I cannot count how many times someone has told me “You are going to make it Alyssa.” I would hear them say it and it wasn’t that I didn’t want to believe them, but so many times I just didn’t see how. That was until this past Sunday when I said it myself.
Aaron and I stayed in a hotel near my brothers house on Saturday night. My parents were not in town so this was the first time I was in a hotel by myself with Aaron without help around. At first I was scared. I am used to being alone at my house. I know all the doors to lock, I know where everything is in the house and I know my neighborhood. Being in a hotel with an almost 3 year old by myself was a little difficult manuervering luggage and making sure to always keep my eye on the little but FAST little one. I can’t always have Aaron next to me strapped in a stroller so I know where he is. But when I checked into the hotel I’m not going to lie when I was relieved that Aaron wanted to be held so I could check in and have my eye on him. It is tiring holding him but at his age…in this situation…I just considered it an arm workout. 🙂
Luggage. Packing when on a trip with a child is an experience. One outfit…are you crazy? Potty training…yeah that doesn’t stop because you are traveling. And I wasn’t just packed for this trip. I was packed for the trip I am on now. A well laid out plan of being packed for that early and taking it with as a test run of knowing what I forgot. I ended up having to put Aaron back in the car because he wanted to venture around the hotel as I unloaded the car and that did not settle well with this mom. I have learned that if Aaron feels he is helping, things are easier so I played that card getting the luggage cart into the hotel and into our room. Hearing him grunt as he “helped” push the cart made me smile. We unloaded and went back down to the lobby and back to the car to drive to my brother’s house. It is at this point that I am realizing I don’t see my brother and sister in law enough. I miss them. As we get out of the car and walk up to their house my brother answers the door. Aaron without an prompt says “Hi Eric!” He walks in and gives my brother a big hug. And then he sees my sister in law. “Hi Leslie!” proceeded with a hug. And then without even stopping he heads down to where my little nephew is hanging out. I ask who this is and he says “Connor.” This little boy amazes me. We hang out with them Saturday night and Sunday morning a bit before Aaron and I have to ultimately check out.
Aaron and I venture down to the lobby to get the luggage carrier. He runs to the elevator to push the button because it is a button (yes…there is an alarm button incident…sigh) I will let him push and then proceeds to tell me what elevator will open. We get into the elevator and get to our room. I love all the Tetris I played as a child because it has served me well in life. I manage to get all the luggage on the carrier in the most efficient way. Proud of myself I realize that even with this perfectly packed luggage cart I will have to get it in the elevator and out the door to the vehicle with Aaron in tow. In times before I could leave Aaron with my mom or dad. Aaron helping me of course we get down to the lobby to check out without incident. He proceeds to say bye to the receptionist and then in true Aaron form blows her a kiss. (I am in SO much trouble with the charm this kid has) We proceed to the parking lot with luggage in tow and little boy holding my hand/pushing the cart. I’m not sure what it was…whether the sense of accomplishment of something so “simple” or just having a great weekend but I looked down at Aaron and in that moment very clearly heard myself say “We are going to make it.”
This week I am closing a chapter. I am leaving a job and company that for the last 6 years has been much of my life. I was able to give a 2 week notice on closing this chapter. What I would give to have known 2 weeks prior that we would lose Jay when we did. To leave a place that has served as such a security blanket for the past 2 years is scary but I leave with a clear head and an open heart. These are two very important things I honestly did not see me ever having again.
As I have packed up my belongings and sorted through documents and emails I finally see it. For the first time, I can honestly say that I see how far I have come. I cry…I smile…I sit in awe. I read the email that was sent out by my manager about Jay. Tears roll down my face. I laugh…yes laugh…as I look at conversations I had with people about the things I struggled with initially. What seemed so difficult and stressful then is much easier now. I sit looking back, knowing at one point I never thought I could do what I’ve done and knowing I have makes me proud. Letting thoughts…feelings…people…things go. The more I have done it knowing it is just part of life is much easier now then it was initially. It isn’t about losing…it is about gaining. Freedom. Life. Control.
Moving forward seemed next to impossible to be honest. The more I read, the more I talk to people and listen to what they were really saying the more possible moving forward seems.
I have freedom. I live life. I have control…to close a chapter.
I am preparing for a trip and in preparation I have been pondering whether to check a bag or try to get everything in a carry on for my flight. Where are you going with this Alyssa…right? You all know I’ve got a point…wait for it. 🙂
We all have some sort of baggage from the life we have lived. In a conversation the other day talking about this baggage I told my friend to not “carry it on” but to “check it.” When I allow myself to really listen to people, to hear what they are really saying and the things that cross wires with what I am trying to figure out just amazes me. I also know when something like this happens that I must blog it. Help myself and others…that is my goal.
So, here it is. You schedule a flight with an airline for a vacation…for work, whatever the reason. You pack your luggage. You try really hard to get it in a carry on because let’s be honest dealing with baggage claim is a PAIN. You accept defeat and decide to check a bag. Being a planner you still pack a carry on with a few essentials should luck not be on your side and the luggage not make it to your destination at the same time. The luggage you check is heavier than your carry on but hopefully not an ounce over the limit they allow because no one wants to pay the over charge. You ultimately had to decide to leave some stuff home. The airline makes sure it gets on your flight and follows you to your destination. Because you checked the majority of your baggage getting on and off the plane is SO much easier. You watch people getting on and off struggling to get their jam packed carry-on baggage in and out of the overhead compartments. They struggle and by the time they get off the plane they are exhausted. They are carrying all of this baggage with them. It was in the overhead compartment the whole trip. It may have shifted in flight. They are careful opening the compartment as to not hurt themselves or others if something should fall out.
The flight is life. We are always on our way somewhere. To have that ability in itself is awesome. To experience life is an amazing honor. What we carry on the flight are the thoughts and feelings we let follow us daily. Instead of jamming it with non-essentials, only take what you need. As with the carry-on during the flight, if you carry it on and it’s more of a pain, the flight is not enjoyable. The flight should be enjoyable. Life should be enjoyable.
We all have baggage. It is what makes us who we are today. It needs to be cleaned out every once and while and left at home. You can let it go. Choose to not take it with you. Pack your carry-on carefully. Pack your other baggage carefully. Don’t pay the price for it being too heavy. And most importantly, while on your flight don’t forget to check it.
On Friday afternoon I did something I never truthfully saw myself doing. I took a new job outside of the company I am currently employed. Change is scary. Change is necessary. Change is good.
As I am working through transition and clean up of email etc I have run into a few emails from Jay that stop me in my tracks. I find pictures. They bring back so many memories. I read many of my first emails I sent out to a group of people giving a month by month updates of what Aaron and I had been up too. Change is inevitable. Change happens. Change is good.
Changing jobs was a deliberate action. The change I have seen in myself in the last 2 years has not been deliberate but it has happened. The other day I found out that someone had read my blog from beginning to end. And of all things, my thoughts… me working through things had helped them. I mean that has always been my goal…to help others. It is just crazy to me to actually hear from people that it has helped them. It gives me purpose. It gives me hope that I can help others.
Change is not easy…it is easier when you just let it happened and adjust. Change is not always on time or when you want it. But all things said and done…change is good.
In a couple of months I will be one of the many speakers at the Donate Life conference here in Iowa. I am scheduled for 15 minutes each of the two days. Some may think that isn’t a long time to speak and tell our story. My response is that it literally takes ONE word to change a person’s life forever. 15 minutes is just enough time to help them understand how.
The conference theme is “The Ripple Effect.” This is the PERFECT theme. When a person donates, there is a ripple effect that occurs. When donation occurs it helps the recipient but what many people don’t often think about is the ripple effect of the recipient’s family. The stress that a long term illness can have on a family is something that with the help of a donor can be alleviated. I have received thank you notes from Jay’s cornea recipients. Both were grandmas. Because of Jay they are able to be better grandmas. Knowing how much I love my grandmas and how much Aaron loves his, I can only imagine what the family feels with their family member being able to see. Jay being a donor and although having a heart attack was still able to impact people’s life in a positive way with his death. The effect of his donation did not just grant him his final wish, there was a ripple effect to Aaron and me. Because of his donation I have found a purpose after his death. I have let myself heal.
In death, there is life. With donation there is healing. With life and healing you create a ripple effect.
The other day, 1fw (one fit widow) posted a beautiful picture on her Facebook page of her marrying the new man in her life. Many years after her first husband died tragically in a car accident she found her chapter 2. The thought behind chapter 2 is good but I struggled. I still do. Because yes getting married again, that’s a big step. To say the words “Till death do us part” again knowing death actually does part you is a struggle, even in concept. Is that in itself as a widow the only time you have a chapter 2?
What if I feel I’ve already met my chapter 2. But it doesn’t begin with a new marriage. It started the minute I got that phone call. The minute I knew something was wrong, that my life had changed.
I’ve spent much of the time between now and the last blog looking back. Surprisingly, it hasn’t been a sad glance. Pictures remind me of what I had, not what I lost. Memories flood my mind causing me to feel slightly overwhelmed but in all honesty, it’s ok.
So my chapter 2 has begun. I declare it. It didn’t need a pretty white dress to start it. It didn’t need a “till death do us part.” It contains memories from chapter 1 to remember where I was, where I came from. I let those memories overwhelm me. They are good memories and deserve their time to be remembered.
I finally got something that I feel remotely connected too blogged out. Ironically this comes after attending a wedding. A beautiful and unique wedding of one of my cousins. These occasions normally overwhelm me with lots of family and just the fact of a happy event. This time was different. Songs were played that flooded me with memories and caused reflection. But it was good. For the first time in a long time it was good.
So I raise my glass to my chapter 2…may this chapter take me places I’ve never been or thought I could go.