Last night, those words were spoken to me by someone I hold very dearly. Shortly before hearing that profoundly simple, yet oh so powerful statement, I nodded in agreement when another person, someone I love just as dearly stated that 2017 just sucked in the scheme of life. I concurred. I also inserted a four letter word, you know, the one that starts with an F and begs the purchase of just one vowel.
Quite simply, I'm still grieving Lori's death and in so many ways, I'm near certain that I will live with this grief for the rest of my days. Lori and I had this thing going on. She got it. She got me. There are about a million things that happen in the course of a day when I still grab my phone to send her a text. No long message was ever necessary. A phrase, perhaps a sentence or, in the rarest of cases maybe two, and she knew what I was trying to say. More than that, she knew how to ground me, frequently with little more than a word or two.
There have been and there continue to be many distractions. I've had commitments to different projects and I fulfill them to the best of my ability. I swear she'd send a lightning bolt to my head if she knew I was rolled up on the sofa with a blanket over my head allowing the grief to consume every moment of my life.
I've had life issues that would shatter the best seismographs known to man.
There was the unexpected death of another very dear friend and someone who had my back throughout the current legal wranglings that are ongoing. That happened just weeks before I learned that Lori's disease could no longer be controlled by any of the available drugs or therapies known to wo(man). I haven't had more than a second to even attempt to process that grief.
Mom's disease is stable on scans but bloodwork results have spurred action on the part of our oncologist. Ibrance was added to her treatment protocol. First, it was about her ridiculously high co-pay and getting that taken care of and then, it was about her tolerance for the initial dose. The jury is still out but she did just complete the necessary three weeks on the current, one step down dose and it seems this will be ok for her.
There was a 12-day hospitalization of a loved one tossed into the mix, and the havoc that wreaked, both physically running back and forth to be there within the both of the one-hour blocks of allotted visiting time and moreover, emotionally, advocating for the patient because it's what I do. That episode, I can state without hesitation, shattered my life seismograph alongside the way the whole episode was shattering my heart in every moment of every day. I witnessed things that were just plain wrong and in some cases, downright awful. It should surprise no one that an eight-page letter was drafted and sent to both the head of the hospital and the CEO of the entire health system. What surprised me was the immediate response of their social media team when my frustration bubbled over the top. And what surprised me further was yesterday morning's phone call in response to my letter, inviting me to sit down with top-level hospital administration. Although my letter was written with my loved one in mind, it was also on behalf of other things I saw that troubled me right to my core. If no one speaks, how will they know about the things I saw, who will take action for systemic change if no one realizes there is an immediate need for such change. I only asked that I be invited to join them in future discussions, to provide a patient/loved-one perspective, which will I hope help to improve communication among staff and with patients.
Then, there is this messy divorce. Because the legal matters are ongoing, it's really not appropriate for me to discuss any of that in more than a most superficial manner. I'll just say this. When someone admits to cheating for more than half of a marriage, how damn disingenuous can they be to fight, vigorously and scurrilously at that, over a fair division of marital assets. Time is too precious and having had more than a decade stolen before I realized I was being duped, I wonder, how does that person look in a mirror knowing this legal mess is stealing yet more time. That could make my blood boil, yet I won't allow it to do that. I simply deal with what is being hurled my way in a practical manner, always remembering that, above all, my focus must remain on self-protection. My future well-being rests in the outcome of the divorce settlement. I know I'm standing on a foundation of truth which is being obscured by the clouds of lies, but I have to remain confident that truth will prevail. Unlike some, who like to refer to versions of the truth, I say the truth doesn't have versions. Something is either true, or it's not. Hearing the words "version of the truth" is possibly one of the most oxymoronic phrases I've ever heard. But that's just me.
Emotionally, I checked-out fully and completely early this year when the games became clear, when it became clearer still that the lies would continue throughout these proceedings, when I saw the smear campaign that would be ongoing, when the only satisfaction acceptable to that person would be my utter emotional destruction. The thing is, my emotional angst crippled me a long time ago. I don't hate. I just realize I was living a lie, one I wasn't aware of at the time. I was married. I was committed. The other person wasn't. Today, I feel what I know is the opposite of love. Total indifference. I've wiped away everything, knowing even in what I believed were good times, it was never real. I see the text on my phone, the familiar "Pfffft" which was Lori's response when she wanted me to remember, it's all bullshit, it's not worth your energy, it's little more than a bump in the road, and above all, it was her way of letting me know, "You got this. You SOOOO got this." So, to that situation, I say Pffffft. Life goes on. And in the case of the book of my marriage, life has already gone on even if these divorce proceedings linger for years as I suspect they might.
Too much has already been stolen for me to allow this any more time than it requires of me. Some of us take longer to learn the lessons in any situation, but the important thing is in learning the lesson. I've learned. And I matter. In fact, I matter most of all. If I allow myself to sink into this quagmire, I'm giving my power to others and that will never happen again. Like a kid, I think to myself, "I'm the boss of me." And yes, it really is just that simple.
So yes, I'm grappling with a big bag of shit as my buddy Jack referred to this collective mess, and he has reminded me more times than I can recall, encouraging me not to let that big bag consume me. While so much of 2017 has been an amended version of that book, retitled for my life as AnneMarie's Terrible, Horrible No Good Very Bad (and totally fucked up) YEAR, I wouldn't trade my life for anyone else's because the good things have been that great. They too have shattered that seismograph in the magnitude of their greatness, and my ocean oasis, the place I now call home, has been a source of great healing.
And then, there's this. A memory I'll treasure forever. The video companion to the Cancer Today Magazine cover story of the advocacy efforts of Lori and me. When I need a gentle reminder or a giant nudge, I just go to the video tape. This is a gift I'll cherish forever. How could we have known in that moment of this is us, together, Lori vibrant and alive and engaged, it would be just four short months before I would be standing at her grave. Yes, grief is indeed just messy love. And what I know of love: real love, deep love, true love? It never leaves our hearts. It remains in that special place for all eternity.