Thursday, August 25, 2011

Don't Tea-se Me (Bro)!

This morning, I was getting ready to head to IKEA to meet some friends for some shopping (they are actually in town from Iowa, which doesn't have an IKEA, so they wanted to browse around there).  I was dressed and ready to go, purse over my shoulder, breakfast bar in hand, when it happened:  the great hot tea incident of 2011.  This was almost as monumental as the earthquake on the east coast that tipped over some lawn furniture a couple days ago, folks.  I grabbed my travel mug of decaf cinnamon tea, but the lid wasn't on tightly enough, and in one fell swoop my breakfast, my skirt, and my kitchen floor were covered in scalding hot tea.  I jumped back, cursing and banging into things.  I quickly regained my composure and got out of my skirt so the hot tea wouldn't sear my skin any more.  Next, I got out a handful of kitchen towels and started soaking up the mess.  I started another pot of water, realizing I'd have time for it to come to a near-boil while I picked out a new outfit, started my skirt soaking in cold water, and started a load of laundry so that every dish towel I own wouldn't be dirty at once (never a good thing).

I realized that this is the type of thing that starts happening when I get stressed, when I have too much on my mind and plate at any given time.  I've got a lot of things I want to cram into this week -- transcribing interviews I've done for my book, writing a legal brief (I still do some freelance legal writing), getting licensed to practice law in Texas (so I can freelance write legal things here too), finding someone to sub-lease my apartment, going through things (again!) to try to reduce stuff to be moved to either the house in San Antonio or the condo in Austin, etc.  So naturally, that's when this sort of thing would happen to me.  It's par for the course, really; I can't count how many times in law school this kind of thing popped up.  I'd lock my keys in the car, back into something, fall in the mud while I was rushing to get to class on time, etc.  I haven't always handled these things so well -- I used to have meltdowns over these little things, these "last straws."  I'm proud that I was able to take it in stride today.  Is it because I'm older?  More mellow?  Is it because of the perspective I have on life? I've been through much worse, obviously, and I'm stronger for it.  I'm absolutely certain there will be worse things to come at some point in my life. 

Today's Great Hot Tea Incident threw off my morning, my clothes, and my ability to be prompt, yes -- but is it really that big of a deal?  No.  I still got to IKEA to meet my friends (though in shorts and 20 minutes late), new travel mug of tea in hand.

The next time a sitcom-worthy "disaster" throws a loop in your day, how will you react?  Will you give a minor inconvenience more energy than it's worth by stressing out and letting it ruin your day?  Or will you laugh it off and go with the flow?

Remember:  life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we react to it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

It's Moving Season!

Last weekend, I went to San Antonio and took the first truckload (well, SUV-load) of stuff to the house.  Most significantly, Mittons and my keg-a-rator now reside at our southern home (and I honestly don't know which one "Antonio" was more excited about).  From now on, every time I visit, I'll be taking a tote or two (or three) of stuff that we know will be going to the house.  My Halloween stuff is down there, with my tote of Christmas things soon to follow.  For the next six weeks or so, I'm always going to be running inventory in my head -- do we have one of these at the house already?  Is there a spare for the condo?  What can I take, and when?  It's going to be kind of nice to do a gradual move, especially with it being such a short distance.  The condo is really close to my apartment too -- less than a mile! -- so that will be relatively easy to furnish once I take possession in a couple weeks.

In the meantime, my friends Erin & Chad are moving this weekend too.  They are fellow Iowan-to-Austinites, having moved here about the same time as me.  Their lease was up and they (like me) wanted to find a living space in Austin that was more suited to what they wanted, as well as a bit more affordable.  What is nice is that we will be able to take on the moves together -- I am lending them some totes (the ones Antonio used for his recent move into the house) and boxes, and then I will get those back (and a bunch more empties) once they have moved.  Antonio's coming up this weekend and we are going to help Erin & Chad move, as we've done for each other the last few moves we've gone through.  They will be needing a washer and dryer at their new place, which works out well for me, as I'm going to need to sell mine.  It's nice how this is all working out.  I'm going to take it as a sign that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing...not just moving, but moving forward.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Second Act

I'm excited to be "going public" with a lot of good news in this post!  I haven't been blogging about any of these things to date because I didn't want to get ahead of myself by counting my chickens before they hatched.  (Growing up in a farming community, that analogy has always stuck with me especially well.)  There really are a lot of exciting things coming up in my life, so I didn't want to jinx anything.

The biggest news is that "Antonio" and I are going to move in together!  I'll be moving to his house in San Antonio, and that's where I'll pursue my real estate career once I get settled in there.  I'm incredibly excited to share my life with him and to be starting the next chapter of my life.

Speaking of chapters, I've started working on a second book.  No, I haven't yet completed my book of life lessons taught by Professor Grief; that is still in the beginning stages as well.  However, I had a great idea for a new book right as I found myself having a hard time re-living the grief and writing about that all day, every day.  I decided that I should dive right into the second book, as I needed another writing project that was more fun, so I could temper the difficult and draining writing with something a bit more lively and mood-boosting.  My second book will be a coffee-table book about the city of Austin, featuring people from each of the 50 states who have chosen Austin as their home.

Speaking of Austin-related ventures, I've also started designing some tee shirts and stickers to sell at some of the city's eclectic souvenir shops and boutiques.  I've found a graphic designer to turn my visions into visuals, and am going to start shopping my designs around soon.

As I'm going to need to be in Austin a lot for the book and the merchandise, I decided to buy a condo in Austin to use for those purposes, and for "Antonio" and I to have for weekends in the city that is the capital of fun.  I'm really excited about the condo -- it's right on South Congress, near great shopping and restaurants, and with an incredible view of the capitol building and the downtown Austin skyline.  Sure, it's pretty small -- almost a glorified hotel room, really -- but tastefully designed and in the perfect location.  There's a pool, exercise facilities, and free laundry facilities about 100 feet from the front door.  I think it will be perfect for what we need, and easy to rent out later once I don't need to be in Austin so much.

I will take possession of the condo sometime early next month, and will have the condo and my apartment throughout the month of September.  I couldn't move all at once, as I have a ten-day trip to Europe planned with my in-laws next month too!  I'm really looking forward to that -- we are going to Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.  Oktoberfest in Germany should be incredible!

There are many details to figure out -- what goes to the house, what goes to the condo, the closing date, which furnishings (if any) will come with the condo and for what price, when the cats will move, etc.  Chief among the things to figure out is finding someone to take over my lease.  My lease runs through early December, and I'd like to get out of the apartment at the end of September.  Luckily, my good friend Amy has been staying with me, helping out with some bills, and watching my place and cats for me for the last couple of months (which was really handy when I went on my two week, South Padre-to-Dominican Republic trip with both of our families).  She will be staying with me at the apartment through my vacation and while I'm moving, so that will be really nice to have her help with the cats and showing the apartment to prospective sub-lessees.

So there's the update!  I called this blog post "The Second Act" because of the way I heard Jane Fonda describe life in a lecture she gave in Des Moines once (regardless of anyone's opinion of this woman, she is an incredible speaker and moved me greatly).  She compared life to a three-act play, each act consisting of approximately 30 years.  She likened the First Act to setting the stage, the Second Act as introducing more plot and interesting twists, and the Third Act as wrapping things up.  This analogy really strikes a chord with me; I believe my life was in the First Act until the day Brian died.  The life I led to that date set the stage for what would transpire in Acts Two and Three.  At this point, I'm partially into Act Two, and looking forward to seeing what plot lines unfold before me.  I'm also very happy to have someone with whom to share the stage, whose life story is intertwined with mine.

There's been a lot going on in my life, to be sure, and a lot of this has happened very quickly.  It's a bit overwhelming to keep up with, but also incredibly exciting because I'm looking forward to the future.  As a widow, I've struggled to focus on enjoying the present, what life has had to offer each day.  Now, for the first time since Brian died, I'm planning for the future and working on the life I want to have.  This is a big step for me.  I hadn't been able (or maybe willing?) to think about the future or to look forward until now, partly because I was too afraid to count on anything, always waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me.  Now, I feel like I'm on solid ground and I'm able to take steps toward what I want in my life.  I'm ready to see what Acts Two and Three bring.



Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cheer Up Charlie

My last several posts have been really depressing, which is definitely honest, but also not very encouraging for those who read this blog for a sense of hope that it really does get better.  (By the way, it does.)  I sometimes struggle with that -- I try so hard to be an optimist, to find the silver lining, to stay focused on the present instead of my longing for the past or my anxiety about the future, to enjoy what life offers me now instead of thinking about what could have been.  Obviously, sometimes I'm winning, and sometimes grief is winning.  The last time I wrote, grief was strong-arming me into a sad, hopeless state.  Today, I'm writing to say that I've waged war on those feelings and I'm on top again.

How did I do that?

First, some great things happened -- my mom came to Texas to visit me and meet Antonio, I made some great new personal and professional contacts in Austin, I got to celebrate some big birthdays with friends, and one night I even got to lay on top of a car at the beach at night and watch shooting stars with Antonio.  Second, I made myself focus on those good things that I was experiencing and really tried to push aside all negative thoughts -- the missing Brian, some miscellaneous and really unimportant drama, frustrations with situations and people in my life, etc.  When you're going through a tough grieving patch, it's easy for anything bad to seem magnified, for any weight on your shoulders to feel ten times heavier than it should.  I had to actually make myself count my blessings, to list out some of the great things that I had the opportunity to enjoy.

Third, I have taken a break from writing the "Brian book," the one about my grief journey and the lessons I have learned.  By no means am I shelving it for good, or even for probably too long, but I did have to take a break.  It's just too hard for me to focus on reliving the most painful days of my life, day in and day out, to remember and articulate every detail possible.  Doing that for hours on end every day was too draining; there was no way I could keep my chin up through that many tears.  Luckily, I've started another book, and this one will be fun to write!  I'm working on a book about Austin, TX, and what causes people from all over the country to uproot themselves from what they know to plant themselves in this great city.  I've been meeting people, taking notes, conducting interviews, etc.  It's been a really exciting change of pace, something I'm genuinely excited about.

I have some other very exciting things going on that I will share with my blogworld soon....but in the meantime, I wanted to reiterate a simple truth:  Life is good.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Just Breathe

Brian died at home from a pulmonary embolism.  Blood clots traveled to his lungs and stopped his breathing.  I was home when it happened, along with our two cats.  Now I live in a state of fear that it will happen again -- to someone I love, someone I'm with, or maybe to me.  Every time my leg hurts, I think I have a clot forming.  Every time I don't hear "Antonio" breathing in bed next to me, I have to put my hand on his chest to check for a heartbeat and the feeling of his chest moving up and down.  I have a hard time getting restful sleep in a room with a snorer, knowing that the apnea causing the noise and the sudden, noisy intakes of air (that most people would just consider a nuisance) is happening after a temporary cessation of oxygen to the lungs.  If I hear someone snoring, I feel compelled to lay awake and listen, waiting to make sure the silence is temporary and that the next breath is taken, that the person is still alive.  If I see one of my cats sleeping but don't see her chest moving up and down, I sneak over to make sure she's still breathing, still alive, that she too hasn't been suddenly taken.  I constantly wonder if I've got a clot forming and don't know it.  I worry that I'm going to imagine symptoms, and also that they will present and I will think I'm imagining them.  I think about how stupid it would be for me to let the same thing happen to me that happened to Brian, how I could never forgive myself if it happened to anyone else while I was there, and I worry that if it happens again, no one will want to be in my presence.  How do I stop worrying about this?  How do I stop thinking it will happen again?  And what if it does?

You Wanna Make A Memory?

A taste of my old life, courtesy of Pizza Hut
To help get me through this wave of grief that has been washing over me, pulling me down like a strong undertow, I've been trying to enjoy "Brian" things.  Last Sunday, I ordered a half pepperoni, half pineapple stuffed crust pizza -- our ultimate indulgence delivery treat.  I would normally have gotten just pineapple -- my favorite -- but I wanted to get pepperoni to remember him.  I have been wearing a couple of Brian's shirts around the apartment and wrapping up in a memory quilt my aunt Tracy made with most of Brian's Chicago Bears shirts.  I've been looking at pictures of Brian to re-live those good times we had together; I even got out the posterboard of pictures that was displayed at the visitations and funeral from its place in the closet and have put it back in its old spot next to my bed so I can see it every night and morning.  I've been listening to The Avett Brothers, especially the I And Love And You album. 

Daddy's girl Ellie on his memory quilt
Are these things helping me remember, or keeping me stuck?  I can enjoy good music, good food, and good memories and still enjoy life.  I need to make sure I'm continuing to do the latter, and as long as I'm doing that, I'm doing okay. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Remember When....?

For the past few days, I've been stuck on one feeling:  longing for my old life.  I want to be back in Iowa, back in my house, practicing law, and back in Brian's arms, planning and enjoying our life as husband and wife.  There's too much in my life now that is new, unknown, confusing, and scary.  I just miss the comfort of the life I knew and loved.  It's emotionally and mentally draining to write about that life, and my great loss, while I'm trying to carve out a new life at the same time.  It can be overwhelming.  It makes me want to curl into a ball under the covers and cry sometimes.  That doesn't do much good, other than providing some measure of emotional release.  But I can't go back to that old life, no matter how hard I wish, so crying in bed is the next best thing.  Man, that's a pretty crummy "next best thing."  I hope I can get this out of my system soon and get back to enjoying the life I have now, which I know is full of love, friends, and goodness -- I just have to remember that, and focus on those things instead of what I no longer have, to help me through this wave of grief and sadness that has consumed me lately.