Grief.

Grief. It is a peculiar aspect of our human existence. It affects us in different ways, and we express it in surprising ways, at surprising times. It can transform us from normal civilized loving people into a primitive version of ourselves, expressing our emotions in grunts, yells and cries.

The day of my grandmother’s viewing, my immediate family went to visit earlier in the day, so that we could cry like we needed to before the official viewing when we would be doing the comforting. I hadn’t truly cried before this point–it didn’t feel like she was gone, merely stepped out to the grocery store. My stomach flipped around a bit when walking towards her room, and as I stepped through the doors and caught just the first glimpse, I lost it and had to turn back. I had to give myself a few minutes before trying again.

Seeing her in the casket was sad and shocking–it was affirmation that she was in fact, dead. And that she wasn’t coming back.  And that it wasn’t her. It was an eerie replica of her, a close resemblance. But try as I might, I couldn’t’ imagine that version of her talking to me, laughing like she did. It was her shell, and that actually brought a enormous amount of peace. I was able to see that the person she was truly wasn’t there anymore, that she had left it behind. It only strengthened my belief that she did indeed possess a soul and it had indeed flown away.

I love love love to think about her reunion with my Papaw. They were in love from the moment they laid eyes on each other–they were married a month after they met, and their marriage was strong through 42 years. I don’t know that she ever recovered from losing him, they had been partners and soul mates for so long that  she was adrift without him. So it gives me such great pleasure to think of that moment when they were reunited–how immense their joy must have been. The complete peace of coming home at the end of a long journey, the satisfaction of being in the company of those you love best and wish to never leave. That’s what I held on to, that’s what let me smile throughout her entire ceremony–the thought that she was so much happier where she was.

So while I grieve for her, while i cried over her casket and felt my soul shift a little, through the tears I remembered that this was actually the best thing that could have happened to her. I like to think of death as the next adventure, that once we walk through that door and our soul is unstoppered from our body, we begin another life that is simply unfathomable to us now.

My family grew so close on this trip–laughing and loving and grieving and binding tightly together, an unexpected blessing this week. It isn’t that we aren’t close, it’s just that we sometimes lose the sense of each other in the everyday living of separate lives. But between a shopping trip funeral clothes for my brother, walmart runs, back-bedroom bitchfests, backyard clean-up, and too-long pants, we all reconnected in a very healthy way, regained the sense of who our family is and what we’re about.

My siblings and I rode up together, without all our significant others, and I feel like I saw a more complete picture of my siblings. I learned so much about my brother: for the first time in my life I feel like maybe I know him and can relate to him. Part of it is that we’re older now, part of it is that we finally had the time to sit down and connect. There are so many reasons to respect him, so many times I sat back and marveled at the man he’s become, and the man he will become. And while my sister has always been my best friend and has never failed to impress me, I loved having her to rant to, and appreciated her well-founded opinions and perspective on things.

The three of us talked frankly and freely about where we as the adult children in our family need to step up. It’s time that we take on more responsibility for things like holidays and making our own family traditions. Since I have no more grandparents, our family dynamic has shifted and regrouped–a new patriarch/matriach are stepping forward in the form of my parents. This means we need to create our own traditions and work hard to make things meaningful. As the oldest child, I’m learning that means sometimes I have to do more than I want to do, which is usually just showing up. I need to make plans, make food, and make time for events. I don’t want my family to drift apart, because they are so precious to me, and if this week reminded me of anything, it’s that my family members are the greatest people in the world and I want to be around them all the time.

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A New Season

After failing to make the final cut during the last round of New Girl training for TXRD, my head got into a weird place. The day after evaluations, I said “I don’t want to touch my skates for a good solid three days”. I was giving myself permission to take a teensy little break. I assumed I’d be right back in them. But then the phone call. And it was painful to look at them, let alone put them on, so I didn’t lace up for quite a while. I can’t even tell you how long–maybe a few weeks, not until the next round of Polly & Lacy’s classes started back up.

I’m not trying to dwell on that whole heartbreak thing again though. I bring it up to illustrate this point: this summer I decided to break all the rules I’d set for myself back in October and then January (skating & eating Primally). I gave myself permission to do whatever I wanted. I could eat what I wanted, I could get chickens, I didn’t have to work out. It was basically a free pass. I was calling it a “Mental Health Summer”. It was like those vacation days you take from work when you’re starting to burn out, except my was kind of never-ending.

It was awesome. I got SO MUCH done–some ceilings de-popcorned, some walls painted, garden planted, rain barrels in place, clothesline up, and a gorgeous chicken coop built. I caught up on a lot of reading, caught up with my friends, and caught up on my hammock time. Being derby-less gave me lots of free time to actually do the things I’d dreamed about doing in my own house.

It was AND it wasn’t the healthiest thing for me. To go from eating a no-grain/no-legume/no sugar diet and exercising a good 6-7 hours a week to sandwiches and a cancelled gym membership definitely took a toll on my body: the extreme, sudden shift really threw my muscles and created a few problems. I could have found a better way to do that part instead of just cold turkey.

BUT.

The mental relief was fantastic. I had been struggling, all throughout New Girl, to find the balance between enjoying and being present in my home-buying experience versus my training-for-derby experience. I could never give 100% to either–I managed about 80%, 80% of the time. But then–not having to make the choice myself, it was quite a relief to suddenly have plenty of free time and energy to devote to my exciting new toy. I reveled in the freedom to just drive home after work. No stopping by the gym. No fighting traffic to the Thunderdome for a league practice. Just….going home, to paint something or sew something or read a book.

There’s a problem, however. Aside from atrophying muscles, I didn’t set an end date. I didn’t give myself a “back-to-school” deadline. The “break” never ended. Sure, at the end of July I said “ok, August is my birthday month so I’ll just start eating primally again now”. And then I didn’t, because it was still hot and I was still taking popcorn off the ceiling and who has time to cook when you’re covered in paint? P. Terry’s it is! (I seriously have had SO MANY CHEESEBURGERS this summer it’s ridiculous).

I started to skate on Saturday mornings, (a bit begrudgingly, I admit ashamedly), but it wasn’t with the same balls-to-the-wall devotion as before. I’ve done just enough to keep my feet familiar with the incline, but then one day it hit me–I could lose all the advantages of being in NG before. So I started trying again. Skating outside of the warehouse, with my derby wife, or doing squat pyramids randomly throughout the day. And then, a day or two ago, I received the “official” tryout email with all the details. A few minutes later, another email came my way with information about the new Wreck League (a recreational league).

Seeing the two emails juxtaposed like that really put a fire underneath me again for New Girl. I want THE league. I want TXRD, and I want it in a bad way. I am willing to work so hard, ready for those exhausting nights driving home smelling like a skunk. I’m so eager for the intense workouts again, ready to push myself and to quit letting my fear hold me back. I’m ready to prove myself again, ready to be as fit and tough as I was before. And this time, I’ve got experience and knowledge behind me, pushing me forward. And if that means denying those intense sugar/chocolate cravings, and forgoing the convenience of a sandwich, and tripling my gas budget, so be it. I want it, and I’m finally remembering that.

It’s time.