Hey there! I had a fun little Saturday yesterday – I got my hair done (a slightly new cut and a bold red color), went on my weekly “Food Adventure”, where I try a new restaurant (I went to Modern Market for a Blueberry Pesto sandwich), and did some shopping at Trader Joe’s (picked up some cold brew coffee concentrate)!
Today, I’ve been working on some freelance projects while catching up on “Pose” (I think I have three episodes left). I am going to yoga later and am still debating if I should make a trip to Michael’s today – I have a coupon that I might not be able to pass up!
But the real reason I’m writing today is to share with you the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Before I dive in, here is the official book description from Amazon:
“A must read for anyone hoping to live a creative life… I dare you not to be inspired to be brave, to be free, and to be curious.” —PopSugar
From the worldwide bestselling author of Eat Pray Love: the path to the vibrant, fulfilling life you’ve dreamed of.
Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration.
She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us.
Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.
If you know me, even if only through this blog, you probably can already guess that I LOVED this book! It felt like it was written from the things swirling around in my brain. I have always valued creativity, and I talk extensively about it in my blog class – that we must nurture our brains to be creative, and act upon it when it happens.
I wrote down SO many lines from this book that spoke to me and I’ll share them with you here:
- Without bravery…they would never be able to realize the vaulting scope of their own capacities. Without bravery, they would never know the world as richly as it longs to be known. Without bravery, their lives would remain small – far smaller than they probably wanted their lives to be.
- Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?
- The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.
- The courage to go on that hunt in the first place – that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.
- I am talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.
- …When courage dies, creativity dies with it.
- Keep your eyes open. Listen. Follow your curiosity. Ask questions. Sniff around. Remain open. Trust in the miraculous truth that new ideas are looking for human collaborators every single day.
- Let inspiration lead you wherever it wants to lead you.
- I don’t want to be afraid of bright colors or new sounds, or big love, or risky decisions, or strange experiences, or weird endeavors, or sudden changes, or even failure.
- Your own reasons to create are reason enough.
- I have dedicated my entire life to the pursuit of creativity, and I spend a lot of time encouraging other people to do the same, because I think a creative life is the most marvelous life there is.
- You don’t just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation, and how equipped you are for the weird demands of creative living.
- I have watched so many other people murder their creativity by demanding that their art pay the bills.
- Perfectionism stops people from completing their work, yes – but even worse, it often stops people from beginning their work.
- Perhaps creativity’s greatest mercy is this: By completely absorbing our attention for a short and magical spell, it can relieve us temporarily from the dreadful burden of being who we are.
- Following the scavenger hunt of curiosity can lead you to amazing, unexpected places.
That about sums up the book, right? I feel so lame that I haven’t read any of Gilbert’s any other books – but I’ll be adding them to my list! I’m recommending this book to anyone looking for a push to live their dreams, whether that be making a career change or picking up a new hobby or even taking a trip off the beaten path.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Leah on the Offbeat” by Becky Albertalli. I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend!
Last night was yet another showcase for my Dance Austin Studio family. This was the Summer Meltdown, Take 2, which was a music video series. It was, of course, different from other showcases Dance Austin has hosted in the past – it was a four-week series followed by a video shoot, instead of a live performance.
The kicker was that no one (except maybe the choreographers) had seen the videos before last night’s premier – I think all of us dancers were a little anxious to see how all of our hard work turned out.
Naturally, all of the videos were awesome! Each of them had a funny twist, and it was cool to see the different personalities come out in each video.
I know that after each dance showcase I perform in, I write up all the feels from the day in what’s become my traditional showcase wrap-up. But, there wasn’t quite that same batch of feelings after last night.
Yes, it was really weird to show up at The North Door and not have to race to the “backstage” area and get ready for tech rehearsal, or find a spot with decent lighting to put on all of my show makeup. Instead, it was a little more leisurely, and there was a black carpet with a step and repeat #fancy
But I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have enough emotions swirling around in my mind not to write some sort of something about the state of my life lately.
The truth is that, as I’ve alluded to some in recent weeks, I am struggling pretty hard in the mental health department. I’m chalking it up to grief, and although I’m still not entirely ready to put all of my chips on the table, I’ll offer up what I can thus far.
I’ve experienced loss several times in my life. I lost family members when I was a kid, and when I was in high school, it felt like I went to way too many funerals – those of my peers. It was surreal, and I started to form very small bits of dealing with grief and even just the taste of how short life can be.
In college, though, I suffered a loss that I still cannot talk about without tearing up. He was also my peer, the first person I met when I went to college orientation, we were each other’s dates to Greek functions… I felt a closeness to him unlike any other.
And he was killed while crossing the street.
A good friend told me the news as I was driving, and I pulled off the road to compose myself. I called my dad, and he talked me through it.
Several years later, I had natal reading where a professional looked over the stars during the time of my birth and during the years of my life.
“How does death fit in to your life?” she asked me.
I explained to her that I’d suffered several losses; one particularly difficult. We talked about the photo I have of him and I – framed on my desk at home with a candle beside it. She told me he was my soul mate, and it was likely that we’d met in a previous life, and that he was protecting me from the other side. I could keep his energy alive by lighting the candle and honoring his memory.
But little did I know that even a loss as tough as that one seems like a drop in the bucket compared to losing my dad.
I’ve talked enough on this blog about the relationship my dad and I had to get me in a shit-ton of trouble with most of my family. And even though my dad isn’t around to reprimand me or control the ship, I’ve kept quiet on the home front.
There’s something unsettling about all of it.
As horrible as it sounds, I felt some sort of relief in that my every day, physical life wouldn’t change after my dad died. After all, I hadn’t talked to him in years. We didn’t exchange texts, or cards, nothing.
But it’s been almost six months since his death, and I can tell you that I don’t even remember what it’s like to go a single day without crying; or thinking about it; or feeling guilty.
There have been times I’ve wondered why he had to be the one to go instead of someone else – and then I feel horrible because I know that no one deserves to go through what he did.
So many people have said to me, “Your dad must have been so proud of you.”
And while that’s an incredibly nice thing to say, I don’t know how true it is. My dad was TOUGH. He was quick to tell me all of the things I did wrong, and I can’t recall him ever saying he was proud of me.
At the beginning of this month, I felt so alone, so in the dark about how I was really supposed to get back to how things were – even just inside myself. I feel like I can’t pull myself out of this funk. I realized that my normal cures for bad days weren’t working.
Because this isn’t just a bad day. This isn’t a breakup. This isn’t a fight with a friend.
This is grappling with a major loss. It’s contemplating the meaning of life. Religion. Family.
It’s the realization that hindsight is a cruel bitch.
On the other side of this darkness, though, I’m also experiencing incredible success in my career. Not necessarily in my day job, but in my work as a blogger, editor, and digital strategist. I’ve had work literally fall into my lap almost every single day. I lived in Louisiana for 12 years and barely felt like I’d made a name for myself; been in Texas for less than three and I feel like so many people have reached out for my writing expertise, and I cannot explain how much that means to me. The fruits of my recent labor are allowing me to do things I’ve never thought I could do.
Part of me wonders if my dad is helping me from the other side – but then I feel guilty for even thinking that way. It’s a confusing place to be.
I decided to seek help from a professional (which is a chore in itself). So, I got a referral, and my mom helped me find a few options… and now it’s up to me to make the appointment. I’ve done therapy a few times before (for years), but this time, I’m considering medication.
But with medication comes all sorts of questions and worries. What will it be like? Will it change my personality? Will it make me less creative?
I’m still thinking on it.
In the meantime, I decided to focus on what I was putting into my body and how I was treating it. So, I stopped drinking entirely and am focusing on a plant-based diet. The no-drinking thing is a little more of a chore than I anticipated – I’ve been drinking lots of organic lemonade after realizing that non-alcoholic wine was not really a thing I’m going to do (ha!).
I’m doing more yoga (even if it makes me cry) and trying to get better sleep at night. And I’m still dancing.
Which brings me back to last night’s video premier. Our video shoot was 3.5 hours – beginning at 6:30 am, outside, in the Texas summer sun. And the resulting video was less than three minutes.
It was clever, and looked great, and it was funny to watch. But I couldn’t help but notice that we sure did put allllll of that time into just a few minutes – a highlight reel.
I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. But it’s a lot like life – you spend your whole life living it, no matter how long or short of a time you’ve got – and perhaps it takes you the entirety to realize one thing, or do that ONE thing.
And it all boils down to that highlight reel.
The same could be said for relationships or weddings or vacations. It’s those few moments that stand out.
Last night, one of my fellow dancers said, “You’ve been doing some road-tripping, right?”
I nodded, and explained to her that ever since my dad died, I am going for it, and I’m doing it without much of a second thought. I’m going to the places I’ve never been, eating new foods, facing my fears, and I’m doing it whether anyone is coming along or not.
I’ve already got two more trips planned this year, and I’m eyeing another one.
I don’t know what you dream of when your mind starts to wander, whether it’s dancing on a stage or being in a music video; maybe it’s seeing a Broadway play or getting published in a magazine.
Whatever it is – DO THAT.
At the end of our time here, you’re going to want certain things in that reel, and the time to accomplish them is now.
If I’ve learned anything about myself in the past six months, it’s that we are often our own blockade. So toss the fears aside. Just go for it.
To my dance family, thank you for providing such a supportive environment for me to even think these things. Some days, I struggle to show up to class. Other days, it’s all I want to do. But you’re there, and I hope I can return that favor to you whenever you need it.
You might recall a popular TV series in the mid-90’s, “Living Single”, that followed six black singletons living in Brooklyn. They were in their twenties.
Because that’s when most people are single, right?
I haven’t written about my (lack of) dating life in a while – in fact, when I searched through the archives of this blog, it’s been at least a year. Why? Well, until possibly yesterday, I didn’t have much to say on it.
I used to look at being single as sad, and then it became a badge of honor. Now it’s just nothing – or at least, nothing that defines who I am or what I do each day.
I know I’ve got some new readers here – Welcome! – and it’s likely that you never thought this was once a place where ALL I talked about was dating. Why?
Because I did a lot of it in my twenties. I dated, I wrote columns about my experiences, I bartended and met more people to date, and then I published books about it, and spoke about it at open-mic nights… and now I just live it.
I had some fun experiences, some really bad ones, I fell in love a few times, and I also strung myself through abusive relationships.
And then I decided to be single.
Not the single where you have crushes, and “talk” via text, and meet new people on Tindr, and have casual sex. The kind of single where I just get to know myself.
That was at least five years ago, and I’m still in that space.
I definitely never planned on being single at 33, but I also never planned on living in Texas, eating mostly vegan food, or contemplating what life at 55 looks like for a singleton like myself.
At times, being single is scary. I have Miranda’s fear of dying in my apartment, alone, with my cat, and wondering how that ends. And some nights, settling into the covers of my big bed is just a weird reminder of how long it’s been since I fell asleep next to someone I really cared for.
Most of the time, though, I’m happy with my life. Many days, I can’t even remember what it was like to be in a relationship, or to even have a crush on someone. I can do nearly anything I want, and for the most part I do. That was always my saving grace at the end of a relationship – I was free.
If that doesn’t tell you anything about the kinds of relationships I’ve experienced, I don’t know what will.
My jump into being single likely got off to a bitter beginning; I was single because I’d been burned. And there are still remnants of that – it’s embarrassing to admit that I’ve never had a relationship that I’d classify as good or healthy.
But even between relationships, I would quickly meet someone new and move to the next person; one rebound after another.
So being single was a much-needed blow to the cycle. For awhile, I found it difficult to even look at a man, whether at a restaurant or when checking out at a store. I was convinced all men were the same, and I wanted no part of their game.
Don’t worry, I have softened a little since then, and although I don’t meet many people whose relationships I envy, I do follow a few bloggers that give me hope in dating, relationships, and possibly even marriage.
When I graduated from college (10+ years ago), it seemed like everyone was getting married, and many of those same people got divorced, and/or had children. But really, a study came out last year saying the number of marriages in the US, and around the globe, have been declining since the late 90s.
A report from the Urban Institute also stated that many millennials won’t get married until age 40. In the past (say, in 1960), people married for many reasons – to have children, for financial gain (taxes, military, etc.); there was also less pressure on education and careers, for women at least.
Today, being single can mean a plethora of things, and it can look many different ways. That’s the catch 22: there’s almost too many options on how I can spend my years. Do I adopt? Travel? Move elsewhere? Get more hobbies?
I suppose I’ve got time to decide.
In these five years, I’ve gone on a few dates, and unfortunately they’ve been really bad reminders of what I don’t miss about dating – ghosting patterns, mixed messages, messy homes, boring conversations, and selfish sex.
It’s unlikely I’ll go on a date before 2020 rolls around, but when it does, I have a better idea of what I’m after – someone who has it together; a good, fun sense of humor, an appreciation for life, and a kind heart.
Until then, I’ll be obsessively reading library books, cooking new recipes, and planning my next vacation.
This week, fans of “Sex and the City” have been celebrating its 20th anniversary – can you believe it?
HBO’s iconic series debuted in 1998, when I was in 8th grade. We didn’t have HBO at my house growing up, so I didn’t come across the series until I was a junior in high school, when I went on a college visit to Miami of Ohio.
It was 2001, and I saw an episode on DVD – I’m pretty sure I fell asleep before the episode was over. To be honest, I didn’t know a whole lot about dating when I was 17, and I certainly knew nothing about sex.
But by the time I went to college, I’d scrounged up all of the available seasons on DVDs and brought them to Louisiana. The episodes made me laugh, and I started to see why so many people loved the show so much – they spoke so honestly about dating, and in college, I really needed that.
My DVDs also came in handy when I applied to get a new roommate during my second semester of freshman year. The only open bed available was with someone who’d scored a room alone – she was probably REALLY disappointed when I showed up with my boxes of crap on a random weeknight.
Until I showed her my SATC collection and told her she was welcome to watch them anytime. We watched loads of episodes together.
It’s difficult to believe now, but SATC changed the dialogue about sex and dating, and it was one of the first shows (aside from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”) that put single, career-driven women at the forefront.
It also carved a larger path for sex columnists, given that SATC’s main character has a weekly column titled, “Sex and the City”. I quickly became a fan of Natalie Krisnky’s writing, who was the sex columnist for Yale’s campus newspaper until 2004.
I also wrote the relationship column for the LSU paper, and while that was not the start of my publishing career, it gave me a place to vent about my dating troubles, and gave me confidence to start this blog, and eventually publish multiple books on the topic of love, sex, and relationships.
Based on the best-selling novel by Candace Bushnell, SATC gave us four women that were relatable, yet far enough out-of-reach that we could drool over their fashion, apartments, and exclusive access to New York City.
In the span of six seasons (from 1998-2004), Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte became our best friends, even if only digitally, we related to their love, loss, fun, and fights.
The best part? The writing is timeless. Over the years, SATC episodes covered first dates, baby showers, breakups, and marriage, and even dipped into more serious issues such as cancer, abortion, miscarriage, infidelity, interracial dating, and sexual identity.
No matter the topic, the tone of the show was always hopeful – that we can get through just about anything with the support of our friends and the relationship we ultimately have with ourself, and that’s a lesson that never comes too late.
As part of a week-long celebration, the E! Network has been playing all of the SATC episodes, and although I have the entire series on DVD (I was gifted an entirely new set after wearing out the first set), it’s fun to just turn on the TV and see all of the episodes I’ve watched countless times – I could probably recite most of them.
For this post, I was trying so hard to think of my all-time favorite episode, but it changes depending on what I’m going through at the time.
Right now, I can definitely relate to “A Woman’s Right to Shoes” (season 6, episode 9) when Carrie attends a baby shower and is asked to remove her Manolos – they get stolen, and she gets “shoe shamed” when she asks for a new pair from the hostess.
I have also always loved “Hot Child in the City” (season 3, episode 15) where all of the women face something from their childhood – whether it’s scooters and sunbathing or getting braces.
Just a few episodes later, in “Cock a Doodle Do”, Samantha goes to WAR with transsexuals on her block – it involves eggs and lots of yelling, but eventually they makeup and throw a rooftop party.
I never really did like any of Carrie’s boyfriends, not Berger or The Russian – I only like Mr. Big. One of my favorite episodes with him is “I Heart N.Y.” (Season 4, episode 18) when he’s getting ready to move to Napa. There’s pizza in an empty apartment, and several references to “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and it’s perfect.
SATC also gave us some epic one-liners, including:
- When real people fall down in life, they get right back up and keep on walking.
- Being single used to mean that nobody wanted you. Now it means that you’re pretty sexy and you’re taking your time deciding how you want your life to be and who you want to spend it with.
- They say nothing lasts forever; dreams change, trends come and go, but friendships never go out of style.
- I am someone who is looking for love. Real love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love.
- Maybe the best any of us can do is not to quit, play the hand we’ve been given, and accessorize the outfit we’ve got.
I will probably spend a large chunk of my weekend watching SATC without regret. But I’d love to know, what were some of your favorite moments of the show? Or, did it change your life in some way? Give you confidence for a career move? Help you meet new friends?
Let me know in the comments! Have a great weekend everyone!
Hello! It’s Friday and I’m just rolling right on through my reading list. Usually, I use my library reserve list to choose the order in which I read books (when it comes time to pick up, that’s the book I read next), but given my recent loss, I saw this book was on the shelf and decided to go ahead and read it.
I’m talking about “The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss” by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt.
Last year, when the accompanying documentary came out (“Nothing Left Unsaid“), I watched it immediately – I also wrote a review on it. I have always admired Anderson Cooper, have watched him for years on CNN, and saw him in-person with Andy Cohen last year.
Before I go any further, here is the official description of the book from Amazon.com:
A touching and intimate correspondence between Anderson Cooper and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, offering timeless wisdom and a revealing glimpse into their lives
Though Anderson Cooper has always considered himself close to his mother, his intensely busy career as a journalist for CNN and CBS affords him little time to spend with her. After she suffers a brief but serious illness at the age of ninety-one, they resolve to change their relationship by beginning a year-long conversation unlike any they had ever had before. The result is a correspondence of surprising honesty and depth in which they discuss their lives, the things that matter to them, and what they still want to learn about each other.
Both a son’s love letter to his mother and an unconventional mom’s life lessons for her grown son, The Rainbow Comes and Goes offers a rare window into their close relationship and fascinating life stories, including their tragedies and triumphs. In these often humorous and moving exchanges, they share their most private thoughts and the hard-earned truths they’ve learned along the way. In their words their distinctive personalities shine through—Anderson’s journalistic outlook on the world is a sharp contrast to his mother’s idealism and unwavering optimism.
An appealing memoir with inspirational advice, The Rainbow Comes and Goes is a beautiful and affectionate celebration of the universal bond between a parent and a child, and a thoughtful reflection on life, reminding us of the precious insight that remains to be shared, no matter our age.
The documentary and the book are obviously based on the same collection of information, but the book is the collection of emails between Cooper and Vanderbilt, which was really interesting.
It’s funny to me how much we don’t know about our families, or even our parents – or maybe it’s just me. But even someone as famous as Gloria Vanderbilt had a bit of a mysterious past to her son. Here are some quotes I took note of during my reading:
- “I know now that it’s never too late to change the relationship you have with someone important in your life… all it takes is a willingness to be honest and to shed your old skin, to let go of the long-standing assumptions and slights you still cling to.”
- “I’ve often thought of loss as a kind of language. Once learned, it’s never forgotten.”
- “I no longer imagine a diamond at my secret core. Instead, I see shimmering flashes of moonlight on the calm of a midnight sea.”
One topic they didn’t discuss in-depth was the suicide of Anderson’s brother, which Vanderbilt was witness to. It’s talked about extensively in the documentary.
All in all, it was a great read, and inspiring – get to know people you care about! I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves memoirs, and of course, fans of Anderson Cooper and/or Gloria Vanderbilt.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Into The Wild” by Jon Krakauer.
I hope you all have a great weekend – I have another batch of blogs planned for next week! I think it’s safe to say, I am slowly getting my creativity back. Talk soon!
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.
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.
Okay, I’m about two days shy of the three-week mark using Invisalign, but this will just have to do! I have been curious about Invisalign for the last year for a few reasons.
For starters, I’ve never had traditional braces and I cannot TELL you how many times my dentist has asked me if I’m interested in braces. No, no, and no… until I was.
My teeth aren’t that crooked. Instead, they are very crowded on the bottom and a little angled up top. It has never bothered me until recently. In fact, I often prided myself on the fact that I’d made it this far without orthodontic work.
But the truth is, I take a lot of care in the way I look. I’m not vain or superficial, but I do like to take care of myself, and I also like to experiment with new beauty trends (I just Derma-rolled for the second time ever last night), and I have a bucket of makeup and a tiny collection of face masks to prove it.
I wear makeup on most days – mostly to express myself and help boost my confidence. That’s all great, but I started to feel like my look was incomplete with my teeth. Sure, my nails look great, contour is on-point, lipliner looking fresh… but my teeth?
So, when I switched dentists because of insurance, I specifically looked for one that offered Invisalign. I asked about it immediately, slapped down the down-payment, and they got to work.
The first step was to have impressions taken of my teeth. These impressions were sent off to Invisalign and they made a computer simulation of the changes my teeth would go through from start to finish.
My dentist also took tons of pictures of my teeth, and of my face – she said I would see a slight change in my profile.
Once I approved of the way my teeth would look (according to the simulation), my dentist was able to tell me that my “treatment” would be six months, which is the minimum amount of time for Invisalign.
At my next appointment, my dentist applied some “buttons” onto my teeth – basically they are small raised pieces that help “lock” the Invisalign in place, and they help the teeth move a little faster.
She then had to shave down the sides of some of my teeth since they were so crowded – the shaving involved her flossing my teeth with sandpaper. Literally. It was an interesting and awkward experience.
Before she handed me my first set of trays, she told me I had to wear the trays at least 22 hours each day: sleep in them, only drink clear liquids with them in, and take them out to eat. I was instructed to brush my teeth before putting the trays back in.
She broke two pieces of bad news to me at that point: 1. The first two days of each tray are painful, and 2. My coffee intake would likely be reduced given that I couldn’t drink it with the Invisalign in.
Ohhhhh… I was visibly upset over this coffee news. You see, I usually sip on coffee from the time I wake up (6:30 or so) until around 10. But if I did that, I’d already be breaking the 22-hour rule with Invisalign.
“It’s only for six months,” she said. She didn’t GET IT.
But anyway, I snapped in my first trays and was on my way. And she was right, it HURT. That night, I had so much trouble getting the trays out, I skipped dinner.
Since then, though, it stopped hurting, and it’s very easy to get the trays in and out.
On my two-week mark, I put in a new set of trays, and it hurt some (I took one dose of pain killers), but not as bad as the first one, leading me to believe the “shaving” was actually the issue.
I have 14 trays total, so I’ll be getting new ones about every two weeks. I expect to be putting in tray no. 3 on Thanksgiving Eve… which will make for an interesting Turkey Day.
So far, it’s been okay. It is a little annoying to have to take the trays in and out so much – I feel like I’ve cut down on snacking because it just isn’t worth the time and effort (in case you wondered just how lazy I was).
On the upside, I can already see the progress my teeth are making – and it looks great, even this early in the game! I also started using a whitening toothpaste in hopes of getting a bit of a brighter smile along the way!
I’ll keep you posted…
Hey, hey! We made it to Friddaaayyyy – this week has been crazy busy! I’ve been cranking out Holly Golightly Sleep Masks for my Etsy Shop. I’m thankful they are selling, but man, it’s a lot of work!
Anyway, I’m so excited to share the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club: “The Identicals” by Elin Hilderbrand. Here is the official description from Amazon.com:
Harper Frost is laid-back, easygoing. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. She likes a beer and a shot and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything fashionable. She’s inherited her father’s rundown house on Martha’s Vineyard, but she can’t hold down a job, and her latest romantic disaster has the entire island talking.
Two beautiful islands only eleven miles apart.
Tabitha Frost is dignified, refined. She prefers a fine wine and has inherited the impeccable taste of her mother, the iconic fashion designer Eleanor Roxie-Frost. She’s also inherited her mother’s questionable parenting skills–Tabitha’s teenage daughter, Ainsley, is in full rebellion mode–and a flailing fashion boutique on Nantucket in desperate need of a cash infusion.
One unforgettable summer that will change their lives forever.
After more than a decade apart, Harper and Tabitha switch islands–and lives–to save what’s left of their splintered family. But the twins quickly discover that the secrets, lies, and gossip they thought they’d outrun can travel between islands just as easily as they can. Will Harper and Tabitha be able to bury the hatchet and end their sibling rivalry once and for all? Before the last beach picnic of the season, there will be enough old resentments, new loves, and cases of mistaken identity to make this the most talked-about summer that Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have experienced in ages.
…This book was like a modern-day “Parent Trap”, and of course it focuses on two adults, not children. I absolutely LOVED this book! I read it almost in a single single sitting. It was completely an escape, thanks to Hilderbrand’s delicious details about Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket (neither of which I have been), including sparkling rose, farmer’s market jams, and lobster pot pie.
I would recommend this book to my rom-com lovers, and/or anyone looking for a sweet summery escape before winter hits us all with depression.
The next book we’ll be reading in Blanche’s Book Club is “What Made Maddy Run” by Kate Fagan (!). You’re going to want to read this one with us… Just saying!