Five Years Later: What I Learned from Losing Momcat

Earlier this month I read this article on grief and loss, and it made me consider everything I’ve learned since Momcat died five years ago. Today would have been her 72nd birthday.

Here’s what I have learned in the five years since Momcat died:

  • There are a million analogies for grief. All of them apply at one point or another.
  • There comes a point where I feel people should just know that Momcat is gone. Even if I haven’t spoken to them in a long time, there should be something in my voice, in what I talk about that tells them she is gone. Magical thinking at its best.
  • She continues to appear in dreams when I am most in need of guidance, whether I know it or not.
  • There are days when I wake up not sure that she’s really dead. I didn’t see her body, so how do I really know? Having very vivid dreams in which I am with her compounds this feeling.
  • I am easily annoyed by people who bitch and complain about their mothers. I want to yell at them to resolve their issues and get to know their mother as a person, because one day she will be gone.
  • There is still so much I don’t know about Momcat, and every piece of paper I find with her writing on it becomes a clue. Old calendars, day planners, notebooks full of lists offer some insights, but not enough to satisfy my curious mind.
  • There are days when my grief is just beneath my skin, that one small bump or scratch will make me bleed. Other days it is buried deep, a wisp of a seed in my belly. This year I’m aware that my grief manifests itself in overreactions to mildly stressful situations. I resent this sneaky subversion.
  • In moments when things are going really well, I find myself annoyed that I can’t call to tell her my good news and hear her be excited for me, that all I can do is talk to her photo and imagine her response, dig into my memory and hear her voice say, “Hey, that’s great.”
  • I believe there’s an alternate universe in which the events leading up to her death play out every year, and if I could just cross over, I could ask the questions I never got to ask, and tell her once again that I love her.
Momcat holding me outside my grandparents' house.
Momcat holding me outside my grandparents’ house.

Finding Your Joy => Finding Love

Note: This morning I discovered I have 24 blog post drafts in various stages of completion. I decided to start going through them and see what was still relevant and interesting enough to me to finish and post during NaBloPoMo. This post is one I started writing in July 2011. Since then, Ms. Chick found her Mr. Right and married him. As for me, well…you’ll just have to stay tuned.

Earlier this year I met local blogger Ms. Chick. She writes some very funny posts about online dating and life in general. But she also writes about her frustration with her search for Mr. Right.

While I’m not focused on finding Mr. Right, or even Mr. Right Now, at this point in my life, I do understand the frustration. I think many women go through phases when it seems as if all their peers are hooking up, shacking up, getting married, engaged or having babies, and they are left holding the Party of One sign. I’ve been there. It’s actually part of the reason why I left SoCal: everyone I knew seemed to be moving on to coupledom and I wasn’t even dating anyone. After one incredibly disastrous relationship and a couple blah ones, I was done with trying to find a good partner. I also believed that if I stayed, I would feel pressured into dating much more quickly than I was ready for, just so I wouldn’t be the odd-woman-out at gatherings with my friends and their significant others.

Spending the summer of 2010 in a small college town didn’t do a hell of a lot for my social life, but it definitely helped me get some perspective on who I am, what I love and what I want. The answer became clear very quickly: I am someone who loves to laugh and entertain, and who loves being laughed at (and with) and entertained by others. I love helping people connect in ways big and small. I want joy and peace of mind, body and soul.

A few months ago I asked Ms. Chick what gives her joy and what makes her laugh, really laugh from the pit of her stomach. Because it’s my belief that it’s when we focus solely on finding our joy, everything else falls into place: relationships, career, home, health. All the wrong drifts away and we’re left with all the right – including finding, dating and coupling up with Mr./Ms. Right.

It’s hard to get to that place, though. We’re all so conditioned for wrongness, whether we are feeling wrong or trying to make others feel wrong, intentionally or not. And looping on our failures can be affirming even when we claim we want things to be different. As this letter from Miss Information at Nerve.com says:

Failure sucks, and is frustrating. But really listen in: even when you’re pissed at yourself, there is often some perverse pleasure in it.

It’s emotional self-flagellation, really: we beat ourselves bloody for our failings and never quite fix them. T-Wizzle calls this “beating yourself with the Wrong Baton.” Because fixing them means honing in on key beliefs and attitudes we have about ourselves, seeing which ones are unhealthy and unhelpful and working hard to replace them with helpful, healthy beliefs.

I’m not suggesting that in order to find love, you need to become Pollyanna and drop the jaded, cynical tones. I’m saying that in those moments when the bitterness and anger is threatening to ruin your day (and maybe your life), acknowledge its presence and agree to disagree. (Yes, I’m anthropomorphizing feelings, deal with it.) Let the angry, cynical ego self be what it is and choose to do something that brings you joy.

sunset, Anna Maria Island, Florida, Gulf of Mexico, beach
What helps me find my joy.

 

My Declaration of Independence: the 2013 Edition

Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington
What writing declarations of independence look like when done by committee.

It’s Independence Day here in the U.S. of A., so long-time readers of GWM know what that means: time for Moxie to do her annual declaration of independence. Because like our Founding Fathers, sometimes it’s necessary to say what you won’t stand for any longer, and give the reasons why.

This year I’m feeling reflective. I’ve been thinking about the declarations of previous years and whether or not I actually managed to maintain my independence.

2012 – I gave up gluten for health reasons, but over the last month I experimented with having small amounts of gluten to see what would happen. Result: Everything that was going on before came back, but not on an extreme scale, fortunately. I’m back on the gluten-free wagon today.

2011 – I still have a tendency to chase checks, and freak out about money, but more and more I’m finding that if I relax, and repeat aloud “Everything I need shall be provided today”, things work out in ways I do not expect or anticipate.

2010 – I think I’m doing pretty good at being my best self in every moment, letting go, and learning to live in abundance. I occasionally have moments when I feel bad for not working full-time at an office job, but those moments pass quickly when I realize that in most instances full-time employment would require me to be someplace for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. *shudder*

What’s been coming up for me a lot lately has to do with being vulnerable. I hate feeling vulnerable. I will go out of my way to avoid that feeling. I will tell myself and others that I’m okay with whatever bullshit situation has come up because I am so unwilling to admit to being hurt, angry, upset, you name it. My unwillingness to show my vulnerability frequently comes up with my relationships with other people.

In the last couple of months I took a long, hard, painful look at my relationship with Giles. While he has been a great friend and very supportive of me on many levels, the truth was that I had never really dealt with my hurt and anger over the fact that the brief romance we had soon after we first met ended so abruptly and for no reason that I could understand or accept. I had never allowed myself to feel all those feelings down to their roots, and I had never told him how much it hurt to be rejected like that. I had simply moved into the friend zone and told myself it was okay.

But as most people who have been relegated to the friend zone will tell you, it’s not okay. My feelings of hurt and anger were demanding to be addressed. And while it was very difficult to reach that place where I was willing to be vulnerable and share my truth – we’re talking many nights of tears, and many mornings staring at swollen eyelids in the bathroom mirror – I did it. And that moment when I was honest with him about everything and about my need to create distance and stronger boundaries was an incredibly powerful, cathartic moment. I had been afraid I would be crying the whole time I spoke to him, but I didn’t cry once. Because I had allowed myself to deeply feel each feeling beforehand – something T-Wizzle had once told me was the key to moving away from the crying jags and into acceptance – I was able to speak my truth with a strong, clear voice. It was an amazing experience.

So that leads to my personal declaration of independence for 2013: I will stop being afraid to show my vulnerability in my relationships with other people. Be they romantic or platonic, familial or friendly, I will get to my truth when it means I will create a stronger connection – not only with the other person, but with myself. I will stop discounting my feelings; instead, I will examine them carefully, and when I am ready, I will share those feelings with the person whom I believe needs to hear them.

I don’t anticipate this will be an easy declaration to keep, seeing as I have a long history of avoidance when it comes to vulnerability. But I will do my very best to hold myself accountable and find that space where I accept myself and my feelings, no matter what shape they take.

What’s your personal declaration of independence this year?

Declaring My Independence: The 2010 Edition

Writing a personal declaration of independence all started with my high school English teacher, Mr. Greenman. He had us write our own version of the infamous 1776 letter in which we say we are free of something. When I wrote mine, I wrote about freedom from spending holidays with dysfunctional relatives. I think I chose the topic after dealing with a particularly difficult holiday season, but I really don’t remember now. The class voted on the best Declaration and mine ended up winning. Guess I wasn’t the only one with family issues.

Since then, I’ve taken the time on July 4 to declare my own personal independence from something. I haven’t done it every year, and I don’t always remember to write them down, but more and more I’m realizing the significance of keeping a record of these declarations. Like our Founding Fathers, we need to have a tangible reminder of what we are saying we will no longer tolerate, whether it’s in our leaders or ourselves.

So, as I did in 2007, I’ve taken the original text from the Declaration of Independence and modified or paraphrased it to suit my purposes.

There are moments, in the course of human events, when it becomes necessary for a person to dissolve the real and imagined bonds tying them down. In an attempt to recognize and allow for the opinions of others, a person should declare the reasons why they need to break these ties.

Some truths are self-evident: everyone is created equal, and everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We set up governments to secure these rights, but there comes a point where government can only do so much. This doesn’t mean we should suffer in silence; rather, it is our right and duty to create and provide new ways of self-governing. Ultimately, it’s up to the individual how to live his or her life and make the best of their time in this world.

Such has been the case for me, Corinne, and such is now the necessity which requires me to alter my behavior and ways of thinking. To prove this, I submit these facts to the World Wide Web.

  • I have behaved as if the answers lie somewhere other than within myself, when I know, and have had shown to me time and again, that I have all the answers I need if I am only willing to be still and listen.
  • I have gotten caught up in memories of the past and fantasies of the future and forgotten to just be present.
  • I have made myself wrong and the victim of self-inflicted emotional and mental violence for my state of paid employment or lack thereof.

Therefore, I, Corinne, solemnly publish and declare, that I am and of right ought to be the best version of myself in every moment; that I am absolved from all allegiance to the past or the unknown future, and that all connection between my self-worth and the state of my employment ought to be totally dissolved; and that as a free and independent woman, I have full power to be at peace, find my inner truth, live in abundance, and to do all other acts and things which anyone can do.

And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, I pledge to myself and the world my renewed commitment to be the best me that I can possibly be.

Signed,

Corinne

What are you declaring your independence from this year?