Father’s Day 2017

So I was gonna try and ignore today … It’s Father’s Day and my kids don’t have one. I was gonna just treat it like every other Sunday only…

Well last time I tried to run from one of the “big” days, like his anniversary death date,
like his birthday, like random days when his loss seems to be around every corner, I get slammed, Emotionally beat up, eaten and then spewed out.

It takes days for me to recover. My whole body, my mind, just like in the beginning, unable to focus, skittish, in a sluggish way.  So this time, instead of running from his loss, I turn into it. Not out of bravery.
Not out of “I’ll show it whose boss!”  I turn into it out of the idea that facing the monster diminishes its power. I’m not afraid anymore (or well just not afraid TODAY) Cause what I have learned on this 1,235 day since his death is: the loss won’t kill me.

Its unpredictability, won’t make my heart stop.
Its depth won’t suffocate me.  Its “holy-shit-this-hurtness” won’t be with me every single moment of every single day.  I have learned that all that pain that often brings me to my knees in random places like the kitchen, outside the car and yes, once in Whole Foods,
washes over me and then goes away.  And while I don’t like it, (I will never like the feeling of being left, abandoned and vulnerability),
every time, every fucking time afterward,
a rainbow appears and at the end of that rainbow is the new, better me!

It was a gift to have him even if he did stink up the bathroom.  It was a gift to loose him. I am standing here, not just stronger, but wiser, more open, more sensitive than I have ever been. I am standing here alive and alive means feeling all of it but knowing that “all” passes. The joy all and the yucky all, it passes.

Now as for the kids, cause really, the day is more about them, than about me …

This year I watched the grief and hopelessness catch up with Paytun and flip her and for moments pin her to the floor. I have watched her look for relief in food, in friends and in music. I have stood beside her, nodding my head, rubbing her back, or laying in bed with me.  She is walking her own journey and it is not for me to dictate it, fix it or say “No, no don’t go that way!” because she has to find her own place of strength. I have to remind myself that it is not one I can create for her.  Her blessing through this? It seems that it is dawning on her (slowly) that the outside things bring her only temporary relief. She’s learning to turn into the loss, too. (That’s more awakening most adults 3, 4 and 5 times as old as she is!)

For Taryn , I still worry. I’m not sure where she is. I watch her float around with her friends, and with me seemingly content. I worry but as the saying goes, “Worry is putting a negative spin on the future.  I watch her fear the fear of her loss, hold it in till she turns blue with it and then let it out because she doesn’t have the strength (who does?) to keep it all pent up! And then worry what we will think her less than when it comes tumbling out. I am waiting for her to discover, like her sister, to run from it, gives it more power.

They lost a father, a man that cannot be replaced. I lost a husband who frankly, can be replaced. (I don’t believe there’s only one soul mate per lifetime.)  The journeys my kids travel are their journeys. Not mine, I have to be careful not to confuse the two.

No doubt Father’s Day will mean different things to them as they grow up, as they discover and acknowledge their own courage and growth as it spills out of them in this life.  This year (cause next year may find me in completely different place!) Father’s Day is a day to give thanks to Cory for being a decent dad and for mourning the kind of father he “could have been.” It’s also day for me to marvel at my children as they make their way in the world without a dad.

The one thing I hope for them for forever is that Father’s Day doesn’t scare them, doesn’t become a day to avoid.

I hope that Father’s Day becomes their independence day.

XOXO

April McManus

Do Not Mistake Self Love For Narcissism

​I recently saw a post floating around called “10 things I like about myself“, and it seriously spoke to me…to read all of these beautiful posts. To see what they saw in themselves, and for that to just be okay. I love when people can just be proud of who they are…you know, I aint so bad.

So, what do I like about myself? Let me list a few.

1. That I stand for what I believe in. Whether it be my faith, treating people the right way, or something I have a great feeling about…I will always follow my gut and do the right thing.

2. That I’m emotional. Okay, so maybe that can be both a good and bad thing. I have this tendency to bottle my emotions up, and then burst at all the wrong moments…but hey, its who I am. I’m learning how to express myself better, and love myself for it.

3. My eyes. I get my hazel’s from my _________.

4. My freckles. They come and go with the seasons…but summer time really brings them out.

5. My passion for photography. Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve wanted to take pictures. I’ve always loved looking through photographs. When I was younger I remember checking out photography magazines, and gawking at National Geographic pictures like this one…and swore one day I’d take my very own “wow” photo.

6. I like my intentionality. I’m lucky enough to have a few best friends that I’m very close too. I’d like to think I’m pretty good about staying in touch, praying for them, and letting them know how much they mean to me! Besides, what’s a girl without her best friends?

7. My outlook on life. Almost always, you will find a smile on my face. I believe that the world is both a scary, but beautiful place. I love reading stories that restore my faith in humanity. I love hearing of random acts of kindness, just because. I believe if we don’t look at life in a positive way, how will we ever survive?

8. I like that I’m not picky. There are only 2 things in this world I don’t like. Liver, and green olives. Yuck. Want to make me dinner? Go ahead, I’m not picky at all. Take me anywhere you please.

9. That I stick to my word. You need me to be somewhere? I won’t forget. You and I have lunch plans? I won’t bail. You want me to come support you at your marathon? Count me in. When a friend needs me, hands down, no questions asked, I am there. I think it all comes down to treating others how you’d want to be treated.

& last but not least…

10. That I’m pretty tough. No, not in the muscle department (although I’m getting there!), I mean emotionally. I’ve been through my fair share of crap in life…no really, trust me. There were days when I was younger I didn’t think I wanted to be around, that I was the cause of my parents divorce, that I was a failure for not getting perfect grades…etc, etc, etc…but you know what? Those silly thoughts, and stupid things that have happened to me, do not define me. I know that I came out stronger because of all the cards my life has dealt me, and I’m happy to say I like who I am. All in all.

Self, you’re not so bad.

So, what do you like about yourself?

X❤X❤

My Beautiful Day

I Don’t Give a Tweet!

I used to be in love with Twitter.  No joke.  I loved that I could instantly pick up my phone and use the browser to see what everybody I love was doing.  I loved that I could put my computer next to me on my dresser while I was folding clothes on my bed and have long conversations with friends via tweets, only feeling frustrated that I had a character limit that I could use per tweet!  I used to love to update my Twitter status and let the entire world know what I was doing.

Used to.  I definitely used to.

Now, however, I have deleted my Twitter account and am likely to never sign up again.  You see, I never went so far as to have everybody’s Twitter updates sent to my phone via SMS text messages, as the texting plan I have for my phone is very minimal and I would have exceeded my allowed number of monthly messages in just one day had I linked my Twitter account to my phone!  Due to that, I was resorting to continually checking the computer to see what my friends were up to, and continually going online on my phone to make sure that the entire world knew what I was up to.

More often than not, my status message should have been, “I’m wasting time and ignoring my kids and my house to be on here and leave this message so you all know exactly what is going on with me RIGHT NOW.”

I have found that, if I devote even an hour to having a phone conversation with my sister or my mom or a friend, I’m still spending less time occupying myself with finding out what’s going on in the world around me than what I used to when I was constantly jumping on the computer to check my Twitter account “just for a second”.

I have found out that I am a lot happier and a lot better mom to my kiddos when my attention is focused on them and on having fun with them.  If I am so desperate to find out what’s going on with the people in my Twitter world, maybe I should just make a play date with one of them so that we all have fun too?! 🙂

I have found out that I am much happier being in a place where having the world available at my fingertips is not completely necessary.  This is part of the reason why I haven’t been blogging as frequently.  I’m taking a break from my computer, and spending time blogging when I feel like life has truly has given me something to write about, or when something fun has happened in our family, or when I have a certain topic (like today’s Twitter topic) burning in my brain and I can’t seem to let it go … and occasionally when it’s just been too long since my last post. 

I have found that, not being attached to my computer, I have much more time to do the things that I’m responsible for during the day.  Things like cleaning the house, doing laundry, getting groceries, playing with our friends.  Oh, and eating … I definitely do a lot of eating, too! 🙂

So, ladies and gentlemen, while I have had some people request that I come back to Tweeting, my answer right now is “no”!  I’m happy and content with the balance my life has found and wouldn’t want to go back to being a computer addict for anything!

XOXO

April

If my therapist is reading this…I’ll be in touch as soon as I hit “Publish.”

I’ve gotten a lot of comments, emails, etc. about my Facebook post yesterday.  So many of you understood what I was talking about (always a bonus when you think you’re living in the Land of the Insane.  Company is always nice).

And it brought me to this question: “I’m trying to figure out why we bother dating at all?”

I think part of it is that I have heard enough success stories within my own circles, widowed and not, to keep dipping my toe in.  And I am extremely happy for those friends; they’re all nice people who have found nice people and two rights never make a wrong (right?).  They’ve been able to put aside their own hangups and look past those little things that seem to annoy me (Yes, to my friend Wendi who posted on my Facebook ..I agree with Jerry Seinfeld and I really don’t like it when they eat their peas one at a time).

But there is one word that keeps flashing in my mind when I think about the whole dating thing.

Fear.

Fear that it won’t work out.  Fear that it will.  Fear that I’ll make the wrong decision either way.

What most people in my situation get stuck on is the idea that something will happen to the person they’ve fallen for and that is a very real fear.  I know I’ve had times when I’ve been dating someone, they’ll tell me some ailment they have, and if it’s anything bigger than a hangnail I start looking for the exit.

And we shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about that.  We’re not being shallow – we just know what it’s like to lose someone.  And we’re not anxious to do it again.

It was such a violation the first time – something was taken from us.  I mean, if you’d been burglarized…wouldn’t you be a lot more cautious about locking the door?

So, the other fear is the exact opposite:  What if I’m alone for the rest of my life?

That’s the one that keeps me plugging away.  I have three children at home right now and my life is a tornado of loud, smelly, laughing, yelling activity.  But they will get older.  They will move away (no seriously…they WILL move away).

And my house will be quiet.

Will I like that?  Will I not?  Will I wish I had spent this time – before my breasts have to be rolled up into my bra (right now they just have to be shoved into the right spot)  – wishing I had been more proactive in finding a partner?

Or will I enjoy the silence and congratulate myself on having complete control over the remote?

I have no answer here, as is often the case.  But the one thing I hate about this situation is that it is all so based in fear.  That never gets anyone anywhere.  The problem is that at this age, I’ve experienced so much – some good, some bad – that I’m trying to do everything I can to find the good again without experiencing the bad.

And I should really know by now that that’s not possible.

The problem is that almost everything in life is so damn unexpected – both the good and the bad.  I didn’t expect my husband to die just like I didn’t really expect to meet him in the first place.  I didn’t expect to be on my own, just as I didn’t expect to like it as much as I do now.  I didn’t expect to come home one day and to a completely pristine house because my kids cleaned the whole thing while I was gone.  Which is good because that never happened.

Just wanted to see if you were still reading.

Is the secret to happiness to let go of all of your expectations?

But then won’t you just be expecting something to happen because you’ve given up your expectations?

(If my therapist is reading this…I’ll be in touch as soon as I hit “Publish.”)

XOXO Mommie

“Let It Be”

When my girlfriend and I were having a heart to heart a few years ago over way too many glasses of wine, we were discussing “songs with the most meaning”.  For me it was “Bridge over Troubled Waters” by Simon & Garfunkel.  For her it was “Let it Be” by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. I think of that conversation often.

During her illness, “Bridge over Troubled Waters” was my song for her.

When you’re weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all

I’m on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you

I’ll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on Silver Girl,
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way

See how they shine
If you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

On the morning after I found out I had terminal thyroid cancer, I turned on my IPOD which was on
shufflel and “Let it Be” came on. I sunk to the floor and cried.  Here are the words…..

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree,
There will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is
Still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be.
Let it be, let it be. Yeah
There will be an answer, let it be.

And when the night is cloudy,
There is still a light that shines on me,
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
There will be an answer, let it be.
Let it be, let it be,
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

So I believe this is her song for me.
The lyrics totally spoke to me.
But the line “Let it Be” has been my mantra.

When I was diagnosed, I had so very many wonderful people offer suggestions for curing cancer such as vitamin therapy, medical marijuana, clinics in Mexico, etc. So Cory and I were trying to figure out what to do and what direction to take, but when I heard the song “Let it Be”, I just knew that is what I needed to do. I did not want to spend the rest of my life, trying to stay alive. I wanted to live! So…now I “Let it be”.  Sometimes when I get lost in fear, I forget but get a reminder when the radio just plays the song. I use this mantra for very many situations. I believe things are the way they are for a reason
and I don’t want to mess with that. I want to “Let it be”.  So, when you have a difficult situation in which you feel you need to make decisions, take these words of wisdom from John and Paul. They know.

I love this version from the movie “Across the Universe” Check it out.

XOXO Mommie

Resilience In the Face of Adversity

The words that are responsible for nothing less than emotional, spiritual and psychological violence: Everything happens for a reason.

That’s the kind of bullshit that destroys lives. And it is categorically untrue.

It is amazing to me that so many of these myths persist—and that is why I share actionable tools and strategies to work with your pain. These myths are nothing more than platitudes cloaked as sophistication, and they preclude us from doing the one and only thing we must do when our lives are turned upside down: grieve.

You know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve heard these countless times. You’ve probably even uttered them a few times yourself. And every single one of them needs to be annihilated.

Let me be crystal clear: if you’ve faced a tragedy and someone tells you in any way, shape or form that your tragedy was meant to be, that it happened for a reason, that it will make you a better person, or that taking responsibility for it will fix it, you have every right to remove them from your life.

Grief is brutally painful. Grief does not only occur when someone dies. When relationships fall apart, you grieve. When opportunities are shattered, you grieve. When dreams die, you grieve. When illnesses wreck you, you grieve.

So I’m going to repeat a few words I’ve uttered countless times; words so powerful and honest they tear at the hubris of every jackass who participates in the debasing of the grieving:

Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried. 

These words are so poignant because they aim right at the pathetic platitudes our culture has come to embody on an increasingly hopeless level. Losing a child cannot be fixed. Being diagnosed with a debilitating illness cannot be fixed. Facing the betrayal of your closest confidante cannot be fixed.

They can only be carried.

I hate to break it to you, but although devastation can lead to growth, it often doesn’t. The reality is that it often destroys lives. And the real calamity is that this happens precisely because we’ve replaced grieving with advice. With platitudes. With our absence.

I now live an extraordinary life. I’ve been deeply blessed by the opportunities I’ve had and the radically unconventional life I’ve built for myself. Yet even with that said, I’m hardly being facetious when I say that loss has not in and of itself made me a better person. In fact, in some ways it’s hardened me.

While so much loss has made me acutely aware and empathetic of the pains of others, it has made me more insular and predisposed to hide. I have a more cynical view of human nature, and a greater impatience with those who are unfamiliar with what loss does to people.

Above all, I’ve been left with a pervasive survivor’s guilt that has haunted me for a couple of years. This guilt is really the genesis of my hiding, self-sabotage and brokenness.

In short, my pain has never been eradicated, I’ve just learned to channel it into my work with others. I consider it a great privilege to work with others in pain, but to say that my losses somehow had to happen in order for my gifts to grow would be to trample on the memories of all those I lost too young; all those who suffered needlessly, and all those who faced the same trials I did early in life, but who did not make it.

I’m simply not going to do that. I’m not going to construct some delusional narrative fallacy for myself so that I can feel better about being alive. I’m not going to assume that God ordained me for life instead of all the others so that I could do what I do now. And I’m certainly not going to pretend that I’ve made it through simply because I was strong enough; that I became “successful” because I “took responsibility.”

There’s a lot of “take responsibility” platitudes in the personal development space, and they are largely nonsense. People tell others to take responsibility when they don’t want to understand.

Because understanding is harder than posturing. Telling someone to “take responsibility” for their loss is a form of benevolent masturbation. It’s the inverse of inspirational porn: it’s sanctimonious porn.

Personal responsibility implies that there’s something to take responsibility for. You don’t take responsibility for being raped or losing your child. You take responsibility for how you choose to live in the wake of the horrors that confront you, but you don’t choose whether you grieve. We’re not that smart or powerful. When hell visits us, we don’t get to escape grieving.

This is why all the platitudes and fixes and posturing are so dangerous: in unleashing them upon those we claim to love, we deny them the right to grieve.

In so doing, we deny them the right to be human. We steal a bit of their freedom precisely when they’re standing at the intersection of their greatest fragility and despair.

No one—and I mean no one—has that authority. Though we claim it all the time.

The irony is that the only thing that even can be “responsible” amid loss is grieving.

So if anyone tells you some form of get over it, move on, or rise above, you can let them go.

If anyone avoids you amidst loss, or pretends like it didn’t happen, or disappears from your life, you can let them go.

If anyone tells you that all is not lost, that it happened for a reason, that you’ll become better as a result of your grief, you can let them go.

Let me reiterate: all of those platitudes are bullshit.

You are not responsible to those who try to shove them down your throat. You can let them go.

I’m not saying you should. That is up to you, and only up to you. It isn’t an easy decision to make and should be made carefully. But I want you to understand that you can.

I’ve grieved many times in my life. I’ve been overwhelmed with shame and self-hatred so strong it’s nearly killed me.

The ones who helped—the only ones who helped—were those who were there. And said nothing.

In that nothingness, they did everything.

I am here—I have lived—because they chose to love me. They loved me in their silence, in their willingness to suffer with me, alongside me, and through me. They loved me in their desire to be as uncomfortable, as destroyed, as I was, if only for a week, an hour, even just a few minutes.

Most people have no idea how utterly powerful this is.

Are there ways to find “healing” amid devastation? Yes. Can one be “transformed” by the hell life thrusts upon them? Absolutely. But it does not happen if one is not permitted to grieve. Because grief itself is not an obstacle.

The obstacles come later. The choices as to how to live; how to carry what we have lost; how to weave a new mosaic for ourselves? Those come in the wake of grief. It cannot be any other way.

Grief is woven into the fabric of the human experience. If it is not permitted to occur, its absence pillages everything that remains: the fragile, vulnerable shell you might become in the face of catastrophe.

Yet our culture has treated grief as a problem to be solved, an illness to be healed, or both. In the process, we’ve done everything we can to avoid, ignore, or transform grief. As a result, when you’re faced with tragedy you usually find that you’re no longer surrounded by people, you’re surrounded by platitudes.

XOXO

April

Chivalrous Acts

Congrats!

I’m a modern girl. I’m independent and I’m single. I have built a career from the ground up, read everyone from C.S. Lewis to Suzanne Collins, can navigate social media with relative ease, and watch New Girl every week like it’s my job.

And? I know I can take care of myself. But hey, call me old-fashioned, too. It’s fine. I can appreciate aspects of feminism, but I prefer gender roles. I like when a guy volunteers to kill a massive spider without complaint, or lift a heavy box in my stead.

I find chivalry to be a gorgeous thing. 

Most women I know are a little like that. We love our modern independence in life and in love, but deep down, we want guys to treat us like ladies. As most women will attest, it’s become increasingly rare. Gentlemanly behavior sets our hearts aflutter. We want to see it, and many of us are waiting on it.

Some men make us question why chivalrous acts have died out. However, other men prove that sweetness still exists. I want a guy to court me a bit. In fact, I’m sort of holding out for that. Someone to sweep me off my feet? No, gosh no. Grand gestures are wholly unnecessary. I just want someone I can count on. I just want him to do little things to make me sure he’s the real deal.

Dating today is tough, and we women always seem to have doubts about the guys that roll into our lives. Does he like me? Are his motives genuine? Can I trust him completely? Guessing means you usually can’t, and confusion isn’t a good thing.

Most women would like to erase that. So if he puts in the time and does the little things, it’s like a screening process for us. He’s more likely to be into us as human beings, not hookups. He’s more likely to be Mr. Right when we’re over dealing with all those Mr. Wrongs. That’s why chivalry is as important now as it ever was.

Here’s to all the women who are looking for that chivalrous, good-hearted guy. He’s out there. These are the things he does to make us swoon. (And to all those chivalrous, good-hearted guys, keep doing what you’re doing. We love you for it.)

Here are a few of the cutest ones that would make any girl swoon:

1. Call. It would be nice to receive a phone call instead of text messages. While a text shows you were on his mind, a phone call is more personal. Call, don’t text a date invitation. Just the fact that you would take the time to actually call a woman to ask her out on a date will put you light years ahead of your competition (of which there is a lot).

2. Offer you his jacket. When the weather turns colder, and you have on light clothing, it’s cute when he offers you his jacket. It’s a sweet gesture.

3. Put your hand on the small of her back when introducing her to someone. This is something I read a long time ago and it stuck with me for some reason. This is a passive sign of affection and isn’t inappropriate in a public setting, but it bonds the two of you together and helps her feel more comfortable.

4. Open the door for her. The door to the restaurant, the car door, the door to the car picking you up. Whatever door is relevant to you both walking through, please do not lose sight of this simple but often overlooked act of kindness.

5. Suffering through a girly movie. When a man volunteers to endure a girly show or movie because he knows you’ll enjoy it, he earns major bonus points. (Even more if he does so without complaining or expecting something in return.)

Women in turn should respect the act of chivalry. I know many women out there who do not want the door opened for them because it makes them feel like their power or independence is somehow being taken away from them. They are aggressive and headstrong in society. It may not be because they want to be, but because to make it in the world, they have to be. This is true. However, can you imagine a world where chivalry didn’t exist at all? Would you want your daughter marrying a man that didn’t show her this appreciation for being the amazing, strong, supporting, dynamic woman that she is?

In short, that’s what chivalry is — a choice. The choice to do the right things, for the right reasons, at the right times.

XOXO
April McManus