Well it’s officially February! I love everything about February; all the love, the overuse of my very favorite color purple, the romance, Valentine’s Day, family birthdays, the happiness, the smiles, the kindness in the air. I LOVE February and probably more because it’s my birthday month. Every year for is far back as I can remember I would find any excuse to celebrate my birthday the whole month long.
Now Contrary to my love for this month, I have dreaded February for the past 10 months. See last April my mom passed away very unexpectedly. I don’t understand how I can love and celebrate my birthday without a woman who gave me life. It’s ironic that we love our birthdays yet our birthdays really mean so little to us in actuality it means the world to our mothers.
I’ve gone through almost all the firsts without my mom this year and my birthday will be one of the last firsts that she’s not here. Birthdays were really hard for me along with a Chanukah and Christmas because my mom would take any chance she could get to spoil us and even more her grandkids. Knowing that this is the last first without her breaks my heart. I can’t believe we’re coming up on a year without her here. I sat and cried at everyone’s birthday in my family feeling the void, thinking about what present she would want to get them or what comment she would have about the cake. Now it’s my turn to have to celebrate and I don’t know how to do that.
I can remember so many special things my mom did for my birthdays. I had so many parties canceled on me due to snow that she would have all my friends that could get to my house here, play games and eat cake. I remember one year in high school we had a snow day. I was crushed because my locker wouldn’t get decorated. My mom printed so many clip art photos and made banners. She then hung them all over the house. For my 18th birthday she threw me a surprise party that I only found out about 15 minutes before I was showing up. I remember being so happy I found out so I could put makeup on while babysitting. My mom would make my favorite dinner every year on my birthday, roast beef, mashed potatoes, corn and Béarnaise sauce. The truth here is that my mom was sick for a long time. And she hasn’t made my birthday special for about 15 years now. But having her with me just for dinner and cake was all I really needed. I was lucky that I had great friends who did the special things for me and with me. And now I just don’t know how to make it through my birthday knowing I don’t even have my mom to hug me and kiss me and wish me happy birthday.
The things that have helped me cope through my grief are my amazingly great friends, my family, exercise and most of all running. Through all of the trauma, darkness and really rough lows I’ve experienced this year, the most amazing things I’ve learned is how I can push myself to build up stamina to run distances I never dreamed of, who my true friends are and how much they actually love me. There’s something to be said about friends who show up and will stand by you in your darkest of dark days. A couple of those ladies gave me the extra push to get back out there and run. So I listened to them, it was tough but I ran – one foot in front of the other. It was challenging at first and felt like I had weights in my sneakers, but once I got moving again I was easily doing 3 miles without getting winded. One thing I learned is that I need music because when I’m in my own head, it’s not very pretty. I need good, fun music that makes me want to move. Even with the music I have runs where I cry and feel like I can’t go on. I have days where I yell at God and other days that I’m thanking him. Sometimes I even yell at my mom for leaving me, for putting us in the situation to take her off of life support, for never fixing our relationship and creating what we both wished it was or I’m begging her to send me signs that she is still with me and loves me. I’ll never forget, it was my oldest son’s birthday and I went to her grave after dropping him off at school. I begged her to send me a sign she was with us so I could tell him she was there for his birthday (he wasn’t taking her death well). After that I went for a run, the last half mile I had red dragonflies (that was her sign to me) coming at me one after another and landing along the fence next to me. It was the most amazing and magical moment! I love the days that I smile when I run and not just a fake smile. A smile that I can feel through my entire body which makes my heart happy. I find that the more I run, especially outside, the more I am having those moments of pure joy and runners highs. I have had setbacks when depression has stopped me from doing most things but especially running. But no matter what I keep pushing forward and I never give up because I know it is one thing that truly helps me. It clears the fog that grief can leave. It is like therapy and religion to me.
Running has not only helped my mindset but it has also helped me be a better wife and mom. I’m learning how to communicate better with my husband. I told him that I don’t want to lay in bed feeling the heartbreak and cry the weekends surrounding my birthday. See this year I’m so ‘lucky’ that my birthday falls on a Tuesday so it has been asked which one do you want to celebrate it on. I told him that we should plan something special to do for my birthday. I know, you shouldn’t have to ask someone to do something special with you but I’ve been learning if I don’t want to feel let down and when I really want something I need to speak up and tell someone! I want to be surrounded by my friends who helped get me here, in this better place. The ones who love me, pretty close to the way my mom did – unconditionally! I want to look back and see that I spent my birthday having fun, being happy, eating good food, drinking good strong drinks, laughing till my stomach hurts and tears run down my face and feel the love of my friends who have become my family. I am also planning to make sure I get a good long run in on these weekends.
So how am I going to make it through this month without falling back into a depression? I really don’t have an answer, but I do have a plan. I’m going to continue faking it till I make it; the same way I have all of January. I will get up every morning channeling my inner Rachel Hollis and write in my gratitude notebook. In darker days all I was grateful for was my bed, my blanket, my pillows, my dad and my boys. As I’ve gotten running back into my life, I’ve noticed that I was finally finding things that I am truly grateful for again. Gratitude writing helps set the tone for my day. After that I’m going to do some yoga or hop on the dreaded treadmill. If I don’t run in the morning you can bet that I will be running in the evening. Now I am telling you this so I’m held accountable that I will run everyday for the rest of this month. Because I know I don’t want to fall back into that depression and running is the best way for me to do that. Some days may only be a mile but it’s a run and enough to get my mind in the right place. Keep away the fog that gets in there. I am then going to continue going about my days as normal. Just focusing on the present and trying to find happiness where I can all while being the best version of me right now. Something I know I cannot be without running.
I am also going to spend every day this month, thinking about all the memories and special things my mom did for me in the past months of February because that will help me feel like she is here. Because as Adam Levine said in his song Memories “memories bring back, memories bring back you”. I couldn’t agree anymore with him and love stretching and reflecting during this song.