Hi There

Long time, no talk to. I just wanted to stop by and say hi and say I’m sorry for being MIA here. It’s not you, it’s me. It was 2017, it was politics, it was anxiety, it was exhaustion, it was everything. I had and still have a lot to say about the things that transpired last year, but whenever I sat down at my blog to write, I found myself tired. Unmotivated to share. Unwilling to talk.

Believe me, I had those conversations in person, but not often and not with everyone, because honestly, I just didn’t have the stamina. There was so much about last year that bothered and hurt me and kept me so angry and scared. Personally, it was a wonderful year; I taught my two classes, had a lot of fun with family and friends, and really cemented my bond with my husband after a shaky first year of marriage.

But the world, man, the world just grinded me in its teeth and I felt all the negative emotions.

I donated, I read, I got off of social media for about 8 months (except for Instagram). I did the small things I could to keep my sanity, but every time I even briefly looked at CNN or Washington Post or NY Times or BBC, I just felt my resolve crumble and I would have to build myself up all over again. So I just stayed focused on my small world and turned inwards.

I know the cycle of life pretty well by now: personally and professionally, those waves usually don’t coincide because when one is up, the other is down. Not so this past year! My relationship with Timmy made amazing strides forward and now I can finally see what people mean when they say marriage is fun. It is now and it’s definitely something I treasure more than anything. Professionally, I made even more strides towards my overall career goals, and as soon as I felt myself start to lag or bore with my routine, fate intervened and has provided me with even more amazing pathways.

I won’t share it all right now because it hasn’t all transpired and I don’t want to jinx myself, but let’s just say, if things go the way I would like (and have planned for), god, 2018 may be my best year ever, which is hard to say after my 30th year.

So I guess what I wanted to say is I’m sorry I cut you out. It really wasn’t you, it was me. And in 2018, I’m going to use this blog how it was intended: to fill you in on our lives in FL, and the quirky, ridiculous, fun, infuriating, amazing things that happen to Timmy, Floyd, and I on a constant basis. Stay tuned my friends, and let’s make 2018 a fantastic year (which let’s face it, after 2017, can we say there’s no where else but up?)

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♥, VB



No, I haven’t felt particularly motivated to update this blog in a long time. Part of it was I had too much to say and the energy required to write it all down was too much. The other part was that life has been more difficult than I’d like to admit this past year and while everyone around us has been like, “Oh great, life milestones, amazing, be happy, you’re going places,” for us it’s felt stifling, stressful, and oh so not amazing a great majority of the time.

I know it sounds like I’m complaining or ungrateful, but the reality of my emotions is far from that. But stress is stress, and in one year, we planned a wedding, got married, bought a house, renovated the house, moved, and tried to find our normal again. Which is so hard when for nearly 2 years straight, you haven’t had a real normal. Timmy moved from Lake Mary to my tiny apartment last January, we were on top of each other all the time, he traveled a lot, and between the wedding planning stress, the house hunting stress, the house buying stress, the renovation stress, the money stress, and then the moving into said house stress, I had literally used up all my coping methods.

I was a ticking time-bomb that went off in January.

The reality of our life is now more normal, more settled, more calm for sure. But that reserve of emotional mess that I had been carrying around and stockpiling just became too much and I broke in a very real way. I was ready to run away and leave this all behind. Which is not at all a very adult way to handle everything, but I was struggling big time. And my partner was struggling in his own way too, and we just weren’t clicking.

I absolutely sank around election time. Trump and the racial hate and misogyny and general hopelessness became the weight that sank me even further, as though the stress of everything else in our lives wasn’t enough. I cried for nearly two weeks straight. I have been off of Facebook since November, about a few days after the election because I simply couldn’t take it anymore. I miss it a little, but after the withdrawals wore off, I’m good without it.

I took on an additional class, Human Sexuality, to teach this semester, so my life is really busy and full, but emotionally, it’s been challenging to catch the happy ride back up the downward slope. My back pain has been worse than ever, and after a failed radiofrequency ablation (where they burn the nerves in a particular area), I’ve been depressed about my back and wondering if life can ever feel normal when all I think about is my pain.

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Maybe it’s the January/February/March blues that get us all. Maybe it’s a combination of our stress, Trump for me, and the winter meh that got us. But we’ve been in a dark place, and we keep wavering in and out of it. Lately, more out of it than in it, which is definitely progress.

It certainly helps that all the boxes and wedding gifts have been unpacked. Our house is beautiful and we still have a few more projects to go, like painting a few spots, rescreening our porches, redoing the floors in our garage, but those weren’t necessities to getting settled. We’ll be getting started on those soon enough.

We love our neighborhood and the quiet nature that surrounds us. We are starting to fish on our fishing pier with the addition of new fishing equipment, courtesy of Timmy. My parents came to visit a few weekends ago (which was so needed) and they brought my bike. So the other night Timmy and I biked close to St. Pete Beach (and stumbled through a ridiculous argument, again), then to a local restaurant for drinks and games.

It was awesome and it felt like us.

The sun is out more, and it’s warmer, so me likey. I can’t wait to start spending afternoons after work paddleboarding around the waterways, and really soaking up the mood-improving Vitamin D. And we’ll get there soon.

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But Timmy misses Jake and his dad and James, and I’m missing my friends and family a lot. Timmy and I working on our connection harder than we have before, but we need our support system around us to help ground us. So friends and family, come visit us! We have space, and it’s close to everything. It’s honestly like being on vacation all the time, living in our new house.

It’s just now starting to sync for us. Just now. If we haven’t been reaching out to you as much, be patient because the ground is just now starting to solidify underneath us again. That’s just life, I guess, and I know we’ll get back. It’s always ups and downs, and we just have to have faith and put the work in.

Winter sucks. Trump sucks. Hate sucks. But we will rock again.

♥, VB


One Day at a Time

Ok, so it’s obvious that I have kinda given up on blogging. Life since getting married suddenly picked up speed and lately it has felt like I’m on a runaway train and it’s taking me everything I have to stop for milliseconds to look up and glance fleetingly at my surroundings.

It’s all going by so fast.

And we’ve decided to take on even more major life choices since our wedding, which has only lended itself to making me feel like I’m participating in my own life through fogged up goggles and ear muffs. It’s the weirdest feeling, to be making super adult decisions yet inside feeling like, huh? what? where? who? what are we doing?

Is this what happens for everyone after getting married? Because if this was some big secret that married couples have been keeping a secret from everyone, I’d like to send a big F you to y’all for leaving me so unprepared for and unaware of the next steps.

This blog was the first to get the ax for a while there. I have so much that I want to share (and at the same time, don’t want to share) but I just didn’t have the time or energy to put it all out here like usual business. So now, I’m going to try to retrace my steps and keep you in the loop of our lives here in St. Pete.

It’s been a doozy of a few months to say the least.

Timmy and I have now celebrated nearly 4 months of marriage. We’ve seen each other in person about half that time. His job takes him on the road to Atlanta, Jacksonville, Pensacola, Miami, and anywhere else in GA and FL just over half of the month. Our only real time is the weekends, which used to consist of us frolicking at the beach with beer and football throwing followed by seafood and sleep. Those weekends have since been replaced by hour after hour of demolition at our new house in south St. Pete.

Work has been really crazy for me, which is unusual, because in the almost 4 years I’ve worked at USFSP, I haven’t once felt like my plate was too full. But now, I’m teaching my class, working full time, advising my student group, and at the same time preparing to co-chair a strategic planning committee for our entire division, grade papers, see students for consultations, and preparing to teach a 2nd class in the spring.

Needless to say, we’re exhausted about 120% of the time.

And it’s been a struggle for us to maintain a sense of connection when nearly every night, we wait so long to Skype each other that we’re too tired to really talk and catch up. The majority of our marriage has been: “Hey love, what are you doing?” “Driving and then I have to…oops, I have a call from [insert name here]/I have a meeting to go to. Gotta go!” “OK love you.” “Love you.”

But honestly, I married this person because of the lifelong challenges he and our decisions together would have me face, in order to make me a better person. And all the decisions we’ve made up until this point have absolutely had the “is this is the right decision for us” question right at the heart of them. So while for now, our life seems like chaos, all day, every day, and we’re like passing ships in the night, afternoon, and morning, we’re going in the right direction.

It all started with our wedding weekend, which now, looking back, seemed awfully dramatic and hectic. While every moment I could control was filled with hope and laughter and honest joy at the thought of marrying Timmy, the other moments were also filled with other people behaving badly. I have since gained enough time away from that weekend to realize that I can selectively filter out those moments and remember only the love.

There was so much love. It makes me happy to remember it that way. And it was so much fun because there will never be another time we can have those people in the same room at the same time ever again. Not to mention our photos and videos are the BOMB.

Where are the photos, you may be asking right now. I know, I know, I’ve only shared about 4-5 photos out of the almost 1000 we got back. I have gotten MANY requests to share those photos. There are a number of reasons why I made the executive decision (and yes, it was just me and not Timmy and I) to not share them, but the main reason is this: I don’t want to. Ok hear me out…

Don’t get me wrong, that weekend was crazy fun. But it was also a weekend that happened to spin a little out of my control and left me feeling like the most private moment of my life happened in the most public way possible. At least, what I had wanted to be private turned out to be shared with nearly 280 people, lots of whom know me not at all.

So the jokes I cracked in my vows, only a small percentage understood them. The super personal declarations of love and our ability to rise beyond our history was only really understood by even fewer who knew about that time in our lives. And the rest of our audience didn’t have a real sense of our lives because they hadn’t lived it with us. Not by anyone’s fault, but simply because that’s how life is.

So for that reason, I choose to keep the photos private. They’ve been shared with the people that matter, the people that spent hours and time and money on us and our weekend, but that’ll probably be about it. I may choose to share a photo here and there, but don’t expect much.

And that’s that.

We haven’t been able to sort fully through the wedding videos, because while time kept moving for us, it didn’t for one of Timmy’s groomsmen. James unexpectedly passed away in his sleep about 2 months after our wedding. And it has only added to the feeling of our lives being one step ahead of us and we’re just running after the train, trying to get back on it.

Timmy has been struggling. I’ve been struggling. Adjusting to the death of a friend is difficult (to put it lightly), but something has shifted since being in our 30s and this death has taken on a new significance and sadness. It’s just different losing someone in your 30s than your 20s or younger. Sure it affects you back then, but you’re just a baby. You have no real concept of life, of how wonderful it can be, or how much life can surprise you if you let it.

You get it in your 30s. You’ve seen enough of life to understand that you can rise above the hardships and get lost in the wonder. When you lose someone now, it’s sadness on a level you didn’t know you could go. When Jake passed, we at least had time for closure. We knew his death was coming for a long time, so when he did die, it wasn’t this huge sense of shock. There was almost a sense of relief at him being released from the pain of cancer.

James just passed. Period. End of sentence. No opportunity for goodbye. None. Timmy didn’t handle it well. And I wasn’t handling this new space of marriage well. And it was all I could do to just let him be in the middle of grief and give him space to move through it. He’s doing slightly better, but there are still moments of tears, moments of true sadness as he misses his friend.

So thank you to everyone who reached out to the both of us, expressing your condolences and sadness. Although we couldn’t get to everyone, it meant the WORLD to us and especially to Timmy to know that you also thought James was ridiculous in the best way possible. Know that your love to Timmy was felt and appreciated.

And did I mention that we bought a house? Yea, how much can we pile on??? Our lives at this moment remind me 100% of this scene from My Cousin Vinny.

Except our lives right now are about 1/3 as funny.

Anywho, that’s about it for right now. Next time, I WILL RECAP OUR REHEARSAL DINNER. I’m screaming that to myself to keep me accountable.

Till next time!

♥, VB


Lessons Learned from Wedding Planning

The follow-up sentence to this title should read: from someone who is known as a control freak by everyone who knows her and also has mild OCD.

I realized how much time has passed since we got engaged when a co-worker a few days ago asked if I had found my dress yet, and I replied, “Yes, just this past November.”

Pause. Not November 2015. NOVEMBER 2014, OVER A YEAR AGO.

So yeah, we’ve been planning our wedding for quite a while now. And our wedding planner reminded us we only have 18 weeks left until our wedding, which ended up with Timmy and I dry heaving a bit at this news. Things haven’t felt all that stressful the last 6 months or so, simply because we got most everything completed as soon as we set the date.

I know I’m quite different from most people in this world. Organized doesn’t even begin to describe how I operate. I see the world not how it is, but how I can group like things with like and how quickly can I accomplish challenges and to-do lists. So once Timmy and I set the date, off I went like a horse out of the gate.

There are so many lessons I’ve learned over the process of planning a wedding for a date 1.5 years after getting engaged. I tried to give us enough time to do what we needed to do (from a different state) while also giving us a cushion of time to also do the dirty work of getting used to what life would be like as a married couple. So many lessons however were ones that came out of left field for me.

I originally scheduled dress shopping at only two small stores in Atlanta Thanksgiving weekend in 2014 simply to placate my sister and mother, who were quickly starting down the “when are you going to start planning” path. I figured dress shopping would calm them down.

Lesson #1: Expect the Unexpected

…like buying a dress before you thought you would and before you have a budget.

I had ZERO plans to buy a dress. And lo and behold, I found my dress at the last store we went into, La Raine’s Bridal Boutique in Virginia Highlands. Correction: my sister found my dress, which was the last one of the day, and I had already changed back into my clothes when my sister brought me the dress. I immediately said, “Oh. My. God.” when I put it on, and the consultant reminded me that this dress was the only one I had a reaction to.

And then I knew. Done. Check. Dress found.

The whole thing happened faster than I had intended, and all of the sudden, with that decision, wedding planning had begun. I wholeheartedly had planned on waiting MONTHS before starting any type of planning with Timmy.

Expectations mean next to nothing when it comes to wedding planning.

Even though it wasn’t the color I wanted, it wasn’t ever what I had envisioned, it was definitely my dress. Which leads me to my second lesson-

Lesson #2: Compromise Will Save You…and Your Sanity

I tried on maybe 20 dresses at both stores. And once I found my dress, I stopped the search and never looked back. I’m the best decision-maker ever (although some have called me impulsive, including myself). I make decisions quickly, with assertiveness and acceptance. Timmy, well, not so much.

I learned maybe 1 minute into our wedding planning that everything I learned about being with Timmy would have to be applied times 10 to the planning process or else we were going to kill each other. I would make a list of decisions that needed to be made, asked him to honestly decide if he cared about those decisions, and the ones he agreed to, I gave him 2-3 weeks to marinate before re-addressing the issues.

That way, I wasn’t all down his grill about deciding things on my schedule, and I still got a decision made by him in a timely fashion.

Obviously, not all decisions have worked like this, but I would say, once we found our groove, probably 75% of the decisions were solved in this way.

I have compromised on nearly every aspect that I thought I would have very strong opinions about. When it came down to it, if it seemed like Timmy felt stronger about something than I did, I let him have it his way. Now, some of those decisions are biting us in the ass a bit now, and I wish I had fought more for some of the things that are going exactly the way I predicted, but hindsight, blah blah blah.

Lesson #3: You Have to Let It Go

Making decisions between Timmy and I has never been an easy thing. I knew heading into this we would really be testing our relationship in ways that I hadn’t anticipated. At the end of the day however, we both realized that we had to let it go. Resentments? Let it go. Anger? Let it go. Confusion and frustration? Let it go.

And I don’t mean let it go like “never discuss it and get over it.” I mean, talk. Talk. More talking. Talk more than you thought you needed to. And then talk again.

Talking through everything that popped up, no matter how insignificant the emotion or issue, made us get on the same page. There was no other option than to be in sync with each other.

And after talking, we realized the issues or things we were so worked up about, NOW we could just let them go.

Lesson #4: You Have to Be on the Same Team. Period.

There has been some drama pop up here and there, like everyone experiences when you attempt to bring two families and two sets of friendships together. If Timmy and I had been divided on anything, we would probably not be wedding planning at this point anymore.

The first issue that ever popped up, the one that blindsided us completely, and had us scrambling to re-evaluate some friendships and trusted loved ones, FORCED us to be on the same team. He had to have my back and I had to have his. We knew we could NOT have opposing or conflicting statements, emotions, or decisions. Any sign of us not being together on it would have severely affected the emotional state of the other person and could have torn us apart.

Once we realized how strong our teamwork was and how it made our vision complete, we have been on the same team on everything else since then. There are no ifs, ands, or butts on this one.

Lesson #5: Still Date Each Other

This one got much easier once we moved back in together at the beginning of this month. Timmy and I hadn’t lived together in 2 years, so every weekend we spent together, going back and forth between Orlando and St. Pete was always filled with dinners out and about.

But during the week, it was usually a call once or twice a day, and then a quick FaceTime right before going to bed. Love was there, but connecting is quite challenging that way.

Once we moved back in, we promised each other a number of things that we’ll see how well we can stick to them over time. The one thing we HAVE done is cook meals and sit down at the dinner table nearly every night for almost 4 weeks. No t.v., no phones, no distractions. Just us.

It can be easy, after 6.5 years together, to start to take each other for granted. And yes, for the record, I’ve heard 90% of Timmy’s life stories a million times now. But that shouldn’t keep us from spending real time together. Time enjoying meals cooked together or by the other partner. Time looking at each other, time not rushed, time for us.

It’s only been a month of living in my less than 800 square foot, one bedroom, one bath apartment, a place we were CERTAIN would make us kill each other in no time at all, and we have grown so much closer, it’s insane. In our cozy little apartment, it feels more like home than any other place we’ve lived together.

Lesson #6: Use Who You Hire

We made about 93% of the decisions on our own. And yes, one of our first decisions was to hire a wedding planner. But I’ve only used her for her expertise maybe 3 times in almost a year.

Why? Like most things in life, sometimes it’s just easier when you do it yourself. I used the internet, my wise friends and family, and my gut to make decisions and hire vendors that fit our vision. I talked to my most organized friends and they gave me what they had when they were planning their own wedding.

I quite clearly can do this all myself. I involved Timmy on the things he asked to be involved in. But at the end of the day, I struggled with figuring out how to use my wedding planner.

And then, MONTHS after already printing out the invitations and having them sit in my apartment for close to 9 months now, my wedding planner caught the only typo that 6 of us who reviewed the invitation never caught.

And my heart fell through my butt.

Obviously (well not really as she had to explain this to me on the phone yesterday) proofreading every important document is a wedding planner’s duty. [Thankfully, the typo is not a big deal or else I would have to order brand new ones. Most people won’t even catch it when they receive the invite. Whew.]

So that naturally led to discussions of the guest list (which so far, has really been the only point of true contention between Timmy and I). And she reminded me of the million and one things to remember when addressing envelopes (which are stupid and I hate them), so she reminded me that she also can look through the guest list to review everything there.

I mean, these are things that it didn’t even occur to me to use her for. I didn’t need her help in picking out invites. We didn’t want to spend a fortune because everyone just throws them away anyways, and we weren’t going to design some floral, romantic, girly thing from scratch. We didn’t want to spend money on calligraphy since the envelopes are the first to go in the trash. But what she did remind me was that since the invites are technically from my parents, they would want calligraphy on the envelopes since it’s a thoughtful and very beautiful touch.

She helped steer us to some vendors that have been amazing so far, but the band was all us, color choices were me, outfits us, wedding page me, music selection us. Her expertise was so invaluable at the beginning when I didn’t know how to talk to vendors, how to look at proposals, how to not work with some vendors, spatial design and decor for a room the size of ours.

If you hire a wedding planner or day-of-coordinator, USE THEM. Don’t believe for a second, since you’re so organized, you don’t need them until the day of. I could’ve saved SO MUCH TIME just reviewing all my decisions directly with her instead of searching the internet like a mad woman for proper etiquette, yada, yada, yada.

Lesson #7: Poof! There Goes Your Budget

You have set ideas how things will go. I wanted to elope and avoid spending money of any kind. I wanted the whole thing to be about the two of us, that’s it. And Timmy felt very strongly that NO.

All of the sudden, we were planning a wedding that I didn’t really want. My parents gave us a budget (because they are amazing and OMG how incredible are they?!!) and it didn’t work with the amount of people on the list. Then they raised it. And it still didn’t work. And they raised it again. And the whole time Timmy and I kept fighting about the guest list and the amount of money I felt we were spending and at the same time wasting.

And then we had another budget increase from Timmy’s mother, and all of the sudden, our costs went crazy. It was like there was no limit on something I had desperately wanted limits for. And I felt crushed. Crushed by guilt. Crushed by the loss of the way I had wanted things to turn out.

If you don’t put your foot down, your budget will explode in your face. My parents gave us, quite frankly, a VERY healthy budget and it still wasn’t enough to satisfy some people’s desires. Instead of buckling down and saying from the very beginning, oh well, we can’t have everything and everyone we’ve known our whole lives at this wedding, we’re still running into issues around the guest list now.

But because we’re also on the same team, these later challenges have felt much easier to handle since we’re both shouldering the effort.

Lesson #8: Plan for the Marriage, Not the Wedding

Like I said before, we have had a long engagement intentionally. At the very beginning, I had a VERY hard time adjusting to this new course in life. I hated everything that we were doing and everything that we had to keep making decisions on.

And now, I’m loving it. I love planning. I love making decisions. We’re at a really good place where now all I am is excited for our wedding. I’m not dreading it, I’m not sad or guilty or anything else but stoked to party with all our friends. I’m so excited, some days I’m ready for it to be tomorrow.

But we 100% haven’t forgotten that the wedding is one day. The real thing is the marriage. The wedding is temporary, a memory that hopefully we’ll be able to store away as much as we can for as long as we can, but a marriage is forever. Whenever we’re with our married friends, one of my first questions is “What is your advice to us?”

I’m craving time with Timmy, even in our cramped apartment, because soon, he will be my husband (I’m still making gagging noises when I say that, so clearly I’m not 100% ready). I need to know him better, I need to trust him more than ever, I need to feel like we’re both fully committed to this partnership. Not that I haven’t felt any of those things before. I just need them more now.

Because marriage is the hard stuff. Picking out vases and candles and outfits and paper for invitations is not hard. That stuff is NOTHING compared to what kind of life marriage brings two people. And it’s a part of life that Timmy and I have zero context for because we’ve never been married.

It’s the fear and uncertainty of the unknown that is keeping my brain up at night sometimes. Even when my heart is settled and sure and dedicated.

So through all these lessons, this roller coaster of emotions spent on a million plus decisions for this wedding, I still repeat what I said almost one year ago:

“The happy is being with my partner, the happy is spending a life exploring each other and this world, the happy is making him laugh for years to come, the happy is in the celebration of this love.

The happy is Timmy. Which will be my mantra from here until our wedding day.”

♥, VB

The Days We Remember

There are moments in your life where you can remember your youth incredibly vividly, as though it happened yesterday. Time moves on yet it’s tinged with sadness as you realize that every day that passes is one more day that separates you from that time of innocence. Then without warning, there is a moment where you realize without a doubt, the door to your youth is closed, never to reopen again.

My last remaining grandparent died in September at the age of 101 and with her, she took my youthful days of no responsibilities, never ending fun, and joyful naivety.

There is something that happens deep inside when you lose your last grandparent. It’s like the ties to the past have been ripped off and that’s it, the link to your history has been irrevocably severed.

As Timmy and I were on our way to a close friend’s wedding on September 25, I looked down at my phone and saw 8 missed calls from my dad. I knew then it had happened.

I have had moments over the last month of incredible mood swings, moving from sheer joy to a sadness that feels deep and unsurmountable, like even if I had the will, the tears might never stop.

Three weeks ago, Timmy and I went to a Mark Knopfler concert in Clearwater. Timmy had seen him the night before in Melbourne and wanted to see him again with me, even though I wasn’t really that familiar with his music. These were emotional nights for him as he remembered his father and their bond over his music. We sat down in a theater that hadn’t been updated since probably 1992. Clearly being the youngest in the room, I looked around and made a passing comment to Timmy, “Look at this sea of white hair.”

Within seconds, I felt the rush of sadness move up my spine, into my throat, and out of my eyes. Overwhelmed. Despondent. Inconsolable. I cried for hours, and as the music played, all I could hear was the sadness in the notes, in the voices, in the harmonies.

I of course have lost people before, some suddenly, some with more preparation. I never knew my mother’s father, but I remember when I was around 2 years old, probably one of my first memories, my mother answering the phone and collapsing into tears, my father rushing to hug her. What my mother ended up sharing with Timmy and I before we left to go to Spain for my Yaya’s funeral was that the phone call was from my uncle telling my mother that her father had died days earlier and they had already buried him.

Imagine coming home from your family’s first trip to Disney World and having that be the first call you take. Before cell phones, emails, instant ways to connect. He hadn’t been able to contact my mother and so the family had to move forward with arrangements. I can’t even begin to understand the depths of grief and guilt my mom went to then.

We lost my father’s parents when I was in college, one right after the other, 9 months apart. My Abuelito had been sick for a few years, colon cancer, and I was able to see him over Christmas break my first year at NYU. He remembered me briefly, one of the few moments of clarity for him, and I’ll never forget his smile as he looked up and recognized me.

But I’ll also never forget his frailty, round the clock assistance, diapered and incoherent, looking so infantile and old at the same time. He passed and without reason or explanation, my sister and I missed his funeral.

My Abuelita, who hadn’t been separated from him since she was nearly 14 years old, was damaged after that. Never again to be the Abuelita I remembered growing up, who so doted on me and at every waking moment, tried to fill me with food and love. She moved through the world slowly and painfully, as though the weight of my Abuelito’s passing hung on her like a heavy cloak.

She passed quickly, had a stroke and was gone by the morning. This time, my family went to Panama together to celebrate her life. She had an open casket, which I refused to see as I knew I would never remember her any other way than dead in a coffin. I could do without that visual.

Looking back, I remember being sad at their passing, thinking how fast they both went. But I also remember not feeling the sadness, not grieving,  but instead saying I was sad, saying I was in grief. At the time, thanks to the antidepressant I was on, I was numb to everything and everyone, unable to shed a single tear for anything. For being homesick. For missing my friends. For 9/11.

And now, I was unable to feel anything for my grandparents, the ones who had sat through my dumb dances and performances in the living room before bedtime. The ones who would play dominoes and copas with me, and who would tell their stories about family and love and history. The ones I saw only a few times every 2-3 years because they lived so far away.

I always had the sense that my father was angry with me for a long time afterwards because of my lack of emotion, which I’m sure he and my mother took for apathy at my grandparents. I had assumed that they realized that due to the antidepressants, I simply couldn’t feel. I hope my dad knows in his heart that I miss them greatly, a void in my heart that can never be patched.

I am grieving over my Yaya in a very different way. First of all, I am actually grieving, which is a huge relief to be able to feel anything at all. But it has also felt like a dam breaking, one from which all of the emotions I couldn’t feel for my abuelitos is hitting me all at once.

Sitting there, in that concert hall with Timmy, I felt like I was drowning.

Grief can sometimes feel like a light breeze, swirling around you and reminding you of its presence. Other times, grief can feel like a lead smock, the kind you wear in an x-ray machine, a weight so heavy that it cements you to your seat, cutting off oxygen, and making you immobile.

My Yaya’s funeral started with an open casket viewing, which I wasn’t prepared for after having spent 7.5 hours in the air, straight to my aunt’s to change clothes, straight to the funeral home. I also chose not to see her so that I could remember her the way I always knew her: white hair in rollers, dressed impeccably, nails done, makeup spotless, ready to impress, even if she was staying home to crochet.

She would come stay with us in Atlanta usually 4-6 months at a time while I was growing up. She would be there, cleaning the house, crocheting, or watching Univision when we got home from school. I remember she always said a prayer before sleeping and she never took her wedding band off.

She had the best stories, like the nudist who constantly invited her to a nude beach in Spain, but to whom she always politely declined. Or her gorgeous legs she said garnered her nonstop compliments when she walked to the market. She laughed with us when we poked fun at her, always when she tried to say anything in English, a language she didn’t understand. When Santa Claus came out as “Sando Khan”, or Disney World as “Sidney Gol”, or Michael Jackson as “Mickey Johso”.

I remember the way she danced when Spanish music came on, her smile when she saw our friends running to greet her, the way she couldn’t stop laughing when my father would crack jokes with her, her nightly beer because she didn’t really like wine, her love, her light.

And now I think of her absence all the time, like the flamenco show we saw last night at Columbia Restaurant. Our wedding that she won’t be at. The fiance she never met. My twin nieces she never held.

When the attacks happened in Paris last weekend, I had finished my TEDxUSFSP talk and was coming out of the ballroom on a high. I checked Facebook on my phone and immediately realized something bad had happened. It wasn’t really until the next day when I had time to read about the attacks that the fear and sadness began to overwhelm me.

Timmy and I headed to the airport for the Auburn vs. UGA game bright and early Saturday morning, and although I couldn’t care less about football, I was there to support him. But I shed tears in the stadium, sitting in the shade, sunglasses on. The whole time I struggled to put down my phone, to remain present, to be in the moment instead of far away in despair and grief.

Because although I didn’t know anyone in Paris, it was too familiar, this relationship I have with death now, it’s too close and too much a part of me. I began losing people I care about at 19 and it hasn’t stopped. 9/11, my grandparents, one high school friend, my best friend, another high school friend, three high school friends, four, five, my grandmother…it never ends.

I remember the panic attacks after Lindsay died, my first real brush with unexpected death. The inability to focus and move through the day normally.

Now, there are moments during the day where I am gripped with such an intense fear of losing my parents, I lose my breath. The anxiety holds me still and I can almost hear my own heart stop.

I miss my Yaya. I miss my friends. I miss my Abuelitos. I miss my childhood in a real visceral way, which is how I know that the door is closed.

I can’t go back.

The grieving never stops. The crying, however, does.

♥, VB