Unpacking the Last Ten Months #Feels #GriefStrikesAgain #Coping #MovingForward

It’s been over ten months since I’ve been able to sit at the keyboard and write without deadlines, holidays, course prep, and everything else. It’s no wonder that for the girl who needs to write as much as she needs to breathe that I’ve felt like I’ve been suffocating. Minus a short two week break where I felt completely myself, I’ve been running a marathon and I’m not a runner. Cardio is SO NOT my thing.

So much has happened in these past ten months that it’s going to take more than one blog post to fit in all the feels, all the lessons, and all the actions, but I need to unpack this and someone out there needs to read it. If life has taught me anything its that my story is not my own and neither is yours. Our stories heal each other, motivate each other, and teach one another. Thank God for the gift of a story. Thank God for the gift of writing.

I’ve just wrapped up my first full academic year as a full time professor and like everything I do in life it was full speed ahead, no time to think—it was go time.

During these past ten months I’ve been to the ER, taught eleven classes (six total during one semester at one time at two different schools), attended two funerals, interviewed to be rehired, fostered my best friend’s cat, moved two different people, made a 911 call when death came to my front door (subsequently fought through the traumatic trigger said death caused), fell in love, was left on the side of the road again by my truck, was diagnosed with vertigo, couldn’t drive for almost a week, traded in the truck for a new vehicle, found myself missing the living as much as the dead,  taught my most memorable class to date, experienced how much more students can change my life than I could ever change theirs, prayed harder than I ever have, kept a Lenten promise to walk with Jesus everyday for thirty minutes (found healing and physical health in that), worked more hours than I ever have in my life (and I used to work tax season crazy hours), lived knowing how deeply I was relying on God’s grace in the very moment it was happening, found reprieve and comedic relief with three amazing young men at the stool of a coffee bar, and those are just the things I can remember at this point.  (Side note: that was an intensely long sentence that is probably not grammatically correct but perfectly sums up my life recently.)

The first half of my whirlwind journey into full-time academia was riddled with car troubles and so much work I can’t even begin to explain it to you. I truly went from zero to a hundred in three seconds without a reprieve until the end of December. Six classes at once—seriously intense. I used to take six classes at once as a student and that was rough but as an instructor that’s a whole other level.

This was the semester with my most memorable class to date for many reasons, but they were one special group I looked forward to seeing each week. I remember being in my car driving from college campus to college campus being exhausted functioning only on caffeine and Jesus wondering how in the world I would get it together to be able to form a coherent sentence much less teach accounting. And somehow I did it and miraculously they appeared to learn something. When I questioned myself as to why I was torturing myself like this in my mind and often out of my mouth would come the words, “because this is what God is asking you to do. It is the right thing. You’re honoring your commitments.”

Do you know why people tend to have such deep respect and admiration for people who follow through and honor their commitments? It’s because it is hard as crap to do. If I told you it was a breeze that would be the biggest lie ever. You would probably see flames erupt around me and hell open up below because August to December was a serious struggle! I even landed myself in the ER with a terrible migraine (FYI that was my first trip ever to the ER and I only went because I thought I might be dying—dramatic much? Sometimes but it had to be at that level or me to go.) Come the Monday after I was walking into class with the lights half off, coffee in hand teaching because it was the week before finals—no sick days for this gal. My students needed me to show up for them and they didn’t seem to have a problem with the dark classroom. Probably because it made it easier for them to sleep through my lectures. 😉

How did I make it? Coffee and Jesus, this should come as no shock. And at one point I had to seek out coffee first thing in the morning before that 7:45am class because my coffee pot broke. So tragic. In the span of a week—my truck broke down (again), my coffee pot broke, and my head “broke.” 🙁 I hardcore struggled and I kept looking forward to mid-December—a break. My friends would say next semester will be easier. I appreciated their positive enthusiasm but inside I felt my gut say it will be different than this but not easier. It’s annoying when your gut is right.

I wrapped up December with all the things and found myself full swing into a Christmas season I felt no joy for. I hadn’t felt quite so low and depressed for Christmas since the first one after Chris had died. I know that had to do in part with it being the first Christmas without his mother being here. And it was another Christmas my heart ached for my family—the family I already have and the family I so deeply desire. Same story, different day.

The Sunday before Christmas I was in church with my friend pouring out my heart for many people and for my family. I’d spent a long semester pouring out my heart on my knees each Sunday and thanking God for getting me through, but this Sunday was different. There was a shift afoot.

After service my friend and I stopped to get supplies for her newly adopted cat (who was living in my house until she got her own place) before stopping to grab lunch to go. I walked into the restaurant and there he was—with his entire family. There he was and there I was turning into a thirteen year old school girl who almost ripped her best friend’s arm off at the sight of him. Who is he? Someone I’d been curious about for a while. Someone I wanted to know better. Seeing him unexpectedly two days before Christmas helped the holidays not hurt so much.

Our first not-date that turned into a date was the following Sunday. With him January started off as one of the best months of my life. For a brief moment in time, I could breathe again and I was in a place I don’t remember experiencing before. I was praying my way through every moment of a relationship with a person who I felt completely myself with on levels I’d never reached before. Those days were short but so full of goodness and I’m so proud of myself for fully experiencing those moments while I was in them without fearing loss. I lived every moment with him as it was happening and that was magical.

He is the person who taught me many things in a short period of time, who healed wounds I thought would always ache, a man who gave me hope.

But things happen beyond our control and we deal with them the best ways we know how. It’s an odd thing to admire and respect someone for their virtues even if those same virtues cause your separation. But at the same time it is remarkably inspiring to witness a man’s actions reflect his words.  In those moments and the days since I’ve leaned into and sometimes clung to trusting God on this one.

In thinking of this situation came the first part of the phrase, circumstances don’t change feelings. It’s been a challenging experience to submit myself to God’s timing, not mine. His will, not mine. To look into this man’s eyes and see the circumstances have changed but the feelings haven’t. And while I miss him every single day through all the hard feels I pray for him and I pray for God’s guidance for us both. I thank God for him every single day. He is the most difficult person to miss because in missing him I’m missing a part of myself.

But isn’t that one of the heaviest parts of grief? Missing the person you were while you were with that other person. Missing the way that person made you feel. Missing that connection.

Overlying all of these events and due to these events, I’ve found myself in a deep season of grieving. Grieving those people who recently departed—like my mother-in-law. Here again teaching has managed to save my life or at least keep me afloat during this different season of grief. My students change my life more than I could ever change theirs. I’ve experienced so many goodbyes since last summer or rather a large number of see you later’s. And that remains hard to process and move through. The grieving process is different this time around, different people different kinds of losses, and I’m a different person. But while the process is different, it is strikingly the same–hard, heavy, and painful. The difference is I’ve experienced the ebb and flow before and I know this won’t last forever.

So what else happened? January turned tough pretty quickly as I rolled into the next semester there was a lot of death around me and it seeped into the first few months of the year.

I can’t deny the wounds that still remain from the way Chris left this world and while the days march on from that time the trauma still exists within me. I must confess that still irritates me—the amount of trauma buried within me and how things bring it to the surface. I try to have compassion for myself but it is infinitely frustrating the way things can send my emotional state into a tailspin.

What caused this tailspin? I’ll save that for my next post later this week. 🙂 Til then get out and enjoy the sunshine while it lasts–that’s where I’m heading.

#LoveHugsAndSunshine #NeverGiveUpOnYourAlwaysAndForever #MoveForwardAlways

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