, and even though I got total support and love from my choreographer/instructor, I returned ready to NAIL. THIS. I needed the distraction and I knew more than ever that it’s simply my time to live my life.
I’ve felt like my mind, heart, and all of myself had been taken over by my dad’s disease and all of the trappings that accompany a heartbroken family. Sure, I am grieving, and will continue to do so. But after six months of finding very little that brought me out of my funk, I was ready to just DO this, and do it with all I had.
So, I did. I spent hours reviewing videos from class, dancing in my kitchen, listening to the music in my car, getting help from other dancers, and scouring multiple Goodwills for the perfect costumes.
There were times I wondered if I’d made a giant mistake; if I’d picked pieces that were too difficult for me. But that’s the thing about growth – it’s not easy, sometimes it hurts, but you come out a better person because of it.
And you know what? I got to dance beside people that I’ve looked up to since showcase #1. I’m talking to you, Kim and Charlene. I will NEVER forget when I saw Kim perform a unique routine to a Backstreet Boys’ song – I immediately wondered, “Who is that girl?!” I wanted to know her, and I’m so glad I got to rehearse with her and perform on stage beside her.
Charlene is a beautiful dancer in class, on stage, wherever, and she has this amazing ability to put everything on stage no matter what she may be feeling on the inside. I know I am not alone when I say that my eyes are often drawn to her no matter how many people are performing.
There’s also Chase and Mendy – I saw you guys freaking ROCK the last lyrical hip hop performance, and I thought, “That’s it, I’m taking that class.” And I did – and then we were all in rehearsal together and I remain so inspired by both of you – you have a performance quality that is so amazing.
Naturally, what would our performance be without our choreographer and instructor, Caitlin? I’m so lucky to be able to take her classes and learn from her – technique, style, performance WOW – she’s got it all and she’s so approachable and funny to boot.
I have been thinking so much lately about dance, and how many times I’ve prepped for shows, performances, and competitions in my life. Over the last six months, various memories have bubbled to the surface and I remembered specific instances from being on my high school dance squad.
The summer before my junior year, we went to a UDA Dance Camp for the first time. It was at a state college, we got to stay in the dorms (so cool), and we were going to learn all sorts of new routines that we could perform during basketball season.
Little did we know that UDA Dance Camp was, like, a THING, and other squads were incredibly serious, technically great, and focused. All of the other teams showed up in matching workout gear for each day of camp, including hair bows and the like, and we… well we brought sleep boxers and loose t-shirts.
Our assistant coach, who accompanied us to camp, did not back down. She encouraged us to go, go do our best, we deserved the ribbons and routines just as much as anyone else. She recorded us in our various practices and when we went back to the dorms each night, she helped us drill the routines until we had them.
And we got first place ribbons – mismatched outfits and all. Because dance is universal – it doesn’t matter how much money you have, what you’re wearing, where you come from – it’s about a willingness to try.
That same year, our head coach unexpectedly passed away mid-season. To this day, I still can’t believe it happened, and I can’t really calculate how we got through it, other than to say that we had each other and we had dance. I still remember performing a dedication to her on that basketball court. It felt like our whole city was mourning with us.
At the end of last night’s show, Chi Chi – the owner of Dance Austin Studio – said she’d experienced loss in the last week, and it’s often in those times we realize how importance it is to just move the mental road block and live our lives, no matter what that means to you. Dance is healing.
That’s the truth! I’m so thankful I have a place to help me heal, a place to go when times are good, and when they’re bad. It wouldn’t be that way without the people there, and know that you all mean so much to me.
That’s right, I’m more than halfway done with my journey to straight teeth! Right now, I’m 50% done with my 8th tray (I have 14 trays total), so I’ve been at it for approximately 17 weeks. And I can tell a big difference in the way my teeth look – plus, it’s getting easier and easier to floss since my teeth are no longer as crowded.
Upon getting my Invisalign, I was worried about 2 things: the initial pain that comes with each new set of trays (I get a new set about every two weeks), and the fact that I would be drinking less coffee since you can’t drink coffee with Invisalign in.
I’m happy to report that the pain with new trays is tolerable – I often don’t take any pain medicine, and it usually goes away in one day. Remember, the teeth are only moving about 1 millimeter for each tray.
And yes, I have been drinking less coffee. On some days, I drink more, and that just means I’ll need to make up the time and wear my Invisalign longer.
The holidays were tough – having to navigate how to take the trays in and out at parties (I often took them out in the bathroom of course, and then would wait to put them back in when I returned home), and because of the “buttons” on my teeth (these were applied by my orthodontist to ensure the teeth would move correctly and quickly), I’m often worried about things sticking to my teeth.
At the beginning of this journey, talking made me uncomfortable (it does give me a little bit of a lisp), and I stopped showing my teeth when I smile. It just looked too weird with the buttons and the trays – even though it’s clear, you can tell there’s something happening. But, I’m getting used to it – honestly, my teeth are looking very straight and I’m pleasantly surprised each time I look at them (often while flossing).
Outside of cosmetic reasons, I wanted to make it easier on myself in my efforts to keep my teeth clean and stain-free. My bottom teeth were so crowded, they stained easily (again with the coffee). Also, I was hoping Invisalign would improve my overbite – it’s not terrible, but it was starting to negatively affect my gum health.
The good news is, Invisalign’s technology predicted that it would improve my overbite by reducing it by 2 millimeters. As of my last checkup, my overbite has been reduced by 4 millimeters!
Once I’m done with my trays, I’ll be wearing a bottom retainer 24/7 for 6 months and then I’ll switch to just wearing it at night. I’ll also have some shaving/filing done to my two front teeth to make them even with my other teeth.
The only thing I don’t like about Invisalign is how often I have to brush my teeth – mainly because it means a lot of teeth-brushing in public restrooms, which ultimately grosses me out. I could also go without the monthly payments, but both of these things are temporary and very worth it. I’m really excited to see how my second-half of the journey goes!
I’ve been wanting to try meditation for years, but I always assumed it was something I just couldn’t do. But I knew when I set my goals for 2018, I had to do something to practice regular meditation – I’m 100% sure my sanity depended on it.
Truth be told, I could have gone without the second-half of 2017. I had a few major blows in my personal life and it’s taken a toll like I’ve never experienced. I’ve spent the last 14 years of my life analyzing the romantic relationships I’ve dabbled in, and then turned around and hoped that I could offer some kernel of advice to you all.
Over those years, I’ve come to learn that heartbreak completely sucks. It’s all-consuming and hurts to the core. But I’ve also learned that just about any distraction [including, but not limited to, drinking excessively, picking up new hobbies, getting a revenge body, getting a pet, killing it at work, meeting new people, etc.] can mend the wounds of a bad relationship.
But the dish I’ve been served? It may as well be poison. It’s got nothing to do with romance and everything to do with seeing the true colors, even after 32 years.
This hurts like hell.
All of my usual cures just don’t work. Tears take over on my drive to, well, just about anywhere. My drive to work on my Etsy shop has subsided; my desire to blog has all but died. Yesterday, I went to the grocery store for the first time in a month (I’ve been living off ingredient delivery services).
And that’s just not me – it’s not even close.
It’s safe to say that stress, anxiety, and depression have finally taken their toll on my mind and body. That fact was driven home when I suffered a panic attack right before the holidays. I knew I had to do something in 2018 to find the other end of this funk.
I consulted my online networks, and even asked around at work, for advice on any meditation apps. I knew I was going to need guidance and something to hold me accountable. Here’s the advice I got in return:
- Headspace, Calm, Bhuddify, Simple Habit, & Insight Timer
A few days into the new year, I downloaded the Calm app and the Headspace app around 4am one morning during a bout of insomnia. I’ve been using the Calm app ever since!
So far, I’m really enjoying it. I am still trying out all of the free content on the app, which includes several different guided meditations, a meditation timer, a breathe bubble, various music, and bedtime stories. I have tried all of these, and I’m considering doing the paid subscription soon.
Now, I’ll preface the rest of this post by saying that I do not think I’ll be “cured” with meditation alone. I am currently looking (and financially preparing) to see a therapist regularly to help me work through some of what’s happening in my life.
But I also know that it’s good for me to take a few moments to myself each day, get some good breathing in, clear my mind as best I can, and gain some perspective.
I want to make it clear that I’ve never really tried to meditate before I opened this app. I didn’t even know much about it. So, the first few attempts at it were…interesting. Even keeping my eyes closed for the entire 10-minute session was a struggle.
But I quickly learned that meditation is not about perfection; it’s a practice just like yoga (and I’ve been working each week to better my yoga). It’s not necessary to get mad at myself if I can’t keep my eyes closed or if my mind starts to wander – that’s what it’s done for 32 years and old habits DIE HARD.
There are some days I feel really good and into the meditation, and some days, all I have time for is a few minutes of regulated breathing and I’m onto my next thing. But it all helps!
Meditation started from several different religions around the globe, with some of them on a mission to clear the mind in order to make way for communication with God. Other religions seek meditation as part of the path to Enlightenment.
Even just 21 days in, I am starting to understand and adopt the ideas of mindfulness that can help reduce stress in my everyday life. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in accomplishing so much in one day – we see stress as normal, when it’s not healthy or normal.
What’s resonated with me the most is the observation that I let what happens to me completely take over my emotions and determine my happiness, or my sadness. On the flip side, things can change in an instant, and you just never know what direction your luck will take you. In other words, “This too shall pass.”
I’d say, so far, so good. I’m really proud of myself for including this new practice into my every day life – and I hope what they say about 21 days (that it becomes a habit) is true, because I know this is a habit that won’t hurt me.
Aside from meditation, another goal of mine was to cut back on social media. I’ve basically cut out Facebook and stopped looking at and posting Instagram stories. I’ve also cut back on mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and Twitter, and it’s led to a lot less social comparison (which is basically me wondering how everyone is ALWAYS on vacation) and a lot more time to read and actually meet a goal (I’m in the middle of my first screenwriting class).
I set lots of goals for myself this year, but those two really dealt with my mental health. It’s going to be slow-growing, but I’m looking forward to seeing what’s around the corner.