Christmas came and went. It was lovely, gifts were exchanged, food was eaten (a lot of food) and matching pajamas were worn. Then came New Year's Day. I love New Year's Day, not because I love parties or bowl games but because I love a fresh start. I love a new system or routine that has the possibility to change things. The trouble is that possibility only lasts a few days or weeks and then either it has changed things or, more likely, it hasn't. Then you are stuck with the reality that your situation is not going to change, at least not because you got a fancy new planer/app/book/etc. This year, my new routine actually has made a difference though. It legitimately fixed the problem. What is this revolutionary method? Are you ready for it? I make my coffee the night before. Life changing, I know.
You see mornings around here have been rough since school started. For those of you counting, that is approximately four months. School starts earlier here, which means the kids and I have to start earlier too. We are ALWAYS running late which leads to yelling and complaining. I do the yelling, the kids do the complaining. So in an effort to not have to get up at the crack of dawn but also be on time I have started prepping everything the night before. I have the kids look at the hot lunch menu at the beginning of the month. They write their initial on the days they want to have hot lunch. If they need a packed lunch I pack as much of it as I can the night before. They fill their water bottles and pack their backpacks with folders and snacks the night before. We look at the weather and figure out what they want to wear the night before. See a pattern here? I go so far as to bake muffins on Sundays so that they can get themselves a muffin and a glass of milk for breakfast every day and we don't waste valuable time deciding what to have. This had led to way less yelling and actual early arrivals at school. Unprecedented. All good right?
Unfortunately, not so much. I was still really struggling, even with my new killer routine. Then it dawned on me, this is my grief period. I do it every year to some degree. I start to shut down emotionally and internalize. I often pull away from friends and go through a long period of radio silence. In 2005, my mom died on Valentine's Day. It has been almost twelve years and starting in the middle of January each year I still go through my grief period.
It is not as pronounced as it once was and it is largely a subconscious thing at this point. In the early years I would literally relive the final months of her life, like walking the stations of the cross. We had a fantastic Christmas, she was in remission. Then in January the cancer was back and it spread. She had surgery for an ulcer and was supposed to come to my house to recover then go home for more chemo. That never happened. She died in my spare bedroom. During my early grief periods I would remember the milestones of each day. The day she couldn't remember my birthday. The day she asked for french fries even though she knew she would throw them up, but she wanted to taste them one more time. The day she stopped getting out of bed. The day I read to her from the book of Revelations because I knew she liked to be prepared and she needed some reminders about what heaven would be like.
My grief periods don't look like that anymore. These days they are just marked by a grayness that settles over me this time of year. I will say the sunshine of my new state has made things so much better. Still though, there is a subtle shift for me in January. The good news is, I remembered it early on this year. I have not been able to completely escape it but I have been able to combat it. Last year when I was doing costumes for Emelia's theater group I realized that being creative really helps me. So I have been crafting a lot. I also got to be in charge of the decorations for our school's daddy/daughter dance. This was a true gift because I got to be creative and busy while being around fun people., much like my Bye Bye Birdie days. Another things that helps me is being able to talk about my mom.
She was a remarkable woman. She was liked by everyone and infinitely kind. She loved me so much. In my life I had doubts about a lot of things but I never doubted her love for me. She was funny and loved a good fart joke. She would spend an hour in the card aisle looking for a card about farts. She loved Jesus and worked with the prison ministry at her church. She liked to shop and some of my favorite memories are of going back to school shopping with her. I can remember how much she loathed the converse high tops I bought in seventh grade. "Erika, those are BOYS BASKETBALL shoes!" To this day I have four pairs of converse. I think they make me feel connected to her. She was hard working and uber organized. When I was in high school we would go to her office and reorganize her files for fun on a Saturday. (It really is a sickness!) She loved her yard and mowing her lawn. I think because when she was done she would always have a cold beer in a frosty mug that she kept in the freezer. She was just the best.
Here I am twelve years after she died and I still haven't moved on. If I am feeling masochistic, I can still conjure up the feeling I had when the doctor told me she probably would not survive this round of cancer. I can remember not canceling her cell phone for a year because I would call and just listen to her outgoing message to hear her voice one more time. I don't live in that heavy all consuming grief very often because I find it difficult to get out from under. Sometimes though I let it wash over me because I can either spend a really long time running from it our I can spend less time walking through it. This is how I move forward. Most days I just live my life doing the best I can to make choices that honor my Savior and make my mom proud, but some days I find myself caught off guard by the potency of my memory.
That is the thing about grief, it lessens and becomes less all consuming with time but it never goes away all together. I used to berate myself for not moving on. "Dear God woman, get it together, you have got to move on!" I am much gentler with myself now because I know I will never move on. I just move forward. I move forward by loving my kids the way she loved me. I move forward by being the woman she taught me to be. I move forward by being open about my shortcomings and my pain because hiding things means moving backwards. I move forward knowing that one day we will be reunited in heaven and we can sit down on God's patio with a cold beer.