The quote in its entirety is, “You embrace the suck. You move the fuck forward. What other choice do we have?” I heard it in a movie, turns out to be a military quote about sucking it up or giving up. I thought it to be quite fitting and very apropos today. Today I am in Northern Minnesota, embarking on a two day 150 mile bike ride to St Paul. Elle is on an airplane heading to Washington DC with her eighth grade class and Jay is driving to Atlanta with my Dad.
One year ago the three of us were heading west with a tent, three cots, an empty cooler and no reservations. Apparently we begin the summer with travel. Last year’s travel was me running away. I was trying to escape the sadness, the loneliness, the pressure and the responsibility of it all but I couldn’t bear to be without my kids. We drove through nine states in nineteen days. It turned out to be the camping trip of a lifetime.
This year we are all heading in different directions but it’s more about achieving and becoming independent.
Elle will experience traveling without family, she’s rooming with friends and the chaperones are teachers, no parents. Elle’s first trip.
Jay is driving, on interstates (gulp) and will be flying home by himself, as my Dad is staying in Atlanta for work. Jay’s first flight, alone.
I look at them and can’t believe how much they’ve grown, how much they’ve matured and how they are still my li’l ones. They’ve surpassed my shoe size and my height and yet they are still little in many ways. So many milestones, so many memories and we haven’t stayed in the same place or have we?
We remain in the same house, the very one we thought was our dream home ten long years ago. The very one that holds the kids growth marks on the wall, the very one I longed to come home to when Brett was alive and the very one I dread to come home to, now that he is gone. It’s a shell of a house to me a place that houses the most beautiful and painful of memories but uprooting the kids right now is not an option. To them it’s the only home they’ve ever known because it’s the only one they remember. In sharp contrast, by the time I was my son’s age I had lived in two countries, four states and twelve houses. Needless to say we moved a lot when I was growing up, countries, cities and states were all interchangeable to me, and still are, but not to my kids. So we stay.
The journey of grieving is a long and difficult one and for some reason I wanted (still want) it to be linear and progressive with a checklist attached. It doesn’t work that way. There are good days and bad. At first all days are bad. The good day intertwines itself somewhere therein making you realize just how awful reality really is and then one day you realize you hate the bad days not because of the sadness or whatever happened but because there have been more good days than bad. And so the ability to heal appears.
We are experiencing the third year without Brett, my third birthday without him, a milestone. I’m forty. Third Mother’s Day, third last day day of school and second trip to DC, not to mention all the kid’s big moments, Jay is driving and Elle is going to highschool this fall.
People are extremely complimentary, they talk of strength and courage but really for me it’s endurance. I’ve learned this as I’ve taken up working out as a way to cope. At first people encouraged me to go back to yoga, but when the yogi would say clear your mind the tears would stream down my face. I couldn’t take it. One day over chicken wings and beer with Brett’s brother, I found a boxing club. I punched the heavy bag an hour at a time for months. I learned to work out after dinner so all I could do was shower and collapse into sleep. I punched and kick boxed my way out of anger. I began to run, I am running myself out of fear and doubt. I started biking, I am biking my way out of trying to control the process.
Everyone has their own path and journey. I don’t think I’m doing anything different than anyone else would do in my situation. I still have shit ass bad days, I’m still learning to be an independent adult, I’m still learning to raise two kids by myself. At forty I’m still learning all of this. It’s all about putting one foot in front of the next, sometimes putting both together, pausing and putting one foot in front of the next. I have failed, stumbled, fallen, been pushed and also succeeded. I’m not the person I was twenty eight months ago but I’m also not the same I was yesterday. I watch my kids evolve and grow. We cry sometimes and miss the family we used to be but are glad we still have enough pieces and great memories to be the family that we are. We have “embraced the suck” and are learning to move forward, even though we miss Brett everyday.