The Princess Is In Another Castle.

This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is: The day that changed me was. Come link up!

So many wonderful and terrible days have changed me, and so many future wonderful and terrible days will too.

This is about the Super Mario game, full of levels and castles. Until the end castle, every smaller castle will have a bad guy to defeat. It gets harder, but each time it says, “THANK YOU, MARIO!! BUT OUR PRINCESS IS IN ANOTHER CASTLE!!!”

I started writing this over five years ago, and I’ve changed it seven times. It’s been several different drafts in my dashboard – and I’ve added to it, subtracted from it, multiplied it, and probably divided it too. When Finish the Sentence Friday asked me to write about a day that changed me, I could write about a number of wonderful and terrible days, but I start with this.

Don’t worry – I certainly won’t end with it.

Layers. That’s how deep loss has been described to me. Layers upon layers that you peel off – only to reveal newer, deeper layers. Some are bitter. Some are sweet. And some are easy to peel off and discard. Others get stuck or torn – too early.

Too late.

Suddenly, I had a lightbulb. “Video games!” I thought. “Deep loss is like a video game in which you get to the end of the level, only to unlock new levels, and fight newer, harder, deeper battles!” And my companion/mentor/teacher of loss said:

Exactly.”

This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is: The day that changed me was. Come link up!

If you haven’t heard it a 100 times, I’ll tell it 100 times more. Only weeks before my 4th birthday, I sat down to an early summer dinner with my mom and sister while my father napped in the bedroom. Suddenly with a loud thud and the furniture shaking, he collapsed on the floor on his way to the bathroom. He was taken away in an ambulance, and he never came back. Massive heart attack. And so began my life, before I had the capacity to hold onto memories sweeter than that.

And many memories were and are.

This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is: The day that changed me was. Come link up!

I think about this lately, more so as the kids grow. I watch the way they love and respect Cassidy, and I watch the way they do the same with me. I’ll see them get anxious after he’s been gone merely 24 hours on a business trip and not far way. Or just late home from work. Not a lifetime, and not a world or dimension or vast divide away. Then he walks in the door and their fears subside and they’re folded into his arms so perfectly and I release a breath I didn’t even know I was holding.

And I think that happens a lot. And I think it will happen a lot.

This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is: The day that changed me was. Come link up!

When I was four and newly lost, which is a nice word to describe what you are after a loss, I saw a therapist. His name was Stuart. I believe he helped me unlock some layers of my heart and some levels in the game of life. In video game speak, we can call it World One: Early Childhood. The levels were those moments and days – first birthday without my father. First Christmas, first Valentine’s Day, first day of school, moving to a new house, new dad, new step-siblings who became real-siblings, pets and friends and neighbors to come and go. Acceptance. I was fixed up, nearly good as new, or so I thought.

Graduated therapy and sent on my way. To grow up and see the world as a girl who had lost her father.

This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is: The day that changed me was. Come link up!

Then there were new enemies and obstacles and demons to defeat. Middle childhood. Adolescence. Changes. New worlds unlocked. New levels to explore. I saw a new therapist again when I was 10. We used Play-Doh faces to discover why I was so afraid of movie theaters and earthquakes. “It’s the loud noises,” my hot pink Play-Doh face said. “It’s the way the seats and floor shake when the movie is in high action.” Even I could see why such things would scare me, after what I had witnessed.

Again, I graduated therapy and my mom was told I didn’t need to come back. At least not then. New stability followed.

It lasted about as long as it ever did, until change. Going to college was hard and I adjusted. Graduating college and my parents selling our childhood house was REALLY hard, but I adjusted. The loss of my deceased father’s parents was REALLY hard, and I adjusted, almost. We find joy and laughter after every catastrophe because we’re meant to. These were my little shake-ups. My little earthquakes. They shook me apart and I had to learn to stitch the pieces back together.

And then I moved to San Francisco. I got married soon after that and had a baby. Then another. If I sound like I’m telling this story in fast forward motion, that’s because that’s how it felt. And that’s how I coped. So for the sake of my marriage and my kids and my personal well-being, I decided to learn and explore how a loss so early in childhood that you can barely even tell the impact it has until much later, can set the stage for lifelong pain. If that sounds chronic, that’s because it is.

The distance between grief and acceptance isn’t one fluid motion. The hope, though. It shines forever.

This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is: The day that changed me was. Come link up!

You crawl in and out of holes throughout life, and take baby steps too. You always reach higher ground after the deepest falls. Our mental health requires maintenance and tune-ups more than our homes and our cars. As I watch my kids grow, and am hit again and again by the loss of my father, I nearly have to separate myself into two people – three-year-old Tammy. And adult Tamara. As I see how my kids love and cling and absorb home and family life, I realize the unthinkable world for them is a world without one or both of their parents. No words, no breaths, no gasps, can cushion and explain that fall.

I have to tell myself, “That happened to YOU! Something terrible happened to you. Think on it. Work on it.”

There are no shortcuts or warp zones. You’ll have to fight your enemies and jump over your divides. You’ll sink in the ocean and have to learn to swim. You’ll have to find wings (or feathers) and learn to fly. If you don’t learn all of these things, you won’t move forward. You will be stuck – below or clinging above. And you won’t get your gold stars and gold coins.

You will not rescue the princess (yourself) in another castle. Will I ever rescue my ever-out-of-reach princess in her ever-out-of-reach castle? Probably not in some ways and probably so in others. Probably I have in some ways. Many ways.

And I probably haven’t in others, but that’s ok too. Not fully moving on, but fully moving forward.

This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week’s topic is “The day that changed me was..” And there’s still time to write yours. Come link up with your spin on the matter: HERE.

I Don’t Really Have the Words Either

This morning was the morning of a thousand bad mornings.

I woke up with the slight headache of being dehydrated, having skipped lunch and dinner yesterday, and having gone to sleep shivering so hard, I’m pretty sure I worked my abs. So there’s a plus side, right? I dropped the kids off, cheerfully enough, and came home to my power shutting off suddenly. It turned out to be several towns and cities-wide and it lasted two and a half hours. I don’t have a spare 20 minutes in my days, but two and a half hours? Talk about shivering your abs into submission! We’re back and spotty at best. The first post I saw when I logged back onto Facebook took my breath away.

My fifth grade teacher lost her long battle with brain cancer. Her daughter said, “I don’t really have the words.”

I don’t really have the words either, but I have and I will. I wrote about how her legacy will live on forever and she was the best of the best. She was what I consider a human game changer. The trajectory of my life was always and often spotty and crooked at best, but it’s MINE, and she saw it for what it was/is – heading somewhere. Fast sometimes. Slow sometimes.

graduation

God, I will miss her.

I’m sad for every kid who won’t get to meet her, and be changed by her. I’m comforted that her kids/grandkids knew her. May all of the lives she touched, touch all of the lives they’ll touch, and somehow we’ll all become human game changers, and we’ll all walk our own paths – always and often spotty and crooked at best, but heading somewhere. Somehow.

I’ve written her about her many times here before, so in celebration of her life, I’m going to copy and paste my previous words. I don’t really have the words, but like I said, I have and I will. With tears streaming down my face, probably always.

They’re all disjointed and copied/pasted, but hey, isn’t life??

This is for you:

1 – My fourth and fifth grade teachers came to my graduation party. I was so humbled and appreciative for all the things they put into one ear, that stayed in my head and jostled around a bit – and never went out the other ear. My fifth grade teacher told me she’d eat her arm if I didn’t grow up to become a writer. I talk about her sometimes. Do you know what else happened last week? I got to indirectly talk to her (through her daughter and husband on Facebook) and tell her how much I took her words to heart. It was such weird timing – a week of Facebook graduating class groups, and 5th grade teacher conversations.

2 – My fifth grade teacher told me if I didn’t become a writer, she’d eat her own arm. She thought that my writing was so sad, so that I didn’t have to be. I filled up dozens of black and white marbled composition books in her class. One day I wrote a story about the man in the moon who smiles at good people and literally moons bad people. I know she talked about it in the teacher’s lounge because other teachers would ask me to read my story. One night recently I told that story to Scarlet before bedtime. We both got the giggles for a long time before sleep finally took over.

3 – I was asked in an interview a few years ago this question: What was the first piece of literature (article, blog post, homework assignment, etc.) you wrote where you thought to yourself, “I’m a writer”?

What an awesome question! In truth, it probably happened in 5th grade. We used to write in black and white composition books and I wrote a story about a man in the moon who smiles at good people, and literally “moons” bad people. My math teacher stopped me in the hallway to ask if she could read my story. I figured I must be doing something right to have my stories talked about in the teacher’s lounge. My English teacher also pulled me aside one day and said, “I get you. Your writing is so sad, but you aren’t. I think your writing is sad so that you aren’t. And if you don’t grow up to be a writer, I’ll eat my arm.” It looks like she didn’t have to eat her arm! I think my first adult moment of calling myself a writer was my first paid BlogHer post. The editor even told me I could call myself a writer, a few times over. I did. I do. The link is HERE for my first ever paid writing job.

4 – Then I was asked in another interview: Have you always written so beautifully? Did you take a course, practice, or are you just gifted and awesome like that?

Well first of all, I’m blushing. Thank you. I have always written the way I do now – very expressively. I remember writing a note to my 4th grade teacher after seeing her cry one day, about how it touched me to see her sad. I left the note with a box of Valentine m&ms. She called me at home that night to tell me I expressed myself well. In 5th grade, it was the famous English teacher who told me that if I didn’t become a writer, she’d hunt me down one day. She was the one to tell me that my writing was very sad, so that I didn’t have to be. At least, not always. I took honors writing classes in high school and I majored in journalism in college, so I took many courses to get to where I am today, at least structure-wise. As for the expressive part of it, I was born that way. I think I’d go insane if I didn’t have this outlet.

5 – I figured out I wanted to be a writer around the same time, in 5th grade. I like to joke that I first wanted to be a writer when I learned how to write, but a lot of that time is a blur. I had to hone my new skill for years until I learned its power. In 5th grade, I had a pretty amazing English teacher. We kept those marble black and white composition books and we filled several of them throughout the year. She always pushed me farther than anyone ever had. She saw something in my writing that perhaps hadn’t existed to see until that year. My writing was always sad. I always wasn’t. It is still often like that for me.

6 – I always knew I wanted to write in life but I could never seem to find my focus. In grade school, it came easily and I was good at it. And I knew it too. Or at least I knew it because I didn’t have to try hard to do it and my teachers often praised me. I was creative too. I once wrote a story in 5th grade about the Man in the Moon and how he smiles at you if you’re a good person..and literally moons you if not. It was great. I had deep trauma in early childhood. I got high on life. I had a very vivid imagination. I was a good girl who always did everything she was asked and always completed assignments on time. These ingredients and more combined to make me a writer. I love photography, a LOT, but one writing compliment is worth ten photography compliments. Writing was what kept me safe and comforted as a child.

7 – In 5th grade, I really excelled in my English class. We had to keep journals full of stories – in those delicious black and white marbled books – and I did so with much gusto and zero abandon. I mean, I didn’t leave anything to the imagination. I filled those books cover to cover with just about anything in my head. For example, that was the year I started getting high on life and I detailed it in writing. For another example, I once wrote a story about the man in the moon and how he smiles at good people and literally…moons bad people. Like he pulls down his pants and lets certain undesirables see his butt crack. Yes, I wrote that. And yes, both my Homeroom teacher and my Math teacher heard about it in the teacher’s lounge and asked me if they could read it.

8 – One day, my English teacher said to me, “Aha, I get it!” And I asked what she got. I can’t remember this verbatim but this is pretty close. She said, “I get you! Your writing is so sad. And that is why…you’re not.” And I thought about this when I went home, and for days, and months, and years and decades after. And yes, she hit the nail on the head. I’m not saying I can transfer 100% of my pain and anger onto this blog. What I can say is that you’re not getting the full story. My laugher and smiles are being transferred onto time with my family. Sadness – it goes here.

9 -There are a couple of other school things that came up over the years. In 5th grade (go figure) English I had to do a creative writing story on a mermaid or something like that and I dreamed up the best report cover ever. The problem was that I couldn’t describe it for my mom, an artist, to draw for me so I had to do it myself. For some reason it came out so well that my teacher told me I could go pro with art. And I can’t draw to save my life most of the time!

Much love.