Grasping at Straws

A few weeks ago, Paul and I took Ellie out to eat at Tyler’s, one of our favorite local places to go. We’ve been taking Ellie out and about since the day we got home from the hospital last May, partly in an effort to maintain some sense of normalcy and give us a break from the many hours spent in that wonderful, awful, confusing, enlightening newborn phase. Now going out is no longer a race to finish our food as quickly as possible and Ellie joins us at the table in a high chair, entertaining herself with toys, coasters, straws and anything else within reach (note to self, continue to remove knives from reach).

On this particular night, Ellie was happily playing with her Eeyore rattle (which just entailed tossing him about and then throwing him on the ground – “How often will Mommy pick this up for me?” seems to be a fun new game) and Paul and I were debriefing after a long week at school. We were surrounded by families, which seems to always be the case when you go to dinner at 5:30 PM on a Friday (whatever, it’s the new party time).

I looked over at the booth to my right, where a harried looking mom was sitting with her husband and two kids. The daughter picked up a straw, tore the top of the wrapper off, then blew the rest of the paper in her dad’s direction.

He laughed.

I started crying.

They were silent tears, but still they rolled down my face. Ellie was oblivious, of course, but Paul knew. And when he glanced over at the family, he also knew why.

Such a simple, almost mundane interaction between a daughter and her father, but I will never know it again with my own dad.

We got to the point where–when my dad was still alive–he would take out one of the ballpoint pens he always carried and actually write his name on the straw first to make sure I didn’t steal it. Then whenever I wasn’t paying attention, off came the top of the wrapper, and into my face the rest flew.

Virtually every single meal out that we shared.

I never thought that just seeing that sort of moment being shared by another father and daughter would affect me so much. It just was a little tug at the stitches I have worked so hard to maintain in order to hold myself together.

It often strikes me how little we will ever know about most of the people we encounter in our lives. It was raining last Tuesday morning, so I took the bus and enjoyed listening to some music on my phone. We hardly ever have to drive much of anywhere anymore, so taking the bus or running is really the only time I have just to sit and listen to music. As I thumbed through my music library, the Beatles’ “I Will” came on, and I stopped my search and just let the song play.

I’m not sure really how it became our de facto song as a family, but it did, and no matter how many times I hear it, I think about my mom and dad singing it on one of our many beach trips, or about how Paul and I walked down the aisle to it after our wedding. All these memories somehow manage to roll past my eyes in the 1:46 it takes for the song to run its course.

Looking around the crowded bus, it occurred to me that no one else knew exactly how I was feeling in that moment. That in that short span, I heard and saw my dad and my family as complete, even if just in my mind. No one else knew how bittersweet those memories felt even after four and a half years.

But then, looking at all the different faces surrounding me, I realized that I also would never know what they were thinking or feeling. Maybe someone else has a broken heart, or is stressed about an upcoming exam. Maybe they just got a new puppy. Maybe they drank too much last night. Maybe they’re going to drink too much tonight. Maybe their mom has dementia. Maybe they just got engaged. I will never know, and that’s just life – it’s okay as long as we respect that other people are also experiencing their own battles.

Maybe that’s the art of empathy and just maybe that’s something we could all be better at, especially in these tumultuous last few months.

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My Sentiment, Exactly

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There is this uplifting scene towards the end of How the Grinch Stole Christmas where the Grinch’s heart expands to three times its normal size. Having a kid is somewhat like having this happen-except throw frustration, sleep deprivation, anxiety and abject terror at the responsibility for keeping this totally helpless tiny human alive into the mix.

To be honest, ever since our daughter Ellie was born six weeks ago, I have walked around with a totally different perspective on motherhood. I have looked at other mothers-especially those with multiple children-and wondered just how the hell they do it.

I don’t mean how do they do it on a day to day basis.

Yes, the sleep deprivation outright sucks. But no matter how long and frustrating the nights get, things always seem a little brighter once the sun comes up (because, let’s be honest, the first few weeks are mostly just about survival).

And yes, the constant crying and occasional screaming (newborns are sort of like dachshunds – a body that tiny really shouldn’t be able to produce that loud a sound, it just can’t be natural!) is frustrating, but at some point it always passes.

No – caring for a baby is hard work for sure, but it’s something that slipped into our lives like it was supposed to, because loving our daughter just made it so. What I wondered about these other mothers-now that I am one-is how they walk around with this expanded heart. A heart filled with boundless love but also what must be boundless anxiety and a fierce sense of protection.

I wondered – how have these women managed to temper these feelings and carry on with their daily lives, appearing so nonchalant? I wanted to know the key – I wanted to know their secret to somehow resuming a relatively normal life and regaining some sense of who I was before the baby. I wanted to know once I found her-this old Jenni-how I could marry who I used to be with this new identity as a mother. I reasoned that surely this must be possible.

Everyone else seems to be able to do it.

A few weeks after Ellie was born, I got on my horse for the first time since last October. At the barn, I felt a curious blend of emotions – a brief taste of independence and its joy mixed with the absolute visceral need to get back to my baby. Still, I pressed on and enjoyed a brief ride because it’s a part of who I am.

I also recently began running again, slowly re-building my stamina. It’s just 30 minutes, but something about getting outside, pounding the pavement with my two (giant) feet and just sweating helped me to slowly start seeing that it just might be possible to still be me

Perhaps becoming a mother for me doesn’t mean that I need to accept a completely new identity – maybe it just means accepting that I am capable of having my heart expand as such.

Becoming a parent has been everything and nothing like what I expected. I expected the day to day to be exactly like the way it is – the constant nursing, the dirty diapers, the lack of sleep. But while I knew instinctually that I would love my child, I couldn’t have braced for the depth and degree.

I learn something new about Ellie literally every day. It’s amazing to watch her grow and experience the world – at times, I definitely feel like I’m fumbling my way through this, but a few days ago, she cracked her first really big smile at Paul, and I thought there is nothing I would rather see.

I wouldn’t describe myself as overtly sentimental on the surface – but, I will take that memory and store it inside my ever expanding heart.

 

 

It’s Just a House

Paul and I began 2012 like most other years – excited about the prospect of a fresh start and a new year to experience together. That spring, I was promoted at work, and we began to seriously talk about starting a family. I loved the little townhouse my family had purchased a few years before, but it was time (so I felt) to move up and along to a real house.

Paul and I got on a kick looking for restored bungalows, somehow ending up doing the majority of our searching in Durham. Paul wanted to be somewhere walkable to restaurants and other fun things to do, and I wanted a home for the future family I envisioned. We stumbled upon the listing for our house – I was instantly smitten. Built in 1916, it had been beautifully restored. Yet, we actually bypassed it after the first showing. We were still “new” to downtown Durham, having been UNC students.

The house was in an area of Durham still in transition, and we were temporarily blinded by the dilapidated church across the street (now an art gallery) and the uncertainty of what we were getting into. We looked at other places in the next month or two after our initial showing and just didn’t see anything that seemed suited for us. Something about the house stuck with us, so we went back and gave it another chance. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was perfect for us. We decided to put in an offer and make our home there.

We closed on the house the morning of September 28th, 2012. Less than two hours later, my mom called me. My dad had suffered a major stroke – a stroke that would take his life just over two weeks later.

Instead of unpacking and making our new house a home, I spent time planning my dad’s funeral. The next few months were a blur, and to be honest, I don’t remember much about that time apart from barely functioning. Yet, somehow the fog lifted a bit the next spring. I remember specifically that Memorial Day weekend – Paul and I took our two dogs to Umstead Park for a long hike. I crouched on a rock in the middle of the creek and watch my dog enjoy the rushing water. I looked at the sunlight filter through the trees and thought for the first time that life could be okay again.

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The next week, the accident occurred and I sustained my TBI, aphasia and apraxia. Once again, our “normal” life took a backseat. Instead of cherishing our first summer in the new house, we spent time driving back and forth to doctor and therapy appointments. I spent much of my time sleeping on the couch, trying to recover from the shock and haze of my injury.

All I wanted during that time was for things to be stable – to have something solid that I could hold on to. Life was not at all what I had envisioned the morning we closed on our house. But as it goes, life went on.

I attended an aphasia caregiver panel recently at UNC, and the more I hear other people’s stories, the luckier I feel about my own recovery. I wasn’t lucky to go through the process, but things could have turned out much worse. Here I am on the other side, and I’m able to utilize my experience in order to live a richer life.

I actually started writing this post a couple of months ago, when we confirmed the move date from our bungalow to a modern condo in Chapel Hill. It was a huge decision for us and not one that we made lightly. But with Paul in school and my acceptance to the Speech and Hearing doctoral program at UNC, moving back to Chapel Hill just made sense. And, with Baby Shafer set to make her debut this May, we wanted to down size and find a place walkable to school, daycare and all the places we love in Chapel Hill.

I’m glad that I sat on this post for a while, because if I’d finished it back in February, it would have been a pretty maudlin read. I was convinced that I would be devastated to leave the house that I had placed so many hopes and expectations on – I had placed the dreams I had for that house on an unreachable pedestal, just by virtue of how life turned out to be while we were there. That’s okay, but it wasn’t realistic to expect life to cooperate just because I wanted it to.

There is a pivotal scene toward the end of the movie Up where Carl lets go of the house he shared with Ellie. He understands at that point of the movie that it’s just a house and that letting go of the actual house doesn’t mean he has to let go of the memories he made there.

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I have learned to let go of a lot of things the past few years, and then more I have to let go, the more I understand that I keep what matters most close to me – what matters is not necessarily where I am but who I am with and what I choose to do with my time.

To spend time with Paul and our animals, to embark on this new journey together with a family and school, it’s more important than any expectation I could place on what, in the end, is just a house.

Two Lines

There is this hill on my typical running route that always gets me, no matter how many times I scale it. Some days I can tackle it with a little more enthusiasm, and other days leave me huffing and puffing with a stream of expletives running through my head. A lot of the time, I just put my head down and focus on keeping one foot in front of the other.

I guess the irony is not lost on me – that is how I have mostly approached the last (almost) three years. After my dad died, it was literally all I could do mentally to function, and a lot of the time, it was more about getting through the next five minutes without having a breakdown. Eventually, the minutes became hours, then days. Not that I didn’t think about him all the time, but I was better able to look at the big picture–the good times, the memories–than just keeping my head down and focusing on my emotional survival.

My recovery from a Traumatic Brain Injury has been much the same way. I wasn’t scared to look up toward the top of the hill–to set goals for my recovery–but I often had to focus on the smaller chunks of recovery. And many times, I had to re-set and adjust my goals along the way. I had to be flexible, which hasn’t always been my forte.

Recently, we took what may be our last trip down to the beach for the foreseeable future, as we finally sold my family’s condo there – the last vestige of our presence there. It was bittersweet saying goodbye, and for a long time, I didn’t want to believe that that chapter was finally closing. I worried that by leaving the beach behind, I would be losing a piece of my dad. I gradually came to understand, though, that it was never the beach itself that mattered – we could have gone anywhere. It was the memories we made together as a family. And while I can’t take the ocean with me, I will always hold the memories we made there in my heart.

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And I said goodbye, for now, to the beach.

I had no idea, though, that less than a month later, Paul and I would be writing another new chapter in our lives.

I am going to be honest.

A baby is something that I have always wanted, but not until the last couple of years did my desire to have one really materialize. Once we finally started trying, everything else happened. I lost my dad. We helped my mom move up here. We dealt with the properties, the radio station, and ourselves. And then I got hurt. In the mean time, several good friends were blessed with children, and I was so very happy for them, truly.

But it was hard. I guess it sounds selfish, and I don’t intend for that – because I truly, truly was happy for my friends. It was just hard to want something so badly and not have it happen month after month. It wasn’t really something that I shared with many people. I know other women have gone (and are going) through the same emotions. It took me a long time to realize that it was completely okay to want something to go right.

Still, this past Wednesday morning, I wasn’t expecting this:

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I probably shouldn’t repeat the exact words running through my head at the time. I was just in total disbelief. I still am.

Wednesday’s blood test confirmed it, and today’s blood test showed everything is on track so far.

As you can probably guess, it’s very early on. So why am I sharing? A lot of women wait until their second trimester. I just couldn’t. I understand that there is always a chance of something happening, but I have determined that I can’t live the next two months full of anxiety and “what ifs.” I have to live the life that I have today, and today I am thrilled and excited.

Through this blog, I have shared the ups and downs of my recovery from grief and TBI, and here I am. I am so excited to share this now.

I don’t have a due date yet – that will come in a few weeks with the ultrasound. But it’s looking like May. Again, the irony isn’t lost on me – my dad was born on May 8. While I am devastated that he won’t be physically here to meet his grandchild, I always carry him in my heart and can’t wait to tell our child all about him. I am grateful that I have my mom, Paul’s parents, and kind and understanding friends.

I am ready for this new chapter and can’t wait to share it.

Two Years from 23,000 Feet

Tomorrow marks two years since my accident.

In my mind, it’s last Saturday afternoon, and I’m on the first of three flights, flying from Monterey, California, to Los Angeles. Miraculously, I have the row to myself (I use the term “row” loosely, since the plane was so small – a trip to the bathroom resulted in contortions). I also have a window seat, which I treasure. Some people are terrified of heights and so they keep the window shades pulled down tight. While I try not to think about the fact that we are hurtling through the air in what is essentially a tin can, I get a sense of comfort from looking at the earth below. It makes me feel very present.

The scenery from Monterey to LA was dotted with mountains and cloaked in fog. We flew down the coast, but it was impossible at times to discern the fog from the ocean. It was as though the fog just rolled right into the beach and beyond. The man behind me has been talking non-stop since we boarded. He seems to be unaware that speech is something to be preserved and conserved like water in the drought-stricken state we are passing over.

When I look at the earth below, I note its cracks and deep veins, as if the earth was literally being sucked dry despite being so close to the coast. Visualization has been a powerful tool in recovering my speech over the past two years, more from the perspective of “seeing” a new way of thinking about how to say a unique or complex word. Glancing at the rolling earth below, I think this must be the literal visualization of “arid.” I could almost see the word floating up through the air currents. I wondered if I could reach down and touch the earth below, would it blow away?

I think about the last five days, which I spent at my first Clinical Aphasiology Conference in Monterey.

I am avoiding finishing the last few pages of my book–like the last bite of a tasty dessert, I’m just not ready for the end–and so I take some time to let the past few days settle and absorb. I had been mentally preparing for this conference (and this trip) for months, and it was hard to admit that it was over, and I was coming home.

It was even harder to absorb where I am now compared to where I was two years ago.

I learned so much at the conference, which is a fairly intimate gathering of some of the top researchers in aphasia. I also had the pleasure of meeting some really lovely people. I am not certain I could adequately convey the impact that attending this conference had on me, both professionally and personally. Seeing data from my recovery presented to a group of clinical researchers and standing up to share a bit of my experience was invaluable to me. More than that, I hope that it is a inkling of work to be done and can help to further the field in some way. Because more than anything, what good does all the research in the world do if we can’t apply it and see it make a difference in someone’s life? What are we doing, then? I hope that my own recovery–understanding that we are all unique–gives even one person hope that there is something beyond those fragile first few months.

Ironically, my favorite memory from the conference was the evening that a group of us drove over to Carmel-By-The-Sea. It was chilly for late May, but there was something undeniably magic about the town. We walked on the beach and back up through town, stopping at the Cypress for dinner and drinks. Just having an intimate conversation with a group of lovely ladies, most of whom I had just met at the conference, was fantastic. To be able to sit and converse and relate on a personal level, isn’t that really what it’s all about? Two years ago, I had no promises that I would ever be able to do so again.

Some people who sustain a TBI suffer immeasurable changes in personality. While I am beyond grateful to say that that has not been the case with me, I would be untruthful if I said I hadn’t changed at all. But, for me, it’s been more of a slow evolution in the things that sustain me – the things that I value and treasure. Gradually, I have come to the realization, as I wrote in my last post, that I need to be more present. More appreciative of the mundane moments that make up life, because really – the moments that sweep you away  (whether in tragedy or joy) are few and far between compared to the everyday. Maybe it’s not that I have changed all that dramatically. I am still the same person, but to put it succinctly, maybe it’s just that I let myself feel more.

So I come full circle, back to the guy in the seat behind me, talking incessantly.

Maybe any other time I would be annoyed. However, reflecting on the then and now – I let myself be.

Some people are uncomfortable with silence. They will do anything to fill it. After having to think so hard about speaking after my accident, I became a lot more comfortable with silence. I accepted that sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it. Whether you say it in words or not.

Here’s to two years.

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Enabling: It’s Disabling

A few weeks ago, some girlfriends and I ventured on a beach getaway. That Saturday, while cooling off from a few hours in the sun, we somehow ended up watching several episodes of a show called My 600 Pound Life. It seemed only natural to munch on the Krispy Kreme doughnuts we had procured the night before. Before we knew it, we had been sucked in to a downward spiral of television watching. Much like watching a car crash, we couldn’t seem to turn away. Or change the channel. 

A common theme prevailed: either the subject of the show was ready to make a change, or she wasn’t. Sure, most people say they want to change (something – it doesn’t have to be a weight thing), but we all know that it’s easy to say or wish or think about change. It’s much harder to actually do it – to make the change happen. 

Frequently, those on the show who weren’t truly ready to change–to adopt a new lifestyle–were surrounded by people who enabled them to stay mired in their habits. To stay stuck in their comfort zone. Many times, the enablers were family members, and they didn’t know any other way. Or they couldn’t stand to see their loved one struggling. So, of course, it makes sense to bring McDonalds to someone who is grossly overweight and bedridden. 

This is an extreme example, sure. But in my experience, it’s not all that far fetched to say the same type of enabling occurs in other ways. And again, it all stems from the family member or friend not just wanting to help but to avoid the inevitable–the frustration, the heartache, the difficulty–of change.

The first post I wrote when I started this blog was called “Let Me Finish!”. At the time, I spoke in very halting sentences and often took a very long time to finish my thoughts. People would frequently want to help me out by finishing my sentences. But what they didn’t realize was that they weren’t helping me at all. They meant well, of course. But they were actually hindering my recovery, because the only way I was going to become faster and more fluent was just doing it myself–no matter how long it took. 

Additionally, when I first began using my phone and computer again, I frequently misspelled words or else completely left them out. My aphasia made it very difficult for me to string words together in a way that made sense, even though in my head, I knew exactly what I wanted to say. I have heard this example many times throughout my recovery, but having aphasia is akin to have all your words–your “files”–overturned and jumbled around in your brain. 

Now, mind you, I have always been an avid reader and writer at heart. I typically was also quite compulsive about correct spelling and grammar. Obviously, suddenly not being able to make sense with written or typed words drove me crazy. I immediately began to ask Paul to review and correct all my texts and posts. He indulged me at first but soon wised up after our first meeting at TAP. He then agreed to read my work but refused to correct anything that was wrong.

Not surprisingly, this development was hard to take. I would stare for what felt like hours at whatever I had written, trying to figure out if it was sensical and correct. And yet, it was exactly what I needed. By using Paul as my editor and lifeline, I was never going to learn how to recognize what needed to be corrected. By refusing to enable me, Paul actually helped me quickly recover my propensity for writing and honed my eye in order to carefully QC my own work, something I still have to do today.

Another way in which Paul stopped enabling me was refusing to order food for me in public. It seems very basic, but that was so key in my recovery. I live in downtown Durham, which means I am within biking distance to some of the tastiest food the state (dare I say, the entire South) has to offer. Not being comfortable speaking in public, even if it was only to order my egg and cheese bagel from Monuts, was disheartening. 

To be honest, when you have a language impairment, talking in public is really intimidating. Now, of course, I have made so much progress that I don’t hesitate. But at the time, it was scary as hell. I really just preferred to hide in the corner and have Paul speak for me. But, obviously this didn’t correlate well to my goal of getting better. In order to get better and more comfortable speaking in public, I sort of had to…speak in public. Plus, Paul started to refuse to speak for me. So that was that.

I suspect sometimes that people with similar impairments seek the easy way out, at least initially like I did, because (surprise) change is hard–more than that, change is painful.

You can’t go from 0 to 60 the first time out. Sometimes, all you can do is to take a walk down to the mailbox and go back inside. Then the next day, maybe you take a few more steps. But the point is, you still have to take those first few steps. No one else can do it for you. You can’t write a book without first writing a basic sentence. 

But, one thing I have learned for sure over the past year is that it is never too late to make a change. No matter what that change is. Improvement is always possible, though it may not come as quickly as we’d like.

Change starts with learning how to advocate for yourself and how to recognize the best avenue to improvement, even if it’s difficult. Change starts with taking that walk or re-learning how to order that bagel sandwich. Or by sending a simple text. Change starts by taking ownership of your goals and recognizing your weaknesses. 

Now I’m off to order my own beer, thanks.

An(other) Inconvenient Truth

Death, much like sex, is still a taboo topic of conversation.

Oh sure, we like to watch it. Just turn on the TV. Heck, I have turned watching Forensic Files into a nightly bedtime ritual. Or maybe you ate dinner last night, half listening to a news story about another bomb in Gaza. Absentmindedly chewing your chicken, thinking about your weekend plans while the news anchor drones on about another school shooting or chemical weapons in Syria.

Yes, we are surrounded by death every day, but most of the time, we remain insulated from the reality of actually experiencing it close to home, save for the kinds of deaths that occur with the passage of time and in their rightful order: the loss of a grandparent; a beloved pet; an elderly relative. No, these kinds of losses are not easy, but we accept that they are bound to happen eventually–one of the natural consequences of time.

Yet, why is it that we never talk about or seem to accept the fact that our own death is a natural part of living? It’s sort of like pretending that abstinence is the only appropriate lifestyle to teach our children in school. As a large number of teenage moms can probably tell you, there has to be a better way to address these sometimes uncomfortable topics.

I’m not saying that the next time you’re out with friends, you should have a will signing party. I’m just saying that it’s time to stop avoiding what is, in fact, a very unavoidable part of life.

I mean really, we have books like, “Everyone Poops.”

I guess the sequel, “Everyone Dies,” probably wouldn’t fly off the shelves, huh?

If I have learned anything over the past two years–first from my father’s sudden and unexpected death to what could have been my own–it’s that yes, death in and of itself just plain sucks. Of course it sucks. But it flat out sucks even worse when you have no idea what you want–both for yourself and for people whom you love dearly.

On October 13, 2012, I had to make the most difficult decision of my life–the decision not to resuscitate my dad should the need arise. He had been in the hospital for just over two weeks, and the latest CT scan showed an additional bleed in his brain. A very kind doctor sat me down, showed me the scan, and talked to me honestly about my dad’s prospect for recovery.

I then had to ask myself what kind of life my dad would want for himself should he ever regain consciousness. My dad was my buddy; I knew him very well, and I was certain that he would not wish for the type of life he would experience should he wake up. Making that decision–though it was the right one–was the single most terrible moment of my life.

And you see, my dad never talked about what he wanted for himself. He never said, “If I should have a terrible stroke and lose all prospects for recovery, please let me go.” Instead, I had to place my faith in how well I knew him. But, would I have breathed a little easier if we had talked about it? If he had made his wishes clear? I would like to think so. Somehow, just knowing that you are carrying through with someone’s clearly stated wishes, provides more of a sense of purpose.

As for myself, Paul and I signed our new wills and health care power of attorney the day before my last surgery. While we both knew the risks associated with my cranioplasty were much lower than my initial craniotomy after the accident, we also didn’t want to take any chances. I was very clear in what I wanted for myself.

Yesterday, I took the day off work and drove down to the radio station and tower building to do some cleaning up. That way, Paul and I could still have the weekend at home.

When I pull up to the station, I always feel a little tug.

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The yard is sparse and weedy. Clearly, it is untended, as my dad was its sole caretaker. Inside, dust and debris seems to collect even though no one really walks through the door much anymore. I had packed a lunch, and as I ate my peanut and jelly and applesauce (because apparently I’m 12) in the half empty lobby, I thought about how much work death really is.

First, it is mental work, because the grieving process is ever present and evolving. And if that wasn’t enough to deal with, it socks you in the gut again with all the “arrangements” and “business matters.” If you thought running a radio station was complicated, imagine trying to clean up after 40 plus years of memories and a lifetime dedicated to work.

One of the other most important things I have learned in this process–this process of learning about life and death–is that your stuff doesn’t go with you.

I know, it seems obvious, doesn’t it? But how many of you are holding on to boxes of junk you can’t bear to throw out but haven’t opened in weeks, months or years?

Yesterday, I found a box full of my childhood school papers. I had to stop myself from getting nostalgic. While I immediately wanted to go through every single thing, I took a step back and reminded myself that these things have been stuffed away in this box for a couple of decades, and life has gone on.

I’m not saying that certain mementos aren’t special. I’m just saying that just know–holding on to every single thing that holds some sort of meaning or perceived significance is fairly pointless. You make memories with people that you love  and via experiences – not things. When I am 80, if I am lucky enough to live that long, I doubt I will feel cheated that I threw away my high school yearbooks.

At home, I have slowly begun to shed the things I don’t regularly use. The process is freeing.

My perspective has gradually but definitely been changing. Perhaps this is just growing up? Regardless, the point is that by accepting the inevitable in life–which is scary, yes–you truly allow yourself to begin appreciating what you do have. What’s really important.

And by being clear in what you want for yourself, you just might save those who love you some heartache.