I sometimes forget that I've suffered any trauma at all. Ever. When I'm surrounded by people and life is busy, I'm a happy camper. And, yes, usually cooking for 13-35, too. It's not like I love to cook either, but I am rather good at it and my reputation precedes me. So, when a holiday or family event rolls around, I'm usually making most of the food.
Busy is good when you've had loss like mine. But, I've never not been busy. I take long evening walks with a friend...a tall, gorgeous, 25-year old guy-friend. And, he has a beard...a ginger beard. Thank you, Universe! But that's not the best part...the best part is his intelligent, creative mind and sense of humor, not to mention that comfortable feeling you get when you recognize not so much a person, but a soul. Yeah, that, too.
My nephews are the absolute loves-of-my-life. Doting on them is one of my joys and even though they're all teenagers now, sitting and chatting with Aunt Rebecca about everything from ancient Greek philosophy to mythology to macro- and micro-economics to the latest movie or videogame is still somehow cool. And, of course, so is my home-made mac-n-cheese, Tuscan pizza, banana bread, and that insanely good whipped cream with fresh berries (which I glaze with Georgia honey and a few other special ingredients, too). This week I attended the youngest's soccer game then took my boys out to dinner. I'm baking banana bread and apple crisp this weekend so I can bring it over for my middle nephew, who specifically asked me if I could make some for him. How could I refuse such a request??? Just thinking about my nephew's face when I said yes makes me smile big.
I have lovely neighbors who all have beautiful babies, ranging in age from 0-5. A nice mix of girls and boys, and, I love them all. I get to do some fun things with the kids and love to bake for the families. Yes, banana bread, but also my infamous red velvet cupcakes that are so pretty, an editor from Southern Living featured a pic from my 2015 Instagram feed. Not bad, eh???
Ah, the Canadian question mark...a lingering side-effect from spending a week in Germany with a professional hockey player. Another Leo, like me. We wandered christkindls, drank this awful mulled wine in ceramic Santa mugs, drove to The Netherlands, and explored a medieval castle. It was a fabulous adventure. My first in Europe, actually. It was also the time I got a speeding ticket while driving on the Autobahn. No joke. Luckily, my NASCAR skills went unnoticed while on a recent trip to Ireland. But those roads! So tiny!!! Which only made it feel more like a race track to me.
When I'm not cooking, baking or traveling, I'm busy writing, or hiking, or biking...can you tell I have ADD? Because, I do! And, though it often makes social interactions difficult, the benefits are off-the charts. In one day, I built a bench from salvaged metal and a slab of stained bamboo, painted all the trim and doors in my kitchen, polyurethaned new wood trim in the entryway, cleaned my bathrooms, and wrapped 17 gifts. All while watching the first six episodes of "The Tick" on Amazon Prime. I may have even written a new essay as well. And, I always bike at least 18 miles a day...as the Angelinos say, "Energy, energy, energy!"
So, how is it I have time to feel anything at all???
Welp, it started with a dream. I was pregnant. With my daughter, #Emma. I could feel her kicking and moving around inside me. I put my hand on my abdomen in the dream, right where I saw my tummy popping out from her kicks. She was with me again. And I felt so much happiness. I woke up that morning with my hand on my belly, a little disoriented, thinking I was in in my old house. It's strange, but that's the first time since I lost my daughter that I had a dream like that. Sure, I've had dreams where I woke up because I thought I could hear her cry, or, panicking that I fell asleep while nursing and she was somewhere in my bed. But dreaming I was pregnant again??? That was a first. Naturally, the tears began streaming down my cheeks.
What else could I do in that moment...?
As sad as my sadness is, I'm SO over the tragedies that punctuate my humanity. No, life isn't perfect today and I still have a few loose ends to tie up from that horrible tale of woe that ended two years ago, but everyday in between now and then, I've worked my ass off to transform those negatives into positives. The proof? Today, while perhaps on mile-eight of my bike ride, I realized that I'd evolved beyond the person I was in that dark time. It just kind of hit me. Like the moment you recognized your first letter when you were learning how to read as a kid.
My whole understanding of human existence has shifted. The thing I wanted more than anything in 2015 is still something I want, just with different packaging. I've outgrown much of the ideals I held at that time. I've learned how to say no. I've learned that I matter. I've learned that I'm hawt-as-fuck, regardless of my limp. I've learned that I really don't care what others think...at all. Ben Franklin might have even called me a pragmatist.
Wouldn't that be something? To have that lech Ben Franklin just show up, right here, right now??? Loved his character on the cancelled, "Sleepy Hollow." It was a magical show, despite some of its pitfalls. I mean, the hero was a kick-ass woman! It was also my friend at a time when I needed one...how? Ichabod Crane kept me company when I was totally alone, 1,000-miles from everyone I knew and loved.
Funny how all roads lead back to that pretty little house I left behind....
It's true, I still cry over my losses. I miss people, places, the feral cat that would visit me, the little sparrow I named Jack, and even the brown recluse spiders that always managed to find their way into my shower or tub. Don't worry--I never killed them. We would always come to a mutual understanding of trust and peace and I would safely usher them to my backyard a la a Tupperware container. But in the midst of remembering all that I miss, my thoughts re-route to my angelic walking partner--the cute one with all the muscles and facial hair, and that incredible soul...is it hot in here, or is it just me??? Then, I think about the trail where I've seen stags, wolves, and angels. I remember my beautiful friends who have supported me through hell-fire and back again. My nephews and all our fun times together. I remember the field where I go to see meteors falling at twilight. The apple orchards with a killer view and a little store that has the best donuts I've ever tasted. The movie theatre that generously invites me to private screenings because I was kind to the manager's wife and he's never forgotten it. The comic book store where I hang out with fellow freaks and geeks on Wednesdays so we can talk about the new arrivals, and a bunch of other random stuff, too. My neighbors who watch over me as if I were family. And, the way the trees in my backyard light up with the sunrise each morning. The sound of peepers in early April on the marsh. All the neighborhood kids who come to visit me at Halloween because they know I give out full-sized candy bars and will talk to them about comics and video games and movies. My little dog's face popping up over the top of the couch when she hears me come home from a long day. It's all pretty wonderful. And, I'm grateful.
That's perhaps the biggest change in my life since 2015...gratitude. Like I said, I still feel the pull of grief for what I miss from that other life, but I am so very glad to be surrounded by so much love and light today that any grief I feel is temporary. For the most part. After a dream like the one I had recently, feeling physical pain is par for the course. The life I have today was forced on me. That will never be happy. The thing is, forced or not, happiness is a choice. It really, truly is.
I choose happy...every single day. In order to make that choice, I have to be mindful. I have to be present. I have to live with deliberation, not regret. Impermanence is part of the human condition. As I watch my nephews grow up, I remember my own childhood full of loving grandparents and aunts like me--most of whom are gone today. My nephews will sit around a future Thanksgiving table and reminisce about my food, my inappropriate jokes, my inability to stop swearing, my ridiculously loud laugh, and how fun it was to sleep over, binge watch bad movies, and eat so much good food, they thought they would explode. That's one hell of a legacy. How can I be unhappy with that?
How can I be unhappy at all??? Yes, all the loss will always be there. My heart will never fully heal, and apparently, neither will my mind. But my courage to move forward anyway, my resilience, my sense of honor and loyalty to the people who have helped me after that horrific period--it all adds up to gratitude. The consequences of that tragic time have not ended, of course. And, they won't. Not for many years to come. In fact, I suspect that some of my last thoughts before I die will revolve around those very losses. Then again, maybe not. Maybe the next two years of living with gratitude (instead of attitude) will pay off in ways I have yet to imagine.
Being mindful has that effect...like a blue bell popping out of the remaining snow cover as the earth prepares for new life in spring. The world may still have a few cold days, lots of mud, rain, maybe even a little hail, but as the Sun stays longer and longer in the sky, so, too, shall your heart warm to the world around you.
By the way, tonight is a rare Harvest Moon. In a 78-year period, a Harvest Moon like the one appearing in the Northern Hemisphere this evening only happens in the month of October 18 times. Some part of me feels like there's a special magic to this moon. A sweetness I haven't felt in a very long time. Despite the tightness in my chest, I can breathe. I can laugh. I can smile. And, I hope you can, too.