happiest birthday lil bird
This year we have been busy, distracted, remaining in forward motion. Yesterday we received a flat package, smaller than a #10 envelope…with my out of control christmas shopping, I could not remember what I ordered. A small wooden bird shaped ornament fell on the counter, graced with the sweetest of names; along with it a note from one of my dearest friends. I was caught off guard – my vision blurred and all I could see was her perfect little nose, the points at the top of her lips; feel the grasp of her hand; see the flutter of her eyes; hear the beautiful sound of her breath. Although I think of her every single day – I rarely rest in the stillness of her memory. Most days there is no time for the tears that will come, the pit in my stomach, the swelling of my heart and the lump in my throat – it’s overwhelming. And so – when I am forced into this space by an unassuming piece of mail, I am thankful, because for a moment, I am with her again. I remember the joy she brought, the lessons she taught us about how life is MUCH bigger than work, a house, having all the “things”- We are blessed with friends and family who remember Miss Birdie’s impact and love us richly from afar.
We wish you all a blessed holiday season from our little corner of the world! We hope you find stillness this season and are surrounded by those you love most.
The last two weeks have been terrible. It was a snowball effect – every day got worse but it snuck up on me the way a zit does – the kind you think will easily pop, then you mess with it and it becomes this cystic monster threatening to take over your face. Each day you can take as it is – one day – we can all handle one day. Then, you wake up one morning and realize life is terribly overwhelming and you wonder, what the hell happened? Each day piled on the next is a bit much and this life, this being an adult thing…it’s the freaking worst. With all the terrible no good sadness happening around me, there is respite in focusing on the things that bring me Thanksgiving.
Micky – For every spontaneous dance party, no matter where we are, they’re the best. For watching me do yoga over and over and over and over again. For letting me talk over him because all I need to do is vent, then forgiving me for being incredibly rude and still making me a gin tonic. For being the better half of us in conflict, in trauma, and in our entire social life (which he swears I would not have without him). For letting me be quiet, no matter how long the silence lasts. On the rare occasion I cry – for sitting there and waiting for me to tell him I’m OK, that it’s OK to hug me – I promise not to start swinging. For the times I cannot cry, letting me know that’s OK too, and not discounting my hurt. For never putting himself above another human; for always loving, always caring. For helping me piece myself back together when torn down. For always knowing my heart is never as cold as it seems. For making me laugh day in and day out – without fail he is the funniest person I know.
My friends – the ones who trust me with their darkness and their light. For letting me share their burdens and for doing their best to help me carry mine.
Doctors who fight every damn day to cure cancer – who relinquish family and friends to stay in labs testing cells, loving patients, believing in LIFE.
The passionate hearts of those I love fighting for what they believe: whether boots on the ground protecting this great nation; dreamers believing change is possible, it just needs a voice; those who sacrifice time and space to care for the lost; and those who haven’t quite found their purpose but love greatly.
My family that is constant and far reaching.
My late grandma Anna Daisy who taught me to be me, no matter what, and to never, ever let anyone make me feel less than treasured.
A beautiful earth that never ceases to amaze me and a landscape that stirs the peace inside me.
For women who give things like grief and loss a voice far greater than I could hope to have.
Choreographed dances that make me look ridiculous yet bring me joy and the friends who enjoy being equally ridiculous.
A roof over our head, food on our table, blankets to keep us warm and puppy dogs to snuggle.
For Birdie, always, for Birdie.
We went back east a couple weeks ago – we walked into all things familiar. My hair instantly frizzed upon exiting the airport, my ears were assaulted by car horns and sirens, and my nostrils filled with bus exhaust. It was oddly comforting. Every face looked and sounded the same and the hugs, although tighter and longer, felt the same. There were a few eerie moments – moments we were reminded that life has moved forward for everyone even if ours stopped back in 2015. It is entirely out of self preservation that we are here, this space of alienation. It has allowed us to function with little emotion and skirt by these last two years without crumbling. I recently read in an amazing [read: FREAKING AMAZING!] book that the first year of grief you walk along numb and unattached [check!]. The second year, all the shit you pushed down down down begins to surface. Not just a twinge here or there – more like bursting into hysterics because you can’t get the ice tray to crack, or screaming at inanimate objects for running into you when in fact they are in the same spot they’ve always been. My heart is colder than most so I’ve stretched it out an additional year. I rarely cry too which means my hysterics involve throwing things [like ice trays], cursing in patterns that make little sense, and kicking dressers that jump out of nowhere. To describe an ache for something, something you never really had is the most difficult thing. The yearning is powerful, it can be a monster dragging you down and around emotions you once thought hidden or absolved.
I once wrote how the dichotomy of death and life existing at once and altogether shared, is…surreal. It’s changing us – it’s changing our world and relationships. Relationships come and go – some run dormant for years only to be picked back up when needed most – it is all part of our story. The pain we experience, the ache of loss whether in relationship or in death – is an ache to explore. We chase moments and memories and seek familiar feelings but in a new reality. Every day is an opportunity to accept a new set of circumstances and be honest with ourselves, honest about the raw feelings, honest about the fear and the what ifs. There is always hope – there is always the idea that someday, even if we’re 80, loss and the reasons why, will finally make sense.
I think these last two years have made us homesick – not for a place but for the people that make a place, home. We realized we are parched – emotionally speaking. The amount of love that rained down on us in Maryland was incredible – we were watered and cared for and every last bit of us, dusted off. We left, our souls filled to the brim. Even the briefest of conversations left their mark and we are so thankful for our friends and family back east. You all know how to make two worn out people feel loved and missed in the most epic ways.
“it’s the tragedy of loving, you can’t love anything more than something you miss.” – Jonathan Safran Foer
I have mixed feelings about holidays celebrating being a parent. I understand the concept but obviously struggle with the idea. For those who do not have their children in this life, it can feel insulting and maybe in time, that goes away. The ache I feel in Birdie’s absence is now just like breath, it is always there, it rarely surprises me and I think of her throughout every single day. When Father’s day rolled around this year it was something we wanted to ignore. Mick spent his afternoon golfing with a friend and we did our best to remain distracted. Grief is a lonely place. You can be in a room filled with people you love, laughing, even tears of happiness streaming down your face and suddenly a wave of loneliness will sweep over you and take your breath. It’s part of an existence in which you grow familiar and slowly become less and less surprised by the alienation. It’s not a loneliness making you feel unloved or unlovable, it is simply a reminder that pieces of you exist entirely elsewhere and always will. The heart is splintered and misshapen with the absence of one you love and those parts never return. There is sadness there but there is also something oddly warm knowing the missing pieces have names and faces. This loneliness is not something anyone can judge. Some people exist in a state of perpetual loneliness and until you know that pain and how you would cope – you should simply love them in whatever way they let you.
Mick is the very best father and deserves a day celebrating this –
He fearlessly made me laugh while my body was breaking down and nurses were in a panic
He explained in serious detail what a thunder coat is so the nurses could make me one out of heated blankets
Having only been a father for ten minutes, he sat in a room of Doctors hearing frightening truths and remained hopeful
The gentle touch of his nose on Birdie’s forehead and softly spoken words of love in her perfect ear
He looked twelve strangers each in their eyes, without flinching, and asked the right questions and was never intimidated
He kept me from punching a doctor in his face
He stayed up all night, every night, just to hold Birdie’s hand
When I couldn’t stand on my own he held me so I could reach into her incubator and say hello
He was always asking the nurses if he could try to feed her, bathe her, change her. He memorized her readings and knew what every number, beep, gauge meant.
When days bled into nights and we traded sleep for moments with our girl – I never had to ask for one more hour, his answer was always yes.
He washed bottles while I sat in a sterile room weeping
He told me to walk away as I began to lay into the 18 year old cashier for weighing my salad dressing packet
He was a rock to us all and just like every other day of our life, he demanded respect but did so with such grace and admiration.
I would like to think someday it won’t be this hard…someday a random Sunday in June will be something to embrace…
I wrote this to Birdie before she was born. 33.5 years of advice in a basic, unassuming form. I have learned that most things in life are as simple has your decision to act. Life happens to everyone, it is complex – it’s size and weight may change, but we always determine our participation, our reactions, our perception of it. Although these words are my own, I find I need the reminder more often than not…well, more like everyday.
Don’t apologize for who you are or let anyone make you question it. Be gracious in these things but fiercely protective. Follow your heart – don’t surrender to archaic expectations/rules. Be honest with others, but most importantly, yourself. Manipulation and unspoken expectation only hurt you. Don’t wish for “five minutes from now,” live in each moment, memorize and cherish them. Own your decisions. Take a drive – destination unknown. Stay up all night sharing truth. Confrontation is not a bad thing. Practice selflessness. Say what you mean, mean what you say; don’t drag it out. Remember from where you came. Learn to say No. Chase things that move your soul. Be brave. Never let any problem or challenge be bigger than you – you can do anything.
Music is everything.
Laugh through the lines on your face and cherish each one – joy left its mark on you. When you learn what it is to love, don’t fear it – embrace it – not everyone knows its face. Dance parties cure most things. Save your money. Seek richness in relationship…let yourself be known. Failure is only a stepping stone to getting it right – it is not a definition or road block. Stand up for those you love and those without a voice. Seek beauty beneath the surface…every layer has a story.
Four+ months ago Mick and I had an honest conversation about how we wanted to spend Birdie’s week of life. The main things on which we agreed – somewhere far, somewhere isolated, somewhere healing. Over the years we have ventured out of the box for vacations and not once been disappointed. Even when feverish in Mexico, someone (Mick) nursing an injured knee (most of you know this story), we would go again. The best healing retreat we encountered was with our dear Lois in Idaho – her hospitality and serene location pushed us over the edge and started our adventure to move – we still seek healing there. All of these, randomly found on the internet, out of the ordinary and perfect in every way. Virgins to Air BnB – I scoured countries, towns, hot spots relying on my gut to show me where to go. The pictures of Cedarwood Cove sucked me in, but it was the owner’s description that sold us. As a nutrition nerd who spent a year hands on healing with a nutritionist and greatly benefiting – Michelle’s words about food, the earth and living life resonated. I researched their island gem and after showing it to Mick, we paid in full.
We both know a lot can happen in four months but we held out hope we’d make this happen. When rough days or weeks came our way – we looked at the pictures, we reread Michelle’s words and we repeated, “take me to Tofino!” The photos speak for themselves – Beauty is everywhere. Eagles soaring directly above, the sounds of migrating birds mixed with the powerful ocean rumble. It is a community of less than 2,000 people but holy geez, do they have it figured out. A surf town in the middle of a rain forest, surrounded by jagged tree-covered mountains. The ocean on one side, the sound on the other – it truly has everything to offer. It’s part of the Pacific Rim National preserve, the drive across Vancouver Island has many a jaw dropping moment. Between Mick and I we have seen quite a few astounding places, but there’s something about this place – it warms your soul. The way of life, the food, the culture and the smiles on everyone’s face – it is one of a kind. We are thankful for people like Michelle and Alan – their desire to enjoy life – to make it rich and rewarding is something we all need. Even if we only have eight days of anonymity.
I haven’t used my real camera in a long time and there was a learning curve for sure…but I picked it back up slowly. Below are some shots – very few edits because it takes too much time, I mean, seriously. (Click on image for slideshow)