Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sweet Surprises

As aspiring ballerinas, one of the greatest skills we were taught was the art of balance.  My teacher would demonstrate how to center ourselves.  She would help us place our arms in the correct position, and sometimes have us close our eyes.  It wasn't just about not moving or falling to one side; the real skill came from learning how to essentially use your own body to stabilize yourself.  By using our own muscles and strength, but making sure not to tense-up, we developed a fair amount of stability in our own bodies.  Without holding onto anything at all, we held ourselves up.

Sometimes I close my eyes and try to find that skill again.  The world has been way too shaky for my liking.  And there seems to be little I can do except to try not to fall over.

Things have gotten so out of focus that the things I've been stressed about, I've come to realize, are not even the things I should be upset over.  I lost Jonathan almost exactly 6 months ago.  I've let myself hurt, and cry, and feel that unsettling realization, but lately, so much nonsense has somehow overshadowed it that it sets me back.  My nature is to take care of people.  Obviously, in my role as a pediatric oncology nurse, it's not only my nature, it's my job.  But I tend to do it outside of the hospital as well.  I want to help.  I want to be there for people.  I want to "fix" things.

People tend to come to me with their problems, and for the most part, I'm happy to help.  Trust me, if I care about you, there is nothing more important to me than your happiness. But there are times when I allow myself to be put second.  And the truth is, I don't want to do that anymore.  My therapist says I'm "magnetic".  I'm not sure if that's something a therapist is supposed to say, but she did. She says she gets why people are drawn to me.  And I love that people talk to me, or want to.  And I don't need someone to take care of me, but it might be a nice change of pace for a little while.

I've been disappointed a lot lately -- in the world, in people, in myself, even.  I'm not always the person I want to be.  I don't always live up to the standards I hold others to.  But I've been let down in such a way recently that has certainly shaken up this balancing act.  When I believe in something, especially a person, it becomes my religion.  There is nothing that can make me change my mind.  If I love someone, there are very few things that person could do to make me change how I see them.  I'll put up with a lot.  I'll make excuses.  I'll give the benefit of the doubt.  It takes a lot for me to open myself up completely.  (Vulnerability is not something I like to show to the world.)  But when I do, it means everything and my heart is exposed. I know I'm not perfect, but I deserve for someone to believe in me, too.  Not having this particular friend to hold onto surely makes staying upright even more tricky.  But I'm managing.

I have also been surprised lately.  There have been moments of sweet surprises and exceeding of expectations.  (And 'Happy Birthday-flavored' Oreos) And it reminds me that there is goodness in life.  Those moments that make your heart happy... they will never cease to exist.  No matter how many times your beliefs are crushed or how many people disappoint you, there will always be those times when your faith is renewed, and those select few who surprise you and don't let you down.  Bad things happen.  Everyone knows that.  We all have our stories.  But they don't define us.  It's what we do after.  It's how we recover. It's how our hearts say to our brains, "hey, I'm still here.  I still work."  It's whether or not we listen.

"Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place." <3

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Some Kind of Wonderful

There were moments after Jon died when I was so afraid.  I was afraid of the rest of my life.  If I had already had something so wonderful, so beautiful, so extraordinary... if I had been loved that much, in a way most people never get to be loved, what were the chances I'd get to have that again? What were the chances I'd ever experience happiness like that again? The future looked like one big let-down.  And though I wanted to believe I'd fall in love again, that I'd have the life I'd always hoped for, there was a part of me utterly frightened of living a life always knowing it 'could have been' better.

What I have learned is quite the opposite.  No one will ever be Jon, and that's okay.  That life, our life together, is over.  It will forever be etched into my heart and preserved in my mind as a beautiful memory.  It will be the thing I am always grateful for.  And he will remain a part of me for all eternity.  But experiencing that kind of love, knowing it exists, only makes me want it more.  Only makes me believe in it more, and believe in other people, in connections, in friendships... in everything.  It makes me more open.  And being loved in the way Jon loved me -- completely -- makes me recognize my own worth.  A very wise woman who experienced an all-too-similar scenario said to me recently, "I get to have him be a part of my being and confidence in such a concrete way that most women our age don't ever get. We aren't desperate, we aren't t self conscious, we know we are worth loving and that our love is worth giving because we have been loved by real life angels that had no reason to HAVE to be with us.". (Thank you for that, Bahar) :)

I know what I'm worth, I know what I deserve, and I want to have it all.  Jon loved me fully, completely.  He made me a better person, and accepted my flaws.  He knew me in a way most people never will. 

 I think little things are what make people beautiful.  I think their quirks and understated unique qualities mean everything.  Like the way they laugh or how their eyes sparkle, or the funny way they say a certain word.  I look for those things in the people around me -- those special things that maybe no one else will notice.  And I think that's why I love so intensely and quickly.  I see past what other people see pretty fast, and fall in love with what makes them special.

I can picture myself in so many different situations that it's hard to see where I want to end up.  I'm city and beachy and maybe a tiny bit country.  I'm sensitive.  I take things to heart.  If I care about you, I will do anything for you.  I'm devoted.  I'm bratty.  I'd pick salty snacks over sweet any day.  I'm passionate.  I can eat pickles right out of the jar.  

I HATE when people say "calm down". It actually infuriates me.  I hate tomato juice.  I'm obsessed with sea turtles and owls and animals in general.  Daisies make me smile.  I think roses can be boring unless it's one perfect, non-red one.  I have hundreds of lip glosses, but barely wear any.  I used to think my stuffed animals had feelings and I'd take turns putting them on my bed so none of them felt left-out. 
I can't sleep without a blanket on.  I can fall asleep pretty much anywhere.  I love unique one-of-a-kind things.  I fully believe in the magic of dream catchers, the bracelet that I was told will protect me from evil spirits, and the ring I wear that symbolizes endless possibilities.  Sometimes when I'm walking down the street and a little bird pops out, I think he's saying hi just to me.  (Snow White complex?).  I sing "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid in the all the time... since I was 4 years old. My parents say when I was a kid I'd never go to sleep because I was afraid I'd miss out on something.  Cheez-its are amazing. I've never seen Star Wars in its entirety (I know, I know!).  I think I was meant to be a mom.  I'm pretty judgmental of how other girls dress, carry themselves, laugh... ok I guess girls in general.  But it's mostly because I expect more from my gender, though I can't say I've never disappointed myself.  I can rap "Gimme the Loot", either Biggie or Inf's part (thanks, Bon!).  Coldplay and an iced coffee make me reminiscent of college.  I think dogs are guardian angels.  I think the nicest thing we can do for someone is to let them know we thought of them.  I like to be thought of. :) 

When a moment is important to me, I memorize it... every aspect. And I can play it back in my head as if I'm there.  Like when Jon told me he loved me, or Katie said "I still have a sister", or when my mom gave me a matching angel necklace when I was 8 so "we'd always be connected" or the way my dad got choked up at my high school graduation party.  I notice the way someone says my name.  I remember songs playing in the background. I find it hard to believe in coincidences.  I don't know how to say more than a few sentences without incorporating some form of sarcasm in there.  I think a lot can be felt in a simple touch.

I think I come across as pretty confident, but I'm actually self-conscious. . . a lot.  I have a photographic memory.  School always came fairly easily to me.  I wanted to be a ballerina. . .  I sort of was one, at least an aspiring one.  I had modeling pictures done. . .  once.  (Only 3 people have ever seen them).  I obviously enjoy compliments about my physical appearance, but I secretly fear that I attract guys simply because they think I'm "hot" or want to get in my pants.  I want someone to notice the way I say their name.  Or the different color specks in my eyes.  I want someone to not be able to control their own laughter when I laugh.  I want someone to notice the beauty mark on my right cheek.  I want someone to look at me with pride in who I am.  I want someone who is thankful for how much I care for them. 

I think having a partner to go through this life with is a blessing.  A teammate, someone you can count on.  Someone who makes you a better version of yourself.  Isn't that what we all really hope for? 

I fear no fate.  I'm not afraid of anything anymore.  My heart is open.  I've known more truth and felt more love than most people ever feel in a lifetime.  I know who I am.  I trust my heart.  It's never been wrong before.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Nobody Knows

There are things that no one knows.  Things that even if I write them down, you'll never understand exactly what I mean, or what that particular moment was truly like.  It's a burden of sorts, that I've described in previous posts.  The person who shared each of those moments is gone.  And I can't help but feel like half of a whole at times.

It's not all bad.  There are wonderful things.  Things that words cannot begin to give enough depth to.  The way I was loved, for instance, is beyond words.  But to have that taken away, seems to me, might be more horrible than never having experienced it.  That's the negative side of my mind talking.  I know I was blessed. I know how lucky I was.  But it still doesn't seem fair.  And that's because it's not.

Do I sound like two different people in this blog? Sometimes that's what it feels like.  I'm excited about life, I'm positive, I feel lucky to have known such a love, I'm ready for the next chapter.  I recognize my worth.  Then other times I'm just sad.  I miss my best friend.  I feel like the rug got pulled out from under me.  I can't help but feel some bitterness for the pieces left behind in the aftermath of an incredibly difficult time.  All the energy -- physical, mental, emotional.  In other words, I tried SO hard.  And I know there was nothing else I could have done, but sometimes, it all seems so futile.  So much effort.  So much belief. So much hope. So many physical tasks, mental breakdowns, and so much unconditional love.  So much beauty wrapped in so much pain.  Wishing with every breath for things to get better.  It was tiring.  It overtook everything I did, overshadowed every thought.  But then it was all over.  

A few days before he died, Jon said he wasn't ready to leave me. He said he'd "be fine".  He told me I could go to work and school and he would just wait for me at home.  He said that was enough of a life for him.  And it broke my heart to look at him and hear him say that.  I would have traded my own life for him to have the chance for a better one.  If I could have taken some of the pain, some of the nausea, some of the disappointment... if it meant he'd have one good day where he could feel good, and run, and play basketball -- I wouldn't think twice.  And I mean that, even now.  I wanted so much more for him, for the both of us.  And we promised each other we'd never allow the other to settle.  And there he was, dying, looking at me saying he would be content just to wait for me to get home from work.  It was the end.  I feel like we both knew once the words came out of his mouth, that there was no going back.  I sometimes wonder if that's when he allowed himself to give up.  In my weaker moments, I wonder if I allowed him to, and if it would have made a difference had I taken my usual "no -- you're going to get through this" position.  But instead, I shook my head and let the tears flow.  

There are things that nobody knows.  There are flashbacks that pop up unexpectedly in my mind... things I must have blocked out.  And I wonder how I'm still able to breathe.  It's so silly, but there is so much guilt in my heart.  When I was still working, Jon was my main concern...and I have such guilt for leaving him at home while I was at work.  And so much resentment for not having been able to focus on anything but the intense anxiety over why he wasn't answering my phone calls or getting in touch with his doctor to figure out the next step.  When I was out of work on leave, I was frustrated at how difficult it was to do everything.  I did everything for him out of love, but I couldn't help but feel angry at the overwhelming task at hand.  I think I was more frustrated at the fact that I couldn't fix him.  It was pure powerlessness.

I learned to anticipate his every move.  I could tell when a seizure was coming sometimes minutes before it would happen.  I understood what he was asking for even during those horrifying times when his words didn't make sense.  I would wake up the second I felt him stir during the night.  I hooked up hydration.  I heated up egg drop soup and easy mac. I washed him and changed his clothes, put his deodorant on, lotion on his skin.  I cleaned and clipped his nails.  And numerous other tasks that annoyed the hell out of him. 

I remember one night getting so frustrated at him because he wouldn't answer me when I asked which ice cream he wanted.  He would look at me and say "yea", when I called his name, but then not respond.  At first I thought he was just being his usual day-dreamy self, but it occurred to me when I let it sink in, that he could not understand or formulate the answer.  When he stopped commenting on sports games we were watching, I was terrified.  I told myself it would pass.  It was a side effect of the radiation.  It was this, it was that... it was never the end.  Until it was.  And I tell myself I'm only human, but there are moments when I wish I could go back and be more patient, more loving.  I know I gave him my all, though.  I hope he knows that.  

There are things nobody knows.  How we talked about having "genetic all-star" babies.  How we had secret hand squeezes. How we frequently told each other complete sentences with one look.  How when I'd come home from work we'd "Team Shower" (sorry for any family members reading this -- TMI).  How we always went to sleep spooning.  How we ate Chick-a-rina soup at least twice a week.  (Both of us grew up with it as our FAVE -- soul mates for real.)  How we made fun of literally, everyone we knew... out of love, of course. ;) How our first fight was over face book.  How he used to not like public displays of affection (that changed, real fast).  How we said I was him with a vagina, and he was me with a penis. How we both said we wished we'd never met anyone else or been in any other relationships simply because they didn't compare.  We'd say, "If I knew you were coming into my life..."  

He taught me about basketball -- watching it, players, trades, March Madness brackets, and even how to shoot.  We once played at the JCC after a concert event.  We snuck off to the gym and I was in a dress and heels.  When he was about to shoot, he stopped, looked at me with that look that always made me melt into a puddle and said "My girlfriend in tights -- there is a God."  He taught me about The Beatles, musical terms (flat, sharp, pitch, etc), the combination of mayo & mustard = heaven, how to throw a football, how to wrap a wrap so it doesn't fall apart, Lox bagels, Mac computers, Photo Booth, beer pong technique.  He showed me how to love unconditionally, how to be a better friend, how to fight without yelling (not great at that), how to calm myself after a panic attack, how to be a sister (seester).  He taught me that lullabies weren't just for children. 

There are moments nobody knows.  Like the silly dances we'd make up in the kitchen while making omelettes. Songs about stick butter.  Songs about windy beach days.  Songs about balls and other things that would make 12-year-old boys giggle.   I'll never forget how he looked at me the first time I got dressed up.  Things like that are forever recorded in my mind. 

Sometimes the sound of his voice makes me smile.  Sometimes it makes me burst into tears.  Usually a little of both.  I wonder if and when that will ever change. And then I wonder if I even want it to.  

I once covered Jon's entire bedroom door and walls with yellow post-its.  Each one had a different inspirational quote, or phrase about love, or inside joke.  I just wanted to reassure him that I wasn't going anywhere, and even when I wasn't with him, the post-its would do that for me.  (They are still hanging).  I could use some reassurance.  At a time when so much has changed, so much has been broken.  Every little disappointment seems like another loss at this point.  

There are things nobody else knows.  Things I will keep in my heart forever.  Some I will try to forget, or at least remember less.  I can say with certainty that I was lucky.  I can say without a doubt, I knew another human being like he was another part of me -- an extension of my heart.  But nobody knows what that love felt like.  Nobody knows what that disconnect felt like when he was taken from me.  I knew so much of Jon's heart.  I wish I had a chance to know more of it.  I wish I could have seen him on our wedding day, or as a father, a grandfather.  Those are the things no one will ever know.  And what I will always miss deep inside my heart.  

Was I worthy of such a love? Of Jon? I'm not sure.  But whatever it was that made him love me, I hope I still have some of it left.  I know I carry him with me, and that's the best part of me.  <3

Sunday, July 1, 2012


I'm not sure why people like to read my blogs.  I guess some of it is curiosity -- they want to see how I'm doing.  Whatever the reason,  my wish is that I'm able to provide some hope.  Whether it is hope for love -- because I'm pretty sure I can prove it exists; or hope for strength -- because I like to believe I found some of that, too.  Or maybe, more specifically, hope after a loss.

You don't get over losing someone.  I will never "get over" losing Jon.  I can guarantee that his family and close friends would have to agree.  But in the very beginning of this journey through grief, I wasn't convinced I'd survive.  It's not about being suicidal or anything like that, although I'm sure many people struggle with those thoughts, too.  It's just that the pain is so intense.  The emptiness, the constant state of missing someone, that void -- it's almost physical.  It is by far the worst thing I have ever experienced.

It's weird because that loss is still overwhelmingly present, and I can't say it's necessarily gotten "better," but humans are resilient creatures.  We adapt.  It sounds really cold to say it that way, but we somehow learn how to live a new life.  The hole is still there.  We learn to walk around it.  Inevitably, no matter how much time has passed, no matter how good we've gotten at maneuvering around that hole, sometimes we still fall in.  But the difference is, now we're able to climb out of it, usually on our own.  Occasionally it helps to have a hand pull us out.

And so, if you're currently experiencing a loss, I am so sorry for you.  I can't tell you it will get better, but I can tell you you will learn how to survive.  That doesn't make you miss them any less or diminish how much they shaped your life.  I'm no expert, but I think the best thing I did for myself throughout this entire ordeal was to allow myself to be sad.  I let myself break down, even at times when it wasn't convenient or even if it didn't make sense.  Sometimes you need to let yourself feel the weight of your loss, or at least as much as you can tolerate.  Otherwise it sneaks up on you and it's twice as heavy.

There were moments immediately following losing Jon where I was "proud" of myself for not being "a mess".  But who cares? Be a mess.  We all deserve that.  And the people who love you will love you anyway.  The truth is, it's not something to be proud of.  I was numb in those moments.  It's a defense mechanism.  And it's only lately that I feel like I emerged from that darkness.

I like to believe Jon sends me inspirational things.  It very well could be just me finding more beauty and inspiration in the world, but I like to think he has a lot to do with it.  The sunshine when it feels extra warm sometimes.  He sends me ladybugs and butterflies who insist on landing on me for longer than normal periods of time.  And birds.  Birds were always a thing for us.  Right after I first met him, I was walking home one morning while it was snowing, and I saw two pigeons snuggling and 'kissing'.  I know pigeons aren't the cutest birds around but for some reason it made me happy and reminded me of Jon.  I texted him a picture of those birds.

In our apartment, we loved hearing the birds outside our window.  Since Jon died in February, birds seem to always be around.  There's one who stays perched outside my kitchen window all day.  In Paris, a bird ate out of my hand.  And at the park, they hang out by my blanket (even when I don't have food).  Maybe it sounds bizarre, but it's comforting to me.

There are times when Jon's voice is so loud and clear in my head that it's almost as if he's standing next to me.  I know how he'd react to most things.  It makes me smile when during certain moments I think about what sarcastic comment he'd make if he were there, or dirty joke.  It makes me sad when something happens that I know he'd be angry about or frustrated.  It's difficult to watch people close to him make choices that I know he'd talk them out of.  If only he could give us advice every once in awhile...we'd all be better off.

Jon was other-worldly.  It's the only word I can use to describe him that fully depicts how truly one of a kind he was.  As connected as we were (are), sometimes I don't even understand why he chose me. I don't have low self-esteem, but God, he was just SO good at everything, in every single way.  He was so much better at life in general than most people, including myself.  He had his faults, of course, but even his flaws were perfect to me.  I legitimately loved the things I hated about him.  And I like to think he felt the same about me.  

I find myself re-reading my blogs and knowing Jon could say it so much better.  When I talk to his family or friends, sometimes all I can feel is this inferiority, knowing if Jon were here, he'd make a better joke or have better words of comfort.  There is a comfort in surrounding myself with people close to him, but at the same time, I know they are just wishing for him to be there... just like I am.  I'm not Jon... and maybe sometimes, in some ways, I am the closest thing to him... but simply put, I can't compare.  He shined. What I wouldn't give to stand in his light, simply smiling at him, laughing at literally everything he said.  The most flabbergasting thing to me is I know he thought I lit up the room. He thought I shined, too.  How lucky I was to have someone look at me that way.

When Jon and I first started to become serious, he told me that he had spent an extraordinary amount of time "in his head" after he was diagnosed and while he was getting his initial treatment.  He felt like he had learned so much about himself and grown so much.  He told me he learned how to be alone, and he didn't want to do it anymore.  That's where our expression, "get out of your head" came from...which later became, "get out of my head" because we always seemed to know what the other was thinking.  I never really understood what he meant until recently.  He's been gone for just about 5 months now, and I have spent an extraordinary amount of time in my own head.  Maybe our darkest moments are when we grow the most.  

I miss my friend, so very much.  It boggles my mind to think that I'm only 26...that I have so many more years (hopefully) of living to do. I do think my heart is more complete having been loved like that.    I think I know myself better because someone loved all of me.  

I am far from perfect.  I hope someday, if I'm very lucky, someone will love that about me.  <3