Let It Be Big

Almost 25 years ago a very dear friend of mine passed away. She was more than a Grandma, different than a mother, she was so special to everyone who knew her. I had never experienced anyone that I was THAT close to dying. My great grandfather had died, a cousin who I knew a little and was my pen pal had passed, but nothing that left a gaping hole and searing pain. I wondered if I would cry forever.

My little brother was 10. He was far closer to her than I was. She was old and he was young and they were the cutest little pair. He spent every moment he could with her and everyone knew he was her special boy. They took care of each other. We all worried how he would face her passing. 75237550_575550279855486_1372923980209455104_n

He was a rock. He never cried, he hardly seemed to notice.  For a little boy he was so good at “controlling his emotions.” She had insisted that he have violin lessons when he asked for them. She even bought the violin herself and paid for lessons. Every day they would sit together and listen to Itsak Perlman play the violin. At her funeral he stood and played her favorite lullaby for her and his expression never changed but tears streamed down his cheeks. When it was all over this 10 year old boy tried Marijuana for the first time to ease the pain he was feeling but not expressing.74632400_10156702074110658_1778550204996255744_n

He became heavily addicted after just one use. More and more it controlled his life until he couldn’t function without it and the other drugs that had followed. 5 years later our grandma and great grandma were hit by a truck as they were attempting to cross the street. A few weeks later another close friend of his passed away. His drug use escalated to cocaine and heroin.

Soon he was homeless, in prisoned, in and out of rehab programs, wasting away in every sense of the word. No one could trust him and no one wanted him around. He tried many times to over come it and failed. One by one his friends died from overdose or suicide.74476302_949229395437421_677341992123891712_n

Then one day at rock bottom he found The Other Side Academy. It changed his life and brought back my baby brother. He was fun again. Witty, so intelligent, motivated and gifted. They were teaching him a lot of life skills that he desperately needed. After almost 4 years of being clean and almost 25 years from the first drug use our Dad passed away. 74692524_10156677868035658_6111927079991771136_nThis was only 3 months after the devastating murder of our brother Paul 67345058_10162107659460344_1553556358920404992_nand just 4 months from the passing of our oldest brother Doug from cancer. 1483058_10152047951465859_505552891_nIt was big…too big. He turned to drugs to dull the pain once again and after so long being clean he overdosed and passed away.

I sat in my living room after hearing the news and sobbed. All I could think was that it was too big and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t lose him and yet I had no choice. He was already gone. That night as I prepared for bed all I could think was that I wanted to take some Nyquil. Nyquil is safe. Its legal. It would make me feel numb and help me sleep and that sounded SO good. But a little voice in my head asked is that really different than what he did? Is numbing out the emotion and sleeping through it any healthier of an approach?

Something that I believe about our society in general is that we are not very emotionally mature. We don’t really know much about emotion. Most of us try to “manage” or “control” our emotions.

Before I had kids I was pretty good at controlling my emotions. I almost never cried in public, and I laughed at the sad parts in movies. I DID NOT understand people who stood to give a talk in church and cried. It wasn’t my thing.

Growing up I had a fierce temper and I learned to control that too at least to some extent by shoving those feelings of anger down so deep and dreaming of a revenge that I would never enact.

When I had my third baby, I had an experience that changed me. I had gone to the hospital to have her even though I had planned a home birth, so my midwife was there as a doula to help me through it. I was on pitocin and things were moving slowly. As labor progressed a little at a time I started to have some feelings. At first I felt frustrated at the hospital and the doctors for trying to pigeon hole me into doing things the way they always did them, then I felt angry at men for not bearing the brunt of the difficulty of pregnancy and child birth, then I felt annoyed at God for the overall plan and my limited understanding of his role for women. Next I felt a primal urge to seclude myself in preparation for what was coming, then I felt fear at something that was too big for me to accomplish and finally I felt overwhelming joy at bringing a new life into the world.

At each stage I acknowledged to my midwife what I was feeling. It felt more like an observation. As I observed each feeling it would come into focus, and then grow small and pass from my body, finished, complete, and without leaving anything behind. Later when the baby was finally coming and I started feeling the urge to push I was so afraid that I would tear and I buried my face in the mattress, I felt the need to hide the fact that I was pushing, the pain became intense and I began begging for an epidural.

Later I realized that the minute I stopped communicating my feelings those feelings became too big for me to handle. Pain and fear surpassed my abilities and the only apparent way out was to medically remove my ability to feel anything.

For 17 months I pondered that experience, learning from it, applying it to other aspects of my life and it wasn’t until I was preparing for my next birth that the full impact of what I had discovered hit me.

I was carrying twins and the pregnancy was uncomfortable. My midwife suggested doing a body code session to help. I did and enjoyed it so much I did one each week for the rest of the pregnancy. Body code is essentially finding imbalances in the energies of your body that are cause by trapped emotions and releasing them. Those imbalances can cause physical pain and discomfort. Each week I was releasing a dozen or more trapped emotions that had been cluttering up my life and my body with undo stress.  Each session left me feeling like I had cleaned out my overpacked closet. I felt fresh and free. As each emotion would come up the practitioner would ask me if I was ready to release it. Sometimes it was easy to release, other times it felt too big and I would ask myself has holding on to this pain served me in anyway. When I realized that it had only caused pain and stress I would take a deep breath and let it go. Each time I felt relief.

When it came time to birth the twins I had opted for a natural birth at home. In moments of the birth where the pain felt too big, where fear entered my heart, where the babies crowning felt more than I could do, I said what I was feeling, I allowed that feeling to enter my body and my mind and I let myself feel it, endure its purpose and let it go. As I did it all fell into place and became manageable. Or rather I realized that i didn’t have to manage it, My job was just to experience it.

Since then I have thought a lot about the words we use to describe emotions. Emotions feel to me more fluid. Love is directly tied to sadness. The more you love the greater the potential for sadness. There can not be one without the other, and both are ok.

I wish that I had spent more time learning to just experience the emotion and let it pass through me rather than trying to control it. I think my emotional closet would be a lot less cluttered. So here I am with yet another experience to teach me how to experience emotions in a more healthy way. My brothers passing feels just too big. My already raw, bleeding heart can’t handle this much pain. So just like the birthing of my babies I’m trying to allow myself to feel the pain and acknowledge it and let it pass. I’m not good at it yet. But I CAN do this. I CAN move forward and even thrive. I CAN do hard things. I can let it be big.

My Dad

In our house everyone alwaNielsen Family 021ys referred to my Dad as Father. Even the Mothers called him Father, at least when us children were around. So it was natural that as a small child of about three years old I thought Father was actually his name. One night as I lay in bed my brother Marcus was in the same room with me. “Want to know a secret?” he asked me.

Yeah

“Father’s name,” he paused for dramatic effect, “isn’t really Father!

You’re lying! I said Yes it is,

Not its Ivan

“Ivan, I said the word over to myself and suddenly had recollections of hearing people call him that. I knew Marcus must be telling me the truth. I felt betrayed. My parents had lied to me and told me that his name was Father. That is one of my earliest recollections about my dad.

I vaguely remember him taking me and my sister Liz to the park next door to our house. I remember having his 50th birthday party and how excited I was for that. I remember him always whistling as he came through the back door after work. I remember him finishing his breakfast in the morning and taking off the bib that he always wore when he ate folding it up and crossing the ties on top. Then he would settle his hat on his head and do a big wave and say see you later alligator! Then he would do a little jig as he walked down through the long kitchen to the back door in the playroom.12303_10150150985230344_1710961_n

My dad rarely if ever spoke of his feelings for us. I don’t think I ever heard him say I love you until just recently. But we all knew. I think every one of us knew without question that he loved us. He was my hero and was and still is in my eyes pretty near perfect. One of my friends, after meeting him, described him as a mix between an apostle and Santa Claus.

One day I was getting ready to go to Japan. In the weeks leading up to my departure it had seemed to me that every time I saw my dad he had something mean to say to me. “Isn’t it almost time that we get to get rid of you?” He would say to me at dinner time.

Or do you think we could pay those Japanese to keep you?”

It hurt my feelings. One day I realized that it was only his way of covering up his tender feelings of love for me and his having a hard time letting me go so far away. I went to the family room where he was sitting in his chair. I sat on the arm of the chair and put my arm around his shoulders. “I’m sure glad that I understand when you say things like that to me that it’s just your way of saying you love me. Otherwise I might get my feelings hurt.” He was quiet for a minute but I saw tears brimming in his eyes. “Yep”, he finally said “its a good thing you know that.”

I remember one day I was throwing a fit of some kind and mother had about had it with me. She took me to Father. “I know exactly what she needs” he said, “she needs a little sugar to sweeten her up.” And he pulled a box of ding dongs from the closet and gave me one. then he let me climb up on the bed next to him and cuddle while we watched tv. 149692_449132820657_467824_n

I think my dad always knew that if he showed me he trusted me my guilty conscience wouldn’t allow me to disappoint him. I loved him so much that the thought of disappointing him was worse than any punishment I could be given.

I was never a touchy feely kind of person. I didnt like hugs except from my dad and because he was the only person that I would accept hugs from I wanted them all the time. He would always ask me how I was doing on getting my quota of hugs for the day. One day I was about 20 years old I was working in the kitchen when my dad came to me. He put one arm on each shoulder and looked me right in the eyes so that he had my full attention. “One day I’m going to die,” he told me. I started to protest but he cut me off. “You will come to my funeral and see me all laid out in the casket in my white clothes.” He walked me through the whole funeral finally he said, ” when you are standing at my grave side I want you to wait and when everyone has gone I will be there and I will give you a hug.”Thats my dad. I love him with everything in me. He is my rock.

1002636_767888493221636_1477277037_nAs I grew up and I made choices different than what he would have wanted me to make I have worried that I would disappoint him. One day we were riding in the car. He had had a stroke and the doctor had told us that he could go at any time. we were driving and he told me ” Im glad that we get to spend some time together, I know ive never said it much but I wanted to make sure that you knew that I love you.”

I do know that. I told him. But I worry that I have disappointed you in some of my decisions.

He knew exactly what I was talking about. Vilate, he said, You decided to be a Mormon, so just be the best Mormon you can be and I will never be disappointed in you. unnamed

AS my dad’s health continued to decline I worried that he would never see me get married, never get to meet my children. But he has continued to hang on, continued to pull out of each stroke that he has had. When he came in the room just an hour or two after my baby was born and held him I thought my heart would burst. When he knocked on my bedroom
door later that night because he wanted to tell us goodnight I was touched at his sweet affection for us. I smiled when he held Preston in his arms and called him puddin head. It had been awhile since I had heard him call anyone that.

I know that one day my dad will leave this life, and leave me behind. But until that day I will enjoy every minute I have with him. I will tell him how much I love him, I will enjoy watching my baby play with him and I will know that when he goes he isn’t very far away. I love you Father!wykDibs6NOvmOTTC3Ie7KV3eCo3zUGcmahsy_M-G4Yk,3dCQrrcEuJYpMAneLr7gi3dqsuzXu7FqPZ6qNxlGerw

 

Good night Grammy enjoy your sweet reunion!

Life and death are so closely related that you can’t separate one from the other. As I watched a dear friend and family member pass from this world tonight I was stunned at how similar death is to birth. When Preston was born there was a sacred quiet to the room. Spirits from the other side were present to see my son safely into mortality. I’m sure as happy as they were to see him start his chance at mortality there must have also been a moment of sadness at his loss from that world. The happiness he has brought to me, his daddy and so many others in this world is indescribable.

When Mother Annette slipped peacefully from this life, her breathing simply getting more and more shallow until it stopped. I know there was celebration on the other side of the veil as she reunited with her mother, father, her dear husband and her siblings. I know many were there to welcome her just as we were sending her off with heavy hearts and comforting ourselves in the knowledge that she has simply passed through a door into the loving arms of those that wait for her. Her life isn’t over, just this portion of it.

And yet we grieve because we will miss her. Because our experiences with her here are over. There will be many days filled with tears for those who knew and loved her best. There will be sweet memories to cherish. We love you grammy! and we won’t say good bye but we will see you again one day when we too make that journey.

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There is nothing good about good-bye

Its something I’ve never been very good at. I don’t know if that’s because it wasn’t something that I experienced very often in the first 20 years or so of my life, or if either way I would have had the same struggle with letting go and saying goodbye.

I remember when each of my older sisters got married and in a sense I said goodbye to them. I said goodbye to the life that we had together, I said goodbye to sharing everything with them and I knew they would change tremendously so in a sense it was saying goodbye to the person that they were. Soon they would be mom’s and wives and they would leave me behind.

I remember when Aunt Hannah died. She was about the closest person to me that I had ever experienced losing. I remember wondering if I would ever have a day where I didn’t ache with missing her. Its been about 18 years since she died. I still miss her but not only are there days when I don’t ache but there are often weeks where I don’t really even think about her if I’m honest. Somehow life has resumed and while I loved her and still do, and while I do think of her often with fondness and a little sadness that she is gone, I have moved on, found peace, and it is not something that really affects my life anymore.

Joining the LDS church was saying goodbye in a way that I hope I never experience again. It was saying goodbye to everything all at once. It hurt more than anything ever has and it hurt for a very long time. In fact it was something that I shed tears over probably almost on a daily basis for the first 6 years or so.

Sometimes saying goodbye is something that happens all at once, like when our dog Meg was put to sleep. One minute she was there and the next she was not. Like when my Grandma Vilate and my Great Grandma were hit by a truck as they were crossing the street together. One minute they were two little old ladies enjoying an afternoon together, we were planning to visit as soon as our schedule and our lives settled down. The next they were gone.

Other times it happens slowly. Like with my dad. Over the last couple of years I have watched as little by little I lose my dad. He is still here, he is still alive and actually doing pretty well which is something that I am so grateful for. But he is not the dad that I knew. He is not strong, and jolly and wise. He is old and frail and forgetful. I cant go to him for advice because he can’t remember what the question was long enough to give me much of an answer. I can’t count on him to be there for me because he is more like a child than a man. I love him, he is still my hero, my rock, and I will always love him. I’ve actually been glad that he is going slowly. It gives me a chance to make those adjustments to him not really being there while I can still put my arms around him and hear him call me his little ladybug. I can still hear his voice as he whistles popcorn popping. I can still see the twinkle in his eye. One day I know I will lose that too but I am glad that I get to make this adjustment a little at a time.

And that brings me to the crux of this post. Ryan is moving to Hawaii. I know I should be ok with it. I have felt for some time now that its ok that we are not together, that I believe we can be happier with someone else. The problem is that I love him. I love him so much that I didn’t even know how much until he showed up at my house unannounced and told me that he is leaving. In just a couple short weeks he will be gone from my life for at least two years. It might as well be forever. I can’t say goodbye to him all at once. I need it to slowly die out while we can still be friends, can still see each other and still be a part of each others lives. I wanted to slowly grow apart.

I really wasn’t hanging on to hope that things would change and we would get back together. I wasn’t. But I also wasn’t ready to let go of him completely. Ryan was so much more than my boyfriend. He was my best friend and the one person that I felt completely myself with. He was the person whom I loved so much that it hurt. He was my first kiss and my first love. He was… well there just aren’t words. When he told me, I wasn’t expecting the hammer that slammed down in the pit of my stomach almost making me lose the dinner that I hadn’t eaten yet. I wasn’t expecting the room to start to spin or the tears that came almost uncontrollably and certainly unwelcome to my eyes. I wasn’t expecting my esophagus to suddenly swell to twice its normal size and make it difficult for me to breathe. I wasn’t expecting the panic that set in after he left as I realized that I would have to say goodbye to him for good and there was nothing I could do about it.

I tried to compose myself to talk to him like a sane, rational person. I kept my voice calm, I kept my mouth in the shape of a smile so that I wouldn’t cry and I talked to him about the things he wanted to talk about. But all the while I just wanted him to hold me and tell me that it was all going to be ok and that he loved me still and that he was leaving…but I could go with him. I wanted to beg and plead with him to see reason. To see that no one will ever love him as much as I do or that no one will ever make him as happy as I can.

In the end I did cry. When he tried to say goodbye and he did give me a hug. The familiar feel of his arms around me broke whatever reserve I had and the tears flowed shamefully. I want to tell him I love him. I need to tell him I love him. I need to hear him tell me the same. What I don’t want, what I don’t know how to do…is say goodbye.