Oh Look, More Growth (gag)

Two steps out of Darlene Merchant’s office I thought:

“Why do I keep doing this to myself? Why do I keep coming here when I know it will rip me…”

“Because” I interrupted “you know it helps”.

I lost my argument and won, I guess.

I had another Accelerated Resolution Therapy session today.

It had been awhile but I remembered exactly where we’d left off.

Each of us experienced an individual loss of Natalie. I lost a sister, my parents lost a daughter, so many people lost a friend… I think all of us were so in shock, I don’t remember hugging anyone. Except for Enid, right when I walked in the door. In the ART session, I needed a family hug. I needed to honor the loss of a family member, not just a sister but our entire family dynamic was forever changed. There was now a huge hole in our five person family.

So today we processed what happened once we got to LaSalle Apartments. It was the most agonizing wait. I can already feel my chest tighten, just thinking about it. What a contrast… it was a gorgeous day, the building was bright, clean and classic.

I remember sitting and holding myself. Pacing. Wondering what the fuck was taking so looong.

It was a nice conference room, big enough to accommodate all 10 of us. Room to roam but every second spent not talking to anyone who knew what was going on… It felt like my skin was on fire. I was fully awake, alive and still burning in Hell.

Finally, the Medical Examiner came to speak to us. Asked about her medical history etc.

It was when the detectives took my parents up to see Natalie for the last time that I lost it. It’s when reality set in that I would never see her again. Not the way I remembered her.

How we’ve been doing the ART in my sessions, is I go through the scene in my mind a couple of times. I do some body scans, notice what I’m feeling. Sometimes I sit with it then try to move it, other times I just move on to the “director’s scene”. I knew I was ready to move on because the director tried to jump in at every chance.

Here’s what happened once I “re-wrote the scene”.

Jessica let me into the apartment. I started yelling at the M.E. and the cops to get out. Just GET OUT. Once they were gone, I laid down on the bed with her. I held her. I cried into her hair. I told her I was sorry. When I looked up, Justin was on the bed too. The three of us held hands. At this point, I know my brain was tired and overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do because I saw my parents near the bed but they were like holograms. They were flickering, like I wasn’t sure if they should be there or it should just be us siblings. I ran through a quick log of memories, of the three of us. At the cabin, on vacation, when Justin was just a little guy…

God, it hurts.

Then I was down in the conference room. The M.E. started to name “the name of the deceased is…”

I flew towards him.

“Stop! Just stop.” I clamped my hand over his mouth.

“Not today. Don’t do this today. We need just one more day.” I told him.

By now I was sobbing.

We did a body scan and at first, I saw myself trying to push this mountain of grief away. It wouldn’t budge. I heard Nat laughing.

“You won’t get it to go that way,” she said.

Clouds appeared and parted. Sun rays came down, spilling onto the pile of unimaginable sadness and melted it. It looked like lava but quickly cooled and turned into a river.

We ended, as we always do, going across the bridge. Towards grandma’s fountain.

I started with my hospital blanket (because of the rough texture) around my shoulders and I leaned over the bridge to feed some koi fish. It was peaceful.

When I was ready, I finished crossing the bridge, taking my seat in front of the fountain. I tipped my head back, indulging in the slight breeze that blew before the sun set and the multi-colored lights of the fountain came on.

I felt almost… content. There was still a sadness. Originally, my body had felt heavy. Tired. Weighed down. Now, I was still tired but not in the same way. I was exhausted from feeling and working. I felt sad, but like the first few layers of lead had been lifted.

I’m not really looking forward to going back next week but I know I will.

I know I will and it will help.

 

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Meditation vs Rumination

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via Daily Prompt: Ruminate

Ruminate: to meditate on; ponder.

Meditate: to engage in thought or contemplation; reflect.

By their very definition, these two words look interchangeable. I’m not exactly sure what the difference is, only that for me, meditation has a positive connotation vs rumination, which I associate more with being “stuck in my head” or spinning my wheels.

Meditation is something that is good for you, rumination is not. That’s how I’ve seen it. Looking up the definitions today and thinking about it a little, I wonder if the difference isn’t in the intention…

Over these last 10 months, I’ve tried to keep up on my relationship with my sister, despite the obvious barriers.

For months I would ask her to come visit me in my dreams. I’d fall asleep holding her picture or set her music on repeat so even subconsciously I’d be in a place to receive her. While I’ve had tons of signs that she’s around me, I wanted to see her face. I wanted to interact with her.

Radio silence.

Until last night.

The details are fuzzy now but I was running from someone or something in a mall. I saw an empty corner, squished myself in and slid down the walls. I buried my head in my folded arms and sobbed.

I was soon interrupted by a light tapping on my shoulder.

I looked up and I saw her.

The song “These Dreams” by Heart played overhead.

She was … Radiant. Stunning. Healthy.

Of course she was.

I scrambled to get to my feet and I lunged for her, grabbing her tight to me.

I woke up and while this past year has felt like a nightmare, I was convinced that it was over now. I grabbed for my phone, desperate to hear her voice, her reassuring laugh chiding me for overreacting.

But of course that didn’t happen. Half way to the phone, I remembered the necklace. The music shaped urn necklace. I was scared to touch it. Maybe it wasn’t there… but if it was, it meant she was really gone.

I clutched the charm in my fist as the tears continued to burn and I remembered to thank her, even as painful is it was, as it is, as it will always be… she did come visit me.

Lyrics to These Dreams:

Spare a little candle
Save some light for me
Figures up ahead
Moving in the trees
White skin in linen
Perfume on my wrist
And the full moon that hangs over
These dreams in the mist

Darkness on the edge
Shadows where I stand
I search for the time
On a watch with no hands
I want to see you clearly
Come closer than this
But all I remember
Are the dreams in the mist

These dreams go on when I close my eyes
Every second of the night I live another life
These dreams that sleep when it’s cold outside
Every moment I’m awake the further I’m away

Is it cloak ‘n’ dagger
Could it be spring or fall
I walk without a cut
Through a stained glass wall
Weaker in my eyesight
The candle in my grip
And words that have no form
Are falling from my lips

These dreams go on when I close my eyes
Every second of the night I live another life
These dreams that sleep when it’s cold outside
Every moment I’m awake the further I’m away

There’s something out there
I can’t resist
I need to hide away from the pain
There’s something out there
I can’t resist

The sweetest song is silence
That I’ve ever heard
Funny how your feet
In dreams never touch the earth
In a wood full of princes
Freedom is a kiss
But the prince hides his face
From dreams in the mist

These dreams go on when I close my eyes
Every second of the night I live another life
These dreams that sleep when it’s cold outside
Every moment I’m awake the further I’m away

These dreams go on when I close my eyes
Every second of the night I live another life
These dreams that sleep when it’s cold outside
Every moment I’m awake the further I’m away

Songwriters

Read more: Heart – These Dreams Lyrics | MetroLyrics

My Christmas Miracle…and Michael Jackson!

I expected this Christmas would be hard. Almost unbearable, even. But it’s just one day. I can make it through one more day, that’s what I told myself.

For some reason, I’d compartmentalized my grief to just Christmas day. I don’t know why I thought I’d be “fine” until Christmas day but it doesn’t really matter.

It started on the 19th. Monday. The seven month mark since Natalie’s passing. I went to sleep with a sense of dread that Sunday night and when I got up Monday morning… I felt broken.

I’m pretty sure I was late to work, it’s hard to drive while crying. I probably should have pulled over but I kept trying to talk myself into being okay. “It’s just another day” I told myself. I have work to do, I have things that need my attention and while I do honor my grief, now is not the time. I thought it was a fairly decent pep talk…

Pulled into the parking lot, tried to swallow past the lump in my throat and went inside.

I walked around back and saw dad standing there. I quickly fell apart. “Just breathe” he said as I buried my face in his sleeve and tried to stuff what emotion was overflowing back into this cracked chalice.

Later that night I called my mom. Everyone was having a horrible day. It’s because it’s the 19, I decided. Tomorrow would be better.

Ha! Nope. Tuesday was worse and Wednesday worse than that. The Christmas music, the decorations, the light displays, the gifts… she loved it all and I felt like I was dying.

Yep, holidays are hard but THIS? WTF was this? I had this image in my head of a cartoon Goofy. He was at the top of a mountain, skiing. He went downhill so fast… off a cliff, I think.

“EEEEEHHHHHOOOOOOOOWWWWWW”

Natalie and I loved that part! It was a cartoon. Goofy was, goofy and we didn’t have to see him lying lifeless in the snow after that surely fatal jump.

Monday was the top of the mountain and December 24th was the drop off. It just sped towards disaster.

I expected Christmas eve would be hard. I couldn’t really fathom the kind of hell that this has been. Each day took another hit, punch, kick, scratch, chunk out of me…

I slept most of Saturday day.

Saturday night, as we halfheartedly opened gifts with forced smiles, we all expected Nat to come barging in, as she did, arms full of gifts and eyes full of life.

I can see her as I write this. Arms outstretched, ready for embrace. An unconquerable spirit… Voice just as powerful as the day she was born…

Anyway.

Christmas day I felt like I’d been in a boxing match. And lost, badly. I didn’t want to do gifts again. I didn’t want to get out of bed again. I wanted to be Grinchy and left alone. My tooth hurt, my body ached, my spirit was fractured.

And I have a daughter. A daughter that was in part, named after Natalie.

So I dragged myself out of bed. Popped more Tylenol and cracked my last Mt. Dew.

“How about some music” Tayla asked.

“Sure”

I don’t know what station she had it on but it was music from the 1920’s. I gave her a thumbs up and she passed out the gifts.

After everything had been unwrapped and “ooohhhed” and “ahhhed” over… Tayla went to her room and immersed herself in her drawing.

She left her phone though. Her phone playing the 20’s music. I didn’t mind, I liked it but it quickly faded to the background of my consciousness as I turned my attention to other things.

I don’t remember my exact thoughts, only that they were about Natalie. WHERE was she? I still haven’t fully grasped the fact that she’s gone…

And that’s when it happened.

This station we’d been listening to, this old time-y radio station started playing The Jackson 5. Michael Jackson. Oh how she loved Michael! She even had a MJ DOLL. And what song was playing?

I’ll Be There

You and I must make a pact
We must bring salvation back
Where there is love, I’ll be there (I’ll be there)
I’ll reach out my hand to you
I’ll have faith in all you do
Just call my name and I’ll be there (I’ll be there)
I’ll be there to comfort you
Build my world of dreams around you
I’m so glad that I found you
I’ll be there with a love that’s strong
I’ll be your strength
I’ll keep holdin’ on (holdin’ on)
Yes I will, yes I will
Let me fill your heart with joy and laughter
Togetherness, girl, is all I’m after
Whenever you need me, I’ll be there (I’ll be there)
I’ll be there to protect you (yeah baby)
With unselfish love that respects you
Just call my name, I’ll be there (I’ll be there)
I’ll be there to comfort you
Build my world of dreams around you
I’m so glad that I found you
I’ll be there with a love that’s strong
I’ll be your strength
I’ll keep holdin’ on
Ooh ooh ooh
Yes I will (holdin’ on, holdin’ on)
Yes I will
Don’t you know baby I’ll be there
I’ll be there I’ll be there
Just call my name, I’ll be there (I’ll be there)
Just look over your shoulders honey, ooh!
I’ll be there, I’ll be there,
Whenever you need me, I’ll be there (I’ll be there)
Don’t you know baby
I’ll be there, I’ll be there
Just call my name, I’ll be there (I’ll be there)
Oh oh oh oh I’ll be there, I’ll be there

“Let me fill your heart with joy and laughter”. That’s the message I keep getting. That’s the part of the song that caught my attention.

I started to cry out of happiness and sadness.

I’ve been thinking all along that I wasn’t going to make New Year’s resolutions but I’m starting to rethink that. Nothing major but maybe keeping a “joy journal” or a gratitude list… something to remind me that she wants me to be happy. She’s here and wants to help.

It feels like an insurmountable task but one that I must at least try.

Merry Christmas

Daily Prompt: Fragile

via Daily Prompt: Fragile

Yesterday I felt fragile. Small and breakable. It started out that way because I was putting the finishing touches on the “End the Epidemic” brochure for the expo on the 15th and spent a lot of time finding the right photos and making them the perfect sizes. Writing her name and her dates and a little of her story…

I had an appointment at 1:00 and I was grateful for the break. Afterward, I planned on going to Sally Beauty to get some hair dye. Once in the car though, I realized how badly I needed to pee! I knew Sally’s didn’t have a restroom, so I opted for Unique… hey, at least they’ll have ONE thing I need! I finished washing my hands and dried them on my jeans on the way out. “I wonder if they’ll have anything that reminds me of Natalie…” I looked up to see this:

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“Ok, fine. You’re here. Thank you very much AND I’m still pretty pissed off.”

I wandered a bit because I had a little time to kill before picking Tayla up from school. Because of Halloween coming up, the store is laid out a little differently than I’m used to. I was perusing the kitchen gadget isle (our toasted WAS toast last week) looking for a toaster but found myself in the movie section.

I’ve been trying to get more in tune with my intuition and so I tried to “feel” which way to go, what message I was supposed to get. Standing in front of shelf after shelf of movies, I quickly became overwhelmed. “I know Nat. You love movies but seriously, you loved them so much, I’ll never know which one I’m supposed to find!”

I saw The Crow. Is it this one? Oh, Pulp Fiction- that has to be it, right? But no internal alarm sounded, no sensation was felt. My arms were getting fuller and my calculated cost grew with each title. “Sorry Nat. I can’t buy all these. Then watch all of them? I guess the only way I’ll really know if I’m on to something is if I see a movie like Somewhere in Time…” I actually laughed at the prospect of finding such a movie, in such a place.

Guess what? Not a minute later, my eyes found this:

somewhere-in-time-2
Somewhere in Time

The sensation of a brain freeze took hold of me and I clutched the movie to my chest, trying with all I had not to cry until I got out of the store (which I did!).

I had a big cry and pulled myself together before turning the car on. As I looked around, checking for cars, I saw three black birds circling overhead.

“Show off” I thought.

But there’s more. The first song I heard was “Save Me” by Shinedown.

I got a candle
And I’ve got a spoon
I live in a hallway with no doors and no rooms
And under a window sill
They all were found
A touch of concrete within the doorway
Without a sound

Someone save me if you will
And take away all these pills
And please just save me, if you can
From my blasphemy in my wasteland

How did I get here
And what went wrong
Couldn’t handle forgiveness
Now I’m far beyond gone
And I can hardly remember
The look of my own eyes
How could I love this,
My life so dishonest
It made me compromise

Someone save me if you will
And take away all these pills
And please just save me, if you can
From my blasphemy in my wasteland

Jump in the water
Jump in with me
Jump on the altar
Lay down with me
My hardest question
To answer is why
Why

Someone save me if you will
And take away all these pills
And please just save me, if you can
From my blasphemy in my wasteland

Someone save me [Repeat: x2]
Somebody save me [Repeat: x2]
Please don’t erase me

Hearing that made me hungry for more…

I turned to Siri and Apple Music requesting “music by Shinedown”.

Here is what came up, in the order it played:

Cut the Cord (to self harm) so you can survive “don’t be a casualty, cut the cord”

Second Chance “sometimes goodbye is a second chance”

Save Me

Through the Ghost

Sometimes, ok, a lot of times, I feel like a toddler throwing a tantrum. I want her to be with me, show me she’s here and when she does, it’s not good enough. It’s coincidence. It’s an accident. My mind is filling my life with “signs”, it’s all in my head because that way I don’t have to forgive her. If she abandons me, it’s ok for me to still be so angry… Even though deep down, I know she’s sorry. She didn’t mean to abandon us. She is still around. She will always be around and it’s ok for me to be angry.

The Gift of Powerlessness

“I just wish I KNEW there was nothing more I could’ve done” my mom said to me this morning.

“Mom. There WAS NOTHING more ANYONE could’ve done. As a mother, I know you would’ve done anything for her. We all would have. That’s the one thing that haunts me. I can’t help but think, if it were all to happen again, I don’t think I’d do anything different. We did what we could. If I had known how much she was struggling, or even struggling at all, I would’ve done whatever it took to help her. I know though, she would’ve outsmarted me. Even if we kidnapped her, babysat her, watched her like a hawk… we couldn’t keep it up forever. Natalie was an adult…”

“Thank you for saying that. I needed to hear that.”

“Well, good. It’s the truth.”

We talked a little while longer and I told her about how Monday was so hard for me. Facebook was out to get me, with its postings of new mothers, days old baby boy, another little boy who didn’t make it. I couldn’t get away from it.

Out of the frying pan into the fire, I turned my attention away from the computer and once again, tried to clear my desk from the mounds of paperwork.

A picture fell off the cork board. A snapshot of Natalie and Niles, in Florida. Under a stack of papers was an envelope from Target, more pictures of Natalie. I collected them up and put them in a box.

“God dammit Natalie. How could you do this? How could you leave, now I have to put you in a box in my closet because it hurts too much to look at you.”

Tears had been slipping, intermittently until I heard her voice. So strong and clear, I had to look up to see if she was actually sitting next to me.

“I’m sorry Melly” she said.

I dropped the box and crumpled to the ground sobbing.

The hurt is so near to unbearable, I don’t know what to do.

Part of me says to be grateful.

And, part of me IS grateful. I know that she is around me.

The other part though… is so angry and confused. So hurt. And SO VERY SICK of hearing “she’s in a better place”. I know people mean well, I guess I’m just selfish… I’m not worried about where she is. I KNOW where she is. I’m not crying for her. I’m crying because I have to fucking figure out how to live without her. How to be without her. Who I AM without her. I am in a worse place. Yes, she’s out of pain. She’s in heaven. Paradise. I’m stuck in Hell on Earth.

And if I had it all to do again? I don’t know that I’d change anything. We didn’t have things left unsaid or unfelt. She (I believe) knows how it all works out now. She knows my and our family, our wishes, intentions, hopes and we have to wait patiently for the day when it all makes sense to us.

We didn’t have the power to control her or her addiction anymore than she could control her cravings for the heroin.

And there’s an odd sense of relief with that knowledge. A slight satisfaction, knowing, we really did everything we could.

That is one small gift to come of this horrific event and if that’s all?

I’ll take it.

Christmas In Hell

Today was the end of another chapter. We finished cleaning out the townhouse we’d spent the past five years in. Checked the mailbox one last time. Turned in the keys and left the garage door opener behind.

It wasn’t too emotional but it wasn’t completely emotionless, either.

I think I wrote not too long ago about how moving from Burnsville would be difficult because it was the last home we had or will have that Natalie visited. That we will have memories of. That she will have, in jest, said “What happened? Did ya fire the maid?”

I was lucky enough to have people help me and that Don did the majority of the work in the townhouse. It was just too painful for me to be there.

I did go today though. This morning to help get the last load of stuff out and the wind chime caught my eye. It was hung in an odd spot. Somewhere between the living room and the staircase, in other words, nowhere near wind. I’d never really paid much attention to it before. I asked Don to grab it and what I’d always assumed was a generic garden scene painted on the base of the chime, was anything but. The tag hung low and I grabbed it as it swung toward me. This piece of art was called “Noah’s Ark”. It had a circle of pairs of animals, walking together toward the biblical boat and there was a quote that said “God keeps his promises”.

I didn’t know what to make of it. I felt sad and angry but also, as taken care of. Special because I am getting signs almost everyday that my sister and my son are with God, they are taken care of and so am I.

Tonight, while putting things away, organizing and getting settled, I’d asked Don to look at the TV/VHS player to see if he could figure out how to get sound. He jiggled a few wires and like magic, the past came to life on the big screen.

A video from when I was about five and Natalie was three, animated. We’d gotten a playhouse from Santa. I watched us, reliving that Christmas and felt overcome with feelings of love and loss. The video play for about a half an hour and if I’m remembering right, dad was trying out his video camera and checking out all the special effects. The result was, at times, Natalie would walk through the living room and be transparent. It was a little eerie but I couldn’t get enough. My heart broke again when, near the end of the tape, you can hear dad’s voice “Say goodbye Natalie, wave bye-bye. See you next Christmas” and those tiny fingers closing and opening in a fist with her grin that was all teeth faded to black.

 

Signs

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?”

Ok, now that I’ve gotten THAT outta my system (thank you Google and the Five Man Electrical Band), I can get on with this post!

Like I have a point today. Run, run, run and hit the red light. Hurry up to get nowhere fast. Get on with this post, even though I have no idea what to talk about…

Today was another shitty day. Glazed over eyes and blank stares punctuated by outbursts of anger and torrential downpours of tears. I don’t know how long its been, four days maybe? That I’m starting to absorb the full effect of her absence. Of the consequences I’m suffering because of her actions. Of the sense of my invisible sister.

Moving more stuff and cleaning out the townhouse was another loss, not for the place itself but because it was the last place we lived that Natalie came to visit us. I don’t want to let that go. But I have to.

Someone asked me if I’d considered the possibility that someone may have murdered her. Came over, hung out, gave her that last fatal dose and slipped out the door as she slipped out of our lives.

Initially, my heart started to race. Yes! That had to be it… She didn’t do this to herself, she didn’t do this to us. It was someone else and they need to be found and prosecuted. They need to know the horrible side effects her death has caused… but after a few minutes, my heart sank. I knew it’d be a wild goose chase. I know it. I feel it in my body and my being… The invincible, the immortal Natalie was in fact human. Not super human. She made a mistake, misjudged her tolerance and is gone. To believe anything else would be a certain suicide. I would cease to live my own life while I hunted down monsters that didn’t exist. At least not in this case.

As horrible as I feel, as much as I miss her and love her and am angry about what has happened…I need to feel this. I need to move through the pain. I know it will never go away completely and I don’t want it to. But for my own sanity, I have to grieve the loss of my sister because when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter why she’s dead- she just is and nothing can change that.

On the other end of that, I know she’s near, also. Like I mentioned earlier, these last few days have been excruciating. Physically painful to be awake and alive without her… but life goes on and I have to go with it. We were at Big Lots and I saw a nail polish bottle, it was a light purple color and the the bottle said Kylie. At first I thought it say Kyle, like I named my car, so I grabbed it. I played a game I’ve played a thousand times over since May 19th. I hold something and ask Natalie to show me she’s around. “God I miss you Nat… PLEASE, let me know you’re here?” I turned the nail polish bottle to read the color: Miss Chief. I burst into tears right there. Aside from being a renowned trouble maker, one of Natalie’s music groups she played with was called Mischief.

Our next stop was a thrift store where I came across a Magic 8 ball. I couldn’t resist. “Natalie, are you still here?” I whispered to the plastic ball. I shook it and waited for the bubbles to dissipate. When it was clear, the message read “the 411 is yes”.

My inner child started to tantrum. But wwwhhheeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrreeee? I want to SEE you! I want to hug you and kiss you and smack you!

Sigh. I know. And I’m grateful for the signs she does send me. Maybe if it’s not to much to ask, I can see her in my dreams? I exhausted and going to bed and crossing my fingers!