As we approach the end of 2017, all I can say is that this has been a horrific year for me. I believe there are many within this circle who are nodding in agreement.
My own struggles have extended well beyond the breast cancer arena.
Lori's death in August devastated me in ways I can't even describe but I suspect no description is necessary, or would even scratch the surface. I still grab my phone to send her texts and realize there is no phone to text.
Six weeks before Lori's death, someone else who was so very dear to me, a trusted friend and confidante who was guiding me through this messy divorce also died. That was a death from suicide. Notice my choice of words. I don't subscribe to the notion that suicide is a choice but rather, the result of an illness. Wrapping my brain around that, however, took time. Guilt over not reaching out more frequently, as if I might have changed something. I still haven't fully resolved that in my mind and in my heart.
And Jack. I don't know what to say about Jack that hasn't already been said already. By hundreds, or more likely, thousands of people. I remember our very last phone call. I knew it would be our last and it was bittersweet hearing his voice with the knowledge he likely placed the call to say goodbye. And I was right.
I thought 2017 was finished dumping awfulness on me ... until ...
One week ago, on Christmas night, I was contacted by the older brother of a childhood friend. He wanted to make sure I knew that my friend died very early on the morning of Christmas Eve. We were friends at 12 years old and reconnected a few years ago through the magic of social media. He was not sick. In fact, three days before, he called to see if we could meet somewhere for a cup of coffee. In the pre-holiday madness, I was out running errands and I chose the errands over the visit. After all, we had plans to see each other on January 12. We would be visiting his mom, a holocaust survivor who found her voice at 70 years old and began speaking before large groups of people, accompanying groups of students to Europe to bear witness to what remains of the concentration camps. Instead, I visited his mom two nights ago to make a shiva call.
My friend, Keith was constantly checking up on me. Another friend nailed it when she described him as one of the "most sympathetic and emotionally wise men." Keith's death crushed me. There's something about a friendship that stands the test of time, about the shared history and memories. It's not that it's better, just different. There was nothing romantic about our relationship and his mother said it best when I saw her. "He loved you like a sister." He kept me grounded, guided me through the darkness. He made me laugh, sometimes through tears. Just 2 weeks ago, when I found myself in a place darker than I've been in over a year, I sent him a text to say just that. Within a second, he was on the phone, and inside minutes, he helped me sort through the mess. Trying to wrap my brain around "never again" is proving to be very difficult. I alternate between laughing over some of the silliness we shared and crying, sobbing really, over the silliness that will no longer be.
Then, there was a hospitalization of a loved one which was a horrendous experience for each of us, and for many other family members. Much of September was consumed with making sure proper care was in place. I worry about my mom, although I'm happy to share that her scans are showing improvement with the addition of Ibrance. Her routine three month scans were pushed out to four months and the next scan will be 4-5 months. So I take the good news and relish in the joy.
We had a beautiful Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I spent it with my kids, my extended family and ultimately wound the holiday down at the home of my dear friend. I was with her when I learned about Keith. Grateful I wasn't alone, grateful his brother waited to contact me, absolutely certain the decision to wait until 6PM was to make sure I was able to enjoy the holiday, blissfully ignorant of the reality. Emotionally wise. Sympathetic. Considerate. Deep joy, immediately plunged into gut-wrenching grief.
And of course, I mentioned months ago that I finally made a choice to file for divorce. That was one year ago. I am not one inch closer to having this marriage dissolved than I was at any point since the paperwork was filed. I have been deceived for more than a decade and the lies and the character assassination in ongoing. I know they are trying to break me, but I may stumble, I may have moments of sheer disgust at the games being played but I leave the worrying to the two attorneys I was forced to retain.
Break, I won't. Feelings for the person I thought I loved, but after a year of reflection, realize I don't think I ever loved? Emptiness. I feel nothing. Not anger, not sorrow, not even sympathy which is quite uncharacteristic of me as it is my nature to be empathetic to nearly everyone. I'm indifferent when it comes to him. I'm irritated, however, that this could linger for years as they continue with the lies in an attempt to thwart a fair settlement. More than that, I can't say and in a public space, perhaps even this little blurb is more than I should say. But that reel of bullshit has been the background noise in my life and it can get on my nerves.
I stand, and I will always stand on a foundation built on truth. I will speak my truth, yes fearlessly, and without hesitation in any and every situation. I can't live my life on the sidelines. There are those who choose to stand in silent support and I respect those who make that choice. That, however, is not who I am today. It is who I was for far too many years. There are times I might believe it's best to remain publicly silent because I can accomplish more behind the scenes. But, in those times I choose to speak my truth, it is not to hurt anyone. It is simply to shine a light into a space where the darkness might be misleading good people. For anyone who might have been hurt by my actions or inactions, I am truly and deeply sorry. The truth matters above all else and I will always support people first, particularly over those with the appearance of advancing an agenda, for themselves or for the benefit of an organization. Respectful, always. But bullshit, in all forms, is just that and given how mired I am in it in too many aspects of my life, when it's appropriate to Call Bullshit. I will make the call. Not in defiance. Not with vengeance. Simply because I was raised by parents who, above all else, taught me, ingrained into my being, the value and the importance of truth and honesty.
This year, 2017 has been a year that feels like my life hit the pause button. One of tremendous introspection. I've remained involved in my advocacy efforts and I will continue to stay in this space as we turn the page anew and look toward 2018. I wish to each and every one of you a joyous 2018. In my year of looking inward, I have come to understand that the only way to experience joy so deeply is to fully surrender to every feeling. That which is painful may hurt much more than it otherwise might. But then, if I try to put a leash on my feelings, I would miss the depth and breadth of what I feel in the happy moments. And those moments can be as simple as gazing at a beautiful sunset or sharing a laugh with a friend or remembering a happy time with one who no longer walks this earth. Those memories have become an integral part of my healing process and yes, there is joy. Bittersweet, but still joy.
And so, I emerge from this year; Walking boldly, fearlessly, authentically and honestly into the next, releasing that pause button and at last, I begin the process of turning myself outward.
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