Time Does Not Equal Distance

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We used to measure it in minutes and then hours.

We counted the days, the weeks and then the months since you’ve been gone.

Now we count the years.

Two years to be exact.

They say that the passing of time gives you distance, but thoughts of you are never far away.

Time may heal, but we’ll never forget.

Never forget those few precious moments we had with you, and they are just moments.

Too brief, the time we got to share with you.

The days seem long now, although they are still the same amount of time.

Those brief minutes when we thought you’d be with us forever seem so much shorter now, compared to the time without you in it.

Now you are in eternity, but you are never far from our hearts.

Time does not equal distance.

You will always be with us, no matter how much time passes.

Hearts and minds, thoughts and love.

You still reside with us and always will.

It doesn’t stop us missing you.

Two years.

Time does not equal distance.

 

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Failing Forward

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This week marks the end of a seven year journey that my husband and I have been on.  On Friday of this week, we will be closing down our business, a business that we have poured our blood, sweat and tears into.  We didn’t come to this decision lightly.  Closing our business effects more than just us, it effects our kids, our staff, our suppliers and our customers.  We held on for as long as we could, but the fact is, we just couldn’t do it anymore.

The last two years of our lives has been harrowing.  If you’ve been reading my blog, then you know that I have been suffering from anxiety, depression and grief.  These take a toll on a person, physically and mentally.  I had a breakdown a few weeks ago and was housebound for two weeks and I walked a very fine line between giving in to it and fighting back.

Fighting is hard and I’m tired.  There were only three things that kept me from giving up; my husband and my two children.  They kept me tethered to this world when all I wanted to do was disappear into the ether.  I can’t see beyond the bleakness that consumes me, but they can, and I hold onto them in the hopes that their belief in a brighter future is what will get me through.

There are so many negative emotions associated with closing a business and for someone like me, who has way too many negative emotions to start with, dealing with this failure is like stepping on a landmine.  My whole world is about to explode and I don’t know what will be left in the aftermath.

One of the hardest things to cope with is the fact that I know that I am about to become fodder for gossip.  I have lived my entire life feeling the judgement of others, never measuring up to what those around me thought I should be and now I am proving them all right.  The fact that these people, so-called friends and family, will look at us and judge us and then use our story to titillate the ears of others, hurts, but what can you do?  People love a tragedy and my life has become very like a Shakespearean tragedy.

Nobody ever goes into business thinking they will fail.  This was not our first business, not the first time we failed, but this is probably the hardest.  We survived for seven years, sure we made some mistakes along the way, but seven years is a pretty good batting average for a small business.  I know that we’ve done everything we can and now it is time to let go.  It’s the letting go that is the hardest.

How do you let go of something that you have lived and breathed for seven years?  How do you get up in the morning knowing that there is nowhere to go, not even a reason to wake up?  They tell me that my stress levels will go down and my health will improve.  They give me reasons why this is a good thing, why this is a positive move, why I will be better off when everything is finalised.  I want to believe them, but right now, I can barely see the world beyond Friday.

I don’t want this to be the end of my story, and I suppose that is a good thing.  It means that I, at least, have a tiny ray of hope that I can go on.  I want to rise from the ashes, like a phoenix.  The legend of the phoenix states that the bird that rises from the ashes is more beautiful than the one before.  I want that.  I want to be able to rise out of this mess and be better, stronger, happier, healthier.  Isn’t that what is meant by failing forward?

Maybe in a month’s time I will look back and know that, although it was hard, we did the absolute right thing.  Maybe I won’t even recognise myself as the same woman who sat here and penned these words.  Maybe I will have found a new dream.

Or maybe it will take longer than a month.  The point is that it is in the rising after a fall that determines the future.  I may not feel the strength to rise right now, but I know I will.  One day.  One day in the future I will feel strong enough to lift my head and look to the horizon and dream of what the future holds.

I look forward to that day.

The Raven, The Black Dog & The Hare

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I have three companions
The Raven, the black dog and the hare
Always they follow me
Plaguing my every step

The raven’s cry
Reminding me of what I’ve lost
The black dog
Waiting to pull me down

And the hare
With its twitching ears
And shifting eyes
Ready to run

The Raven

The Raven, as so aptly described by Poe, is to me the symbol of my grief.  Sometimes it sits quietly on my shoulder, sometimes it digs in its claws and screeches in my ear.  Other times it flies high above and behind my with only its shadow or its plaintive cry reminding me of it’s presence known in my life.  But the Raven is always there and I have no doubt that it always will be.

The Black Dog

The Black Dog has become a well-known symbol of depression.  I am no stranger to this companion, he has followed me throughout most of my life.  But again, he is not always growling and chomping at me, some days he walks quietly beside me, some days he lags behind.  He is always there, sometimes only at the edge of my vision, but always there.

The Hare

While the Raven and the Black Dog are recognised symbols, the Hare may not be.  For me the Hare symbolises anxiety.  The constant fidgeting, the flicking eyes and twitching ears, the preparedness to flee at the slightest provocation.  This is a constant state for me.  The nervous state is always just under the surface, like an itch beneath my skin.  The smallest, seemingly insignificant, things can bring it to the surface and like the Hare, I flee.

It seems like these days, although the Raven and the Black Dog are always there but sometimes less prominent, the Hare is constantly at my side.  It doesn’t fade into the background, its effects don’t ebb. The simple act of getting out of bed in the morning requires Herculean effort, the desire to bury my head under the covers and hide away from the day, almost overpowering.

Living with anxiety is often dismissed.  Just get over it, get some confidence, grow up, face your fears, grow a pair.  These flippant comments often do more hurt than good.  Anxiety is not something you can just ‘get over’, it is a serious mental health issue that can lead to further complications and conditions.

A lot of people don’t get how I feel, don’t understand why it is so hard to be face to face with another person.  The fear of walking out their front door is foreign to them.  It’s such an easy thing to do, you just open it and walk out.  But anxiety isn’t rational, it isn’t logical.

Anxiety bypasses the reasonable part of the brain and goes directly to the flight or fight mechanism.  Everything is perceived as a threat.  At the height of an anxiety attack, the brain and body is at DEFCON 5 and there is almost no way to talk it down.

Living with anxiety is like living with someone who has a twitchy trigger finger, and you are one sudden move away from setting off world war three.

I say all this to perhaps help others understand anxiety and the effects of it on a person and to maybe help someone who is suffering from anxiety to understand that they are not alone and they are not beyond help.  You can live a happy and healthy life with the Raven, the Black Dog and the Hare, but it takes understanding and management.  And being kind to yourself.

My plan this year is to write regularly about how I manage my life and my constant companions in the hopes that I can help someone else.  We need to know we are not alone in this.

A Grief Observed

I have just finished reading ‘A Grief Observed’ by C.S. Lewis and found my very own thoughts and emotions written there.  Things that I was too afraid to articulate for fear of being judged were put down in black and white by a man who has long been held in high esteem.  His unflinching look at his own grief after the loss of his wife has prompted me to take a look at my own.

Up until recently I believed that grief was something that happened to me.  I have since been disabused of this notion and have been informed that grief is, in fact, something we need to actively participate in.  This was a revelation and has meant that I have now been setting aside time to look at my grief, examine it, delve into it and understand it.

Writing has certainly helped me make sense of the emotions I feel and acknowledging that I have to take part in this grief rather than let it happen to me has opened an unexpected door.  This was reflected in C.S. Lewis’ own writings when he says “It was as if the lifting of the sorrow removed a barrier…You can’t see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears” (A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis).

I have thus far felt that I had to wrap myself in a cloak of mourning to truly honour the memory of Kari-Lee, but what I have found is that when my heart is lighter, when my mourning is less, my memories of her are clearer and my honouring of her memory is more authentic. “…passionate grief does not link us with the dead but cuts us off from them.” (A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis) It is as though when we try to hold too tight, we actually lose our grip and it becomes more about us than about those that we mourn.

But I don’t say this to discount times of mourning and sorrow, for they too are needed.  We need to allow ourselves the time to feel what we feel, to let our bodies process the emotions that such a loss initiates, but we cannot live in those moments for the rest of our lives.  And it is tempting to believe that we can never be truly happy again because of our loss, but how does that honour the ones who have gone?

“Getting over it so soon? But the words are ambiguous.  To say the patient is getting over it after an operation for appendicitis is one thing, after he’s had his leg off is quite another…He has ‘got over it’.  But he will probably have recurrent pains in the stump all his life, and perhaps pretty bad ones; and he will always be a one-legged man.” (A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis)

I think this passage sums it all up quite nicely.  Life does go on but we are forever changed.  That doesn’t mean that we can never be happy, just that we are different and that our happiness will also be different.  We can’t be afraid of our future, of perhaps finding ourselves happy or laughing and then thinking that we have somehow dishonoured our loved one.

“At present I am learning to get about on crutches.  perhaps I shall presently be given a wooden leg.  But I shall never be a biped again.”

There is so much more in the short book and, although I know others haven’t, I have gotten a lot out of it.  The raw honesty of his writings has helped me face the rawness of my own and to face them unashamedly.

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Alis Volat Propriis

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Yesterday marks a major milestone in my life.  It has been twelve months since my daughter in law died.

It has been a long and horrible year, there is no other way to put.  My family has been pulled apart, my life has been turned inside out and I feel completely wrung out and done.

I suppose I felt that if I could just make it to the twelve month mark, then it would get easier.  It was like a beacon in the dark storm that I have been journeying through. I have held on to that magic number waiting for the moment that I could finally breathe and say that I made it.  It has been twelve long months and I have fought the good fight and now, now it will get easier, now I will turn the corner and things will get better.  But today has shown me that that is not the case.  Nothing has changed or become easier just because the magical twelve month mark has passed.

To people on the outside, I probably look like I’m doing ok.  I get up every morning, I go to work.  I’m productive, in fact I’ve written eight books this year.  I’m sociable at work, I smile, I even laugh occasionally.  But my grief is still with me, hanging over me like a black cloud.

Some days are worse than others.  Some moments are crippling, others steal my breath with pain.  Sometimes I feel like there is hope, that the future is something to look forward to and it is to those moments that I cling, they are my lifeline, they get me through.

Grief has changed me, and I don’t mean the type of change that is temporary.  I kept waiting to wake up and feel like my old self, to feel like the person I was before, but I’ve come to realise that that is never going to happen.  I am profoundly and irrevocably changed.

This is surprising for me.  I didn’t know what to expect, really.  I knew, theoretically, about the different stages of grief, but I didn’t understand that when you reach the end, you don’t go back to being the person you used to be.  At each stage I have been changed, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, but always changed.  I don’t even recognise the person I am becoming, I don’t know who she is, and that is probably the hardest thing.

People have told me throughout this journey that everyone grieves differently, but it has always been said with an undertone of ‘you’re not doing it right’.  I have found myself at times thinking, ‘I don’t know if I’m allowed to feel this way’ and it has made my grief confusing.  I am only the mother in law, I only knew her for a relatively short time.  We had a good relationship, but didn’t have a profound relationship, we were friends, but we weren’t best friends.  She was part of my family and I loved her.  I still don’t know how I am supposed to feel, I don’t know if I am doing it right, I just know that there is a hole in my heart where she should be.

audreyI have come to understand that that hole will always be there.  Whoever else comes into my family, there will always be a Kari shaped hole in my life.  That doesn’t mean that anyone else is less important, it doesn’t mean that I will love others less or that there will be no room in my life for new people, it just means that I will always feel like something isn’t quite right, like a jigsaw puzzle with a missing piece.  But I’ve come to realise that sometimes, like great pieces of art, we are defined more by the negative space in our lives.

It has been really hard to put these feelings in writing.  I thought I would do it yesterday, but I couldn’t, they were to big, too raw.  Even today it is hard to pull them from my heart.  I am so full of emotions that I don’t know what to do with them all.  Much like this blog post, they are jumbled and confusing with no real form or structure.  A metaphor for my life perhaps.karilee

I spent yesterday hiding from the world, apart from one particular outing.  I did something that I never thought I would ever do.  I got a tattoo.  There are many reasons why this tattoo is significant to me, but the main reason I got it was to have a physical, permanent reminder of Kari.  The words say ‘Alis Volat Propriis’ and it means ‘She flies with her own wings’.  When I think of Kari, this is how I think of her, flying free.

Shattered

Life, fracturing into a million tiny pieces.  Hold on to them, don’t let the go.  But they are torn from my bloody fingers, torn away with force.  I try to grab, try to keep them close, but the pull is too strong and they are gone.

Months of heartache and pain.  Every part of part of me breaking.  Every part of my family fracturing.  As hard as I try, as determined as I am to make it right, the cracks continue to form.  The pieces continue to break away.

I feel so helpless and at times hopeless.  There seems to be no solutions, only more problems.  There is no firm ground to stand on, nothing to anchor a lifeline to and a voice in my head saying, “All is lost.  All is lost.”

Empty platitudes and sympathetic smiles do nothing to relieve the very real pressures of the life I find myself trapped in.  The world marches on, unconcerned, unhindered, unknowing of my plight.  The black dog bays unrelentingly.

Where is the light?  Where is the relief?  Where is the dawn of reprieve?  There is none, there is nothing, just darkness and a void swallowing my life, swallowing my joy, swallowing me.

The night is full of terrors.  Attacks come from those closest.  The vultures circle, sensing death.  Their hungry eyes watching, waiting, claws at the ready to rip and tear.

I want the nightmare to end.  I want the pain to abate.  I want the pieces back together, whole again.  But how can you repair something so utterly destroyed?  How can it ever be put to rights?

Nothing will be the same.  The cracks will remain, the pieces missing.  The gaping holes will testify to our loss and our forever broken lives.  All is lost.  All is lost.

She burned too bright for this world – Emily Bronte

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Today would have been my daughter-in-law’s 26th birthday.

I woke up to this picture on my Facebook newsfeed and couldn’t help but think how apt it was for today.

I am having a hard time articulating my feelings about today.  Kari-Lee was in our lives for such a short time and yet she had such a large impact.  Her life and death changed people; she changed me, my husband, my friends, my youngest son and most especially, she changed my eldest son, her husband.

Not only did she change people, but she changed relationships.  The relationships I have now with people are different, some better, some worse, some neither good or bad but just different.

The impact of her life on mine and many others has left an impression that will be forever felt.  Her life and death imprinted on mine in a devastating and lasting way.  Nothing looks the same, nothing feels the same and nothing will ever be the same.

We all know that death is inevitable, it is the one thing that we are all going to experience, but the way we die, what we leave behind, the impact and influence we have in our death, I think that says more about us than anything else.  It makes me wonder about my own mortality and what, if any, impact my death will have.  I don’t want to go quietly.  I don’t want to slip away into the abyss without notice.  I want to have imprinted on others so that when I die, people around me are changed.

The greatest tragedy is a death that leaves no trace of having lived at all.

Life is hard; it is horrible and wonderful and terrifying and exhilarating and hurtful and kind, but above all it is messy and if it’s not messy, then I don’t think you are doing it right.  Why live a life that never challenges?

A life without challenge is a life without triumph.

And as much as the last eight months have been the most painful and the most horrible, I know I wouldn’t have changed having Kari in my life.  I know my son would not have changed having her in his life either.

Don’t be afraid to live large so that you can avoid the pain, don’t be afraid to love large so that you can avoid being hurt.

So, I raise my glass to Kari-Lee and I thank her for what she brought into our lives and what she left behind.  She burned hot and fast and her life and death left large footprints in my life and across my heart and for that I am truly grateful.