This I can Control

Posted: October 1, 2019 by Rachel

I have this habit of making things more complicated than they need to be. I could give you countless examples, some much more personal than others, but I will use this one: I make the process of selecting a new journal almost torturous. To begin, I’m picky. The paper can’t be too slippery because then the pen moves too freely and my writing becomes illegible. It can’t be too heavy because I often carry it along with me in my purse. It can’t be too large for the reasoning just stated. It needs to be easy to write in, which usually rules out anything with too stiff a spine. 

Mid-week last week, I wrote the last entry in my current journal. Usually I’ve got the next book lined up and ready to go, but not this time. I took a sip of my coffee, pushed back from my desk and took my completed journal upstairs where I set it in the plastic bin along with the others before it. Back at my desk, the fact that I had nothing to say didn’t stop me from feeling strange that I had nothing to write in next.

I tried to ignore the feeling, but it was stubborn. And at 2:50pm I decided I had just enough time to run to the store to pick one up before picking up my son from school.

I chose the grocery store because I knew my choices would be limited. I knew I couldn’t over-complicate the process. I knew I could take the first steps of breaking a habit that has taken over my adult life. 

There’s a lot I can’t control in life, that I can’t change, but this… saying no to my own neurosis… this I can control. This I can change. And as small as it may seem to be, walking down that grocery aisle and selecting a journal in the span of five seconds feels like the beginning of something pretty great.

And it cost only $2.14.

This Post has no Discernible Theme

Posted: September 15, 2019 by Rachel

I sat staring at the blank screen for more than a few minutes this morning. Clicked over to a couple blogs I enjoy. Took another sip of my near-cold coffee. Stared down at my slightly chipped manicure. Writing—the act of it, the thought of it—feels so different this year. I hadn’t realized until she was gone that so much of what I wrote was done in the hopes of pleasing my mother. I wanted to write something she would be proud of. Now, I write almost nothing at all.

What I do is read. Even more than I did before. When I open a book I’m transported elsewhere. For a time, I can be someone else, focus on something else. For a time, I can forget reality.

**

I’ve been having these vivid dreams. The latest, in which, Dom left me for cheating on him. Later, he said, “you turn everything that is good, bad.” I opened my eyes, tried to shake the dream. The clock read 5:37. I got up and made coffee which I drank in bed.

**

I’m still that woman who never wants to let the fruit bowl go empty.

**

I’m learning to say yes again. Especially when my initial reaction is to say no immediately. Especially when it involves something out of my comfort zone, which these days is a lot. It’s been easy to say no this year, but I’m finally accepting that it’s just not healthy to keep going down that road. Segregating myself from people isn’t going to make my mom’s passing any easier. So: Yes to coffee with new friends, yes to the athletic wear pop-up shop and writing sessions that likely won’t yield any writing on my part. Yes to trying not to say no, but also knowing when saying no is the best possible thing.

**

Thirty-five-years-old and and I keep thinking: Did she go home to her husband as excited as I was to have made a new friend?

and just like that… summer break is over

Posted: August 12, 2019 by Rachel

summer break is over

This morning my son walked into his first day of the first grade which means, among many other things including time moving far too quickly, that summer break is over.

There’s so much hope in the beginning, isn’t there? The warm weather, the sun, the long days: it all leads you to believe that summer will be magic. There will be popsicles and lie-ins and dips in the pool and, if you’re lucky, trips to the beach.

But this summer break felt like a tease. There was the promise of a break. Of slower, gentler times. I allowed myself to be hopeful. To look forward to friends and family visiting. To my son being off from school. Summer would be the season of yes— that’s what I told myself.

However, it became quickly clear that I was too unhappy to enjoy it. I couldn’t shake the fact that my mother wouldn’t be a part of any of it. She would have loved knowing her grandchildren were finally spending time together here in Vegas. She would have cheered along with me when DJ finally turned a corner in his swimming lessons. She would have understood when I complained about the summer heat. I think in upwards of thirty things each day that I wish I could tell her. And then I become even more sad.

I told my husband the other day that I accomplished nothing I’d hoped to this summer. I didn’t wiggle my toes deep into the California sand or find my way back to writing. Work didn’t slow one tiny bit. My stress levels didn’t drop. I had my brother in my home—my sister-in-law and two nieces for the first time—and yet I couldn’t fully enjoy it. Same thing when my best friend and her family visited.

Despite my optimism, grief has clouded every moment of the past three months. And now, with the return of school days, summer is over. 

I wrote in May that I was exhausted in a way that was deep and dramatic. It had been only four weeks since I’d lost my mother, but now, at nearly seventeen weeks, I feel no better. In some ways I feel worse. I am still exhausted. I still miss her. I still mourn the future that was taken away from us. I feel a profound heaviness in my heart when I’m faced with the reminder that she will miss watching her three grandchildren grow up. 

I don’t quite know how the rest of the year will unfold, how my grief will continue to manifest itself, but I’m trying to summon some of that hope I had back in June. And you better believe I’m still trying to find a way to get my toes into some warm, California sand. 

BEAUTIFUL WORDS I’VE READ LATELY | 03

Posted: July 9, 2019 by Rachel

Hanging On To A Home

Stretching its long legs and shaking the sleep from its eyes, our home decided to move. This of course surprised us. You jumped out of bed and ran to hold shut the rattling cupboards. I went around collecting the paintings from the walls and stacked in safe layers the history of our bad taste. As the landscape changed, we watched the prairie give way to skyline to skyline to skyline as our home sprinted from one city to another.

Trinkets from a dozen travels vanished. Shelves toppled over. Books-I-promised-to-read flew out windows and doors. We lost the cat somewhere in Pennsylvania. Things come and go, and we cannot save everything—though you still sometimes talk about that missing sweater.

For years our home kept its pace, and we spent many nights wondering what it was searching for. We never found an answer, but eventually, our home slowed from its youthful sprint to a walk. What we learned from watching the lives of others is that some homes run until they are tired, others until they break. I wish we had that coffee table, and I still feel bad about the cat, but I think we have done well. We are no longer where we started, but we are still here, and how good it has been hanging on for dear life with you.

— Jan Siemen
(via Popshot)


Strangers

There are strangers in the beginning:
those who untuck the neatness from your edges,
propel
you forward into the warmth
reminiscent of an old friend’s
familiar grip.
Then, there are strangers at the end:
those silhouettes of a person
gutted
from the presence of your life,
who took the tucked away parts of yourself
with them.

— Charlotte Spires
(via)

35 Years

Posted: June 7, 2019 by Rachel

Today, June 7th, 2019, is my 35th birthday. I’m writing from a chair on the back deck of my parent’s house in Ontario, Canada. The weather is much like what it was two weeks ago back in Las Vegas: mid-70s. It’s glorious.

It’s strange to be back here so soon. We left only six weeks ago, a few days after my mother’s funeral. Yet here I am, celebrating a birthday in my childhood home thousands of miles away from my husband, without my mom.

I woke up much too early this morning feeling groggy and unsure what time zone my body was existing in. DJ and I flew in last night, got to bed late. We will be asleep the moment our heads hit our pillows tonight, that is for sure. Right now, DJ and my dad are across the street watching a neighbor have his driveway re-paved. Anything involving big trucks is a big hit with him.

Tonight I will be having dinner with some of my oldest friends—and some newer though just as dear. I’m grateful for these women who have always been there when I needed them, who supported me in the last days of my mother’s life in ways that I cannot put in words. I don’t know who I would be without these four women. 

I feel blessed to be here celebrating my 35th surrounded by my family and friends. I left Kitchener over eight years and four months ago, not really knowing what I was getting myself into. All I knew was I loved Dominic, wanted to marry him and start a family, and I was willing to give Las Vegas a try. I celebrated my last eight birthdays there, each of them perfect in their simplicity, but being here in my hometown, celebrating what I consider to be one of the “big” birthdays feels right.

I was so worried about turning thirty, and here I am, thirty-five. It’s not so bad; these years that are adding upon one another. I like to think that with each passing year I’m wiser, more patient, more sure of myself. I feel as though I’m still looking alright, too. All in all, I’m okay with my age. I have so much of what I wanted out of life and what I don’t? Well that gives me something to strive for.


The Season Ahead

Posted: June 3, 2019 by Rachel

Despite time moving more slowly than ever—and feeling entirely different since my mother’s death—it’s June somehow. I shake my head every time I’m reminded of this fact. The end of the school year has come and gone; my son is no longer a kindergartener. That alone makes me feel nostalgic, emotional, and a few others things. 

I have a tendency of retreating into myself when things get hard, and Things. Are. Hard. But I don’t want to do that this time. My mom would hate it—she would hate to know how much I’ve shut friends and family out already. If anything, I need to lean into the season ahead with a renewed sense of immediacy because I don’t know if you’ve heard, but tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. 

Summer twenty-nineteen is upon us.

It’s not hard to picture the coming months. If I close my eyes I can easily picture fingers sticky from popsicles, iced coffee under the back patio, blowing bubbles in the pool, the smell of hot dogs and corn on the grill, our feet in the sand like the above photo of DJ from last August. Dominic trimming the palm trees shirtless, DJ whacking at plastic golf balls with plastic sticks, me complaining about the 107° (or higher) temperatures, the camera never too far from reach. But beyond this my plans are centered around self-care: reading, writing (in whatever form comes most naturally) and trying to reel in my caffeine consumption. 

I suppose what I want the most out of summer is for it to move slowly. I want to be present for every moment, to notice everything I may have missed in the past. To put my phone down or better yet away. To switch off my work email at the end of a long day. To say yes to DJ’s every request. This has got to be a season of yes

There are plans in motion already: ten days in Canada with DJ this month—a trip we had booked back in January so that my parents could have a solid amount of time with their grandson–, day camps, trips to the lake with the jet ski’s. Dominic and I lie in bed at night daydreaming about getting out to La Jolla again while simultaneously laughing because we know it will be a struggle with his work schedule. It’s important to dream though. To keep the hope alive that we can make it work in the end.

The last thing I want is to send my son off to school in August wishing that we had done more, been more messy, had more fun. I want him to look back on his summer break with a smile on his face. What’s more: I want the same for myself. Especially—especially—this summer.

Some Thoughts on Gratitude

Posted: May 31, 2019 by Rachel

I woke up Wednesday morning with a deep sense of exhaustion in my bones and had only one thought beyond wishing I could go back to sleep: That I would be grateful for this day I’ve been granted. I closed my eyes and listened to the birds outside the window, the kind of quiet coming from my son’s bedroom that could only mean he was still asleep, the soft breathing of my husband in bed next to me. I slipped out of bed and tugged on a housecoat over my nightgown. I was on a mission for coffee; if I acted quickly—and quietly—I could enjoy it in bed before DJ woke up.

When I sat back down on the bed, hot cup of coffee in hand, I forced myself to be still for a moment longer. I studied the way the early morning sun cast itself over the furniture and walls in the bedroom. I listened again to my husband’s breathing. I took my first sip of coffee.

It’s easy to get caught up in the every day minutia of life—work, parenting, cooking and cleaning, errand running and bill paying—and forget to stop and recognize just how lucky you are. You, me; we’ve both been granted another day. All we have to do is embrace it. Play with your kids, your dogs, whatever it is. Kiss your partner.  Do something for yourself, for someone else. Try your hardest. Be the best version of yourself you can be.

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A New Chapter

Posted: May 28, 2019 by Rachel

I don’t notice the color of my therapist’s new office during my first visit, but looking back on it now, I imagine it to be an unimaginative shade of beige.

Beige is boring. And entirely expected.

I can, however, recall the way her dark hair was pulled away from her face, and her kind eyes. I wonder if that’s a prerequisite to becoming a therapist; those eyes. The kind that can coax anything from you—the truth, perhaps. Certainly everything else, too.

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words to live by

Posted: May 24, 2019 by Rachel

What Has Always Been

Again I resume the long
lesson: how small a thing
can be pleasing, how little
in this hard world it takes
to satisfy the mind
and bring it to its rest.

What more did I
think I wanted? Here is
what has always been.
Here is what will always
be.

Wendell Berry
(via)

she always knew when enough was enough

Posted: May 5, 2019 by Rachel

on losing a mother

not many people can tell you what you’re in for
when you lose a parent suddenly.
i’m glad that’s the case, but good god
it would be nice to talk to someone my age
who understands what it feels like.

my mom died seventeen days ago.
we’d been by her side for days, weeks, all of us—
sisters, aunts, nieces, nephews, granddaughters,
brothers, daughters, husband, friends—
but she waited until i stepped out for a moment,
when she could be alone with my dad,
to take her last breath.

i sat back in a tiny, uncomfortable chair,
pulled my legs tight against me and wept.
i’ve never felt more alone than in that moment
and i hope i never feel that again.

the last words my mom spoke to me,
three days before she passed away,
were in response to a simple question i’d asked:
“how are you feeling?”
i’d arrived back at the hospital after stopping home for a shower
and something to eat that wasn’t fast food
to find my aunt bent over her, singing, crying.
my mom turned to me, and spoke so quietly
i could barely hear a thing:
“i feel at peace,” she said.
less than 48 hours later she was gone.

it all happened much quicker than any of us expected,
but that’s my mom for you:
she always knew when enough was enough.
she’d made her peace, said her goodbyes
and now it was our turn.