Monday, March 29, 2010
There are moments in our lives that are pivotal- moments that have the power to change the core of who we are. People can go their entire lives never pinpointing when their “aha moments” occurred- while others may be able to distinguish a couple along the way. Being the introvert that I am- I think I nailed down each of my moments to date. I’m not sure what that says about me- but it’s good to know why I am the way I am- as weird as it may be!
So here are the moments that allow me to put a definition next to my name. The moments in my life that structured and restructured the woman I am today.
I’ve known for a long time that I have a wicked intuition. I always joke around and tell people I have this 6 second rule. That I will know within the first 6 seconds of meeting you if I’m going to like you or not…and if I don’t- there’s no changing my mind. To be quite honest, I say I’m joking, but I’m actually quite serious! I genuinely get a feel for someone immediately upon meeting them. I either like you or I don’t…there’s never a middle ground for me. And I’d estimate that at least 95% of time - my intuition is spot on. The people that I don’t get a good vibe off of tend to be people you wouldn’t want to associate with anyway. This sixth sense spans way further than just people vibes- I sense good days from bad days, I’ve sensed accidents before they happened- good news from bad news, I anticipate phone calls seconds before they ring, emails seconds before they come, movie endings and outcomes. (side note: the only movie that had me hoodwinked was The 6th Sense… Ironic, eh?). The downside of all this…I’m usually never surprised. This part sucks…well, sort of sucks. I would like (for just once) to be bowled over with shock… I always wondered what that felt like? But when you anticipate things happening- you’re rarely ever taken back. So I dare you- take me back… C’mon, give it your best shot! :)
So anyhow- when I was younger I always sensed I had this “power”. I didn’t know what to call it because I was so young, but I definitely knew early on that I had something. My first pivotal moment came on my 10th birthday. My mom had taken me out for dinner after school- and for the entire evening I sensed something was off. She was all smiles and cheers- making my day truly special for me. But on the way out of the restaurant, I must have been about ten paces in front of her, I turned around, looked her in the eye and said “Grandpa died, didn’t he?”. Needless to say, she was floored, and broke down crying. It was true- her dad, my grandfather, passed away early that morning. She didn’t want to tell me because she didn’t want to ruin my birthday. But I knew. And it was that very day that I promised I would never deny my intuitions again. I’ve come to learn my mom had it too- so maybe it’s inherited? Who knows? I just know my 10th birthday was when I first put a name to “my feelings” and I’ve ran with them ever since!
The second pivotal moment in my life came after I graduated high school. But for now, let’s rewind back to junior year. It was the first game of our season (basketball), and the girl’s team was in the gym warming up. That’s when I saw him. He was sitting behind the scorers table eating a steak sandwich and drinking an orange soda. I was hooked instantly. It’s not even like he was the best looking guy out there- he was average, at best. I just felt (there was that intuition again) that he was special- and he surely turned out to be. After the game I learned he was working w/ my coach as an assistant- well, thank you coach!
We became inseparable. For the next two years we were best friends. And I was in love- for the first time in my life. But, I was also shy and overly introverted with my feelings, so I never had the guts to tell him how I felt. I remember being in the kitchen one night and getting a page from him (how old am I that I remember have a beeper?!). His message simply read 143…. I think my knees buckled and I fell to the floor. He just paged me with I love you (143)… so, naturally I paged him back (143-2). This went on for a while, the I love you’s and I miss you’s… but the weird part- when we were together- neither one of us ever said anything… it’s like we lived two separate lives…. Best friends face to face… something more through our pagers? It’s funny (and sad) thinking back on this now, but at the time I was soo confused. But anyhow- fast forward- I graduate highschool and we eventually fall out of touch. Months after graduation I built up the courage to send him a letter explaining how I felt and how stupid I was not telling him before. But I was too late. He responded by telling me he’s moved on- is expecting a child- and will soon be getting married. BOOM POW BAM- knocked out for the count. But…in walked in pivotal moment number two. Never again did I walk on eggshells with my feelings, and never again did I just let something go. You can’t lose what you never really had- so, I never really lost him. I did, however, lose the chance. But at the same time- I gained the experience. And I never let a chance slip by me again- win or lose…chances are meant to be taken and I learned that the hard way. So to this day- whenever an opportunity comes my way- I always think back to his letter… and then I go for it.
There’s a reason for everything in your life- and I believe he’s the reason I’m married today. When I met my husband for the first time I was actually going to meet someone else. But he stuck out- and we clicked. I went back to the same place a week later, and on our way to the bar I looked over to my best friend and told her I was going to marry that man some day. She laughed so hard, but my intuitions never lie! A week after that, we were dating. I fell hard, and fast. I would have shied away at this point- but I thought back years ago – and as nervous as I was- I told him how I felt. Three years later- we were married
My last two pivotal moments can be considered bimomental? (that should be a word!). These moments transpired the day my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and then the day she died.
I was 24 when my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer (she was 56). Leading up to her diagnosis, our lives were in shambles. It was truly a dark time in both of our lives- emotionally, financially, and spiritually…. We were quite damaged. There was a dark cloud lingering above us for a while- and the storm was slowly about to begin. If you didn’t know already, I’m not an only child. I have an older brother (10 years older)… who I’ve always had an on and off relationship with. (we’re on now- thankfully ) For most of my life- it’s always been me and my mom… it was us vs the world. And as far back as I can remember- we’d always be in a fight with my brother over something- which would lead us to not talk for a while- then eventually make up and talk again. I’ve had this on and off relationship with him my entire life- it was our normal. So on this day- January 11th, 2006- we weren’t talking.
My mom is in the emergency room- awaiting results from a CAT scan they just took on her stomach. (she was admitted because she found blood in her stool- after a hemorrhoid test came back negative- a cat scan was ordered). Her bed was directly in front of the nurse’s station. She was dozing off in bed watching the television on her side. I was seated in the uncomfortable metal chair to the right of her bed watching the nurses and doctors come and go. I saw the doctor walk over to the station with scans in his hands. I saw the nurses stop what they were doing to look at them. I saw each and everyone one of them look away from the scans and straight towards me. The doctor with his balding head and his white coat. The tall black nurse with long thick dreads standing on his left. The short Asian woman to his right with vials of blood in her hands. Two other nurses on the other side of the counter with such sadness in their eyes I wanted to cry just looking at them. They all stopped and stared…starred at me. In that very moment I knew my mom was dying. The doctor called me over to the side- and without disturbing my mom I snuck away.
In one breath- and I literally mean one breath- I was told “your mom has stage 4 ovarian cancer and has less than one month to live. You need to get genetic testing- but make sure you give a different name because if a company knows your history you may not be hired.” With my head spinning a million miles a minute- I asked him to back up- forget about this “genetic testing” and repeat what’s going on with my mom? She’s dying? One month to live? I immediately jumped into survival mode. I begged him not to tell my mom- not here, not now. We didn’t know this doctor, he was just the internist on call. She needed to hear it from family first- the people closest to her. He was reluctant at first- but did as I asked. He told her she had to be admitted because the cat scans were down- and she would get a new scan first thing in the morning. I remember my mom looking at me when he said this to her- To this day I think she saw right through me. I was trying so very hard not to cry- I became numb from head to toe and mentally in-between. Though I was dying inside- I couldn’t let her know. She was angry that she had to be admitted- so in typical fashion- she stormed out of the ER (attached to the IV poll) – and went for a cigarette. No one dared to stop her.
I saw a phone at the end of the hall- when she was outside I ran to call my brother. My sister in law answered the phone… I told her calmly (as calm as I could be), I’m in the ER with mom.. I was just told that she has stage 4 cancer- less than a month to live…she doesn’t know yet because I asked the doctors to wait in telling her… etc etc. All I remember her saying to me is “that sucks for you… we can’t make it to the hospital”. Everything else in that conversation is a blur. When I hung up the phone- I turned around and saw my mom walking back to her bed…IV rolling right next to her. It was a split second- the second I caught my moms eyes as she walked back- it was the moment I went from being a girl to being a woman…the moment that showed me how very strong and together I really was. I wanted to cry and scream and punch someone in the face. I wanted to yell at my mom for all the years I asked her to stop smoking and she hadn’t. I wanted to curse at all the nurses for watching my every move as though they were anticipating me passing out or maybe they were just staring out of pity- whatever it was – it was annoying as hell. I wanted to be someplace else at that very moment- I wanted to turn back the clock to when I was a little girl and problems were few and far in between. I wanted to be the one with the cancer and only a month to live. I wanted it all to be a dream. But I caught my moms eyes- and knew she knew- knew she saw it in me. But I saw something in her- I saw her strength, her will, her fight. And in that very second she gave them all to me. And I managed to walk back to her- help her in bed- and stay until she fell asleep. I called my ex boyfriend (who remained a staple in my life)- asked him to meet me down the block at the diner…told him briefly what was going on, and how I desperately needed someone to talk to. He was there within minutes- and for the first time all night- I cried. And boy did I cry. To give you a time frame- everything started to unravel about 7 at night. It was around 1am- siting in the diner, where my brother called me and told me to go to his house- he wanted to talk. My ex and I went together- and luckily, my brother said he’d tell her with me. So the following day we all were together to tell my mom what I was told the night before. I like to think that I made the right choice in waiting to tell my mom as a family- and not having her hear it from a complete stranger… But anyhow, regardless if I was right or wrong- the night before was the moment when I grew up. It was when life showed its true colors and woke me up to reality. And it was when I knew I was strong enough for anything that would come my way going forward.
I was blessed to have another year and half with my mom…not the original month the doctor first mentioned. My mom passed away when she was 57, on May 8th 2007. I was in the room with her, holding her hand, when she took her last breath. In that moment- I stopped taking things, people, life- for granted.
My mom was diagnosed with cancer January 11th 2006. That year was rough- on her, of course… but, likewise for me, as well. I started a new job two days before my mom was diagnosed with cancer- you can say that didn’t start off very well. The job itself was miserable. The people, the place- I have nightmares about it to this day. It added to that dark cloud that was over me at the time- it was horrid. I worked 9-5. I would come home after work and take care of my mom. She was home- out of work- and on undergoing Chemotherapy treatments every three weeks. They made her sick, weak, tired… so I tried to help out the best I could. But for the first time in my life- I needed an escape. So come 10pm- I went out. I partied like I never partied before. Literally. I was always the “good girl” growing up. Straight A student for as far back as I can recall. Dean’s List all through college. And I wasn’t your typical college student…I worked through college…. So I held a 9-5 job, and went to school 7-10pm every day. All through college…. So I never partied…never went out. It was always work, school, home for me. But when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I dropped out of college and forewent my masters. Instead, I stayed home after work and took care of her. But come 10pm- I needed my escape. And so I went out- probably 5 days out of the week. I wouldn’t come home til 2 or 3 in the morning… sleep for a few hours- and was up and at work by 8am. My mom grew suspicious of me at this time, and truly thought I was becoming an alcoholic and doing things I shouldn’t have been doing. I told her over and over again not to worry- I was responsible- and I was doing nothing wrong… but she didn’t listen. I get it now- I get why she was worried. But back then- I was pissed…because truly- I was doing nothing wrong. I never drank more than two beers when I went out- I’ve never been a big drinker… so I always shied away from alcohol. So being accused of becoming an alcoholic… hurt. It hurt a lot. But- I should preface why my mom was thinking this… Her mom, my grandmother, died when she was only 36… (my mom was 16). She was an alcoholic and she died in my mother’s arms. My dad was also an alcoholic, and because of his disease, my parents divorced when I was in second grade. So – I can see now how scared my mom must have been of my partying… I find solace in knowing that she knows the truth now- knows that I wasn’t out binge drinking and getting drunk- I was just out having a good time. But at the time- it hurt me. I knew how responsible I was…I knew I had my head on straight- I knew I was “good”. Why couldn’t she see that? That drove me nuts…literally! And the more and more she kept pushing me – the more and more I pushed back. We fought more in the last yr in her life than we did my entire life prior. It all stemmed from all the emotions we were both feeling about her illness- my job- the huge black cloud above both of us- But we never sat down and talked it out. We just fought. And I was hurt- hurt that my mom thought of me as a drunken slut out partying every night. Granted, I did party- but I was with close friends, and never once crossed the line. Being accused of sleeping around drove me insane as well. I’ve always held the highest of standards for myself- I would never! But she thought I was.
Come June that year, I met my future husband… as mentioned above- we all know how that turns out. But when I met him- the partying stopped. I spent all my free time with him. I didn’t tell my mom about him for months- I felt she didn’t deserve to know. She treated me like I was no good- why should I tell her how happy I was. So I lied and said I was going out with friends, when indeed I was hanging out with him. Fast forward to October 2006. My birthday. For the 25yrs prior- my mom ALWAYS made my birthday’s special. It was usually just her and I…since she was divorced and my dad, brother, family- were never around. Every year she would have balloons waiting for me when I woke up… and a birthday cake after dinner at night. A cake was a MUST to her. Those tiny staples meant the world to me!
So anyhow- my birthday comes around that year and I choose to spend it with my boyfriend. For the first time in my life- I don’t spend it with my mom. I didn’t care- at the time… I just wanted to be out of the house. If only I knew how much of an impact this would later have on my life- I would spent every last second of my birthday with her.
I went down Atlantic City for my birthday and came home two days later. I came home to a card on the kitchen table that I refused to open for weeks. It just sat there. My mom never moved it and I never touched it. We still fought everyday. Eventually I came around to opening it… inside were two gift cards to my favorite stores. The outside of the envelope read “Happy Birthday, 25 years young. L.U.” Instantly when I opened the card I realized how stupid I was- I felt horrible- but there was no turning back time. We still fought.
My mom was “cancer free” in November… Short lived, because the cancer came back in January again- she started more treatment that eventually would prove useless in the end.
The point of all this? The pivotal moment for me, is that card. I still carry that card everywhere I go. It sits in the side pocket of my driver’s side door in my car. That card is a constant reminder of how I will never again take life for granted. I will never again allow stupid fights run my life- I will never again go to sleep angry- I will never again treat someone I love so horribly just because I’m angry. The gift cards she gave me I never used. I carry them with my in my wallet for the same reasons. Everyday reminders that what’s here today can be gone tomorrow- nothing is forever.
I didn’t make the best of my mom’s last year alive. I was horrible. I did what I was supposed to do…I took her to all her doctor appointments- I was by her side when she needed me- I paid her bills- I helped her around the house- I was her support when she needed it most. I wasn’t, however, her friend. I wasn’t her Boob (her nickname for me). I was just… there. I was everything what she didn’t need. She needed ME…and I was lost. And for my last birthday where she was alive- I didn’t spend it with her. A birthday that was always bitter sweet to begin with (both my grandfathers passed away on my birthday)- now, honestly, I simply hate when it comes around. Hate it. I don’t want to celebrate it at all. I have to act happy for those around me- because they’re trying to make me happy…But deep down- I dread the day. Because every year I wish with all I have to go back to 2006 when my mom was alive. I wish I was with her in Atlantic City instead. I wish I blew out my birthday candles with her for one last time…made one last wish with her next to me. I wish I was there to wake up to balloons. I wish. But I know it will never happen- so instead, I carry her last birthday card in my car, and her gift cards in my wallet. My forever moments of my mom- the bond we had- the bond I wish I never broke- and the promise of never breaking any bonds again.
So there they are. Moments that molded me into who I am today. I learn from my mistakes, and I learn from my experiences. The above were the pivotal ones- the ones whose lessons will be examined and reexamined for the rest of my life. I look forward to the next moment I get to add to the list- for with each addition… comes a better version of me.
PS: didn’t think this would turn out so long. If you made it this far- comment and let me know you’re still alive :) Feel free to share your pivotal moments as well!