Remembering the small things, that really are the big things

I was reading this article:

It’s about a girl who was declared brain dead but kept alive with a respirator and other life support measures. In the article and other reading I did about this, the girl’s mother talks about her daughter responding to her voice, and nurses and doctors telling her that it’s probably just random movements that she is perceiving as meaningful. Anyway, it triggered a fairly intense memory, and it got me thinking about something.

When Ricardo’s brain hemorrhage happened, they knew he was not brain dead, but they thought he was probably going to be in a permanent vegetative state, if he survived. They thought he would most likely be unresponsive to his environment and unable to interact with the world and people around him.

Those are hard words to hear. Those are words that sends the bile in your stomach curdling. And I held onto some hope, but I was a realist and believed there was a good chance the doctors were right.

Less than 24 hours after his injury, I was sitting by Ricardo’s right side. His mother and I never left Ricardo’s side longer than to run to the restroom during the first two days after his injury. Anyway, I was sitting there, holding his right hand, talking calmly to him, reassuring him–I don’t remember the exact words I was saying–but he squeezed my hand ever so slightly, and it got my attention. Now, mind you, he was dealing with seizure-like movements when he was awake–uncontrolled, chaotic sort of movements, and though the movements were less with his right side where he had some paralysis, the movements were still seizure-like, and seemingly random. Well, this subtle squeeze while I was talking to him seemed intentional, and it caught my attention. And then, ever so faintly, he started to stroke my hand with his right thumb! It was only just a couple–maybe two or three or four motions, and they were small movements, and slightly jerky, but I could tell they were intentional. And I could tell he was trying to comfort me. He had stroked my hand like that so many times before when we were holding hands, and it was so him, so us, and I just knew, I knew, that it wasn’t random movement, that he wasn’t twitching, I knew he was trying to comfort me and tell me he was there.

And then I knew he was in there.

I knew he was there, with me, still, that he knew me, loved me. I felt all of that from that familiar little gesture where he tried, with great effort, and twitchy, tiny movements that couldn’t have covered more than a centimeter or two, to stroke my hand. And when the nurse came in and I told her, and she said it was possible, but more likely it was random movement, I still knew inside that he had stroked my hand.

And about twelve hours later, he was responding to commands from the doctor.

But, and here’s the important thing that it got me thinking about, I remembered how meaningful, incredibly meaningful, it was to just have my husband try to stroke my hand while he laid there completely helpless, suffering. I remembered the incredible gift that his very existence was to me. And then months and years have gone by now, and more often than not, I get wrapped up in frustrations. But you know, in that moment, it was so unbelievably clear and simple–what mattered was that he was with me. Nothing else–nothing we had gone through, nothing he had done, none of that mattered at all at that moment. He was with me, he knew me, he loved me. And that very smallest of things, was the biggest, most important thing I had ever experienced. And I forget sometimes, lots of times… most of the time, I forget that that’s what really does matter most to me. So, I hope, the next time I am feeling frustrated about some aspect of life, especially some detail of our life together that I deem worthy of importance, that I take a minute, close my eyes and remember his thumb sliding gently across mine and the promise I made myself to never forget how important his very existence is to me.


I’ll end my post here, but sometime, I need to write a post expounding on the importance of this visceral type of connection I have experienced to some people–certainly to Ricardo–where you feel like their essence is somehow woven into your own being. The movie Avatar (the one with the blue people) showed this incredibly well I think. Anyway, that’s for another day.

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Brain Injury is an interesting beast. At some point you start looking like a normal family to the world, your husband starts looking like a regular Joe, and things start feeling so normal-y that you start to forget why you’re still struggling at times. Why am I not as happy as before? Why do I still feel distant from him? Why can’t I keep the house clean the way I did 5 years ago when he was working 70 hours and I had no help at home? Things are good now. We’re normal now. Why are we still struggling with some of this?

And then something or someone reminds you of everything that is different now. Enough time has gone by that I guess I start to forget, and then I get down on myself for still struggling.

I did this interview with a sex therapist the other day about brain injury (I can send a link to anyone who feels they’d benefit. I won’t link it here just because it would be more than most of you want to know). I figured after 4 years that talking about an aspect of our life we struggle with now would be no big deal, but I got surprisingly emotional as I started talking to this practical-stranger about the things that were different now, and how it was still too painful to think much about the person I had married. I didn’t really expect to say that, but when I said that out loud I just cried for several minutes. The therapist gave me some time and then said, “you must miss the person you married very much.” I guess I hadn’t really let myself think of it like that, but, the truth is that I do.

I bet all marriages go through this to some extent—you gradually lose the people you were when you married and you continually recommit to the marriage with these new people that you and your spouse become. I guess Ricardo and I are just a bit more extreme examples of this.

We have changed a lot.

We’ve had to grow and adapt a bit more than your average couple that has been married a decade, I imagine. Brain injury most definitely necesitated that.

Ricardo essentially lost who he was. All his memories at first. A huge percent of his talents and abilities that defined his sense of self—those things about himself that he knew deep down inside were extra special. He was the genius. The ace-the-exam-half-asleep, solve-equations-on-the-shower-wall, speed-read-a-novel-and-remember-every-word guy. He was the smartest guy I had ever met and it made me insanely jealous (I am a bit competitive academically) and unbelievably attracted to him all in one breath. He was a gentleman too—which thankfully hasn’t changed, lots of him is the same as it was before too. But I shouldn’t discount the pain I, and obviously Ricardo to a much larger extent, have been through with his injury. He’s still brilliant. I can say that without reservation. But he’s not a speed reader anymore. His mind is quieter. It doesn’t solve the complex stuff as well. He  forgets important things at times.

We’re finally beyond the dark days of him waking up having no clue who he was or who the stranger was in bed next to him (spoiler alert, it was just me, sorry to disappoint ;)). We’re past him getting lost walking around the block. We’ve been relieved from the isolation of not talking because he couldn’t communicate his thoughts. Those days were inexplicably difficult for both of us. But sometimes I still need to let myself realize that to an extent, a significant extent, these days are still hard.

He’s not the same in ways that are difficult for me. I miss him, even though I still have him, even though he’s still with me, I miss the version of him that I loved before life dealt him a terrible hand and he lost part of himself. That’s hard to admit. I’m sure that’s hard for him to hear. We’ve had to cope with new roles and new stresses as he learned the pains of dishes and caring for children constantly and I learned the stress of taking on more of the role of financial provider. I’ll be honest that sharing parenting so closely has been beautiful and very challenging. And taking on the role of provider has been something that I have struggled with, resented at moments, felt excited about at other moments. The whole thing has just been a roller coaster.

A scary, beautiful, messy, wonderful, very challenging roller-coaster that I keep choosing because it’s mine.

I miss the man I married, but I love the man I’m married to now. He’s not the driven man I loved, but he’s a man who truly accepts and appreciates each moment life gives him, and I love that. It’s really a profound ability to appreciate life for exactly what it is, as it is. I certainly struggle with this. He is an incredible person despite passing through some horrible things. In the words of one of my favorite shows currently, “This Is Us”—he has taken the most bitter lemons life can give and made something akin to lemonade. It’s important to share it, to share his story, our story, because in some small way, to someone, somewhere, it matters to hear that lemonade is still possible.

It’s still a work in progress. Grieving isn’t a simple process, when you lose someone you love. I’m still grieving the man I lost the day I kissed my husband goodbye and walked out the doors of his hospital recovery room moments before his brain bled massively. Maybe I’ll always miss him. Maybe I’ll always miss that version of me too. But what we have now is beautiful in a whole different way, and I am grateful every single day that I get to live the life we are making together.

I choose it.

Life is still beautiful. Lemonade is possible. Ricardo makes me believe that.

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Baby on the Way

I wanted a chance to share a bit more of the story of this baby.

I wanted a chance to talk about miscarriage, hope, trauma, and making hard decisions.

I decided not to go to grad school this year. After spending two semesters talking myself into going (can I really do it? do I want to do this while Andrew has his last year home before Kindergarten?), and deciding to do it; after spending literally more than a hundred hours studying for the GRE, writing essays, fretting over who to get to write my letters of recommendation, and then forking out a bunch of money, getting accepted (yay!), and committing to a school, I promptly threw that all out the window and decided not to go (realistically very few things are prompt with me and I gave myself high blood pressure and headaches for a month trying to make this decision). But the decision came down to realizing I really wanted to be home with this baby, like I was with Andrew, and I didn’t want to miss that precious time, and that happened to matter a lot more to me than moving forward with grad school and my career right now did. And now that a few weeks has gone by since I made that decision, and the guilt I feel for breaking that commitment to my grad school is fading, I feel really excited about the choice I made, so I think that means I did the right thing.

We are really excited to be expecting! Finding out you are pregnant is a big deal for someone who has spent years waiting for that news. I lost two pregnancies before we had Andrew and it took us a while between each of those pregnancies to get pregnant. Then Andrew came along and was a huge blessing and honestly just the best person on the planet. We had a hard enough time getting Andrew here that we went ahead and just decided to roll the dice and forego prevention, and if we ended up with kids 9 months apart, then…we would just be grateful…and stressed, but mostly grateful. So months passed, and our lives got crazy, like legitimately, overwhelmingly crazy. But even in the midst of that craziness, I decided I would rather try to figure out how to survive with two kids and a husband recovering from a brain injury than have the torture of wondering, “if I hadn’t prevented pregnancy during X time, would we have been able to have another child?” And for a while I was glad it wasn’t happening because I really was overwhelmed already, but as the years passed, I started to wonder if it would ever happen.

And then in May of 2016, I was pregnant! And on June 21st, I miscarried again. At that point, Ricardo and I really had been wanting another child for over a year and had technically been trying to conceive for over three years, and we honestly didn’t know if we would be able to conceive again. Part of me thought maybe I had reset some magical button and now I would just get pregnant again, but then months passed. So that Fall, we saw a fertility specialist. We tried a couple rounds of IUI, but after two attempts, the specialist felt like we were throwing our money away and felt that with our issues it was likely we would need to consider In Vitro. We definitely didn’t have an extra $35,000 sitting around, so we told her we wanted to just continue to try with whatever medications could be prescribed without monitoring and wait until we both had a stable career going and could pull in enough money to start to consider In Vitro. We figured it was pretty unlikely we would get pregnant on our own and decided we would just try not to think about it until I was done with grad school and established in my career. As a last stitch effort, Ricardo saw another doctor, and he was much more hopeful about our situation. He prescribed a medication we hadn’t tried, and that month we got pregnant 🙂 Was it the medication, the new hope the doctor gave us, the fact that we had just finished a cycle of IUI, and, probably due to that, I ovulated earlier the following month? Who knows. But it happened!baby 2017 12 weeks.JPG

I do know that all this happened just after I decided where to go to grad school, and one day I had gone out on a walk by some mountains to clear my head and I said a prayer. I have been trying to pray again, but it has taken me a while to get to this point, and so I am not in the habit of praying all the time. But this day I said a prayer, and in that prayer, I told God that I wanted to believe he was there the way I once had completely had faith that he was. I told him that I was grateful for the opportunities I had been given with grad school and that I was excited about my plans. I paused for a while, and then I told him that I really wanted another child, and that that mattered to me so much more than my career or grad school mattered to me, and that if he saw fit, I would be grateful if, despite having everything planned and prepared for grad school, I was somehow able to get pregnant. Within a month or so of that prayer, I found out I was expecting.

So, whatever it is, whatever or whoever is responsible, we are grateful and excited to be expecting 🙂

And now that I finally am no longer nauseated from sun up to sun down, I am starting to really enjoy this even more 🙂 I have to say that there is a lot of anxiety I have experienced with this pregnancy. After experiencing trauma or loss in the past, I find myself expecting something bad to happen and having to fight that. Some little weird twinge happens, or two days go by where I don’t feel the baby move, and I just start to figure the baby has died. It’s hard to fight that and to have hope. When I feel that anxiety, sometimes I try to talk to the baby, and sometimes that helps me calm down. Loss is hard though. It can affect you for years, and it robs you of that innocence you once had back when you believed things just worked out. You experience enough loss, and it’s hard not to expect that everything you love and depend on will fall apart any moment now. I’m not sure the exact relationship, but I have struggled with depression during this pregnancy, which isn’t something I have experienced in past pregnancies, or really that frequently throughout life. It seems odd because I couldn’t be happier to be pregnant, I just don’t feel happy a lot of the time. I feel anxious and lethargic, and it’s not really related to anything that is happening in life. It’s odd. Maybe that means I’m having a girl, since emotionally I feel so different than I did with Andrew. Who knows. Whatever it all means, it’s worth working through the nausea and depression if the end result is a child I have wanted for a very long time.

So here’s to a baby, and to dropping out of grad school, and to life and all the ups and downs and craziness!

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I’m a people pleaser and it’s become a problem.

I want people to like me. Like everyone. All the time. Every time I’ve said this to people they laugh, tell me I’m crazy, and tell me I’m going to drive myself crazy trying to do that. The thing is that it has always worked out pretty well for me. I have a pretty good knack for getting along with people. I’m generally good at reading between the lines when it comes to how people are feeling when they are talking, and I can adjust a conversation to keep it headed in a positive direction. I’ve been pretty good at resolving conflicts between friends and having deep, meaningful conversations with perfect strangers. Why? I care about people, and I want people to care about and like me too.

I worry about what my high school seminary teacher might think of my recent political facebooks post. I worry what my gay, exmormon friend will think of my post about my son attending primary at the LDS church. I worry about the friend I’ve talked to a whole 3 times in my life and whether she’ll like me less or more because I have changed since high school. (Writing that paragraph I realize I might should cut back on my Facebook time…)

It’s good to be aware. It’s good to be aware of how my words and actions affect other people and to be careful. So, this isn’t a trait I dislike about myself, but always wanting other people to be happy with me has become a problem. Why? Let me tell you a story.

When we were newlyweds (almost 9 years ago, 😳) I would sing around the house. I had always loved music, and that was a normal thing for me. I don’t think Ricardo had ever lived around someone who sang a lot, let alone sang the same song she had stuck in her head over and over. Long story short, he made some comments that made me feel bad. So I dropped music out of my life almost entirely for almost five years and only sang very quietly, if at all, any time he was around. And honestly, it’s not like he asked me to stop. I just cared so much about how he felt about me that I let an important part of my life go rather than risk doing something he might would make fun of.

Prime example of how people pleasing has become a problem for me.

The bigger problem though is my faith. You see, prior to 2011,  if you were to ask me what things were the very most important things to me, I would have said my family was most important, and my religion was second. It was super important to me, and this huge, positive thing in my life which was the basis for all my decisions.

But in August of 2011, the person whose opinion of me mattered very most to me, left my religion and, for perfectly valid reasons, began to hate nearly all beliefs and teachings of Mormonism.

I’ve talked on this blog lots of times about the intellectual issues I developed with Mormonism as I began to research the things that led my husband away from the LdS church and about my positive experiences growing up Mormon, and how these two things began to clash. The question I began to ponder this year is why I have never been able to resolve that dilemma and move forward–why I have stayed stuck on the fence. I realized that it’s because, whichever side I choose, I can no longer keep all the important people in my life happy. If I leave the church, I disappoint the people who gave me life and most of my family and best friends, and if I stay the same Mormon I was, I disappoint the person I chose as my parter for the rest of my life, all the people I had grown close to throughout my faith transition, and everyone who had admired my bravery to step away from a cult 🙂

Not acceptable options.

So knowing a more acceptable option would present itself, I stayed on the fence. I saw how rediculous everything Mormon was and yet I held onto it and kept attending. And I waited months, and then years. I’ve stayed in this state of cognitive dissonance and confusion, because the risk of disappointing people was too great.

Until now. I have looked back at these last five years, and I feel like I have wasted them to some extent. I don’t want to stay on this road, to look back at my life with regrets. I don’t want to regret what I did or didn’t do. I don’t want to regret what I taught or didn’t teach my child. I never realized that while I was so busy trying to to disappoint the world, I was hurting myself. I can’t do that anymore. People are going to respect my choices, or they are not, but I have to do what is best for me.

So after, literally, years spent deliberating about this choice,  here goes:

1) This choice is mine. If I sound defensive when you are telling me what I “should” do, think, or believe, it’s because I can’t let other people make this choice for me anymore, because I’m an adult who makes my own choices, and my experiences have been different than yours, so I don’t want you to tell me what to do. I want to make my choice, and I don’t have a lot of patience anymore with people who can’t respect that.

2) I reserve the right to change my mind. I don’t have a crystal ball. Life has thrown me some challenges I couldn’t have foreseen and I reacted in ways I wouldn’t have expected. So I reserve the right to change.

3) I plan to believe in God again. Maybe that sounds awkward, but I have practiced disbelief long enough, that believing wil probably take some practice. Do I know the reasons believing in God doesn’t make sense or is even a morally bad choice? Yes, I do. I just can’t anymore. I get it. I understand. It’s just not me. Atheism doesn’t match the life experiences that have meant the most to me. Do I worry about all of my atheist friends feeling disappointed in my choosing to believe in God? Excessively. And I have to stop that. I, personally, am a better person when I believe in God, and I completely respect your choice if you choose to believe otherwise. I have zero issue with you thinking there is no existence beyond this, or believing in some other type of God than what I am believing in. I am going to believe what has resonated with me, and not surprisingly, that looks pretty Mormon.

4) Most of what I am going to choose to believe will look Mormon. Sorry…and yay!? I know Joseph Smith was kind of a slimeball in certain respects, and the Book of Mormon might should be called the Book of Anachronisms, and…this list is like 500 points long. I totally get why my husband left. Makes total sense. I just can’t. Being Mormon feels right to me. I’lol be trying to embrace it at whatever level I can. That won’t look exactly like it used to, or like it has looked the last 5 years. It will be something that feels true to me now, and it will happen over time.

I struggle with this. I struggle with knowing people will ask how on earth I can believe anything the church teaches knowing the dishonestly in the organization, the pain it had caused and continues to cause people, the misuse of tithing funds, etc. My answer won’t be sufficient to you. My answer is personal–I know those things, but that has not been true to my personal experiences. When I go, I leave wanting to help and serve other people, feeling inspired and motivated, and that is important.

5) Some things I will choose not to believe or embrace. There are so many good ways to live life. People should have every opportunity to live the life that is the most true, genuine, meaningful life they can. If that means you are gay, you get married, and you adopt, you should do that. If that means you and your spouse have an open marriage and additional sexual partners because that is what you both need, you have my support. If that means you never get married or have kids because that’s what was right for you, then good. My beliefs should never limit your ability to live a fullfilling, happy life.


And that’s it really. That’s as much as I’m ready to say. I don’t honestly know how this all will go. But it’s time to stop living my life to please other people, and instead live my life with no regrets, making the moments meaningful.

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The Space Between

So, I don’t want to get too wrapped up in trying to figure out my faith. A few years ago when I was blogging about it all the time, it was good in most ways, but it also kind of consumed me and stressed me. On top of that, I want to focus my life on the very most important things–things like making memories with the people that matter most to me and feeling joy seeing beautiful sights, helping people, listening to and participating in good music, and just loving people.

Having said that, there is some amount of importance in me continuing to sort out my thoughts regarding religion and my faith.

I hardly miss a Sunday at church. I’m often late. Occasionally I leave early. Sometimes we go as a family elsewhere. But, for the most part, I’m there each Sunday at the LDS church.

I like it. Sometimes I even love it. And at times I even want some more of it. In a lot of ways I have tried, so hard, but I can’t rise above it (hat tip to Mr. Time McGraw for anyone who caught on to that).

I digress.

I like it. I read this blog post by Josh Weed (his wife Lolly also has written some posts) the other day–Josh Weed is a gay, active, believing Mormon, who writes many posts that I like a lot because they get really personal and are very interesting–and in this post he talks about how after his mother died he wondered if that was it, if everything he had believed was all fake and that was the end, and then he mentions that he felt her presence, and that was enough for him to keep believing. The way he talked about it, I felt some amount of confidence that he has read the vast majority of what I have read as far as the things that have caused me to doubt, and yet, there he is, a married, active, gay, Mormon man.

People exist that read it all, and still believe.

It’s a path some people choose because they really still believe it despite all the contradictions and convolutions.

And that is still a possible path for me.

I just needed a minute to meditate on that. I’m back now. Okay, so here’s what goes on in my brain (feel free to stop at any point if you don’t want to hear about the varied points of view that host almighty War-Chapters-of-the-Book-of-Mormon-style-bloody battles on the stage of my mind regularly.

There are no less than 200 serious doubts that I have about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. If you want a brief (and slightly-irreverent but also entertaining) introduction, see Brother Jake’s take in the musical clip below). This video only covers some, maybe even most, of the things that have given me doubts about Joseph Smith, which is only the tip of the iceberg.

By the time I had deconstructed Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, temple rituals and clothing, the Books of Mormon and Abraham, the Bible, about 40 other things of key importance, and finally the whole idea of God himself…like, the damage was pretty comprehensive.

But then, that’s not what I feel. That’s not what I’ve experienced. I can honestly say 5 years post apocalypse of my faith, I still go to church every week because it moves me, it sometimes inspires me to be better and do better, and quite honestly, I still sometimes believe, or at least want to believe it.

Sounds kinda like a hot mess, yeah?

Yeah, I’m still a bit confused.

I’m stuck struggling between perspectives. If you read what I’ve read, the foundation of the church sounds like a joke–and probably not even a very well crafted joke at that. And yet, if you’ve experienced what I experienced–in the temple, reading the BoM, reading the BoA, praying, going to girl’s camp every summer, sitting through testimony meetings–you’d want it too. And even a third “yet”–if you had lived through the last few years of my life, you’d also realize that life lived away from church teachings is not the black abyss. There’s a lot of good in a lot of ways of living. And I have to confess that there are parts of me, parts of me that I sometimes really like, that like things the church says are evil, sinful, or not worth my time. At a very minimum I have come to truly value the ideas of thinking and choosing for yourself–not in some pretended way, where the correct answer is predisposed to you and your only real choice is to accept the correct answer–to choose for oneself and take all the time, experiencing of life, and living that one needs to really know what you choose. To choose on every issue and decide your thinking on every thought, rather than having to accept the whole of it, or none of it at all. That is something I value. The church does not.

So, I don’t know. Maybe I wish it was easier to be a do-it-on-your-own-terms Mormon. I certainly have considered just putting aside the long list of hang ups with the church, my own contradicting thoughts, tastes, and desires, and just diving head first again so that I can again experience the sweet light of the gospel radiating in my life again. I have thought about that so many times. But I’ve also wondered whether staying is damaging–damaging to me, to Andrew–but then, I want him to feel what I felt growing up. I want him to experience the good, light, beauty. But I also want him to see the legitimate love of two married men, to experience life’s sweetest, most powerful moments that will come into his own life at times I can’t predict for him and not be hung up on whether his church will punish him for living those moments.

I still live in No Man’s Land.

I’m still seeking my answer.

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1000 to 1 and 10 Times Too

imageWe watched the movie “1000 to 1” tonight (thanks Missy for the recommendation). This movie was particularly interesting because it’s about someone who suffers a stroke from an AVM. I’m glad I saw it. Each of the movies we have seen about brain injuries has had us reliving our past (and present). It’s always both painful and enlightening to watch (and even more painful for Ricardo than for me).

I found myself relating to several of the characters. The mom in the movie stays up nights devouring material trying to help her son–I was there at one point with Ricardo. She’s there relentlessly cheering him on through his toughest days and believing in him always. I’ve been that mother to him too.

I also related to both his girlfriends in the movie. I’ve been the girl who cheered him on from the sidelines, the loving, sweet person who sees how hard he has worked and wants nothing more than to see him succeed. I’ve been that wife.

And I’ve been the girl who says, “I can’t do this anymore,” and runs away–at least at some level.

So much of the movie touched me–the way I related to each of the female characters, the protagonist’s determination that was so much like Ricardo’s, the whole recovery process this poor young man goes through that was so very much like Ricardo’s–it just touched me because you realize what a hard thing your spouse has done, what a hard thing you have done too. It touched me because it reminds you that your husband, your family, and you made it through something that they make inspirational movies about. And it touched me because 1000 to 1 could be a great title for Ricardo’s movie–not because of his basketball statistics, but because that’s about what his odds of dying were, and that’s probably being optimistic.

1000 to 1. His odds probably were even worse than that and yet here he is. When I say that out loud I feel all sorts of things. I feel guilt that I get to say that when 999 family members don’t. I feel grateful, so profoundly grateful because I know how close I came to completely losing him. I feel proud of how far Ricardo has come and  proud of us as a couple for surviving that. But there’s something else…I guess it’s this reminder that we have a story that’s worth telling, maybe even a story that will inspire someone else. Part of me doesn’t want to come across as pretentious and another part of me knows that I like to overshare about my life and maybe people are tired of hearing about me…but then, maybe someone would really be inspired by Ricardo’s story. Maybe it would give hope to someone struggling with their own dark paths, which unfortunately come in so many shapes and sizes all throughout life. Or maybe it would help someone who is a stroke or brain injury survivor, or help a caretaker like me, to have that ah-hah moment that helps you find that direction or peace you needed in your life at that moment. So, maybe I’ll keep telling it for now.

This year has been about acceptance.

There is a point in the story when Cory goes to his therapist. He tells his therapist about how he had always been the person who they tell it will take 6-9 months to recover from an injury and he’s starting and staring 3 months later. He talks about how he has always believed that with enough determination and hard work, anything was possible–that he has posters plastered all over his walls that say just that. And that he rushed back to school as fast as he could, and enrolled in a full course load of hard classes, and was working out hours each day to get back to being the star basketball player because that’s who he was supposed to be. But he was tired, so tired. He couldn’t understand his classes, and he couldn’t study…

Then two years later he goes back to his same therapist. He had been working that whole time to get back to the old Cory who he was supposed to be. And then he hits a wall. So he walks into this therapy session completely beaten down after being told he STILL would not be able to play on the basketball team at his college. The therapist looks at how defeated Cory looks and says, “So this is all about basketball?” And Cory screams at his therapist that it’s not about basketball at all. That it’s about everything he’s supposed to be that he’s not. He screams the old Cory is gone, he’s dead, and he’s never coming back. There’s a long pause. Then the therapist says, “That’s right. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a new Cory. And that new Cory is 10 times the person old Cory was.”

And then Cory starts to come to terms with that new reality and what it means for him. He considers quitting basketball, but ends up deciding to keep trying because he realizes how many people he has inspired through trying.

At the end of the movie, Cory Weissman says something to the effect of, “everyone says now, ‘Cory, you’re back to who you were. It’s amazing.’ But I’m not who I was. I’ll never be. And I’m glad.”

And that has been Ricardo’s 2016. The year of accepting what you aren’t. And the year of accepting what you now are.

And that’s what I’m still missing–acceptance. There are still moments, and parts of our lives, where I say, “But it used to be like this, and work like this, and I liked it like that, and maybe if we tried X, and then Y, and maybe resorted to Z, then we could have that aspect of old you back. What do you say?” And Ricardo looks at me and says, “I’m not that person anymore. I’m sorry.” And I get frustrated.

And maybe he just has wisdom that I don’t have yet. Maybe he gets what I still need a movie to show me–that it’s okay, new Ricardo is 10 times what old Ricardo was.

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My Life

What would My Life–in capitals–look like? The life that is most me, the life I would most choose, the life I’d want engraved in a gravestone or splashed on the pages of a journal passed down to coming generations?

My Life would have family, mountains, fingers in the rivers as the water trickles over them, barefoot walks in sand and soft grass, My life would have nursing babies, exploring every tree, rock, and flower with toddlers, late night, emotional talks with teenagers, and hugs and kisses from grown kids. It would be rocking in the rocking chair next to my chosen companion. It would be thousands of Sunsets stitched together with hikes, cuddles, and laughs. It would gazing in awe at the scenes around me.

My Life would be burning red-hot passionate nights where the world around you ceases to exist as you are consumed by That One person. It would be love so intense and stable that life would seem to stop without it. It would be romance, long walks on the beach, sunset over the city, the ocean, the mountains in the arms of the person you hold dearest to your heart.

My Life would be days and years spent next to loved ones. It would be a deep inner calm from knowing there is something bigger than you and something better still ahead. It would be embracing the every moment all at the same time and not missing the red wings of a jay as it flies merrily on it’s way.

I’d let go of busy.

I’d let go of stressed.

I’d let go of getting by and hurrying by, and passing by, and I’d stop, and see, and touch, and love.

My life would be making a difference in other lives. My life would be leaving this life knowing my loved ones, my parents, siblings, husband, children, and closest friends knew undoubtedly their value to me.

Purpose. To live with purpose, not random wandering about a strange land. Connectedness, not isolation. Real-ness, not put-on. To be me. To see me when I look in the mirror.

To experience, to live, not in fear, but centered, open, honest, in-touch–with myself, with the earth, with the pulse of the people around me.

My life would be to be in touch with the people I would instantly give up my life for. To actually touch them, and to make a difference to them and for them, and to let them change the coarseness of me into soft smoothness again.

After all, My Life is best lived in the arms of those who make it worth living.

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