Travel is my greatest passion. Tomorrow I am embarking on my first big trip since I lost my mom. Excitement is an understatement; preparing for this trip has brought me back to life in a huge way.
Afterwards will be on hold for a month, but my travel journal (my very favorite way to write) can be found here, under the “Italy, Ireland, Japan” map and journals section.
Happy May! Ciao! :)
Happiness can be scarier than hardship.
It takes an incredible amount of bravery to be happy. It isn’t really surprising that we may tend to resist happiness; when we are in a place of hurt, sadness, insecurity, weakness, depression, frailty or hardship, there is really not much else to lose. In my own experience, this place can be almost… well, comfortable. It’s like a case of emotional Stockholm syndrome – our hurt (or insecurity, or fear, or dissatisfaction) can become something we know so well that living without it feels terrifying; we may even develop the urge protect it.
I wasn’t necessarily aware of this until I pointedly asked myself one day: Are you afraid? Be honest. Is it unsettling to think of letting go of what binds you? The answer was yes.
Internal whispers can paralyze us, can’t they?
If I love, I will be hurt.
If I move on, I will encounter the next tragedy.
If I accept it, it will be taken away.
If I try to do it, they will see me fail.
If I attain it, I will have to maintain it.
If I am confident, I will have to let them like me.
If I let them like me, I will have to like myself.
If I conquer my weakness, I won’t know who to be.
If I lose weight, I won’t be able to hide behind it.
If I dream it, I will be disappointed by it.
I was talking with a good friend last night about how many of us “young” adults are now experiencing a realization of mortality. It is nearly impossible to really live or really love when the fear of losing it all has made a nest in the back of your mind. I am curious if this condition is a result of experiencing some form of loss or if it is a normal stage of development (anyone have any wisdom to share about this?). Either way, I desperately find myself hoping that there is more to maturity than simply being made aware of painful realities.
How does one shed the fear of happiness? I’m not sure. I know that I have slowly moved from paralyzed, to nervous, to wanting freedom – which proves that change is possible. But fear is a giant. My counselor used to say that the most important time to reach out for help is when you feel stuck somewhere – this seems to be my cue. I am a huge advocate of counseling and have done my fair share, but I know as well as the next person how hard it is to pick up the phone when you don’t have the energy; To make yourself seek advice when you don’t really know what you need (I’ll take an intervention please!). But I have promised myself that I will do it, because I know that the results of others’ wisdom in our lives can be powerful, and I am excited by the potential of happy unstuckedness.
We always want to protect those we love, don’t we? Grief generally feels like it’s about us – our pain; our void; our not knowing how to get by – but many parts of it stem from the fierce instinct to protect our loved one. I had no idea this was true until recently.
It was almost the third anniversary of losing her; I was outside pushing a lawnmower, earbuds in, enjoying some time with my thoughts. I don’t want to say I heard a voice… it was more that some words interrupted my daydreaming. There were only two of them: I’m okay. The phrase wasn’t audible, but it certainly felt outside of my own thought process. It brought to mind a picture of my mom – peaceful and calm, looking at me with a smile, repeating, I’m okay.
It wasn’t as mystical of an experience as it may sound, but the words carried a lot of power. They offered me a reassurance that I didn’t know I needed. It hit me that for three years I’d been unable to let go of the fear I’d felt for her. It wasn’t conscious, but I’d been fervently trying to protect her since she closed her eyes that day, clenching on to things that would have affected her here on earth, carrying them as my own battles. It would pain her to miss this, she would be hurt by those words, it would break her heart for us to move on in that way… Is she at peace? Can she see us? Is she okay with what we’re doing?
Jennelle, I’m okay.
I believed it.
We are wired to fight for our own, it is perhaps one of the most beautiful human qualities. But, with loved ones lost and loved ones still around us, there is also a time at which we need to let go; to know that we are not the hero – we are not in control. No matter how hard it is to believe, we must know that things outside of our power are sometimes more powerful than us – sometimes the brave thing is to let go of the fight.
Releasing these things has allowed me the space to confront my own battle (a very scary, messy lot of fears). Instead of fighting for two of us, I am able to accept the idea of her walking along side of me, helping me to navigate the course. I am free to keep living; to keep moving forward, and even to enjoy it.
The second year was almost more difficult for me though. It’s the second year when you discover they are really gone, and always will be. The second year I thought okay, she’s missing things now! That was the hard part.
The third go round feels different still. But, as far as I can tell, it brings with it a much greater amount of peace. You learn how to make them a part of things while they are absent. You understand a little bit more fully that they are here, and that happy occasions don’t deserve to be sad occasions forever.
On this, my “third” birthday, I wake up feeling happy and alive. Hopeful. She’s closer now than in the past two years, this can only mean bright things for years still to come.