June 08 2002

The day my life changed forever and I became my second self.

Fact: It was a beautiful sunny June day, warm but comfortable. A beautiful day for a country drive. I had spontaneously offered to drive a young girl to see her boyfriend that day.

Background: I had met her a month before through an acquaintance. She was new to the city and was struggling to catch a break. She was a lovely little free spirit – 19 years old and alone in a new city with a lousy job at 7-11. Her name was April and within an hour of meeting her, I knew her entire life story. She talked a mile a minute and laughed and touched you while she was excitedly telling you everything about her. I worried for her. Her open heart and being alone in the city, so I offered to let her stay with me for a couple of months until she “got on her feet.” I had recently left my husband of almost twenty years and was settling into a new home with my two sons;  she may be of help to me while I was helping her, watching the boys for that hour or so after school before I got home from work.

I was like my mother that way- helping others, taking them in, getting them sorted and sending them on their way. I was not selfless- I knew she could help me too, but from the bottom of my heart, my primary purpose was to keep her safe. I felt such an intense feeling that I needed to protect her…from..something. That feeling of mine will become  a mockery  as this story finds its way out of me. My only hope is that I can somehow explain in a way that makes sense, a truly senseless tragedy, that to this day confuses me to my core  in regards to why April had to be a part of it.

Fact: We were driving in my car away from her boyfriend. She had visited with him and kissed and giggled and laughed her way through the entire time she spent with him. She was on top of the world, motor-mouthing to me about how she was so in love and how they would get married some day and the names her children would have, and how I was the BEST person she had EVER met for helping her out and taking care of her like a MOTHER would. She was sitting sideways in the passenger seat and talking with her arms and hands flying with emotion and I laughed as I told her to  sit properly in her seat and to put her seat belt on before we reached the highway. I couldn’t see out her side of the car at all and didn’t see anything until it was just….this….much…too …late. I strained to look around her as we came to the train crossing, and not seeing anything, I drove forward. The last words out of my mouth in the split second of realization that occurred were” Oh FUCK.”

RCMP Accident Report: The Northbound Canadian Pacific train struck the passenger side of  vehicle at 1535 June 08 2012. The car was pushed for approximately 30 meters, with the occupants remaining inside the vehicle, with occupant belongings being ejected out the shattered passenger window and rear windows. Witness reports stated there was a smell of gasoline and burning rubber, and that one witness (occupation: Registered Nurse)  crawled under the train to get to the victims inside the vehicle.

Eyes wide open in shock, mouth gasping for air, hurts, hurts, hurts, HURTS, HURTS HURTS,FUCK IT HURTS IT HURTS IT HURTS OHMYGOD WHAT IS HAPPENING TO MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE??? SOMEBODY HELP ME PLEASE, MOM. MOM, MOM, MOM, PLEASE HELP ME ANYBODY HELP ME OHMYGOD IMDYING IMDYINGMYSONSMYSONSMYSONSRORYNICKYRORYNICKYRORYNICKYRORY OH NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!WHAT HAVE I DONE??????? I LEFT THEM ALONE I LEFT THEM ALONE NO MOTHER NO MOTHER I’M SO STUPIDSTUPIDSTUPID!!!!! WHAT IS ON TOP OF ME? WHAT IS THAT? I HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE BUT I CANT GET THIS OFF OF ME WHAT IS IT? 

closing my eyes. too bright, too much, too hot,  close them for just a minute, put your head back and rest and close them for a minute, they are burning and something hot and sticky is in them and on your face and you suddenly smell your newborn son’s neck. the car is filled with the smell of new baby and the sweet smell envelopes you and you want to close your eyes but just for a minute and you hear your Dad’s voice and you can almost see him but he won’t help you and you cry a little and moan and almost pant like an animal and you hear his voice saying, “no, not yet, no, no, no, not yet – OPEN YOUR EYES!”

hard to breathe and whistling sounds and you sit straight and look down…and you push…that…off of you. you push hard and cry and try to breathe and then you push the arm away and you push…the other…away and you turn to your door and you slide out like a snake and fall to the ground. you get up to stand and fall again. you do this three times before someone holds you down and tells you to stay down. she tells you that you are badly injured and need to stay down. she is crying but she doesn’t  even know you…she cries as she holds you down gently.you try to tell her that if you can stand up you are alive but she can’t hear you. you have no voice left, just whistling, whining puffs of nothingness.

on your stomach with your face in the prickly grass and ditch weeds, you can smell the earth and the dirt and you can feel the sun hot on your back and the blood and your tears and the dirt become one and you hear the others whispering but you don’t care as you think about your babies and everyone you ever loved and those that loved you and it goes so fast in your head and spins and whirls that you feel dizzy and want to sit up. you almost feel like throwing up but you know that these people are sad already and you try to keep all that down and let yourself go..go..go.

you are in the ambulance tied to a board and the lady with the blonde hair is asking you who to call and you can’t say your mother cus she is old and far away and you know that is the call that will kill her so you tell her to call your brother who is reckless but strong like you and who will come for your sons if you die and they need him. she wants to know your children’s names and how old they are and what you would say to them if they were with you right now and you watch her try to write in her little coil notepad and her hands are shaking and you can’t breathe but she keeps talking and asking and writing as the ambulance moves to where they are taking you.

she asks about April’s family and numbers and you try to turn your head as far as you can in the brace

            and then close your eyes

                                              and disappear…. 

 

 

 

 

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An Old Man and his Story

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http:// https://promptlings.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/the-sandbox-writing-challenge-37-something-important/

He was admitted to the hospice on a spring day.
He came in on a stretcher grumbling and cursing at every jiggle the stretcher made on its journey to his final home.

Once the transfer team had him in the bed, I went into meet him with his chart and the reams of paperwork necessary in order to admit him.
After confirming his name and his birth date and asking about allergies, the question about his next-of-kin came up.
In a wheezy voice he muttered that there was no one. He had three daughters he hadn’t spoken to in years so I could leave those “ungrateful bitches” out of his affairs.
He hadn’t seen them in years since their mother’s death.  He informed me that he was a ward of the province and the Public Trustee would be in charge of his estate.

I thanked him for the information and welcomed him,  showing him his call bell and giving him the names of the care staff on duty.

He had end stage lung cancer that had metastasized to his brain. He wasn’t expected to last more than a week with us.

When I arrived at work for my next shift, the pastoral care worker was in his room, sitting by his bed, holding his hand.
She motioned me in with her hand and whispered to me that he had become bewildered and combative, striking out at the care aids. He had sworn at them,  swinging his fists and bony arms, catching one by the hair, and screaming that she would do as she was told or pay dearly.
After he settled, pastoral care came and sat with him,  holding his hand with the lights low for hours.
Listening to him tell her his story, his successes, his failures and his pain.

Doing the job she was born to do, holding hands and praying for the souls of the almost-dead.
As his breathing grew more laboured, and the end grew near for him, she alone sat with him and prayed over him. 
Asked God forgive him his mortal sins and accept him into his loving arms  when his time came to cross over.

After he passed, she came to my desk with two cups of tea and told me to call the funeral home to pick him up.
She took a chair and told me of the things they discussed.

How he married his wife when she was fourteen.

How he went away to war when she was seventeen with two children and one more on the way.

How he came back angry and how that anger manifested into rage at  the smallest slight or perceived insult.

How his wife was stupid and asked for it.

How his daughters were stupid like their mother and asked for it too.

How his wife refused to submit to him after being beaten, so he turned that lust upon his eldest daughter at ten years of age.

How he threatened everyone with death or starvation if they didn’t do as he said.

How his younger daughters hid from him in the barn and how he would  beat their mother so they would return to the house and take “their damn turn”.

How he was the hardest working man in the whole county and how he was an elder in the little county church he attended his whole life.

How his daughters escaped one by one except for the youngest who never left. The one he assumed couldn’t survive without him, but likely stayed to take her mother’s “turns” once her mother was diagnosed with dementia.

How he was godly man who served his country and didn’t deserve such ungrateful daughters as he had.

And the chaplain held his hand, and prayed for his soul and told him Jesus died for our sins and his sins would surely be forgiven as all our sins are forgiven.

How he cried like a child when told he would be forgiven.

She left my desk and I turned on the little stained glass lamp we used to alert the staff and families that someone had recently passed.

I wrote his name on the little card and placed it in the lovely pewter holder in the base of the lamp so that the glow of the lamp shone on his name.

Then I called the funeral home to see how much longer it would be until they got that rotten son of a bitch’s carcass out of my beautiful hospice.

Lonely

Lonely is such a strange word to me and forces me to think about how being lonely and being alone are entirely different things, which bring up very different feelings within me.

It arouses no pangs from within me, but the sight of the little bunny in the picture brought tears to my eyes, so there must be something lingering, likely related to my sons in some way. My youngest had a Peter Rabbit themed nursery, so that is where my thoughts have taken me today.

When cleaning out my sons’ rooms, after they moved away, the sight of their things made my chest hurt and tears sting my eyes, but I didn’t take the time to process the feelings inside me. There was work to do and things to stuff deep, as that is always easiest, right??

I think the only loneliness I feel right now is one for those sweet little boys and those simple days of routine and ruckus all rolled into one.

The days where I couldn’t think straight for lack of sleep, but recall laying in bed or on the couch, with little ones in my arms, their sleeping breaths fanning my cheek. Tickling my face from tendrils of my hair drifting back and forth.

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The absolute mess and devastation of my bathroom at all times, but particularly around seven in the evening, following their nightly bath. The time my oldest ran screaming down the hall to tell me his baby brother had decided to try and get the poop off his butt by using his Dad’s toothbrush.

The sight and smell of them together tucked into one bed. Always had their own beds, but the younger always seemed to find his way into the other bed by morning, so they woke up together.

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Their chubby little legs running through tall grass to get to the swings or slide. The way the sunshine made their cheeks so pink and hot. The smell of wet puppy that little boys always seem to have lingering on them after a day outside in the sun.

My oldest wanting Willow every single night for almost a year as his bedtime story. Reciting every word by heart. The expression in his voice and the sparkle in his eyes.

 

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My regret that I hid Curious George because it was 40 pages long and I had more important things to do than read a book that long at bedtime. Funny how I can’t remember now what was more important than poor Curious George- likely dishes or laundry. That saddens me.

My baby serenading me with Bryan Adams playing in my old Camaro. 2 1/2 years old, every lyric in his tiny little memory bank; him strapped in his car seat maintaining eye contact with me in the rear view mirror, ” Ebberyything I dooooooo…….I do it for YOU!”

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Assorted action figures, some with no heads, some missing arms and legs, buried in yards from the past. Pieces of paper with every colour of crayon utilized- torn, taped, and stuffed into file folders in a chest rarely opened, unless someone needs to know if they ever had chicken pox for their HR department.

The time they found a box of tampons under the bathroom sink and proceeded to soak them in the sink and then tie them around their Batman and Superman action figures ( parachutes – duh) and fling them down the hallway. Unfortunately, during a Tupperware party being hosted by moi.  The looks on the faces of the some of the ladies present and the roar of my Mom’s laughter filling the house.

Explaining over and over and OVER again that it is not OK to try to get up on Gramma’s lap, but that it WAS OK to kiss Nanny square on the lips if the feeling over came them.

Hearing their voices raised together ” Brudders stick together!”  – my lazy-ass version of a family mission statement.

The sight of them dropping their shorts to pee on the camp fire and try to put it out that one summer at the cabin. Still not sure where they got that idea.

Endless knock knock jokes and magic tricks from my eldest.

What I thought would be endless kisses and strokes of my hair by my youngest.

Their clear gazes- no blinking at all- staring at my face as if they were trying to remember it forever.

Those memories make me lonely now and I would give anything to go back for even one more day.

The Last Time

From the moment you hold your baby in your arms,
you will never be the same.
You might long for the person you were before,
When you have freedom and time,
And nothing in particular to worry about.

You will know tiredness like you never knew it before,
And days will run into days that are exactly the same,
Full of feedings and burping,
Nappy changes and crying,
Whining and fighting,
Naps or a lack of naps,
It might seem like a never-ending cycle.

But don’t forget …
There is a last time for everything.
There will come a time when you will feed
your baby for the very last time.
They will fall asleep on you after a long day
And it will be the last time you ever hold your sleeping child.

One day you will carry them on your hip then set them down,
And never pick them up that way again.
You will scrub their hair in the bath one night
And from that day on they will want to bathe alone.
They will hold your hand to cross the road,
Then never reach for it again.
They will creep into your room at midnight for cuddles,
And it will be the last night you ever wake to this.

One afternoon you will sing “the wheels on the bus”
and do all the actions,
Then never sing them that song again.
They will kiss you goodbye at the school gate,
The next day they will ask to walk to the gate alone.
You will read a final bedtime story and wipe your last dirty face.
They will run to you with arms raised for the very last time.

The thing is, you won’t even know it’s the last time
Until there are no more times.
And even then, it will take you a while to realize.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Shame & Perfection

Need to share this awesome post from Belinda Noakes.
I love when someone other than me writes a piece with ideas that have been rattling around in my head for  months and does it so much better than I could ever aspire to.

We all need to look at ourselves with the same care and love we show others and not worry about perfection in our lives.

Perfect is boring.

 

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Behind Closed Doors

What is behind this door that you want?

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Imagine having the key.

What is stopping you from opening the door?

This week’s sandbox writing challenge asks us to picture a door and imagine what is behind it that we want. Also, to think on what may stop us from opening that door.

I always seem to go off on another path with these challenges than I think the intention is but I will trust that I should be following my instincts rather than the rational mind, as my artist son tells me constantly, when we are viewing art. “Mom, it doesn’t matter WHY you like it, you just DO; it is speaking to you for a reason. That is the beauty of art.”

The sight of this door reminded me of William Blake’s quote on the Doors of Perception from The Marriage of Heaven & Hell and how profoundly that impacted me as a teenage girl. It opened my mind to so many ideologies and religions and incredible free-thought. I have always been a voracious reader and can lose myself in books, not even looking up when someone is snapping fingers under my nose.

Reading and dreaming and imagining have been such a huge part of my life since childhood and that moment…remember THAT moment? The first time you read or hear something that makes your spidey-senses tingle. Something that your Catholic parents would never agree with or your teachers would never share with you? Something that perhaps is speaking directly to your own soul and your need to begin organizing your very own belief system? Cataloguing it, if you will? For use at later dates and ages, when life will reign blows down on you and you can pluck it out of your memory and feel it cool the sting as you let it flow through you?

I believe I am infinitely intertwined with all energies around me. I believe that everyone I have had contact with, even in the smallest way, over my entire lifetime up to now, has little pieces of my energy field and matter mingling with their own, as I have theirs.

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I see it in my mind’s eye like dust appears in sunshine. Those fluttering silvery specks that dance in the sunlight. I do my utmost best to send out white light to all those I cherish the most and also to strangers who I sense need it/me. My years working in hospice were when I used it the most. So many different energies surrounding me daily. Some dark, but most light. I sat with the dying and held their hands and watched their organs and bodies stop, but the energy, the spirit, the soul. It never stops. It lingers, in fact, at times. One of the  informal and non- policy driven rules where I worked was that you would not put another patient into a room where someone had passed away for 24 hours, if possible. You must allow the spirit or energy time to move and transition without hurry. Peacefully. 

I have also visited places that made me feel physically ill from the energy swirling about. Not all of it was recent, I don’t believe. Ancient energy lingering in cracks in walls and drains of tubs. Walls that have heard cries for help and bars that have had fists clenched around them for so many years, the metal is worn.

A native elder once said to me ” You are the light. Look at how these people are drawn to you. You have never met them, and they come to you immediately. It isn’t your smile or your nature. It is what is within you. You radiate healing energy and they want that. You need to protect yourself from that, as well. But your purpose is to heal and shine.”

My purpose is to heal and shine.

The door I am afraid to open is the one that will show me that I have wasted time worrying and fussing about material matters, and the minutia of survival, when I should have been studying and planning and healing and sharing my light with others that needed it.

I am afraid of the infinite possibilities within me.

Once I open that door, I know in my soul there will be no turning back for me.

 

Sylvester the Hun

The writing challenge asks my reaction to a black cat crossing my path.

If THAT was to happen,  I would scoop him up in my arms and check to see if he was our  Sylvester.

He was 23 years old when he died in my eldest son’s arms and I still miss him every damn day since he left.

Sylvester came to us in a very sneaky way. It was show and tell day in grade one and a little girl in my son’s class brought  a box full of kittens! (well-played, Mom *wink*)

Soon, the neighbourhood was full of black cats running around and he was but one of many for about five years.

From the start, he was the best cat ever. Chill. Low-maintenance. Independent.

He shared his home for the first few years with a very bitchy spaniel, so he learned to amuse himself in high places and outdoors.

God, how he loved to roam. A true tom-cat if there ever was one. Gifts of bunnies and birds on my back step for years; symbols of his love for us.

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The Circle of Life

Dragging his sorry butt home at 6 in the morning, ears torn from some fight in the night…remorseful looking to a degree, but also with a male swagger about him. One can only imagine how many lil Sylvesters roaming the city due to his midnight interludes.

He lived in five homes with us over his lifetime and grew up with my boys.

According to his Facebook page ( yes- he had Facebook) he enjoyed slow jazz, Nirvana and Bob Marley, as well as the occasional second hand puff of the herbal variety.

At the end, he was demented, and had cataracts, and also arthritis in his hips. The vet suggested watching to see if he seemed in pain, and if so, to bring him in, but he never showed pain. Just a slowing down phase. A following me everywhere phase, sniffing, hoping for a bite of cheese or maybe some meat. Some yowling randomly, where I would say ” Oh, Vesters, you bugger, you don’t even know any more what you are yowling for, do you, old guy?”

The saddest day for me was the day he yowled to be let out the patio door and as I stood there after opening it, he just lifted his head up a bit to the sun, but didn’t move a step towards outside.

He turned around and followed me back to the chair, where he lay on my legs in the sun, instead. He was a smart guy and knew his days of roaming were over. He could no longer defend himself in the great outdoors.

The day he died, both sons spent hours with him…petting him, talking to him, holding him, and loving him. He was loved so much by those boys; another brother of sorts.

He had heard all their secrets, and their tears had fallen on his fur many a time, in the quiet of their rooms.

He was wise and all knowing.

He knew all our secrets.

He knew where the bodies were buried and who broke the lamp.

He was a king among kings and a majestic proud beast and also a bit of a cad with the ladies, or so I assume.

I sure hope wherever he  is, that there is sunshine and warm summer days, squirrels and birds and bunnies to chase, and a warm lap and a hunk of cheese whenever he has a craving for it.

 

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My Ah-Ha Moment

Throughout my life, I have had my most profound thoughts while I am not thinking at all, but rather moving through my day; standing at the counter chopping vegetables for a meal, driving the route to work early in the morning. The route I know like the back of my own hand, that is done with no conscious thought, really. Folding laundry. The mundane necessary tasks that are done with a mostly empty mind.

While standing in the shower today, I had what Oprah likes to call an “a-ha” moment. That moment that occurs when you suddenly realize something that you have been struggling with your whole life, or a difficult answer to a question you didn’t even know you had, I guess.

I have had a rough three years since my brother died. Been on auto-pilot and just kept moving forward, in spite of the fact that I should have just taken time off to deal with his passing and the very difficult fact that he lived with me during the end stages of his illness and had left a very huge hole in my existence with his leaving.

I would sit in silence, alone, and try to understand why his was the hardest loss I have endured thus far in my life. Having lost Father at 17, Son at 22, Cousin( like a sister) at 26, Mother at 42, and finally Brother at 49, my rational mind was telling me that I was older, wiser, more hardened and should be dealing with my grief faster, for lack of a better word.

And yet I was struggling daily, hourly, sometimes in ten minute intervals.

I could not listen to music for a year. Too much of a risk that I might hear a song that reminded me of him, or it would open up a memory that would increase the pain that I was so desperately working on keeping at bay.

I felt FULL of pain. I felt like I was smothering in my grief for my brother. I felt the physical pain and weight of his death sitting on my shoulders and upper back and mostly in my heart.

I would obsessively check my blood pressure every 30 minutes, thinking that I was having a heart attack or a stroke. I could feel such sharp pain, it would leave me breathless and hyperventilating, thinking I was dying too.

But, because I was alone, in the quiet, I would let that pain in. I would sit with it, and wallow in it at times, and allow it to fully wash over me. It came in waves. Sometimes, pretty big waves, which seemed to not want to end. At times, I felt like I was never going to be able to come back to myself or even be able to catch my breath. The intensity of that pain was so powerful, and so large, it dwarfed any emotions I have ever felt, aside from childbirth.

It felt like birth in reverse. Like a closing off, or amputation.

And when it came over me, rather than shutting it out, or running away in my mind, or getting up and leaving the house to force myself to keep it together, I would sit back like we all do on a plane when it is time for take-off. Hands gripping the seat arms, and feeling that  pull of the plane taking off into the sky.

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I allowed myself to be washed by it. I allowed it and all the feelings associated with it in.

And I came to the conclusion today, during my moment in the shower, that I wasn’t just grieving my brother, I was finally grieving them all properly and fully.

My rational mind has known they are gone from my life, some for many years, but my emotional being has kept carrying them with me.

When I lost my father, I was so incredibly young, that I ran away from it all. I self-medicated with alcohol and weed and stuffed it so deep, I didn’t even dare try to understand that loss. When I was present, I was helping my mother deal with material things, like cleaning out his clothing and going through about 6 suitcases full of paper and deposit and withdrawal slips from the bank.

With my son, I was also very young, and dealt with that by turning my face from the sun until I was pregnant again and had another child to look forward to. I remember pretending to be alright to my husband at the time and to my mother and close friends. I didn’t like the pain I was causing THEM by being honest about how much I hurt, so I quit being honest.

When my cousin Cindy died, I had children who needed their mother and her son who needed someone to be strong. I took her son home with me from the hospital as everyone seemed to forget in their own grief that his mother wasn’t there to care for him any more. Someone needed to go through all her personal things and ditch things she wouldn’t want her mother to see, and pack up her belongings neatly. Someone needed to hold her two lost, grieving brothers close and reassure them that things would be OK. That someone defaulted to me.

When my mother died, I had two teenage sons who loved their Nan very deeply, and so I tried to hide my emotions from them in order to soothe them into a false sense of security. I once again, had to deal with the packing up of a lifetime of belongings, and the financial issues that we all deal with, the estate and the paying of final debts. In fact, I can remember the only time I actually broke right down and cried deeply was in my basement about a month after she died, when I was going through hastily packed boxes, looking for light bulbs, as I needed one and just KNEW she would have at least five boxes of four in one of the damn boxes. I found one of her socks and suddenly just lost my mind. Sobbed hard, but quietly in that basement, not wanting my sons to hear me upstairs.

Yesterday, I woke up early to a beautiful spring day. I started cleaning windows and as they got cleaner and cleaner, and I could see the beautiful sun shining through them into my home, I felt freer..lighter…happy. I had music blaring and was just a physical beast. I did all the windows, I moved furniture around, I cleaned from top to bottom of my house and threw out minutia and dirt, bag by bag. I was so full of energy and the need to clean up that clutter and the dust of winter, that I didn’t even realize until today that I was actually cleaning up more than my home.

I can attest to the fact that we need to grieve fully and allow ourselves the time to let it work its way through us. I want everyone I love and even those I don’t, to know that it is healthy to sit and be still. To live with pain and allow it in fully.

It hurts.

So bad that some days you feel like you will die from it, or that it will take you to places you can never return from.

But in order to move forward and be in the now….really engaged in your own life and the endless possibilities that the future has for us all, you need to invite that pain in like an old friend. Get to know it. Learn that you are stronger and more fierce than it and allow it its rightful place in your life.

One of my favourite quotes from the movie Vanilla Sky is so pertinent to the way I am feeling now that I just have to leave it here:

“You can do whatever you want with your life, but one day you’ll know what love truly is.

It’s the sour and the sweet.

And I know sour, which allows me to appreciate the sweet.”