A bundle of insecurities

 

When I was thirteen or fourteen, my mother took me to the mall to get some new summer clothes. I managed to corner her in Abercrombie & Fitch. She kind of hated that place, so of course, I was desperate to shop there. I knew I needed tank tops, jean skirts, and flip flops. Everyone was wearing it. Cue eye roll.

I saw this tiny, white, tank top that I really wanted to try on. It was tighter than anything I’d ever worn before. I felt so confident in it. I don’t remember how much begging I did, but my mom finally caved and I was off to enjoy my weekend in my new favorite new top.

So I was in the lobby at the cinema in Oklahoma. I was there with three or four of my friends and I was feeling so good about myself. This summer was going to be different. My two front teeth were finally symmetrical and grown in–it took a while. I didn’t have a bowl cut, I was athletic and happy. I was cheering at the time and I was always moving. My skin was clear and my braces were off. I felt trendy and unstoppable. When the boys walked in, I stepped forward and waved. I had zero chill.

“Oh my god, Devon. Look at your arms.”

I genuinely remember thinking this boy was going to compliment me, but after studying his face I steeled myself for the blow. He wasn’t flirting. He was going to humiliate me.

“They’re massive. Gross! They’re bigger than mine. Wow. Look at this.”

A numb, crawling feeling washed over me while everyone laughed. I muttered something about his arms and melted away. I sat through the movie, I sat through pizza afterward, but when I went home I cried in my mother’s arms. I never wore that tank top again.

From that day on, every time I look in the mirror, every time someone snaps a picture of me, every time I get dressed, I stare at my arms and I hate them. I wear sweaters to cover them, I avoid having them exposed at all costs, I even crop them out of photos so I don’t have to see them.

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It’s so easy to pick up these insecurities as we go through life, huh? An offhand comment from a spouse that hits just right. A coworker who makes a jab and tells you to lighten up. Or even a parent that catches you at your weakest moment and knows exactly what to say to make it worse.

These things happen and they suck. All of us, at one time or another, have been embarrassed, have been humiliated. And most of us have embarrassed and humiliated other people, maybe on purpose, maybe unintentionally.

The reason why this is important when it comes to weight loss is that those voices are usually the ones we give the most attention to when we look at ourselves, when we try to grow. I’m sure you can’t recall all the times someone told you how cute you looked or how beautiful you are, but I bet you can remember when someone called you fat or ugly.

The bad news is that even when you are at your goal weight and have your “perfect” body. You still feel it. You still remember. That’s part of the beauty of the human mind. It feels like you don’t get to choose what replays in your mind the most. Some of the most amazing moments I’ve had I can’t remember clear enough, but some of the most awful things that ever happened to me are just sitting there in HD. Ready for my viewing pleasure in the blink of an eye.

Recently, while reading Siddhartha by Herman Hess, I had a small but important ‘aha’ moment about my journey. Every second I dwell on those thoughts, every time I force myself to become smaller out of insecurity, out of fear, I’m losing. I’m losing time, I’m losing happiness, I’m losing me.

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You are not the sum of what has happened to you or what you have experienced. You are so much more than that. Your life is precious and wonderful, and it’s so short! It goes by so fast and we spend so much time dwelling on the past or putting expectations on the future. We lie, cheat, drink, lie, and self-destruct just so we can get away from the bad in or around us. It’s a crazy waste when you think about it.

I’m making a choice not to do that anymore. I’m making a choice to be present every second I possibly can, to be grateful, to watch my husband smile, to push myself forward; to learn everything there is to know about this crazy universe, to stare in a mirror and find myself as beautiful as the beauty I see around me, to not give the people who hurt me power over me. No matter my size, no matter my situation, because what matters is that I am happy, and the good news is that happy is a choice.

Definitely the more cheerful choice if you think about it.

 

 

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A letter to me

Dear Devon,

It’s 2013, you’re 22 and I know it feels like your whole life just crumbled around you. Matt and Mom are gone. The grief your feeling is constant, scary, and overwhelming. You don’t know if you’ll survive it or if you want to. I know you don’t want to get out of bed and I know you don’t want to even think about the future, but you have to. It feels like you’re alone, but you’re not. You have your family, your future in-laws (that’s right. you marry him. WOO!), your friends, and especially David. You don’t have to suffer in silence, those people love you and they want you to be happy. You may not want to talk about what you’re feeling, but you need to. Don’t hold it in and stop pretending to be so brave.

Right now you feel like everything is out of control. Your binge eating is at the worst it’s ever been and I know you can’t look in the mirror without being ashamed and angry. I know you think you’ll never be more than a victim. You don’t think you’re smart, beautiful, disciplined or destined to be happy. You think that what has happened and what you’ve done to yourself will just be what you are. I’m so happy to tell you it’s not.

You’re incredibly strong and you don’t even know it yet, but you’ll find out soon. One day you’ll realize that you can think about Mom and Matt and still be able to breath. One day after that you’ll realize that eating the way you are is self-harm and you don’t want to do it anymore. Then one day, you’ll wake up, go look in the mirror – and you’ll feel this feeling you’ve never felt before. Pride.

You’re going to start making choices that push you towards your goals. You’re going to stop putting yourself down and you’re going to learn new things about yourself every single day. You will pursue knowledge in a way you never have before. Your strength isn’t just emotional either, you’re athletic and capable. Once you get that weight off and you start working out, you won’t believe what you can do.

You don’t have to be so angry at yourself and the world. You don’t have to believe that voice in your head telling you that you’ll never be enough. You are more than enough and your love and kindness will touch people in ways you can’t imagine. You have a husband that loves you and pushes you to be better, and you’re going to have family and friends that make you feel overwhelmed with love and gratitude. Buckle up, girl. You have a lot of living to do, and guess what? You’re incredible. 

I can’t wait for you to figure that out.

Love,
Me

thebestone

 

 

The shock and the cheese

I want you to think about what is rewarding to you. If you were going to treat yourself, what would it be with? Clothes, food, a night out, a vacation? If you had to describe your “happy place” – what would it be?

My happy place in 2013 was sitting on my couch, incredibly focused on whatever show I was binge-watching at the moment while I stuffed my face with a mountain of fast food I had run out to get myself. I was genuinely happy when I was doing that. I had trained my mind and body that those actions were rewarding. About 30 minutes after I finished my food and the credits started rolling on my show. I would feel absolutely sick. Maybe I’d just keep eating? Maybe I’d follow it up with a cigarette? Maybe I’d go take a nap. I didn’t care, my day was over when I put my butt on that couch.

My happy place now is my walk back from the gym, reflecting on my work out, thinking about my day, on my way to eat a big pile of food in my kitchen that usually consists of eggs, spinach, and hot sauce. I know that once I get back home, take a quick shower, make those eggs, and then start my day, I’m going to be unstoppable. I’m going to start checking things off of my to-do list, I’m going to clean out that pantry that has been daunting me with it’s pile of crap, I’m going to write, I’m going to be active and happy for the rest of the day. The difference in my daily habits then and now are night and day.

That change did not happen overnight, and unlike most things I ramble about, it did not come from mindfulness.

It came from switching the shock and the cheese.

I want you to picture a rat in one of those big white mazes. There are two pieces of cheese in this maze. One of them will shock him whenever he goes to grab it, the other one will fill his belly with cheddar goodness. If he runs this course enough times, he will find the path to the pain-free cheese. He will map that route in his little brain and he will reward himself with his golden prize at the end. Over and over and over.
Does this sound familiar?

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Even though you’re human, and your end goal might not be cheese. (I love cheese)
You have done the same exact thing in your life. You have created habits, thought patterns, behavioral patterns, and rewards in your life every single day. You are constantly running away from discomfort, pain, sadness and you’re falling into habits that keep you distracted, complacent, and even though they might feel good in the moment – They’re keeping you from what you want. In my life, obviously sitting on a couch, hating my choices and my body, getting further and further away from my goal wasn’t what I wanted but I didn’t know what to do? How do I stop doing the things I have done for years?

I had to take control of my thoughts, actions, and habits to get me to where I wanted to be and it all started with a simple question. Why? Why am I eating right now? Why am I crying right now? Why am I SO agitated right now? Why don’t I exercise? Why don’t I take more pride in how I look and feel?

I am challenging you to wake up every single day and start questioning your behaviors.
Are you doing things that make you happy?
Are you thinking thoughts that make you happy?
Are you surrounded by people who make you happy?
Do you feel proud with the choices you made and the interactions you had at the end of the day? If your answer is no. You can change that. You are in control.

I can tell you what I eat and what I did to lose 130lbs. I can tell you what music I listen to and how long I sleep at night. Those things might give you information about me and a healthy lifestyle but it’s not going to make you healthy unless you start reflecting on your own life. I will not be there to knock a box of mac and cheese out of your hands, I will not be there to stand in front of you and drag your butt to the gym.
You are going to have to make a choice to do those things. 

This does not just apply to weight loss. This applies to so much more. Maybe you have relationships you want to improve, maybe you want to get out of the 9-5 and try something new, maybe you just want to be a person that you’re proud of. It’s possible.

Among the pile of self-help and behavioral psychology books I’ve been reading this last year, I found an incredible gem. If I could, I would force every human being to read this book. I would make them go through it chapter by chapter and apply it to their own life. It’s an incredible read and it will change your life and daily habits (if you let it).

“Motivation is triggered by making choices
that demonstrate to ourselves that we are in control.”
– Charles Duhigg

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Charles Duhigg’s book isn’t like other books I’ve read about habit. It’s not just giving you the science side or the emotional side. It’s taking the information he’s learned from successful, motivated people and he’s giving it to you in a way that just makes sense.

Why do we continue to live these lives that upset us so much? Why do we make these poor choices that directly contradict our goals? It’s not because you’re some crappy person that has no control over their life. It’s because you’ve developed habits that are rewarding you in the moment and hurting you in the long haul. Guess what? You can stop doing that.

Once you stop thinking about living a better life as some overhaul or event that’s going to happen, you can start seeing what a slow and magnificent process it really is. Whenever you are presented with choices, take control. The only person who is in charge of your emotions, success, relationships, and life, is you. So why don’t we act like it? We have to start taking responsibility for our well being. Stop making excuses for why your life is the way it is.

Bad things happen. The things you love and cherish will leave or change.
That’s reality. It’s up to you to decide if you’re going to let every bad thing that has ever happened to you define you and keep you as a person you don’t want to be – or just maybe you give all of those things you’re not in control of the middle finger, and you push yourself to be something unexpected. It’s your choice.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Stay cheerful, stay strong, stay consistent

Dev

– Let’s talk food prep. February 8th, 2017

Vitamin Donuts Coaching Week One 2/2

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Hey guys! Hope everyone is sailing through their week! 

I’d love to talk about food prep. Now, I know when you hear that term you might be thinking about a protein loving, muscular man making 8-135 containers of brown rice and chicken on a Sunday, but I’m here to tell you how I made it flexible enough to fit in my life and how it has positively impacted my eating habits.

So how often does this happen to you? You’re driving home after work, running errands, grabbing the kids, whatever, and you realize, you’re hungry. Now either you could go home and cook for a couple hours, do the dishes, and be exhausted. OR you could pull through a fast food joint and feed yourself (and anyone else with you) in just a couple minutes flat. Now I don’t know about you, but I love finding an excuse to eat fast food. Doesn’t matter where. I’m just itching for a reason to pull through and enjoy some french fries and a chocolate shake. (That’s right. I’m a dipper.) I’m always blissfully thinking the words, “I did so much today. I don’t want to cook. Why not?”

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I learned very quickly that if I wanted to break the habit, I would have to get some discipline, and stop giving myself excuses to make bad choices.

So I challenge you this week. I either want you to make a little bit extra when you do cook or I want you to make time this week for a couple hours to make yourself some healthy food. You don’t have to make a ton, I promise. Just make a little bit extra so you can maybe get 2 lunches out of it. Usually instead of just making enough chicken breasts and mushrooms for my husband and I, I’ll make twice that. I want you to do the same with any recipe you want and that’ll keep for 3-4 days. Be creative and make something you’ll enjoy eating. So, after I make all that, not only have I cooked a lot of chicken (yum!) – it’ll go bad if I don’t eat it. Now let me tell you, I have gotten creative with chicken. They go in pitas, on salads, with fruit, covered in condiments. Chicken is just so darn versatile.

I encourage you to try new recipes and don’t get bored of your meals. There are so many ways to do things, it doesn’t have to be torture to eat this stuff. I genuinely had the best chicken and veggies I’ve ever had last night, and I’m the one who made them. I loved it, I enjoyed every bite.

A sweet trick I sometimes add to my chicken breast is some sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese. It’s nice spin on a recipe that my big brother taught me how to make.
(Thanks Jeff!)

I also like keeping falafel, chicken salad, tuna, egg salad, and this kind of weird vegetable medley I came up with in the fridge. (I’ll share a couple recipes down below.) Now, when I’m driving home I know that if I choose to go to fast food, instead of home. That’s a genuinely harder choice for me. I know there is perfectly good, healthy food for me at home – yet I’m still choosing those calories, fat, grease, and bad feelings anyway. I’m telling you, it stops me 80% of the time.

Here are some of the recipes I personally make every couple days. I have kind of a rotation going now with things and I add new things as I find them. As always, be flexible with this and make it suit your diet and taste buds.
I want you to find your way to do things – this is the best place to start!!

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Now let’s be clear guys – I’ve been trying really hard this week to take pictures of all the food I make at home. I’m telling you, it’s either the lighting (my preferred excuse) or that my food lacks sophisticated presentation. (My food is ugly)

Apparently, I’m not that good at taking pictures of food. Haha. I’m getting a better camera and I’m really going to try hard to get better at this – but until then it’ll be a mix of my pictures and some stock images to help with the instructions/ingredients.

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Devon’s FAVORITE Chicken Breast. EVER.
Boneless skinless chicken breast
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Garlic powder

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

First, I always take the chicken breast out of the package, lay them between 2 sheets of glad wrap and pound those puppies until they’re about 1-1 1/2 inch thick. (either by mallet or with my skillet) then I season them with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. You don’t have to use a ton, but make it taste good. You decide how much you like.

Then I put some avocado oil in my skillet and let it get hot. Medium – High ish. Once it is hot – and I mean sizzlin’ hot – then add the chicken 1-2 breasts at a time depending on how big they are. If you overcrowd that pan, the chicken will get boily and weird. (thanks Food Network)

Once your chicken is browned on both sides, 3-5 minutes a side. I pull them off and put them on a foil covered baking sheet. Spray the sheet with pam to prevent sticking. Then I put the chicken in the oven for 15-25 minutes or until cooked all the way through. (I’m one of those that uses a thermometer to ensure a nice 165 degrees)

When they come out, make sure they’re done and then
IMMEDIATELY COVER THEM WITH FOIL.
I’M NOT JOKING. DON’T TOUCH THAT CHICKEN.
Let them rest for 5-7 minutes. (This step means a lot to me)

After that, take them out and enjoy! They’re really tasty (:

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Devon’s Veggie Medley

This exact amount makes enough for a topping/side for 2 people.
I’d at least double for prep.

1 package of mushrooms, I prefer baby bellas
1/2 poblano pepper
1/2 bell pepper, usually red
pinch of salt, pepper, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce
avocado or olive oil

I put those in my pan covered for 15 minutes,
then uncovered , (10 ish minutes until I like how they look.)

Cut, cook, and done!
I make it as a side usually, but sometimes
I’ll make more and make it a veggie meal for myself!

I always suggest adding a salad to your meal. I personally use romaine hearts, give them a rough chop, add some italian dressing and cracked black pepper. It’s simple but it tastes good and keeps me on track getting those greens in.

I’ll say it again – Try it many different ways. & it’s always a good idea to pay attention to how many calories your dressing of choice has. If you prefer blue cheese or something heavier, I suggest having it on the side and dipping instead of smothering the lettuce – it keeps you mindful so you can enjoy your preference while watching the calories!

I also encourage you to look into greek/Mediterranean foods and recipes. It has become one of my favorite cuisines and it’s so easy to keep it healthy and enjoy every bite.
Tzatziki sauce is everything.

Here are some products I get that are either freezer/prepped foods that keep me on track! Some are quick eat things and some I add my own twist to. If you’re interested in a particular one, let me know if you’d like to see the recipes I use personally when I make them! Not all of this is the healthiest stuff, some of it is high in calories and sodium but it’s tasty, healthier alternatives,  and it’s stuff that is usually in my fridge.
I do use portion control and I use mindfulness when I eat these things. 

Egg White Salad w/ chives – Very good recipes for this on Pinterest
Fully Cooked Falafel – Frozen – Also look for healthier homemade recipes
Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Fillets – Frozen – Just bake in the oven and bam, done.
Al Fresco Chicken Sausage – SO GOOD, I use it in all scrambles and breakfast recipes
Black Bean & Jack Cheese Burrito – It’s amazing and I like that it doesn’t have meat. It’s also 510 calories and loaded with sodium. I try to eat it in 3 portions.
Egg Muffins with Italian Chicken Sausage – AMAZING. Pinterest.
Avocado Chicken Salad – Delicious on or in anything. Pinterest.

I encourage you to get on Pinterest or google this week and print off/save some recipes you would like to prep to keep yourself on track!

Let me know how you’re doing and of course, stay cheerful!

Dev

The myth about moving forward

I don’t know if anyone else is like me, but when I start something new. I love starting with a bang. I’m going to completely overhaul my life and I’m going to make sure everyone is aware of my new journey. Whether that’s weight loss, cleaning, self-improvement, a new job, you name it. I’ve always been a huge fan of the “I’m gonna start Monday” camp. It’s like I’ve always assumed that I would just wake up on that day and be ready to tackle whatever goal I’ve laid out for myself.

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It took me a really long time to realize how
incredibly wrong and counter productive that was.

 

When you want to make a change in your life, it seems like a natural thing to do to have a starting point and an ending point. Isn’t that the point of every cleanse, retreat, diet, or program anyone starts? You have it in your mind that at the end of those 7 days, 30 days, or however long you’ve set, that you’ll be done. You have set your own finish line.

I’m here to tell you that after trying to force dozens of start points and falling off the wagon after many of my finish lines. I was tired of setting myself up to fail. 

One day, while browsing on my phone, like I usually do, I remember coming across an article about habits. I’d never really thought about habits before. I mean I knew there were good habits and bad habits but I didn’t realize how incredibly complicated the human brain is when it comes to setting up these natural points throughout our day.

I want you to think of something you do every day without fail. Do you check your phone when you wake up? Do you wash your hair twice every time your shower? How about your diet? If you have a cheeseburger at Mcdonalds – do you always get the fries with it? (I mean c’mon who wants a fruit cup with a Big Mac.)

I bet there are set behaviors you have that you don’t even notice!

I finally realized that in order to change my life, my way of thinking, my diet, and my relationships with other people. This was something I could not start and finish.

I realized I would have to take this one day a time,
one thought at a time, one meal at a time, one interaction at a time.

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Stop aiming for perfection. It’s ludicrous, harmful and frustrating. Stop telling yourself that tomorrow you’re going to wake up and suddenly not want those chocolate mini muffins for breakfast. I’m here to tell you after years of eating egg whites and oatmeal I STILL want chocolate for breakfast. The crazy thing is, guess what? Sometimes I do!

And that is perfectly okay.

If you’re planning on making a life change or you really want to push yourself to be better in a specific area. I want you to try something, I want you to try and change one simple habit. Maybe you constantly put your keys down and can’t find them? I want you to try to set a place for them and for 10 days. I want you to put your keys there every time. Maybe whenever you go out to eat you ALWAYS eat the bread or tortilla chips. I want you to ask the waiter not to bring them every single time the next 10 times you go out to eat.

You start slow and you move forward. You don’t give up when you fail and you let go of the mind set of “Well I messed up, may as well give up and restart tomorrow.” Stop trying to change overnight. Make incremental changes and after time has passed, you’ll realize the impact of what you are doing.

Whenever you look at your daily habits, your conversations, even your personal thoughts. Shouldn’t you be proud?

Being happy and kind is not something people are just good at.
It’s something they practice.

I was never successful at changing my habits until I started journaling. Now I write down not only what I eat, but my moods, thoughts, and goals. Every day I look back and I can see how I felt after I ate those 4 pieces of pizza or I can go back and experience my happiness when I was journaling after crushing a goal at the gym.

You have to practice being present and I think journaling is a great way to do that.

Our society tells people, both men and women that being selfless and sacrificing their needs and comforts for the needs of others make you a great human being. I’m here today challenging that and saying that they’re wrong.

Your personal well being, your thoughts, your wants, your disappointments, your grief, your happiness. All of that is yours. Unless you take care of yourself physically and mentally, what good are you to the people around you?

Be selfish. Make changes and don’t be hard on yourself when you fail. Push yourself to find out what you want in this life and how you’re going to get it.

Find your happiness in the face of constant disappointment. Make that choice.

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Stay Cheerful

Dev

My journey with grief

This is not the most cheerful post, I promise almost all of my other posts will not be like this. But this story is what made me who I am and a big part of what drove me towards a life of positivity and wellness.
Thank you. – 

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In November 2013 I was furniture shopping in Tulsa, OK with my then boyfriend, now husband, David. We were having a good time, laughing with each other as we argued about a recliner with a loud floral print. I loved it, he didn’t. I was excited to be picking out furniture with him and to learn what he liked and disliked. Soon I’d be moving into a new apartment and living on my own for the first time. I’d have my own space and I could make it into whatever I wanted. But the momentary escape from my grief was ending. The pit in my stomach returned, before turning into the kind of full blown dread you can feel in the back of your throat. It was time to go back to the hospital. My father, brother, sister-in-law, and extended family would all be there, waiting for my mother to die.

My mother had been sick with rheumatoid arthritis, depression, and the heartbreak of losing her second child. Her “sweet boy” as she had called him over and over again. My big brother Matthew had died in a car accident 3 months earlier. One reckless stranger, one split second decision later–he was gone. The 16 year old driver of the mini van had hit Matthew head on and ended his life. My brother died that day along with several children from the minivan, who hadn’t been buckled into car seats. Matthew was 30 years old, attending radiology school, and had only been married for two years. He would have been a wonderful father. Every wonderful memory from my childhood has my brother’s radiant smile and warm presence. The world was a better place with him in it. 

The day Matthew died was the day my mother started slipping into her own grave. I couldn’t get her to eat or take her medications. Sometime in October she started having severe neck pain. Doctors stuck her with injections, put her on medications, and told her the arthritis was slowly crippling her. I remember one day in particular, where the pain got so bad that she told me she didn’t want to live anymore if the pain didn’t stop. I went to bed that night and thought: “God wouldn’t do this to me. I barely survived losing Matt. He couldn’t take my mother, he wouldn’t.” But I felt no comfort.

One morning in early November, I awoke to my mother’s screams. My 12 year old nephew was staying with us. I didn’t want him to be scared so I told him to stay in his room as I dialed 911. I tried everything to keep her calm but she was delirious, screaming “help me” over and over. I didn’t know what to do or what was hurting her. I remember feeling numb and helpless. Not knowing what else to do, I gathered her medications so the doctors would know what she was taking and how much. But when the paramedics arrived, they took one look at her pile of medications and the delirious state she was in, and dismissed it as an overdose. I remember the tone of contempt in his voice. The lack of urgency and lack of compassion. But they were wrong. I tried to tell them, but they brushed me off and assumed I was trying to save her embarrassment. For several weeks prior, I had been giving my mother her medications. I had timers set for the different pain and arthritis pills and wrote down every time she took a dose. I kept her medications in a drawer in the bathroom–somewhere my mother couldn’t have crawled to on her own in her weakened condition. At the time I just wanted them to help her, but my cheeks still flush with anger when I think about how ready they were to jump to the wrong conclusion.

I followed the ambulance to the hospital. The doctor quickly realized this wasn’t an overdose. The sense of urgency that I was feeling was finally shared by the medical staff. Realizing their error, the paramedics wouldn’t even look at me one their way out. I sat in a tiny plastic chair outside her room in the ICU for hours. Nurse after nurse and doctor after doctor went into her room. After awhile, my mother stopped screaming. They had given her pain medication and stabilized her. I like to think from that point on until the second she died, at least she wasn’t in pain anymore.

The source of her excruciating pain was an infection in her neck that had gone on too long and spread into her bloodstream. She was septic. The doctors did everything they could but nothing worked. After weeks in the hospital watching her slowly becoming paralyzed the doctors finally looked me in the eye and told me that my mother would die. I spent day after day with her in the hospital. She smiled when I walked in the room and laughed when I made jokes about needing a margarita. My beautiful radiant mother was trapped in a body that was failing. The last days of my mother’s life she was on a morphine drip surrounded by family, friends, and nurses whose only goal was keeping her as comfortable and as happy as they could.

 The night before she died I made a spontaneous decision to go back up the hospital in the early hours of the morning. I knew she’d probably be asleep but I just felt like I needed to sit with her awhile before we went back to the house. When I walked in I was so surprised. She was more alert then she had been in days. She smiled ear to ear when David and I sat down next to her bed. She didn’t seem scared, but I think she knew what was happening. At this point she was paralyzed from the neck down, she could only whisper a few words if I put my ear to her mouth. There was an urgency to her saying how much she loved me, she couldn’t hug me but I could feel the affection coming off her in waves. She was saying goodbye. I whispered in her ear that I would be okay and that it was okay to let go. I told her how much I loved her and what an amazing mother she was to me. David held me as I cried for hours that night. I felt like I would never be happy again.

The next morning my father, brother and his family were already at the hospital when I woke up. I called to check on her and they said she was unconscious. My dad said it would be anytime now. There was that dread again. I remember the panic I felt at the idea of watching her die. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to see her take her last breath. I was scared.

When David and I walked out of that furniture store and reached my car, my heart dropped. I looked at the sunset in the beautiful Oklahoma sky and I realized my mother would never see another one. When we were two minutes away from the hospital, my dad called. I was driving so David answered it. I knew right then. I knew it in my chest before my brain told me what had happened. David tried to keep an even tone, too even. He said “Alright, we’ll be there in a second.” I just had to park the car, I just had to stay calm, I just had to breathe. I couldn’t. By the time I turned off the engine I was losing it. “She’s dead, is she dead? She’s dead.” I cried, I wailed. The pain I felt was something I had never felt before. It was the kind of feeling that makes you feel like you’re drowning, like the air around you can’t keep you alive one more second. The fuzzy warmth in your ears and the coldness that numbs your toes. I had built my life around that woman. A woman who loved me fiercely, a woman who left a hole in my world when she left. I am an incredibly lucky girl to have had a mother and a brother who taught me what true compassion, love, and humor add to this world. A part of me died the day my mother did, but a larger part of me learned how to survive. I remember when I walked into that room and I saw her laying there that I thought I could wake her up. I kneeled by her bedside and I was shattered. I didn’t know what was left of me after they were gone. I was angry at the world, I was angry at myself, I was angry at everything.

The months after my mother’s death it seemed like I was walking a tight rope. With a smile plastered on my face and a gaping hole inside myself I made the decision that I wasn’t going to let this kill me. Whenever you lose someone people like to talk to you like there is some formula for grief. Everyone thinks they understand and everyone wants to help. It took me awhile to figure out how I could deal with the grief. It never goes away and it never gets easier. It hides under your bed like the monster from your childhood. One minute you’re in the present and thinking about groceries, or the weather. The next minute you’re curled up in a ball in the restroom with your arms around your knees falling apart. 

I wouldn’t have made it without my husband, my father, my brother, my friends. But especially my step-mother. A woman who patiently waited to be apart of my life stepped forward and gave me every ounce of her love without expecting anything in return. I am lucky to say I have been given two incredible mothers in my life.

I wanted to share this because I want people with pain and grief to understand that it does not define you. There are going to be good days and bad days, but the truth is most days are filled with both. You can lose someone you love but still find a moment of happiness in a furniture store. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Life is short and fleeting and so many of us spend all of our time stuck in the past or obsessing over the future. That’s when time runs away. After I lost my brother and my mother I still had to get on a scale and face the fact that I had ballooned up to 275lbs. When I think back to being at my largest after losing everything. It was because of those dark moments that I found the light. Me, my happiness, and everything I put into this world is that light.

Grief is a very lonely journey. No matter how much someone could empathize with me, my loss was my own. Matthew and my Mother aren’t here anymore. I can’t call them to tell them about my day. They didn’t see me get married and they will never meet my children. Those parts are hard. But it’s not as hard as coming to terms with the fact that their love is gone. The love I had for them remains but their love that surrounded me vanished.

In that void, I had to step up and start loving myself. I had to love myself enough to stop binge eating, I had to love myself so I could be a better wife for David, I had to love myself because they would’ve wanted me to. I know how strong I am now. I know what I am capable of. I know that whatever life throws at me, it’ll have to put me in the ground before I ever quit. I will be on this earth treasuring every moment I had with those two amazing people and being thankful that I got to call them my brother and my mother.

I’m still here and I’m still cheerful.

Dev