Life Happened, Because Life Happened
When I was younger, I absolutely hated any kind of change. I wanted everything in the world to stay the same forever, and I just couldn’t understand why anything ever needed to change. Although I got a bit carried away, I think people, in general, struggle with change. We struggle to adapt and get used to things being different from what we’re used to. Comfort zones play a big role in life, and most people never take the chances they need to take to really bust out of their comfort zone. But sometimes life happens and you don’t have a choice.
In recent years, my life has changed more than I ever could have imagined. All things considered, I feel like I’ve handled things surprisingly well. I’ve grown a lot as a person, and I continue to grow more every day. One of the greatest lessons I have learned is that you can handle anything life throws at you. If you ever feel like you can’t handle something, then you are trying to handle the situation with the wrong mindset. You need to take a step back and give yourself time, then try again.
I have gone through a lot of ups and downs in my life. The great times have been almost unbelievable. The bad times have been brutal. I have experienced highs that I never would have dared to dream of in my wildest dreams. On the other hand, I have experienced brutal lows that dragged me down into unimaginable depression that seemed like it would never end. What I have learned from all of it is that it’s just part of life. Life happens. Nothing lasts forever.
When I was in college, I felt like my life was about as normal as it could be. I was trying to figure out what to do with my life and how to make it happen. I had no clue that my whole world was about come crashing down on me.
On January 21st, 2008, 10 years ago today, my mom lost her nearly 18 month battle with colon cancer. Anybody who knows me at all knows that I’m a mama’s boy. I always have been, and I’m damn proud of it. I never in my worst nightmares could have imagined I would lose my mom when I was 22 years old.
Although I didn’t fully understand it until after it was too late, basically everything I have ever done in my life was and is for my mom. I went through life doing what I wanted to do, but never stopped to think about why I was doing things that way. Years later, I realized it was all because of my mom and the things I learned from her.
My mom was the kind of person who made friends easily. Everybody who knew her loved her. It’s always easier to see things from the outside looking in than if you’re right in the middle of it. I never fully understood the impact she had on others and how many lives she touched until after she was gone.
Everybody has their own way of grieving. What works for somebody may not work for others. You have to find the way that works best for you and give yourself as much time as needed to cope with losing someone close to you.
When my mom passed away, my family spent a lot of time together, but there seemed to be very little talking. I need to talk about things. I can’t just sit silently and then magically feel fine. The rest of my family may have benefitted from that time spent together, but I needed to get away from everything. To this day, I feel bad for putting my friends through this, but I started going to my friends when I needed to get something off of my chest. I never asked if they minded, I just started talking… sometimes for hours.
Over the last few months of my mom’s life, she wasn’t comfortable sleeping in bed. She slept in the recliner in our living room. When I came home at night, the first thing I did every single night was look into the living room to see if she was still awake. If she was still awake, I would sit on the couch and talk and watch TV with her until she fell asleep. Many nights, I would stay in the living room after she fell asleep and I would just watch her sleep. I knew that it was something I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do for much longer, so I wanted to spend every possible moment with her. Looking back, I’m glad I did that.
In my last post, I wrote about certain things in life that need to happen before the rest of the pieces of the puzzle can fall into place. Although I would give absolutely anything to have my mom back, my life is what it is right now because of losing her. The greatest, most unthinkable tragedy of my life has led me to where I am today. When you’re in the middle of trying to deal with a loss like that, you’re pissed off at the world. Nothing makes sense. You cry, scream, have meltdowns, and just want to wake up from the nightmare that you are living. But then life goes on. One day, you wake up and start to realize that things have been changing gradually over time, without you realizing it.
The best way to describe how I dealt with the loss of my mom is, I ran away from home and started to spend more time away from the life I had lived before. I spent more time with friends. In the process, I made more friends.
I started to realize that I was able to feel better by talking to myself when there was nobody around for me to talk to. I realized how much music helped me to clear my mind. I started to drive around more and listen to music. I started traveling greater distances to go to concerts when a local band that my mom and I loved was playing. The better I got to know the band, the farther I traveled for their concerts. I didn’t want to leave after the concerts were done, because I didn’t want to go back home to the thoughts of my mom being gone. I started offering to help the band pack up their gear after the shows, just so I didn’t have to go home for a little while longer.
I got to the point where I would let out the emotions I needed to get out while driving to concerts, then would have fun at the concert, help out after the shows, and then would let everything out again while driving home. It became like therapy for me. Eventually, I ended up spending six years traveling across the country with the band selling merchandise for them. I always wanted to get into the music industry when I was younger, and it eventually happened… because of the greatest loss of my life.
My mom always told me I could do anything I wanted to do in life, but I know that she would have wanted me to earn a college degree and get a good job. Although she did get to see me on stage with the band one night, and I could tell it made her proud, I’m not so sure she would have been very happy that I eventually dropped out of college to travel across the country in a van with the band for six years.
When the time came for me to start growing up and make some changes in my life, I quit the band and moved to Florida to attend a golf school. If I hadn’t lost my mom, I can almost guarantee I would have graduated from college and found a “normal” job in North Dakota. I would have always wondered what I could have done if I had taken some crazy chances. I would have hated it. I hate the “What if…?” situations in life. I would rather try and fail than not try and have to wonder what could have been.
While I still have a lot left to figure out in life, living in Florida and being 1,500 miles away from my family and friends that I grew up with has given me the chance, for the first time, to start to realize why life is happening the way it is. I now have a college degree and teach golf. I work with kids. Specifically, I work with special needs kids. I was born with a physical disability called Spina Bifida. I met a lot of kids while I was growing up who had special needs, whether they were physical or mental. My mom taught preschool for 20 years. I never realized it until I started teaching golf, but just being around my mom while growing up, I was learning every day how to be a teacher. I was learning how to treat people. I was learning to make a difference in other people’s lives. I was learning to be patient and understanding. Because of my own fear of missing out on things, I was teaching myself to not exclude anybody. I taught myself that everyone deserves a chance to do the things they want to do in life.
My mom taught me that people are people, regardless of who they are. Nobody is any more or less important than anyone else. Everyone deserves equal respect, kindness, and fairness. Everyone should be treated the way you want to be treated.
If you had asked me 10 years ago what I had learned from my mom, my answer most likely would have been, “I don’t know.” Today, my answer to that question is, I don’t know that I can narrow it down, because there is too much to list everything.
Looking back, it doesn’t seem possible that my mom has been gone for 10 years now. She is every bit as much a part of my life now as she was back then. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. I miss her every single day. I still dream about her. I still want to pick up the phone and call her when something significant happens in my life, or even just to talk, in general. I still feel her presence in everything I do and everywhere I go. I know that she is still with me in some way and that she always will be. I hate the thought that I needed to lose my mom for my life to really begin, but that does seem to be how things worked out. I know that she would be proud if she could see how my life has turned out so far. The things I do from this point forward will be a continuation of the things I learned from my mom.
On a day-to-day basis, very little seems to change. You have to look back at the big picture to realize how much progress has been made. I am amazed every day when I realize how much has happened since that night 10 years ago. Life happened, because life happened.
I love you, mom!!