Monday, May 3, 2010

insights: cinqo de mayo: the day that ate my life

It's almost one year to the day since "The Day That Changed My Life."

I would imagine that hiding under the blankets is the most popular response when something traumatic happens in your life. This was my answer when I lost it all on May 5, Cinqo de Mayo 2009. Yes, forever I get to 'celebrate' this day and never forget it because it all happened on this "Hey, it's May 5th in Mexico day!" So as I walk through Safeway for weeks prior to May 5 I get hit over the head with 'How are YOU going to Celebrate Cinqo de Mayo?" Thank you, Corona, for reminding me that my life changed dramatically starting on this May day.

So, it has been one year since the day it happened. How do you celebrate that? Do you honor that? Do you forget it? What do I do at 10 am on May 5, the starting point of a year that ate my life and spit it out as something I don't recognize?

I wondered about other people. What do they do when they realize they are coming upon the anniversary of the day their child/husband/mother/father/wife died or the day they lost their job or their dog or their home? Do you acknowledge the pain? What do you do? I feel bereft.

Part of me, a very small part of me is flush with relief.

I made it one year.

I survived.

I didn't wither away and die under my blankets.

I am amazed that I am still here and I am even writing this blog.

This afternoon, I called Vicki Keough, a behavioral health therapist.

I wanted to know when a person gets over grief. When does life resume? When do you stop thinking of "The Bad Thing That Happened"?

Vicki Keough: "A loss remains a loss. The people we love hold a special place in our hearts and the missing of them does not cease to exist.  Nor does another (child,partner, sibling) take that place in our hearts. We honor them and ourselves in allowing ourselves to feel the feelings we have around that loss like grief, anger, denial, pain...etc.

I asked "Is it better to deal with "The Bad Thing" and think what happened on an anniversary or to not think of it and try and forget it happened?"

Vicki Keough: "The healing process is different for each of us.  Some of us process through our grief by visiting a loved one's grave site; saying a prayer, leaving flowers.  Others walk along the beach choosing the comfort of the ocean to soothe us.  For others, it is easier to immerse ourselves in activity and ease past/ignore the date.  There is no right or wrong.

I believe allowing ourselves to heal, allowing ourselves to embrace love again, giving ourselves permission to fully engage in life eventually honors the memory of our loved one.

Other losses such as losing the 'job of a lifetime' or growing apart from a significant other and ending the relationship can be equally painful.  Once again; feeling those feelings. (Anger, hurt, shame, pain, regret). etc.  is part of the process.  Taking the time.  Honoring the feeling. Then....allowing ourselves to move forward to new adventures, new relationships. It's a 'both/and', as are most things in life---The balance
of being present to our feelings and not spending so much time in those feelings that that we are looking back and not seeing the opportunities that lie in front of us."

Vicki said in terms of  the trauma I experienced last May 5, recognizing that it has been a year I may feel emotions I may not want to feel but it is healthy to address this. It will have less of an impact as I go on. But acknowledging it and knowing that I survived it and looking ahead, I am setting myself up for success.

But I am getting twitchy and nervous because I wonder how I will feel at 10am on Wednesday, one year from the day when I was taken into that airless room and told "Thank you but your job has been eliminated" and then had to make my way back to my office, past my office mates and call my husband to say "You know that dream house you're about to sign the papers on? Don't do it. I failed you and I am sorry."

I am a planner. It is what I do. Even more so in a crisis. I am the girl to call when your house gets flooded or you lose your keys or your kid gets injured. I know how to take charge of a situation, be it a crisis on a jet to Orlando or in a car accident. I am your girl.

So I am planning for Wednesday. I know the worst thing I can do is swirl the past year around in my head. I know the best thing I can do is to keep myself busy.

Here is my plan:

1.) 8:30am Swing by church and say hi to God. I'm going to sit in a pew and close my eyes and thank Him for letting me survive this traumatic year. And oh yes, thank Him for not striking me down with a lightning bolt when I broke up with Him earlier this year.
2.) 10am. Therapist. Originally I had planned to to talk to her about "Why did this happen? Why me? Why?" (imagine the ugly cry and twisting hands) but instead I want to talk about what my future looks like. I only want joy. I can't take any more crying and feeling pity for myself.
3.) 12pm Tomato soup in the Nordstrom Cafe. Best. Soup. Ever.
5.) 3pm Take Emma the dog to the beach and watch her joy as she rolls in rotting fish.

And this one is the one that I thought of this morning. It seems counter-intuitive but I don't know, it seems right somehow to send good karma out there when it's so hard to do so.

6.) 5pm a Toast. I will take Corona's advice and toast:
  • The company that I worked for for 15 years. It was an amazing run and I am honored that I had the opportunity to work at such an extraordinary company with the most talented group of people on this planet.
  • The people who made the decision to lay me off. I know it was a hard decision and I know that what you did set me off on a new path that wouldn't have happened without that push.
  • The people who ended up buying our dream home. There is a reason you are in that home. Clearly this is where your joy needs to be. Take a swim for me?
  • To my husband who listened and mopped up tears and bought me flowers and promised me that someday we will live in that dream house.
  • To my friends and family who stayed by me when others didn't. I have never known such great kindness.
  • And to my nine little babies in heaven. Oh, I hope you know how very much I love you and wanted you. You, my children, live in my soul, in my every laugh, in my every joy.
7.) 6-9:30pm Class

8.) 10pm Lay in bed with my husband and our dog and feel their warmth and their breath and their love.

That's how I will get through the day. And I will get through the day.

Oh, and happy Cinqo de Mayo. Have one for me, will you?!

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