Thursday, September 11, 2014

Where I'm at Now

It's been a while.

I received a couple comments on an old post this week from people checking in and asking if I'm ok. First of all, that was beyond flattering, so thank you for that. Secondly, this really caused me to reflect on how I've been and why I stopped writing.

Since I've always used this blog as a place to expose the unfiltered truth, regardless of how uncomfortable it may be, I owe it to myself to stick with that commitment.
The truth is, back in May I fell in love.

Falling in love again was exciting, terrifying, and confusing all at once. I knew the moment it happened that it felt right and that I shouldn't feel guilty about it, probably because I knew Blake had a hand in putting me in that position. But just because it felt natural didn't mean I wasn't scared. I was scared shitless. More than I admitted to him, more than I admitted to myself. When you've held onto something so long and with such conviction, unclasping your hands feels like you're letting go of something that was as much a part of you as the fingers that clutched it.

But I let go.
And the best part about it was that I let go because I truly wanted and was ready to, not because I felt pressured into it.

On the anniversary of Blake's death I buried the blue heart ring with him at his grave along with a note explaining why I wouldn't be wearing it anymore. Not because I didn't want to wear a constant reminder of him, but because I didn't need to. It was a symbolic gesture to show that I was finally ok. That I was whole and able to live my life again. I knew he would except the gift with a smile, because it was what he wanted.

There were times that I wanted to write about this process, but I didn't for two main reasons:
1) I wanted to preserve this blog as the journey that it was: the first year after tragically losing a man that I loved with my entire heart.
2) I wanted to respect the privacy of the new relationship and man in my life

And although I have no idea how this love will evolve over time or where it will take me, I do know that Blake is always rooting for my happiness. I've settled into a healthy relationship with his spirit, not overly reliant on his support, but connected enough to know he's still always looking out for me. I feel better than I ever have in my life and I owe it all to the path I had to travel to get to this point.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Closer to Heaven (A Poem)

I’m a mile high
Closer to heaven 
Carried above clouds
By a silver bird’s wings 
The air here is thinner
But your presence stronger
Covered in your tingles 
Like the warmth a blanket brings
Please wrap me up
It’s been cold without you
Stolen by the sky
Mourned by the ground
We’ll share these two hours
If only in Spirit
Flying together through the night
Until the wheels touch down

Monday, June 30, 2014

Moon and Stars

The distance between earth and heaven is a heart beat. I close my eyes and in one palpitation I can feel you all around me. You cover my body in a sensation that can only be described as love. But there is something different in the way your spirit tingles my skin now. It’s no longer the brush of a familiar hand, intimately acquainted. Instead of increasing my heart rate to the alarming speed of lust, you steady it. You wrap me in a new kind of love that is comforting, peaceful, and safe.

And while I have you here, inexplicably close without a shred of evidence to prove it, I speak to you. I speak to you in words that have no syllables, no letters. I ask for a million things: guidance, protection, insight, clarity... anything that I'm struggling to find for myself. But as the list of wordless prayers stretches on, it melts into the warm buzz of your love. And I am silent.

My heart reminds me that there's nothing I need from you now that I can't provide for myself. This exercise in connecting heaven and earth is just my mind's way of checking that you're still here. And you are. But you're no longer my moon or my stars. You're not even the subtle glow of a night sky cloaked in clouds. 

But I'm not saddened by this. My heart rejects my brain trying to process this as a bad thing. Because even if my sky is dark, it means that it still needs to be. Maybe the black of night is my reminder that the only guiding light I need is the one that burns inside of me. A fiery golden flame that's invisible when spending all of my time looking up.

So I search inside of myself while I feel your blanket of love lift from my skin. I don't mourn you leaving because I know the distance between earth and heaven is just a heart beat. That if I am ever mixed up, searching with my head in the sky, I can close my eyes and you'll come to me. No longer as my moon and  my stars, but as a gentle reminder that everything I need has been in me all along. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Full Circle

5 PM at the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport was the last time I saw him; less than eight hours later he was gone. My heart stopped for a moment on the flight home when I realized that I’d be in the exact same place, on the exact same date, exactly one year later. But as I started to plan my escape route from the airport in an effort to exit as quickly as possible, I changed my mind. No, I told myself, I am finally ready.

I believe the universe is constantly conspiring to create chances to right past mistakes, put into practice lessons that we’ve learned, and present opportunities for growth. Today at the airport was going to be one of those rare moments in time when everything comes together in a way that’s so symbolic, it can’t possibly be a coincidence. I decided on the plane ride that this meant I’d have to lean into the pain. Instead of avoiding this site like I have ever since, I needed to embrace it with my whole heart.

The seats across from the C Gate security are where we sat, clinging onto our last few minutes together. Maybe on some level our bodies knew those would be the last few minutes they’d ever share, so breaking apart was even more difficult than usual. I replayed those last few minutes in my head on a loop as the plane landed. Go to the seats, my heart told me. So I did.

Now I’m here, in the exact same seat, on the exact same date, exactly one year later. I feel the weight of an entire year of struggle, but the lift of an entire year of discovery. The full days in bed, the inability to eat, the fear of meeting someone new, they all feel like distant memories. In this seat I feel completely in control for the first time all year. 

I thought sitting here would usher in a flood of tears, but surprisingly, I'm writing this through dry eyes. It's not that there's an absence of sadness, but rather an overwhelming sense of calm that steadies my heart. Calm. Of all the adjectives I've used to describe how I've felt throughout this year, calm is definitely a new one. But I am so calm to my core that it feels like I've never known anything besides this feeling.

So here it is: full circle. One year to this date since I thought nothing in this world could ever be as good again. One year to this date that I thought life wouldn't go on, that I'd always be alone, and that I'd never truly be myself again. It's been a whole year in the making, but I made it. But not only have I made it, I've also come out on the other side stronger and with an even greater capacity to love.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Not Dying, but Passing On

I've said this a thousand times, but the greatest part of starting this blog (besides providing a space for me to spill my thoughts) has been the people it's connected me to. Some have been friends that I had no idea could relate to the things I write about, others were friends of friends who referred them to it, and the most powerful have been the complete strangers. Through a deliberate Google search or a happy accident, they came across this page. And because of this I've met some of the most inspiring women with the unfortunate burden of carrying the same scar on their hearts.

I received an email from another one of these women yesterday. I'm going to quote her because she writes so beautifully that paraphrasing wouldn't do her justice:
"For a long time, I felt very alone. Not that I didn’t have support, but I just felt like no one understood my perspective of this loss. I kept waiting for someone to come out of the woodwork and say they lost their boyfriend too and tell me how and why they were okay and surviving and that I would as well. No one ever did, but then I found you. I have been reading your blog for the past few weeks and it has been very helpful to me to have confirmation that there are other people in my same position and to hear what it has been like for you. There were entries that made me laugh and cry and many that sounded like you were saying exactly what was in my head. Most important to me was the proof that you are making it, and so if you can, then maybe I can too."

I was alone in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens when I read her words. The wind started to blow and my skin grew prickly with goosebumps. They were the same goosebumps that have always let me know Blake is with me. I felt him in the wind, on my skin, and filling my heart. It was a magical moment when time stood still and the world was perfectly beautiful.

I read on and noticed that she included a link to a video at the bottom. I can't even describe the spoken word poem by Michael Lee because it is just too perfect. You'll have to listen to it yourself:



This amazing woman whom I am so lucky to have met through my blog also said something so moving that I've been thinking about it ever since I read it:
"But you know, the thing about forever, I have realized, is that it is not necessarily some point on a distant horizon that you only reach after a long and happy life. Some forevers are shorter than others. Forever is any moment in time that you wish would last and last and never end. Forever can be just one blink of an eye. Forever is happening right now. And I am so, so eternally grateful for the small forever that Bryan and I had."

Today I am so grateful for my small forever with Blake.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

This Time Last Year

After seeing a friend post a picture using an app called "Timehop," I decided to download it. The app syncs with your phone's photo gallery, Instagram, and Facebook accounts to show you pictures that were taken on each date years prior.

Every morning I've been opening the app with both anticipation and dread. The pictures that it's found from seven, five, or three years ago have been making me laugh. It's given me the opportunity to relive high school graduation parties, college, studying abroad, and everything in between. But the pictures from one year ago have been the most interesting for me to see. As the days get closer to May 28th I am constantly reminded that it's almost been an entire year since Blake has been in our lives.

More so than ever before, I find myself starting sentences in my mind with "This time last year..." as I recall so many lasts:

This time last year Blake and I went to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium and had one of the best days of my entire life.

This time last year I dropped him off at the San Jose Airport for the last time.

This time last year I took off two days of work so I could spend an entire week with Blake for Memorial Day Weekend.

This time last year...
This time last year...

Although the nostalgia has been somewhat upsetting, I've been surprised by how okay I feel. It's almost scary how detached I am from the memories of this time last year that the app places on my screen. I look at the pictures with love and fondness, but it feels kind of like I'm looking at people I knew a long time ago. The couple looks vaguely familiar, as if they were my close friends from another lifetime.

As the days of reminiscing have gone on, I've started to believe that this feeling of loving detachment comes from the fact that this time last year, I was a different person. Maybe the reason why the couple looks like people I knew in another lifetime is because it really was another lifetime. Maybe life as I knew it has finally started to come to a close and a new life has started to begin.

It's new and scary and a bit uncomfortable, but I finally feel like I'm ready. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

It's May and I'm Terrified

I'm terrified of May. I'm terrified of the 28th
I'm terrified of spending the entire month being terrified of May 28th

I have plenty of distractions between now and then (finals, Cape Cod, my sister's graduation), but when I give myself even a second to pause between planning for any of those three things, May 28th pours down on me from a dark cloud.

May 28th. 
May 28th. 
May 28th. 

I'm drenched in May 28th. Soaked to the bone in its significance.

I've been told that the days leading up to an anniversary are often harder than the date itself. The waiting, anticipating, and dreading build up and turn a harmless number on the calendar into a black hole. The line that separates the 27th and 28th somehow becomes a cliff. Reaching the end of one day means stepping off into...

Nothing.

Nothing horrible will happen on May 28th.

I'm making May 28th into the black hole I thought September 21st (his birthday) would be or that I thought November 23rd (our anniversary) would be. But on each of those days I crossed from one number on the calendar to the next the same way I did every other day of the year. There was no black hole waiting for me on the other side of the line.

But even knowing this doesn't stop me from being terrified.
I'm terrified of May. I'm terrified of the 28th.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Hole

It's not like I ever forget that Blake died. In fact, I don't think there has been a whole hour since he passed away that something hasn't made me think of him. I'm constantly getting reminders: a song, a phrase, an article of clothing, a place we went or wanted to go... anything, really. And when this happens, I quietly acknowledge the trigger, find him in my heart, say hi, and go about my day.

But every once in a while, something bigger happens and the quiet acknowledgment isn't enough. It's like my body remembers it has a hole it in, right at the center of my heart. What a weird sensation to be able to physically feel something that is seemingly just emotional. But I feel it. I feel it so much that the only thing I can do is stop everything and write.

This morning I received an email from an old classmate of Blake. He described going on Facebook for the first time in a long time just to check up on friends. To his complete surprise, he saw that the smiley, popular guy with a "sensational presence" that he remembered from high school had passed away. He went on to detail his interactions with Blake and why he was such a great guy. He said the usual "I can't imagine what you're going though" and of course sent me "love and prayers."

There have been numerous messages like this throughout the past 11 months, but for some reason this one hit me really hard. I think it was because his shock in finding out for the first time made me remember how truly soul shattering it was for me to find out for the first time. Nothing can prepare you for someone telling you that a person you love- that you are IN love with- is gone. Nothing. You go silent, you ask questions, you deny it, you cry, you gasp for air, you scream, you do a lot of things, but you never forget. And from that point on, there will be a hole in your heart. A hole that will physically hurt when you are reminded.

But somehow through writing, I get the pain to subside. It doesn't fill the hole up or make it go away, but it focuses the hurt and channels it into something clearer, comprehensible... beautiful, even. And that's a metaphor for how I've been trying to live my life since that moment. From that soul shattering moment when I found out that Blake died, to the tiny daily reminders, to the even bigger triggers, every day I attempt to make the pain make sense. I try to use that hole to create a life lovelier than I could've ever imagined.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Still Aching (A Poem)

A heart already broken
            can keep breaking
A shaken soul
            can keep on shaking
A mind so tired
            can keep mistaking
That wounds are healed
when they're still aching

A moment's pause
            can lead to crying
Missing the love,
             remembering the lying
I'm moving on
             I swear I'm trying
But my world falls back apart
thinking of you dying

To really be gone
             and gone forever
To have no chance to hold you
             whatsoever
Knowing I can't come to you
              for whatever, whenever
Makes the possibility of getting over this
slim to never


A heart already broken
            can keep breaking
A shaken soul
            can keep on shaking
A mind so tired
            can keep mistaking
That wounds are healed
when they're still aching

Monday, April 21, 2014

P.S. I Love You

Yesterday I turned on the TV and caught the last 15 minutes of the movie "P.S. I Love You." I had seen it before, but I didn't really remember what it was about. All I knew was that the main character's husband died and she was randomly getting letters from him that he pre-wrote to help guide her.

Once I remembered what the movie was about, I almost changed the channel. Did I really want to subject myself to that? Obviously it was going to make me cry, so why torture myself? But something inside me was telling me to put down the remote. So I did.

I guess there was tension throughout the movie between the main girl and a guy. He spent the whole movie falling in love with her, but she was in no place to think about anyone but her late husband. In one of the last scenes, she allows him to read the final letter from her late husband:


I couldn't find a clip of what happens next, but right after he finishes reading the letter to her, she kisses him, indicating that she realized she loves him and is ready to be with him. Then she says, "I can't feel him anymore. He's not here," explaining to this new guy that her husband is gone. She had felt him with her the whole year since he passed away, but in that instant she could no longer feel her husband's presence. She was ready to let go.

Because I like to think of everything as a sign put in my path for some important reason, I immediately started wondering why I turned on the TV to this particular movie, at this particular scene, during this particular moment in my life. What was Blake trying to tell me?

I wish I needed to see this because I'm in the same position as the main character: looking at a man who is completely right for me, but unsure if it's ok to fall in love again. In that scene, the letter was her late husband's way of letting her go and telling her it was ok to open her heart to this other man. But that's not the case yet for me. Instead, I feel like I was meant to watch this to hear the very last part of the letter:

"Don't be afraid to fall in love again. Watch out for that signal when life as you know it ends."

I realized very quickly that I haven't gotten that signal. No guy that I've come across since Blake has made me feel like my life will never be the same again. When I kissed Blake for the first time, it meant something. I didn't know what that kiss was the start of, but I knew it was the start of something meaningful, powerful, life-changing. I got that signal with him, but haven't since.

I was reminded in this moment that it's ok to wait for that. It's ok to be alone and hold out for someone really special. I think I was putting too much pressure on myself to date and prove I'm "normal," which lead me to accept being treated in a way I don't deserve to be treated. I had recently asked Blake for guidance with someone, but I went ahead and ignored what I knew in my heart that I should do. This scene finally got me to realize that if the signal isn't there, then it's not worth it.

But the other, equally important side of this message is that when I do get that signal, I shouldn't be afraid. I will need to be open to it and let myself fall in love again- even if that means that I won't feel Blake's presence anymore. Because after they kiss and she says "I can't feel him anymore. He's not here," it's a scary, but ultimately good thing. It doesn't mean she stopped loving her husband, it just means she's finally ready to let go and fully embrace the rest of her life.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

"Smile" Scholarship

Because Blake loved our high school so much, his friends decided that the best way to honor his memory was to set up a scholarship for a graduating senior every year. Today Blake's mom, a couple of his friends, and I looked through the scholarship applications to pick a recipient.

The description for the scholarship reads:
"The family and friends of Blake Norvell established this $1,000 scholarship in honor of Blake’s passionate, fun-loving spirit and his infectious smile. Confidently riding around in his beat-up mini-van, Blake had the ability to make everyone around him feel welcomed and will be remembered as the “glue” that held Corona’s class of 2006 together. This scholarship will be awarded to a Corona del Sol senior student who most epitomizes the qualities that made our dear friend Blake so special—community leadership, academic acumen and a positive, outgoing personality."

Selecting a winner was a weird experience. As I was looking over the transcripts, lists of extracurriculars, and reading the raps they were asked to write (haha the best idea ever) I started wondering what they were thinking when they applied.

I applied to a bunch of scholarships as a graduating senior, many of them "memorial" scholarships. At the time I was grateful that a family was willing to give me money just for being me, but I never thought deeper about it than that. Aside from the brief description of their lost loved one, I never wondered who that person was, how giving that money to a student was meaningful to them, or why it was an important part of keeping their legacy alive. But today, all of this was going through my head as I was reviewing the applicants profiles.

As I was trying to picture each person's life, I was looking for words, for a feeling that felt like Blake. I wondered if the students who applied knew that I would be pouring myself into every letter, every comma, searching for the man that I miss more than anyone in the world. I was looking for a little piece of Blake within them; a small reminder of who he was and what he contributed to our high school and our lives. 

After about an hour, we picked a winner. Although I'm not sure when or how, she will receive $1,000 of the money raised in Blake's memory. Will she think about Blake when she receives it? Will she be proud that we saw a little bit of him in her? Will she be grateful to be a part of his legacy? Who knows. But what I do know is that even if she doesn't think about or realize these things, we do, and I think that's more important. Being able to give someone like Blake money to help them pursue their dreams means that he gets to continue to help others. And it means that we get to see a little piece of him again. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Not Everyone Will Understand

Last night I learned a valuable lesson: not everyone will understand. They will hear how you died and it will scare them. This fearful confusion will affect them in a variety of ways, some obvious, some just far enough under the surface to go undetected. And for those people who don't understand- don't want to understand- I will change. In their eyes I will never look the same again.

At first there will be silence. A furrowed brow. A look of pity, concern, maybe disgust. And then, judging by their line of questioning, it will go one of two ways. They will either begin to look at me like I'm irreparably broken or like there must be something seriously wrong with me. I'm either too deeply wounded or was part of the problem. It'll be too much. Too soon. Too scary.

I could hide it, that's always been an option. Sometimes I trick myself into believing that it would be better if I did. If I exposed only just enough to keep our images safe and the inquisitor satisfied with answers, I would never have to watch myself change in the eyes of others. Look as a switch flicks, the sparkle fades, I dim. I'd never have to experience being written off by the people who don't understand- don't want to understand.

But in my heart I know that although not everyone will understand, some will try. Some will see what happened as it was, you as you were, and me as I am now. They will know that these are three distinct things that are all intertwined, but not inextricably so. Each aspect weaves into one another, lending fibers and adding texture. And even though who I am is decorated by you and what happened, I am still me in my own right. A little much, a little soon, a little scary, but no less sparkly.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Just Like We Planned

One of Blake's best friends lives a couple blocks away from me in San Diego. When Blake and I first started planning on moving here, we brought up his friend's name all the time. How great will it be for us to know someone who already lives here? We'll go out with him. Double date with him and his girlfriend. You two can get close again. It made our already exciting plan even better knowing he was there.

During Blake's funeral weekend, the majority of the planning, reminiscing, and saying goodbye went on at this particular friend's house. It was only fitting, considering many of their parties back in high school were hosted there. I went to high school with Blake and all of his friends, but was a grade younger. Although they all took me in and made me feel like I had been part of their friend group all along, he was someone I actually knew from before. So that Saturday night after the funeral when we were all over there, I asked him to leave the party to talk to me when I needed to release some thoughts and information I had inside my head.

We sat side by side on the lawn chairs as I recounted painful details of the months leading up to Blake's death. His friend looked down at the ground. His face, which was once warm with empathy for me, went ghostly pale. Instead of the loving arm around my back to comfort me, his hands began to clasp together as his body language demonstrated that he was trying to escape. "I'm sorry, did I say too much?"

He politely, but sternly told me that he didn't want to hear it. Any of it. Maybe it felt like the right thing for me to analyze exactly what went on, for how long, and all of the other excruciatingly difficult details, but it wasn't. Not for him, anyway. The Blake he knew was always happy, smiling, the glue that held his friend group together after all of these years. Although what I told him may have been Blake's reality at the time of his death, it wasn't a reality that he felt was necessary to dwell on. He felt awful that I was picking Blake apart. He wanted to see me and remember how in love Blake and I were. That's what I needed to focus on too. He gave me a hug, got up, and joined his friends back inside.

I went over that conversation again and again in my head. At first I felt sorry for him, thinking that he wasn't dealing with Blake's death properly. I thought he needed to process everything that went on so that he could come to terms with it, like I was trying to do. But then I realized that that thinking wasn't right. Because everyone deals with loss differently, there's no one way that's better than another. If he wanted to remember only happy times, then that's what he needed to do. It was unfair for me to try to force an image of Blake on him that he didn't know and frankly, didn't need to know. I wrote him an email to apologize and vowed only to be happy and speak highly of Blake whenever I was around him once I moved to San Diego.

I've seen his friend out several times since moving here, but we never spoke of Blake or that conversation again until this Saturday night. While we were both out celebrating our mutual friend's birthday, I started innocently talking to a guy. Apparently this guy works with Blake's friend, so when he saw us together he came up and started telling us how awesome it was that we were talking. My face got bright red. Not only was this a guy I just barely met, I was mortified that I was caught flirting by Blake's friend. Although it's been almost 10 months, I felt overwhelming guilt for being seen with someone else by someone so close to Blake.

Blake's friend pulled me aside. As he told me how happy he was to see me like this and how important it was for me to seek my own happiness, I felt like I wasn't talking to Blake's friend anymore. From the words he used to the way he talked, even how he calmed me down in the most effortless way, it felt like Blake was talking through his friend to me. He felt that way too, and told me so. Hearing him say it was not only ok, but exciting for him to see me like that felt like a huge weight was lifted off of my heart. When we hugged, it was like the three of us hugged. Maybe we did.

I finally brought up that conversation at his house after Blake's funeral. As I explained to him what was going through my head, he reassured me that it was ok. It was all ok. We are going to get through this together.

As we walked back together to rejoin our friends, I started thinking about Blake and my plan to move to San Diego. We brought up this friend's name all the time, which made our already exciting plan even better knowing he was here. He's still here, and so am I. And in that moment when we turned our more serious conversation into a series of funny stories about our Blake, he was there too. Just like we always planned.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Picture Perfect

My William Blake,
I wasn't going to write this directly to you, but it seems like the only way to do it. Any other way would feel like I'm talking badly about you behind your back. But I'm not. I don't want you to think of it that way, so I'm going to say this directly to you. I want to own these words and I want to do so without guilt. 

A few months back, I read a quote about how in the eyes of loved ones, even sinners becomes saints after they die. I'm not a fan of giving someone the label "sinner" or "saint" because I don't believe people can fall neatly into one category or the other, but that idea stuck with me. I wanted so badly to remember only the good things about you and about us that I made you into a saint in my mind.

You were an incredible man, but you weren't perfect. We had a real and special love, but it wasn't perfect either. Nothing in life is perfect. But in death, it can be remembered that way.

It's not that I rewrote history, I just filtered it in the best possible light. Ignoring some cracks and retouching some blemishes, I made the picture of us that I hung on the halls of my mind: perfect. A picture perfect love with the world's most picture perfect guy. Whether I was intentionally doing that or not, it didn't feel harmful. It just felt like I was honoring you. 

But what I didn't realize was that I was setting myself up for a life filled with unfair comparisons. Atop the high pedestal I placed you on, you sparkled like an illusive dream. No other guy would ever be able to compare to the picture perfect image I had of you in my mind. You couldn't even compare to that image.

I didn't write all of this to put you down. From the very beginning I cautioned well-intentioned friends away from doing that. In my eyes, moving on will never come from making you less than you were to me or diminishing what we shared. What you were and what we had was beautiful- unedited, unfiltered. But what I must remember is that what it wasn't, was perfect.

Nothing in life is perfect, but in death it can be remembered that way. 

So now, I want to take you down from your pedestal and see the image of us as we really were. I'll take the cracked-glass, blemished-faced picture of our love story and hang that in the halls of my mind. Because what was real may have been flawed, but it was something I'll always cherish. And putting it all in perspective will allow me to see the present not as a second-rate version of what could have been, but as an opportunity for another flawed, but perfectly imperfect love story. 

I Love You Imperfectly,
Briana

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Evolution of X

June 24, 2013, a little less than a month after Blake's death, I started this blog to give myself "X amount of time" every day to grieve. After asking the advice of a friend who lost his father, I created this space to spend that designated time writing. In my small piece of the internet, I could spill, organize, and share my thoughts. "X Amount of Time" was meant to help me sit with what was in my head, focus it, and then get it out. To help me make sense of my grief so that I could move forward.

Technically "X" denotes the unknown. However, I went into this thinking "X amount of time" meant confining my grieving to an hour or so a day. But in actuality, X stood for 24 hours. If there were 72 hours in a day, that X would've stood for 72. X was all consuming. Even when I wasn't sitting down to write in my blog, I was thinking about it, rereading it, connecting with people through it. I couldn't give myself x amount of time, because grieving was my full time job.

As soon as I realized this, I decided that the "X" didn't mean hours in a day, but instead it stood for months. My "X amount of time" would be how many months I was going to need to keep writing. I told myself that I would stop adding entries when I didn't need this space anymore. Eventually, I would phase out my blog and move on with my life. October: 21 posts, November: 17, December: 12, January: 7. As I saw myself writing less and less frequently, I figured February would be the end. My "X amount of time" would be over, and my new life would begin.

But something inside me had a problem with that kind of thinking. As I started asking myself why I felt the need to stop writing, I realized that there was really no reason besides that I felt awkward about keeping this going for so long. Awkward in the sense that I felt like people might think it was pathetic. It's been almost nine months, did I really need to write about it anymore? Shouldn't I be ok enough now to stop thinking about this?

This morning I realized that "X amount of time" isn't about trying to restrict myself. Saying, "I'm only giving myself one hour to be upset today and then I have to stop thinking about the loss," or, "After nine months of this I have to move on." Instead, X amount of time is about reminding myself. Reminding myself that even though life goes on and I've entered a state of normalcy, I still deserve to give myself that hour or two every day, or every other day, or once a week. Whenever I need it. Anytime I feel the need to spill, organize, and share my thoughts, I have this blog and "X amount of time" that day to do so.

X denotes the unknown. I don't know how long or when I'll feel the urge to share the thoughts inside my head about Blake's death and how it continues to affect me. I don't know if the number beside February will have three entries or 30. I don't know if there will be a March 2014 or a March 2015. I don't know. But what I do know is I have faith that I'm going to be ok, regardless of what happens to this blog. Because I trust in myself and I trust in my ability to give myself "X amount of time."

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Relapsing on Sadness

Maybe sadness became my drug.
I wanted it. I craved it. Even when it hurt me, distanced me from everything I loved, I ran to it. Wrapped myself in it. Hid inside of it.

I don't know much about addiction besides what I've read in books, studied, assumed, but I'd imagine it feels a lot like this. Knowing something isn't healthy, but yearning for it anyway. Feeling like you are choosing it, when really it has chosen you. 
And you can't do anything about it. 
Or maybe you don't want to.

I know I didn't want to. I loved my sadness. For months I woke up and consciously chose it. I chose it like I had the choice. I closed my eyes to the morning sun and told myself, "Today, I choose sadness." And so it was. Months blurred together in a haze of false control.

But I reached a point where I didn't want it anymore. I saw my island. I saw how cut-off I was from the word and realized that I was responsible for the flood that left me detached. I acknowledged the water, but was too afraid to look in its reflective surface. Yes, sadness was in control, but what now? What could I possibly do?

I had to start believing in something bigger than myself. Bigger than sadness. 
Hope. Faith. The possibility of the impossible. That maybe I was going to be ok. Better even. These thoughts seemed crazy, but just crazy enough to be true. And in this new state of serenity, I started believing in a life without sadness. A life where I didn't want it, or crave it. Where I wasn't wrapped inside it, or hiding within it. Not hurt or running, but stable, safe, and connected with everything I love. 

But then there are nights like tonight when I feel like I'm relapsing on sadness. I try to remind myself of the beautiful words I've etched into my heart like hope and faith, but they aren't as shiny as they usually are. They mock me, laugh at me, make me wonder why I ever thought such pretty words were true. It all feels like an illusion. The only thing that feels real is the sadness that's crept it's way back into my life. Flowing through my veins as if it never left my body.

Maybe I'm an addict 
and sadness is my drug. 

Although I don't know much about addiction besides what I've read in books, studied, and assumed, I do know that recovery lasts a lifetime. I will always be recovering. 
But the difference now is that I believe in something bigger than myself, bigger than sadness. 
The possibility of impossible
A belief in something better. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Facebook Relationship Statuses After Death: Part 2

Back at the end of September, I wrote a post about my Facebook relationship status. In the kind of world we live in today, how you present yourself on social media seems to be inextricably linked with who you are. Which is why after Blake died, it felt impossible for me to change my relationship status back to "single." I wasn't ready for people to see me as single and I most definitely didn't feel like my relationship with Blake was over. So, even after uncomfortable inquires about it from friends, I kept "In a relationship with Blake Norvell" on my profile.

At first when people asked me about it, I would tell them, "I don't want to change it because I'm still in a relationship with Blake," or "Blake is still my boyfriend." Although this didn't seem weird to me, I could tell that it left some people worried about my mental stability. But I told myself it was alright, they didn't have to understand. They could never really understand anyway.

But in the last month or so, I noticed that my answer to this question started to change. When asked about why it still said I was in a relationship with Blake, I explained that seeing it on my profile made me happy. Plus, it gave me a quick shortcut to click his name and go straight to his page whenever I wanted to look at old pictures or see if anyone wrote to him. "Besides", I always added, "it's not like I am dating anyone else. If I get to that point with someone, I'll change it out of respect for him. But until then, if it doesn't matter to anyone else why bother updating it?"

If you've looked on my Facebook profile in the last week, you might have noticed that I no longer have a relationship status. That's because I finally made the decision to hide it from everyone but me. When I look at my profile it says "in a relationship with Blake Norvell," but to everyone else it says nothing. Did I do this because I don't feel like Blake is my boyfriend anymore? No. Did I do it out of respect for another guy? No, again. So why did I do it?

Immediately after Blake's death, I was hit with crippling insecurity. I wanted so desperately to prove that he was the man I always thought he was and that our relationship was real, that I over compensated. I didn't want Blake to be seen as just some tragic overdose story, so I illustrated his compassion and character to anyone who would listen. And I didn't want myself to be looked at as some unfortunate, naive girl, so I detailed our love story in an effort to show everyone how real it was, despite the circumstances. I didn't want anyone to think I was embarrassed of him or our relationship. I wore our relationship with defiant pride. No one could make me believe less about him; his struggle was indisputable, but his heart was always pure. But to be completely honest, I think I was doing all of this more in an effort to prove it to myself than to anyone else.

But now, I'm at a stage where I'm internalizing my love and connection with Blake. I finally feel like I have nothing to prove to anyone- not even to myself. The last part of that sentence is even more important than the first, because I believe it is the key reason why I don't need the relationship status to validate anything. I am happy with my moments with Blake and don't need the world to know about them. Of course I'm still an open book, and sharing all of myself is part of my personality, but I do so now without the agenda of battling insecurity.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

When Someone Else Dies

It all started this weekend when one of my best friend's grandmothers passed away. She wrote a status letting everyone know what happened and headed home to be with her family in San Diego. Since Blake passed away, I have made a point of immediately "liking" any status about mourning. I feel so much empathy for people who reach out in this way, so I figure that I can support them by at least acknowledging that I've seen what they wrote. However, when I saw my best friend's status, I didn't call or text. I didn't even "like" it.

I spent the rest of my weekend with the news of her grandmother in the back of my mind, but never made the step to actually reach out. I distracted myself with girl's night Friday and a date on Saturday, but it wasn't until Sunday night that I crafted a text. I rattled off the usual "I'm so sorry for your loss" and "I'm here to talk if you want," and even made an excuse for myself by acknowledging that I should've said something earlier, but I knew she was busy with family. I could feel her anger and disappointment through her response. Two days had already passed, she was only a few miles away, and that was the best I could do? I really had no excuse for myself, so I apologized again and left her alone.

It wasn't until last night, when talking to another friend who's grandfather is dying, that I realized what happened. As he was explaining how hard things have been, I immediately went to telling him what a blessing it is to be faced with someone's mortality, but still have time with him. He said he felt the opposite, as it is increasingly hard on everyone to have things be drawn out and difficult for so long. But then I pushed back and told him how lucky he was to be able to say goodbye, to say everything he wants to say before it's too late. I'd give anything to have had that gift.

He didn't want to be having this conversation and asked if we could stop talking about it. I was in tears texting him when it all clicked. Instead of being an impartial participant in the conversation like I should have been, I was projecting my feelings about Blake's death onto his situation with his grandpa. I'd taken something tragic going on with him and made it about me.

My mind raced back to the moment a few days ago when I saw my best friend's status. When I read it, I remember feeling that sharp pain in my heart that can only be understood by someone who's experienced a devastating loss. Without even realizing it, I shut my laptop and distracted myself because her pain started reminding me of my own.

As soon as I made the connection last night, I wrote out everything in an effort to explain my behavior to her. I was scared. Terrified. Since she is the first person close to me who's lost someone since Blake died, the idea of hearing her in mourning must have freaked me out. I guess I had been doing so well that I was afraid to be back in that place again: thinking about death and funerals and all of the pain that goes with just having lost someone you love. I finally realized after talking to my friend coping with his grandpa in the hospital that I wasn't ready to talk to her right when I heard her news. I had to mentally prepare myself because I was scared. I didn't know if I could be there for her without thinking only about Blake and my own pain.

I wish I could've been there for her like she wanted and expected me to, but I wasn't. There's no going back and fixing it now, so all I can do is understand the lesson I've learned in all of this. From this point forward, any other death I hear about, experience through a friend, or experience with my own loved ones will remind me of Blake. It's not because I'm selfish or self-centered, it's just natural. But knowing this means I need to understand that even though it's inevitable, it can be separated. Yes, I can think about him and my own pain and how it relates, but I have to remember that every death is unique for every person involved.

To be a friend you need to put aside your own suffering and focus on whatever the other person is feeling. Maybe I'm not strong enough yet or enough time hasn't passed, but this is obviously something I need to work on. Because after all, when someone else dies it's not about me or Blake, it's about them and their loved one.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Crutch

As a Christmas present, I bought all the women in Blake's family a custom made necklace. I designed it online to be perfect: gold angel wings, a tiny sapphire stone, and a little pendant embossed with the letter B. I hoped this necklace would be a way to carry a piece of Blake with them wherever they went.

Since the necklaces came in, I've worn mine every day. Anytime I was feeling upset or stressed or nervous about something, I would hold onto the wings and remind myself that Blake was there to guide me. I had other physical reminders: the blue heart ring that I never take off, his cologne that I wear for important events, his shirts I wear to bed, the freckle that's a permanent part of my skin... (etc.), but for some reason I felt like this necklace was a necessary addition to the numerous other things I surround myself with to feel Blake's presence.

This past weekend I went on a road trip up to LA, to San Jose to visit my old students at school, San Francisco to visit friends and old co-workers, and then back through LA again. It was the perfect way to finish off my Winter Break and slowly transition back into school mode. Although San Francisco was a little difficult and I couldn't bear to go back and visit my old house, I felt great about being there. I could truly feel the progress I've made since the last time I was there. I left the Bay Area a lost, broken girl, and have returned eight months later feeling like I've come out the other side a happier, more complete woman.

What I want to write about is something upsetting, but ultimately symbolic that happened this weekend. After my first night in San Jose on Thursday, I accidentally left my angel wing necklace at my friend's house. I called and checked to make sure she had it, and she did, so I decided I'd wait until the end of the weekend to pick it up on my way back home. I wished that the second I realized it was gone I could've gone to her house to get it, but it was impossible. I was going to have to face San Francisco on my own.

Sure, I still had my ring and my freckle to touch when I felt upset, but I had grown used to rubbing the little angel wings. It was frustrating to not have them as a crutch anymore, but I had to learn to look inside myself instead of to a tangible object. But when I came back through San Jose on Sunday night, I was relieved to finally have the necklace again.

Sometime in the hours between Sunday night and Monday morning, my angel wing necklace got incomprehensibly tangled in my purse. I had never seen a collection of knots so big caused by nothing more than sitting in a pocket. Determined to wear the necklace again, I kept it in my hand the whole drive to LA, trying to unknot it any chance I got. But there was no use. I was clearly going to have to take it to a professional.

When I drove up to my friend's house that night, I must have let the necklace fall from my lap when I got out of the car to greet him. I've looked every place that the necklace might be, but it seems to have just completely disappeared. It was left behind, then unwearable, and then lost. I can either blame myself for this, or try to believe that it happened for a reason.

What is this reason? Maybe Blake was telling me I need to stop using him as a crutch. If I surround myself so completely with him and believe so deeply that it's him helping me through things, I'll have no room for confidence in myself. I can't even begin to let anyone else in if I treat him as my own personal guide through life. Ultimately I know he's there, but he doesn't have to be responsible for every decision I make and lifting me up anytime I feel lost. I can, and should, do that for myself now.

So necklace or no necklace, I know I can handle anything.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

San Francisco

I didn't anticipate it being this hard. The Bay Area was our playground, our home. Walking around and seeing the places where we used to go makes me miss him. Makes me miss us.

I haven't had this achy feeling in my heart in a while. It's the kind of weight that follows you where ever you go. All day. I may not consciously be thinking about  him, but there's a sadness I can't shake.  I thought I was better, but this feels like square one.

I realized a couple weeks ago that I was finally at a point where the idea of a guy hitting on me didn't make me want to throw up. In fact, I was open to it. Although this gave me mixed feelings, I was proud of myself. It didn't feel natural to feel this way after eight months of being afraid of any male interaction, but I figured this was a good step.

But now, this weekend, I've been missing Blake more than ever. Is this a regression? Can I be open to meeting new guys at the same time that I wish Blake was still here? I know it won't make sense to anyone else, but I think I can. I'm trying my best to navigate my relationships with new guys, but I understand more and more every day that I will never know the "right" thing to do. All I can do is trust my gut and only do what I feel comfortable with.

Instead of beating myself up for missing Blake so much this weekend, I'm going to use it as an opportunity to reminisce and feel good. We had so many amazing memories in San Francisco. This was a city of fun, exploration, and relaxation for us. Anytime we were here, we were having the time of our life. So while I'm here, I'm going to honor that.

The best gift I could give to Blake is enjoying this city as much as he would want to.  As for meeting other guys, that's a different story. I will continue to stumble through that aspect of this process for a while.  However, I'm starting to understand that just because I miss Blake doesn't mean I've regressed. I will miss him the rest of my life, but that doesn't mean I don't have the capacity to love someone else with all of my heart. All I can hope is that if I meet someone I am interested in, he will understand and respect that.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Jack Rabbit

Dream:
My family and I were taking a long trip by RV. As we were packing up to leave, I found a baby Jack rabbit outside and begged my parents to let me keep him. We bought a cage and let him come along with us. I was so excited.

After driving for several hours, I started feeling bad for the rabbit and asked my dad to pull over. Off the side of the road was a huge field that I knew he would love to run around in for a while. But when I let him free, my dad said that maybe it would be a good idea to leave him there. Rabbits like that needed to be in the wild. But I was convinced that the rabbit needed us. Even though he ran really far away,  I knew he'd always come back.

This went on for a while. The rabbit would run out of eyesight and then come bounding back just when we were about to give up hope. My father finally said that if the rabbit stays away, we'd have to just let him be. So we agreed. If the rabbit didn't come back, I had to accept that he had found his real home.

Finally my dad said that it was time to go. It was late, pitch dark, and we needed to make it to our hotel before midnight. He said the rabbit had been gone for a while; he made his choice. I hung my head and slowly walked back to the RV. I wanted the rabbit with us, but clearly the rabbit found his real home. But just as we were all piled in, the rabbit came bolting through the door and back into the RV. He made a lap around the interior, and then raced back out again.

It was so fast and confusing. But to me, this meant that there was still hope. My dad had to put his foot down; we had to leave. Now. I reluctantly closed the door and my dad started driving. I stared out the window, knowing that at any minute I would see our rabbit again. I focused so hard that when I did see the rabbit, I wasn't sure if I just imagined him. I wanted him to appear so badly that I thought maybe I had made him materialize in my own subconscious. But I didn't. It was really him. He sprinted faster than I'd ever seen towards us and leaped up to hop into my lap. There was glass separating us. He fell back to the ground.

I begged my father to stop, but there was no way he could with all of the other cars in his way. The rabbit was gone now. Even if he wasn't ready, he was going to have to learn to live in the wild now. Without us. We started reassuring ourselves that this was for the best. Jack rabbits need to jump, which is impossible in a cage. Now he was without a cage and with endless space to explore.

Interpretation:
I'm not exactly sure how to interpret this one. My first instinct was that maybe the Jack rabbit was supposed to symbolize Blake. It makes sense, since he was going in and out of truly being mine. He wanted to be present in this life and in our relationship, but there was a force pulling him away. The strong pull of addiction didn't let him truly stay here in this world. At the end, he may have wanted to stay, but he couldn't. And now he's in heaven where he's free.

Or am I the Jack rabbit? Blake used to call me bunny, so that is an interesting coincidence. Maybe with this interpretation of me as the rabbit, my dream is telling me to let go, even if I don't feel like I'm ready. The rabbit coming in and out could symbolize my attachment to Blake and my feelings of still being in a relationship with him. Maybe I need to put my foot down, like my father did in the dream, and accept that he is really gone.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Setting My Heart Free

I've avoided writing this entry because it hurts. After almost a week of resisting, I'm finally ready.

After I came home from my trip, I went over to Blake's parents house on Monday night to catch up. While we were talking, his mom gave me some upsetting news. She told me that when she stopped by the cemetery the other day, she noticed that the heart I glued onto his headstone was no longer there. She looked all around trying to find it, but it was gone.

My first instinct was to blame someone. Maybe that person got sick of seeing my heart there, so she finally took it off herself. It was affixed with super-glue, how else could it have come off? I figured that the wind and rain couldn't have removed it without the help of a vindictive hand.

But Blake's mom insisted that it was probably the weather, or maybe the grounds keeper. The heart that was originally so vibrantly blue had been fading and fading for months. When I saw it two weeks ago, it had been reduced to a shabby clear scrap. Maybe the grounds keeper thought it was an insignificant piece of glass and got rid of it. Maybe the glue had worn off and finally let go.

Two days later I got up the courage to go see it. I had collected a bunch of shells at a beach in Uruguay and I wanted to put them there before going back to San Diego. I walked slowly up to his plot, holding my breath harder with each step. Don't cry. Don't get angry. Don't be afraid.

It was gone.

I cried. I got angry. I was afraid.

What did this mean? Was it really the weather? The grounds keeper? Her? After a few minutes of being sad/mad/scared, I realized that what specifically happened to the heart doesn't matter. What matters is that it wasn't there anymore. What matters is making sense of that fact and moving forward.

In a way, although this was hard to admit to myself, it felt like my heart no longer being there symbolized it being set free. But being "set free" didn't mean not loving Blake, or forgetting him, it just meant giving myself permission to have my heart back. To nurture it on my own, or maybe to give it to someone else.

I love Blake, and always will, but I finally feel like I'm prepared to be a whole person again. I believe that the heart no longer being there reflects that. I am a little bit sad, angry, and scared, but I'm ready.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Baggage to Claim

11:30 AM at the Phoenix Airport. Baggage claim.

I am crumpled on the floor from the weight of a long day of travel. Using my purse as a makeshift pillow, I close my eyes for a minute to dream of my bed. I'd do anything to be back at my parent's house right now, anything to escape this building filled with ghosts of moments passed.

I stare at the carousel, willing it to produce our bags so we can go home. The board says our luggage is arriving, but it lies. And I lie on the floor, wishing I could leave already.

There are a few bags left over from the flight before ours. They loop around in endless circles, waiting to be claimed. But aside from my family and a couple other passengers, there is no one here. So these bags keep passing. Around and around, around and around.

The buzzer sounds, indicating new baggage is coming out. My family's suitcases slide down, one, two, three, four. The other passengers collect their bags as well and the conveyor belt stops. But as the sparse crowd dissipates, it's clear that there is no one left to claim the original few bags that were passing. Around and around, around and around.

As I leave the baggage claim area I can't stop thinking about those leftover bags. They belonged to someone at one point, didn't they? And now, now what?

Trying not to be dramatic, I attempt to stop the connections I'm drawing in my head between the leftover luggage and me. But I am dramatic, so I can't stop myself.

I am that baggage left ownerless on the carousel. Around and around, around and around. Baggage left unclaimed, luggage lost. But I belonged to someone at one point, didn't I?

And now, now what?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Here and Now

I believe I get messages from the universe when I need them the most. Yesterday, as I was walking around Buenos Aires with my family, I saw this message written loud and clear.

It says, in English:
"Here and now, the only thing real"

I was immediately drawn to it and knew I needed a photo to remember it by. I looked up at the graffitied quote as my mom snapped this shot.

I usually ask whoever is taking the photo to take a few so I can choose. I'm pretty critical of myself and generally hate most of the pictures that I take. But my mom only took this one and knew I'd like it. Although I was skeptical when she first handed me back my phone, I looked and smiled. I was beautiful.

My profile picture has been a picture of Blake and me since before he passed away. Up until today, I didn't have the heart to change it. But without hesitation, today I changed it to this photo. I guess I felt ok doing so because this message is so much a part of Blake that it's undeniable to me that he actually is in the photo. These words were everything he was trying to teach me. This message was him.

Here and now, the only thing real.

This is going to be my mantra in 2014. Being fully present in the present, because it's all I have.