Category Archives: Life

Five Years

Grief is a difficult and terrible emotion born from a tragic moment. Add another tragedy that reaches back and reminds someone of sorrow they have not yet healed from and this is called compounded grief. Compounded grief is also known as complicated grief and can delay the cycle of healing.

In February, 2006 I lost my grandfather, and my father lost his father.  The last time that I saw him was on December 30, 2005 as I wanted to visit my grandparents before flying back to San Diego on New Years Eve.  My grandmother was out playing cards so I wasn’t able to see her,  but Granddad and I sat and talked and joked for a few hours before I left for the night.  I shook his hand goodbye.  It was the last time I saw him.

In October, 2006 I lost my uncle, and my father lost a little brother.  Chris passed away because of a brain tumor that was never completely removed and kept coming back.  He fought the good fight but succumbed to it and was taken long before his time.  The last time I saw him was at my grandfather’s memorial service and he looked healthy and on the way back to recovery.  I think I am lucky to have not been around to see him fade the way he did.

In February, 2007 I lost my grandmother, and my father lost his mother.  I was only able to visit her once after my grandfather and uncle passed away and it was clear to me that the end wasn’t far away.  I can imagine that when you lose your husband and your youngest son only eight months apart that the grief is unbearable.

Grandma was the third death on my Dad’s side of the family that we had experienced in a year and none of us had really had a chance to recover from the first.  There was so much compounded grief that my Dad was losing his faith and nobody was able to figure out how to handle all of those deaths with any kind of comfort.  Their passings are still hard to deal with since their memories are so frequently brought up as if it had just happened.

A couple of weeks ago I drove to Inova Alexandria Hospital to see my aunt, my Dad’s oldest sister where she told me that she probably had cancer.  She had just found out herself and at the time it was believed to be ovarian cancer, and now it’s been confirmed to be peritoneal cancer (cancer of the lining of the stomach).  She is so weak that the prognosis is not good and I find myself bracing for yet another death on my Dad’s side of the family.

The one difference that sets this situation apart from the others is that this time I’m here to be part of the familial grieving process. In California I was so far removed from what was happening that I had to cope with things on my own, so being here may be helpful or it may be hurtful.  I really have no idea what to expect and my head is spinning from the possibilities.

Moved. And a Little Less Comfortable for It.

Watching the Sun set from Del Mar

Almost 2 months ago I traveled across the country for the second time.  Much like the first time I made the move because there were some things in my life that desperately needed to change.  The first time was because I needed to change how I was living my life, while the second time is because I had become stagnant in that lifestyle.  Now I’m wondering if being stagnant wasn’t so bad.

I have moved back to Virginia, the state from which I moved from initially, and have settled in to an apartment a little south of my office in wonderful Old Town Alexandria.  My office is great and it’s nice to be surrounded by so many great places to visit.  My drive to work is a few miles longer than the more direct path along Route 1, but I consider that to be a small price to pay since the scenery along the George Washington Parkway past Mount Vernon is quite beautiful.  And my office is right on the Potomac so I get to see the water every day.  I’m finally able to get back to doing what I enjoy doing at work, and it’s in a great office environment with some great people.  From a work standpoint I’m exactly where I need to be, and I could be even further along had I never left this area to begin with.

But there is something missing.  A social life that I had in San Diego is no longer as available to me here.  I’ve traded a somewhat stagnant (but active) social life in San Diego for an even more stagnant (and dormant) one back in the DC area.  The rediscovery that nobody in this area really likes to (or can) hang out during the week is disheartening for sure.  Socializing is left for the weekends and my weekends have no been spent here but elsewhere for reasons that I’ll keep to myself.  This weekend was the only weekend that I’ve had available so far to hang out locally and it’s been less than successful due to poor planning on my part; forgetting how slow traveling the DC Metro can be, underestimating the time that it takes to travel everywhere, lounging around the apartment longer than I should have, etc.  Getting around just isn’t as easy as it is San Diego.

“Starting over” the way I am is proving to be much more uncomfortable than I had predicted.  I miss San Diego.  I miss my friends there.  The reality that I am not here visiting just for the Holidays is hitting me and the mini panic attacks that I keep having are having an effect on my mood.  I’m counting on the feelings that I’m having to go away because while I have them I will be an extremely unhappy person.  Today I started to give in to the thoughts that I’ve been fighting off for the last several weeks.  Fighting the thoughts that I’ve made a terrible mistake by coming here, and questioning my reasons.  My reasons for coming here are valid so those aren’t even arguable, but somehow I’ve managed to try.

This was meant to be a positive experience and I’m determined to make it one.  I won’t let my current frame of mind get the best of me.  Some serious changes have to be made in order to make this change that I’ve made work.

Living in the Moment.

I used to not know how to live in the moment.  I didn’t know how to really appreciate the joy that experiencing the here and now can bring.  It took spending time with more than a few people who lived life so gingerly that it no longer appeared to be enjoyable to see how important it is to throw caution to the wind.  Or at the very least forget about it for a little while.

Have you ever played chess or seen someone play chess?  Typically chess players think 3-5 moves ahead and focus on the most plausible ones.  It’s possible to play on instinct and still make good choices, and this instinct comes from years of experience.  But what happens when a person lives their life like a chess player and plans out every experience 3-5 moves ahead?  What happens when every move is so calculated and examined that only the safest and danger-free path is chosen to avoid being hurt or disappointed?  What happens when it’s not just the plausible moves that are considered and they conjure up some implausible ones as well?

There is a definite need for planning ahead and ensuring that you have some sort of loose plan for your life.  However, recently I’ve been spending time with some folks who have made me realize even more the importance of enjoying the present because worrying about the future only diminishes the experience.  They’re leading their lives like chess players and trying to think of the possible moves that they can make so that their lives will be easier.  When you plan your life out using a flow chart of your options you may think that you’re living life smartly, but you’re really limiting yourself to the number of wonderful possibilities available to you and living by a set of restrictions.

Even though I never really got in to the SoCal way of life after living in San Diego for 8 years I did learn the importance of letting go, even if it was just a little bit.  Not that I planned my life out step by step, but I would think about things so much that I ended up not taking any action at all and therefore missed out on a lot of fun.  Southern Californians lead lives that are wonderfully laid back, and even when things aren’t going so well there is always time to relax and enjoy the sunset or surf, to have a a drink with a friend, and to enjoy the sound of the palm trees rustling from the light breeze coming from the ocean.  It was important to take in the beauty of the now and not worry about pressures of every day life.  It was important to live.  I picked up on some of that and I’m so much more relaxed for it.

Try not to limit your decisions to some fabricated flow chart of your life.  Do your very best to take the experiences of your past and learn from them without becoming colder and closed.  It’s not an easy thing to do because by being open to new experiences there is the distinct possibility that you will get hurt.  And there is also the distinct possibility that you will experience something wonderful and feel a little more alive.

Live in the moment.

Tandem skydiving at Otay Lake, Chula Vista, California (that's me strapped to that dude's belly)

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