This year, this decade.

This is a Really Real “Life in Review” Post.

It’s the end of a year.

I figured, just like so many people do, I’d reflect on the past year of my life.  Think about my accomplishments and what I’d like to take with me into next year.

This year I started giving myself permission to take up space.  Physically, verbally, emotionally. I realized that I was allowed the space that I need. Some of the time I was able to hold the mindset that everyone who thinks otherwise can fuck off. I want to get better at that mindset next year and stop trying to shrink myself to suit others.

This year I survived one of my more intense series of suicidal thoughts. I got myself help. I saw that I have a huge community of people who support me, both virtually and locally. I want to be better connected with that community.

I learned that even though I feel like I’m outside of a group, it doesn’t mean I actually am.

I found joy in sending snail mail. Making well over 100 cards in the past 3 months has been so wonderful, and even better was knowing that it put a smile on someone’s face. I want to keep going, and maybe start selling my work.

I think one of the biggest things I learned this year is that it’s okay for things to be stable. It’s not the calm before the storm, it’s just the calm, and life can really be this way without worrying about what comes next. I want to carry comfort with stability going forward.

I learned to live in the moment. That fully accepting what is happening is the first step to finding solutions. Fighting against a problem only takes energy away from solving it. I learned that not being okay, is perfectly okay. That as long as you don’t make a problem worse, you’re doing the right things – you can always build from there.  I learned that it’s okay to ask for what I need, that it doesn’t always mean fighting.

It’s the end of a year.  One of the better years of my life.

It’s the end of a decade.

It’s hard to wrap up the past decade because there’s a giant split down the middle.  The before and the after.

In the before, there was a lot of love, and a lot of trauma, and a lot of resilience, and a lot of struggle.

In the after there’s a lot of growth, a lot of falling (metaphorically and physically), a lot of healing, and a lot of pain.

It’s the end of a decade. The hardest in my life.

I wrote a big long thing trying to list out the good and the bad of the last decade, but honestly, that’s not all that helpful.  The past decade (and the ones before that) got me to where I am now, and now is what matters.

Now is where I want to spend my time.

Wayback machine.

This is a Really Real Trauma Post.

Lots of things have been taking me back lately.

A friend who recently lost her husband. Someone else who is facing homelessness and looking at their options. Spotify giving me a list of music from the last 10 years. Even raising a kitten takes me back to a time in my life before.

My life is split into before and after in so many ways.  Not only did Parker die on that day in 2016, but the person I was died at the same time. It seems like my life has done a radical 180 since she died.  No more traumas, no major crisis (except the internal, mental health kind), no more catastrophes.

It seems unfair that she missed this. But I’m not sure this would have happened if she hadn’t died. And it’s not like I can change any of it anyway.

But things have been taking me back.

I’ve been reliving the emotions, with some distance put between me and the pain. I can view yesterdays tragedies with today’s knowledge. At times I feel like I’m stuck in my history again, except I know I’ll make it out alive.

I smell smoke and feel like I’m running out of a house on fire.

A sleeping pet or person doesn’t react to a sound and I feel like I’m going to face death again.

I pay a bill late and remember the stress of shut off notices month after month, struggling to stay one step ahead of a dark house.

Earlier this month I went to a Christmas Party thrown by Healthcare for the Homeless. It was held in the same building as the homeless shelter. Lots of the residents attended. It was the same shelter I spent months in, however they’re in a new building now (which made it a bit easier).

I remember being there. I remember being that person.

So many things that are reminding me of where I’ve been.

What I’ve survived.

What I’ve overcome.

But feeling that fear again, deep into my bones, is one of the harder things about trauma. I never get to fully escape it I never get to lock it up and put it away.

It’s as much a part of me as widowhood is.

Vacation

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

But also a bit of Mental Health thrown in there.

We never took vacations.

It’s one of my big regrets from Parker and I, but also from Kidlet’s childhood.

There was the year we traveled from Maryland to Florida to see our families.  That was our only family vacation in the 8 years we were together.

I think once we came from Florida, to Maryland, tagging along with my mom.  I guess that was a vacation. During that trip we managed to go over to DC for part of a day. Parker had never been to D.C. and she absolutely loved it.

A few years later when we were living in the homeless shelter up here, we met her family in D.C. for the day while they were on their vacation.

But vacations weren’t really on our radar.

Keeping the lights on, paying off the rent before the eviction notice expired, stretching the food stamps by making it to the food pantries on time. Making it to countless doctors appointments.

Those were the things we worried about.

But not vacations.

Wonder Woman and I leave for vacation tonight. I can’t count the number of overnight trips and vacations we’ve had in the 2 years we’ve been together. This is a belated anniversary trip, something we wanted to do, but couldn’t quite afford to do in September, so we were able to put aside some money and make it happen a bit late.

We’re going to a cabin in the mountains. The mountains are Wonder Woman’s place, she loves the cold. Mine is the beach and the warmth.

We’ve done lots of beach trips, it’s time to hit the mountains. I guess I can bundle up for a few days.

We have a fireplace in our cabin, and there are fire pits in the resort.

I guess I can handle that.

I still have great memories of going to the beach over Christmas on our first vacation. Hanging out in front of the fire together.

I look forward to repeating that.

I still feel weird taking vacations. I still have to remind myself that I deserve nice things. That I deserve happiness. That I deserve to travel and have these experiences.

That I deserve stability.

I’m so used to struggle that it’s hard to settle into stability.

It’s hard to feel comfortable with packing for a trip. It’s hard to avoid overthinking it.

It’s hard to find the balance between “bring absolutely everything you might need” and “if you forget something you can just buy it.”

It’s hard to find the balance between over planning/letting anxiety win and waiting for the last minute/letting anxiety win.

It’s hard to find the balance between being thankful for what I have now, and grieving what I didn’t have then.

We never took vacations.

I deserve this life.

No More Nomad

This is a Really Real Life Post.

I’ve been in this apartment for 5 years today.

Five years.

That might not seem like much to most people, but for most of my adult life I’ve moved every 6 to 9 months.

That means in the time I’ve lived here, we probably would have lived in 6 to 10 places.

How did I live like that?

I’m in a tiny little two bedroom apartment in a shit smelling, shitty neighborhood and honestly, I fucking love it here because the one thing this apartment has given me is stability in the middle of chaos.  I honestly feel like this place is home and I have no interest in giving that up.

I don’t have to constantly wonder how long I need to save these boxes because when is the next time I’m going to pack it all up and go.

Part of it was me, I always wanted something different, I couldn’t settle down.  Mostly though, it was that we couldn’t pay our bills and breaking our lease was better then being evicted.

Five years.

That seems like forever.

Five years ago I was a wife to a woman who is now dead.

Five years ago my kid still looked like a kid instead of the grown man he is now.

Five years ago I was sick and hopeless but also proud of ourselves for finally getting back into our own place after being homeless for so long.

Five years ago I had finally gotten approved for disability after fighting for almost 5 years.

I remember, after Parker died, when I went through my short period of just wanting out of this apartment, Kidlet asked that we stay here and not move again.  He was right.  I’m glad we stayed.

Five years of housing stability is a really big deal to someone who was never able to stay put.

I love my tiny two bedroom.  I’m glad it’s still home.  I’m glad Wonder Woman moved in here instead of us going somewhere else.  I’m glad we’ve made it our home together.

It fits.

Five years is a whole lot of memories in one apartment.

 

 

Gone Too Soon

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post
but it’s one of those that is
also a Really Real Widow Post.

TW:  Mention of death by suicide.  Mention of suicidal thoughts

I check my Facebook memories every day.

I’m looking for old conversations, or pictures.  Those hidden gems from Parker or Kidlet.  Memories of Wonder Woman and I first meeting.  Signs of my growth.  Patterns of my various labels, mental and physical.

Today there was a note that a friend had sent to me 5 years ago, saying wonderful things about Parker and I, and how we were raising the Kidlet, and how amazing he was.  Parker and I met this friend while we were living in the homeless shelter.  She was a younger girl, sweet as could be, with a bright light in her eyes.

She was going to change the world.

I remember the day, it was only 5 months after she posted the note on my page, I saw people start posting on her page that she was gone too soon, and that they couldn’t believe she decided to go out that way.  I remember how hopeless I felt that she had died, and that it had been so long since we had seen each other.  She lived so far away and transportation was such an issue for us.

Gone too soon.

I thought of her after Parker died.  Wondered if they ran into each other up there.

Parker had just started a college semester.  Just that day her last book had been bought.  She had picked a new major and was excited about becoming an X-ray tech.  We were finally starting to see some light at the end of a very very long tunnel we had been in.

Gone too soon.

When I’m in the depths of my suicidal thoughts, I can’t hold on to the feeling that Parker and our friend left this world before their time.  All I can think of is getting out.

Right now that seems so foreign.  I can’t imagine wanting to walk away.  There’s so much left to live for, so much left to do.  I have degrees left to get, I have words left to type, lives left to change, words left to be heard.

There are sunrises and sunsets that still need to be seen.

But then the clouds obscure my view, and all I can see is the pitch black nothingness.  I just want to escape, just want to make the pain stop, I just want to free myself, and everyone around me, from the burden that is my life.

I have so much love left to give.  There’s so much love left to receive.  I don’t want to walk away.  It’s not my time, it’s not the end.  I won’t let myself be

Gone too soon.

Fire!

This is a Really Real Trauma Post.

Five years ago today I woke up to the sound of fire alarms going off in the house we were staying in.

Parker and I grabbed our, “Coats and shoes, coats and shoes, coats and shoes” like had been barked at as over and over again while we went through the monthly fire drills at the shelter.  We were still living a very condensed life at that point, we were lucky enough that a guy let us stay with him.  Parker and I had most of our stuff in our room in the basement.  Kidlet had a room upstairs because it was easier for him to get to when he was still healing from the accident 6 months earlier.

“Fire, Fire, Fire!”  I figured someone was cooking, but for some reason, we grabbed our coats and shoes from the back of our door.

No one was on the first floor.

Kidlet met us on the stairs heading upstairs asking why he smelled smoke.  We sent him outside and went looking for Kevin.

We tried to put the fire out and instead watched it spread.  Everything we’d spent 6 months regaining, after spending months in the homeless shelter, we lost again.  Most of Kidlet’s stuff that had been saved while we were homeless, was lost due to smoke damage.

We were so lucky to have friends and family who came to our aid.  Kidlet’s electronics were replaced by friends, for Christmas.  The place we went for therapy, gave gifts of clothes and gave Kidlet a handheld game system and some games.  One friend spent hours washing all of Kidlet’s clothes repeatedly to try and get the smoke smell out.

We were even luckier that it was a relatively small fire that only consumed one room (with loads of smoke and water damage to the rest of the house) and that all of the humans walked out alive.  We were devastated to lose Kidlet’s pet cat, Shadow.

Five years later I’m sitting outside with a fire in my fire pit.  Smoke alarms only freak me out for a few minutes now.  I no longer grab my “Coats and shoes, coats and shoes, coats and shoes” as soon as I hear one.

I live less than a block from the house where the fire happened.  I pass the house pretty much every day.  New tenants live there now, but there is still a little buckle in the roof line from the heat.

So much has changed in 5 years.  At the time, it was one of the worst things I’d been through.  At this point I know better than to test my luck by even trying to rate things because there’s always something worse out there.

But life gets better.  And I’ve always had some pretty amazing friends and family around to help out after the tough times.

Quit Smoking.

Really real post about the flying motorcycle with insight into my brain and my world if you want it.

Five years ago today I wanted a cigarette and was having a hard time leaving the porch.

It was 5 days after Parker and I got out of the homeless shelter. My anxiety was in full swing. I finally had a safe space again and was having a hard time leaving it.

Kidlet had come to stay with us. Our first time having him for more than a few hours in 6 months. It was like his 3rd day with us.

Parker finally agreed to go to the corner store to get me smokes after I drove her nuts. She didn’t want to go but you know… telling me no typically ended in melt downs and being out of smokes didn’t make it any better. Kidlet went with her.

They were walking down the sidewalk. How much more freak can an accident be?

Motorcycle gets hit by car, goes airborne, hits Parker in the head, lands on Kidlet. Kidlet caught a flying motorcycle cause he’s badass like that.

I still hear his screams in the back of the ambulance on the way to the hospital. I still remember the driver telling me “as bad as the screams are, it’s worse when they are silent.” And how much that both comforted me and chilled me to the bone.

Kidlet got through that like a champ and started showing his nature of resilience and grit and smiles in the face of bullshit challenges that are totally unfair.

Parker had a “moderate” concussion that I don’t think any of the doctors took seriously enough. It’s one of many things that I kept fighting and advocating and “what the fuck-ing” in the midst of all of her head problems but…. yet another “overweight emotional woman” situation and I won’t get on that soap box right now.

All cause I wanted a cigarette.

And yeah yeah . . . Not my fault, could have happened to anyone. But if I would have gotten my own damn shit, or not have smoked in the first place.

And you wonder why sometimes it’s so so hard for me to ask for help or accept help….

Or tell people no. Or not offer help to others when they are having a hard time asking or blah blah blah.

So so many layers and I know why I do a lot of what I do. And knowing so many of the whys make it harder to untangle.