Monday, March 04, 2013
My dad and my brother Brian when he was a toddler. We could not get them plots right next to each other, but my dad was buried in the same row as Brian.
As most of you know, my dad passed away suddenly on February 11th. The past few weeks have been an exhausting emotional roller coaster. I have felt virtually every emotion there is, sometimes simultaneously.
I had finished watching the series "Six Feet Under" a couple of months ago. For those who haven't seen it, the show is about a family that runs a funeral home. The father dies in the first episode and the show revolves around how the family deals with his death (as well as other issues). I found "Six Feet Under" to be life-changing. It changed the way I view end-of-life and made me accepting of death. It isn't that I was in any denial about the fact that everyone dies. After all, one of my early childhood memories is of my brother Brian's death. But the show made me feel matter-of-factly about death. I know that my grandparents and at some point both of my parents will pass away. However, my dad dying was not on my radar. His diabetes had been fairly well-managed and he never had any cardiac events related to his high blood pressure. I was more prepared to hear that something had happened to my mother when I got a call from a hospital, as she has been hospitalized for heart-related events. So, needless to say, my reaction was utter shock. Luckily my best friend rushed right over and took me to the hospital, where I got to see my dad's body and say good-bye to him.
I almost immediately thought of "Six Feet Under" because the show addresses the different reactions to death and grief and that there is no one "right" way to react. One of the main characters says in the first episode, after his father's funeral, "Four days ago I was a relatively happy guy. Now it's like I don't even know who that guy is any more." I can relate to that sentiment. Just 3 weeks ago, I was a joyous woman who came home from a great workout at the gym, took a shower, and then as soon as I stepped out I received a phone call that changed my life. I was clueless that I was about to become a new person. Ever since, I will get waves of emotions that are so extreme, they are almost irrational. It is easy so launch into disaster mode at the drop of a hat. I have felt at times that I have no love or compassion to give to anyone, even though that's not true. During those periods I have also been convinced that I will never feel better again, even though I know that's not true. Although I may not be able to control my emotions (nor do I necessarily want to), I can reflect on them and try to keep things in perspective.
I accept that I will never be the same person. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it just...is. I do not mean that I believe I will be a depressed person from now on or anything like that. Grieving is not the same as depression, despite how depressed one may feel while mourning. Grief starts immediately after hearing that someone has died and as much as the emotions can be extremely strong and horrible, I recognize that the feelings are normal. I let the emotions come forth and I process them as they come. If I feel good or happy, I make a point to not feel guilty about it. While I have experienced extreme sadness, anger, and even confusion over the past few weeks, I have also witnessed extreme love and kindness. My best friends, without hesitation, were there for me (and continue to be). I don't know that I have ever felt more cared for in my adult life than I have over the past few weeks.
Nothing tests how much you have changed as a person than dealing with some of the strongest emotions you will ever experience. I was concerned that I would want to eat my way through these strong emotions. Admittedly, I have had a couple of binges over the past 3 weeks, but my inclination has been to continue to eat in a healthful manner. Even in the midst of binging I realized the eating was not helpful, and the overeating was still not near what I would have done in the past. Part of the overeating was out of convenience. I did not feel like cooking for a while, so it was easier to order food or have frozen pizza on hand. I made a point to still eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, but I just did not feel like doing my batch cooking like I usually do. I finally made a big pot of soup and some dishes, and have basically been back on track. I am proud that I haven't had many strong urges to engage in emotional eating. I am not, however, focusing much on weight loss right now. My goal is to eat healthfully and track my food, but I am not worried about the scale.
Jiu Jitsu got a bit sidelined over the past few weeks. I did go to class the subsequent 2 days after my dad died, but then I think the shock set in and I did not feel like going to the gym. I felt like I was being ignored when I did go to the gym, which made me pissed at the guys at the gym because I thought they were alienating me. One day I just up and left before class even started. I decided to join another gym, which I did last week. I went back to the gym where I used to train (and where my brother John still trains); their Jiu Jitsu instructor is a black belt and I missed my old instructor's kick-ass kickboxing classes. Then I went back to my other gym for a class with a black belt guest instructor. I felt at home again. I felt almost embarrassed at how angry I had gotten at those guys for no reason and realized that there is a reason you shouldn't make big decisions when you're grieving; your judgement is just way too clouded. So, for now, I will do classes at both gyms. I am going to afford myself that luxury for a few months and then decide what I would like to do. Like I am giving myself a break from eating specifically for weight loss, I am going to give myself a break from training for competition. I am not going to sign up for any of the upcoming competitions; I will decide how I feel as the day approached, but I am not putting any pressure on myself to compete. I just need my training to be fun and stress-relieving for now.
Work has been very challenging, and not in a good way. Doing poison control already tries one's patience and is very taxing. I have had almost zero patience over the past couple of weeks. I struggled to provide even the most basic kindness to my callers. Then I took a call from a guy whose dog and 2 cats ingested a supplement. I started talking to the guy, and several minutes into the call, he told me that he found one of his cats was dead when he got home. His dog was already sick. He started choking up telling me about his cat. I wanted to reach through the phone and fix everything for this man. I remembered that I'm not the only one who has problems. My compassion returned quite a bit after that phone call. I can deal with my emotions while also helping others. Actually, extending compassion is helpful to me; it helps me remember that I do have something to offer.
Part of how I am coping with all of this is rewatching "Six Feet Under" (I bought it this time). It is really help me process my emotions and recognize that my dad being gone is a reality. If you have never seen "Six Feet Under", I would strongly recommend it. Be forewarned that the show can be crass and raunchy, but the show is beautiful (albeit the story lines are outlandish). I honestly don't think I would be handling my dad's death as well as I am had I not watched it.
I don't mean for this to be a "poor little me" post. As always, I will be honest about my feelings. I am grieving right now, I will have my ups and downs, but I will get through. After all, my dad would want me to continue to pursue my goals and he wanted me to be happy. Knowing that helps me work through the ugly feelings that bubble up with grief. I may be heart-broken, but I think my heart is also building up from the love I had from my father and from family and friends since his death. I hope to eventually emerge as an even better person than I was before.
Old family picture (my dad, brother Brian, my mom, me, and brother John as a baby).
Picture of my brother John, my dad, and me at his rehearsal dinner a few years ago.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
My dad in his early 20s.
As many of you know, my dad passed away suddenly on Monday, February 11th. I buried my dad a week ago today. This has been an overwhelmingly emotion time; I will address that in a later blog. I wanted to post a quick blog in memory of my dad. A single blog cannot, of course, encompass our relationship. But I feel the more that is written about him, the more his memory will live on.
I have had a hard time deciding what to write, so I wanted to share the speech I made at his funeral. I really wanted to speak at his funeral, although I had a hard time writing the speech and getting the words together. I knew I did not want to just get up there and wing it. I wanted to incorporate a reading from the book "The Prophet," but otherwise I was having difficulty deciding what to say. I did some writing to try to get the speech together, but the words would not come. It was not until I was sitting alone with my dad before the funeral that the speech came to me all at once. Here is the speech:
I have been struggling over the past few days in deciding what words to say today. Words just seem so insufficient to encompass such a brilliant and kind man whose life touched so many others. So, I turned to the best source of inspiration I could think of. I watched the movie that my dad and I watched so often, I can recite, and so could he. A movie that shaped the very woman I am today..."Spaceballs." There was rarely a time that my dad and I got together where we didn't quote "Spaceballs." The quote that stands out today is, "When will then be now?" from when Dark Helmet is looking in the desert. As much as I would like to go back to "then," a week ago when life was normal and I had plans to meet my dad for lunch tomorrow, I can't. We've passed "then."
I spoke to my dad for the last time last Sunday when we talked on the phone. Our last words to each other were "I love you." These were always the last words we said to each other. It didn't matter whether it was "I love you" during an embrace, a quick "Love ya" before hanging up the phone, or even "Love, dad" at the end of an e-mail, I knew how much he deeply meant it. I do feel a deep sense of loss with my dad dying, but as his daughter who is able to look back with knowing that nothing was left unsaid and knowing how proud he was of my brother and I, I feel joy in having had such a special relationship with my dad. He had no expectations of my brother and I other than that we were doing something that made us happy. He also encouraged us to be passionate about learning, as anyone who knew him knows that he always sought to learn something new.
Rather than focusing on the loss of my dad, I have been focusing on his life and the joy I had in my relationship with him. One of my favorite books is "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran, and there was a passage that spoke to me during this time, which I would like to share:
“On Joy and Sorrow”:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.
My dad's death was very sudden for us, but I take comfort that my dad got to live with joy until his last moment. While there is, of course, sorrow from his loss, he did not experience any sorrow at the end of his life. He was one who had taken the sorrow from his own life and created joy. My dad took joy in his family and told my brother and I how he was proud of us. I am overjoyed to look back on his life, his love, and his achievements and feel so deeply proud of him. He was surrounded by so many people who loved him, and now my family is surrounded by loving people. In the end, the best we can hope for is to be surrounded by joy and love.
The joy I feel when I think of my dad cuts through the sorrow, although the feelings are deeply intertwined. I will miss my dad more than words are able to express, but I am glad he knew how much he meant to me, even without getting to say "good-bye.” I love you, Dad, so, so much.
I was happy to have made it all the way through the speech. I was so close to him that I felt a little like he spoke through me. He was always proud of me as long as I was doing my best, so that is what I did. The best way for me to memorialize my dad is to keep learning new things and exploring all of life's possibilities, like he did.
Recent picture of my dad.
Recent picture of my dad and stepmom.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
I am in a little bit of shock right now. I went to the gym tonight, came home and showered, got out, and the phone rang almost immediately. It was a nurse at a hospital telling me my father had passed away and that I needed to come to the hospital immediately. Needless to say, I was pretty hysterical. I am very fortunate that I have close friends, and my best friend came right over and drove me to the hospital.
My poor stepmom had been with him the whole time. He collapsed suddenly at home and she immediately called 911. The paramedics tried to resuscitate him at home and while en route to the hospital. He had probably died long before getting to the hospital. The medical examiner said the cause of death was a heart attack.
I got to see my father and held his hand for the last time. I thanked him and told him I loved him.
I was supposed to see my dad yesterday, but between bad weather and him not feeling well (he had been feeling tired for a few days), we decided to reschedule. We talked on the phone, though. I am glad that our last words to each other were, "I love you." I am glad that we were always open and honest--there is nothing that I feel was left unsaid. If nothing else, I am glad to not have regrets about my relationship with my dad. When he left our family when I was very young, there was a good chance that I would not really know my dad. After my brother died, though, he realized that being a father was the most important duty he had. We became very close and have always lived near each other. We saw each other frequently.
I will probably be doing a lot of the funeral planning this week. I want to plan a celebration worthy of such a generous, amazing, and brilliant man. My dad pushed me, inspired me, and loved me. I am glad he knew that.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Just wanted to share an article from Cathe Friedrich that addresses "weight loss resistance," or lack of weight loss despite doing "all the right things." I am glad that research is starting to address the fact that people can eat right and exercise and still not lose weight. Every body is different, so it is a matter of experimenting until the right balance is struck.
Here is the article:
Sunday, January 13, 2013
TapouT Training Center, downtown Los Angeles.
I am not the same person I was a week ago.
I knew that my trip to Los Angeles to do Jiu Jitsu training would be pretty exciting: I would be training at the TapouT gym, meeting and training with Jiu Jitsu master Eddie Bravo, probably meeting some famous people, seeing a taping of Conan O'Brien, walking by the ocean, and hanging out with the guys from the gym. My Jiu Jitsu instructors arranged the trip to train with Eddie Bravo, who is the head of our branch of Jiu Jitsu (10th Planet Jiu Jitsu). I was very excited to have the opportunity to train with him so early on in my Jiu Jitsu journey. While I knew this past week would be very exciting, I guess I was not expecting it to be life-changing.
Eddie Bravo. (Image from http://jiujitsugeeks.blogspot.com/2012/10/
We got in to San Diego late in the afternoon on Monday the 9th, picked up our rental cars, and drove to Los Angeles. We got there just in time for class. I thought I would be nervous meeting Eddie Bravo, but he was very laid back and easy to talk to. The way he explained things made a lot of sense, and he also made it clear that it is okay to feel and look foolish during Jiu Jitsu. I have struggled with feeling stupid when in practice, especially learning something new. Sometimes other guys at my gym act like people are idiots if they don't understand a new move within a few tries. I have come to understand that this is actually a problem for them, not for me. In order to really understand moves in Jiu Jitsu, they must be drilled over and over again. There is absolutely no way to know every nuance of every move with a couple of tries. In any case, I was happy to have my feelings validated by someone who has been practicing a long time.
After technique, we started rolling (rolling is the Jiu Jitsu term for sparring). I rolled first with an experienced guy who gave me some good tips on performing takedowns. The second person I rolled with was Victor Webster from "Days of Our Lives", "Continuum", and "Castle" (amongst other things), although I did not know he was famous when I rolled with him. He is a brown belt (next belt level down from a black belt) and is highly skilled. I knew that I might be training with him, but I did not connect that it was him when he invited me to roll with him. Anyways, he gave me a very thorough ass-kicking. I had never rolled with anyone at such a high level before and it was very eye-opening. When we were done rolling, he told me I should consider only rolling with other small people. I wanted to laugh because no one in my entire life has considered me to be a "small person." I think he realized he was a little rough with me because I saw that he toned it down with our other guys.
I had a great time with the TapouT gym members. A lot of them have been practicing for at least 5 years. I got some excellent tips from everyone I rolled with. When we were practicing techniques, the more experienced people were extremely helpful. It was also funny to me, because a few other TapouT members mentioned that I was a "smaller person." I finally told one of the guys that I probably outweighed him by a lot. He asked how much I weighed and I told him a little over 220 pounds. He told me he thought I weighed way less than that. In any case, I guess my exercise program is really reshaping my body, because I feel the most "shrunk" that I have thus far in my weight loss journey.
When class was over, we grabbed some food and went back to the hotel and crashed after our long day.
Victor Webster from "Days of Our Lives"--this guy really whooped my ass. (Image from http://www.sofeminine.co.uk/celebrities/vi
On Tuesday, we had both a morning and evening training session (2 hours each). I felt fantastic in the morning class. The atmosphere and energy of the gym was rejuvenating. We grabbed some lunch after class and then napped for a little bit. Then it was back to the gym in the evening for our second class. It was again, totally amazing. Eddie wanted us all to go to Hooters afterwards to get to know each other. I sat near him and he asked me how I got started in Jiu Jitsu and we chatted for a bit about that. We stayed out way too late and had too many drinks.
Wednesday was an especially exciting and emotional day. I was going to Burbank to Warner Bros. Studios to watch taping of Conan O'Brien with one of friends from the gym. We also decided to go check out Santa Monica Pier beforehand since we had some time. I hadn't seen the ocean in several years, so I couldn't wait to walk the beach. We walked around for about an hour, and I gathered some rocks on the beach. Afterwards, we headed to Burbank to watch Conan.
At Santa Monica Beach on Wednesday:
I was lucky enough to happen to be going to Los Angeles because I was considering a trip there just to watch a Conan O'Brien taping; I looked into getting tickets to watch Conan O'Brien film the second I heard about our trip to Los Angeles. Conan is one of my favorite people on this planet and I was giddy with excitement to see him live again. I have been watching Conan almost since he started hosting late night, and I had an opportunity to see him live on a trip to New York about 15 years ago. I was very much looking forward to seeing him again.
I found out earlier in the week that the guests would be Ricky Gervais, Deepak Chopra, and the band Imagine Dragons. I wasn't too familiar with Ricky Gervais, although I have seen him on Conan before and knew he was hilarious. Ricky surprised Conan with wanting to take a picture to post on Twitter, and that they would both strip down and get in a bathtub to take the picture. I was doubling over with laughter while they were doing the picture. Then Deepak Chopra came on and I loved his dry sense of humor. I think he would be up my alley, so I think I will check out more of his work. Then the band Imagine Dragons played their song "It's Time". They have become one of my new favorite bands.
Conan and Ricky Gervais's bathtub Tweet pic. This was one of the funniest and most absurd things I have witnessed. You can see the bit here (about 4 minutes long: teamcoco.com/video/45834/ricky-gerva
The monologue was also hilarious, especially the last couple of minutes: teamcoco.com/video/45835/conan-monol
Music video for "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sENM2wA_FTg (Totally worth a listen!)
Full episode: teamcoco.com/video/45893/full-episod
I did not think that Wednesday could get any better. We got to class and I was very ready to get moving. We went through our techniques and then started rolling. After my first roll, Eddie called me over to roll with him. I have barely rolled with any high-level players before, let alone the inventor of an entire branch of Jiu Jitsu. I just tried to relax and learn from the experience. We started rolling and of course he was dominating me. Somewhere in the middle of rolling, he said, "Your fundamentals are excellent." I was so afraid that he would think I totally sucked, and instead he complimented me. When time was up, he said, "Good job. How long have you been practicing, 1 or 2 years?" I told him a little over 1 year. I was extremely flattered that he thought I had the skill level of someone who has been doing Jiu Jitsu for close to 2 years. I was actually a little overwhelmed with emotion after rolling with Eddie. I fought back tears of joy. He had given me the most major compliment of my entire life.
Then, after class, we all partied a little too hard again.
I didn't feel very well on Thursday. I knew I had not been eating enough throughout the entire trip (I usually have the exact opposite problem with traveling). One of the guys poured very strong drinks and I drank way too much on Wednesday, so I was hungover. I felt nauseated throughout the entire day. I made it through part of Thursday's morning class, but not through the evening class. I went and observed on Thursday night, though. I felt a little better by the time class was over.
And then we went out and partied a little too hard...again (although I did not have any alcohol).
Another shot of the gym.
Eddie Bravo and I (he wasn't feeling well, so he was trying not to touch us).
Group picture at the end of our week of training (Eddie and all of us from our gym).
Friday we drove back to San Diego for our late afternoon flight back to Minneapolis. One of the guys and I had some time to kill in San Diego, so we walked around and went out for lunch at a cool hole-in-the-wall Mexican place. We got back to the airport and flew home. I was pretty hyper for a few hours after getting home. I unpacked and reflected on everything that happened the past week.
We are going to try to make this an annual trip. I cannot imagine having a more rewarding week than I have the past week, I am sure my life has some more surprises in mind. I have returned home a different and better person. I have a new-found faith in myself and look forward to incorporating my experiences from this trip into my Jiu Jitsu practice and my daily life.
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