Arms. Legs. Computers. Hearts. Minds. Spirits. Try breaking any of them, it can hurt like hell. What goes up must come down. 2015, 2016 & 2017 were up-up-and-away-hooray in the life & career departments. In 2018, it all crashed.
Oh 2018… you broke me down and broke me up. But if I may borrow wise words from my most recent favorite author (Claire Bidwell Smith — her book is ‘Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief”): Sometimes we must break down to break open. I know this now and I’m okay.
I’m lookin’ at you, 2019.
With broken things, there are two options:
- You give up and trash everything,
- You fight like hell to make it function again. I’ve never been a fan of the first option.
2018 proved to be a disastrous reaction to the life-changing experience that launched in October 2017: A text on a Monday afternoon, reading “Got the results. Not good. Call you later.” The screenshot is imprinted in my mind. $hit. $hit $hit $hit was all I could think. This is it. I deleted it on impulse to try and banish bad juju away. Now wish I’d kept that text.
A few long hours later, I sat on my patio couches talking to my mom on the same phone that brought me her awful message. It was warm and gorgeous outside. “It’s everywhere. We knew this would come back and I’m not going to put myself through hell just to buy a couple more months. We’re prepared for this. You will be okay.” I remember looking at my potted flowers and nodding my head, almost automatically.
DON’T BREAK. (You have children.)
We were all positively brave and matter of fact — even though we were dying on the inside. We swiftly went to work and took care of business because that’s who we were brought up to be. Face life head-on with confidence, certainty and to do it the right way. She lived right, she would die right. Her wishes.
And then there were my kids — sharing bites of information about ‘Grandma being really, really sick’ without totally scaring them. Death is a part of life you can’t get out of. Dammit. Dammit dammit.
Sometime in this blur I had a full-on [terrifying] panic attack, my first and only — in front of my dad, sister, aunt, uncle and our priest right there in her hospital room. My hands and legs started shaking uncontrollably (out of nowhere), I saw bright spots in front of me and darkness closing in on the sides of my eyes. Scared the hell out of me. My heart pounded faster. They sat me down. I concentrated to not faint. My deep breaths made things worse. I was embarrassed. Ashamed. I tried to underplay it, but I legitimately thought I was in the middle of a heart attack. My mom was entering into the last days of her life and I was an idiot having a panic attack. They wheeled me down to the ER. All the usual tests were ran and (guess what!) after 5 hours a kind nurse told me, “Honey, you’re under a lot of stress. Your body reacted. Take care of yourself.” It was like my body was preemptively bracing itself for 2018…
Two days later, I went on Access Hollywood LIVE to talk about sexual harassment happening in Hollywood and then returned to work the next day at KCBS to talk about some other parenting stupidity in the news. Don’t pass out on live TV, I repeated in my head.
21 days in the hospital and 4 more days under home hospice care later, my one-of-a-kind mom was at eternal rest. I was right there (with my sister). The most profound experience of my life. No unsaid things, no regrets, nothing that I long to have done differently… I miss her like hell (my girls too, we all do).
4 days later, I returned to my work at KCBS. It was 3 and half minutes of my life on-air, I could do it. (I think I still was in shock.) The funeral was 3 days after that (my sister, dad and I coordinated everything). Sometime between planning service arrangements and shopping with my sister to get Mom’s trademark matching dresses for all her granddaughters, I wrote a eulogy for our hometown newspaper and a speech to say at the luncheon that would follow the funeral. 500 people came to the service, over 300 came to the lunch. We each gave speeches. We served white wine spritzers (her go-to cocktail, per her requests about her own funeral while she was in the hospital).
Thanksgiving couldn’t be stopped — for nothing more than our kids. Feel the sad but don’t forget the blessings. She’d be pissed if we stayed in a corner sobbing while our kids wondered why no one was eating turkey. So we ate turkey and all sobbed separately in our private time.
BROKE DOWN. Put up the Christmas tree and decorate the hell out of it.
Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve (again, we’re still in 2017), my husband did some kind of computer backup without telling me what was going down and all of my pictures and videos from 2012 through 2015 (pictures with my mom, my girls, my mom and my girls, my sister and her kids, our family trips and vacations) either got erased and/or lost and/or corrupted. I lost my sanity and all sense of decorum for weeks.
No more panic attacks — but my arms would go numb, my lower right side back pinged with pain. I’d go to bed each night and have the most disgusting dreams about vomiting and wake up each morning feeling dizzy for months following… well into 2018. It was a going-through-the-motions kind of new year.
2018 would be like swimming through mud. Life in spurts, post-trauma.
January 2018: My (most favorite) recent job at KCBS/KCAL news ended. Was I fired? Had my super-specialized parenting segment exhausted all it’s purpose? Yes and yes. Did I do anything wrong or throw a tantrum or get offended? No, no and no. I graciously said ‘thank you’ for the incredible platform I was given on Los Angeles television, twice-weekly for two years, and gave the newly-appointed News Director who delivered me my bad news a hug. Don’t break down.
BROKE DOWN. I walked to my car and cried for 30 minutes in the parking garage.
I loved (LOVED!) my job, but I also have kids. And kids need stability through seeing normal life continue even if Mommy is going through some most awful life-changing things.
I‘m going to stay-at-home-mom so hard it’s going to win a freakin’ award.
SIDE NOTE: Around this time, I took out all the permanent hair extensions I’d had for 10+ years. No more consistent work means no need for constant fake hair. Now you know. (This was also more traumatic than I anticipated.)
Focus on my kids. Every day I’d get up, make breakfast, braid incredible fancy French braids that looped around and across their little heads and drop my girls off at school with the most inspirational morning pep-talks to “stay focused, help someone out and get away from anyone acting like jerks.”
I’d then come home and cry and binge-watch TV. Proudly.
February 2018: After weeks of having my finger on the ‘Cancel This Event’ button on the Paperless Post invite I’d blasted out to 100 family+friends, I’d commemorate my 40th birthday with a party at our home. I pranced around in a hot-pink-and-gold sequin dress with a plastered smile on my face. I laughed, but felt empty. Breakdowns happened in spurts: Scream at someone (hi husband), stay-at-home-mom-so-hard, get the inside of our house repainted, stay in my PJs all day. I avoided pursuing any kind of work.
March 2018: I pulled it together to emcee a hoity-toity fashion show at the Beverly Hills Hotel for an event that all the who’s-who in the Los Angeles Armenian community shows up to — my girls walked in the fashion show too. (Mom-So-Hard.) I also picked lots of fights about nothing with a mom at my kids’ elementary school while working on the annual World Fair event. I squealed with glee when I was unexpectedly asked to speak on a panel about branding at the prestigious Mom2Summit conference. Dysfunctional coping is still coping — because I have kids.
April 2018: I watered my plants more than usual. The most gorgeous butterfly found me in my front yard and wouldn’t leave me alone. It fluttered right up to my face, looked at me, landed on my most favorite loropetalum tree and let me get sooooo close. It stayed there. I said hi. I called my girls over to come look. We all stood right over it, snapping pictures and marveling how lovely it was, thankful for a most unexpected moment of beauty that let us admire it for almost 5 whole minutes. Whisper ‘I love you’ to a butterfly and it will fly to heaven to deliver your message…”
BREAK OPEN. FAITH.
May 2018: My first-born broke her arm. I was slicked up and decked in my white pants and heels feeling like hot $hit, ready to roll back into work and career at that Mom2Summit conference I was asked to speak at back in March. I was revving myself up to jump back into work… frustrated about the 7 months of grief/confusion/anger that mercilessly clung to me the first half of 2018. My phone buzzed 4 times in my back pocket and I immediately had a bad feeling. I ignored it. 4 more buzzes again. Ignore. More buzzing. INTENDING TO IGNORE IT, I PULLED IT OUT OF MY POCKET TO CHECK WHO WAS HIJACKING MY GAME IN THE MIDDLE OF A CONVERSATION WITH A TODAY SHOW PARENTING TEAM PRODUCER. Heart stops.
My daughter’s school. “Hi, where are you?” the school nurse asked, trying not to sound nervous (but sounding very nervous). “I’m close… what is it,” my heart pounded. “Well, we’re pretty sure your daughter broke her arm.” Monkey bars. “I’ll be right there.” I ran to valet in my white pants & heels, hopped in my car, dialed my husband.
Her first broken anything. (My first broken anything.) We were strong, steady, brave (she was soooooo superstar-invincible-brave). Morphine. I watched her uncle and my husband pop it back into place [surgeons]. I stood just outside the room in the ER, watching and thinking W-T-F-IS-HAPPENING.
BROKE DOWN. But: keep smiling and show my girl how, even though her right arm was now out of commission, she still had another hand to eat and write with and she CAN STILL DO. A multitude of colored casts followed over the next 7 weeks [thanks to a terrifying mishap of her falling into a pool with her cast ON]. Purple. Pink. Blue. Pink again. Blue again. I wrote inspirational messages on all of them — for her and myself.
BREAK OPEN. My motivation is still here. FAITH.
June 2018: My big girl was obligated to sit out of her dance recital [hi, the arm]. Little sister was her biggest helper. My heart exploded watching the love & support between them. Cast came off end of the month just in time for both girls to participate in our church’s fancy-schmancy ball… their big job was to hold crosses.
BREAK OPEN. My family is still here. FAITH.
July 4, 2018: Cast off means means family summer fun can now start! I was at the market buying strawberries so I could dip them red-white-and-blue to take a friend’s party that night. I put my phone on silent in the name of peace and quiet for selecting good strawberries. I got home and saw about 15 missed calls from my husband. “Call me when you get this,” a text from him read. WHAT. THE. HELL.
As bright luck would have it, husband destroyed his tibia (allegedly one of the worst things a person can break) in an offbeat debacle I can’t even begin to describe involving recreational exercise that 20 year olds do. Immediate and rigorous surgery followed that day. My brother-in-law (the same surgeon who popped my daughter’s broken arm back into alignment just 2 months prior) tells me “I’m not going to lie, this is pretty f—in’ bad.”
And then, the day we came home from the hospital (ie: husband dangerously swollen and in PAIN), our air conditioner broke on the most record-shattering, hottest heat wave of the year. All my candles drooped and melted — funny in retrospect but I was too pissed to laugh. In a fit of rage and desperation, I threw my car keys down on the cement outside as hard as I could (after unloading the wheelchair from the trunk of my car) and screamed up to the sky in a mad newly-40 temper tantrum: “What the $hit is happening?!” Right in front of my daughters. I quickly apologized to them for using a “really bad word.” They hugged me.
BROKE DOWN (my keychain broke too).
About an hour later (while transporting more ice from my outside fridge in the garage to the fridge in our kitchen — for my husband’s cooling machine to keep his leg from clotting), I spotted this above my house. Is that an angel’s wing?
BREAK OPEN. It’s official: I am not alone. Be the most wicked powerhouse nurse ever. Make food like a mother. Get all the ice/meds/handicap-accessible items and compression wraps in one swift loop. I. Can. Do. This.
The weeks that followed were pretty close to hell and included no standing or walking for my husband for 3 months. THREE. MONTHS. Crutches. Wheelchairs. Bathing. Medicine-giving. All-meals-in-bed-doing. Compression-sock-putting-on. Arguments from me to him and back again at me.
FAITH. FAITH FAITH FAITH FAITH FAITH. Things. Could. Be. Worse.
What. To. Do? And then I finally got it: 2018 was nothing more than a b!tch. And I know how to deal with b!tches: Ghost them. Ghost them so they leave you alone. CHANGE DIRECTION.
August I decided we’d build a pool (something I’ve been pining for years about) — so we started. September I decided I’d dip one toe back into work — so I reached out a bit (just a wee tiny bit) to some of my contacts and booked myself on-air here and there. October we celebrated my dad’s birthday (the date of our dinner landed on the exact same day we took my mom into the hospital one year prior). November commemorated my mom’s one-year passing — and we surprisingly found out that the weekend of her birth & death (born & at rest on the same day, November 11) has been longtime recognized as the ‘Feast of the Archangels’ [the angels who protect the good in the world] in the Armenian church.
Angels. On her birthday. On her death day.
AND THEN I CRIED. RIGHT THERE IN THE PEW. FAITH.
Because there IS good in the world. FAITH.
Because we are not alone. FAITH.
Because God/energy/hope/grace (whatever you identify with) does connect life’s dots if we open ourselves see things from alternative perspectives. FAITH.
So we marched into Christmas with angels holding our hands.
2018 broke arms, legs, computers, hearts, minds and spirits… but my faith stood up. (Yeah, it hid a few times, but it always gave up the chase and found me again.)
I still cry. I still get angry, I still sometimes wear my PJs all day if that’s what I feel like I need to buckle down and focus on what I need to accomplish for the week ahead. LIFE.
2018 challenged me to get up and rise up, show myself what I’m made of and reinvent who I am. 2018 showed me I’m a mom with FAITH stuck to me hard.
Whatever you’re bringing my way, 2019, be warned: I’M BROKEN OPEN.