Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Four Years...

“Do you still get sad on the anniversary of your mom’s death?” I asked Kat as she drove me to my parent’s house on the weekend of Easter Sunday. I had arrived early that morning and we had spent the day together catching up, shopping and drinking coffee. “Not as much. I mean, it happened twenty three years ago.” I nod and watch as we drive passed the exit that could be taken to get to the cemetery that Rob is buried in. Kat’s mom died of breast cancer when she and her sister were very young. Kat and I haven’t really talked much about it. She and I go back and forth about the experience of grief. She states what’s been in my mind the past few weeks. “It gets to a point where you’re just happy to have had him in your life.” Yes. Four years later I have finally arrived at a point where I feel pure joy for having met Rob and allowing him into a place where no one was allowed before. He laid the ground work for me, showing me what it is to live as authentically as I possibly can. I didn’t understand what the point of continuing this work was if he wasn’t going to be here with me. Looking back, I don’t think it was necessarily meant for “us” per say. I was to figure it out once he extracted that little part I had squirreled away a long time ago and shone some light on it. He held it, polished it, and loved it until he died. Since then it’s been up to me to do the same. Jeff’s alarm goes off at 4:30am on April 20th. In just a few short hours we’ll be in San Francisco. Slowly, we get up and he takes a shower while I turn on his computer. Quickly I post my “I love you” messages on Rob’s mom’s and sister’s facebook pages. His middle sister, Laura writes me back instantly saying she’s thinking about me. A flash of memory shoots into my mind. She and I are in the back seat of my cousin’s truck. Her older sister Kate, is sitting in the passenger side, and my cousin is driving. The sun is rising and we’re on our way to South Carolina to move Rob’s things out of his apartment. Laura is holding my hand. I’m crying and she’s quietly saying to me “I’ll take care of you now.” I see this as it’s happening all over again and I cry. The tears come hard and fast but stop as quickly as they started. I leave Jeff’s desk and get dressed. The weather in San Francisco is stunning. Bright sunshine, temperatures in the seventies. I’m thinking the clothing I packed may be too much if this is how the rest of the weekend will be. Our flight was lovely and we found our way into the city fairly quickly. We stopped at a tiny Japanese place for lunch before checking into our hotel. Within minutes we were fast asleep, taking a short nap before heading back out. I wanted a soy caramel latte. I drink three a year. One on Rob’s birthday, one on the day we met and one on April 20. We decide to go to Philz Coffee which is down the street a little ways from our hotel. They don’t do espresso drinks so the kind barista made me a coffee drink that she thought might resemble a caramel soy latte. It was delicious but was most definitely a cafĂ© au lait. Sitting across from Jeff with each of our coffees I mentally decided that maybe this latte thing wasn’t going to happen this year. I didn’t need anymore caffeine but was still wanting the latte even after finishing my coffee. We weren’t sure where to go. After Jeff asks if I want to keep looking I shrug explaining something decaf would work if we found a place. “I was thinking, you know how when you take communion the wine or grape juice represents Jesus’ blood and the bread is his body?” Jeff nods. “I never really paid a whole lot of attention to that or really thought about the symbolism but I do now. I feel very determined to drink my three caramel lattes a year. I started drinking them a lot right after Rob died in attempts to feel closer to him somehow but that had to stop. I don’t like drinking all that soy.” I smile.
He nods again and we’re quiet for a little bit, then deciding to get dinner. He finds a lovely little Mexican place and we lose our minds filling up on guacamole, chips, and salsa. Jeff ordered a decadent lamb dish and I had quesadillas. It felt so good to sit across from him, to stare into his pretty eyes, hear the sound of his voice mixed with my own as we talked, told stories and laughed. After dinner we found a coffee shop that had caramel. I ordered a decaf caramel soy latte and Jeff got a decaf mocha. We walked around Market street, meandering into Westfield Mall. After the sun went down we stopped by the Redwood Room. It’s a gorgeous bar that I went to years ago on one of my weekend jaunts to San Francisco. We sat next to each other on a small high backed couch sipping cocktails and continue our conversations. Once we’re back out in the chilly night air I felt I could stay out all night. I’m so utterly thrilled to be wandering around under the clear sky, my hand in Jeff’s our feet striking the pavement of my favorite city. We make our way to Union Square and hitch a ride on a cable car. We take it to Fisherman’s Warf and continue our indirect exploration, stopping at Ghiridelli for ice cream and hot chocolate. The cable car takes us back to the street we’re staying on eventually and we promptly pass out. Four years ago, I was sitting in my brother’s childhood room on a bed with my mom next to me. I was talking so fast, saying so much, that I can’t possibly even try to retrieve those words. Breathing felt hard, labored, like something was sitting on my chest. I didn’t know how I was ever going to get to sleep but it found me eventually. Tonight, I am laying next to my second chance. My breathing is easy, and calm. I know now… have learned, to never take the feeling of his hand in mine for, or the sound of his voice or beating of his heart for granted.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Sooo… it’s been a while. I apologize. I freaked out when school started. Blogging seemed like one more thing I had to keep up with while simultaneously trying to rearrange my schedule, learn to study…really study… plus work, Jeff, working out, life, etc…I thought that if I couldn’t write regularly, I shouldn’t write at all. I have a lil problem with “black and white” thinking. I forget there are 8,000 shades of gray in between. My shades of gray may look like writing regularly again, or periodically. Either way I guess the point is to simply write. Right?
Currently I’m on spring break. The school’s terms run in trimesters so every 14 weeks, we’re off for 3 or 4 weeks. My first and so far only, term went very well. I fell in love with having a very regular, regimented schedule. I got up and went to bed at the same time every day. This is something I haven’t done since I was in school for hair. I also fell in love with the material I was learning, my teachers and classmates. I took 3 classes that were 3 hours each in the evening on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I reduced my work hours from 40 to 32 to accommodate this without losing my mind.
Monday night was Chinese Medical Theory, Tuesday was Stress Management and Wednesday was Anatomy. Very quickly I began to develop an appreciation not only for my own body but for other bodies with their different shapes and sizes. We are so perfectly put together that it blows my mind. Our bodies do so much for us without our needing to do a single thing. Palpating each other’s muscles and bones in Anatomy brought awareness like I have never known to each and every movement that we make.
Once I locked down my schedule and routine I noticed I was seeing more of Jeff now than I was before school started. Time between work and class was first spent at Intelligentsia but it gets a lil rowdy in there so I moved my study/stare at/talk to Jeff sessions over to the Chicago Cultural Center. It’s just a couple of doors down from Intelli. There are art exhibits, musical performances and a giant room where people can hang out, study, read or relax. It’s a lovely escape from the chaos of downtown Chicago. No matter what though, Friday’s are our nights for just us. I am off from work and school and Jeff’s work day wraps up early leaving time for us to do something, or absolutely nothing. His presence kept me sane during the excruciating process of studying for midterms and finals. I don’t test well. I have such stupid amounts of anxiety over tests that I tend to get squirrelly in the weeks leading up to the exam. I eat my way through studying, and feel quite snippy with people. During the test I freeze, staring at sections of questions knowing that I know the answers but they won’t make their way to my pen and to the paper.
Despite all this, I managed to make good grades and feel ecstatic that I juggled everything and still came out ok. I ran an half marathon, entered my second erotic fiction contest benefiting Chicago Women’s Health Center, kept up with my journal and began a regular yoga practice while still hitting the gym 3-4 days a week. I also got new glasses and cut all my hair off. Somehow cutting my hair short helps me to feel more like “myself” again.

A classmate told me about a style of yoga called “Forrest Yoga”. A woman named Ana Forrest developed this kind of practice. She wrote a book about it titled “Fierce Medicine”. The poses are held for longer amounts of time than in other practices allowing for the emotions trapped in our muscles to be released. Turns out the only studio that offers this kind of yoga is… within walking distance of my apartment. Of course I signed up immediately.
Never have I ever felt so strong, so physically capable, in my life. Never have I ever cried during a yoga class. Never have I ever felt surges of energy coursing through my body and never have I ever felt such intense amounts of anger, grief, and giddiness (not at the same time!) simply by holding a pose. Obviously they aren’t all just holding a simple pose. A lot of the time I’m twisted into something that I had no idea was possible and in holding that pose, standing in that awkward place, the feelings come to the surface. Just when I think I can’t hold it anymore, when I think I’m going to fall out of it because my thighs or arms are shaking so hard, I remind myself that I am much stronger than I believed to be true. Showing up to these classes, being enveloped in the love and kindness the teachers and other students so readily give has helped to unwind the tapes that play over and over in my head telling me negative, self-deprecating things that no longer serve me.

Very carefully I am learning to loosen the tight grip I maintain on myself. I’m questioning everything I’ve ever believed…about myself, my relationships with people, and what it actually means to be happy. Slowly, so very slowly I feel a kind of peace coming over me in the learning process that is accepting my body for what it is today.
Jeff and I are headed to San Francisco on April 20th. Rob will have been gone 4 years on that day. The sadness of that loss is quieting down and I’m ecstatic to be taking a much needed trip with Jeff. More on that later though. I need to pack!