Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Canceling 7434

Almost 3 years later I thought this would be just another mundane administrative task. Call up customer service and cancel the number no longer being used on my cell plan. Except that it's not just any number. It's his number. 

I told Laura, the lovely Customer Service Rep at AT&T Wireless that I needed to cancel one of the lines on my service and I knew that I would be asked why. I was prepared. 

"It was my husband's line and he passed away."

She of course was so sweet and said she was sorry for my loss and told me that she would take care of it right away for me and that I was on a very old plan and she would also find the best new plan for me.

There must be a requirement that the CSR say out loud what she is doing and that she say it more than once.

Canceling 7434...

"feeling reckless"...his last text to me. He meant to say "restless" but the drugs were interfering. 

Canceling 7434...

"Hey, it's Joe. I can't get to the phone. Leave a message." The voicemail recording my friend Erin went to painstaking ends to help me record and save.

Canceling 7434...

The tears were falling down my cheeks now as Laura moved on to talking about the changing fall weather and did her best to get through the steps of the line cancellation as quickly as she could. 

Laura was great. She helped me order the new iPhone I have been meaning to get but never seem to have the energy to follow through on. She adjusted things on my plan that needed fixing and she ended up saving me $90 a month. I have no idea why I didn't call sooner. Except that I do. Grief is a funny thing. You can be ready for your "different" life in so many ways and not yet ready in so many others. 

It was just a cell phone number. But it was a part of my Joe that was still here. It was the number I called when I first got back in touch with him and we started dating again after years apart. I had left him a message after that "Hey, it's Joe. I can't get to the phone. Leave a message." And he had called me back. And after talking briefly, he called me right back again because he forgot to tell me about his encounter with Greg Dulli. It was that phone number. And I didn't realize it when I picked up the phone to call customer service today, but I know it now. There was a lot packed in to canceling 7434. Grief is a funny thing and I'm glad that CSR Laura from AT&T understood it. She was wonderful.

After I hung up with Laura, I closed my office door and put Lost In The Woods by The Afghan Whigs on repeat for a bit. And I cried. It felt like the thing I needed to do. 

Getting a new iPhone still feels a little empty without him here and canceling his phone line sure felt like shit. But like my friend Erin texted to me right after I did it, "joe probably would have told you to cancel it right away." And she is right - totally, 100% right.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Reading the Riot Act to Sad and Frantic

As I sit here trying to put this past weekend into words I feel tears well up in the corner of my eyes. They aren't "sad" tears. They aren't quite "happy" tears either. More like "dammit this life I have is pretty freaking amazing even though sometimes it feels awful crappy" tears. And no matter how many times I've tried to write a less sappy blog post it just isn't going to happen.

Music and the people who enjoy it with me have that sort of deep effect on my psyche so it should be no surprise that a weekend of music in one of my favorite cities with some of my favorite people would inspire the type of perspective shift I needed.

I reunited with old friends. I met new ones. I officially retired my old Mizuno running shoes by getting them muddied up at Riot Fest and then plugging away 10 more miles the next morning along the gorgeous Lakefront Trail. I ate funnel cake for dinner and had many, many drinks with friends (and even some strangers). I shared a brunch for the ages with 3 of the coolest people you could assemble in one place. And we all listened to kick ass music until we passed out in our respective beds.

The retirement of my old Mizunos. RF muddy and still did 10 miles.
I was frantic going into this weekend. Frantic and sad. Work has been devouring me from the inside out. The weight of Joe's death has been starting to emerge again in the questions and heartache of my increasingly vocal, soon-to-be 4 year old. The shortening daylight hours were already taking a toll on my emotional well being and, against my better judgment, in many ways I was letting my circumstances define my self worth. The recipe was so bad that I almost canceled the trip which I was all of a sudden going to be making solo.

Thankfully, a wise friend convinced me that it made much more sense to go than it did to cancel and from my first run along Lake Michigan to the final Riot Fest after show I didn't regret the decision for a second.

There was the moment when The Dropkick Murphys broke in to I'm Shipping Up to Boston, a song that I run to during my training runs as I keep my eyes set on qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I couldn't have been happier to sing along with the crowd under the gorgeous early evening sun and dream of crossing the finish line in Philly in November with my qualifying time.

Just a demonstration of the random fun of RF. I found Waldo. He goes by Rooster.
He had a flask of whiskey. Don't ask.
There was the conversation with another member of the Congo (if that makes no sense to you then check this out) just before the Afghan Whigs began their set on Saturday. I found myself answering her question about how I was doing with the conclusion that my marathon training was the one thing that was consistent, mostly within my control, and keeping my sanity in check in the midst of everything else - work, dating, parenting, you know, LIFE. It was something of a realization for me. She had some kind words to say about this blog and my journey and it was one of the sweetest moments of the weekend for me. The bonds I have formed with my fellow AW fans and the music we share together are deeper than anything I could explain here. Many of the people I have met through the Congo have become like my second family and our passion for music is not only fun but transforming. When the band began their set at Riot Fest I was so happy to be among friends who understood that flying to Chicago for music wasn't really THAT crazy. In a lot of ways it was NECESSARY.

My view of The Afghan Whigs rocking my face off at Riot Fest.
There was also the moment "Domani" came on at the bar where we were having brunch (with some help from a fellow Congo member of course). And a little later it was "Live With Me". And a little later "Bulletproof" and "Faded". All with their own special place and meaning. All making the music weekend something to remember (or not remember depending on the number of Dark & Stormy drinks and Congo Bombs I ended up consuming before we finally left thanks to same Congo member!) We sang along and laughed together and enjoyed Sunday like I hadn't in a long time. It was perfect.

Over the weekend, I even had music moments while I was running. The most powerful was on my Saturday run, when the random shuffle hit me once again with "On Top of the World" at the exact same spot as it did last time I was in Chicago. What a spectacular feeling...and how wholly impossible to keep my pace easy with the view and the music and the beautiful weather. No matter what comes I am blessed and I was reminded of that again and again this weekend.

From my Sunday run, but still, same amazing view both days.
Aside from the Afghan Whigs performance, my favorite overall set of the weekend was the one by Social Distortion. A few of us had found ourselves some space right behind the sound booth so we didn't have the problem of crowds and no one cared when another fellow Congo member and I started dancing around. I couldn't help but sing along loudly to Ball and Chain, Story of My Life, and Ring of Fire. The dancing and the singing, combined with the fact that while Story of My Life was going strong I was transported back to Guitar Hero days with Joe, left me on a high for the rest of the weekend. I've been listening to those songs since and even paid a visit to the cemetery on my way home to have a listen and collect my thoughts.

Visiting the cemetery.
With fellow Congo member Lisa at our spot for Social D & Patti.
Patti Smith's set at Riot Fest was a turning point for me in how overwhelmed I have been at work. Her performance of "We Have the Power" and her impassioned plea at its conclusion reminded me of why I started working as an organizer in the first place and that even when it seems most hopeless, there are more of us than there are of them.

"We do have the power! Our governments, our corporations, would like us to feel defeated. But, we have it with our numbers - if we use it. Don't forget it!" She might as well have come down off the stage, crossed over the field to the soundbooth behind the Roots stage, and spoke those words while pointing her finger in my face. It felt that direct to my being.

Patti continued on and as she spoke I thought of how beaten down I have felt about the people's fights, but also about THE reason why I keep doing what I do. My faith compels me and my son inspires me. It's about hope in extreme darkness buttressed by proof that people DO have the power if we only decide to band together and use it. This afternoon, two days after "the Patti experience", we received word that the final vote count in the American Airlines Union election was 9,640 Yes to 1,547 No. Workers at AA (before the company merged with US Airways) had been trying to organize with my Union, CWA, for more than 20 years. I worked on the effort just before this one and was heartbroken when we lost by just 150 votes. When people decide to band together eventually they can win.

There were so many great things about my weekend in Chicago - so many things that I needed. Inspiration to fight on. A reminder to get up and get out even when things don't go the way I expect. Hugs and drinks and music with friends. Running in the sunshine with a beautiful change of scenery. Some good old fashioned fun. And I almost didn't even go.

Yesterday, I watched my son giggle and grin and jump around Disney as he saw his favorite characters and heard his favorite songs. This was his own soon-to-be-4-years-old version of Riot Fest and I loved being able to give it to him. And then, when we got in the car on our way to dinner and our cousin Tony popped in Do To The Beast by The Afghan Whigs and Domani's first words were, "Mommy, it's Greg Dulli!" I just knew that all was right in the world. No matter how sad and frantic, I will have Riot Fest and the music and relationships that come with it. No matter how depressing and chaotic, my son and I will have Disney World and the hugs and laughter of these days. These moments are way bigger than the feeble things of my imagination, larger than what I think a "happy" version of my life should look like - and when I picture a life full of love, the moments of the last 5 days are actually what remain.
View while eating my funnel cake dinner and listening to Weezer.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Today was a rough one.

There have not been many days over the course of the past year that have brought me to the edge of losing it completely but this was one of them.

It started last night when my little guy went through the most heart wrenching 45 minutes of grief I have witnessed since those of us closest to Joe walked through the first days following his death. 

I had made the mistake of tripping over Domani's foot while getting him ready for bed. He was tired so it triggered him to be way more upset than usual. He said that he wanted his "whole family" to be there with him. Knowing he was tired, I brought him in to his bedroom and sat with him on his bed, talking with him. He caught a glimpse of the picture on the wall of Joe and me with him as a baby and the grief flowed. 

He wailed. He threw his arms in the air and then fell down on the bed covering his face. He said that he wanted to be a baby again because that is when he was happy and he was with his daddy and now he is only sad. He said he would never be able to stop crying because he missed his daddy. So much sadness in such a little guy. It broke my heart into a million pieces.

But I hugged him and rubbed his back and told him that I understood how sad he was and that it was really unfair he couldn't have his daddy here with him. I told him how much his daddy loved him and all the things he did to take care of him. And I texted my mom for advice. And then, when Domani finally was able to get some words out in between the tears he asked for a Doc McStuffins episode and we were on our way to calmer times.

The immensity of it all didn't really hit me until this morning. After I dropped Domani off before going to work I felt his sadness all over again and I couldn't shake it all day. So many times I caught myself wiping away the tears in the middle of writing work reports or while on conference calls because, well, it's just f*@ked up that a 3 year old has to grieve his father like that.

This was Day 2 for me of coming back to work after vacation and there was still a barrage of assignments coming in needing attention. Yesterday was hectic, but I always expect that on my first day back after time off. Perhaps it was the added emotional stress, but today made me seriously question if there was any human way to tend to the work in front of me. More than once I wanted to crawl under my desk and stay there.

But just as my mind would begin to entertain the fantasy, inevitably the phone would ring or a new email would pop through or a text message would ding - the never-ending stream of things that need attention would make its demand.

Six days out of the week I would have a simple way to work through all of this since a good run always works wonders for my body, mind, and soul. Today was my weekly rest day on my training calendar though so there was no run during which I could work out all of the thoughts mulling around in my brain. No endorphins to take over the sadness that was settling in. No opportunity to stretch and challenge my tired body to the point of exhausted satisfaction. And that made me even more sad.

It truly became my own version of my favorite children's book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day". 

But then...

Almost as if the universe knows what we need when we need it.

There was dinner with 3 lovely women at a familiar restaurant, arranged weeks ago, but now falling at just the perfect moment.  Dinner with three amazing women who instantly understand the complexities of my day because they have had days like this too. Dinner with three inspiring women who are also living after losing their spouses. Dinner with three special women who took my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day and ended it with good food, laughter, and friendship.

And for this I am so thankful.