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On losing my mom and hurricane irma

The past 5 months have been some of the hardest of my life to date. Most of you know that I lost my mom to suicide 5 months ago. In terms of that loss, 5 months can feel like 5 years in one moment and 5 seconds the next. It is a rollercoaster of shock and heartbreak inside of a beautiful and happy life that still exists but is forever…different.

Since that night I have tried a lot of things including clinging to my “routine” like a life raft on a rocky sea, and most recently I literally tried to jump ship & abandon all caring about routine.

I have allowed both of my businesses to suffer, neglected the women I promised to help, gone MIA on the team of women I am supposed to lead, skipped deadlines for freelance clients for the 1st time ever in my by-the-rules life, and lost belief in myself at times — “at times” meaning most of the time.

Oddly enough, Hurricane Irma helped me. I read a blog shortly after my mother’s passing that mentioned becoming obsessed with art after a loss. I apologize to whomever the author was because I definitely thought you were crazy… and then I went and became obsessed with plants.

I pushed for brand new landscaping, created a succulent garden because my mother loved them, brought ALL of my mom’s plants to my house and proceeded to water and trim plants on my patio daily as if I knew what I was doing & my life depended on it. In a way, it has.

When our landscapers planted peace lilies in a place where they would clearly be slowly burned to death by the Florida sun, I marched outside mid-day with an angry pout on my face, dug each one up out of the ground and potted them at the most inopportune time, because the thought of letting something die made me cringe. It still does.

And then…then Irma came, ripping control out of my sweaty palms and reminding me that I am not in control here (much to my dismay).

Excuse me while I am the biggest jerk ever and I complain about dead trees while others lost their homes. I need this one ungrateful moment to express my emotions.

I almost vomited when we got home after the storm.

The butterfly tree that I have spent years sitting beside in the driveway, watching my babies chase butterflies and talking about when their Daddy will come down the driveway from work…laying on the ground. I stuck my favorite shoes right in the mud and unrelentingly pushed that tree up, begging and pleading with it to STAND UP. I stopped when tears started to fill my eyes and I realized my neighbors must think I was ridiculous because, truthfully the tree is ugly.

At least 50 trees down, some of the brand new landscaping destroyed, several of my favorite trees ripped from the ground, laying on their sides…dead or dying. And once again, I am not in control. Once again, I can’t save them.

The next day I started by picking up at the end of the driveway, making a pile of branches with the kids, and the next day even more. And I cleaned up the succulent garden, and set out the potted plants that belonged to my mother so they can feel the air again. I have pulled heavy limbs down the long driveway, used a machete (and felt super cool doing it) to cut things, raked, shoveled, trimmed, dug, pulled, straightened…tried to fix things that were not fixable.

In the midst of wiping sweat from my (finally) waxed brow (seriously nothing is open after a major hurricane), I realized that I am brave.

I am brave. I am sometimes afraid, yet I am brave. I can adapt. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can stomp my feet and cry, then suck it up and roll up my sleeves and get to work. I got the call from my dad on April 14th, and then stood in the middle of the street for six hours staring at yellow tape around my mom’s house, and then looked up at the sky and say “I will be okay, this is going to be really, really hard, but I WILL be okay.”

I am not embarassed to say that I have become obsessed with plants because I am trying to put LIFE all around me instead of death. And I am not afraid to say that when I came home after Irma I felt that once again… I have been robbed.

But the truth is, a tree standing instead of falling isn’t going to bring back my mother. A tree falling instead of standing isn’t going to take away the memories that we had with that tree.

I pulled those limbs down the driveway knowing that I am strong, I am capable, and I can get through hard things and see the beauty after the storm…no matter how many storms I have to face. I am not in control, yet I am.

“There are four things in this life that will change you. Love, music, art, and loss. The first three will keep you wild and full of passion. May you allow the last to make you brave.” – Erin Van Vuren

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