The world has changed and so have I…

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I’m not who I used to be. The world has changed and I don’t feel like me. At least not in many ways that had seemed stable before so much happened that made me feel incapable.

It started before 2020 impacted all of creation. My little self was rocked before Covid hit our nation.

March 2019 is when it started with an injury to my ankle. I had no idea that was the beginning of a long term of feeling downhearted.

Yet, as I think back, I wonder if a lot of other griefs piled one on another actually changed me and the events of 2020 finally unraveled any thread that had been holding my old self together.

Death and loss were a part of life for me since I was little. Being the baby of 8, with older parents, in a blended family, I remember many extended family members passing away when I was young and mom taking me to viewings with her, probably so she wouldn’t have to go alone or maybe just because I was young and no one was home to watch me. Also, I remember many comings and goings of my siblings, who were older, and having to say goodbye a lot, with brothers who were in the custody of their mom and siblings already married and living far away. “Losing” people seemed a natural part of life to me, always, but the sadness was still real and impacted me.

One set of my grandparents had passed away before I was born. My others lived most of my growing up years, with mom’s dad passing away when I was about 12, and her mom passing away when I was 18. I also lost a very close church friend when I was in 8th grade, she was in 7th and struck by a car. I remember that hitting me harder than any loss previously. A close friend’s dad passed when I was in high school and a classmate of mine died in a car accident my senior year. All of these impacted me more significantly at that time of my life, and I think they changed me some.

My dad passed away in 1987, somewhat unexpectedly, yet not, since he had congestive heart failure. Then, in 1989, one of my brothers died from cancer and one of my sisters found out she had stage 4 cancer. She miraculously won her battle with cancer and did not pass away until 22 years later from complications of the damage caused by the side effects from cancer treatments. Nevertheless, her challenges and tenuous hold on life affected me greatly.

In 1990, my closest in age brother left his wife, who had become my best friend and like a real sister, since she was closer in age to me than my sisters. This tore my heart in many ways that I didn’t fully comprehend at that time.

Our first born came into our lives in 1993. We were overjoyed. My heart was torn when I had to go back to work when he was 6 weeks old and I had to put him in all-day daycare. Everyday, I had to release him into the care of others and accept that I needed their help to raise our little boy. Then, in 1996, when our second son was born, I was able to stay home with him longer than the 6 weeks, but ended up having to return to work in a daycare where I could take my oldest with me, but couldn’t take the younger since he was in diapers, so I once again had to leave him with others and trust him to their care. I remember crying most days when I had to leave my boys. I was also mourning the loss of what I had dreamed/hoped my life would be, a stay at home mom.

Then in 1998, we came very close to losing our precious 6 day old daughter. We prayed to release her to God, no matter what, as we waited while the doctors performed emergency surgery to have her on dialysis to try to get her kidneys to work again. The doctors were astounded that she survived. We were so humbled and thankful for God’s blessing of sparing her life, yet, still the idea of the loss and releasing her to God, brought me low in my spirit.

As school progressed for my children, each step of their growth was another letting go, as it is with every parent. There is a type of loss here, accepting that we aren’t able to be everything our kids need. Yes, it’s a natural part of our lives as parents, but nonetheless, it shapes our hearts more than we realize.

It was early in the 2010’s when the next significant loss through death came crashing into my life and the lives of my family. The waves of grief hit one after another starting with the passing of one of mine and my husband’s dearest lifelong college friends, who died from brain cancer. Then, in quick succession, my closest uncle passed, then my closest aunt and then her husband, followed closely by my sister who had had cancer in 1989, then my husband’s father-in-law, who had been like a “second dad” to me and the best of grandpas to our children. Another brother passed from complications with diabetes. In the midst of that, my brother closest in age to me also almost passed away with a serious medical condition that has lingered with several other close calls over the last 8 years.

Our family also journeyed through some terribly heart-rending friendship betrayals and losses from 2005 to around 2017. This included being torn away from a community of work, church, school, and college alumni in a manner that ripped all of us to our cores. I think we all developed some armor of protection around us during these times and learned a new way of living in relationship with others.

Then, my mom began to show evidence of some memory loss and decline. She had already been moved to an assisted living center, but around 2016, we had to move her to a memory care unit for her own protection. My heart literally hurt every time I visited with her. We would share laughs many times, but also a lot of tears. She would experience rapid downward progression with her dementia and then stabilize. For 3 years, I felt that I said a final goodbye at the end of each visit we had. 2019 was the worst.

A month after my ankle injury, mom had another decline that sent her to a hospital and we learned her body had forgotten how to properly chew and swallow. Because of this, she had to be on a strictly liquid/pureed diet so she wouldn’t aspirate her food. A month or so later she experienced times of falling asleep in her wheelchair and falling out of it, which precipitated her being moved to a special reclining wheelchair that she couldn’t move on her own, therefore, she lost her ability to move around the halls and be on her own, which she much preferred.

Her final decline hit rapidly after that. She passed away at the end of December 2019. Of course, I had been prepared somewhat for this loss, and in some ways, it was a relief to see her battle with dementia come to an end. Death is still final, though, and losing mom made me more aware than ever how much I still long for mothering in my life.

Not as serious, but also a loss, my ankle injury caused me to lose my own mobility for a very long recovery time. Coupled with the stresses of mom’s decline and subsequent passing, I gained back weight I had lost. This blow continues to challenge me in the aftermath of the pandemic, because of my lifelong struggle with my weight. I now feel incapable of the emotional strength I know that is required of me to wage war against this battle that has drained so much from me since I was very young and first put on diets by doctors who didn’t know better back in the 70’s.

Now, in this year of 2021, one of my two living sisters has had to go into memory care. I wasn’t prepared for this, as were none of us in this family, especially her husband, girls, and grandkids. My heart feels unable to face this and, for the first time in my life, denial, or maybe avoidance, has crept in as a means of managing the grief and the struggle it is emotionally for me to go visit her.

There are other losses I could detail, but I won’t because not everything needs to be shared in a public setting. I also don’t want to come across as simply having a pity party or making excuses for myself. I’m not looking for answers from whomever reads this, nor am I looking for sympathy from others. I always desire empathy/understanding, in all parts of my life. However, my point of writing this is to sort through it all for my own self-care. I am trying to find a new way to move forward amidst all this loss and all that continues in this world with the pandemic, wars, racism, etc. I’m trying to wrestle with the acceptance of my humanity and limitations, to stop beating myself up over the fact that I’ve been brought low by all of this and to accept my inability to lose weight due to my emotions being made worse because of the heaviness of everything that has happened up to this point in my journey.

I do hope this serves to encourage someone else who may be struggling, to know they aren’t alone and to give permission to be human, to feel grief and loss and sadness, to accept that these losses over the course of a lifetime can sometimes create a “weight” in our souls that becomes too much to bear. We need help and support to get through without doing ourselves in with our vices. My vice is in the form of food, not binging, but not being able to live in strict control of limitations of what to eat and how much to exercise. I still fight every day to make wise choices and not let it overtake me, but the emotional energy I need to be more strict and intentional with weight loss is being used elsewhere, to keep me working every day, to push me to be present for my family and friends, to make me strong in dealing with bills and the day-to-day of life, and so on. I just don’t have it in me right now to follow an eating plan and exercise plan with huge restrictions, but, knowing I have medical needs that are impacted by my weight, I know that food has to be managed and I do need to lose.

So, what can I do to change? How much longer do I ride out this downward wave of sadness and grief ? I’ve never stopped trying to eat better and exercise more, but in the last two years, I have failed every single weight loss/management tool, trick, plan that I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a lot!). My daughter’s wedding is in 2 weeks, and after that I feel I will finally have more headspace and some emotions freed up to allow me to use my free time to walk more and go to Planet Fitness, to truly cut back on all the comforting carbs (can I confess how much I’ve craved mac and cheese the last few months?!?). I’ll also be turning 54 in October and I feel hopeful that weight loss before I turn 55 , that I had intended for the year before I turned 50, could be a real goal to pursue.

Therefore, I’ve written this to push me forward to take the turn in the road of my journey and break off of this path that has far too many ruts in it . Yes, the world has changed and so have I, but in many ways, I’ve changed for the better; I want to focus on that and let it influence this huge area of my life that seems like it’s only gotten worse…

About Tara Lea

I'm a mom and wife first and foremost. I offer Life Coaching as well as speaking for large and small groups, while writing and teaching as opportunities become available. Writing, speaking, teaching, and coaching are my means for fulfilling my life calling of helping others fit together the pieces of their lives so they can move closer to becoming all God means for them to be.

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