You’re Always on My Mind.

I’ve been writing this post in my head for 364 days. I’ve been writing it in many forms but every time I sit down to actually write it, nothing comes. It started with no intro, it started with Dear #$!#$ Baby, it started with Dear Daver. One for me, one for the kid to learn about his uncle, one for my brother. It was a timeline of events of the week. It was a description of who he was. It was an introspective of how I handled (or didn’t handle) the grief I was left with.

While I think all those things still need to be written, I feel like this just needs to be a reflection of the past year. And someday I’ll muster up the courage to tell the whole lot of stories that need to be told. Even with that being said, I’m finding it hard to find the words to say the things I’m not sure to say.

I just cannot figure out how to say what’s in my heart and been rolling in my head since February 24, 2013.

I’ve started and restarted and been distracted and poured a drink and deleted and began again. Repeat.

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Letting Go

There’s this song, and it may have been out for awhile (checked, and July 2012 is in fact awhile ago) but it didn’t appear on any of my XM stations playlists so I didn’t know about it. Probably because my XM station favorites are rap, hair band, 90’s, Y2K, rap, metal, some weird metal/rap fusion, 90’s grunge and a random alternative. So no, I didn’t know about it. Enter Pandora. That crazy music box of evil. And on a FAMILY ROAD TRIP station of all things. Picture this. I’m deep cleaning my kitchen/main floor after depleting the house of Christmas decorations. I’m rocking out to the greatest selection of music these ears have ever heard. Oldies, Beatles, no-shame guilty pleasure Phillip Phillips, Journey, it was fantastic.

jamdance

And this song came on, quietly. Unobtrusively. I didn’t really notice it but it sounded sweet. I glanced at the name, sort of remembered maybe hearing it elsewhere, saw it was an acoustic version and went back to cleaning. I liked it, but I didn’t listen to it. But these moody/folksy types of songs have been the kind to draw me in over the last year so I made a mental note of it. I went back to cleaning. Pandora went back to rocking. As I get close to finishing, half a room left to mop, the real version of that song comes on. And I listen. And I cry. And I have to mop up the $%!# tear drops from my freshly cleaned floor. In two lines, it became one of THOSE songs in my life. Now, it haunts me everywhere. I heard it at the gym while waiting for yoga to start a few days later and spent the first ten minutes of class fighting tears. NOW I see it on XM fairly frequently on a station at the bottom of my rotation. It even kicked me in the gut during the Superbowl but advertisers added a goddamn puppy and a goddamn horse to further my emotional turmoil. Yeah, now you know what song I’m talking about. If you don’t, there is a video at the bottom of this post. And I will fully admit I cried during a beer commercial. I have an uncanny ability to make every song about me. And for the past year, every song I hear I can turn into something about my brother. It can even essentially be a song about failed contraceptive but because I spent nights in bed, awake, remembering things, it became about me.

When the lights go out and I’m in my bed / I think of all the madness in my head / all of the things that I did back then / when I’m in my bed/I think of all the memories I’ve had / all of the things that I did back then (T.I. – Memories Back Then)

So there’s my secret. I’m exceptionally emotionally susceptible to music. I tear up every time I hear Tom Petty’s Wildflowers because it makes me think of the cat we only had for a year but died after we moved from California and he loved Tom Petty (true fact). It’s not a bad thing. It just…is. I cry at lyrics. Usually in the car. I think. I remember. I take deep breaths. I well up. Anyway, back to Passenger and the song that gets me teary after hearing three notes because now I’m wicked familiar with it. I love it. I love to hate it. I love the lyrics. It was written for me. Let’s break it down.

You only need the light when it’s burning low / Only miss the sun when it starts to snow / Only know you love her when you let her go. Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low / Only hate the road when you’re missing home / Only know you love her when you let her go / And you let her go.

As someone who loves snow, is forever pessimistic and has had a tiny yet consistent pang of homesickness for the past ten years, you should be able to figure this chorus out and why it hits me the way it does. It was the hate the road line that caused the first tears – I love road trips. LOVE THEM. But the road trip leaving Minnesota after Christmas every year, especially this year, is always heart-wrenching. Clearly I didn’t let a “her” go, but I did let a “he” go. I always knew I loved my brother, obviously, and I didn’t necessarily let him go, but I wasn’t thinking about him every day. I took for granted that he would always be there. And then he wasn’t. Now he’s always on my mind and everything jars a memory and it becomes hard not to feel like some time was wasted between us. Which explains why the following verse is what it is.

You see her when you close your eyes / Maybe one day you’ll understand why / Everything you touch surely dies

Because #!$!#@ shit, really. This song, truly, is the worst.

Staring at the ceiling in the dark / Same old empty feeling in your heart / ‘Cause Love comes slow and it goes so fast

It just…sums up everything so easily and perfectly and it’s like they were 75% of the way in my head. I can’t help what I feel, I’m not ashamed, but god help me if I hear it in public. I’m a mess. I try to tune it out but I LIKE IT SO MUCH that I WANT to listen to it. I LIKE that I feel the way I do when I hear it. It makes me sad in the happiest of ways. I am officially adding it to the list of Songs That Will Make Me Cry No Matter What. You know you have your list, too. I’m open to suggestions of other songs to add to mine!

**I wrote this post last night but had no intention of posting it today. But as I walked in to yoga, guess what was playing. And then ten minutes later the instructor decided to theme the class as “Letting Go”. Swear to @#!$!@ god. I took it as a sign. So there you have it.

Memories in the Mundane

It generally happens when my head is empty.

I’m running, I’m driving, I’m cooking, I’m trying to sleep, I’m thinking.

I’m stuck in my head.

And memories just regenerate and I have nothing to do but remember.

And it’s not touching things like finding a card.

It’s random crap that I can’t even BELIEVE I remember, like when my brother told me I made the worst mac and cheese ever.

I was 12. Maybe 11. He was in middle school. He went to middle school at the HIGH SCHOOL which made him and his friends a big deal. And I always wanted to impress them. He asked me to make mac and cheese and I happily accepted.

Because, seriously? I’d been making mac and cheese from a box for years by that point. I loved that shit. I had the decreasing butter, increasing milk down to a SCIENCE.

But he gave me specific instructions.

Don’t cook the noodles all the way.

Add twice the milk.

If you say so, bro. But I made it to his specifications. He told me to.

It was gross.

Crunchy. Runny. Inedible.

He called me out on it, called it the worst mac and cheese ever. And I, in one of my now-recovered first moments of bitch, called him out on his terrible directions. He relented, we laughed, it was over. I’m pretty sure they made a frozen pizza.

Twenty minutes of life that was somehow remembered and now will never be forgotten.

How I Learned to Stop Trying and Love the Bullshit

Last week, I posted the following on my personal Facebook:

timemgmt

And I was overwhelmed by the need to share a story there because it spurred a memory that NEEDED to be shared. Sort of. Probably not. But I was going to share it anyway and I needed space to properly regale.

HELLO, THAT’S THE WHOLE REASON I STARTED A BLOG. Duh.

Once Upon a Time…

In a far away land called Minnesota in a middle school there lived a crazy substitute teacher who somehow became permanent staff. She taught Reading which, really? Not English, not Lit, not Grammar. $^@#%$ READING.

She loved to wear this crazy hat when she had recess duty. Why would I remember such a fact? Because she informed us, every time, that it was her BAHAMA MAMA HAT. I can’t make this shit up, my friends.

Reading involved a surprisingly little amount of actual reading. My hazy mind remembers something dubbed “circuits”. One day we had to complete a worksheet, one day we might get to read a chapter of something, I think there were film strips or microfiche involved somehow. And we rotated. All this meant to me was I got to fool around in a different section of the room for an hour every other day and throw notes across the room to my friend.

Literally. We THREW WADS OF PAPER ACROSS THE ROOM and Bahamamama remained oblivious.

Somewhere, probably the early depths of the 90’s interwebz or a dusty teacher basement, she found these giant packets for us to slave over. Like @#%! fifty page packets of shit. They were bound with industrial staples. One packet was for Proper Note Taking, there was a Good Study Habits Guide and my favorite, and clearly the most remembered, Time Management Skills.

These were all probably skills I could have honed a little more and benefited from later in life. However, I assumed I was too damn smart for my own good. Maybe a little entitled. And lazy. Whoa, shit I was lazy. Still am. I perfected that skill early and without effort. I’m awesome.

I faked my way through the other packets but I just couldn’t be bothered with this Time Management shit. So I just didn’t do it. Never even put my name on it. Buried it in my locker. I think we had a month to complete each novel of worksheets. She could have given us a year, it didn’t matter. I wasn’t touching it.

The time did come to turn them in, as generally happens with homework. The gigantic waste of paper was collected and towered on her desk. Two weeks went by, that tower growing lower as she graded. I was minding my own business, writing a response on a crinkled ball of paper, prepared to heave it behind me. The tower was gone.

Bahamabadmamajamama beckoned me.

Getting up slowly, I heeded her call. Plaid skirt rolled one too many times. Yellow peter pan collared shirt half untucked. Unsuccessful in my uniform quest to climb the food chain of popularity.

I put my most responsible face on. (Lesson One: Game Face)

“Where is your Time Management packet?” asked Bahamamama.

“I turned it in.”

“It wasn’t in the pile, are you sure you turned it in with everyone else?”

“Of course! Remember, I asked you if we had to track time for the whole day or just the time we were in school?”

Lies. LIES. That one page I glanced at while deciding not to do it sure came in handy, though. (Lesson Two: Details. Or at least A detail.)

“Hmm. Ok. Well, I trust you. You’ve always turned things in on time. I must have lost it.”

MUST HAVE LOST IT. (Repeat Lesson One: Game Face)

“You do such good work, I’ll just go ahead and give you an A”.

GIVE YOU AN A. (GAME FACE LEVEL EXPERT)

I retrieved my jaw gracefully from the floor, wiped the smug grin off it before I reattached it to my pubescent face and gloatfully, yet subtly, skipped back to my desk before she could change her mind. (Lesson Three: Hasty Retreat)

I had discovered a power within. One that would continue to grow with me as classes got harder, papers turned into essays, tests into exams, due dates into deadlines, school into a career.

Sometimes life experience is better than work. Especially if the experience got you out of doing the work in the first place.

Right?

To be fair, I do have terrible time management.

Finder’s Keepers

I didn’t look inside.

It hit me like a wrecking ball. Innocently straightening the cookbook shelves and I find it. An unassuming greeting card with concentric circles on the front. Red and blue. No writing. No cartoons, no funny quips. And it meant everything.

I was given this card at Christmas a few years ago. It was the carrier for a gift card. I think. I don’t totally remember. I was touched by the single sentence written on the inside, a sentiment not often heard from my brother but truly heartfelt. I saved it; it was special. Last month, that card became a memento that I knew I could never leave behind.

Small issue, though. I had no idea WHERE it was.

I knew it was somewhere in my house. I had come across it not that long ago. I had seen the corner peeking out from somewhere, and my heart warmed, and I meant to shoot him a text. And then life got in the way. The card was buried, the text never got sent.

I knew I had to find it. But last week, I was not actively seeking it. Not yet. So I was unprepared to find it.

While I was home last month, I thought about this card more than once. It helped me get over some jealousy issues I was having. Yeah, you read that right. Home to say goodbye to my brother and I was jealous. Jealous of the relationships everyone else seemed to have with him. How he helped them. How often they got to spend time with him. All the things they knew about him. It left me feeling like I hardly knew him.

Then I remembered that damn card. And the one sentence that could make me feel better about MY relationship with him. However jealous I could get, I was his sister. His only sister. The only one he could have. And I’m sure many envied me for that. I would’ve. I still would.

I always will.

I found it. I had to sit when it knocked the wind out of me. I stared at it and I cried and I abandoned the rest of the cleaning. But I found it. I know where it is. I will always have it. Treasure it. Keep it safe. I’ll open it again one day.

One day. But not today.

Although, maybe it still has a gift card inside…