Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Day Grief Came To Live At My House.....

My story is in no way unique. By sharing it, I am in not asking for people to feel sorry for me or for my family. All that I am asking is that if you knew my brother or even if you didn't you would take some time today to remember him and his zest for life and smile. He would want it that way.....

October 29th, 2008, should have been an ordinary Wednesday. A mundane day spent finishing up my final classes before my December graduation. When I went to bed on that Tuesday night, I had no idea that in just a few short hours, life as I knew it would forever be changed. Every thing from that day in ingrained in my mind, in my soul. I remember the call from my mom that came at exactly 5:33am. She used the word unresponsive. She never spoke the words that he was gone but deep in my heart, I knew. I remember trying to rationalize in my mind that his blood sugar had just gone too low. He would be fine. He had to be fine. This was Ethan we were talking about. In retrospect, I was flashing through Kubler-Ross' stages of grief at warp speed. Even on the four mile car ride to my parent's farm, I remember bargaining everything thing I had or could give if he would just be okay.

Four years later, grief still lives with the Whitesel's. It's a visitor that was never invited yet will never leave. Grief is no longer a constant companion. It no longer consumes us, although it is always there. Prior to this, I thought those stages of grief that I had learned about in so many classes were just theories. Boy-oh- boy, was I mistaken. The fantastic (sarcasm) thing about grief is that no one is EVER on the same stage in a family. We all found our own way to grieve. We were all set on paths to navigate through our grief and it was up to us, individually to find our way. Admittedly, I got lost along the way, several times. I did and said things that I could have never thought possible.

I found anger real fast and held tight to it for a long time. I understood anger. I was living in a world where my basically healthy 26 year old brother went to bed and didn't wake up. So in a world where everything I understood to be true was turned upside down. I reached for an emotion I understood. I couldn't pinpoint who or what that anger was directed towards, all I knew was that I was pissed.

I remember trying to figure out how I would get through the next four minutes without my brother and still am in disbelief that four years has passed. I can remember thinking to myself, "how long is this going to hurt?" I know now that the answer to that question is as complicated as it is easy: forever, it's going to hurt forever. I don't care it is has been four years or forty, the void that was created when he left this life will always be there.

I still miss Ethan We all do.

I miss his love of life. I miss his advice. I miss his compassion. I miss his bullshit and his stories.... I miss him every time I look at Mom and Dad. He was this beautiful mix of both of them. I miss him every time Dad laughs-exactly the same as Ethan. I miss him every time Mom says something that sounds bat shit crazy because that apparently is hereditary :). When I see what a wise ass Jennifer has become, I smile because without Ethan showing her, her true value she would still be settling for other's treating her badly. I miss him most when I see my cousin, Trevor. They have such strikingly similar facial features that sometimes when he walks in to a room it feels like the wind has been knocked right out of me because for a nanosecond my mind plays a trick on me and maybe this has all been some kind of horrible nightmare. Thankfully through Trevor, we get to see Ethan in small glimpses.

On a side note, I also have to laugh every time I see a Mini-Cooper because he wanted one so bad; I just am not real sure how the logistics of him getting in one would have worked but guaranteed he would have rocked it.

Four years later, my family and I continue the process of healing. Life will never be what it once was but we are adjusting to this new normal. A reality that isn't ideal. One, if given the choice, none of us would have picked, but like it or not, we must adapt. Some days it feels like we've got a grip on this new life. Others, it feels like the wounds are brand-new. Physically, Ethan has left us but I know he will always there. The times that I feel the most alone, I have to believe that is when he is there by my side saying, "Stop being a dip shit, Lou, and pull your head out of your ass." He was the first person I would call with good news or with bad. I still have to consciously not dial his number when I need someone to talk to.

Four years later and I am finally choosing to let go of my anger. If I really want to honor my brother's life, anger is not the way to go about it. I want to think about his life with happiness. I want to live every day the way he did, with no regrets. He may not have always made the right choices. His mistakes were plentiful yet he always saw the best in everyone A quality I have yet to master. He took the time to forgive those who didn't always warrant it. Never once did that kid hold on to anger.

By releasing my anger I am allowing myself to forgive. It's taken a long time for me to realize that my forgiveness has the be threefold. I am forgiving God for taking my brother, for His plan is far beyond anything I can fathom. I forgive Ethan for leaving us. When the good Lord calls your name, you gotta go. And finally, I am choosing to forgive myself for living. Feeling guilty about living pays no homage to Ethan's life. Having the opportunity to truly live and denying myself that is the only true disservice to my brother's memory.

Four years ago grief came to live in my house and I will never, ever be the same.

In Loving Memory of Ethan Edward Whitesel
February 5, 1982 to October 29, 2008.

To A Life Well Lived.....
Miss You Every Day, Bubba!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A trip to the city.....

I spent the better part of this week in Omaha for some training. It's hard enough to make good food decisions while at home but put me in a situation where eating out is the only option and I am a train-wreck waiting to happen. Overall, I was able to make quasi-good choices......kinda. I do notice a big difference in what I can eat since starting this healthy lifestyle. My stomach can't tolerate food the way it used to eat. Apparently it is possible for your stomach to shrink. Even if I make a not so healthy choice, the amount that I am actually able to eat is not what it used to be.

 I have always said that I was meant to be one of those skinny girls who could eat everything and never gain an ounce. The only problem was that God must have been so wrapped up in the awesome creation he was about to share with the world that he COMPLETELY forgot to include the metabolism neccessary. So not only can I eat like a lumber jack, but hell, I can look like one, too.

It seems like everywhere you turn there is some type of restuarant in this town. I also must mention that whoever designed Omaha obviously was hardcore AND drunk. I have never gotten lost so many times or met so many disgruntled drivers. Last night I was headed to a friend's house. Somehow or another, I wound up in the wrong lane and was headed straight into on-coming traffic. People get soooooo touchy when you are about to collide head-on with them. I got the bird from a one of those smart cars. Seriously, someone who drives a scooter with doors is in no position to cast judgement.

I have always promised to remain honest with this blog. I have to admit that I haven't been as faithful with excercise as I ought to be. I still excercise several times a week but I need some motivation to do it more. Any ideas for some motivation? I got up this morning at 5 and got in some time of the elliptical, which, by the way, is my favorite machine. It's like pretend running. Also, my severe attention problems make it so I am easily bored. Gotta keep it fresh and find that same motivation for excercise that I had in the beginning.

If you eat chocolate cake while drinking Diet Coke, do they cancel each other out?

At this training there has been a huge amount of snacks offered. This afternoon we were served this chocolate cake that was plainly made by angels from heaven. It looked so delicious. I wanted to eat the entire cake, I compromised and ate half of a small slice. It's okay though, because I chugged a Diet Coke with it so they definately cancel each other out. When I began working in health care I was quickly introduced to this way of thinking. Health care professionals are some of the most unhealthy people I have ever encountered. I don't mean for that to sound negative but it seems that we are all so busy taking care of others that we often forget about taking care of ourselves. If only there was a magical combination that counteracts bad food choices.............looks like I have some inventing to do. ;)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

This one is for you........

Today is my 27th birthday. Some days I feel like I am about 75. Other days, I barely feel 16. Some days I feel like I have a grip on reality; others I feel like I am barely hanging on. Such is life, I guess. Maybe one of these days I will get it all figured out but hopefully not, 'cuz what fun would that be?

I often wonder what my 18 year old self would have to say about where my life has taken me. Back then I had it all figured out......I just thought I knew exactly who I was and what I was going to do with my life. In retrospect, I didn't know jack. Turns out being awesome does not constitute a profession and that when you go to college, a major will eventually become a necessary evil. I would have laughed my ass off if someone would have told me I would be doing what I am doing today and that I would be loving it. Funny how things turn out. Pretty much, my life is everything I never knew I always wanted.

I must admit, my first 27 years have been pretty outstanding but there is a part of my heart that is heavy with the celebration of my 27th year. For the last three years, I have been unable to spend my birthday with my best friend and until the good Lord calls me home, he will be absent from the celebration, but if I know Bubba, he has never been one to miss a party, so as this day in tinged with sorrow, I know that he is watching over and celebrating as well. (Probably drinking a few Old Milwakee Lights with Grandma and Poppa)

Being almost four years older than I, Bubba always got to do everything before I did. By the time I was old enough to do something, he had done it, it was old news... He went to school first, he learned to drive first, he went to college first, so on and so forth. Turning 27 is the first thing that I have ever done that he didn't get a chance to do. The thought makes my universe stall and humbles me to a point where there are no words......The only comfort I am given is that, that kid lived the hell out of the 26 years he was given.

My friend, Fallon, shared with me these words shared by her pastor: "When you lose a child, you lose your future. When you lose a parent, you lose your past; but when you lose a sibling, you lose your past, your present, and your future."

I am going to be honest, there are times that I am so damn mad that Ethan was denied the opportunity to live a long life that I cannot even process it. Sometimes I am mad at God. Sometimes I don't even know who my anger is directed at.  For the last three years I have let that loss and that anger take over my life. I turned to food to comfort me when I couldn't comfort myself. To fill the void, the remove the emptiness I felt in my soul. Look where that got me.

The loss of my brother will always be the cross that I bear, that my family bears; but it will no longer control me. So the only fitting way to honor my brother on my 27th year and to know that his death wasn't in vain, is to get healthy. Get healthy for me, for my family, and for him. Every year that he was denied, I vow to live with the same borderline reckless abandon and zest that he would have. I am going to stop hiding behind my grief. I am going to face it.

This one is for you, Bubba!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Community Responsibility???????????

If you haven't heard about Jennifer Livingston, please take a moment to view the above link.

Every feeling, every emotion that I have ever felt when someone points out my weight issues are summed up perfectly by Jennifer. As she states, it isn't the fact that she cannot handle the truth, she is overweight, she knows that,  it's the fact that the gentleman, who dispensed his opinion without a request for it, went about his message in an entirely inappropriate manner. His tactic apparently was to bully her into his ideal of what was healthy.

From what I can see, Jennifer Livingston is an accomplished reporter. She is poised and educated. She is charming, confident and beautiful. She is a daughter, a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend, and a professional. Yet the author of the letter states she is not a proper role model for the public, especially young girls. So, the message he is sending is the previous mentioned attributes mean nothing if an individual weighs over 125 pounds. I am sorry but Body Mass Index has nothing to do with a woman's accomplishments and postive traits and I believe his beliefs are archaic, to say the least.

In the words of Bob Marley, "If you are going to point fingers, make sure your hands are clean." I don't specifically know the author of the email to Mrs. Livingston, however, I have met several variations of him throughout my life. Those who are insecure with themselves typically have to point of the flaws of others to build themselves up.

The statistics that I have read about bullying, quite frankly, scare me. One out of four teens are bullied every day.  As if growing up isn't hard enough? It is such a struggle trying to find your place in the world. For most of us, it takes years and years to figure out where we belong and who we are. Hell, I'm a week away from being 27 and I still don't know.

When I was 13 years old, I was at a Jr. High track meet. A boy from a town west of Kearney was at this particular track meet. For a whole year, every time I saw this boy at sporting events he made some remark about my weight or some gesture insinuating that I was a big ol' heffer. Like I said, this happened many times over that year. Finally, at this particular track meet, I had, had about enough. When he verbalized how fat I was, I lost control and decked his ass. Now, I'm not saying what I did was right. Violence is never the answer and it was on this day I retired my boxing gloves and decided I was a lover not a fighter.

 Please take in mind that none of this happened in privacy. We were in front of our coaches and teammates along with other surrounding schools. We had an audience. Our coaches intervened. I remember waiting while my coach went and got my mom. I knew my ass was grass. I was fairly certain my parents would frown upon such a thing. The wait seemed like forever.........finally my mom appeared from the bleachers. I braced myself. She was going to crucify me in public. To my surprise, she trotted right passed me, went up to that boy's coach, put her hand on her hip, stuck her finger in that coaches face, and said, "This WILL be the last time that boy speaks to my daughter like that and he WILL apologize.". If you know my mother, you know that if you see a hand on the hip and a finger in the air, you probably have a few problems on your hands. The coach, knowing that the women in my family were prone to violent outbursts, did his best to diffuse the situation.

Ultimately, the boy had to apologize to me plus I'm sure having his ass whooped by a girl knocked him down a few pegs. When my mom told my dad about the day's spectacles, my dad stated in the wise way he always does, "What goes around, comes around, baby girl." He then said, "Don't tell mom, but I am proud as hell of you." As I said above, violence is never the answer. I had cosequences for my actions and had to answer for what I did.

  I saw that boy many, many times throughout the remainder of our school years. He always seemed to be on his best behavior.....Years later I found out (on the news) that, that boy had been subject to huge issues with domestic violence in his home life. For years, I carried around this hatred for him, when I heard what he had to endure, what his family had to endure, the only feelings I had for him were those of sympathy. Cruelty is learned. It wasn't his fault. I know that now.

The moral of the story: this all occurred approximately 14 years ago and I remember it like it was  yesterday. I remember the boy's name and probably always will. I remember his words. I remember his taunts.  Fourteen years and the actions of a troubled young man are ingrained in brain, in my soul.

 Also ingrained in my soul is the out-pouring of my family and friends. I found out that my mom got a little feisty when it came to matters of her children's heart. That my dad would always be proud of me for standing up for myself and for what I believe in. That my friends, my true friends, would love me regardless of what I looked like and what others had to say about it.

So, dear friends, choose your words kindly. For once they are said, they are rarely forgotten and almost always taken to heart.

And to Kenneth Krause (the author of the letter to Jennifer Livingston) please refer to my blog posting: nine, subheading: three, paragraph: four.