Letters to Mom 015: I Need You Right Now


Mom. I really need to talk to you.

When I got off the phone with Jon I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know who to call. I knew I needed to talk to someone but you’re the person I wanted to call and you’re the one person I can’t.

I know I won’t be able to hear your voice and I’m sorry that still hurts. I’m sorry this wasn’t the first thing I thought of after getting off the phone with him. I’m sorry this still doesn’t feel like enough sometimes and that I still wish you were here.

Jon can’t pay rent next month. His roommates are screwing him over just like mine are doing to me.

I know you would be frustrated with both of us. I know if you were still here you would be helping us as much as you could. I know Jon and I would both feel like failures if we actually asked you for help.

I get angry at people like Warren. He came downstairs shortly after I got off the phone with Jon. He saw I was upset and trying not to cry and he asked what was wrong.

I told him Jon wasn’t able to pay rent.

Warren said something along the lines of that’s the plight of our generation and how Jon could ask Jason for help. I told him, no, he couldn’t. Jason loves us and is our brother, but he’s not going to help, and Jon isn’t going to ask.

Jon and I don’t have that luxury anymore; that safety net. Not like Warren does. We can’t go to our parents and say, “Oh no. We messed up. Please help us undo this terrible decision.”

I had 9 dollars to my name this morning. I told Warren that last night. He said the online banking system was having issues but that he was trying to get his payment to me. I told him it would be appreciated because I had 9 dollars and was unable to buy groceries.

There wasn’t a deposit in my account this morning when I woke up. Warren sleeps until noon since he works the late shift. I couldn’t spend the day waiting to get money to do the things I needed to do. I don’t have time to wait on other people like that. I can’t “Life” things like cook or grocery shop on days where I work 16 hours. I have to do everything on my days off or it has to go undone.

Because of that I had to use my credit card to get food, which isn’t all that bad. I mean, hey, I was able to get food, and pay for my new car tags, but it sucks. I have to pay interest on that money. I shouldn’t have to use my card because someone doesn’t pay me on time. I shouldn’t have to pay interest as a punishment for other people slacking off because it’s not there account that has 9 dollars in it.

It’s so ungodly frustrating, mom. I want to be able to help Jon. I want to be able to tell him that it’s ok. That we’ll figure it out together. But I can barely keep myself afloat. I can’t take care of three people. I can’t save anyone else, and it sucks because he’s my brother. He’s the one I should be there for and he’s the one who’s having to suffer because one of my roommates is still unemployed and the other can’t get his shit together financially even though he worked a fuck ton of overtime with the iPhone release AND got a dollar raise.

How? HOW are you STILL having financial issues? What the actual fuck?

I’m terrified that Jon’s going to have to drop out of school to get a job that he hates just to make ends meet. I’m terrified that he’s going to become another statistic in dissatisfied America who got screwed over and gave up.

I hate where I’m at, mom.

I hate how I worked 30 hours in two days and was so tired on Sunday that I slept for 14 hours. I hate how next Monday I work and I’m going to have to miss my night with Big Bad. I hate how I wasn’t supposed to close the clinic on Saturday, but I ended up doing it which screwed over my whole night. Louis and I had made plans to see each other. I was supposed to leave at five. We were looking forward to our evening; to seeing each other more than once.

It was my light at the end of the tunnel. I got up even though I didn’t want to. I fucking killed it at work. I was a total bawce and several of my coworkers mentioned it. But I still had to give up my night. I had to give up my plans.

Nothing I did or have done was good enough to mean anything. Just like how my awesome credit score and pristine renters history didn’t matter when I needed an apartment when I was unemployed. It didn’t matter that I could pay all of the rent up front. None of my past, none of my actions, mattered.

That’s what Saturday felt like. Nothing mattered.

Life: Fuck you, Jen. And the horse you rode in on. And the one that sired it, just for safe measure.

You know what? No. Fuck you, Life. I’m so sick of your bullshit.

I’ve given up the dojo. I’m giving up my plasma. I’ve given up my room and having my computer with me.

When is it enough? When am I allowed to feel secure? When am I allowed to have things for me and to not be injured by other people?

I’m so angry and frustrated right now, mom. I’m tired of this constant fucking struggle to make things work, only for them not to, so I have to find a different way and that way works for a while but then there’s another roadblock that I have to figure out. It’s always an uphill battle and the few things that make it feel worth it always feel like their taken away from me.

It’s not fair. And I feel like a four-year-old for saying that, but it’s true. It’s so fucking unfair right now. Why, if I do everything right, if I’m such an amazing, kind, caring, compassionate person like people say, do I not deserve to feel like life is worth living?

Why can’t I have my hour at the dojo? Why can’t I have my three hours a week with my significant other while everyone else gets to go home to theirs?

Why can’t Jon go to school and not worry about keeping a roof over his head while maintaining his 4.0 gpa? He’s doing so well. I’m so insanely proud of him, and yet I can’t help him not stress. I can’t stretch myself any more than I already am.

I don’t know what to do, mom.

I studied for my certification today. I’m trying to get that out of the way. School starts for me in January. I’m trying to stick with my training as much as I can.

It feels like I’m trying so hard, so why does it feel like I’m not making any progress? Why does it still feel like I’m not doing it good enough, right enough?

I wish I could hear you right now. I wish, out of everyone in the Universe, that you could be the one to tell me things will be ok because you’re the only person I ever believed when you told me those words.

I know things will be ok. I know both Jon and I will make it through this. I just so desperately wish that I knew how. I wish things were already better. I wish all of the struggles and battles I’ve already fought felt worth it, but in this moment they don’t.

I feel tired and drained. I feel alone in my battles and I’m tired of showing up to them. I can’t fight Jon’s battle for him when I’m barely keeping up with fighting my own.

I’m tired of feeling angry. I’m tired of feeling sad. I don’t have tears left to cry for either emotion. I’m going to finish doing my chores and then go spend my one evening with Big Bad. I can’t even drink because tomorrow I have to donate plasma and I’m still behind on my water intake.

I miss you, mom. I promise… I don’t know what I promise. I’m not going to promise to hold it together because I can feel that at some point this season I’m going to break again. I just know it’s going to happen. With my birthday coming up, and Christmas… I just know that I’m going to end up screaming in my car and I don’t care.

I guess I promise to keep my promises I made to you that first day without you; the last day at the hospital.

I promise I’ll get out of bed every day. I promise I’ll eat at least one meal every day. And I promise I’ll at least shower.

I love you, mom. Thanks for listening even if I didn’t figure anything out.


Letters to Mom 014: Our Last Night


This was our last night together.

This was the code STEMI. ST Elevated Myocardial Infraction.

This was my final night with you.

This was the night your hospital gown was soaked in your blood.

This is my fear. This is my desperation. This night. This is when I feel I lost you.

I keep having dreams. They all involve water. Emotions.

The shower drain in my bathroom being clogged so that the floor of the shower is submerged in water. Inches of it. Water that won’t drain. Clear, pure water that refuses to leave. It’s only when I reach down, my pale hand pulling a dark matted wad of hair from the drain that the water finally flows and lowers so that damage is avoided.

Me, racing up a snow covered mountain to save Akib from a storm that’s threatening. Somehow we all make it to a boat that will take us away from the mountain. We’re almost to the dock of our destination. We’re almost to safety when the tempest unleashes. The waves are high, the rain comes down in sheets so that the long wooden dock is almost obscured, but I can still see it. I know we’ll make it and so even though the whole event is still an emergency, there’s the feeling of security. We’re so close. We’re there. Even if the boat sinks we can swim to shore. We’re ok.

When I look up the symbology it’s about acknowledging something. Accepting something. Allowing the emotions to exist.

I couldn’t figure it out at first.

You’re dead. I don’t hide from that fact. I don’t sugar coat it when I say it, when I explain it.

That’s not the matted tangle I needed to pull from the drain. Saying those words, thinking them, doesn’t cause an emotional reaction. It’s not something I deny. It’s a fact that I’ve accepted in my life.

So what are my dreams telling me to accept?

I think I found it this morning.

Even though you died, you’re still with me.

You’re still with me.

Those words.

That phrase.

That’s the one that hurts. That’s the one that I don’t fully believe. That’s the one I hide from. That’s the one I don’t tell people because I’m scared of it being wrong or untrue.

I’ve typed it before. I’ve said it to a few people. Trusted people. I know I feel you, as if you’re behind me, wrapping your arms around me so that your hands rest on my arms, my biceps. I can feel you there, of all places, in my arms.

I don’t know if it’s really pain I feel. Maybe it’s just intensity and my brain can’t figure the sensation out so it labels it as pain. It’s so much of something that it’s painful to feel so much so deeply.

I feel like that’s what I need to acknowledge, though.

It’s not the same. It’s not like it was. It’s different and I still don’t know how to deal with that difference because it’s not logical. It’s not mathematical or chemical or rational. It’s not observable.

It’s something I feel. Sometimes others can feel it, too. But how do I know I’m not just making it up as a coping mechanism? How do I know it’s real? How do I know I’m not partially broken and hiding behind some shattered illusion, limping by, rather than facing reality?

I wish you were here. And that phrase is most likely so disrespectful because if you are still with me then why am I wishing for you to be here? You’re already here, just in a different way.

Isn’t that enough?

I’ve written about that before. Near the beginning, I think. I would have to go back through my posts, through my Book of Survival. I remember saying it was enough. So why am I back here, in this spot, thinking that you’re not here when you are?

These days have been hard, mom. They’ve been so hard. So long. So sleepless. So empty.

I know what I want to do for you tomorrow. My ritual for every April 4th from now until the day I die.

I’m going to buy you a rose, mom. I’m going to get a crystal vase and a silken rose, and every year I will add another rose. And when they become too many for the single vase I will buy another. Eventually, there will be 27 roses. One day there will be 28. More roses than years that I knew you. That rose will be different.

For now, until that day, they will be red.

I will keep them next to your urn. It will be my way of acknowledging your deathday. It will be the day I renew my promises to you.

I don’t know what else to say right now. I want to hug you. I want to cry in your arms while you hug me and reassure me that it will be ok. I want the past year to be a dream and to wake up and have you smile at me. But at the same time I know that’s not true. I don’t want to give up all of the good to get rid of all of the bad.

I want the struggle to be over. I want the tears to stop. I want the pain to cease.

You’re with me and it will be ok. I’ll make it through our last night.

I love you, mom. Forever and for always.

Letters to Mom 013: Jiu Jitsu White Belt – First Stripe


I received my first stripe in Jiu Jitsu tonight at my dojo.

This is the post I wrote on Facebook . 

This is me being an INFJ and writing an emotional post and giving absolutely zero fucks about writing it.

This is for you, mom.

This is my grief in its entirety.

This is my rage, my pain, and my weakness. This is my anguish, my fear, and my abandonment. This is my strength, my honor, and my pride. This is my humility, my gratitude, and my forgiveness.

And in the end, after everything else is spent and has had its time, pouring from my fingertips into the keyboard in front of me, this will be my acceptance and peace.

This is for the past year, mom. This is for everything that has happened since March 23rd, 2016.

This is for the first phone call with Jason where I heard him say the doctors didn’t think you would make it. This is for the four hours of sitting on the plane silently begging the Universe to let you still be there when I landed. This is for holding your hand for two weeks and being your “water fairy”. This is for every night I had the best worst sleep in my life while I stayed at the hospital with you.

This is for the last time I held your hand as I called the funeral home and told them I didn’t know what to do.

This is for flying back to South Carolina with your urn in my backpack. This is for the TSA guy who handed it back to me with his solum, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

This is for dad because he didn’t have to come to your service. He didn’t have to be there for me and Jon, but he was.

This is for dealing with Zane’s betrayal.

This is for telling Full Sail to go fuck itself and resigning.

This is to society’s oppressive mentality of thinking I wasn’t good enough whenever I said I was unemployed.

This is for the past year of learning how to live without you, mom.

This is for every phone conversation I haven’t been able to have with you. For every hug I wish I could give you. For every night I cried myself to sleep. For every morning I didn’t understand how to get out of bed.

This. This night. This single stripe of tape wrapped around a sweat soaked piece of cloth. This is for you.

This is my proof to you that I’ve survived. This is my way to show that I have honored the promise I made to you while I held your cold hand that final time and told you I would be strong. That I would keep going even though I didn’t know how.

This is for every time I screamed in my car. This is for every time I questioned why or how or what’s the point. This is for every time I wanted to give up and didn’t.

It seems so silly to the logical side of my brain. It’s just a piece of tape. But it’s so much more than that, mom.

I know you’re proud of me. I know you would be overjoyed that I achieved this. I know there are two sides to everything. It’s so minor and yet it’s so major. Simple and yet complex. It’s seemingly nothing, and yet, at the same time, it’s everything.

It’s the blood, sweat, and tears. It’s the fractured rib I fought to breathe around. It’s the bruises and the mat burn. It’s me drop kicking that voice of Self Doubt that I still struggle with sometimes in the face.

This is for every person who has supported me, both knowing and unknowing, through the hardest year of my life.

This is for my pseudo-family at the dojo. This is for every single person on my Facebook. For every person on my blog.

This single white piece of tape is my symbol of survival through all of it. Through everything mentioned and unmentioned.

This is my way of telling Life it can go fuck itself if it thinks I’m going to go down without a fight.

I WILL keep going. This IS NOT my end.

This, all of this, is for you mom.

I’m me because you lived. I’m me because you died. I’m your daughter, now and forever, and I will ALWAYS do my best to bring you honor.

You were the best person in my life. My best friend, my confidant, my mentor, my supporter. You were my mother and your death taught me just how much that word meant to me. You ARE my mother and not even death can change that.

Your final words to me, “I’ll love you forever and for always.”

I love you too, mom. I will love you forever and for always, too.

This is for you. This is for everything you ever did for me, and for everything you continue to do.

Thank you for raising me. Thank you for teaching me to believe in myself. Thank you for being you. But above all of that, beneath every action and goal and dream, at the foundation of who I am, thank you for being my mother.

This is for you, mom. This is for us.

Photo Mar 08, 9 51 25 PM

Letters to Mom 012: The Pain of Success


Hey, mom.

I passed my test. I’m smiling as I type that even as tears burn my eyes.

I feel like I should have written to you first, now that I’m actually sitting here and doing it. I feel like you still should have been the first person I told.

I messaged a bunch of people on my phone instead as I sat in class, waiting for the rest of my classmates to finish.

None of the questions I missed were lethal, so in theory, none of my patients died. Hooray for not killing anyone, right? I know you would laugh and agree with me if we were talking. I guess I have to make due with the feeling of you smiling at me.

I need to let you know that it hurts.

Doing well on my test hurts, and at first I didn’t understand why.

It didn’t hurt while I was in class. It didn’t hurt while I was at my sports bar trying to study more. It was something that slowly built throughout the day. It was something I became aware of as I told people about doing well. I told them and they said congratulations, and that they were happy for me, and more and more it felt empty.

I felt empty.

I felt incomplete.

This thing, this accomplishment, felt unfinished.

It felt like I was extending my hand to touch something, reaching for something, and my fingertips would touch nothingness. Emptiness. There was a lack of something, a missing, when in the past there had been warmth and “something”.

A connection.

A completion.

I did well, and I told you, so it was 100% done. It was real. It was over.

Finishing the test and having it graded wasn’t really the end. Walking across the stage at graduation wasn’t the final act. Every accomplishment I ever achieved ended with telling you. It ended with a phone call, or a text message, or a hug, or a celebration trip to Moe’s.

I didn’t have that feeling of “done-ness” before I sat down to write to you. There wasn’t that sense of closure that I’m used to, and so passing my test felt undone.

I had “succeed” but it didn’t feel real.

I hadn’t told you so it wasn’t real.

I can’t call anymore. After almost a year I think I’m finally starting to find peace with that. I’m starting to understand that just because I can’t call doesn’t mean I can’t talk to you. It doesn’t mean I can’t tell you.

I can write, and even though it’s different, I think it will, and is, helping me.

I know you are proud of me. I know that you’re happy for me.

Thank you for making me who I am. You’re part of the reason I did so well. You’re part of the reason I went online and looked up information and studied as much as I did. You’re part of the reason I got a 92 when everyone else got the 80s and 40s.

You’re part of the reason I’m successful and without telling you thank you, without telling you “Look at what you helped me achieve” it feels incomplete because it wasn’t just me.

It’s never been “just me”.

It will never be “just me”.

Thank you.

At first, I was worried about the pain I felt. The pain of my success.

I sat alone at the park again and felt this feeling of incompletion and wondered if this was what every success would feel like from now on.

Is this what my first job is going to feel like? Is this what my first board test is going to feel like? Is this what the rest of every achievement is going to feel like?

What’s the point if it is? What’s the point in achieving if all I feel from it is pain in the end? Why be that much of a masochist to myself?

But sitting here, writing to you and telling you that I did it, that I did well, that all of the worry was worth it because it made me push myself and resulted in what I wanted, it makes it feel complete. It makes it feel real and worth it.

I did it, Mom. I did well on a test I was really worried about and because I did I’m so much more calm about my board test on Friday.

I guess it helps that while I was sitting outside, once again smoking, that I got a call from the hospital. It was about the patient transporter position that I applied for.

I had a really open, honest, and real conversation with the recruitment manager. We talked about what I want and what I’m hoping for. She was very honest about the other positions I’ve applied for and gave me numbers to work with.

She’s going to move my application forward so I can be set up for an interview.

I may have a part-time job soon, mom.

All of the applications I have sent in so far have been moved to “initial review” actually. I’m being considered. My contact at the hospital allowed me to use him as one of my manager references as well, so that’s even better. All of the jobs I’ve had count as customer service, so that’s an added boost that I can edit my resume with in the future. And part of the conversation was the lady admitting that once I’m in the hospital, especially as a transporter where I’ll get exposure to literally every area of the hospital, that it’s easy to move to other positions if I wanted to.

It’s like you’re looking over me and giving me those boosts I need when I start questioning why.

Why do it?

Because it’s worth it. Because I did it and I’m moving forward in the direction I want and that phone call is proof that I’m actually moving forward.

I really do wonder if you didn’t have something to do with me getting that phone call when I did. It came today, now, while I was feeling lost. It didn’t come yesterday when I was mostly ok. It didn’t come tomorrow. It came today. Now. When I needed it.

I don’t know if it really was you or just happenstance, and I honestly don’t care how the universe works or doesn’t work. I want to think that it was you and that this is your way of celebrating with me.

We can’t go out to Moe’s together, but we can move forward together because you’re one of the reasons I’m able to move forward.

Success is painful right now. It might always be painful. A bittersweet feeling. I think it’s going to be something else I have to adjust to.

I don’t feel I have achieved much as far as career milestones since you died.

I’ve made it through a lot of really hard times. I’ve tackled a lot of really hard things. I’ve “done” stuff, and have “achieved” but this success, this achievement, is different. This is something new to adjust to.

This is a new sensation that I have to experience, process, analyze, and ultimately accept.

I think a big part of accepting success is finding a new ritual to signify the completion of my goals.

My ritual used to be calling you. Telling you. Sharing with you.

I can’t do that the way I used to anymore.

I can, however, write to you. I can still tell you. I can still share with you the feelings of relief, confidence, gratitude, and pride.

I can still communicate all of it, just through a different medium. I can still reach out and touch that warm intangible thing that was always there in the past because it’s still there.

I can still reach out and touch you. I can still feel you. I can allow myself to know and accept that you’re still with me and that you really will love me for forever and for always and that not even death will keep us apart.

Death CAN’T keep us apart.

I won’t let it, and maybe writing that for the Internet to read makes me sound mentally unstable but fuck it, I’m going to write it because this is my letter to you, not to the Internet.

I love you, mom. Thank you, so much, for being here for me still. Thank you for helping me. Thank you for being my mom.

You taught me that the pain of failure isn’t bad. It’s a learning experience. It helps make me better.

I guess I never thought there would ever be a point where there would be pain in success, but now there is, and this pain, too, is a learning experience.

All of these experiences I’ve had, the ones while you were in the hospital and the ones I’ve had since you died, they aren’t experiences I ever expected or wanted to go through. If the choice were “learn these things or have your mom” I would always choose to have you.

But it wasn’t a choice. At least, it wasn’t MY choice.

This is my life, and in my life I have to learn these lessons.

I understand now that success can and will be painful. But that’s ok. Pain isn’t inherently bad.

Today is still a good day even though my grief is doing its thing. I don’t know what to call it. “Flaring up” sounds overly dramatic and reminiscent of high school. It makes me feel like I’m over reacting.

My grief is at the forefront of my mind at the moment, though. It’s filling my chest and it’s hard to see people walking down the sidewalk, driving in their cars, talking on their phones, while this overwhelming hurt is inside me.

How can the rest of the world keep going while I feel all of this in this single moment? How is the rest of the world not sharing in my pain? How can they not know what this feels like and function and breathe as if everything is normal when it’s not?

Compassion means to co-suffer.

How is the world not co-suffering with me when this is the only thing my mind can focus on, the only thing my whole being can feel?

I still don’t understand it. Not fully. Grief and grieving. There was a wave of it in my chest earlier, but now, sitting here, tears drying on my cheeks, I feel calmer and as if the biggest part of the wave has passed. It’s not gripping me anymore. It’s not threatening to consume me anymore.

It’s there, my grief. I can feel it. I know it’s still in me and that it always will be, but it’s calmer in this moment and a lot of that has to do with writing to you.

I’m about to go to the dojo to train. I had thought about skipping, something I promised myself I wouldn’t do, but right now it seems easier to go.

I want to go.

It’s not another overwhelming thing where I question “What’s the point?”

The point is because it’s worth.

The point is I train because you died.

I’m still not completely sure what the sentence means to me, but I know it’s the truth and I know it’s a new cornerstone to who I am.

I’m me because you lived. I’m me because you died.

I’m your daughter and that’s why I do the things I do. That’s why I feel the way I feel. That’s why I want the things I want.

Thank you, mom. Thank you for still being with me.

I love you. For forever and for always.

Letters to Mom 011: A Conversation About Nothing


I need to talk to you mom. I so wish we could talk on the phone like we used to. I miss our hour long conversations about “nothing”. I miss being able to call you randomly when I happened to find free time in my day; time that I was more than willing to spend with you in the small ways we were able to after I moved away.

I really don’t have anything important to talk about, so I don’t know why I feel this pain right now. I don’t know why it keeps welling up like it has been the past week. It’s just random moments of sadness for no reason. At least that’s what it feels like. Maybe there is a reason and I don’t know it.

I keep having dreams. Weird dreams and when I look up the symbology it’s about betrayal. Like a dog biting a little girl and then decaying with maggots wriggling around in its chest, only to come back from the dead to attack other people because the dog didn’t belong in that universe and so by proxy couldn’t die…

Yeah… weird shit.

It sounds like a horrific dream, but when I woke up instead of being disgusted I felt solemn.

There are other dreams, too. None as morbid as that one, but they still leave me feeling weary, and all the psychology behind the representation points to “weariness” and “vigilance” as being the course of action to take. I wish I knew what I was supposed to be looking out for. If only my brain would tell me what it actually thought was wrong rather than possibly giving me “clues” to decipher and pick through.

I mean… maybe it’s all literally inside of my head and they’re just BS dreams that mean nothing.

I feel like if they were really nothing, then I wouldn’t have the feeling of significance when I wake up like I do.

I’ve been applying to more jobs. I might have a babysitting gig this Sunday. I was supposed to go swimming with manatees but it’s a two-hour drive there and I don’t feel up to the trip right now. Doesn’t help that it was supposed to be a fairly large group of people I mostly don’t know. Not really my ideal recovery time.

Big Bad and I had lunch today. He got out of work early since he had to work extra hours earlier in the week.

I went and applied for a job in person since that’s what the posting on Indeed.com said to do. It’s a housekeeping position at a nursing home. I know it’s simple. I know I’m over qualified for it. I wouldn’t mind doing it, though. It’s the perfect hours for still being able to spend all my time at the dojo. The more I think about what I want out of a job the more I want something along those lines. Something that doesn’t interfere with what I actually want to be doing, which is training.

So I guess I need to revise my job requirements.

Something reliably full-time in Orlando within roughly a ten-mile radius from the apartment, preferably using a skill set I already have with set hours that does not interfere with my dojo time.

The patient transport position is another really good job for that. I’m hoping to hear back from something soon.

There was a pretty big event at the dojo today. I almost didn’t go to it, but I had my “come to Freya” discussion with myself not long ago and one of the things was not skipping out of going to the dojo when I feel sad, so I went. I’m glad I went. I learned some really nifty things today. I’m less afraid to perform the moves that require me to put my weight on the other person. It means I’m performing the moves more correctly than what I was. I’m acting with intention and control. It’s a good feeling.

They gave out belts and stripes tonight after training. Jim got another stripe on his brown belt. That’s the rank before black belt. Tommy got his black belt tonight. Akib got his blue belt. That’s the one after white.

Part of me was hoping I would get my first stripe on my white belt, but I didn’t. I’ve only been attending since mid-November. I missed three solid weeks of practice because I traveled. Some days I didn’t go because I have no reason, I just didn’t go.

Part of me wanted to have something on my belt to show I’ve put in effort. Recognition. A pat on the back.

That’s not what jujitsu is about, though, and I know that.

Part of me feels like I’m not ready for the stripe yet. I still haven’t gotten a jujitsu belt. I still wear my aikido gi and I still wear my aikido belt with it. I wonder if that’s me holding onto the past, or if that’s at least part of it. Maybe it’s not all just for the sake of being frugal. I didn’t think about that until they were giving out stripes and belts and I realized if I was called up for a stripe that I didn’t have the proper belt for the stripe to go on.

I sat there wondering if I’m being disrespectful to the dojo and my instructors. If I’m training jujitsu, shouldn’t I have the attire for it? Shouldn’t I have at least gotten the proper belt to show that I respect the skill I’m training? In all of the months I’ve been going there I couldn’t have made “buy a jujitsu belt” a task on my to-do lists? I knew I needed one, so why did I never do it?

I don’t know what I would have done had Paul called my name for a stripe. I don’t know if I would have been able to bow after receiving it. I don’t think I would have felt like I deserved it. Part of it would be because I don’t want to have it, earn it, and not be able to send you pictures or have you there to see it.

I know you will be proud of me when I do get it eventually. I know you want me to keep going to the dojo and training because it fulfills something in me, and I know I’ll make it through the moment when I finally do earn my stripe, but right now I don’t know how.

How do I keep going with you not here? Physically here. How do I keep going when sometimes the only thing I can think about is the pain? Like right now. I hurt. My heart hurts. I ache for you to be here and I don’t know what to do other than embrace the pain.

This feeling, this sensation in my chest… it’s deeper than physical. Deeper than body. It’s in my core. My soul. My chakra.

It’s almost as if I can hold it. Like it’s physically something within me. Like I can cup it in my hands and have them be filled with this sensation and show people, “This is my pain.”

This is my love for you, mom. This is what I have to remind me that what we had, our time, our relationship, was real. That I loved, deeply, wholly, unconditionally the way I have never loved anyone else in my life. Not dad. Not Jon. Not Jason. Not any of my significant others.

I didn’t realize how much you meant to me until I held your hand alone in the hospital saying my final words to your spirit. Your body was already cold, your hand lifeless in mine, but I felt you behind me as I spoke my final words to you, as I promised I would be strong.

I want to say that you were everything to me, and maybe at the time that was true. With how hard it was during my time at the extended stay maybe you truly were everything, and during those six months I was learning how to adjust to that change.

My Everything was gone.

The flatlined stillness inside of my head. The emptiness. The silence I felt within myself. The lack of broken pieces to pick up. There was nothing because my Everything was gone.

I remember how I slowly started to find reasons to do things. I remember telling Warren that I didn’t know how to keep going because you were my blue crayon and without you I didn’t know how to color my skys anymore. I remember talking with Chrys on your birthday and how that night was so empty and cold and yet at the same time full of laughing at stupid werewolf drama shows.

I remember how I told Nicole that I’ve been grateful for every time I’ve made it through a hard time because there’s always something on the other side that makes me happy I’m still here to experience it. If it ends, there is no more. No more next time. No more new inside jokes. No more warm hug, or good training session, or caring smile.

I want all those things, and that’s how slowly the nothingness became something. I started seeing the good things still worth experiencing. I started enjoying things again. Simple things. Having coffee in my red coffee cup which I’ve had for I don’t remember how long. My cup, warm in my hands while sitting outside watching the day start. Most of the time I would go back to sleep shortly after because just the actions of getting up and making coffee took all of the energy I had, but for a brief moment, I enjoyed something.

I don’t know where I’m at with my grief. I know it’s not a linear process. I know there’s not a destination and that this is something I will experience for the rest of my life. I want to know that I’m ok. That I’m normal and that it’s still ok to be sad sometimes. That it’s still ok to miss you.

When you first died I researched how to grieve. I researched INFJs and what we do and how we deal with things, and everything I found said there’s no answer, so I gave up on it.

I don’t remember what I was doing the other day but I looked up stuff on grief for some reason and I found posts from other people explaining how they grieved. It was the first time that I really read into other people’s experiences. I read about a mother who lost her infant son in their home and how sometimes she lays on the floor where he died so she can feel closer to him. I read about how she never wanted to tell people that, but when she went to a support group she felt accepted because other people understood. I read another story about a mother and father who always bake a cake to celebrate their child’s birthday even though he died extremely young. I read how to them it is a way of honoring and acknowledging the life that existed even if it was brief.

It makes me feel more ok about wearing your ring and the urn pendant. It makes me more ok with my choice to write to you. I’m allowed to do things that other people may not agree with or think are “right” or seems silly because it doesn’t have to be right for them. It needs to be right for me. For us.

It’s my expression. Not theirs. And these are some of the ways I choose to express.

Sometimes I feel like you’re so terribly, horribly far away. Sometimes I feel like what I do isn’t enough. That it will never be enough. That’s how it feels right now.

But I know these feelings are temporary. I know tomorrow I’m going to wake up and go to the jujitsu class and the Muay Thai class. I know I’m going to keep waking up. I know I’m going to keep breathing. I know my heart is going to keep pumping and that as long as it does I have a purpose.

I know I have a purpose, mom. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so obsessed with it. I wish sometimes I wasn’t this fantastically rare personality type and that I could just be ok with existing and not need some deep, driving reason for things.

How much easier would life be if I could just simply be? If I could accept that I’m here and the reason didn’t really matter? How much calmer would my mind be if I could just accept that I’m here and the why didn’t factor into anything?

But that’s not my mind. I need to know why. Why am I here? Just like when Jim asked, “Why are you doing this?”

I still don’t know.

My answer is still, “Because you died.”

I’m here because you died and I told you I would be strong and keep living. I’m here because I said I would honor you by living a full life. That seems so fragile and hollow, though. I need to live my life for me, not for you. But right now I’m back to not knowing how to do that. I hurt and all I can think about, focus on, is the pain. I’m back to reminding myself that it’s worth enduring, that it’s ok for my accomplishment for the day to simply be making it until night. Surviving is an accomplishment.

I don’t know where I am with my grief, but right now it feels like a very low moment. A very sad and isolated valley where I can’t see anything except the forest that surrounds me. It’s dark, and the internal me, the me in the depths of this wood, is scared of what’s lurking in the darkness, but my higher self knows things will be ok.

My higher self is aware that, yes, it’s dark, but it’s not cold. It’s like a warm summer’s night. Yes, I’m alone, but it’s not the same alone as when my forest was held in the grips of my teenage depression, icy and covered in snow while I wrapped my arms around my knees and hid in my ice cave, unwilling to move because staying still hurt less.

It’s dark and scary, but I know daylight will come, I just have to breathe and wait for it. If I breathe my chest will hurt less. If I relax my muscles won’t ache as much. If I listen I’ll be able to hear the night life around me, the crickets, the owls, the rustling of raccoons and other nocturnal animals.

Darkness doesn’t have to be bad. It’s my yearning for daylight that makes me almost ungrateful and negligent of the moment I’m in.

Even in the moments where I hurt and I miss you there can still be good things. I still have my connection with you, mom. I still have my love for you. I still have everything you taught me. I still have the life you gave me that I can keep living. I have all of these wonderful, priceless things in this moment of darkness and so it’s not the horrible thing my brain keeps trying to convince me it is.

It’s still good in its own way, and I’m grateful that part of me can see that. I’m grateful that even through the tears I’ve been crying while I write this that I can say with confidence that I will wake up tomorrow and that I will train, and I will train hard, even if I don’t have an answer for why.

Or maybe I can accept the fact that my reason IS because you died and that’s not a bad thing. That’s not a fake reason or something to be ashamed of.

I don’t know. I feel I need to meditate more on that. It feels right, but now I need to figure out why it’s right.

I train because you died. I live because you died. I understand how deeply I loved you because you died.

I love you, mom. Forever and for always.

Letters to Mom 010: Our First Christmas


Hey mom,

I’m eeking out time to write to you again. I’m glad I’m doing it. I’m glad that I feel this writing is going to be positive and that I have so much I want to say.

Christmas wasn’t awful.

Christmas was actually really good, and even as I type that I’m fighting back tears, but they’re good tears because I know it would make you happy to hear me say that if you were here. I’m relieved and grateful that I’m able to tell you that I enjoyed yesterday.

We exchanged gifts, and that was hard. Lio made a beautiful frame for the picture of you and me that I use all the time. She wrote a touching, heartfelt message on the back of it. It was one of the most beautiful, loving gifts I’ve received since you died. It’s like the handkerchief Mama Spike gave me. It’s something I’m always going to cherish and remember.

Jon got me a book for advanced maille weaves. It’s called scale maille were basically you incorporate small metal scales into different designs. He got me a pack of purple scales to go with it and said the stipulation was I had to make him a bracelet.

I messaged tons of people in my life wishing them a Merry Christmas. Lio put the turkey in the oven. I figured that would be most of the day. That everything, for the most part, was over and the rest of the day would be surviving.

Lio and I spent some time outside talking where I got to thank her personally, privately, for her gift. We talked about you. She told me that every time she looks in the rearview mirror she thinks of you because when you taught her to drive you told her that if you can see the wheels of the car behind you then they’re back far enough for you to switch lanes.

It’s those types of stories that I love hearing from other people. How you helped them. How you touched them. How they remember you in the simplest most mundane things that most people wouldn’t think about, but it’s special to them because you were, are, special.

When Lio went back inside I stayed out, sitting in the chair. I whispered a Merry Christmas to you with tears and said that I love you. I missed you. I was sad. And I sighed deeply, resigning myself to the thought that the rest of the day would be survival mode.

Instead, it ended up being an amazingly fun day full of nerf gun wars in the kitchen and games of Taboo and Scattagories and Buzz Word.

I laughed so much yesterday, mom. I smiled and I took pictures and we made new traditions while keeping some of the old ones. Jason still got Clemson swag. We won’t let that die just because you’re not here to give him those gifts. We’ll do it for you, mom. We’ll take care of each other like that because that’s what you would want us to do.

We had turkey with green bean casserole which was fantastic. We picked on Jon during the games. We made sarcastic comments to each other and had silly team names like “Team Win”.

We joked about how Buzz Word was always your favorite game and how no matter what, whoever had you on their team would win. Always. We joked about how we used to say it was because you were old wise and knew everything because you had been around for a while. And right now even though it was a joke and I laughed at the time it still hurts because 60 wasn’t, isn’t, old. You weren’t old, mom, and I wish you were still here.

But you aren’t, not physically, and we did the best we could yesterday and it actually turned out so much better than I could have ever thought it would. I never in any of my imagines thought that I would have enjoyed yesterday, but I did. I survived. I even lived and made fantastic memories. Memories that I’ll always remember and cherish and look back on and smile.

My first Christmas without you was different, mom. It had hard moments, but it had really, really good moments too, and I think that would make you happy.

The nerf war was such a hit that today we went out to Walmart and bought more weapons and ammunition so we could have round two. It’s a new tradition for us. Nerf Wars. And it has been so insanely fun.

I love you, mom. I miss you. And I wanted you to know that we’re doing ok. We’re doing really ok. Thank you for raising me to get through this. Thank you for being amazing and for still being here and helping me, guiding me. Thank you for making us a family and for making sure that we would stick together. I don’t know what I would have done if I had stayed in Orlando alone instead of being here with everyone.

I know that being here is the main reason I am doing as well as I am.

I’ve rested a lot while I’ve been here. I’ve thought through a lot of things that have been weighing on me. I survived what I thought would be the hardest days since your death. There’s a solidity that comes from surviving these days that I’ve feared for so long. A strength. A confidence. Another layer in the foundation that I’m building for myself.

Hard days can still be really good days. We can miss you and still smile and laugh. We can remember good times while still making new memories.

I watched the video Jason posted. I got to see you up and walking. I hadn’t realized how my image of you had changed to the you in the hospital bed. Tired. Sick. The you with tubes everywhere and the hospital gown. The thin you that had lost so much weight. That had become “you” in my head. But that wasn’t, isn’t, who you are.

I got to see the you who took me to marching band practice. The you who proofread every essay I ever wrote. The you who would call me after a week because a week was “eternity” for us to go without talking to each other.

In my head, I got to see the real you. It was good to see you smiling. Laughing. Hugging everyone. It was good to remember there was a time before the hospital.

Thank you for that time. Thank you for the 27 years of your life that you invested in me. That you supported me. That you loved me unconditionally even though you often times said you understood why some animals eat their young.

Thank you for everything, mom. Thank you for being there yesterday and for looking out for all of us and for raising us to stick together. We are, and we’re doing ok because of it. You raised us to be ok, and we are. We’re getting there and yesterday is proof of that.

Our first Christmas without you wasn’t a disaster. It wasn’t the horrible black crushing wave of depression I feared and had anxiety over. It was a really good day, mom. And I wanted you to know that.

I love you.


Letters to Mom 009: Christmas Eve 2016


Hey mom,

It’s Christmas Eve. I’m in Vegas with Jason, Lio, Jon, and Jace. I’ve been here for a while now. Since the 18th.

It was the first flight where I had company. Jon and I flew out from Orlando together. At three in the morning… I know you’re jealous. : p

I still cried but it was easier having someone there to hold my hand through take off. It was comforting to know that someone understood why take offs suck for me. Why they’re hard. Why they hurt.

I miss you, mom. I wish you were here. Physically.

I’m alone right now. Everyone else is at a Christmas party. I opted to not go so I could have a chance to write to you. There’s not a lot of time for quiet or solitude with a three-year-old running around. There’s not really a place to set up and work or write or process.

I’ve been sleeping a lot since I’ve been here. Jon made a comment about it. How I sleep a lot. I don’t feel bad for it. All of my bruises from jujitsu are gone. My shoulder isn’t bothering me anymore. I guess physically and emotionally I needed the rest and I let myself have it without regrets.

My birthday wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I wasn’t forced to have a party or anything. I wasn’t forced to fake happiness. I was allowed for it to be just another day and I think that helped. It wasn’t a big deal. We went out for dinner and then got ice cream from Dairy Queen afterward, but aside from that, it was just another day. No gifts. No song singing.

I don’t really know what I want to say. There aren’t really words. I want to give you a hug. I’m reminded of all the times I drove home and spend the holidays with you. How we would sit on the couch and talk about everything and nothing. How we would go out and get Moe’s and eat nachos while Law and Order reruns played in the background. I’m reminded of all the times we were together and how that made me feel at “home” no matter where we were.

I think I’ve finally found that “home” feeling again. The dojo makes me feel that way. Seeing Jim and Paul and Carolina. I look forward to going there. I smile when I see them or think about them. Training makes me feel good.

I don’t think I’m ready to give that up yet.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the job offer. I’ve been thinking about how I have to cram to get everything done. How I should be working 12 hours a day while I’m on vacation for the merest hope of getting the files done in time to send to animators to maybe possibly get something back that’s good enough to go on my reel for February. I keep thinking about how I promised myself a year, and how that year didn’t really even get a chance to start until October when I finally got the apartment. I keep thinking about how I haven’t finished painting and how I’m trying to focus on myself because I always put myself second when it comes to my life.

I keep thinking about my Warrior Dash and Allison’s bachelorette party that I’ve finally started organizing, and then her wedding at the end of March.

I keep thinking about all of these things that I don’t want to give up or compromise on. But if I make the job a priority then I have to do that. I have to compromise. I have to sacrifice myself and the things that I want. I have to sacrifice my happiness for a paycheck essentially.

I don’t want to do that, mom. I’ve figured that out while I’ve been here. I figured it out while I tried to remote desktop into my computer at home to work, only for it to not work even though I had checked to make sure it would before leaving. So instead I installed Maya directly on my Surface and worked for 8 hours instead of cross stitching or spending time with the family I’m supposed to be visiting.

8 hours of working with shitty resolution and mis-clicking things and fixing broken systems that shouldn’t have been broken because they worked on the computer at home.

I still have the trip to Dad’s on the 9th, too. That’s another week where I would have to give up time I’m supposed to be using to bond and rebuild that tattered, beaten, bloodied relationship.

I want to, for once, be able to pick me and not have to defend my choice against an attack.

Why aren’t you working towards this job? Why aren’t you taking this amazing opportunity seriously? What are you doing with your time? Are you scared? Are you in a rut since you’ve been unemployed for so long?

No. Thanks. I’m none of those things.

Opening my scripts for the first time was hard. Emotionally. Like, “had me in tears” hard. Starting work on the first file was even harder. But you know what, I worked through those emotions. I’ve cleared out most of the cobwebs that formed in my brain from disuse. I can feel a difference in myself, in my mentality. I’m finding the love for my craft that I had lost while I was teaching.

I’m making progress.

That doesn’t mean I’m ready to go back.

I’m not ready.

Or rather, I’m not ready to give up my happiness for it. I don’t think that’s wrong of me.

If the contract started in April or even May, then I would be so much more ok with it. But even when Tre first mentioned the time frame my knee jerk reaction was I would have only lived in my apartment for three months. Three months of tentative stability before upending everything all over again.

I’m still going to work on my projects. I’m still going to try, and if it works out, great. But I’ve come to the decision that I’m not going to kill myself to do it. I’m not going to give up the time I’ve already set aside for things I feel are important and worthy ventures. I’m not going to give up my time at the dojo, or the dance classes. I’m not going to give up family. I’m not going to give up sleep, unless I already can’t sleep and then I might as well work because that still happens sometimes. I’m not going to give up myself, burning myself out, stretching myself thin, to try to get this to work.

I think you would understand.

I remember your letter where you said the only thing you wanted for me was to be happy.

I’m finally getting there, mom. I wasn’t crazy depressed on my birthday, and tomorrow doesn’t seem like the black abyss that I thought it would be. I actually think tomorrow will be a pretty decent day. A sad day. I solemn day. But I know I’ll make it through it. I made it through Thanksgiving. I made it through my birthday. I’ll make it through tomorrow and new years. I’ll make it through April 4th, 2017. I’ll make it through every April 4th after that.

I don’t want to give up the things that are helping me survive and I don’t think that’s being selfish or irresponsible. I don’t think that’s being scared or shrinking away from responsibilities. If I’m still able to support myself and not be a burden to others then I don’t think it’s an issue and anyone who does have a problem with it can go make their own decisions in their own life.

I don’t think that’s unfair of me.

I wish I had your perspective. I wish I were home with you, sitting on the couch with nachos talking about all the pros and cons and what ifs that keep popping into my head. I wish I could hear your voice. I wish I could feel your arms around me.

You were the best mentor, the best friend. You were the best mom anyone could ever have, and I’m grateful that I was lucky enough for you to be mine. For 27 years you were the best influence I’ve ever had in my life.

I’m 28 now, mom. For the first time, I felt different on my birthday.

I still don’t know where I’m going with this writing. The tears come and go. The emotions feel like waves inside me. They make me tired, but they aren’t the crushing tidal waves I was terrified of for so long.

There’s a video Jason posted on Dropbox. It’s of the first Christmas Lio’s parents came over from Belguim. Jason says you’re in it. That you smile and laugh a lot. I have another two hours of alone time. I don’t know what to do with it other than curl up in bed and listen to silence, but right now that sounds amazing. But maybe I’ll watch the video first. I miss your smile. I miss your laugh.

I miss you.

I love you, mom. Merry Christmas. I’ll try to make it a good one for you. I promise.