Thursday, September 28, 2017

Grief without God

While I don't focus much on it in my writing, nor am I extremely outspoken about it in my every day life, I do not believe in god.  I am what you could classify as an agnostic atheist, meaning although I can't claim to know for sure, I am not inclined to believe there is a god.   I would also consider myself a Humanist, which is less about belief in the supernatural and more about faith in humanity and our responsibility to our fellow humans.  

I came to my beliefs really over the course of my lifetime.  I think all people search for meaning in their lives, and I was never one to find it in religion.  It never made sense to me.  I had too many questions and not enough answers.  I was never angry or upset with god - I just never felt like the concept of god fit in with who I am.     

Over and over, I see confusion regarding how atheists function as people.  How can they be a good person without religion?  How can they find meaning in a life without god?  I've already written a post about the misconceptions others have towards non-believers and a post about how I feel about the phrase "God's Plan".  Yet somehow, I have yet to write about atheism in how it relates to the main point of this blog - grief.  So, here you go.  
This is that post. 

Recently, I read an article that claimed the difference between how an atheist grieves and how a Christian grieves is that a Christian "grieves with hope" and that those without god "sorrow without hope."  I've seen this same mistaken idea in many places throughout the online universe.   I, by no means, "sorrow without hope".   Just because my hope doesn't come in the form of faith or belief in god, doesn't mean it isn't there.  

In the darkness of grief, we look for light - any light - to help guide us through. This is universal.   We all seek out ways to bring peace to a broken heart.  For some people, prayer brings peace.  Holding on to their faith in god and the belief someone loves them and guides them through the dark is comforting. God is both the buoy and the lighthouse in an angry ocean.   I understand this mindset, but I don't follow it.  So, what's my light in the dark?  What keeps me, and any other non-believer, afloat?   Honestly, I think that answer is very different for everyone.   At the beginning, I don't really know how anyone gets through that absolute shocking pain - we just do.  All of us, with or without god, broken to our very core, go into survival mode and for the longest time, we are alive but not living.  We eat, we sleep, we cry.  We feel empty and lifeless.  It's when we reach that moment of wanting to live again - of wanting to try to feel something more than blinding pain -  where the differences in grief manifest.

As a non-believer, I did not find comfort in faith in god.  I didn't shun it, it just wasn't part of my thought process.   A month after Kenley died, my first real act of healing took place when I volunteered for the charity that supplied her memory box.   I spent time with other women who had lost babies and I created bracelets to wrap around the wrists of teddy bears.  I helped pack the memory boxes with important items to help parents memorialize their child who will never come home.  This afternoon was the first step in trying to make meaning out of what had happened.  

For me, my hope comes not in the form of religion, but in action. My hope is that I can bring positive change to my life through the things that I do.  When I DO something to make a difference in the world around me, I feel connected to her.  I feel like I am making her death mean something. Grief is work.  Anyone who says it's not has never done it.   I worked hard to arrive at the place where I am now, and the road is long and treacherous.  So, I do whatever I can to make an impact in her name.  I volunteer.  I write.  I carry out Random Acts of Kindness.  I give presentations.  I attend Walks of Remembrance.  I run.  I do whatever I can to bring some light into my darkness and to walk this path with as much strength and grace as I can muster.  

Obviously, taking action isn't unique to non-believers.  I think most grieving parents, religious or not, seek out a way to honor their child.  I have many Christian friends who head charities, run support groups, or write blogs and articles.  The only difference between what they do as believers and what atheists do is that they do it while believing in god.  Their charity may have a religious theme.  Their support group may pray before meeting.  Their blog may reference their faith.  But, the purpose and the end result is the same.  Our children are remembered and our hearts find some peace.  

I think many people may think atheists grieve without hope because we lack a belief in the afterlife, therefore we have no hope of seeing our children again.  Everyone has their own way of coping with the finality of death.  For me, endings are comforting.  When I was in elementary school, I remember being terrified of the concept of eternal life - even one in paradise.  I imagined this beautiful expanse of pink, like a sun setting into infinity, and my stomach would drop and tingle in fear as I thought about how that would go on forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever.... so I rarely allowed myself to think about it.  As I grew into my mindset as an atheist, the idea of life ending at death actually settles me.   I imagine it being like the time before we were born; we are conscious of nothing and so nothing matters to us.  For me, I feel that knowing I won't see Kenley again is easier than thinking I might.  I'm not hanging my feelings on something that won't happen until the end of my life, and I'm not having to envision her somewhere without me.  I mean, I would do anything I could to have her in my arms again, obviously.  But, that's not the cards I've been dealt, so I play the best I can with the ones I have.

A popular piece of writing in the atheist community regarding death is called "You Want a Physicist to Speak at Your Funeral" by Aaron Freeman.  

"You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you'd hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you'll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they'll be comforted to know your energy's still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you're just less orderly."



While religion has never really made sense to me, science always has.  I love the fact that energy can't be created or destroyed - only changed in form.  I love thinking about how all of our atoms once came from the belly of the beginnings of the universe, swirling in a cosmic soup that would one day become galaxies - and how, long after our consciousness has ended, those same atoms will find their way back into the stars.   Right now, the body of my child is in the form of ashes in a pink ceramic urn.  Millions of years from now, when Mother Earth has breathed her last breath and our Red Giant sun engulfs our planet, my baby's atoms, along with mine, will return to the universe - and to each other.  To me, that is beautiful.  

Despite what some people may think, Christians and Atheists don't really grieve all that differently.  We all love and miss our children terribly and we all do what we can to help ourselves get through our day.  We all need hope and, if we are lucky, we all find it in something.  Maybe it's found in the belief in heaven and maybe it's found in the power of stardust.  Either way, we are all just humans doing the best we can not to hurt as we live our lives on this spinning sphere.




  

Friday, March 3, 2017

Kenley Ran


My half marathon weekend is over.   Kenley Ran!  My official time was 3 hours, 22 minutes, 48 seconds.    I have already signed up for a 10 mile race in two weeks to help me qualify for a higher corral next year because I am apparently a runner now.  Who knew?

Friday, February 24
Our weekend started Friday morning.   Mike got home from work (ah...the joys of working nights!) and we headed to Orlando around 8:30.   We arrived at Port Orleans Riverside Resort and found my parents' room so Mike could sleep since we couldn't officially check in until 3.  Even though I am fairly local,  I love staying on Disney property. Disney does such an excellent job maintaining a sense of relaxation and fantasy in their resorts.   Our building looked just like the mansions in the New Orleans Garden District.   

While Mike slept, we went to the Expo to register and look around.  

 


Arriving at the Expo, I was immediately overwhelmed.  It was enormous and full of people - not to mention this was the first official moment of Kenley Running.  I teared up several times before we even got inside a building.   In order to register, we entered  gymnasium sized room where the entire length of a wall consisted of registration booths divided by bib number.  I was 13655, which put me in corral 0 - two corrals from the end, unsurprising for a first race.  
To get to the vendors, we had to walk out of the giant registration building and into an even more giant building next door.   



The place was swarming with people and there was a literal buzz in the air.  Booths snaked up and down the expansive room.  There were vendors selling compression socks, hairbands, protein snacks, earbuds, running skirts, shoe inserts, race tiaras - you name it.  If it was associated with either running or princesses, it was there.  And it was amazing!   

As we walked down one aisle, my mom pointed to a booth to my left and said "There's Jeff Galloway."  I looked over and there he was - the man in my ear for the last eleven months.   We walked over to meet him.  I told him about Kenley - about why I run and about how he has helped me accomplish what I always thought to be impossible.   He told me how running really helps with hard emotions like grief and he said he was proud of me for persisting.   "You're doing it!" he said with a smile and a hug.   Really, he is the nicest man. 




I left the expo with a green sparkly headband, some new earbuds for my strangely small earholes, and a new grasp on just how close I really was to my goal.  

The rest of the afternoon was spent getting settled in to the hotel and getting organized for my sister's Florida baby shower that evening.  

Saturday, February 25: Kenley's Birthday
We all wore our specially made Mickey ears to commemorate the occasion.  
                            
                            
     

We woke up bright and early to start our day at the Be Our Guest restaurant at the Magic Kingdom.  Knowing how coveted and hard to get these reservations are, my sister made them in October.  Because of them, we were allowed to enter the park before opening, which was pretty awesome.  There's nothing quite like having Main Street mostly to yourself.   We ate a hearty breakfast of meats, cheese, and pastries and headed off to try to ride the Seven Dwarves Mine Train before the crowd.    As we were walking to the entrance of the coaster, what looked like a giant tour group came racing around the corner and slid into the line before we could get there.   It was a giant snake of people that seemed to have no end - and we immediately realized we had missed our window.  The park had opened and the crowd had arrived.  The wait time jumped from 5 minutes to 90 in a matter of seconds. So, we hopped across to the Adventures of Winnie the Pooh instead.   

Our day was full of family, food, and fun - mostly because of my sister's meticulous planning skills.   We ate lunch at the Crystal Palace and Piper had a blast meeting her favorite characters from the Hundred Acre Woods.

                              
       

Towards the end of the day, I felt the familiar twinges around my eyes that signaled a migraine.  I am prone to them anyway, but I always get one the day after Kenley's birthday.  I suppose my body must have known I couldn't have one on race day, so my yearly migraine came early.   I didn't get to go to dinner with everyone else.   I tried, but the restaurant was too loud and I knew I wouldn't make it.   So, while my family ate dinner, I laid in my hotel bed, trying to keep myself from spinning into oblivion.  Around 10pm, I had slept enough of it off in order to stand upright and I gathered my things together for the race.  I laid everything out in the bathroom so when I started getting ready at 3:15, I wouldn't wake up Mike and Piper, and I went back to bed, hoping the last traces of it would be gone in time.  

Sunday, February 26:  Race Day!
In case you didn't know, 3:15 isn't even the butt-crack of dawn.  It's more like the small of the back of dawn. It's early!   I woke up feeling a little fuzzy headed with some migraine residue still clinging to the back of my eyes, but I could tell it would fade away as I got myself moving. I put on my race outfit and laced up my shoes.  I straightened my lace charms with Kenley's pictures on them, grabbed the oatmeal I had made myself with the coffee maker, took a puff of my inhaler, and out the door I went.   
  
      
My mom and brother-in-law were running too, so I met them at their rooms to walk to the bus. My sister was supposed to run, but got pregnant almost immediately after registering in July, so that was a no-go.  Instead, she and her belly headed to Main Street to cheer us on.

There were over 24,000 runners registered for the Princess Half, so the traffic to get everyone there was pretty intense.  Our resort is almost directly next door to EPCOT, yet the bus ride took a good 30 minutes.  Stepping off the bus, I could immediately see just how popular this race is.  



We found our corral - and wouldn't you know it - it was marked with a pink balloon.   Well, hello there, little one!  

                   
  

Corral A was released first, followed by all the rest.   With each corral release, they shot off fireworks, which served their purpose of jazzing everyone up even more.  As each corral was released, the crowd moved up, and we inched closer to the start line.   Finally, it was time for Corral O to go.   My heart beat frantically in my chest.  I fumbled around to get my music started and my phone into my flipbelt in time.  It had been an hour since the first corral left the gate, so the sun was starting to rise and the sky was changing from purple to pink to blue.  It was just after 6:30 when the announcer screamed to Corral O, "Rrrruuuunnnners get rrrrreeeaaadyyyy!".   Fireworks exploded over the glowing pink start line and we were off.   Kenley was running!

        


The size of the crowd was enormous.   Tutus were everywhere - and everyone was within elbow distance of everyone else.  As we got further from the start, it thinned out a little in places, but not entirely.   There were times when I was supposed to be running, but couldn't because the crowd around me was too thick.   Although that was frustrating, it was still an amazing race.   Each mile marker consisted of a rectangle about 8 feet high and 3 feet wide with a Disney character on the front.  Inside, there must have been a speaker because all of them played songs related to the character.   Mile Marker 4 was Peter Pan, so I made sure to stop and get a photo.



All along the course were character stops and photo ops.   From Jack Sparrow to Malificent to the Genie from Aladdin, there were plenty of opportunities to interact with a Disney icon.   I didn't stop at any of them.  The lines weren't super long, but I also knew I wasn't super fast and I wanted to finish on time.   (maybe next year though).   

The course ran from EPCOT up to the Magic Kingdom, through the park and around the castle, and back to EPCOT.   My sister was on the corner of Main Street just as we entered Magic Kindgom, holding up a #RunKenleyRun sign and ringing a cowbell.  

My mom and I got a few quick photos in front of the castle before we were on our way out of the park and back down to EPCOT.  



I had expected the race to be extremely emotional.  I was worried I wouldn't be able to run because I'd be crying so hard.  But, honestly, I was just in the zone.  I listened to my music.  I talked to my mom.  I walked.  I ran.  I took in everything around the course.  I had a great time.   There's so much going on at a Disney race, you can't help but have fun.  Sure, there were moments when the magnitude of what I was doing hit me right in the face, when my heart swelled to wrap itself around the place she is missing, and when my love for her was so great, I felt like she was radiating out of me.  But, the amazing part was - none of it was sad.   I wasn't sad once - at least not in the sense of what I have been.  Clearly, sadness comes with loss - but in the three hours and twenty two minutes I was running for her, I felt so many more emotions than sadness.   I felt the joy of being her mother, the pride in accomplishing a goal in her memory, the excitement of running my very first half marathon, the support of those I knew were tracking me.   I felt the most complete I have felt in four years.  I almost felt whole again.

The last mile or so was hard.   I had to walk more intervals than I ran.   As we looped back into EPCOT and passed Mile Marker 12, I felt so much relief I was almost there.   We circled around Spaceship Earth, down to the World Showcase, and back again.  At 13 miles, we passed a gospel choir.  Almost there!   I turned the final corner and there it was - the finish line flanked by grandstands full of cheering friends and family.   

A year of training - a year of taking my non-runner self out on runs 3 times a week - a year of researching interval training and running nutrition - a year of shelling out hundreds of dollars for workout clothes, shoes, arch support inserts - a year of focusing on challenging myself in the name of my little girl  - had all come down to this moment.   My moment.  Her moment.  OUR moment.   I crossed the finish line with my hands in the air and tears in my eyes.  

I looked over to the stands to see a small crowd of people in green #runkenleyrun shirts and I waved at my family.   Following the crowd, I walked over to collect my medal - a gold bell with a rose in the middle to go along with the Beauty and the Beast theme - and a box of post-race snacks.  My mom and I walked around through the runner's section and into the area to meet family where we met up with Mike and Piper, my dad, my sister and her husband, and my friend Nanci who had come to watch me cross the finish line.   I felt victorious.   And exhausted.



We all went back to the hotel for baths and naps.   Once we were clean and rested, we spent the afternoon at EPCOT.  I wore my t-shirt and medal with pride - as did many other runners.   



For a lot of people, this weekend was a fun-run, something they do every year with their friends.   For me, this weekend was both the start of a new tradition and the end of a way to think about my daughter.  Since the day she was born, an emptiness surrounded her memory.  I carried her for her entire life and I left the hospital without her.  It often felt like I left her there.  For four years, that hospital was where I held her memory.   I only knew her outside of me inside those walls, where she was still and silent in my arms - and so it's been so hard to separate Kenley from her death.   Thoughts of her were memories of me holding her in that hospital, of me crying and empty and broken.   Even in my writing and actions in the months and years after have been focused on stillbirth - on death.  For four years, the focus has been on the fact my baby died.  And, oh, how that is so very draining.  

This weekend (and the year leading up to it) changed that focus.   I worked hard for a year to push my body to do something amazing.  I worked hard for a year to transition Kenley's memory from a hospital room to a finish line.  And I did it.   She isn't still and cold in a bassinet.   She is alive in my beating heart.  She flows in and out of me with my breath.  She travels miles and miles on the soles of my shoes.  She is no longer something my body failed to do - but something it achieved.   She is an accomplishment, a victory.




I will always struggle with grief because this is the journey child loss sends you on.   I will always miss her and I will always love her.  I will always, always wonder who she should have been.   But, I will no longer let her memory be encased in death.   As long as I'm living, my triumph she'll be.  




Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Run Kenley Run Playlist #8: Reason to Believe

The week before her birthday is a morbid countdown for me.   Even though I have tried really hard this year to make February more positive, I still can't escape this.   I can't stop myself from remembering - from reliving.   

I was swollen and my blood pressure was high.  I had contractions for days, but I didn't know it.   She was twisting herself into oblivion, but I didn't know it.  Work threw me a baby shower and I felt her move for what would be the last time.   I spent the day before her birthday wrapping teal and green ribbon around the base of her crib, but she was already gone.  

This week brings me back to that hard, raw pain.   This week forces me to remember the noise of my own screams and the silence of where hers should have been.   I thought maybe running this half marathon would somehow distract me enough where it wouldn't hurt so much, but I was wrong.  The last week in February will always be my own personal Hell Week.  I suppose the only difference this year is I have some sort of personal success to look forward to. The anticipation of that achievement has to carry me through. 

This week is when I need my strength the most.  It's the week where I am holding all the ropes I have with all of my might to keep myself from shattering. I can feel myself breaking apart inside.  I can feel the holes where she is missing opening up even wider, the walls of my heart weakening around them.  As I tumble through this week, I am constantly on the verge of tears, perched precariously upon the edge of a spiral into darkness.   Granted, I get better at holding myself together as each year passes,  but the point remains I still have to.  That will not change.  

The desperation in this song reiterates how I feel in trying to power through this week - how I will feel every final week of February until my life runs out of them.     

Just one more breath, I beg you please
Just one more step, my knees are weak
My heart is sturdy but it needs you to survive
My heart is sturdy but it needs you
Breathe, don't you want to breathe
I know that you are strong enough to handle what I need
My capillaries scream, there's nothing left to feed on
My body needs a reason to cross that line
Will you carry me there one more time?






Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Run Kenley Run Playlist #7: Titanium

The only way to survive a lifetime of grief is to eventually become stronger than it.  When you first begin putting yourself back together after the initial shock wave has demolished you, your pieces are weak.   They easily re-shatter.  You feel like you are in a constant state of breaking apart and reassembly - like a repeating loop of a car detonation - exploding out and coming back together over and over and over.  

Eventually, after what seems like a million lifetimes of breaking apart and piecing yourself back together, you manage to stay adhered for longer and longer.  You still shatter every now and then.  You still break apart, but you become defiant about it.   You look grief in it's ugly, little face and you tell it you won't let it beat you.  No matter how many times it tries to tear you down, you will always put yourself back together.  You will always get back up.  You will always keep fighting.  

I'm bulletproof, nothing to lose
Fire away, fire away
Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away
You shoot me down but I won't fall
I am titanium
You shoot me down but I won't fall
I am titanium

For me, this song is a big F You to grief.   Shoot at me.  Break me down.  Slice me open.  Do your worst.   I'm not going to let you win.   I have allowed myself to be beaten for far too long and I am done.  I know I will always hurt.  I will always miss my Ninja fiercely.   But I am not going to give in to that hopelessness that keeps me broken.   I will continue to put myself back together.  I will continue to walk through the fire.  Day after day after day.

Being weak has made me strong.   I am titanium.  



  






You shout it out,
But I can't hear a word you say
I'm talking loud, not saying much
I'm criticized but all your bullets ricochet
Shoot me down, but I get up

I'm bulletproof, nothing to lose
Fire away, fire away
Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away
You shoot me down but I won't fall
I am titanium
You shoot me down but I won't fall
I am titanium

Cut me down
But it's you who'll have further to fall
Ghost town and haunted love
Raise your voice, sticks and stones may break my bones
I'm talking loud not saying much

I'm bulletproof, nothing to lose
Fire away, fire away
Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away
You shoot me down but I won't fall
I am titanium
You shoot me down but I won't fall
I am titanium
I am titanium
I am titanium

Stone-heart, machine gun
Firing at the ones who run
Stone heart loves bulletproof glass

You shoot me down but I won't fall
I am titanium
You shoot me down but I won't fall
I am titanium
You shoot me down but I won't fall
I am titanium
You shoot me down but I won't fall
I am titanium

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Run Kenley Run Playlist #6 I Lived

When our children are born, we automatically want the best for them from day one.  We want them to live a life of greatness.  We want them to accomplish their dreams and to have as few regrets as possible.  We actually want this long before they are born.  Before they are born, we have already pictured teaching them how to ride a bike, watching them teeter, then totter, then soar down the road.  Before they are born, we have already imagined soccer games and dance recitals, first dates, school dances, and college graduations.   We have already pictured a full and happy life for our child.  And when they die before they've lived, it all crashes down in the cruelest of ways.   It becomes an alternate timeline that we carry on our backs - a timeline we assume responsibility for.    

Instead of teaching our child to ride a bike, we may instead train for a triathlon.  Instead of taking them to dance class, we may teach ourselves how to salsa.   Almost every Loss Mom I know has done something for the specific purpose of honoring the life their child didn't get to live.  From taking on a huge endeavor of starting a non-profit organization to something as simple as walking on the beach once a week.   We ALL do something to bring the life they should have had into the life we lead.  

I already have so many regrets.  I regret not paying attention to her movements.  I regret not going to the doctor sooner.  I regret not giving her the only bath she'd ever have.   I refuse to live a life that will create more regret.   

Kenley taught me to take chances.  She taught me that consequence is better than regret and that life is here to live - not to watch.   

Hope that you spend your days, but they all add up
And when that sun goes down, hope you raise your cup
Oh, I wish that I could witness all your joy and all your pain
But until my moment comes, I'll say...

I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places, the things that I did
With every broken bone, I swear I lived

My Ninja has taught me to live my life to the fullest - to take those leaps of faith that are often so terrifying, yet often also have the greatest reward.   Four years ago, I would never have even thought about running a mile, let alone 13.1, and in sixteen days, I will cross the finish line of the Disney Princess Half Marathon.    

Every word I have written, every speech I have delivered, every step I have run, is all for her.   I live the life she will not live.  She is my legacy - and I am hers.  










Monday, January 30, 2017

Run Kenley Run Playlist #5: Perfect

It's never been a secret that I have struggled with self-image long before loss.   This song speaks to that struggle- and to the rebuilding of self both before and after.

In this song, P!nk is talking to someone who is also struggling with feeling confident.  She tells them that even though they feel like they are worthless, she sees much more in them.  To her, they are perfect.

Before Kenley died, I had finally gotten to the point in my life where I was feeling good about who I was, what I looked like, and my place in the world.   My fight with self-esteem had reached a point where I was the victor - and I had my demons tied up in the corner.    But, Kenley's death changed all that.  It not only released the demons I had gotten under control, but it created new ones - and together, they beat me to a bloody pulp over and over and over again.  I not only once again hated who I was, but I didn't trust myself either.  I had lost all faith in my ability to do anything because I had failed at the most basic of biological tasks.   

It took me years to regain my footing and to muster up enough strength to start fighting those demons again.   Really, this entire Half Marathon Journey is because of my need to beat them.  Last February was the turning point from "I have to fight" to "I have to win."   Because fighting isn't enough when you're fighting a losing battle.  There has to come a moment when you finally deem yourself worthy of winning.

This journey has taught me a lot about myself - both who I was and who I have become.   This past Saturday, I took a trial run in part of my race costume.   I ran through my neighborhood wearing a lime-green tutu.  I definitely got some odd looks from people, but it didn't phase me like it once would have.  There were moments when I actually laughed at myself - chuckling at my own absurdity.  I didn't care what other people thought of me because I knew my reasons for doing what I was doing were valid and wonderful.     

This song is me talking to myself.  It's the healing Me talking to my broken pieces - to the parts of me who still don't feel deserving of happiness or wholeness.  It's Me learning to love all of myself again - even the pieces that are still so sharp and jagged.  It's me telling myself, "Hey...I know you're hurting.  I know you feel like a failure, but you're not.  You're amazing.  You're a warrior.  After all you've been through, you're fu#%ing perfect."









Made a wrong turn
Once or twice
Dug my way out
Blood and fire
Bad decisions
That's alright
Welcome to my silly life

Mistreated
Misplaced
Misunderstood
Miss no way it's all good
It didn't slow me down.

Mistaken
Always second guessing
Underestimated
Look I'm still around

Pretty, pretty please
Don't you ever, ever feel
Like you're less than
Less than perfect

Pretty, pretty please
If you ever, ever feel
Like you're nothing
Less than perfect

You're so mean
When you talk
About yourself, you were wrong
Change the voices in your head

Make them like you instead
So complicated
Look how we all make it
Filled with so much hatred
Such a tired game
meaning


It's enough
I've done all I can think of
Chased down all my demons
I've seen you do the same

Oh

Pretty, pretty please
Don't you ever, ever feel
Like you're less than
Fucking perfect

Pretty, pretty please
If you ever, ever feel
Like you're nothing
You're fucking perfect to me

The whole worlds scared
So I swallow the fear
The only thing I should be drinking
Is an ice cold beer

So cool in line
And we try, try, try
But we try too hard
And it's a waste of my time

Done looking for the critics
Cause they're everywhere
They don't like my jeans
They don't get my hair

Exchange ourselves
And we do it all the time
Why do we do that?
Why do I do that?

Why do I do that?

Yeeeeaaaahhh
Oooooooh
Oh baby pretty please

Pretty, pretty please
Don't you ever, ever feel
Like you're less than
Fucking perfect

Pretty, pretty please
If you ever, ever feel
Like you're nothing
You're fucking perfect to me

You're perfect, you're perfect

Pretty, pretty please
If you ever, ever feel
Like you're nothing
You're fucking perfect to me




Thursday, January 19, 2017

Run Kenley Run Playlist #4: Home

My sister listened to this song on the airplane when she flew down to be with me after Kenley died.   She tells me she "ugly cried".    Now, whenever I listen to it, I think of her, alone on an airplane, sobbing as she flies down, only to miss holding Kenley by just a few hours.

This song makes me think of my support system, the people who swooped in when I needed them, who gave me safe harbor in the storm, and who didn't abandon me when my grief didn't go away.    

So many people walked away from me.   Some couldn't handle the initial blast and disappeared right away.   Others couldn't handle the fallout and have drifted away over the years.   And, at first, that really bothered me.  It hurt.   Sometimes, it still does.  But, honestly, I am at the point where I am beyond forcing people to be a part of my life.   It's not worth it.   You're either in or you're out - make up your mind because I have things to do and my life will carry on with or without you.

But, for every person who left, there is one who stayed, one who came back, and one who came in. So, even though my circles are vastly different from what they were on February 24, 2013, they are truer and tighter.  The relationships I cultivate now are deeper and more meaningful.  I appreciate them more.   

Loss changes everything.  From who you are to who you love to who loves you.  Years are often spent losing one relationship after another.  But, we come to cherish the ones who stay.  We create a warm little nest full of the people who make us happy - who understand us (or at least try their best to).  It takes a long, long while, but, eventually, we make it Home.





Hold on to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave, wave is stringing us along

Just know you're not alone
'Cause I'm gonna make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble—it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you're not alone
'Cause I'm gonna make this place your home


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Run Kenley Run Playlist #3: Fight Song

This song was released in February 2015, two years after Kenley died.   It came out at a time when I had finally shaken off the fog of the early days, had struggled past simple daily survival, and was ready to actually start LIVING again.  But living is harder than it looks.   Living involves more than just getting through the day.  It involves planning ahead and trusting those plans will come true.  It involves enjoying as many moments as you can as they are happening without being constantly distracted by grief.   Living means letting go of pain so you can hold on to something else.

At that time in my life, this song made be believe I could make my way into calmer waters - that I could finally - finally - start being a person again.

2015 was also the year I posted "A Letter to My Doctor" and Kenley's reach started to go global.   The tiny stone I dropped into my own internet pond created ripples across the loss community bigger than I could ever have thought possible, and I am grateful every day to have the opportunity to be heard and to educate.

This song makes me feel powerful.   Even though I am just one person, I can make a difference.   I can make changes in my community and my life with my words and my actions.   I can overcome the constant pull of grief and live a life that has purpose again, even if that purpose is something I'd never imagined it would be.  I can take back my life - my body - my joy.   

"I am not what happened to me.  I am what I choose to become" -Carl Jung

I choose to become myself again.   This is never going to be an easy road.  I'm going to have to work hard and fight to keep myself on track.   That's just the way it is.   But, it's okay.    I've still got a lot of fight left in me. 



Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

And all those things I didn't say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm alright song
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

Losing friends and I'm chasing sleep
Everybody's worried about me
In too deep
Say I'm in too deep (in too deep)
And it's been two years
I miss my home
But there's a fire burning in my bones
Still believe
Yeah, I still believe

And all those things I didn't say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm alright song
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

A lot of fight left in me

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

This is my fight song (Hey!)
Take back my life song (Hey!)
Prove I'm alright song (Hey!)
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong (I'll be strong)
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

No I've still got a lot of fight left in me

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Dragon

I can feel the rumbling.  Deep and guttural.  The Dragon is stirring.  He is shifting in the darkness, stretching his claws.  I have quite literally tried to outrun him, but I know he will catch up to me.  This whole time I have been running, I have known this.  I have felt his hot breath on my neck.  My old scars have ached with remembering.   And the truth is, I can't escape this.  

I feel weak and powerless.  I feel like no matter how hard I try, February will still devour me.  Chew me up and spit me out - again.  

And the anticipation of what's to come makes me want to hide beneath my blankets until March.

The reliving has begun.  The happy memories of pregnancy are tainted with what I know what is to come.   The jokes I made about heartburn.  My attempt at painting my own toenails.  My baby shower.  My maternity photo session.   All counting down to my own personal D-Day.   It all feels so pointless.    Not all the time - just these memories - just these months.   Everything good that happened from now until February 25th feels like blood money.   I paid the ultimate price for those memories and I don't know if they will never not be tainted.  

Today, I am tired.   I am wondering if I will be successful in my attempts to fight the Dragon that I know is coming for me.   I've been polishing my armor and sharpening my sword.  I've been keeping my eyes on the prize, visualizing my victory.   But, as I begin to hear him start to wake, I am terrified it won't be enough.  Already, my armor feels impossibly heavy - my sword awkward and unwieldy.  These last few months have been nothing but preparing for right now, and I am scared he will still overtake me.   Actually, I know he will.  

He will rise from his cave and swoop over me like a thunderstorm.   He will sink his claws into my back, his jaws into my neck.  He will rip into me as I run.   

These next six weeks will be the hardest six weeks of this journey because I have to continue to work just as hard as I have been, but I will have to do it while being shredded by the Dragon.  I will have to drag myself, limping and bleeding, through the rest of my training and across that finish line.  

Tomorrow, I run eleven miles.  And as I run, I will turn my music up to drown out his growls.  He's coming for me, but I won't go down without a fight.  





Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Run Kenley Run Playlist #2: Compass

I am not the biggest fan of country music.  The Dixie Chicks and Lady Antebellum are pretty much the only two country bands I listen to - and a little bit of old school Garth Brooks once in a while because, hey, who doesn't have friends in low places?  

I found "Compass" while searching for songs to add to my running playlist and it made me cry.   Honestly, a lot of songs do because this is a pretty emotional journey I am purposefully taking, but this one, despite its peppy beat, simply wrecks me everytime.  As my runs increase, and I am out there for a few hours focusing on both my body and why I am making my body do this, it's physically impossible not to cry, especially when this song comes on.   

The road of grief is winding and often very, very dark, and it's easy to get hopelessly lost.   This song talks about your heart being your compass, and following it wherever it may go.  I feel like that is how I have approached this journey from day one - doing whatever my heart needed me to do.  Sometimes, my heart needed me to write.  Sometimes, it needed me to speak out.  Sometimes, it needed me to volunteer.   Now, it needs me to run.   So, I have done all of these things as demanded by my heart, and I truly feel that letting it guide me has been a key part in my healing.   All of these things have helped light the way and have helped me understand the road - and myself - a little better.

No one knows what they are doing when it comes to this journey - whether in grief or just in life -  so we all just find our way the best we can.   


                                       


"Compass" by, Lady Antebellum

Alright
Yeah it's been a bumpy road
Roller coasters
High and low
Fill the tank and drive the car
Pedal fast, pedal hard
You won't have to go that far

You wanna give up 'cause it's dark
We're really not that far apart
So let your heart, sweet heart
Be your compass when you're lost
And you should follow it wherever it may go
When it's all said and done
You can walk instead of run
'Cause no matter what you'll never be alone (never be alone) oh oh oh
Never be alone oh oh oh

Forgot directions on your way
Don't close your eyes don't be afraid
We might be crazy late at night I can't wait til you arrive
Follow stars you'll be alright

You wanna give up 'cause it's dark
We're really not that far apart
So let your heart, sweet heart
Be your compass when you're lost
And you should follow it wherever it may go
When it's all said and done
You can walk instead of run
'Cause no matter what you'll never be alone (never be alone) oh oh oh
Never be alone oh oh oh
You wanna give up 'cause it's dark
We're really not that far apart
So let your heart, sweet heart
Be your compass when you're lost
And you should follow it wherever it may go
When it's all said and done
You can walk instead of run
'Cause no matter what you'll never be alone (never be alone) oh oh oh
Never be alone oh oh oh

When it's all said and done
You can walk instead of run
'Cause no matter what you'll never be alone