Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Oh yeah...I had a birthday in there...

My birthday was December 28, right smack dab in the middle of the holidays.  I turned 31.

Last year, my birthday was quiet and average, save one text that was sent to me in the middle of the night from a "friend" letting me know I had disappointed everyone by not having a big 30th birthday bash.  Sorry, but that wasn't what I wanted for my first birthday as a widow.  Birthdays in the middle of the holidays suck anyway -- throw a party and no one will come, but apparently if you don't throw one, you'll get flak about it.  It really put a damper on my birthday last year, so I was ready to have a good day this year.

We came home from visiting family in Cincinnati for Christmas in time to celebrate at home in San Antonio.  The BF had told me we would be going to a Spurs game, and we had a gift certificate to a nice restaurant, so I was looking forward to that very much.  Well, I brought a sinus bug home from the holidays and was seriously laid up all day -- I slept on the couch the majority of the day, and told "Antonio" we'd have to take a rain check on dinner, since I wanted to go when I could actually taste the wine and steak we'd be having.  I was still down for the game....only, I found out that the Spurs game was just a ruse and that we actually had tickets to the Nutcracker ballet!

I had a great night!  We got all dressed up, had appetizers at a bar nearby ahead of time, and we even got to drink champagne while we watched the show.  To keep it classy, I also purchased a bag of Cheez-Its from the bar/concession area at intermission to enjoy during the second half of the show.  Okay, you can laugh, but seriously, salty snacks and champagne make an excellent pairing, so go ahead and try some bubbly with your potato chips and see if you're still laughing.

One thing that has been weighing on my mind, though, is this -- Brian died one month and one day after his 31st birthday.  I would be lying if I said I didn't think about that as I turned 31.  I remember thinking, "This was Brian's last birthday."  I am now acutely aware of exactly how long he lived, and in a few days, I will have lived longer than him.  I know exactly how many days he got on this earth, and every day I live beyond January 29 will make me keenly aware of how much time he didn't get.  Soon, I will be older than he ever was, though he was two years and twelve days older than me.  I will live more days than he got to live, and I will get to experience things he never did -- getting a dog, having kids, traveling to places he dreamed of (Ireland, Australia, and Hawaii among them).

When I keep getting more days and more opportunities, I think of him and I wonder why he did not.  It makes me feel sad and somewhat guilty -- why should I be able to enjoy those things that he didn't?  And yet, I can't let that hold me back.  Regardless of what I do or don't do, he is not coming back.  And I have days of my life to fill.

I plan to fill my 31st year, and all those I'm blessed to have after this one, with every joy I can find.  If he couldn't do that, at least I can.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Short But Sweet

I wrote my last post last Tuesday, the two-year anniversary of Brian's passing.  I wrote in the morning, so I didn't get to tell my readers how the rest of the day went.

My cat had to go in to the vet for an enema.  Gross, and inconvenient, but she is doing fine now.  I'm just glad she's back to her normal, lazy, bossy self!

"Antonio" and I went out for lunch (tried a place we hadn't gone before) and played mini golf while she was at the vet's office.  That night, we just hung out and watched tv and had dinner at home.

That whole day, and the day before, I was full of emotions, mostly negative -- dread, sadness, regret, fear, longing, etc.  It made for a long and hard couple of days, and I know I couldn't have been really easy to deal with and live with in that time.  I snapped at Antonio a couple times, for things that either weren't his fault, or weren't worth snapping about.  But he knew what was really going on, why I was upset, and he called me on it.  We faced that time, and those challenges, together, in an open and honest way.  That helped so much.

As January 17th drew to a close, I took a few minutes to stop what I was doing and hold my love in an embrace.  I thanked him for being by my side and helping me through the hard times.  "We made it," I said.  "We made it through today.  You did great.  We did great."

The road is still bumpy, but it helps to have someone holding my hand.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Riding the Emotional Roller Coaster

Today marks two years to the day from when Brian died.  It's only 9:30 a.m., and already I've cried a small tributary of tears.  I also know that I will have a true smile on my face and I will laugh deeply and loudly before the day is over.  If life has taught me anything, it's that emotions are temporary and fickle, and can change at a moment's notice.  My pain and struggle at this moment don't preclude happiness later, even if "later" is just a few hours from now.  The past few days have reminded me how quickly one can go from feeling the highest highs to the lowest lows, so I just have to remember that it works the other way around too, and that I will make it through the low moments, one minute or one hour at a time.  It's been my mantra for a reason, because it's true and it works to get me through -- ONE. DAY. AT. A. TIME.  And when that's too much, one hour.  When THAT's too much....just one minute. 

In the last five days, I've had a whirlwind of emotions.  Perhaps this made my crash back to earth even worse, because of how far and hard I seemed to fall come Monday (yesterday). 

On Friday, I went to work -- more about that in another post soon! -- and had a training meeting in the morning and then got a lot done after that.  I left the office excited about my progress and my new career.  Then, it was off to Austin for the weekend.  I had a bunch of girlfriends (and, eventually, one brave and fantastic male soul) over at the condo on Friday for wine and conversation and was even able to introduce a new friend from New York into my "Austin crew," a wonderful group of dynamic young people I love spending time with in Texas' capital city every chance I get.  I had about nine people gathered around socializing in my 425 square foot condo, and it was wonderful.  I feel truly blessed to have these friends in Austin.

Saturday morning, I had a 60 minute massage courtesy of an Urban Dealight purchase that was too good to pass up.  Boy, was that wonderful!  From there, it was to Ikea, where I filled two carts (one regular, one industrial for furniture boxes) with purchases for the condo and our home in San Antonio.  I got a desk and office chair for the house (I will now have a home office!), an ourdoor table and potted plant for the condo's patio, a kitchen table and two chairs for the condo, and an assortment of other goodies -- magnets, organizers, hangers, etc.  From Ikea, I headed back to the condo, where I met up with my boyfriend (he had just gotten back to town from a work trip).  We immediately got gussied up for our big Saturday night, and what a night it was!

We went out for dinner with our friends Erin and Chad, our closest "couple friends," who I've known for years, and first met in Iowa.  We all moved to Austin together and have helped each other out with moves, cat-sitting, couch-crashing, and everything else imaginable in the past year and a half since then.  They owed us a dinner out, and Saturday was Erin's birthday, so it was a great opportunity to enjoy that.  That would have been great regardless of where we went or how we got there, but this night was above and beyond any expectations!  Chad's boss had sprung for a limo and some bubbly, and Chad had arranged separate dinner and dessert reservations so we could experience some of the best food Austin has to offer.  We met at their place around 5:30, and the limo picked us up at 6.  We drank champagne -- the real stuff, not cava, prosecco, or any other non-French bubbly imposter -- en route to Uchiko (, a Japanese restaurant that GQ recently named one of the Top 10 new restaurants in the United States, and that features for an executive chef Paul Qui, who is currently knocking it out of the park on this season of Top Chef: Texas.  We shared plate after plate of tapas-style Japanese food; from bacon tataki, to sake toro (salmon belly sashimi), to crispy brussels sprouts and yellow beets.  It was amazing -- everything seemed to melt in our mouths and the dishes had a great mix of savory and sweet tastes, making use of fresh ingredients and intersting combinations, garnished with the perfect sauces and garden greens to complement the tastes offered.  From there, we summoned the driver to take us to our dessert destination of Chez Zee (, a place renowned for its desserts.  We met another friend there and we all shared a large selection of desserts -- carrot cake, creme brulee, coconut cake being among them.  We all felt so lucky and blessed to be together having such a wonderful night.  I made the comment about how great life was, and lucky I was to be able to have a night like that and say, "Yes, this is my life."

Sunday, the good feelings only continued.  I woke up and got started on assembling some of that Ikea stuff while "Antonio" went golfing with family he has in Austin.  I got the patio table knocked out in no time, then took a break to meet up with a friend's husband from Iowa who was in Austin for a convention.  I took him to a Torchy's Tacos trailer, upon his request to show him "the best breakfast tacos in Austin."  Then, it was back to the condo for more furniture assembly.  Luckily, a friend came over and we chatted as we worked.  Not only was she a master at Ikea furniture assembly, it was a great time to get to talk to this special girl on a one-on-one basis, which I hadn't had the opportunity to do before.  We didn't know much about each others' histories, and we found we could relate to each other about a lot of things -- loss, change, adversity, and strength.  We talked openly about loss, religion, moving forward, changes in expectations and shattered dreams.  I was grateful to have that time to connect with such a special person in that way.  Thinking about the people I've met in Austin, I feel like those connections were meant to be.  I have a feeling that I'm doing exactly what I need to be doing, and that I'm exactly where I need to be.  It's a wonderful feeling, and it makes me feel like life is going to be okay, which helps me weather the tough times.

I'm glad I had the weekend I did, because the stom started hitting early Monday morning.  In the middle of the night, I was awoken by the sound of a cat getting sick.  It was Picaboo, who has never gotten sick once in the nearly eight years she has been alive and with me (she was a wedding gift as a kitten).  She was throwing up nonstop, including once on our bed.  Yesterday was a constant battle of monitoring her, conversations with a vet's office, finishing up assembly of my desk and rearranging some things in the home office, cleaning up cat vomit, doing laundry, and taking bedding to the cleaners.  I ended up having to take Picaboo in to the vet for an exam and x-rays.  I was panicking because on Sunday night, she did sneak into the garage, where she camped out for a couple hours.  I was convinced that she had ingested antifreeze and that she was going to die.  I think I assume the worst because of what happened when Brian got sick.  He didn't feel well overnight, and then he died in the morning.  I have this terrible fear of that happening again, and I don't want to be responsible for not catching something in time...again.  I was crying while I was in the vet's exam room, expecting the worst.  Luckily, it was not antifreeze poisoning.  Instead, it seems Peeks is full of crap....literally.  She's backed up (sorry, gross, I know). 

Yesterday afternoon and evening consisted of trying to coax laxatives into Picaboo, giving her fiber-filled canned food, monitoring what went in and out of her, etc.  On top of all that, I kept mentally drifting yesterday to two years ago, the last day and night I ever spent with Brian. I kept thinking about what we did that weekend, who we saw, what we did, what we ate and drank.  Not a good night.

Then, this morning, more bad news.  I got on Facebook and saw that a high school classmate's young son has died after a long battle with leukemia.  My heart is absolutely broken for him and his family, and it definitely hit me harder today.  I immediately started sobbing when I saw the news, knowing the pain that they are going through and how much heartache is in store for them ahead.  I prayed for them right away, and asked Brian to reach out to little Cole and take him into his great big angel arms for some comfort and, also, for some laughter and joy and fun (things his pain and illness made harder to enjoy on earth). 

Now, it is looking like I have to take Princess Picaboo in this afternoon for a sedation and an enema. Gross, painful, stressful, and scary. Not what I needed on this already difficult day. I know it sounds crazy, but having a sick cat -- especially Picaboo, who has been a picture of feline health for her entire life -- is really stressful for me. I have been cranky and stressed out, and have been taking it out on Antonio a little bit. I finally told him that I'm so cranky and worried because I am so afraid that Picaboo will become gravely ill or die, and that it will be my fault for not catching it in time. She seems to be acting normally, and has stopped throwing up, but I'm still beside myself. It's the worst possible timing for something like this to happen. MLK weekend and these dates in particular are always hard, and I'm a tenderheart about my pets, so seeing them suffering will always be hard. For them to happen at the same time creates a negative synergy -- combined, this is much worse than if they had happened separately, a week or more apart.

So the last couple of days have been full of struggle, heartache, longing, self-blame, and paranoia.  This afternoon, we can add "cat enema" to the list of fan-effing-tastic stuff that life is offering me right now.  That should be fun.

Still, I know that all this will pass.  I don't even have to wait for tomorrow to get here; life changes quicker than that.  A day can have pain, heartache, and stress, and still offer up plenty of opportunities for enjoyment, love, and laughter.  I've ordered flowers to be delivered to myself today, with a note remdinding me that I am strong and I'll get through this day (and anything else that life throws my way).  This afternoon and evening, Antonio and I are going to have a fun-centric date of some sort -- something for me to figure out this afternoon.  It might be mini golf, might be a wine bar, maybe a run or bike ride in the park, or some combination.  In any event, I made a point to talk to him last week to make sure we saved tonight for some "us time" so that I could take this day and make it my own.  This is the date that Brian died, but today I live, and today I am determined to find something good to enjoy from life.  Life offers us a full range of experience -- crushing heartbreak, but also moments of euphoria; loss of those we love, but also new people to get to know and love; distance that changes friendships, but also new friendships in new places; mistakes and regrets, but also opportunities to make new decisions and forge new paths.

Today, my job is to make sure I don't focus so much on the negative things that have been coming my way that I fail to see an opportunities for joy, love, contentment, and gratitude.  In time, I know those opportunities will come, no matter what this moment feels like right now.