Better Without You

What if the first song David and I danced to was “So High” by John Legend instead of “Forever” by Ben Harper? What if my mother had never died? What if my dad had never died? What if I hadn’t moved to New York City? The number of what-ifs I could ask myself and whoever would be so kind as to listen are endless but that was the thought that entered my mind this evening as “So High” began playing on my Pandora. Probably because that was the song I always foresaw myself getting married to should that day ever present itself. The eerie what-if entered my mind as a sort of superstition as if something as simple as the song we first danced to as an official married couple that hot, July afternoon could have anything to do with the outcome of our marriage; The dozens of pictures of us in each other’s arms, slow dancing in sweet reverie to Ben Harper begging, “Give me your forever…”

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It probably has absolutely nothing to do with the outcome but one can ponder, especially when one is out of divorce limbo and in the finality of grieving a great loss. Though, I’ve reached the point where I can confidently proclaim that the immense loss isn’t so much mine as it is his. Sadly, I’m not sure that is an accurate depiction of David’s feelings but what he feels is simply irrelevant to me now and not because I wanted that to be the case but because after all this time, it had to be.

There was a time when I truly believed we’d conquer all odds, overcome any trials and tribulations that stood in our course, for better or for worse as we vowed – we were better together as we reiterated countless times over the phone across great distances, echoing Jack Johnson’s aptly named tune, and whispered in the middle of the darkest part of the nights to each other as we fell asleep, hand in hand. The present reality is that I’m better without him though better having once loved him. I’m surprisingly reaching a conclusion that finds me feeling deep gratitude for that tumultuous three plus years of my life. Whether I have been making progress toward this point the entire two years and ten months since we decided to part ways or I simply didn’t realize I was already in the midst of this gratitude until I held the finalized divorce papers in my hand this past Saturday will remain a mystery.

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A Champagne Toast

I had it in my whimsical mind that beautiful, spring morning in New York City that one should dress up for such occasions. I wore this midi length, violet hued short sleeve dress with a high-waist belt and, of course, heels. David was equally as put together as we jauntily waltzed into 141 Worth Street in lower Manhattan to obtain our marriage license. And that night, after work, we excitedly made our way to 230 5th – the rooftop bar where we’d claimed to have fallen in love almost two years prior – in our fancier than usual attire to celebrate this momentous day. With champagne in hand, my husband to be and I toasted to us, to the life we were already creating together against a stunning backdrop of fake palm trees and the Manhattan skyline, the mesmerizing sunset easily stealing the show with the iconic Empire State Building coming in at a close second.

It was there, on that very rooftop, two years prior that I had asked this person before me, “Where did you come from?” as if he was some never before seen or experienced alien life form from Mars and by the entanglement of butterflies in my stomach and the way I kept losing my breath every time our eyes met, I might have actually speculated such. The truth, however, was that I didn’t expect to fall head over heels for someone as quickly as I did and my verbalized question was more of a million thoughts – “How did this happen? Why is this happening? Oh my God – No and Yes” – all in those five little words. My question was a simpler way of interrogating the Universe’s plan and the soundness of my own decisions in a city that wasn’t even my home yet, in a city that had inexplicably claimed my beating heart for so many years. When David responded, “The same place as you,” all of those questions, speculations, concerns and trepidations flew off the side of that skyscraper, on to the trash-lined sidewalk of Fifth Avenue. My only available transportation left was a leap of faith.

Our official meeting in July of 2010 was a serendipitous account of unrelated, idealistic circumstances that by even the most starry-eyed, hopeless romantic’s standards would be deemed a fictional story. It was so uncanny that our friends and family members would ask to hear a retelling of the account, intently listening to each of our perspectives with such palpable attention, it had the ability to recreate those butterflies in my stomach. Even I had vowed one day to write the story as if it were a young adult novel with fictitious characters based heavily upon what David and I were toasting atop that rooftop in early June of 2012, just a month shy of our wedding date.

I certainly didn’t anticipate this fairy tale’s ending to be anything less than a happily ever after with potential room for a sequel. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and while that fairy tale ended quite some time ago, its official and legal ending arrived today in the form of a large manila envelope addressed to Lindsay Taylor (insert my married surname), which is no longer my surname as of May 18th, 2016. After a tumultuous, seemingly unending, almost three-year process, that marriage license, that David and I were celebrating when he snapped my picture in my violet dress in the evening’s glow of the setting sun, is no longer valid.

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After all of the countless Mondays through Saturdays that I’ve patiently walked to my mailbox, anticipating that very envelope I found there today, one would expect me to be relieved, overjoyed, even jumping with sheer delight! And while relief is certainly profoundly present and I was clearly excited, shaking with overdue expectation as I ripped open the envelope – sadness is also a glaringly prominent emotion. So is a sense of failure. I suppose in layman’s terms, one could deem the surreal and somewhat shocking day as bittersweet. It tastes like dark chocolate mixed with fresh blood, the kind of blood from all the metaphorical punches thrown, the figurative scratch and bite marks that we leave upon another’s life that can act as an open wound at any given moment. Today, my wounds were gouged wide open as the date May 18, 2016 was repeatedly stamped all over the paperwork in front of me and the stupid legal description, “dissolution of marriage,” in its stupid serif font recurred along every other line. Today, I was reminded of all of the reasons why I married this person who had come from the same place I had and all of the reasons why I no longer am.

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Mother’s Day 2016

I just wanted to let you all know I sincerely tried – I tried to write something, anything that might suffice for today is Mother’s Day.  I’ve got nothing – not today.  And not nothing in the sense of there is nothing of significance in my heart or on my mind but nothing that could possibly do my beautiful mother’s legacy justice.

My intentions with this blog, from the very beginning, have been to keep my mother alive through my words, stories, anecdotes and memories and I intend to continue doing so.  As of late, I have noticed a depletion of my energy and finding the appropriate words to share with you right now will completely wipe me out whilst doing no one any good.  Again, it is not for lack of trying and I know my mother would understand this as I recall watching her determinedly operate on fumes quite a few times.

So, with that being said, and not in any particular order, I wish all of the mothers, the mothers to be, the mothers lost, the single fathers and the mothers of furbabies a happy and wonderful Mother’s Day.

From my heart to all of yours,

Linds.

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Mama & I, 2003

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A Failed System

You have mono,” the doctor at the walk-in clinic told my mother in the fall of 2010. She was then bed-ridden for over a month, lost her appetite, was constantly dizzy and nauseous until one very late night, she collapsed on her living room floor, somehow managing to call her sister who then dialed 9-1-1. My mother unknowingly had walked out of that clinic with multiple brain tumors that were aggressively pressing against her skull, stage four cancer in her lungs and a prognosis of less than a year.

It’s just an ovarian cyst,” the doctors assured my twenty-something friend during a pelvic exam. A month later, that cyst had grown into a tumor the size of a grapefruit; she endured countless chemotherapy treatments, a full hysterectomy and multiple doctor visits and hospital stays. Three years after that tumor was deemed “just a cyst,” she unfortunately passed away.

These are just two exemplary stories, two avoidable and disastrous histories that hit close to home, that perfectly demonstrate why I do not trust or rely on our healthcare providers or the healthcare system as a whole. This is not a bashing of every doctor, clinic or hospital out there, but I’m simply stating that our healthcare system is no better than our government or our justice system. It’s an industry designed around crooked politics and dirty money.

I highly doubt the clinic that misdiagnosed my fifty-five year old mother with mononucleosis, a virus that primarily affects adolescents, is out of business or that it’s being held responsible for such an atrocity. The insurance companies certainly don’t give a shit about our personal reasons for desiring to acquire a tubal ligation. And I wonder just how many women out there walking around with ovarian cysts are actually walking around with fast growing, malignant tumors? I wonder if I might be one of them.

I recently had a pelvic and trans-vaginal ultrasound due to irregular bleeding. The report came back revealing a complex, septated ovarian cystic mass and moderate free fluid in my pelvic area. My doctor then called for a cancer antigen 125, also known as CA 125, blood test. This test is predominantly used on patients who have already been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and are being treated. The test basically tells them if the tumors are responding to the treatment. My blood test came back in the normal range.

I cannot seem to get my primary care doctor or my gynecologist on the fucking phone for two minutes to ask the necessary questions so I have conducted my own research and I am not content with a simple blood test. I have a history of ovarian cancer in my family and did you know that with each passing generation, one’s chances of getting the disease increase? My great-grandmother on my grandfather’s side died of it. Breast cancer also increases one’s chances of getting ovarian cancer – my maternal grandmother has fought and beat it twice. Did you also know that not having had children increases one’s chances of getting ovarian cancer but that tubal ligation has been known to prevent such odds? Yeah, well, the insurance company has yet to authorize my tubal ligation as they “need more information” from my provider as to why I need this surgery. So, when the old, white men on Capitol Hill aren’t dictating what I can and cannot do with my body, the stuffed shirts of corporate America are.

I want a biopsy. I want to be monitored. I want to have monthly pelvic ultrasounds. Are the cysts growing? Are they changing at all? A biopsy is the only true, surefire method of determining the content of these so-called cysts. Unfortunately, getting the opportunity to speak to a so-called professional about all of these concerns is half the battle. Getting the insurance company to authorize a biopsy and routine ultrasounds is an entire other battle and one that is completely out of my control. But I’m gonna fight like hell to make it happen because I refuse to be a misdiagnosed patient brushed to the wayside, a manila folder lost amidst the many flaws of a failed system.

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Playing with Fire, I mean Sand

I’ve built countless sandcastles with the sincere intent of using brick and mortar. I’ve sorrowfully watched all of them wash away, feeling like the reverse big, bad wolf – vigilantly huffing and puffing in a desperate attempt to keep them standing, to salvage anything because anything is something. Nothing ever remains no matter how badly I desire it to. Perhaps that is an indirect, subconscious reason why I have an intense, though manageable, fear of water.

Promises are something I’ve completely lost all faith in. I simply don’t believe in them. Maybes, possibilities, you-never-knows, perhaps – those are all concepts, “sandcastle words,” that make so much more sense in my personal existence. I’m even careful not to think too far into the future because even that is a destination in which there is no guarantee of reaching.

Life goes far beyond just being unfair – it’s downright cruel and deceiving. When good things are happening in seeming droves, I have this inherit tendency to automatically expect the rain to come and we all know – when it rains, it pours. Again, with the water.

I’ve become an expert at the art of distraction – that thing that adults do to avoid dwelling on matters that are out of their control or simply to procrastinate things that we don’t wish to take control of in the present moment. Perhaps being an expert at such things isn’t something to boast about but I can’t necessarily label it as a bad thing, either. In fact, I think it’s quite necessary at times. In my life, it’s been synonymous with “rolling with the punches” and “taking it day by day.”

The alternative is to laugh in the face of adversity – not because it’s funny or as some unusual, intimidation tactic but because life is a fucking beach in which I build sandcastles and I’ve been through my personal worst. I’m still standing and I’ll still be standing tomorrow should I be hopefully granted another day on this Earth. Sometimes, laughter is all the energy I have in me these days because with tears come, yet again, water.

If it isn’t obvious at this point, I have a lot on my mind tonight –it’s not just a single thing, person or happening but an entire slew of past, present and possible future occurrences. In addition, and this might not be as obvious, you’ll notice all those “sandcastle words” continue to come up in this post and I’ll bet if you read past posts of mine, you’ll find a plethora of them. There is nothing like laying next to death that will forever embed a sense of urgency into your mind and body and remind you of life’s only certainties.

I’m tired of playing in the sand but I’m afraid I have no choice – at least in this lifetime.

Now, listen to “Sandcastles” by Beyoncé

 

 

 

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Bottles of Bubbly and Self Praise

As I passed the bubbly, AKA champagne, AKA sparkling wine, AKA good stuff in Trader Joes’ alcoholic beverage aisle this evening, I was tempted to grab a bottle but instantly resisted the urge, deciding that that purchase would be saved for a future celebration – the one where I receive the finalized divorce papers in the mail. Tonight, however, I opted for a different, slightly more expensive Argentinian Malbec in celebration of my recent promotion as Art Manager of Walt Disney Parks and Harry Potter licensed apparel at my current company.

I’m pretty stoked to say the absolute least – I feel like my life is moving in the right direction and, probably for the first time ever, I’m allowing self-praise. It hasn’t always come easy, ya know. In fact, I often find myself bowing down to the little voice in my head that tells me, “It’s not that big of a deal. This could have been anyone. You’re not special. Blah blah blah.”

This time, though, I am proud of myself and the decisions and the moves that I have made. If only I could share this with my mama – I think she’d be proud, too. Now, I just can’t wait to write the blog where I bought and popped that bottle of champagne! Cheers!

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Seeking the Resounding Truth

Still relevant almost a year later…

A Righteous Revival

It’s said that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, that our past is called the past for a reason and that what lies ahead is far more worthy of a stare down than what lies behind. And that’s all good and well but I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t look back, what may be considered, too often, and simultaneously, mentally beat the shit out of myself, not only for the act of looking back, but for actions in my past that cannot be undone. And sure, maybe it doesn’t kill me, maybe I’m still alive and breathing but does it really, truly make me stronger? Or is that just something that we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel and appear better, stronger?

When I first decided that I wanted to get a divorce, I was initially reticent. In fact, I was downright reluctant about telling…

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Simpler Histories

If I close my eyes, I can almost feel the cold, smooth blades of grass under my bare feet, smell the Earth of the neighbor’s freshly mowed lawn, and hear my mother’s voice in the distance. I can nearly taste the savory aftermath of a grilled hamburger enjoyed out on the deck and I can almost hear Van Morrison or Creedence Clearwater Revival tunes playing in the background through the late evening’s mellow breeze. The nostalgia is so intense that I feel like I can walk out the front door of my apartment into the past, a simpler time, a lifetime ago.

It’s nights like tonight that remind me of the pond, of the abundant, sweet-tasting honeysuckle on my tongue, the bunch of various duck species lapping in the shallow waters and that pleasant scent of fresh, springtime air. I inhale deeply, instantly transported back to a time when walking the half mile up the paved road without sidewalks, four slices of Wonder bread, in tow, to feed the ducks and watching the colorful Kansas sun set over the tops of the towering oak trees and through their vibrant green leaves was one of my favorite pastimes. Simply watching the mundane, uneventful life of water foul did wonders for my young in age, but old soul. I knew that when I slowly sauntered back home admiring the old homes of the neighborhood I grew up in, peering like an innocent voyeur through their floor to ceiling or bay windows, my mama would be there, perhaps even my auntie, the both of them excitedly conversing in the back room.

I remember wanting so badly to grow up, to be one of the big kids, often hanging around my mama and auntie rather than playing with my younger cousins. When adults would tell me that I would change my mind one day and be wishing for the opposite, wishing to be a child again, I would defiantly, stubbornly contradict their “theories.” I wonder if they, too, had smelled the springtime air of their simpler histories.

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Hour and a Half Shy

I awoke at six-thirty like I did every Monday morning, I solemnly dressed myself and I hopped on the Manhattan bound subway en route to work. I ate breakfast and I had my coffee just like every other normal work morning. And after work, I ventured to Korea town to sample some delicious pastries from a favorite bakery among the midtown locals until finally, I arrived home to go to sleep and do it all over again the following day.

The thing about this particular day five years ago, however, was that my dad had died, taken his last breath, a mere ten hours prior to the eerie conduction of my daily routine. I couldn’t think of a better plan than to do exactly what I normally would have done if my dad was still alive, had there not just been a death within my immediate family. Or perhaps, the fact was that I wasn’t thinking about much else at all – I was just simply going through the motions.

The interesting and for lack of better words, inconvenient, thing about death is that even if it’s fairly expected, there is no guidebook that explains the aftermath with stimulus-response bullet points. It’s not like cancer, for example, I vividly recall sitting in the waiting room of the Kansas City Cancer Center reading extensive, informational “what to expect” and “how to cope” pamphlets for those diagnosed and their loved ones while my dad received radiation on his brain where a tumor, caused by the stage four lung cancer, was vigorously attacking his cerebellum. There’s a stimulus – chemotherapy can cause nausea and there’s a response – eat these types of foods to minimize the side effects of the toxicity being pumped into your veins.

I fucking get it – everyone handles death differently. No loss is the same – yada yada yada. But wouldn’t it be fucking nice to have some literature handed to you when shit like this occurs? Your father has passed away. Here is how you deal: (insert short list of socially acceptable and permanently relieving responses to the death of a parent.)

I know I sound like a sarcastic jackass but I suppose this could be deemed my socially unacceptable, temporarily relieving response to this fucking day that I have experienced every fucking April now for the past five, fucking years. And my over usage of the f-word is my momentary release of anger that motivates me to write this and to get up and go to work in the morning after my dad dies and every day after that and every year after that.

I miss him. I really do. We may not have had the best relationship by any definition of the word but I think that’s part of the reason why I miss him so goddamned much. I believe we could have had a better relationship if he’d had more time on this Earth. But time is a fucking motherfucker – it’s a mind fuck of an illusion and one of the many reasons why a day doesn’t pass where thoughts of mortality do not cross my mind, where I don’t mull over the philosophy of life and death. If nothing else, it’s certainly motivating.

I can deduce all of the above to that fucking overused, irritating cop-out of an expression: everything happens for a reason. In doing so, I can also tell you that one of the most valuable lessons I learned from it all is to never use, “There’s always tomorrow” or “This can wait” or any other variation of time-related jargon because quite frankly, there may not be a tomorrow and what are we waiting for exactly?

I wonder if my dad thought or said aloud that Sunday, April 10, 2011, “I can take care of this tomorrow.” He, unfortunately, didn’t have a tomorrow. In fact, he was about an hour and a half shy of another tomorrow.

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Birthdays for the Dead

I never know how the depression is going to present itself or to what degree. Sometimes, it’s sudden and other times, it’s inexplicable and manic. One thing is for certain, it’s expected around the months of April, August and the holidays so it’s safe to say that for the past five years I feel this heaviness, this weight, pretty much a third of the entire year. And that’s not counting the other two thirds of the year when the minutest thing can send me spiraling downward into the dark abyss of grief, loneliness and sadness. It all comes down to the hard to swallow fact that living in a world without my mother has been an unwanted learning experience, one where simply not existing myself often feels more ideal than celebrating another one of her birthdays without candles that will be extinguished by her very breath.

Tomorrow, April 8th, I will wish my mother another happy birthday, the fifth to be exact, since she took her last breath. There is no guidebook for these types of things – how to celebrate the birth date of a deceased loved one – filed under the self-help section of your local bookstore. Or maybe there is? But I sure as hell don’t want to read it. And just as there isn’t sufficient guidance on how to conduct special occasions in light of death, there isn’t warning of the so-called chemical imbalance in the brain that is sure to rear its ugly head. Sure, I know what month is approaching but as I stated above, one cannot anticipate depression’s presentation, its severity or its effect. One can only ride it out, go with the flow per se.

This particular year, I have found it increasingly difficult to lift my body out of bed every single morning this week. I guarantee the people with whom I conduct my weekly routine are none the wiser. Should I applaud myself for this? Is this an accomplishment?   Let me just pause and pat myself on the back for being able to conceal my detrimental grief for eight hours a day. And if you’re not grasping the hard sarcasm in those last few sentences or sensing the exaggerated rolling of my eyes whilst I wrote it, you’re missing something.

In some ways, the daily routine aids in easing some of the tremendous sadness that has surrounded this particular month for the past five years. I’m immensely grateful I just so happen to be exceptionally busy at work this week. But nighttime inevitably comes enveloping me in its bulging, sorrowful arms and then the early morning rudely awakens me to yet another awful, unwelcome reminder, “Your mother is dead.”

 

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Song of Sunshyne

Solution Seeker | Justice Lover | Impact Maker

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