I’ve had an epiphany: I am so full of shit. Really. I like to tell myself that the universe pays ZERO attention to me. That nothing happens for a reason. In the vast cosmic array of things, I am a tiny, insignificant and meaningless dot. And that somehow, all these weird little coincidences, all these random things that keep fucking happening to me, that keep saying:
WAKE UP, LINDSAY!
…that they’re just my ego, trying to make sense of the cruelty of life.
It’s totally normal, probably. After all. I had a shitty year. David Bowie died. I got divorced. Things got messy. Someone bragged to my cousin about living a double life the whole time they were married to me. (I didn’t watch Breaking Bad, so, I guess that’s cool and all. I mean it was a highly acclaimed show.) I went through some bad breakups with scary people.
Oh, and my mom died. On my birthday.
I don’t know why I didn’t see it coming; she had cancer. Still, it caught us all by surprise. One week I was talking to her on the phone like everything was fine. We even made plans to visit in January when the ticket prices went down. But the next week? It was an emergency. My brother put me on the first flight he could find because he didn’t think she’d make it through the weekend. She did, though. She even made it through Christmas, which is what she really, really wanted. Seeing her weak and sick…it makes me wonder how much she hid from us, to keep us from worrying about her. I wonder how much I hide from people. It’s so not fair.
I’ve always been that girl who didn’t believe in signs, but always paid attention to them. Like when I booked a trip for myself for Christmas (so I wouldn’t be alone without plans) last year. I was telling my friend about the trip back in October when suddenly the power in the building went out. It went out with a BOOM, and then surged back on. It was eerie, and we both stopped in our tracks and looked at each other. I knew it! I knew right then and there that I wasn’t going on that trip! Something bad was going to happen over Christmas and I’d have to cancel those plans.
Where do I go from here?
I know I’m still literally in shock from losing my mom. But…something is happening to me. Maybe it’s just the turnover that takes place at the end of a year. Maybe having a birthday on New Year’s Eve is part of it. But, I honestly feel like my mom passing away on that day happened for a reason. And, yes, I do realize beyond my inflated ego that her dying didn’t actually happen to me—it happened to her—but it feels like a message. And, I’m still processing everything that happened in the three weeks or so that I spent in Texas with my family, dealing with some weird memory issues, panic attacks and nightmares.
Beyond everything else, though, I’m overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, real love, that I witnessed.
This year, and going forward, I’m choosing love.
What I found when I lost my mom, what I saw were real acts love and kindness that I will never forget and probably will never be able to repay.
I saw my father, who never missed a single doctor’s appointment—no matter what—stay with my mom through the absolute horror story that is late stage cancer. I saw him take care of his kids as they dealt with the loss of their mom.
I saw my little brother, who became more like a big brother, who flew me into town. My brother who, when he knew what I was going through, that I was killing myself with alcohol, call me at 4 am to make sure I was alright and tell me it would get better. Who had to tell his 4-year-old daughter what was happening to Mee Maw.
I saw my sister-in-law, once everyone else had left, and the kids were in bed, come over to check on my Dad and spend time with my mom. She showed her the photo book she’d made for her that hadn’t arrived in time for Christmas. Who does that? That’s love.
I saw the three of us, siblings, put aside our differences and take care of each other.
My friend, Alex, delivering food for the house, helping me with a car and a return ticket and flying in our closest friend to be there for the funeral.
My friend Tricia, deflecting the burden of extended family when she could tell it was too much. My friend Ellen, who lost her Dad to cancer, walk me through the fog and reassure me it was normal. My old friends from so long ago coming out to say goodbye. Friends calling to make sure I was OK, checking on my home, texting to see how I was doing. People looking out for me sending messages of love, who knew I had already been through a lot. My work looking out for me to make sure I was OK and taking the time I needed. Good people who cared.
My Mom’s students, grown up now, who came out to say she was the only teacher who gave them a chance after everyone else had given up on them. None of those stories surprised me, by the way. That’s so my mom—she never gave up on anyone. That’s so her. Mom’s friends bringing soup, holding her hand before she passed, taking care of Dad. Connecting with all of us online after to share good stories so we could all stay in touch.
Love was having the guts to stay in the room with her, even though I’d already said goodbye because the hospice nurse was sure it would be 24 hours later…but then it took 5 more days.
I know what love is, and I know what it definitely isn’t. And, I know I have a choice to make about the remaining time I have. I don’t want to waste any of it on anything that doesn’t deserve it. No more negativity. I could do it, but it would be a terrible waste of spirit…
So, how do I spend the rest of my life?
I’ll say this, “Do it now. Don’t fucking wait.” Tell the people you care about that you love them. And, no more bullshit boys or bullshit girls. Your real friends will show up when you’re in trouble. They’ll call when it’s uncomfortable to call and they’ll stand by your side when it gets bad. The ones who didn’t show up? They’re not your friends. And, if it’s not a “Fuck, yes!” then it’s a “Fuck, no!”
I’m also gonna take a cue from the people we lost.
From David Bowie: Be a rebel, dammit. Turn and face the strange changes. Don’t let me hear you say life takes you nowhere, angel.
From George Michael: I’m gonna (try and) have a little faith. I’m gonna think twice before I give my heart away. And when love comes down without devotion, it takes a strong one, honey, but I’m showing you the door. (God, I hope you have that song stuck in your head right now.)
And from Mom, when I was really down this year, and I called her because I didnt things would ever get any better. She assured me, “No one has ruined your life. You’re just getting started. It’s like we have our old ‘Lindsay’ back again.”
I have to do better.
That’s what it comes down to. My heart is so heavy from this past year, so full of anger and hate, I can’t keep going. What I witnessed when I went home were true acts of love. Real love. And I know, now, how I want to spend the rest of my life.
I’m done with hate. I have to do better than this. Life is so short.