My Purpose

I have grown into believing that in every situation there is a lesson…and all that happens to us has a purpose.  Actually, if I think back…maybe I am just wired like that. I do distinctively recall a lot of eye rolling from my best friend through high school on when I would sputter “everything happens for a reason” whenever something adverse happened to her.  It drove her crazy!  Maybe it’s that those of us believing in this theory are just eternal optimists that are spinning each situation into having a silver lining to make ourselves feel better…but either way, it works for me that bad things don’t just happen for no reason at all.  I get to learn and evolve as I go.

Well, when someone you love dies it makes you question this theory.  Especially when it is someone who hasn’t lived a full life yet.  Someone who has children…and small ones at that.  Someone who was loved by all and fought as hard as he could and that made no difference.  He went through a hell of a year fighting and being sick for no difference in outcome than if he didn’t fight at all and just gave up.  He is gone.  It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.  He had plans, WE had plans.

This isn’t an “Everything happens for a reason” situation here.  If that was said to me a month ago…you’d get far more than an eye roll!!  However, I am beginning to look at things a bit differently as time marches on and I get further into the healing process.

I am beginning to believe that we all weren’t meant to be on this earth for 90 or 100 years.  I believe we all have a purpose…some have many purposes. Babies right through to those living 100+ years. When we are taken…our purpose(s) were served.  I’m sure Matt, over his 38 years and especially in his last year, inspired, motivated, healed, loved and impacted many.  I can’t say that there was a reason for him dying, but I can certainly say there was a reason for him living.

So many said to me over the year I was with Matt that I was an angel sent to him and then even more so just after he passed.  It made me uncomfortable because I wasn’t with him to be a saint, out of pity or for whatever reason some people thought (it was nastily said to me by a certain someone after he passed that I liked the “show” of being with Matt!!  I say prayers for that person!!).  I actually fell in love with him and he helped me more than I could have ever imagined in my own grieving process at the time.  Odd that I am left in albeit another time of grief by the one who helped me heal!

I, now that I am moving through my stages of grief and through starting a new relationship, am actually embracing being told that I was his angel.  That was MY purpose for him.  It wasn’t a cruel twist of the universe…as I first felt when he died…to give me love, healing and hope and then snatch it away like a greedy crook.  I look back and know how many times alone we spent cracking each other up.  Rides to the hospital flew by and I swear people thought we were nuts at the laughing and goofing off in the waiting rooms when everyone there was in the midst of a dire situation.  I brought him smiles, laughter and love.  And he brought me the same.  He was my angel, too.  My tears of grief that would arrive in those alone times (especially in the car!) lessened and finally disappeared because of him. The pain in my chest that I held for so long that I didn’t even realize was there…was replaced by feelings of love from and for him.  The grief never goes away, but Matt helped me live happily with it there.  A purpose he had was to help heal me and show me I was able to love again.

It’s nearing five months since he’s been gone.  I am lucky enough, and unlucky enough, to have met someone new to care for so soon.  Grief and a new partner has it’s own set of challenges for both parties.  But I see when starting a relationship without a sickness…which is all I have really known in the past decade…I was missing out on so much…even though I didn’t realize it then.   I didn’t feel like it was lacking anything…it was perfect for what it was at the time.  We were fulfilling a purpose for each other.  Just as this new man in my life is in a role of helping me heal, he is serving a purpose.  I am not sure if this is his only purpose with me and we will part ways tomorrow or next month or next year…or never…or how I am helping him, but he is making me smile and drying my tears (like literally drying them…hence the “unlucky enough” said previously).

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I am now taking comfort in all the roles people past and present have played in my life.  I am embracing all the lessons, love and healing and trying to let that take precedence over what’s been lost and gone wrong.  Eye roll all you want.

Living in Our (Grief) Trigger-Happy World…

Triggers…the unexpected and probably one of the hardest parts of losing someone you love.   When you are all aboard on this grief train…it’s enough to derail you.  Being that this isn’t the first time I am getting my ticket punched and setting out on this journey…it doesn’t derail me quite as easily, as I know what to expect…however, it seems almost constant at this point.

What’s a grief trigger? A grief trigger is anything that brings up memories related to a loss. What are grief triggers for me?  It would appear that it’d probably be easier to explain what aren’t…but here we go.

Let’s start with the obvious and in-your-face ones.  A birthday.  Matt’s birthday is at the end of this month.  He never made it to 39.  That’ll be a tough day, well, a tougher day…although, learning from my own history, the days before will be the worst when anticipating that monumental day…and the actual day will be okay and filled mostly with good memories and smiles.  Milestones counting out from the death is another obvious one.  First it’s days…then it’s weeks (yesterday it was six weeks since Matt passed)…then it’s months…then you get to the “angelversay” as we call it in our household.  We just passed Mike’s 3rd Angelversary just days after Matt passed away.  September can officially “suck it”. I’m always anticipating those triggers.  You can brace yourself for them and you can plan for your derailment…which, unfortunately, makes it no easier, but at least you have a head’s up.

Then there’s the unexpected triggers you face throughout your days. And weeks. And months.  And years.  I am letting out a big sigh as I just typed that.  My life, since embarking on own my path with Matt, was completely intertwined with him.  We never got to live together (which was our plan as soon as he was “healthy”), but if he wasn’t physically with me…he was on my mind.  Or I was traveling to visit him.  Or I was cooking for him.  Or I was texting him.  Or researching for him.  That makes for going through the days and weeks after he’s gone with a lot of reminders that he is not here.  A lot of free time on my hands that was typically was monopolized by him.  So, even the empty space in my days is a grief trigger.  Having empty space is starting to become my norm, so my new routine is starting to get a little easier.

And then there’s the grab bag of other reminders…the person that walks in the restaurant that looks like him, the song on the radio, the posts and pictures of the Grassdrags Matt was really hoping to introduce me to, looking down at your little boy who’s looking up at you…and drastically resembling Daddy, washing the sweatshirt you stole from him, the random post in your news feed about them…and there’s so many other little and unexpected things, smells, sounds that occur…and regardless of how small or insignificant they seem…they can drop you to your knees, or make you feel like you want to, because the pain is so intense.  Then you pick yourself up and move on until the next one comes along.

Working with the public combined with being so open on social media and through my blog, I come into contact with people daily who knew of Matt’s illness and were up to speed on the final days.  I am friends with a large portion of my customers…some closer than others.  We all catch up with each others’ lives when they visit.  Right up until yesterday I am seeing people for the first time since Matt died who are giving their condolences…hard, but welcomed.  And even harder (for them, not me) are the ones who are out of the loop and ask how Matt’s treatments are going.  That always makes for an awkward conversation…I still haven’t found the right words for that one. More grief triggers.

This becomes the norm.  Life, a series of reminders…triggers.  Sometimes all day…sometimes not for a while.  But forever. I can tell you, years later, I can’t hear an ambulance without being zapped right back to the day Mike was rushed to the hospital only to be gone from us a few days later.  I now know, because of this, that I will never hear a helicopter without thinking of Matt being airlifted to Boston. Throughout your days, I assure you that there are a lot more ambulances and helicopters than you realize!!!

I’m in no hurry to go through this process.  I know from experience that there’s no time limit on when you travel through all the stages of the journey. I will be glad when I am out of what seems like the zombie stage(my own non-technical term). I’ve never seen even a few minutes of the Walking Dead, but I can picture a zombie creature walking down the street, labored, and being hit with bullet after bullet…and they still keep going.  The trigger bullets keep coming, and I keep going.  I am the zombie taking the hits and going through the grocery store by the “Mitchell’s Fresh” sign without outwardly flinching. I am waiting on the customer that uncannily looks like Matt without batting an eye.  I will continue to pour drinks with a smile while a family member sits at my bar and fondly tells stories about Matt.  I will be cleaning the house with the kids when that song comes on…and I will just continue on.  But then I will get in the car alone and let it go.  I will feel it and by the time I’ve reached my destination I will be thanking my waterproof mascara and leftover napkins from Dunkin Donuts on the seat beside me…and move forward.  I will go to bed fine, then hit with a trigger, curl into a ball, get though my grief attack…and then pick up my phone and play my kids and other various opponents in my new favorite smartphone app.

So, what I have learned from mourning Mike and being with Matt, is that the triggers never go away.  Those triggers will be shot at you like bullets, like it or not.  The difference is that over time they don’t need to always be so painful.  They can bring a smile.  A good memory.  Sometimes sadness. Sometimes pain.  But not like it feels in the beginning.

For now, I will be thankful that even through the sadness and pain…and bullets… that I am able to find joy in my children’s smiles and laughter, that I am able to belly laugh whole-heartedly with friends and co-workers…and that I can just merely get out of bed…while it’s still in the a.m… I know that it won’t always feel the way it does today.

Zombie-like or not…I’m moving forward.

“It’s all about…

“It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking for love to compensate for a self love deficit.” ~ Eartha Kitt

As this “List things people don’t know about you” game is circulating around Facebook, I have been fascinated at not only what people are writing about themselves, but writing about myself as well!!  I started thinking, “Am I that self-indulgent” that I loved taking on the task so much and I am actually itching to do it again with a whole new set personal stats??!!

I came across this quote and it dawned on me.  I have spent the last two years restoring my love for myself.  Restoring my self-worth.  Up until then I had become someone who second guessed every action and every word that came out of my mouth…the inevitable side effects of living with a partner that has an addiction for many years.  Being questioned and doubted and inadequately treated for quite some time takes its toll and eventually you start to do the same thing to yourself.

I am happy to say that taking this time to focus on myself (and obviously my children) I am restoring that self confidence and self-worth and have taken the time to fall in love with myself for the first time.  Not in a selfish or narcissistic way, but a respectful love in knowing that there are positives and negatives about me.  It’s what makes me…me!  I think that’s where this list comes into play…I love looking at my good, my bad, my uniqueness, my shortcomings.  And I adore reading about others’ admissions of themselves.

So all this time by myself without a partner, the self love deficit is being satisfied.  Work in progress…but definitely in the right direction.

Now, can we get back to my next list???