I Hate Mother's Day

It is true.  I hate the build-up, hate the commercials and hate the fact that is a multi-million dollar industry.  As if you could put a price tag on a mother's life.  I hold my breath waiting for the day to come and exhale when it is over.  Pick any other word: loathe, despise, abhor, detest.  I feel all of them.

I hate Mother's Day because it reminds me of what I have lost, my own mother.  On good days, I imagine us sitting on a beach in Ireland at sunset, wild horses racing back and forth on the narrow crescent of sand, my head on her shoulder, her arm around me, sitting up against an old log thrown up on the beach.  She lets me talk and talk and gives me advice and I feel stronger.  On bad days, in the dark I lay in my bed alone, silent tears slip down my cheeks and I wonder what I did to deserve this.    

It wasn't supposed to be like this.  She should have had more than 2 years with my nephew Connor, more than 6 years with my nephew Canaan, more than 19 years with my brother Benj, more than 30 years with my brother Jason.  And certainly more than 33 years with me. She will never get to know Audree, my little 3 year-old spitfire great-niece. Sometimes, like now, when I think about it, the tears well and I become overwhelmed with sadness.  

This is not a ploy for pity.  It is how it is.  Those of us who have lost our mothers know what this feels like.  Most days are good days, now, almost 14 years later, but still I cannot ask why for more than 2 seconds or I become quagmired in a question never to be answered.  I choose not to be stuck and move forward, though most times I am never sure of my place in this world.

Our mother equals our first home in this world.  And all of a sudden the ground beneath my home gave way and I started falling an endless fall into an abyss and I am not sure that fall will ever stop.  Perhaps most forms of grief are like this when you lose someone you love.  I wish I could go to lunch with her, buy her flowers, take a walk with her.  Some days I could really use her wisdom.  I would trade 10 years of my life for one more hug from her or one more day with her.  My rational mind knows it to be impossible but the child inside keens for her.

They say I will see her again.  Perhaps that is true, but fuck platitudes.  As if that is supposed to give some relief or some comfort that maybe someday, when I die, I will see her again.  It is what people say when they have no idea what to say.  And I don't blame them because it is hard to know what to say.  Most things come to an end, but this, for me, this will never end. I am glad Mother's Day is over for another year, because I hate it.  



Happy Birthday Mom.

Today she would be 67.  Born Linda Dianne Hawkins, she was my mother for 33 years of my life.  It seems so short when I type it, and seems rather unfair.  But, through some very dark long years, I have made my peace with it.  I dare not wallow in the why because I will never know.  

In her memory, my brothers and I all have an angel tattooed on our chest, over our hearts.  I'm not sure she would like to be memorialized that way, but she is our angel.  There have been times when I have heard her speak to me very clearly.  Not in an outloud kind of way, but in a spirit to spirit kind of way.  Think that's weird?  Yea, so did I.  

We think we have things all figured out.  But after Mom died, I realized I had very little figured out.  And most likely never will figure most things out.  One thing I did figure out: I could no longer live life as I had been.  Everything changed.  The building of my life imploded and I had to pick through the rubble deciding what to keep, if anything, and what to rebuild.  This has been a very long and sometimes very painful process.  

They say time heals all things.  I don't think it's just time.  Many people have had lots of time and are still bitter about what has happened in their lives.  I also think it's a choice.  I knew that bottoming out and spiraling into that deep dark hole of grief did nothing to honor my mother's life.  At times crawling and scratching, I made my way through and out of the darkness.  

I scan my heart for remnants of pain.  Yes, I miss her.  Yes, I would give pretty much anything to have her back, even for a day.  But the fresh pain is healed over.  I don't exactly know when, but I know it has.  My emotions carry a huge scar, a reminder, but I don't live there anymore.  I know the story, but I don't live the story.  

Dark nights of the soul are part of us, but they don't need to define us.  I am thankful for all that she taught me. I am grateful for the many people she impacted in her life.  I am honored by the love she bestowed on me while she was here.  I could not have had a better mother for me.  I carry all the love with me that she generously gave to others, while never making us feel neglected.  

I always thought she balanced between the physical and spiritual worlds more than any person I knew.  She lived in the light and was not afraid of the darkness.  I saw her walk in and rescue people from the dark many times.  She never gave up, not once.  She always believed in us.  When she talked to you, she knew you.  She knew the mailman, the grocery clerk, the homeless man in the park.  And she prayed.  Always and forever praying.  

Our home was filled with warmth and laughter.  Though we did not have a ton of material things, she was always there, and we always had enough.  Things got difficult during her sickness for our family, but the one thing I remember is that she and Dad were friends.  No matter what happened, that never changed, because they always loved each other.

If you would have told me twenty years ago this is how my life would unfold, I would not have believed it.  Living life without a parent is difficult, I'm not gonna lie.  I can't tell you how envious I am of people who can call their parents and go to lunch.  I don't have that luxury anymore.  No matter how amazing Mom was, she is physically gone.  And that cannot be undone.  

So in honor of her, love.  Dream.  Find the beauty in the world, because it is there.  Listen to the music, because she always did.  She instilled a fierce independence in us, and never held back on her love.  We should not either.  If she had something to say, she would tell you, no matter if you were the CEO or the janitor.  Make sure the ones you love know it.  Live your truth and be authentic.  

I remember her voice, her warm hands.  That crazy curly hair.  Her love of snow.  A warm, tidy home, with something always cooking or baking.  Her love of words, and writing.  Daily music in the house because she constantly played the piano and sang. She loved antique jewelry and old books.  She was firm, never raised her voice, but kind.  What she said, she meant.  She left me with so many words of wisdom, I keep many of her notes close at hand to read when I need some encouragement.  

I wish I could hug her one more time, or see her smile.  I wish she could know her grandchildren, and her great granddaughter, Audree.  Little miss Audree is the first girl to be born in my immediate family since me.  I have a suspicion this little one may carry some of the essence of my mother's spirit with her.  In her little face, she carries the wisdom of the ages.  

Of all the cards we received at her memorial, this is the one I still keep with me to this day, and how I choose to remember her:

Happy Birthday Mom!!  I love you!  


BestThings: Late Friday/Early Saturday Edition

It is unusual for me to be up this late, and particularly writing this late.  I drove from Clayton, ID to Missoula today, to see my Dad for the first time in nine years.  And grief sucker-punched me right in the face.  It does that sometimes, sneaks up on you when you least expect it.  Being back in Montana brought me so many memories, all of them reminded me of mom.  I never expected it to be so emotional for me.  I am reminded of what I have lost, and though most of the time I celebrate life's beauty, sometimes I am laid low from what seems to be the pure cruelty of it all and none of it makes sense.

Montana was my mom's dream, and my dad's dream and she loved it here.  I drove past the road where we spent many a summer camping up on our property.  Gone.  All of those dreams died, the property belongs to someone else now.  As much as it might hurt me right now, I know this was the right thing to do, coming back to Montana after nearly a decade.  I don't know why now.  Maybe it's a final chapter that needs to be healed over, maybe it is simply a longing to see the one parent I have left.  Maybe it's nothing more than a child's foolish dream to find the thing she lost, somehow, some way, in the place her mom loved the most.  

I bet you didn't expect that.  And neither did I.  So, I will let it stand and move on to what were some of the best things of my last few days.  Tomorrow will be a new day, and I know this grief will pass through.  Kind of like the rainstorms I drove through today in the mountains.  They don't last forever.


Salmon River Scenic Byway.  If you ever find yourself in a position to drive from Clayton, ID to Missoula, MT, do it.  It is incredibly beautiful, following this river.  One of my favorite road trips ever.  I didn't enjoy the mountain pass so much as I came into Montana, but the rest of the drive is full of beauty.

Deer.  Last night after I finished watching "Hot Tub Time Machine", I looked out the camper window and the two baby deer from the night before were out grazing.  It was so cute how they shimmied under the fence and back into the field.  We saw one of the does earlier that night just wandering through the camp site as we were out eating dinner.  On my way to Montana today, just a few miles outside of Challis, a young buck stood in the road in my lane.  I slowed down and honked, hoping he'd move off to the river and he did.  The only problem was I had a psycho truck driver bearing down on me and I wasn't sure what was going to hit me first.  Luckily, neither did.  Everyone was safe but it gave me pause to drive a little more cautiously.  Especially because one of the guys on Brian's crew had rolled his truck after swerving to avoid a deer yesterday.

Ghost Towns.  Between yesterday and today,  I visited Bonanza, Custer and Bayhorse ghost towns in the area around where I was staying and took a ton of pictures!  I love old history, and it was cool seeing these abandoned mining towns and the old buildings.  I don't really know which one was my favorite, because they were all so different.  Strange to see the old graves and things of people who had lived 150 years or so ago.  A step back in time.  

Dad.  My dad did the sweetest thing and booked a hotel room for my stay.  He was worried about me being too warm at his place, and not having wifi. We got me all checked in to the hotel,  had a late dinner at Ruby's Cafe, checked out a local bookstore and watched "A Million Ways To Die In The West".  I met his neighbors and in some ways it was as if no time had passed at all between us.  I am not sure what our plans are tomorrow, I guess we'll wait and see how it shapes up and what the weather is like.

Chris.  I would be remiss if I did say it was awesome to spend the week with my oldest and dearest friend.  We had so much fun adventuring around together!  I miss her already.  She is the most giving, kindest, caring person and I love her for it.  We might just have to make the 4th of July an annual trip. Hard to believe we've known each other since we were 9 years old.  Anyone should be so lucky to have a friend so wonderful for most of their life.  I know I am.

Writing was a wise choice tonight.  My grief has settled down to a pattering rain, and in the morning my world will be clean and scrubbed fresh.  It is time to make some new memories, not forever holding on to the old ones.  I am excited to explore new places around Missoula and the surrounding area, puttering around with my Dad.  As C.S. Lewis says....

Embrace The Suck.

Well, it seems I did not quite hit my "blog every day for seven days" goal.  I made it four days, and then life took over.  So now you will get a "twofer".  Today is day seven, technically speaking.  So I guess that is 5 out of 7, which is much better than I have been doing.  I kind of like this "blog a day" thing, so I might just keep it up.  

What got me so busy is my new job.  It seems my entire life right now is built upon learning new things.  "Beginners mind" I believe they call it.  Working as a retail sales associate can be hard work!  I pulled my first 8-hour shift entirely on my feet in what might be forever.  I now have a lot of respect for those who have been doing it their whole lives.  This job is stretching me and growing me and it is nothing but good.  

And, it is giving me a lot of opportunities to embrace the suck.  Lots of things to improve upon daily. Not only that, but learning to work with new people, and customers in a face-to-face environment while not knowing much of anything.  Talk about humbling.  But, here's the thing.  I take it a step at a time.  Even drumming it down to one customer at a time, one transaction at a time.  If I mess up, someone is almost always there to help me.  

My second job, that I have not technically started yet, is driving for Lyft.  I am all ready to go, but there is a certain fear I have of the unknown still. Another wonderful opportunity to be in beginner's mind and simply embrace the suck.  I intend to get my first rides in this weekend and from there it will get easier.  And soon enough, it will be no big deal. If Lyft works out well enough, then I can do just one job.  But I wanted to take a retail job to prove to myself I could do it.  I am a rockstar at service, but needed some brushing up on my sales skills.  The great thing with my retail job is they pay me while they are training me, so this will do nothing but help.

My writing did suffer a little bit this week.  No morning pages for two days.  That is not a habit I intend to get into.  It is an adjustment working on someone else's schedule when I have been on my own schedule for so long.  I am reminded to make time for the things I deem most important. I do have to do pesky things like pay rent and feed myself, so working is one of the things I have to do.  But now, instead of a career, these jobs are experiments for me.  The fact that I get paid to do them is a nice bonus too.

I doubt I will ever go back to a scheduled forty-hour work week, at least not now.  The thought of it makes me shudder.  So no matter how many floors I have to sweep or mop, how many drives out to Tigard I might have to make, I can no longer be chained to a desk.  The benefit of being on my feet?  If I miss a workout, not such a big deal, since I'm not sitting on my ass and stuffing my face at a desk.  So though it's difficult at times, and the pay is not stellar, I am really enjoying it. I have already connected with people in the store in super cool ways.  I spent a few minutes yesterday morning helping a man with some lamps for his bedroom.  He lost his wife four years ago to cancer and he is just now getting on with things.  We shared our stories of pain and loss and that felt good.    

Last night I got to watch my youngest nephew play his first baseball game, and hold my great-niece.  Those are the things I cherish now.  I live a simple life, full of the things I love best.  And that is something I will protect fiercely.  If that means always learning new things and embracing the suck, so be it.  Oh, and by the way, I didn't coin that phrase.  I learned from my bad-ass guitar teacher, Brandon Cook.  I don't take lessons any more, but he I also learned a lot about life from him.  And he's one of the best humans I know, following his passion.  I think he knows what he is talking about.