Hello, it’s me, and I’m not sure how to do this anymore.
I won’t start with an apology this time.
There’s no way to put this delicately: life got really fucked up. And this might be a hard post for you to read.
Back in June, I started writing and rewriting a long blog post about this past year of coping with grief, loss, and the upheaval of the only life I’ve ever known. I was hoping to share this around the one year anniversary of Mom’s passing, and I knew it would be too hard to write all in one go. Then I aimed for the end of August, Mom’s 68th birthday. But now it’s September. 14 months.
And I have very, very barely scratched the surface of this impossibly deep hole that is the rest of my life without Mom.
Throw in the most brutal winter of the century, a pandemic, a major career transition, a very sick father and brother, and wrapping up Mom’s affairs, and…blogging just fell to the wayside. Survival is a priority, as it is for many of us these days.
There are really two separate blog posts I want to write: one about Mom, and her legacy; the other about how I can now draw a clear demarcation in the sand to mark the abrupt end of my old life, and the beginning of my new, unwanted life. The one where I feel like I’m just biding my time and every day is a race to the finish line because, truly, the only life I ever knew is long gone.
So anyway this blog post is about the latter.
Here are some insane ways in which grief has changed me over the past 14 months:
- I busy myself to the point of exhaustion every day because I can’t stand to think about how horrible Mom’s death was and how I’m never going to see her again
- I gained an astonishing amount of weight that will not come off
- I never sleep
- When I dream about Mom she is often sick and I’m angry at her for leaving me
- Every fiber of my being knows when the 28th of each month is approaching, without fail
- I have very little interest in anything at all and could literally not pinpoint a single passion of mine at the moment (except Newfoundland and Labrador)
All that is to say that I’m not unhappy in my life. I’m actually content with what my life is…does that make sense? Although I feel complacent most days I am also so hyperaware of all my blessings and privileges. I live harder and everything is more intense. I am surrounded by good people who love me and want to do things with me. Every minute is a gift.
Recently, on the Chance Cove Coastal Trail, I stood at the edge of a cliff overlooking a surreal beach-and-island landscape. My hand went to my face to remove my sunglasses, but they weren’t there. Everything was so bright and vivid and magic, I literally thought I was looking at a landscape behind sunglasses. I was nearly knocked over by the beauty.
At a cabin rental in Swift Current, I sat quietly for hours watching the sun set behind the mountains. No cell phone, no connectivity, nothing. And a bloom of bright happiness burst from my chest because I could have sat there in stillness forever.
Sometimes that Ray Bradbury quote echoes in my head on repeat, over and over:
Stuff your eyes with wonder.
So for all the sadness and loss just knocking around in my heart, I still very much appreciate my life. How could I not, when she gave it to me?
(It’s very clear to me that I need counselling, btw. And it’s pretty likely I have a touch of PTSD. I am still waiting for the magical moment in which I am brave enough to call someone to talk about it, but I cannot even think about what I’ve seen and encountered over the past three years, and so I am stalling. It’ll happen in due course.)
One of the hardest things I’ve had to reconcile in all of this is that I lost Mom at 33 years old. Literally half her age. I have a whole other lifetime without her in it. Literally, a whole other lifetime. When she was 33 years old, she was just giving birth to me and starting a new family. I can’t stand it. If by some miracle I do go on to marry and have children and start a family (which seems impossible now, because did I mention I’m 34 and not interested in anything?), the most important woman in my life will never meet the other important people in my life. How? How is that possible when I know people in their 60s who still have dinners with their parents?
Sometimes I can close my eyes and sit very still and imagine I’m wrapping my arms around her thin shoulders again, feeling the bumps of her spine against my fingertips, pressing her thin-haired head under my chin and squeezing her tight. And of course, she’d push me away laughing and say, “You’re smothering me in your boobs!” And we’d joke about it for weeks. As you do.
I try my best to reconcile my memories of Mom with her younger, healthier self. I spent an exorbitant amount of money digitalizing some old home VHS tapes, and am gobsmacked to find her in them full of life–healthy, young, plump, and joyous. In the studio, the man popped one VHS into a VCR to test it out, and suddenly the room filled with Mom’s pure laughter, and I couldn’t stop crying, tears streaming down my face in front of this stranger who never knew her, and yet I am barely capable of talking about my mother in front of my friends or family. It is all too much, even now, to write about it.
Mom was afraid of death. When she was hospitalized for six months, I remember “praying” that she’d come home from it with even a year to live and live it to the fullest. And that’s exactly what she got, one year. A remarkably terrible year. “This is the greatest nightmare of my life,” she’d say, untangling herself from oxygen lines. Reaching for her puffer. Meticulously recording her medication. I’d help her apply the adhesive rings around her ileostomy and wondered how she could do any of this on her own. She had this whole damned life that she worked so hard for. Every time I return home to visit my father and brother I can feel her everywhere. In her lilac trees and the unpainted birdhouses and the little motherly knickknacks placed on windowsills around the house and it is too fucking much. There is nothing good in any of this, I’m sorry to say.
I don’t know why I wanted to write this. I look back on my blog entry from a year ago announcing Mom’s passing and I am stunned by my own naivety. To think I could find some beauty in all of that. Someone suggested that I wouldn’t remember anything around the first few weeks after she died, but I remember it all in acute detail. That freakishly hot summer day driving down the Bay d’Espoir Highway. Dad pulling over on the side of the road and calling my aunt and uncle to tell them to put away Mom’s oxygen concentrator. My head was foggy with three hours of sleep in just as many days. The house, unnaturally silent without the WHOOSH of the oxygen. Me cracking open a beer and drifting room to room, lost. Me undertaking the surreal task of picking out church hymns and a burial outfit (the blue long-sleeved proved better for hiding her IV-torn arms).
In one of my Facebook grief groups, a woman expressed a similar sentiment about the bewilderment of a full life ahead without their loved one. Like we’re moving further away from them each passing day. Her therapist had told her, “What if you looked at it the other way: every second brings you closer to her?” and now I think about that every day. It is an immeasurable source of comfort, even if I am in no rush. I do not even know if I believe that I will see her again. I’d do anything to know.
There has been no time to catch a breath. Dad was diagnosed with a very serious and incurable illness back in November and it’s been a constant battle since then to help him gain weight, maintain a new diet, coordinate with his specialist (in the middle of a fucking pandemic), and stay out of the hospital for as long as he can. Did I mention my brother is currently, as in today, having grand mal seizures? And how he ended up in the ICU a few months ago, in the same place where Mom died? I’m now the entire manager of Dad’s finances and bills and our property in the bay. I don’t mind doing it, my Dad is my favourite person on the planet, but I never realized how much Mom did. I’d do anything to acknowledge her now. I wish I could look her in the eyes and say, “Thank you for all you do.” Right up until the week she died. She ran that household, perfectly.
So here I am once again trying to pull everything together. And here I am, again, willing with all my heart for Dad to feel as best as he can.
All this is to say that blogging isn’t a priority right now, but I felt like I needed to wrap my head around why I’ve abandoned everything I’ve worked so hard to build. I am just trying to deal. Did that life even exist? Was I really gallivanting around Asia just a year ago? I’m incredibly blessed to have a great job, a warm circle of friends, and a tight-knit family to keep me together. There’s no need to worry about me. I will figure it out, as I always do.
As my gears have shifted considerably and I’m no longer travelling (certainly, nobody is), I have scores of things I want to write about that aren’t long travel guides or search engine optimized content. I miss just blogging. It’s clear I’m never going to make money at this. I’m not sure that’s why I want to write, anyway. Can I tell you about my favourite indigenous TikTok stars? Can we connect on something? What about my hot take on season 2 of Dirty John? Can I tell you about my favourite new bra?
I don’t know what the future of Free Candie holds right now. It’s not the end. If you’re still here, thanks for that; this has been an exceedingly raw experience for me. I hope to breathe some life back into this thing. If there’s anything I’m consistently good at, it’s being hopeful.