21 June 2016

Mel

I am not going to lie.

This has been a hellish month.      And an incredible month.

That is my life. Parallel paths of heaven and hell.

The trials have been navigating all three of the kids birthdays as well as Fathers Day this month.
It has taken much of me to be okay and celebrate and hold space for my kids. But it is done.

Today I did two things just for me.

#  I signed up with a personal trainer. I need to get physically strong again. I hate looking in the mirror and seeing this gaunt, old person staring back at me. I want to be able to eat, pick up muscle and feel like my old self again. Boobs would be a bonus too.

# I have enrolled with Duke University to do a writing diploma through Coursera. This is purely for me. I have thought about going back to work and it may happen but for right now I just want to try and take care of myself in a way that brings me joy, gives me courage and delights my soul. I cannot contribute, in any capacity, until I find myself full again. Simple as that really.

I am also facing new and exciting challenges as Kev and I start the journey of blending our families. In 9 days time, we will be living under one roof. Starting a completely new chapter in our lives.


Partners and parents to six incredible little humans beings. Insane.

I will have to cook for 8 people.  This scares the shit out of me. Life has a wicked sense of humour.

I regularly sit back, in awe of my own story, how such horror and beauty have come upon me in the last 9 months. The simple act of reconciling so many paradoxical feelings is a continuous mind-fuck. The epic part of this relationship is that I have someone who can completely relate to every weird thought that rolls around my overactive brain!

This is our road. Kevin and I are committed to each other and this new life.
We face real challenges but I know me. And I know him.
We have a fire and passion for life. (and each other)
We will make this next chapter incredible.

Separately we are tough as nails but together we are even better.

Together we are unstoppable.





20 June 2016

Levi

Today was difficult. Really difficult. I struggled to make the day what it needed to be but he was gracious. He texted me now, at 9pm, to thank me for a wonderful birthday.

The boy is being kind. It sucked. But somehow the necessary boxes were ticked and he is okay.


Levi misses his dad like crazy. LIKE CRAZY.


I see it daily, I see it in little things that no-one else will notice.  I see it in his eyes every afternoon when he arrives home. I am not enough and it is revolting.

That being said, Levi is relentless in his pursuit of happiness and fulfilment. He knows that all Russ wanted for him was everything he could dream and imagine. He understands that pain and sorrow will find him regularly but that it is up to him to find healthy ways to purge and move forward.

He does this with music, sport and new friendships. He does this by taking a walk in the estate or finding a new song to learn or by practising tackle drills. Sometimes he quietly just sits in his room and cries. Brutal but necessary.

He has taken responsibility for his own counselling. He emailed the school counsellor  and asked to make an appointment. I only found out about this after the fact - I am incredibly proud of him - he navigates and sets up his own appointments,


 as and when he feels them necessary.

Though the waters are still rough I am completely at peace about his journey. He is remarkable.

I just wish it were for different reasons.

15 June 2016

Waiting For Summer


Pain of my past has harvested my heart
It has tilled the soil of my soul
Prepared me to love you
The depth of this new love, a gift;
Redemption I do not deserve

In my darkest moments, I shook my fist
Wrestled and rioted in anger

But in the end, it was not the end after all
Instead, a continued great story 
Of life, love, loss and redemption

For in the winter of change
the chill can freeze your bones
and the memory of summer
a fairytale with little meaning

but summer, she always comes
despite winters' harshest arrows

so sit by the fire
and feel the aching burn

wait for summer and when she arrives
let her melt your sorrow;
may it become one with your joy

a beautiful collage of a future uncertain
but perfectly predestined.

-SMB-

Rachel




Rachel has always been an exceptional character.  She has  wisdom and insight beyond her years despite being madly teenager-ish. She has remained steadfast and grounded throughout the last 9 months. Unwaiveringly sure that her dad is simply elsewhere right now, living large and waiting for us to join him. She is content and starry-eyed about her future.

I have seen her biggest adjustment and loss lies in the fact that our once very tightly-knit family is now very loosely bound. Not in the ways you may imagine but simply in that my capacity is far from stellar. I still need VAST quanitities of time alone. We may all be in the same house but I am almost always in my bedroom or study. If not, I am in the kitchen or helping with logisitics.

We don't have family game nights or movie nights. We seldom do things, just the four of us. And therein lies her pain. She is a huge tradition girl and family girl. She is also a 'mommy's girl' - few would know that but she has a very strong attachment to me and she needs me to see and listen to her.

I try. I really do. I try to tick as many of these boxes that I can but ultimately I am still pretty useless. I am getting better though.

She is doing exceptionally well academically. She has started her IGCSE's (2 months ago) and wrote some mock English exams and excelled. This has really lit a fire in her and she is ready to go at her studies hard and fast. Russell always wanted her to take AS levels to finish her schooling and I think we may still be able to achieve this.

She also completed her first piano exam. She has been playing adhoc since a little girl and is very talented but for some reason we never thought to put her through the grade exams. This year she decided she wants to do just that. We await her results but are optimistic of flying colours.

She has finally asked to sing again. She stopped almost immediately when Russ became ill. I havent heard her since then and this truly broke my heart. A few weeks back she came to ask me if I could please arrange vocal lessons again.

Our (my) biggest decision with Rach is whether to send her back to fulltime schooling next year - she has been accepted to a great local high school (which offers an IEB matric) or whether to let her continue part time where she is and complete her Cambridge AS levels there instead. We are both betwixt and between and each week sees us waivering back and forth.

Am trusting for clarity as the year progresses.

At this juncture I am happy that Rach is in a good, stable place but we are both aware that her control/anger issues can flare up at times. Normal. It is okay, however we have agreed that should it become worse as we face future changes she will seek help in managing these feelings.

14 June 2016

Faith

I have decided to feedback on each kid individually.

Helps me to focus my scattered brain and makes reading it less tedious.

Bullet points are going to be my best friend in the next few posts.


  1. Faith has persevered bravely with treatment for Osgood Schlatters that threatened to keep her from dancing for 3 years. In fact, she is back at tap and is hoping to start modern again next term. Pretty damn miraculous. I have to thank our incredible physio, who like me, refused to lie down and allow this to debilitate Faith for years to come. 
  2. Faith has almost completed her therapy and I will be meeting with her therapist soon for feedback. From my conversations with her I see real healing even though the pain persists but she is not afraid to feel and deal. 
  3. Faith is working with a tutor twice a week - more to free me up from the responsibility of marking and keeping track. She works independently on the other days of the week doing the work assigned by her tutor. She is feeling confident and challenged in her education.
  4. Faith has changed dramatically - mostly I see this as a good thing but at times my heart is broken. My naive, sensitive child has been brutally broken and in her restoration she has put up fierce walls, she has a cynism that is uncharacteristic and a profound sadness that shadows even her happiest days. I  know all of this will settle and change a hundred times in her lifetime but right now, as her mom, it hurts me deeply.

Conversation today:

Me : Instead of cards for Fathers Day we can each make a scrapbook page for dads' album okay?
 I will print out photos for each of you.

Faith: Why can't I choose the photo I want to use?

Me: I don't want you to have to go through hundreds of photos to find one - when I do that I kind of stuffs me up for days. The memories, you know?

Faith : Oh for goodness sake Mom, we aren't babies. 
We are all old enough and tough enough to deal with this now. 


Maybe I should be proud of her. 

But I am just sad.

Suffice to say, Faith is attempting to move on and find her stride.




25 May 2016

Nine Months





I woke up feeling extremely strange. I felt anxious and outside of my own reality. Stuff was happening around me; I was driving, talking and engaging but I was not present. I was almost in the third person.

I came home and considered taking a tranquliser which is not something I do; all the while trying to nail down WHY I was feeling this way. 

And then my phone rang and as I reached for it I noticed the date.

25 May 2016

And then I realised that my soul knew before my brain did. 

Nine months ago today I was coming home from hospice to tell my children their dad had died. 


Unthinkable. Horrific. The flashback hit me so hard. All of it. All at once.



The sound of Faith's scream when she saw my car pull up.
The image of Levi's crumpled frame on the couch.
The dark look of utter despair in Rachel's eyes as she reached for me.


I felt that I may scream and never stop. So I held my breath. I may even have silently prayed that I didn't lose my mind; that the images would just stop.

Your body knows. The soul tie is a real thing. It is not just a meme.

I did not need the tranquiliser. I understood why I was feeling weird; decided to ride it out, feel it and walk alongside it. 



I called my mom. I went to my favourite places, found quiet spaces. I wrote, I ran. I drank coffee. 

It was a good day.

24 May 2016

The Invitation


Please read this post first if you haven't already. This is almost a 'Part Two' .... nine months later.

***********************************************************

“I don't hold to the idea that God causes suffering and crisis. I just know that those things come along and God uses them. We think life should be a nice, clean ascending line. But inevitably something wanders onto the scene and creates havoc with the nice way we've arranged life to fall in place.” 
 
Sue Monk Kidd (When the Heart Waits)



I live my life now with an urgency and a passion that few possess. It has always been in me. It has simply been awakened and stoked. It will never be put out again.

Russell's death was my invitation to life. 

My deepest regret is that it took me losing him to understand what it means to live.

Do not make the same mistake.


25 April 2016

Forever is Forever





Forever
does not seem
too far away.

Sometimes it is
after we lose someone
when we learn 
to love.

Where hope,
and dreams greet,
and everything is perfect
the way
it was meant to be.

So hear me,
soon enough
we will meet again

I will carry your soul
in my heart.

The same heart you 
helped me build.

RM DRAKE

18 April 2016

The Climb






This weekend saw me running the Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge. Yes, another trail run but this race was different from all the rest. Obviously it is the longest and most challenging run I have ever completed but, from the day I signed up, I knew this race was going to be far more than the obvious.

There were many obstacles thrown up the week before race-day. Kevin picked up a knee injury,  I picked up an infection and on the night before the race unusual circumstances had me awake and upset until well after midnight....then to top it off, I woke up on race morning with swollen glands and a fiery throat.

Ridiculous opposition which simply made me more determined. We were going to run. Period.

Kevin taped his knee, we took copious quantities of varying (legal)  drugs and Sunday morning found us on the road to Stellenbosch at 0630.

The race was brutal, gruelling and painful at times. It was also magical, awe-inspiring and breathtaking.

The uphill climb was unending; it almost destroyed me until I remembered that looking up at how far you have to go is never, ever helpful. Simply keep looking straight ahead and find a safe place to plant your feet.

Keep moving. Keep breathing.

Very much like life. Beautiful and terrible.

Kylie and Russell showed up for us on that mountain on this exceptional day. We both had intensely personal experiences that left us with no doubt that our beautiful people continue to cheer us on as we pursue all that life has for us in this new season.







04 April 2016

The Layers of Loss

Easter weekend I hit wobble. In the midst of so much joy the darkness found a crack and slithered in regardless.
My 'flight mode' kicked in and I took off, unannounced, into the Mcgregor mountains with little regard for anyone else's feelings or concerns. Part of me knew it was wrong. That same part didn't care.

I took flack for it. My family and those closest to me shat me out. I defended myself; knowing full well they would never understand the gravity and relentless compulsion that causes me to flee on these rare occasions.

I resisted the urge to SCREAM and tell them to be grateful that I fucking well came back at all.

Yes. I still swear.
Yes. I am still angry.

I recently had coffee with someone who has walked my road and is a kickass friend who helps me unravel my shit. She gets it. I am so grateful to be able to go and bleed over a cup of coffee with her....and walk out lighter.
It saves me. And it saves many who love me ---- that they dont have to witness the inner workings of my occasionally tortured soul. (can you imagine??!!)

The layers of loss.

That is what I am experiencing.

Russell died.

Fucked up and awful and unimaginably revolting.
But so much else died with him and that is only realised as time moves on.

Tomorrow Levi goes back to formal schooling. While those around us are excited and proud of me for making this 'bold move' and 'doing the right thing' for my boy...all I feel is yet another death.

The death of the plan; the death of the dreams we had as a family. They were amazing and awesome and we worked hard to achieve them. But they are dead. They are void. They are gone.

Levi going back to school is the right thing but it still represents yet another huge loss for me.

24 March 2016

Beautiful and Terrible



This came up on my timeline this morning. I read it and it resonated with me. It made me smile but only for a split second. 

But then I remember. Almost a year ago to the day...I woke up to run Two Oceans and Russ was supposed to run with me. Everything was good. Except he was still feeling a bit nauseous and I suggested he not run this year. He agreed and graciously made me coffee and taxi-ed myself and my friends to the start line.

He drove away with a farway look in his eyes - typical runner FOMO - pissed off that we could not do it together. 

Next year we said.

Five days later we got the diagnosis.

Five months later he was gone. 

I fight a silent battle. I have seen how quickly something amazing can fall apart. I have felt pain like I never believed possible. I have fought like a freaking beast to survive and (by the grace of God) even thrive. 

I am so afraid to be happy. I am afraid to look ahead and make plans. 

It scares the living shit out of me.

14 March 2016

Unpacking the Months : Part Three

Part One Here
Part Two Here


....So he invited me to go see Goldfish at Shimmy's with his best friends... being the closet clubber that I am I was totally up for the jol. In fact, I Could Not Wait.

Taken at Shimmy - I was still pretty shy and retiring back then.


A few things unfolded in the two weeks prior to Shimmys though...here is the short version.

1. We ended up at the Sevens final together - along with Levi, Rachel and my folks.

2. We spent time along with our kids and some other friends at the beach - the most notable being an afternoon breaking in the SUP board at Kommetjie.

3. He met some of my close friends at a sundowners evening at Noordhoek.

We spent much time talking - mostly being completely ridiculous. We did not regularly compare grief notes. Our relationship has never been based on our mutual losses at all - it is a big deal but it is NOT the pivot around which we turn.

I spent way too much time telling him  how I was completely able to take care of myself  and how I would never, EVER want to be dependent on anyone again - emotionally or otherwise. The pain of enduring loss a second time was simply too much for me to even consider.

He did not seem deterred by my hardarse attitude at all. I pushed him away but he stood firm and slowly I realised he was not going to be easily scared off by me. He made me laugh. Regularly. He also fought with me which was kind of amazing because everyone else felt sorry for me. He did not.

He seemed to be able to tolerate my erratic behaviours; to be able to tell the bullshit from the core - and he didn't judge me or try to fix me or rein me in.

Same t-shirt...same shades but all so different now.
He understood the inner madness that still sometimes drives me to the outer limits of my existence. He had the ability to take me back from the brink and remind me that life is FUN, that my kids need me and that there is still so much to do and live for.





He also regularly reminds me that gratitude is the key to recovery ... although there are/were times I wanted to slap him and just tell him to SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LET ME BE MAD.     :-)

Slowly I have begun to come back to life. I did not know when I met him that he trail runs. He only started running, for the first time, in August last year. I don't believe that is coincidence.

The irony rests in the fact that my original search was simply for a trail running partner; I gave up on that and instead I found a partner who trail runs.

I am quite possibly the most conflicted / unconflicted person you will ever meet. This weekend you see photos of me on facebook - radiant and joyful with the man I now love and yet if you had been in the mall this morning you would have found me in a complete tearful mess - mad at God for allowing the other man I love to have suffered and died such a cruel death.

Life is messed up and there is so much I cannot reconcile but God is good.

I choose to believe that.
In spite of everything that has happened.
And because of everything that is happening.



09 March 2016

Make Them Remarkable


Russell believed I was amazing. 
And he would often tell me so. 
I used to look at him in disbelief because he knew me SO well and despite 
that fact still thought I was this incredible human being. 




I remember looking him squarely in the eye and telling him :

The only reason I am who I am is because you love me unconditionally. Because we are a team.
You give me the courage and confidence to be exactly who I am at any stage of my life.



When he left this world the impact on me was so utterly devastating. It was as if someone had taken my roots and pulled them out. I felt lost, vulnerable and completely alone - like a toddler lost in a shopping mall. I was a shadow of myself. His love for me; mine for him - that was my anchor and safe place. The space from which I could safely launch myself into the world.

I will never take anyone I love for granted again. It can happen so easily, so surreptiously. 

Take stock of those around you - notice how they make you feel and make sure you sow back into that relationship and be part of making them remarkable.


08 March 2016

Simply Tuesday

Tuesday started pretty damn well.

A drive to beautiful Kommetjie first thing in the morning, 3 cups of coffee along with lots of laughs with a very special friend.

Later I arrived home to find a builder mate of mine waiting to give me some input on changes that need to be made to my home.  He offered plenty of advice for me on how to go forward with some of the plans I have in mind and we engaged in some healthy trail and boxing banter (he's a runner too).

I was feeling normal. Like myself. And quite chipper actually.

I pottered back inside, found the kids all working quietly and doing their thing.

I wandered into the kitchen and before I knew what was happening I had begun to unpack some of the storage cupboards.

One thing led to another and suddenly I was overwhelmed by piles of stuff.

His stuff.

His office space. 

This happens. I feel good and able to meander through the day. I attempt to tackle the hit-list that is my home.....and time after time I am derailed.

My home is full of 'piles'. I just cant seem to ever get through anything. It is SO debilitating. I wish I could just tell someone to come in and take it all away but that is not an option.

I have to do it.

I have to allow myself the time but God alone knows how long I am going to live in a house full of 'piles'.

The kids were deeply affected today too; they discovered some of their childhood toys which opened up memories.


And then you have to pull yourself together. Because life waits for no-one.

Levi and I had an appointment for orientation at his new school so we dried our tears, put on loud, inappropriate music and did the necessary.

He knocked their socks off.....despite the fact that his mother told the HOD that I have absolutely nothing to offer them other than the stellar opportunity to educate my son...who will, in turn, make their school look good.

At least they know not to ask me to cake sales and camp-outs.


02 March 2016

Of Grief and Raves

This weekend I went to ULTRA. I went on invitation with a group of friends and have to say I was tentatively excited. I told myself it was not a 'rave' but a music festival.....that way I did not freak myself out. :-)



It was an unforgettable 10 hour experience. I honestly have seldom felt more alive and in my own skin.


Part of me felt guilty.

Part of me felt ashamed that this is what I needed to feel like myself.

Surely I should be 'grieving more appropriately'?

As these thoughts all began crashing into my brain, threatening to suffocate me in the middle of the heaving crowd, the opening bars of  "See You Again" reverberated through the air.

In that moment every single negative emotion vanished. The clarity I experienced was incredible.

Russell knew me better than anyone. He knew my way of dealing with life was often not straight and narrow. He also knew my boundaries were rock solid and that ultimately I did what needed to be done to get through shitty times. He watched me over and over again. Quietly supporting me; never trying to confine me.




In that moment I felt him applauding my journey, smiling at the girl he knew could dance her feet off any night of the week given half the chance.


Grief is not about tears for me. It is not about looking back and wishing things could be same.

It is nothing like I thought it would be. 

Every day I grieve. Every day I grieve differently because grief is a reaction to major loss.

No two days find my reaction the same. 

The implications for me are huge as I never really know where the grief tide is taking me BUT I have finally come to a resting place in my own heart that wherever it does take me - I will be okay.