After declaring a spirit quest in March 2011 things didn’t get any clearer. It wasn’t like the stars aligned and I finally saw the path open before me. In fact, things got worse. Finding myself would take years and a lot of rock bottoms. Not rock bottom where I lost myself to drugs or alcohol or sabotaged myself at least not obviously. It would be a path that led to a lot of hard decisions. It’s a journey I’m still on.
Four months after declaring that I was lost and empty I lost my closest friend to a freak accident. She was one of my oldest and closest friends and I miss her dearly. I remember getting the call from her husband. I was at work when he called. I was in the middle of cancer treatment. Chemo completed, and my first surgery had been completed. I was getting ready to start radiation. The last thing I expected was a call from Chris. We had been friends since junior high, we had ridden the school bus together for years. We had lived together after high school, or more accurately I had lived with him and my future husband. We were close and had been for years. I lost my best friend on that day and I saw another best friend collapse from the hurt and pain and I couldn’t do anything to make it better.
It was like having the universe say, hey, we want to make sure you get this message, “Life can change at any moment. Don’t waste it.” It was also a reminder to fight for my life. Did Jeni’s death help to ensure my life? It might have. Her funeral was hard for all of us, but as I watched her coffin lower into the ground, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would be following her sooner than later. My heart hurt, but it was open. I mourned my friend’s death and I celebrated her life. I think that her death helped me be more heart centered. I spent time feeling the love and the sadness. My heart opened and that can often help people heal. Memories flashed through my mind. My first snowmobile ride had been with her. We’d had so many sleep overs in junior high. Us after high school cruising in her car singing along to Nelly. My bachelorette party and wedding, her bachelorette party and wedding. We had decades of memories and we wouldn’t create any more together. While I cried, I realized how deep my love of her was.
*Jeni and I around the age of 13.
As the months went on, I mourned how we had grown apart in the year before her death. Kids and life had made the time we spent together less, but whenever we were together it, we’d pick up where we left off. In this I learned the lesson of holding the relationships I value close. It didn’t happen suddenly, because I had so few relationships. It’s only been in the last few years as I’ve developed deep relationships with family and friends that I recognize this change in myself. Then I was distant with my family. My friend I had felt most connected with had died. I felt very alone. This isn’t to say I didn’t have relationships, but I wasn’t myself within them. I was who I was expected to be, or what I needed to be to receive their love and acceptance.
There was a rift between me and my mom, and my husband encouraged it since he didn’t like or respect her. My brother wasn’t around much. Most of the people that fill my life now weren’t around because my husband preferred it that way and I accepted it. I found it easier to accept his beliefs than to have my own. In part because if I didn’t then I would have to acknowledge that we didn’t work together. I didn’t have the strength to do that.
I didn’t know how to ask for help and I didn’t even know what help I needed. That was one of the reasons I loved Jeni so much. She knew how to help. She was one of the few that helped me instead of me constantly giving. I didn’t have to be strong for her. We were equals. She didn’t let my husband intimidate her. They spent a lot of time bickering and before her death he went so far as to say he didn’t like it when I spent time with her. I became bitchier. Honestly, I became more independent and more myself.
*Jeni and I in 2004
The loss of Jeni and cancer just made the hole in me even more obvious. It felt like it was expanding, and I couldn’t seem to fill it with anything. I kept trying to find my way, to find a way to fulfill myself, but it would take more time before I could admit several hard truths to myself.
Even then I recognize that writing was a way for me to fill the gaping hole, but I couldn’t seem to move forward with it. Largely because I wouldn’t admit things to myself. Expressive writing is a great tool, but only if you can allow yourself to be honest. Instead I was stuck in a life pattern. I recognized that I was listless, and I needed to implement a “complete life overhaul” as I called it in my journal. Be the motivator for both my husband and me. I once again called upon the universe to help me find my path. But while the universe can show you the path, you must be willing to take it.
I wasn’t ready to take the path yet. I would catch a glimpse of it, but I wasn’t willing to leave behind what I knew. I had no idea who I was and only a vague impression of who I wanted to be. I had built a life that I thought I was supposed to want. I was following all these rules that I made or accepted when I was young. I would have to find the strength to release all these rules and beliefs and that would take time. Time, experience, awe, and pain. Death had come, and rebirth would be a long labor.