Posts Tagged ‘birthdays’

34, 35, 36.

November 11, 2016 1 comment

I was looking forward to this, to sitting down in a little West Philly coffee shop on a fall day, opening my lap top just as I received my tiny cup of espresso, and writing a cathartic, insightful reflection. However, I’ve been have a stand off with my keyboard for 18 minutes. I nearly walked away and just gave myself over completely to Facebook, but I want to be a woman of my word, at least my word to myself. So I’m writing. Reluctantly.

Considering the election this week is aligned with my 35th birthday, it seems like the right time to take stock of things. While the election brings a sense of timeliness and urgency to such reflection, I have been thinking about my next definitive steps for months now. The election seems to mirror the killer bee swarm that’s been my brain. Since the spring, I have been living in a mental hurricane tornado flood. I’ve been so stressed at times that my hands have cramped shut and I though I was going to pass out. I’ve experienced near daily tests of my character. Most of my thoughts question who I am, how I got here, who I want to be, and where I’ll go next. It’s hard to write during a time like this. Yeah, I’ve a few insights and revelations, but I don’t have a clear set of instructions right now. I’m in a strange place where I want to be open-minded, but I’ve already made up my mind. I am really “going through something,” as they say. I can’t write about something when I don’t have resolve.

I am resolute around a few things though. My family is a network of incredible people and I still don’t know how I got so lucky with this. I would hang out with my family even if we weren’t related. My dad continues to show me that people can grow and change, no matter where they are in life. He’s still my #1 motivation/inspiration/hero person. My relationship is making me act more mature and communicative than I feel comfortable with, but that’s what the good ones do. My friends are the best humans, full of empathy, intelligence, curiosity, and goofiness. I have some outstanding mentors in my life, showing me an image of what my life could be if I play my cards right.

Look, I just feel crazy these days and some things are too intense to write about, at least while I’m in the middle of it. I think most of us are in a constant pursuit of contentment and meaning. That process contains the good, the bad, and the forgettable. At this moment, I’m going to hold on to my values and the good influences in my life and my next steps will come. Maybe the bad that came with 34 will lead to good at 35, and if all goes well, 36 will be completely forgettable.


All for me and all for him.

October 26, 2014 5 comments

Today is my brother’s birthday. If he were still alive, he’d turn 35 today. No matter how I’ve tried during the 16 years since he died, this time of year still crushes me. I never consciously anticipate how I’ll feel. Something happens around the third week of October. I’m suddenly crying for no reason. I break my routine. I’m distracted. I can’t figure out why I feel so out of control.Then I’ll remember. Scott’s birthday is coming, then my birthday, then the anniversary of his death, and another new year where I don’t have my brother. I think about how he won’t be there if I ever get married and have kids. I think about how he didn’t get to be there for his best friends when they got married and had kids. Now, I’m thinking about how Scott wasn’t at my dad’s wedding, and he should have been, and it’s stupid that he wasn’t there. It’s all selfish thinking. I don’t want the memories. I want to see him, face to face, and talk, and be idiots together.

In my field of social work, we are always talking about re-framing, narratives, and meaning-making–ways you can take your difficult experiences and transform them into something empowering and healing. For the last few years, I have tried to do this each time October comes and I find myself crumbling. I don’t want to kid myself and jump over the sadness I feel, but I don’t want to get lost there. That terrifies me. So I have been trying on October 26th to make the day in the spirit of my brother. Last year, I competed into a jiu jitsu tournament on October 26th, and my dad was there. It was a hard but good day. It felt right. But nothing special was supposed to happen on October 26th this year. There was no built-in purpose.

My brother always did exactly what he wanted to do. Yes, he could follow orders. No, he was not selfish. If you were his friend, he’d do anything and everything for you. But Scott put a lot of focus on the things he loved (physics, engineering, cross country, track) and couldn’t get distracted or pulled away from that effort. His days were exactly as he wanted them to be so he could do all the stuff he loved. So today, I’m doing a Scott day. I’m only doing things I want to do and things that I love. So this morning, I did laundry and made almond butter before judo because I wanted to. Then I rode my bike underneath a perfect sky and over the Gray’s Ferry Bridge to judo practice. I loved every moment. Later, I will make my breakfast and lunch for the week and I’ll find joy in the method and routine of preparation. I”ll do a bunch of squats to rehab my hip flexors. I’ll go to the gentle yoga class I love at 6:00 PM for restoration. As I write this, I am listening to Nirvana. We used to sit at the dining room table, both engrossed in our school work, not talking, but feeling each other’s presence. He always picked the music, since he was older and asserted that right. It was usually Nirvana or Wu Tang. Sometimes Radiohead. Sometimes Marilyn Mason, which I will not listen to today because I hate Marilyn Manson and I don’t want to.

All for me and all for him.


Our faces pretty much stayed the same.

I come from a woman who fought.

January 6, 2013 5 comments

Today is my mom’s birthday. Last year on this day, I was on an Amtrak train to visit a friend in Washington, DC, and I wrote a post about my mom’s suicide.  This year, I spent most of December feeling anxious on how I would feel this year on her birthday and how those feelings would manifest. December kind of sucks anyway. December 19th marks the anniversary of oh my brother’s death. In the 14 years since he died, I’ve acknowledged December 19th to varying degrees, which frequently included forcefully ignoring its significance. This December felt particularly difficult, since both staff and clients at my job lost family and friends almost weekly. Some clients were coping with anniversaries of lost loved ones of their own. But I kept my anniversary quiet at work. When I realized how closely January 6th followed December 19th, I started to worry that January 1st wouldn’t feel hopeful at all, and would simply drag all those complicated, anxious feelings that December harbors into the next year.

For most of today, January 6th felt pleasantly unremarkable. Then about 30 minutes ago, I realized how unremarkable today felt and subsequently busted out crying.  My mom died in 2006 and now in 2013, I still don’t know what I’m supposed to do today. I don’t know how to acknowledge her. Of course, I recognize their is no formula for grief and loss. It’s not a linear process. There is no time line. In a lot of ways, there is no end in coping with my mom’s death.

As I try to sort through my mom’s death, I think there’s such a balance of letting go and holding on, of allowing myself to actually feel horribly upset, but to not get lost in it.   I have to let myself feel profoundly sad , but I can’t let that sadness paralyze me. At the same time, I don’t want to kid myself and keep pushing through each year as though I’m some supremely optimistic, indestructible individual who has never felt overwhelmed and helpless when I think about the fact that mom committed suicide. I have to constantly remind myself that sadness does not equate weakness.

My mom was a profoundly sad person, but I would never call her weak. I know that some people would consider my mother’s suicide weakness, but those people didn’t see her fight. My mom was such a complicated person, and I think that’s why figuring out how to deal with her death feels complicated.  But I come from a family of scappers. So now, I keep thinking about all the times my mom tried to do something different with her life, concentrating all she had to try to make herself better. I’m proud of her for that.  I’m proud to know that I come from a woman who fought.



Categories: Family Tags: , , ,

Thirtyone Thanksgivings.

November 25, 2012 3 comments

Last year, I wanted to write a post around the time of my birthday, which happens in the beginning of November. I wanted it to be all reflective and stuff about where I was in the life, the people who are important to me, and where I hoped to go. I didn’t do that. Instead, I wrote a post on Thanksgiving about all the things I was grateful for. It was a pretty good list.

This year, my blog post history repeats itself. I had an incredible 31st birthday. I was floored by how much love I felt from my friends and family. I really wanted to write a post about my life at 31, but I didn’t. So here I am again, feeling giddy and hyper about the goods things floating around my life. I have just enough focus to channel all that into a list of 31 things for which I’m thankful.

I am thankful for:

1. Sunday judo

2. Mr. Latimer

3. The Carpenters, including Diana

4. That my cousin, his wife, and little boy moved back up to Philly

4a. That my cousin and his family nowlive in my childhood home

5.  That my auntie, Claire, could come up and visit this Thanksgiving

6. That I’m done with grad school

7. That I am now a licensed social worker in the state of Pennsylvania

8. That I found a job that challenges me.

9.  That I’m not as afraid to try as I used to be

10. Natural light

11. My dad’s hand-me-down coffee maker

12. That my best friend and I are growing closer, not farther apart, with time

13. That when a job application asked me how many people I could call in an emergency, I could count well over ten friends and family member.

14. That some of my friends feel like sisters

15. That some of my friends feel like brothers

16. Early morning runs

17. West Philly

18. That I tried baking, and it’s not as hard as I thought

19. That I have time to cook again

20. That I moved into an apartment big enough to actually have people over

21. Sleep-overs

22. Spare keys

23. Good co-workers

24. Amazing supervisors

25. Under Armour

26. That I don’t have to take the Broad Street Line anymore

27. Income-based student loan repayment plans

28. That I have an income at all

29. That my close buddies from my MSW program finally all are working

30.  Monthly Cousin Conventions.

31. That as my family grows, my whole world grows a little.