Would Have, Should Have, Could Have

When Kaitlyn first passed away, the would haves, should haves and could haves weighed heavy and haunted my mind. Should I have done something differently? If I did X would she still be here? If only I could have done X to save her. The truth is, she was in control of her life even though it was totally out of control at the height of her using. I, with all my power, will and love in being her mother, could do absolutely nothing to change that.

Her choices were her own regardless of what I would have, should have or could have done differently. I like to read stories about people who rise up from less fortunate situations and conquer their dreams. Why you may wonder? It is because those people are in control of their lives and did it. They are happy ending stories. The bottom line is that they took control of their lives and made good choices on how to better themselves for their future. Maybe their parents pushed them to make a better life for themselves or maybe they didn’t have parents to push them. I use that as an example that helped me understand that I literally had no control. I was powerless and am powerless over other people.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that I have come to the realization that there is nothing I could have done to save her. There is nothing I should have done to save her. There is everything I would have done to save her. This absolutely breaks my heart into a trillion pieces knowing that I had no control over what she did with her life. She had the control. She made the poor choices. This is not a reflection of her upbringing nor is it a reflection of my parenting. Nor was her addiction a definition of who she was. That was not her. I am not blaming her. I was very angry with the world that she was no longer here. I have let that go. It was too much of a burden to carry and it weighed me down.

You can’t change the past. I regret nothing in how I raised her. It has taken quite a while to get to this place where I am no longer blaming myself for her choice to use. I had felt responsible. I am not responsible for her actions or her choices.

It doesn’t mean I love her any less. I love her immensely and my love for her is infinite. My wish for the past is I wish she had made different choices with her life. I wish she was still here. But I stopped the would haves, should haves, could haves. They are a downfall for my vitality and mental health. I detached from them and bid them farewell. They no longer haunt me. Besides, I will always have grief to haunt me. That will be with me until our souls are reunited. Why add more of a burden if I have figured out a way to bid them farewell?

I am freed of this burden by my own mind that once ran rampant with these thoughts.

I love you ububooboo and I always will.

Reminders…

I had a dream about you the other night. You were a little girl maybe 5 or 6. I had given you a piece of cheese. When you had it in your mouth, you made that God awful face that it didn’t taste good. Believe it or not, that face was familiar and not unusual at all. This dream didn’t rattle me like other dreams in the past. This dream was a reminder.

This dream was a reminder of you as a child and all your silly faces. A reminder that even though you are no longer here, your memories live on. Reminders of memories I will forever cherish as long as I live.

It reminds me of how literal you were as a child. Like the time you were about 7 or 8. I smelled nail polish and asked you if you were painting your nails. You yelled down from upstairs that you were not painting your nails. I kept on doing what I was doing. A few moments later, you came running downstairs. “Mommy, mommy I spilled nail polish!” I said I asked you if you were painting your nails and you said you were not. Your response “I wasn’t painting my nails. I was painting my doll’s lips.” I guess I didn’t ask the right question.

I do find laughter in reliving the memories, not just sadness. The reminders and memories put a smile on my face. But I can’t help to think that your birthday is near. You would have turned 26 this year. I can’t help but wonder where you would be in life. Would you be engaged or married? Would you have any children? Where would you be living? The reminders I get watching other family members or friends as they go through life and have exciting changes like marriages, children, graduations, this does make me sad for me and you. Not for them. I am genuinely happy for them. I am reminded that this won’t happen for you or me. That your life was cut short and robbed of these milestones in life. The impact is not just to you but also to me and your family and friends.

There is a song by Avicii called The Nights. I stopped and read the lyrics. The lyrics that resonate the most in that song are as follows:

One day my father, he told me
“Son, don’t let it slip away”
He took me in his arms, I heard him say
“When you get older
Your wild heart will live for younger days
Think of me if ever you’re afraid” He said: “One day you’ll leave this world behind
So live a life you will remember”

The very last sentence is what sticks out the most–“So live a life you will remember”. I lived a life that I remember before you were gone. We had some awesome adventures together that created memories I will cherish forever. I am grateful that I have those memories. If the reminders trigger memories that make me sad, it is okay. At least I still have the memories. Maybe the reminders are signs so I do relive the memories in order to never forget the details.

Reminders and memories…. It is not all bad to have reminders trigger the memories. Not all memories are good. But most of them are good and heartwarming. I will always take the good with the bad–yin and yang.

Happy 26th Birthday in heaven. I hope you are rocking it up there. You are always and forever loved and missed my ububooboo.

There Is Life

I have come to realize that there is life with grief. Yes, grief will always be a struggle. There is life…if you conscientiously choose it. I picked up my broken life and chose to move away from everything familiar, almost like a leap of faith. Or maybe it was a leap of faith. Now I know I have made the best decision for my mental and spiritual health.

I live in northwestern Colorado. It is a bit remote here. I live in a small town where there is one stop light in town that only works to let emergency vehicles through. Most people seem to know each other. I am acclimating to this very well. I frequent locally owned businesses–coffee shops, pizza places, restaurants. I adore how the owners and employees have come to know me as a customer. I enjoy the idle chit chat too.

The comforting thing is that my daughter’s spirit can follow me anywhere. She is my co-pilot when I drive the 17 miles to and from work. She is with me when we go exploring. I miss her, but I know she is always with me. Shhh…I also scatter her ashes in places I know she would have loved to visit–places I love to visit.

There is life with grief. My life is always a work in progress. The work is figuring out how to live with grief and still find happiness and be happy. It does not come easy. There are still low lows where I just want to stay in bed, hold her monk monk (a stuffed monkey from when she was a child), and cry. That is not how she would want me to live. I repeat this to myself all the time. I have to in order to keep going.

I am going to get married in July. In honor of Kaitlyn, I will have a large photo of her on table with sunflowers and daisies. I know she will be there in spirit, but I need to see a visual of her there too. Or maybe she will show her presence with a magnificent rainbow or a swarm of butterflies–I can only wish, pray and hope.

This was a leap of faith to move–not to run from anything but to find something. I am finding it and enjoying the journey and discovering there still is life to be lived.

That Day

That day when I woke up my whole world seemed off

That day my coffee wasn’t right

That day I was not right

That day I saw the posts on Facebook

That day I couldn’t get any answers

That day was the worst ride home from work

That day my family and friends waited for me at home

That day my world came crashing down

That day I felt the most intense pain physically and emotionally

That day my heart broke into a million pieces

That day I learned you died

That day was December 29, 2016

That day….I hate reliving that day.  It is painful but I can’t erase it or what happened.  It happened.  I will never get over it.  The memory is sharp and jabs deep within me.  I can physically feel that day.  That day changed me forever.  I am forever changed. 

International Overdose Awareness Day

I created a video for an organization for International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31. I am sharing this video here.

I have not been writing but that doesn’t mean I am not living my life. I’m enjoying life. It is good for me

https://www.dropbox.com/s/wern4eyazt98xv2/Hero_Project_Final_Video%5B1%5D.mp4?dl=0

Thankful

Today is Thanksgiving.  The second one without her.  

Although I am missing her tremendously today, I am so very thankful for all that I have in my life.  For all the love of my family and friends.  

I am thankful I got to be her mother.  That I got to be there when she had night terrors and to wipe her tears away.  And for when she cooked for me or took care of me when I was sick.  I am thankful she was also my best friend and the best daughter.

I am thankful to have seen her excitement when she got her license and a car and when she got her first job.  I am thankful for the sleepovers no matter how noisy they were or how late they stayed up.  I am thankful to have been able to plan her birthday parties and play Rock Band on Wii with her.  I am thankful to have held her hand when she was hurting or suffering or just because.

I am thankful nothing or no one will ever take her place.  For being able to love her experiencing the deepest love for someone I ever felt.  She will always be my angel, my ubu boo boo or my Fred (private joke between us). 

I am thankful I am able to find solace in other people and life experiences to help me with my grief or to be able to be brave enough to make changes in my life.  I am thankful I am not wallowing in my grief, pitying myself or my life.

This Thanksgiving be thankful for life.  Make the most of it no matter what hand life has dealt you.  To my family and friends and supporters, I love you.  I could not go on without your love and support.  

I AM thankful…I am thankful to love her forever.

Standing Ovation

I was asked to give a five minute speech about my life… a public speech. This meant telling strangers my story. The story that you won’t know from just looking at me. A story how my life was literally shattered into a million pieces. My friend told me my life is inspiring. I decided to do the speech which also included having a slide show. I signed up to speak at *Ignite Montrose. I don’t like public speaking. Hey I’m living a new life now. Why not?

I had about two weeks to prepare for telling my life in five minutes. It’s not nearly enough time to let my life’s story unfold. Once you are trying to figure out what to say for five minutes, it seems like it’s like trying to fill an hour. How do you fit all this info into such a short period of time? I thought about what I wanted to say…just a summary. Really? How can one’s past unfold in five minutes? But then I thought, how my life unfolded, unraveled, came to a screeching halt in a matter of seconds?

I needed to turn my slides in as soon as possible. I was late getting them in. I was speaking on Tuesday and sent them on Sunday. I didn’t give myself much preparation time. Then again, it’s my life and easy to tell just not with a short time limit. I practiced in front of my cousin and her friend. The evening before the big night, I ran through the slides once nervously fumbling with the words to follow along with the slides. I looked over and my cousin was visibly affected by my words. Keep in mind she knows my story well. I didn’t feel like I did very well even though she assured me I did. She also gave me some helpful pointers (insert emoji smiley face here).

Tuesday came. Tonight was the big night. I practiced my speech over and over as soon as I got home from work. I had about an hour to refine it. This is as good as it’s going to get I thought. So we get there and I already knew I was the second speaker after the intermission. I sat and listened to the seven speakers before me. I vaguely recall some of their speeches as it got closer and closer to my time in the spotlight. The audience included about 40 strangers in the backyard of a bed and breakfast on a gorgeous summer night. It’s now intermission and I feel my nervousness was setting in. I kept telling myself that I could do this. Heck I picked up and moved 2000 miles away from a comfortable, familiar place. I could do this speech. Maybe one person will be affected, maybe more.

It was my turn in the spotlight. I got up and walked up to the mic. I am so happy I used to play tambourine in a band which helped me with my stage fright. I picked up that mic with confidence. I could do this. It can’t be that hard right??? The MC announces me and my title “Amor Fati”. He mispronounces it and I am quick to correct him. I give a brief introduction and nod my head to start my slides. They begin and here we go…

The start of my speech was a bit bumpy. I was nervous. I began with how I was from Connecticut being a typical North-easterner working 15 miles outside New York City. The slide with that infamous date came up. I explained what happened. I looked around as I was explaining how we found out on Facebook that my daughter passed away. One of the previous speakers had her mouth agape. I kept going just like I keep going on with my life. I look around a few moments later and a woman has tears in her eyes. I went on speaking as the slides kept going. Running through that tragic day of my life—the worst tragedy I have personally experienced.

I explained the meaning of “Amor Fati” or at least my interpretation. I spoke how I am finding happiness after making huge decisions to pick up and go to jump start my life and LIVE! I kept looking around aware of my surroundings. The audience seemed fixated on my words. They had to be. I could feel all eyes were on me.

I finished my speech just as the five minutes ended. Talk about perfect timing. I thanked the audience and went to my seat with a huge feeling of relief from spewing the words of my tragic tale. The MC stepped up to the makeshift stage and thanked me. Then he asked the audience for a standing ovation. Everyone that I could see around me stood up and clapped. I was stunned. I saw how my words visibly took hold of the audience, but I was really taken aback and overwhelmed as I sat there. I am not too sure on the type of etiquette but I am pretty sure I probably should have stood up again. This was my first “standing ovation” for just me being up on stage. Just me. And my story.

I am so glad I did it. So happy I gave my speech. It was worth it. Keeping her memory alive even to strangers was healing for me. Their reaction inspired me to keep going. That I am on the right path to kick grief’s butt. Don’t get me wrong. I still cry over her loss. I have moments or a day that I am overwhelmingly missing her smile, her laugh, her smell, her touch. I must move on. I am not going to let myself fall victim to grief and stop living. It’s too easy. I am a fighter.

By the way, I have not written in a while due to living. I am happy to report that soon I am moving another 200 miles north to follow my heart…keep following my heart. I have learned it is okay to give up “things” and “stuff”. It is worth it to follow your heart. Happiness is priceless. Funny thing about that though, happiness comes from within and one would think it would be easy.

*Ignite (in any city) Montrose is a forum for public speaking giving five minute speeches. It is sort of like Toast Masters but without the um, ah, but person counting how many times you mention filler type words. They have them all around the US.

My Dear Love

This past week would have been her birthday…if she were still in this realm, we would have celebrated her 23rd birthday.  It was tough remembering the day she was born, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything.  She gave a fight coming into this world. Surrounded with love and anticipation of finally meeting her, we were thrilled after thirty three hours of labor when she finally came out–especially me. Those hours will always be precious.

I always made sure her birthday parties were fun like the scavenger hunt at the mall or dipping anything she could think of in chocolate fondue instead of having cake.  I made sure all the holidays were fun instilling my own traditions.  The holidays are okay to get through now, but her birthday this year, no–that was a different story.  I felt it this year.  Last year I was still numb even surrounded by family and friends.  I made it through the day with tears shed but I made it.

As a baby, she would let anyone hold her and only fall asleep in the car if she was tired.  When a toddler, I remember she once patted me on the belly and said “look at that fat belly”.  That’s only because she was repeating what I would say to her.  I didn’t say that anymore.  One year when it was a very warm Spring, there were a lot of bugs out.  She was in the backyard and freaked out with all the bugs flying around.  My mom said it would be a very long summer.  Nothing ever changed. She always hated bugs even butterflies–which I found out at a live butterfly exhibit.  In kindergarten, she bit another little girl whom the teacher explained the two of them fought like siblings.  I would have never guessed that the other little girl would turn out being her best friend forever.

When she was a preteen, we went on a European cruise.  She ate gelato in every city we stopped and ordered chocolate lava cake every night for dinner.  We had gyro’s in Turkey.  She said it tasted like corned beef.  The woman next to us was kind enough to comment it was lamb.  She stopped eating mid-bite and her face got a horrified look on it. Soccer was also a big part of her life around this time too.  Her team wasn’t really a winning team, but they were certainly winning in the game of loving each other. The longer they played together, the better they got eventually beating a long-time rival team. That victory was glorious!

Her high school years were challenging. I would often remind her of what I told her when she was younger–you will never stop loving me but you may not like me as much as a teenager.  I think those years are challenging for all kids. The peer pressure and cliques. She stayed tight with her besties and there were many sleepovers. She wanted to be a chef and took cooking classes in high school.  She would come home and make me fried goat’s cheese or crepes.  The best was her Shepard’s pie with melted cheese on top. She would even layer it with broccoli. I am so happy that she showed me how she made it.  I love making it now.

I have so many happy memories that no one can ever take from me. She will always be my dear love obviously that will never change. She was funny and had a great sense of humor. She was beautiful inside and out. She was tall towering over me and would hunch over to hug and kiss me. When I was sick, she would take care of me and would do a good job too. We would walk to a local restaurant when it snowed to get dinner. We had planned a trip to New York City December of 2016. It snowed that morning, so we didn’t go and walked to a nearby diner for breakfast. I told her she would always be my baby no matter how old she got. We laid together and watched TV in bed. We always said ‘I love you’ when hanging up the phone or ending a conversation via text.

We argued too. I was once told I would never win an argument with her because I was only arguing with a mini me. Life with her was not always butterflies and rainbows. Though her being difficult at times never took away from the beautiful person she was. I never knew she would try heroin. I never knew or would have guessed.

She will always be my dear love. I miss her and no one will ever replace her. Forever she will be my baby no matter where she is now. She is always with me too.

One Day at a Time…

I am living…just like I wanted.  Actually, I have been quite busy living.  Settling into a new location after uprooting one’s self is challenging and has been challenging.  Finding new employment was a challenge as well as my own suitable housing.

The great news is I have found employment.  I even changed careers.  I am happy to say I work at a shoe factory–the only one in Colorado.  I pick and pack orders and handle customer service.  The really cool thing I get to do is be creative with social media.  It is also a huge learning curve as I am venturing into a job responsibility I have never had–marketing.  I look at analytics for websites and clicks.  I even wrote an article about the factory for a tourist site.  I am part of a team and feel valued.  It was not an easy start as I now have to be creative on demand.  This is a welcome challenge and career change for me.  I would have never stumbled upon it if I didn’t feel the need for a change and the urge to move.

My landlord on the other hand is yet another type of challenge.  I have been living in a tiny house without heat.  It’s been a mild winter and not too cold.  Thanks to my “Northeast” ways and moxie, I get to apply this when dealing with him–like not paying rent until I get heat.  Here is another challenge that I have adapted.  The good news is I am closer to getting heat.  Using my negotiating skills,  I demanded the landlord pay the electric bill.  Maybe that helped, maybe it didn’t.

I do have to handle each day at a time in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed.  Change can be like floating down a river quickly approaching rapids.  One can either succumb to the raging waters or fight to live.  I choose to fight.  Change is scary too.  Since she died, my whole world has been turned upside down.  Then I went and added more chaos by moving 2,000 miles across the country.  Yes, I have family that welcomed me here.  I still left my comfort zone behind to forge through my grief.

A drastic change has been worth it though.  Especially when I get to form bonding relationships with new people.  The first is my cousin.  She has been my local rock.  I will always be grateful and love her for that.  Barely knowing me, she welcomed me with open arms.  I have even added her to my “best friend collection”.  We see each other at least once a week.  We are there for each other.  She cares about me and I care about her.

The second person I have grown especially fond of is an amazing man.  Near the end of November, I was a bit bored.  I signed up for a dating site only for entertainment purposes.  I have never put too much faith in meeting people of value on dating sites. Guess what…I did meet someone.  Our first date was on New Year’s Eve and since then we have seen each other every weekend.  He listens to me and he gets me.  He never judges me and he laughs with me.  I can be completely honest with how I feel in my life.  I can freely and openly talk about my daughter and her death.  He doesn’t even view me as broken.  He accepts all of me.

Change is good.  In fact, it has been great.  People ask my why I moved to Colorado.  Most people I just tell them for a change of scenery.  There will always be challenges in life.  They don’t go away.  I am learning to live again.  It can be raw and frightening.  It has also been refreshing and vivid.  I have been able to add a couple more people to my intimate circle of family and friends.  Yes, I still miss my daughter immensely and cry about her loss.  I think about her everyday and I always will.  The grief comes flooding back in fleeting moments.  I brush the tears away and go on.  On difficult days, I remind myself why I wanted a change.  I feel strong and alive.  I am living….again.

By no means am I trying to replace her loss.  I am only filling up where there is room for more loving people to be a part of my life.  I let more love in and get more love back.  I am thankful I have been strong enough to push myself outside of my comfort zone.  Life is grand but truly living is priceless.