This past week a question was proposed to me that has had my mind spinning ever since. I have thought and thought about the answer and how it pertains to my life and I am unhappy to say I am struggling with this one. The question was how does living for the moment and finding my path correlate? How can you live in the moment and still seek a path and follow a plan? Since I can’t think this one through, please bear with me as I try to write my way through. Sometimes this works better for me.
Ever since Pat died…actually ever since Pat got sick, I have had a new perspective on life. My focus and understanding of the world has changed. I understand we only have a limited amount of time on this earth and I want to do with that time all that I can do. I don’t want to just sit and wait for time to pass me by with some days, or in ten years, or when I retire. I want to live and feel and be…NOW. I want to enjoy every second and do what I want to do during the time I have. I don’t know what tomorrow brings, or if it will even come. I am trying to follow my heart and make decisions on what feels right for me and my boys. Some of the decisions may seem a bit crazy, but I don’t want to be stuck in five, or ten years from now thinking I wish I would have. So I am trying to live for the moment and just be.
BUT…I am also searching for a new path; a new direction; a new purpose in life. Can I have both? I think I can. Yes, I want to be in the moment and live it how I want to live it, but I am human and I want more. I want to feel a purpose. I want to know that I have meaning. This could be to someone, or something. I want to share my life and build it with hopes and dreams for the future, but that doesn’t mean I have to wait to try to live those hopes and dreams. I think my idea of living in the moment with a path for the future means that I want to do all that I want to do now….not someday. If I want to write a book, then I want to do it now, not when the kids are older. If I want to travel and see the world, then I want to do it now,not when I have more money or I am more settled…that may never happen. There is never enough. If I want to spend time with someone, I want to do it now….not in ten years. I don’t want my life to be a destination, an end game or the plan for the future. I want it to be my life that I am living. Not I am living to have someday.
I get I can’t do it all or have it all today, right this moment. But I can do with my time all that I want to do. I don’t need to spend my time wasting away on wishes or some days. I know there is no guarantee for tomorrow, but I do have dreams and I see a path before me. I just want to live along the path and not just ride the escalator of life until I get to the point where it “makes sense” to start living the life I want to live. I think I can do both of living in the moment while setting out on a new path. The point is I want to live and I think that is what is most important here. Whether or not I decide to wait ten years before I do that, or start right this minute is up to me. I have to decide what this means and it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks of that decision. I think the beginning of my journey on this so-called new path of mine was the choice to continue to live forward. After that I can either decide to truly live or continue to wait in the waiting room for life to come my way. I don’t know about you, but I want to get out there and do it now. I could wait for something better, or a better time, or a better situation to make others happy, but perhaps all that really is telling me is that isn’t what is best for me. Because what is best for me is what makes me happy, what makes me a better mom to my boys and what will continue to lead me down the path of my life. I don’t want to find happiness….I want to live in it. There it is. That makes sense to me.
So I guess that’s my answer.
Time is passing and things are changing. Everything has changed. The past ten months has been nothing but change. I am looking for a small piece of normalcy…a place to rest my head and feel comfort. We have been sitting in a holding pattern for far too long and it is time to take a step in the right direction. We have healed a great deal- not completely because I don’t think that is possible. But healing we have done. The holidays were tough. Tougher than I thought they would be, but we made it through. The new year feels like the right time for a new perspective and I want that, but the reality of it all is that this is my life now. It’s not the life I had planned on. I thought I had it figured out. I was lucky enough to find someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, not an easy thing to do….I married the man of my dreams, started a family, planned a future together to grow old as a couple. That was what I thought my life would be.
The life I thought I would have will never be. That’s what I know. I’ve been working on what that means now. It’s a tough job. A journey without any roadmap, let alone a compass to try to direct me in the right direction. Being a single parent is no joke, especially since we live in a world of couplehood. How quickly people have forgotten that it is just me doing the job of two. It sounds like it’s double the work, but it truly feels like 10 times the work. I do what I can do and hope people understand. I am doing the best I can. I’m doing Ok. We all are. It’s just not what I ever thought my life would be.
So now what?
This is where I find myself here in 2016… a place of discovery. I have found me again…I’m stronger than ever before…and I am weaker than ever before. But I am me. I am good with who I am. Not a small feat. I see happiness in my future and I see a life again. Not sure exactly what I will see along this new path, but I know I am going somewhere good. Pat is with me all the time. His spirit surrounds me and pushes me to move forward. “Smile everyday” is what he told me to do. He wanted me to be happy, and not finding happiness and living again would be no tribute to him whatsoever.
So this is my plan…
Be happy. Smile. Enjoy the simple things. Love unconditionally. Laugh. Live. Breathe… What more can I do.
Four months have come and gone without Pat and I feel I have come so far in such a short time. I haven’t sat in the face of fear and sadness and just let it envelop me into nothing. I took the pain. I felt the pain. I embraced the pain. It is all part of him and all that we had. He loved me completely with his entire being and losing him should hurt in such the same way…completely and throughout my being. It aches, it burns, it cries out in despair. It’s everything you could imagine about losing a part of you and so much more. It’s nothing I would wish on my worst enemy, but it’s not the end of me. I am here. I have a life ahead of me and to sit and wallow in pity and sorrow is not in the cards for me. Pat wanted more for me. I’ve said many times his death will not be in vain. I don’t think I really have known what I meant by that, it’s just something I felt. I now think it is that I am not going to just lay down and die with him. He didn’t fight until his last breath for me to give up. He didn’t give up and he wouldn’t want me to give up either. I think that’s where that thought has come from. I need to embrace the pain and use it to continue on. To push forward and continue the fight he began. I need to live the life I want to live and live it to the fullest…whatever that may look like. This is the life I have been given at this point in time. I didn’t ask for this new life or new perspective on the future, but it is what I have now and I need to use it to my fullest potential. That’s what I am trying to do.
Sometimes it is difficult to move forward in this life with the voices and noise that surrounds me. The opinions, whether voiced or perceived by me, of others can hold me back from pressing on in the direction or with the desire I would like. With the best of intentions for me, people can say some of the stupidest things where it seems they don’t really even understand what they are saying. It could be clichés or things they have heard somewhere, or maybe even what they think should be said, but it is received as judgment and disapproval of how I am grieving. This also happens when people choose not to even speak of Pat in my presence as if that will make me forget what has happened. If I don’t think of him and speak of him its as if everyone is forgetting him. He lives on in us and through us. We need to remember our loved ones and not be afraid of speaking their name or sharing our memories. And with that, we need to remember them as they were…imperfect. When people tell stories or speak of Pat as if he was this “saint” or perfect, it’s as if I don’t even recognize him anymore. I loved all of him, which included all his flaws. That is what made him mine and made our love real. I want to remember him exactly how he was and who he was. That is the way I can honor him and his life. He wrote the words once and I couldn’t have said it better….”God dammit, Patrick Mahoney lived and I am so proud to have known him.” I hope he is proud of how I am living and honoring him. He wanted nothing more than me to be happy. That is what I need to do, for him and for me.
Just because I’m smiling doesn’t mean I’m not crying on the inside. Just because I’m smiling doesn’t mean everything is ok. But just because I’m hurting on the inside doesn’t mean that I should walk around with my head held low and tears in my eyes. Wearing a smile means a great deal to people, especially when things aren’t going so well. A smile can hide all the bad that is going on underneath, but it also can show the world that the bad hasn’t won. When you smile you show you’re still in the game…you’re still here and you haven’t been beaten. It shows your strength, your dignity, your pride.
A smile makes you feel good if just for a moment and that feeling may be exactly what you need to get through the day. To have people look at you like your ok, like they don’t pity you or your situation….trust me that means a lot.
Sometimes I wish there were more hours in the day so I could get more done. But then I realize what would I honestly do with that time? Would I accomplish more, or simply waste more time? I don’t have the answer to that. I just wish there wasn’t so much that I want to do everyday. I start off my day with a handy-dandy to do list and instead of happily crossing things off, the list tends to grow as the day goes along. I feel like I have no control over what is happening around me, let alone to me. Its like the waves of life come crashing in at the same time…always at the same time, and I can feel them pulling me under as I fight to keep my head above the water. The more you fight, the worse it tends to get. I have to remind myself to take a deep breath before I lose it all and just go with it…Ride the waves and try to enjoy the ride. Sometimes a little splash, or a quick dunk in an ocean of the unknown can be refreshing and rewarding. Not only can it make you feel appreciation for the security of the normal routine of life, but it can help you build strength, character and a new perspective on the world around you.
Yeah that sounds so easy…right? Hell no. When the waves start to break and you are sitting in the middle of it all, who thinks about all that they will learn from this? Nobody that’s who. Well at least I know I don’t realize it until way later. I am trying to focus on the here and now and enjoy where I am at and enjoy what I am doing. If I am constantly worrying about what is next, I am always falling behind. This is true with my to do lists. They never end. And I don’t enjoy any of it.
I always tell my girls at school that it’s not about the final answer, but it’s about the process of getting to it. I need to listen to that in relation to my life. I’m sure you’ve heard this one as well…Lifes not a destination, it’s a journey. Well I want to start that journey, better yet I am ready to realize the journey I have been on for the past 39+ years. Because haven’t we all been on a journey since the moment we were born. It’s only when we realize it that we can start enjoying the sights along the way. The view from my window is looking good!
This new life journey began quickly. He was going to begin treatment as soon as possible since the cancer was aggressive. One of my new roles was being a “secretary”. I was responsible for scheduling all doctors appointments, recording medicines, temperatures and and complaints. I had to organize the kids as to who was taking care of them when and where and make the drop offs as smooth as possible. Sometimes the kids were shuffled between two or three different places in a day. They didn’t really seem to mind, since they were being spoiled rotten. Everyone was taking them to fun places and letting them have a good time
I wasn’t so nervous about this role because I felt I had some control over it. I could keep my focus on being organized and detailed in my note taking. I became OCD about documenting everything he ate, drank and medicines he took. I took his temperature a lot and would watch him sleep…not sure he knows this. While he slept, I would read up on his illness and the treatments he was going to be having. Taking in this knowledge helped me feel like I was a part of the solution. I wanted to help and fix this for Pat, but I couldn’t. That pissed me off. I wanted to take away his pain. Since I obviously couldn’t do this, I just tried to take care of everything so he didn’t have to worry about anything else. As time went on, my role as secretary changed from being a crazy note taker, to being the one to call the doctors and keep track of all the paperwork.
On top of all of this, the new school year was beginning and I was heading back to work. I had to organize my classroom, redecorate, write lesson plans and attend all the back to school meetings. I didn’t know how I was going to do two full time jobs, but I didn’t really have a choice. I would leave the hospital for a few hours and work in my room, then head back to sit with him until bedtime. While at the hospital, I would write lesson plans and map out the first few weeks of school. I felt like my brain could never shut down. I was either focused on him or on work…not to mention the three boys of my own. They were heading back to school as well. I had back to school shopping to do for them and I wanted to spend some time with them. This wasn’t really going to be in the cards for a little longer.
When I had a chance I would take each one out for a quick shopping trip and then back to the hospital. Everything was about quickness and not being away too long. I didn’t want to be away from Pat because in my head I was the only one who could take care of him. The love I felt for him powered me to continue pushing forward. If I felt like I couldn’t do everything all I had to do was thinking about letting him down, and I would be right back to it. I want to take care of everyone, I want to help. That’s who I am…That’s what I do. I don’t think I fully comprehended the challenge that was in front of me.
Lymphoma of the bone marrow. This was what the doctor was telling us, but all I felt was a blow to the stomach and my lungs deflate. It was the most surreal moment. It was as though I was outside of my body watching the conversation unfold. I knew the doctor was speaking to us, and I knew I needed to hear everything he had to say, but I was somewhere else. I had to shake my head to return to the conversation and focus on his actual words. He gave us the prognosis and a brief description of a plan of action that really made no sense at the time. When he left the room, I had taken on a new role…caregiver.
I ran to my boys and hugged them all and then made all the necessary phone calls, where I repeatedly broke down sobbing. I took the boys home and began making plans for the next few days. I would hold it together in front of the boys, but when I stepped away I would break. At one point, talking to my sister explaining what was happening, I fell to the ground in front of my house, hyperventilating, asking why, why, why. This couldn’t be happening to us. I knew I was going to have to be stronger than I had ever been before in my life. I just didn’t know if I was capable of this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m one tough chick, but this was some serious shit and I had three boys and now a sick husband to take care of. I know it wasn’t the truth in the matter, but it was my reality…this was all on me. There was no room for me to make any mistakes. I had to be everything to everybody and I had to do it right…right now.
This was going to be a long tough road and we had no map to follow. We were heading out on an unknown path and I felt all alone, even though we were in this together.
Today is day two. The day I talk about my horrible experience on September 11, 2006. At the time I was 7 months pregnant with my third child. I already had two boys at home, Seamus who was 3 and Quinn who was 19 months. I was a stay at home mom at the time and not the happiest to be pregnant yet again. I started to feel sick and figured I had the flu. I was throwing up and had a temperature that was ranging from 101 – 102.5. I was sleeping ALL the time. I thought that was what I needed in order to get over this illness. My husband figured I was sick and I was tired from being pregnant, so he did his best to handle things. After a while, he did get frustrated because I wasn’t taking care of the boys during the day and letting them play with my jewelry and make quite a mess in the house. Finally after a few days, my husband told me I had to contact the doctor. When I called it was a Sunday afternoon, so obviously they were not open. I left a message and went back to bed. That night, I was sweating a lot and woke up several times soaking wet. When I awoke on Monday I guess I thought I was better. The doctor called me back and I said I felt good. What did I know? My sister came over and took the boys from me so I could sleep some more. I don’t remember much more of that day…Monday, September 11.
My husband filled me in on the rest of the events that took place. When he got home from work, I was acting crazy. For example, I didn’t know how to open a jar of peanut butter, and I tried to use my husbands sock as a headband…Things like that. My husband suggested I go to the hospital because he felt something was wrong. I wouldn’t do that. He decided to call 911, but when they arrived I was not a happy camper. I was not going to go easily. I remember bits of pieces of these moments, but more like memories of a movie. I was swearing and yelling and screaming, and not being the sweet little thing I usually am 🙂 I was fighting with the paramedics and being a whole lot of nutty. When they got me to the hospital I had a spinaltap and it was determined that I had bacterial meningitis. Remember I was 7 months pregnant. This wasn’t an illness that pregnant woman typically had. I was transported to another hospital where I was placed into a medically induced coma. That is where I remained for 1 week.
When I awoke, I was obviously confused and completely unaware of what had happened to me. As I was filled in on the events over the past week I was totally blown away. There was a high chance of me dying. They had a crash cart ready for me and the baby. They thought that if I did survive, I wasn’t going to be the same. And if the baby survived, they would have their own issues. For example poor muscle development, and skin coloring issues. Fortunately, I woke up and was not brain dead. I did have some issues. I had to go to physical therapy to walk, talk do math and take care of myself again. I had to regain some memory and fine motor skills. What a week.
When the baby arrived, I had a perfect, beautiful baby boy with no issues! Not to mention, my eye sight had improved. It was a struggle to come back from this event and I lost some memories and some short term memory issues. But overall, I am fine, and so is Aidan, my sweet 7 year old.
This event made me view life and death differently. I realized I wasn’t immortal and how quickly everything can be taken from me. In a way I think I should have learned more than I did from this close encounter with death, but I can definitely say I am thankful to be alive and for all that I have.