Connection

The urge to write is unbearable, yet the words, the arc, the pretty package is escaping me. So today, just the raw words. Credit card points are a beautiful thing. We thought we were clever when we paid for IVF with our hilton honors card, joking that we would use the points one day to sneak away for a night or two in chicago after our second baby was born. It is one of those things we have been fully committed to since Henry was born, we would find time for just us, preserve our marriage, our foundation. We wouldn’t look at the calendar one day and realize it had been 2 years since we got away. And thanks to my amazing mother in law and brother, we do get that time. We were certain we would have another baby and committed to preserving our time as a couple. Weeks later, we got the news we were going to have twins. The hotel would have to wait for a while.

We were thrilled and scared out of our minds, and we laughed, and we cried, tears of joy and absolute terror. Adding one baby at a time is daunting enough, how would we possibly prepare for two. We needed to buy a new car, make some changes to the house, and mentally and emotionally prepare and pave the way for extreme love and chaos.

As the months passed Twin A and Twin B transformed to baby boy a and baby boy b and then to Jackson and Finn. And we met them and held them and loved them so fiercely so immediately that my heart was bursting from my chest, and as they clutched our fingers with their tiny hands we whispered in their tiny ears that they were perfect and we would never forget them. And just like that they breathed their last breaths in our arms and were on to the next life.

A year ago today we did find ourselves in that luxurious hotel in Chicago, paid for with IVF points. We were home to celebrate my sister’s wedding, and to bury our baby boys ashes next to their grandfather and great grandparents, to be looked after, to honor their short lives in the place we both grew up. We sat in the hotel wrapped in each others arms, in a cloak of heartbreak, beauty and simplicity, in pure indulgence, just 54 days after our sweet boys passed away in our arms.

Amanda went for a run, desperately trying to transform her postpartum body back to the way it was. Sitting on the balcony, drinking my coffee and sleepily overlooking the city street below, my phone rang. It was my brother Mat, his voice shaking, “Hey, what’s up, I have Kristin here too. I don’t know how else to say this. They found dad. He’s dead. I love you.” Dead silence….”No. Way. When did he die, where did they find him?” “They found him dead in bed, covered in bottles of booze, in an apartment in Bangkok. Suspected suicide.”

I couldn’t breathe, my mouth agape, i shut down. “Ok. Are you ok? I love you both. I am so sorry.” It was his 63rd birthday, almost 20 years to the day that he disappeared.

We all have those moments in our lives, before and after moments, where things change forever, anchored by an event. While most of my life had been marked by the disappearance of my father, the birth and death of our sons marked an almost unbearable new line.

Most of my childhood and early adulthood years were spent in survival mode, and to accomplish that I shut down emotionally, compartmentalizing my life. To let any of the pain in would have shut me down, so I moved forward, head down, got shit done. My compassion and empathy for others overflowed, crying walking by a homeless person on the street. My empathy and compassion for myself was non existent. Marrying Amanda was the beginning of my exterior cracking, real vulnerability showing its face, slowly breaking down. Then Henry was born and my heart oozed, the foundation crumbling.

After his first 17 days of life, in great health, he almost died. 6lbs 9ozs and he had rsv. They told us to prepare for him not to make it. And I broke open completely, like i had never done before, feeling the full blast of all my emotions. Aching for the life we were going to have with him, that after 2.5 years was finally here and now we were losing him. And we stayed strong and let our friends and family in, to love us and care for us and help us believe he would be ok. And then suddenly he took a turn for the better, and he lived. He is our miracle baby, no doctor could explain his quick recovery, inches from death to a healthy, happy, nursing baby.

Jackson and Finn’s death ripped my heart out, i felt like I was walking around inside out. The depth of our love for them in the short time they lived was astounding. We held each other and were cradled and loved by all of our friends and family. And I was open, and in touch and not putting up the walls and the facade. I didn’t hold it together and I didn’t need to. I was finally the vulnerable person I teach others to be.

Somehow, the death of my father triggered me back to being 13 years old again. Feeling unsafe and compartmentalized. All the opening I had done, all the undoing of those habits, all the work, one instant shut me down again.

So hear I sit in our small town coffee shop, on the heels of my Dad’s 64th birthday and anniversary of his death, watching 9 month old twins scream in their stroller, yearning for that chaos. Tapping into my practice, my heart, my family, my foundation, trying to find my way back to connection, to wholeness.

Fight club

Cancer, the one thing we all love to hate. The unifying enemy that brings us all together, despite our differences. It covets us and looks for any small microscopic opening to mutate, to turn good cells into bad and to grow and cultivate itself into a big hairy monster, it does not discriminate, we are equal opportunity carriers.

I have cancer on my mind, and not because I have it, but because I am surrounded by it. In this very moment I have three lovely thirty something friends who all joined the same club, a club they never expected to join, one they had spent their lives doing all the things that would ensure they never were accepted. Seemingly healthy, young vibrant women, one on each coast and one in the middle. No one had a family history of cancer. All just like you and me, spouses and mothers to young children, sisters, and someone’s best friend. Each one of them woke up one day, and were hazed, accepted into a fight club they didn’t rush, signed up for the heavyweight championship fight of their lives, only they were welter weights, and they want out.

That sneaky little hazing bitch. I sit here and I try to think of what I can say or do to help, how to encourage each of them, to strategize some way to counter attack, because there has to be a secret weapon, a way to sabotage and eradicate – fight yes fight, love harder love, chemo and radiation and raw food and cottage cheese, no meat, yes meat, flax seed, bone broth, just fish now and acupuncture and reiki, massage, gluten free, weed yes weed, ok cannibas oil now, prayer beads and mediation, chaplains and brain lesions, tumors and insomnia, nothing where something used to be, skin hanging onto bone for dear life, its beat and its back stronger than ever, smoking and fighting and winning and losing – its chemo’s fault, fuck the radiation it ruined everything – it all worked and none of it worked. Is it working…

We can’t let go of what we can’t accept. Acceptance doesn’t mean surrender- if you hold something tight it can hold you back tighter, stick to you like glue- so maybe in all of this letting go is the answer, accepting things as they are – not being the cause and not being the solution, but flowing in and out. Cancer is the ultimate loss of control and yet it fools you into thinking that if you hold tighter are more sure of the remedy, control more, it will be beat. Our nature is to control, to drive and navigate and we are fooled into thinking we know where life is taking us, where we will end up. After all we run marathons and take vitamins and eat vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten free alcohol free, we do yoga and sleep 8 hours a night and love our families and yet yet, still wake up one day and the story has taken a turn.

So maybe this isn’t about cancer, but life. None of us are immune to anything, including cancer. It is about loving ourselves and each other the best we can, fighting and making up, finding a middle way, rolling in the grass with our kids and our partners – making fools of ourselves, losing and winning, getting promoted and fired, dancing and laughing, laying in bed moving or unmoving, and crying and taking deep breaths and living in the moment -accepting that we can only be right here right now, and not just saying it, but really, breathing just this breath, because you can’t breathe tomorrow’s breath.

To all of you who have cancer or know someone with cancer or have lost someone to cancer, you are doing all you can – just love and breathe and let go, it will all be ok even if its not.
with love.

Yesness

Pain is not punishment, and pleasure is not reward – both are equal parts of life as it is. The more we accept things as they are and work to become more responsive and less resistant the easier it gets.

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