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Acceptance.

Well, we did it.  We survived an entire year.  And I think hitting that daunting milestone, and not just alive-but-barely like I figured, but actually doing well, is why yesterday wasn’t devastating like I thought it was going to be.  I was actually in a good mood!  I mean, not dancing around singing “The hills are alive with the sound of MU-SIC” good mood (although come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever done that…), but definitely okay.  No tears were shed.  I didn’t fly off the handle irrationally (at least not any more than a normal day).  It’s now been a year and a day since our lives completely fell apart and we’re still standing.  I have a mouthy 6 year old whom I vacillate between loving to death and wanting to strangle; a 2 year old shithead who loves being put in timeout, even though he’s locked shut in a closet with the light turned off (can you say large therapy bills in his future?); a 2.5 month old puppy that is lucky he’s adorable because his teeth are sharp, he loves chewing on anything that doesn’t belong to him and his favorite pastime is peeing in the house, but has finally shown us why owning two dogs is the best thing in the world; a 4ish year old dog who talks while he knocks Lurch all over the house (who then comes running back for more.  Dumbass.) and spends 90% of his day slobbering on my couch; and a husband who has finally stopped complaining about school (mostly…), bought a Jeep and continues to be an amazing father and husband, managing to piss me off an average of only one day out of the week–quite the accomplishment.

Of course my good day is due to more than just how marvelously, astoundingly, shockingly awesome I am (see, I am returning to my old self!).

It’s the weather.  The sunny 60-75 degree days we’ve had for the last week have been a true godsend.

It’s the visitors–my brother and his fiancee couldn’t have picked a better time to come out and visit for 4 days.

It’s this military lifestyle, this post, this building.  Having such unexpected support after such a short time here with a bunch of like-minded families means I’m where I’m supposed to be.

It’s the girl scout cookies.  Hey, I need to give credit where credit is due.  Even if this baker is not nearly as good as the other one (Peanut Butter Sandwiches are not Do-Si-Does–anyone who tells you they are is a LIAR.)

But mostly, it’s everyone I love.  Your support throughout this last week, your wishes, your thoughts.  Facebook messages, comments and posts.  Texts, phone calls, gifts.  It’s you guys.  It completely blew me away how many people remembered not just Zoe’s birthday but also the anniversary of her death, without me saying a word.  I can barely remember my own children’s birthdays, let alone the children of friends and family!  You guys are the true reason I made it through.  Especially since you continue to be supportive throughout my silence.  I’m still unable to acknowledge anyone’s comments about Zoe.  Even hitting the “like” button FB is too much for me.  And yet, you still keep coming back.  And that’s what keeps me going.  My almost-equally marvelously, astoundingly, shockingly awesome BFF couldn’t have said it better in her latest blog post:  it’s the people who were there and the people who continue to be there.  That’s all it takes.

Last week when Zoe’s birthday hit, I figured I would spend the next week documenting what I remembered every day of her 8 days with us.  My post would be filled with “today one year ago this something awful happen”  “today we thought things were going well, but they weren’t actually”, etc. etc. etc.  But I never had that urge to relive it.  Do you know what I think this feeling is?  The final stage of grief.

Acceptance.

This isn’t to say that I’m “healed”–not by any means.  That Zoe’s second birthday won’t be awful.  That I am suddenly able to look at all the babies of friends that were born within a week of her.  That I believe that any of this was “meant to be” or “right”.  That I wouldn’t give anything in the world to change the outcome.  That this will be my last blog post about Zoe.  That I will never be set off by some seemingly small and random event.  That I suddenly and magically want to talk about my feelings to anyone.  That I am able to acknowledge that you’ve read my inner thoughts.  That I’m still not incredibly selfish and self-absorbed.

But I’ve made a lot of progress in the last 366 days.  I’m a lot further along than I would’ve ever believed that I could be.  I don’t want to say that I’m “at peace” with it–because I’m not, and never will be.  I think this definition of acceptance on some random psychiatric website sums it up much better than I can:  “Acceptance does not mean that you have to forgive, ignore, go into denial, or excuse what has happened. Acceptance means that you are at a place where you can recognize what has happened, process it without denying what has happened, and are at a stronger place than before.”

As the horribly selfish person I am, I can’t remember who sent me the quote featured above back in May.  But the moment I read it it resonated with me and I saved it on my iPad for the last 9 months, hoping that some day the storm would be over–or at least as over as it ever can be.

Love you Zoe bear, forever and always.  I’m glad you came.

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Happy First Birthday Zoe Bear!

Before going to bed last night I told myself that today would be a positive day.  Zoe’s birthday is a joyous occasion–a day to celebrate her entrance into the world.  The 22nd is a day to mourn; the 14th a celebration.  Obviously I didn’t exactly feel the same way when I woke up this morning.  I vacillated between angry and depressed two dozen times between 7 and 830, going from crying to wanting to cursing everyone and everything, back to crying.

But you know what?  Today was actually a good day.  Tuesday is usually a non-gym day because Carter has music class in the morning and it’s nearly impossible to squeeze both in.  But last night I made the decision that as soon as C woke up we’d drive to the gym so I could get a quick but brutal 45 minutes on the elliptical in before heading straight to music class.  I knew I would need it.  The entire way there I cursed my decision–I should’ve just stayed at home in my pjs, preferably in bed, crying.  I even debated dropping Carter off at playcare and then hiding in the handicap bathroom upstairs at the gym and just crying for my 45 minutes instead (sadly, it wouldn’t be the first time I did something like that).  But I forced myself to exercise and it was the best decision I could’ve possibly made.  Climbing off of that machine, red-faced, out of breath, legs rubbery and sweaty (choosing to go an extra 10 minutes instead of showering–I’m sure the moms at music class really appreciated that decision) I never felt so good.  Those endorphins really did their job.  I was able to listen to my cool down song twice without crying.  After grabbing C, I climbed in the truck and listened to “Three Little Birds” on the way home without crying (but with C bitching the entire 3 minutes–“I want Carter songs.  I don’t want Mama songs.  I want Carter songs.  I don’t like this song.”).  I got through music class with the 5 week old baby right next to me without crying.  I got through pretty much the rest of the day without tears.

There were a ton of other things that got me through today besides the endorphins.  Like the amazing necklace my 323 moms got me.  It’s a purple butterfly with Zoe’s name and birthday inscribed on the back, along with three little birds to represent her song.  A wonderful heartfelt birthday card with personalized messages from each family was included.  Everyone’s texts and comments and messages letting me know they’re thinking of us today.  A friend from college is getting married in May and I spent naptime today making plans with two of my other college friends for a mini-reunion that weekend, child-free.  It’s the first time I’ve felt truly excited for something in a long time.  My bi-weekly chat with my Irish twin just happened to be today and we had a great talk.  The weather was gorgeous.  Lurch didn’t pee in the house, and if he popped then he ate it so at least I was never the wiser.  The kids were good (even if C was a complete asshole since he decided to not nap today).  My favorite Girl Scout cookies finally arrived, so I helped myself to a row of Tagalongs (merely because they’re amazing, not because of depression).  I made a delicious birthday cake for Zoe, even if it did turn out crumbly, lopsided and ridiculous looking.  We released a paper lantern in honor of Zoe’s birthday (which Jeff had the brilliant idea that instead of each of us releasing one, each year we should light the number of years she would be.  He’s so brilliant).  

It was a good day.  It was a fitting way to celebrate Zoe’s birthday.  No moping, no crying, no wallowing in self-pity or punching things–just cherishing the things we do have, the things that are going right.  It’s not the way that I thought today would go when I woke up this morning, but it’s the way I hope every February 14th is.

My favorite part of the day?  When we went outside to light the lantern and J saw a star in the sky.  She chanted, “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight.  Wish I may, wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.”  And instead of her usual wish to be a fairy or a princess, she wished that Zoe was still alive and celebrating her birthday with us instead of as an angel.

It’s moments like that.