My Bucket List

I turned 40 years old last year and I made some MAJOR changes in my life too. It was a liberating year where I felt as if I started becoming the woman that God has intended for me to be. I took my children to the beach for
Father’s Day, just the four of us and simply because I felt like it! I took a trip by myself to a place I had been wanting to visit; I met a friend there and had a great weekend. I repainted some of the rooms in my house and I bought new furniture. I started dating again. I started making my life my own.

I’ve been thinking about how to continue moving forward, healing, growing and becoming a woman of God. I’m enjoying my life, exploring new interests and meeting new friends. So…..I’m envisioning a kind of “bucket list” for the next chapter of my life!

In the movie, “The Bucket List,” two terminally ill men decide to travel the world doing a bunch of things that they have always wanted to do before they die. The movie is quite funny as the men do daredevil things like jumping out of airplanes and climbing mountains. Along the way, however, one of the men discovers that he really loves the life he shares with his wife and children. The other man repairs a broken relationship with his daughter. They both realize that the relationships in their lives are more important that what they have or haven’t done. What a lesson to learn before leaving this Earth!

I don’t think I’m terminally ill and I have no desire to jump out of an airplane! But, there are a few things that I’ve always wanted to do. Studying the Bible has been a desire for me but I’ve constatntly had an excuse of some sort. This year, I have committed to two Bible studies. The first one is a woman’s Bible study that I started today, “Embracing Your Strengths.” I have already met some new women and know that I will love doing this! The second is one on parenting called, “Parenting by Design.” I am leading this Bible study at my church starting in March. I am excited to grow in my faith and my relationship to God by reading and studying His Word.

I was a competitive dancer when I was younger. I have done various forms of exercise over the years but have not done anything consistently since Steve died. I have been busy raising my children and really didn’t put too much priority on making time for working out in my life. I recently started a bootcamp, however, and it’s had some really great side effects. Not only do I feel stronger and healthier, but I’ve met some new friends too! I signed up for my first race and I’m excited to do it with my bootcamp friends. I can check this off the bucket list in May!

Enjoying every minute that I have with my children is also at the top of my list. I cannot believe that my son is already a teenager! I do not have that many more years until he will be off to college (hopefully!) so I want to cherish all of the time that I have with him. Cameron and Caitlin have been asking to visit Washington D.C. for several years but I’ve been waiting until my little Connor was old enough before I took them there. We are going this summer but I am a little nervous about taking them by myself. I know I can do it, but it is kind of scary thinking of being in the city and going to so many places. Hanging out at the beach is very different than riding trains and going places where I can get lost. I am most definitely directionally challenged so we’ve gotten lost plenty of times! I am going to push through my fear, however, and take them anyway. I will check this off of my bucket list in July!

White House at Night

So I guess my bucket list consists of going outside of my comfort zone spiritually, physically and emotionally. It has to do with building stronger relationships and being healthy. I am excited to develop new interests along the way too. My journey has taught me that life is very short so……what’s on your bucket list?

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The Waves of Grief

The one thing I’ve learned on this grief journey of mine, is that there are always good days and bad days. Fortunately, the bad days are fewer with more time in between them. When Steve first died, I thought I would never feel good again. Every part of my body ached with a physical longing that felt a lot like the flu. My chest hurt when I breathed as if there was a weight sitting on top of me. I had to force myself to eat because I felt nauseous and food was tasteless. Showering took an enormous amount of strength and I would feel like laying down to sleep after exerting so much energy.

Now, seven years later, I have more good days than bad. When I have a true “grief day,” it catches me by surprise. It’s usually a holiday or anniversary of some sort (the last one was on Steve’s birthday in September) and my grief can render me useless. It’s as if he just died all over again. I am unable to stop crying, don’t feel like eating and it takes all of my energy to get out of bed. I am always surprised by the amount of pain I feel on these grief days, although you would think I’d be used to it by now.

I’ve learned to be gentle with myself and to allow the waves of grief to hit me every once in a while. When I do, I am able to recover from them faster and the grief doesn’t seem to linger past a day or two. If I fight the grief, and don’t allow myself to feel it, the bad feelings last much longer. It’s as if I need to cry it all out so that I can keep moving forward and feeling good. If I don’t let it out, then my body just holds onto the grief.

Sometimes, when I know that a particularly rough anniversary is coming, I will purposely plan something that will put me into a better frame of mind. I will allow myself to be sad without being swallowed up inside the wave of grief. For Father’s Day, I focus on my children and our tradition of sending balloons up to Heaven. Each of us write a letter to Steve (or draws a picture) and we put them into the balloons before we let them go. It is healing for me to write to him and then watch that letter ascend into the sky. I always feel sad on Father’s Day but our ritual allows me to honor him and then move on with my day. I try to make Father’s Day about my children, not about missing their dad. Writing the letter keeps me from stuffing my feelings so that I am able to keep moving forward.

 I went to a funeral service today for a friend of mine. When his widow spoke about her love and how he was her best friend, I was taken back to that awful day in October of 2004 as I said goodbye to Steve at his funeral. I was sobbing today and I’m sure some people thought I was crazy since I wasn’t that close to the man who died! It was a wave of grief that came over me because I saw myself in that widow.

The good news is that I was able to recover from the wave and move on with the rest of my day. Seven years ago, that wave would have completely immobilized me. Perhaps I am healing after all?

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