This picture came up on my Facebook feed this week, and it made me step back and think about things. My life has changed so much in 4 years. 4 years ago on Mother’s day — we were only 3 weeks into my Mothers pancreatic cancer diagnosis. She had lost a lot of weight and she was trying to deal with a ‘death sentence by cancer’ but she was still my mom. She was only able to fight cancer for about 3 1/2 months before the cancer was winning. It was horrible to watch, horrible to live thru, and it’s still painful if I go back and look at my pictures (or my blog) from that summer. Mom and Dad moved in with me then, and our lives changed.
After Mom died, our focus became taking care of my dad. We stayed home a lot so he wouldn’t be alone. We didn’t plan things, because we didn’t want him to be alone. He was our focus. We didn’t plan anything — cuz we never knew how he would feel.
In the years I was taking care of my dad – my childhood friend Julie and I reconnected. She was fighting her own battle with cancer. She was the ultimate Mom and career wise — she was pretty much the opposite of me. She got married soon after high school, had 5 kids and loved her life in rural Clutier. I went to college, struggled to find my life’s purpose and eventually landed at the VA, lived in 4 different states, traveled 20-30 weeks per year and coordinating training around the US and was comfortable speaking in front of thousands of people. She raised her family, sometimes struggling with health and financial woes, and took a couple of trips on an airplane. Our paths were very different, but when we reconnected – we were somehow in the same place.
I lost my dad and my friend Julie in 2016. To say it was a tough year is an understatement. I still have nightmares about my Dad’s hospitalization. Could I have done something different that would have saved him some pain? After all my blogs about caregiving – did I actually fail when it was time to participate in what turned out to be his final days? I feel like I did. It’s been a tough road living with that.
In the last year I worked at the VA we had no budget, and a project that I had poured my heart and soul into was killed. My job was full of politics and a hater or too. When that project was killed, I grieved it –actually I’m still grieving it — but I didn’t realize it until recently. It’s hard when you’ve poured blood, sweat and tears into building a training culture, and you leave with nothing to show for it but memories.
My personal life had changed so much, my work life would changed, and eventually, when it was obvious that I had no passion for the work I was doing — I planned my retirement from VA. In actuality it wasn’t quite that easy — I had to do paperwork, do math, and make sure that I wouldn’t have to get a job as a WalMart greeter before I could make that decision! I had promised some people I would keep blogging after my retirement, but my grief has been so overwhelming that I didn’t want to write if it was going to sound like I was whining.
I read a blog this morning entitled 3 things you learn after your mother dies. The first thing in the blog really touched me.
This is exactly how it’s been with me, starting 4 years ago when Mom died. I never know when I’ll have a bad day, I never know how it will hit me, but it’s been incredibly exhausting. When I started Pilates, Carey became much more than a Pilates teacher. She’s a friend, and it was her idea that I should start Farm Girl Marketing Solutions, my retirement business that has already given me so much more than the cash it brings in. I started working with a health coach who gives me assignments to work on weekly. One of the things she’s encouraged me to formalize, is a practice of gratitude. I write down what I’m grateful for, even if it’s as simple as the sun shining or a flower blooming. I try to erase the memories of my dad’s hospitalization, by writing down memories of my dad that I’m grateful for.
It was during my gratitude process that I realized I was grateful for my tribe. What is a tribe? A tribe is a small but powerful group of people. It’s a fan base, a Bible study, a group of influencers. A tribe is small enough to feel personal but large enough to make a difference. A tribe is not usually created out of thin air. More often than not, tribes are found. They are existing groups of people formed around very specific interests and passions.
It’s not the same tribe I had 4 years ago. My tribe of 4 years ago was full of coworkers, not necessarily friends in a world of politics and drama. (A handful of those people are still in my tribe, people I consider true friends). My tribe of today is an amazing collection of people that believe in living positive, faith filled lives. My tribe of today has only a couple of people I even knew 4 years ago. There’s no room for haters, drama or politics in my tribe. My tribe of today is diverse and each person in it makes an amazing contribution to helping me live a positive life. My tribe has come together because of all the things that I’ve been through in the past 4 years and the one feeling I’ve felt more than any other. Grief.
An only child’s journey continues…
If you want to read more on why women need tribes, click here.