Happy, Hard and Hopeful

“You need to write,” my husband said to me yesterday, as I stood at the kitchen sink, filling the watering can with cool water for our plants.

“Why do you say that?” I asked him. Not defensively, but I wanted to know if he was seeing the thing that I have been feeling. 

“Because it has been too long since you’ve written a blog post. You need to write.”

“But how much can I share?” I asked him, my eyes stinging.

And, here is your answer.

***

My last blog post was written on May 31, our 9 year Anniversary.

We had plans for the evening–to go to a special, beautiful restaurant in downtown Philadelphia to enjoy the very last day of their “May Menu”. I had been dreaming of the tempura veggies and baked brie and coconut cake.

This was the year for us to do it right.

After having fought through the hardest year of marriage, we deserved to treat ourselves, to toast to each other and to ourselves. To us.

And then, we got a call.

 On the afternoon of our anniversary, as I was just starting to get ready for our fun night out, my husband called me crying. His mother, who had been sick for a long time, had taken a turn. A bad turn.

The nurses said that she did not have much time.

“We have to go to our dinner,” my husband said, through his tears. “I am not letting you miss out on this.”

But, of course, we would not go out to our big, fancy dinner in the city.

“Don’t you see?” I asked him, trying to ease his upset. “This is what it is all about. This is real love.”

And so, we spent the evening of our 9th Anniversary in his mother’s nursing facility room, holding her hand, singing to her, teasing her that she “just had to make the day about” her.

Instead of an anniversary dinner of wild salmon & homemade lemon fettuccine, we ate burritos, at 11:30pm, on the couch, in front of “The Real Housewives of New York City”.

Real Love.

That next week was one of the biggest emotional rollercoasters that I have ever had to ride.

Out of respect for my mother-in-law and our family I am going to keep things intentionally vague, but throughout the next week, real life stopped and everything was replaced by our time with her; racing to the facility for time-sensitive issues; singing to her for two hours straight; snuggling up in her bed with her, just so that she could feel someone close; sleepwalking.

And then, we got a call.

A little less than a week after our first call, we received the one that we had simultaneously been dreading and preparing for. My mother in law had passed away, peacefully, at 5am, surrounded by love.

And I am so sad.

This is the thing: In many ways, I am the one who has to hold things together. I have to show my steadfast support for my husband. I want to try to help his family through this difficult time. I hosted everyone at our home after the funeral, making sure that everything was done perfectly, just as she would have liked it. I carefully arranged and rearranged flower bouquets and pictures of her in corresponding frames and got the plates that I know that she would have chosen.

I have to be a loving mother to my children, who are feeling a sense of great loss. Yes, my heart breaks for my husband and his immeasurable pain, and yes, I am terribly sad for my children who never got to experience their Nana in her healthy, vibrant glory, but I am also feeling something that I had not expected. I am so profoundly sad, having nothing to do with my love for or protection of anyone else. I am sad because I lost a woman whom I knew for over a third of my life, loved as I became a part of her family and, sang to, on the last day that she spent on this earth, as I held her hand in mine. I sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, reassuring her that she did not need to be scared and that I would take care of everything here. I beckoned the angels.

I am so, so sad.

I have lost close family members and it has been very hard, but I have never before been this close to the actual process.

And so, that is why I have been so quiet. I was quiet two weeks ago because I was at my mother in law’s bedside. I was quiet the week after as we were in mourning. I was quiet because how can you put something like this into words?

***

When this blog morphed into what it is today I had the amazing designers set up the site so that it would have three distinct categories at the top: A happy story, a hard story and a hopeful story.

This blog is seven-years-old this month, and so the happy story is everything from before, my hard story is the honest account of my struggle with severe perinatal anxiety and depression and my hopeful story is the here and now.

And, as I realized, so much of life can be divided into those categories. So much is happy, hard and hopeful.

While this month, thus far, has been dominated by so much sadness, I have not allowed it to completely define us.

If you look at my Instagram you will see a lot about cherishing life, our Saturday night picnics on the floor while watching Moana, “family” dinners, my ever-expanding greenhouse, Snapchat filter fun, epic dancing at my cousin’s wedding and my kids smiling.

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So much smiling. Because, even in the worst of times, we have to make room for the happy.

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 And then, there is the hopeful. The future. What lies ahead.

For me, a certain dream is coming true, and if you take a look at that section of the home page just above the Happy, Hard and Hopeful dropdown menus, you will see something new:

The Book.

Because The Book is now available for pre-order, and it is making “hot lists” and I am sorry if that is a not-humble-brag

(like, really sorry, not #sorrynotsorry) but I am SO proud and SO excited because I poured everything into this book and this book is for you.

And I hope that it helps more women, their family members, caregivers, members of the healthcare community and anyone else who picks it up or is assigned to read it for a class.

When I first came out with my story about my postpartum depression, in real time, I was scared, but I said to myself, “If my story can help ONE other person, then I will have succeeded.”

So, this means a lot to me. Like, the world.

***

So, there you have it. Since I last wrote, life has changed so dramatically. I have lost and I have gained. I have been sad and I have been excited. I have cried and I have danced.

In fact, it did not occur to me until just now, but this is pretty darn meaningful. I had the privilege of slow-dancing with my father on Saturday night to my favorite childhood song, the same song to which he walked me down the aisle at my wedding, as a saxophonist played:

Would you like to guess the song?

Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me

***

In real life, troubles do not melt like lemon drops. In real life, anniversary plans get interrupted when life steps in and romance is traded for reality (in the literal sense and also in our TV choices).

But, in real life, there is something else that happens: Sometimes, if you are very lucky, the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true. 

I wrote a book. It is being published. My family has been hit, and we are not only still standing, but we are now stronger together.

(Weebles Wobble but they don’t fall down, as my husband has always said to me).

In the span of 10 days I sang and danced about a land over the rainbow, once at the end of a life, and once at the beginning of a new one.

So, for now, we are healing. Processing. Loving. And I will continue to capture and cherish the happy moments and hope for the best, even when times are dark.

So, if you are looking for me, I will be leapfrogging between Happy, Hard and Hopeful, trying to stay afloat and feeling so grateful for the people who hold me up when I falter.

Yes. I will be here in real life, cherishing the moments. Trying to soak up every ounce of this beautiful world.

That’s where you’ll find me. 

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