Gratitude and Unexpected Changes
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and although I have experienced tremendous loss, I remain grateful for my life and the experiences I get to continue sharing with my children. Life has been especially challenging for us in the 14 months since my late husband passed from a rare testicular cancer. We faced deep levels of grief, were blindsided by the passing of my father from Covid just three months later, and we experienced major adjustments to our financial situation. My girls weren't as aware of the financial strain distressing me each month, but they did understand we couldn't afford to travel, go out to eat, or buy clothes or toys as we had previously when Robby was with us. I was paying bills paycheck to paycheck and barely keeping us afloat. There were months I feared we were going to lose everything.
Every part of our life had been impacted by loss, and I genuinely felt I had failed somehow. I blamed myself for Robby's diagnosis not being found sooner (although I know it's not true). I obsessively researched choriocarcinoma and factors leading to the development of that aggressive type of cancer, somehow convincing myself the hours spent reading medical journals would help. I felt a compulsion to do things for Robby that I thought he would have enjoyed, even if the experience caused me pain. I was dealing with grief in an unhealthy way by ruminating on things I couldn't change.
I finally made a choice to confront my grief and begin overcoming the emotional turmoil when I began reading a book I purchased from a Cold concert (my favorite band from high school). The book is titled Unfuckwithable and it caught my eye immediately because it is written by the bassist of Cold - a woman, like me! I was like, "hey, that's badass, I'm going to buy that book," and I did, and it was awkward. I had to hold onto the book throughout the entire concert while I was also drinking a Long Island Iced Tea I impulsively purchased. I came up with a great idea to put the book inside the front of my overalls for safekeeping, but it was too large and stuck out at the top. People were staring in the general direction of my breasts, although I am fairly certain they were wondering why a book was shoved down my overall pants. I thought it was funny turning to my friend (and high school ex-boyfriend) who attended the concert with me and ask, "you wanna see my book?" It was a good time. It did get a bit more uncomfortable at the end of the show when the band played one of my favorite songs and I broke down into heavy sobbing because the lyrics heavily reference fear of loss and grief. Strangers within the crowd felt so bad for me that they came up to me and hugged me through the song; that part was pretty incredible. Then, my buddy said, "we should stick around and see if we can meet Scooter, they sometimes do autographs or take photos after their set." Well, hell yeah, I wanted to stay and so we waited as the crowd dwindled.
It was finally our turn to meet Scooter, so I asked him to sign my fingerprint necklace I have with Robby's print impression on it. Scooter gave me a hug when I explained the importance of the necklace and how Cold was one of mine and Robby's favorite bands for many years. It was very cool and a positive considering Robby had passed just a month earlier. My friend and I turned after we did our photos and he said, "hey, there's Lindsay, maybe she'll sign your book?" Then I looked up and saw Lindsay standing with some other fans, and I immediately felt guilty wanting to ask for an autograph. I convinced myself to do it for the memory and walked up to Lindsay with my book. It was a very humble and sweet encounter because the conversation was simple. I mentioned I purchased the book because my husband had passed away and that I was excited to see how I might become inspired while reading. Lindsay said to find her on Instagram and let her know what I thought after reading it, but that was something I thought I'd never actually do... I didn't want to be a creepy fan on the internet.
Life is funny, though. It took me the whole year to finish the book, but it only took reading the first chapter to become inspired to get off my ass and reclaim my life. There is a line that says, "I literally had to live the title and decide to BECOME unfuckwithable to get out of the place I was emotionally and spiritually” (pg. 3). I no longer wanted to be consumed so deeply with grief that I couldn't be the mom I wanted for my daughters. I wanted to embody the type of characteristics of a woman that I want my daughters to develop. I chose my hard. Grief is hard and so is being brave. I made the decision to start pursuing my goals, dreams, and aspirations without fear of failure.
I began with purchasing aerial and circus equipment because those are activities, I've always found beautiful when I watched circus acts as a child. I began booking photography clients and working with nonprofits regularly, and I officially started my company providing marketing and professional assistance to executives of business and nonprofits. I experienced pitfalls and mistakes, but with support of friends and family, I perservered. I could have caved at any of the challenges arising with ambitious pursuits, but the love and compassion of my support network helped me remain focused. Those interactions with my lifesavers inspired me to work harder and prove to them how much they were appreciated.
It took 14 months of grueling work, dedicated days and nights of staying up working on plans, organizing my scheduling, following leads, networking, and applying for jobs before things began aligning naturally. It was shocking how quickly my life began to fall into place once the initial plans were put into motion. A family friend and nonprofit executive who has hired me for various assignments mentioned a program where veterans would be provided a vehicle. I honestly believed the possibility was too good to be true and that it could never happen to me. My friend bugged me a few times to make sure I did put in my application for the vehicle giveaway program, so I did eventually submit our family story. I still thought it was too much like trying to win the lottery, so I convinced myself it was unlikely and okay if it didn't happen for us. To my surprise, I received a phone call two weeks later from Progressive Auto Insurance informing me that I was selected to receive a vehicle in the state of Michigan.
This surprise of being gifted a vehicle was just the beginning of a series of wonderful opportunities that suddenly opened for me within just a few weeks. We attended the giveaway event on November 10th and received a 2020 Grand Caravan, one year warranty, six months paid insurance, a $250 fuel gift card, a $250 monetary donation, and a crate of vehicle goodies including jumper cables and cleaning supplies. To say that my mind was blown is an understatement. I cried immediately upon sliding open the van's door and seeing the seats where my daughters would sit on our way home. The vehicle is so much more than a nice ride, it's my safe and reliable transportation to work and an alleviation of major financial strain by eliminating a monthly car payment. The program is called Keys to Progress and that's exactly what Progressive, Enterprise, and 1800CharityCars provided me. Just two weeks later, I drove the van to a job interview and was hired as a full-time art teacher, the career of my dreams. I will soon have financial stability to support my family and opportunities to work with youth and my community.
I know this has been a lot, but it gets even better, it's almost building up to be a Christmas movie, I swear... I received a call from Cancer Services of Midland with whom I've volunteered for photography this summer. I was asked to photograph a fashion show where all the models are survivors of cancer. I immediately jumped at the opportunity to support the same organization that helped my family when my husband was going through chemo and radiation. Suddenly, though, I was informed that this gig wasn't a volunteering commitment and that I would be paid for my services, but it didn't end there either. I was then told the kids would all be sponsored for Christmas, and I wouldn't have to worry about purchasing Christmas gifts for them this year. This is just such incredible news that I am crying typing it out. To lose so much, to have carried worry about how or if I could make it for this entire year and have reassurance from our community that we will is beyond joyful.
My gratitude is immense. I have a list of hundreds of people to thank, but it's just such a profound experience to feel cared enough about that others felt compelled to help carry our burdens. I could not have the strength or resilience to be successful, or the energy to volunteer if we didn't have such a wonderful support network. I have a reliable and safe vehicle for my family, an amazing career, great friends, wonderful family, and an entire community cheering us on. How this all relates back to the book I mentioned earlier is that I did eventually reach out to Lindsay to provide feedback on her book. What really is the icing on the cake for me is this unexpected shout out Lindsay gave out to me on her blog and social media just for writing a book review. I honestly wrote it because the book inspired me, and I want others to buy the book. It's truly like getting really positive and heartfelt advice from a good friend, so please check it out! You will be doing yourself a favor, I promise <3
This is not my best writing because I can't come up with a great conclusion with being so emotionally overwhelmed, but I am grateful and have many blessings. Thank you all!
This collage begins with images of me and Robby after his passing. They capture the incredible pain and devastation I felt in that moment realizing I had to relearn my entire life without him. The images the follow the progression of attending the Cold concert where I purchased Unfuckwithable. Finally, the last images are recent experiences that have shifted our path into positivity. Life will continue to have challenges, but we have been given a gracious head start that I can only try to pay forward through volunteering and helping others within my community.