The other day my husband told he me thought I was stuck. It happens from time to time, to all of us, and of course to me too. Whether it’s being stuck in a job, in a weight loss endeavor, in pursuing our passions – figuring out how to get unstuck is one of life’s great lessons, right? When he said it, I agreed that it might be the case, and I rattled off reasons for it. But as I let that marinate in my brain for a couple of days, it felt wrong. While there are absolutely parts of my life about which I’m not super excited, that was true a month ago, and it didn’t feel like this. So what happened? What’s different? And how do I climb out of whatever this is?
Our summer started off like none I’ve ever had in all of my 45 years. Purely by coincidence I had vacations planned every two weeks for six weeks. It was glorious. When school got out, I felt like it was important for the girls and I to get out of town for a few days. We decided on a quick road-trip to Chicago. We left on a Wednesday after work and returned on Saturday afternoon. We stopped at two Wisconsin colleges on the way, bought sweatshirts and took quick tours both walking and driving. One of my girls is going into her senior year of high school so college visits are a thing right now. We got to town (on the crazy Chicago highways) late Wednesday night but were up bright and early Thursday morning and ready to go. For the next two days we walked the city, shopped, took a cruise on Lake Michigan, explored parts of the city we’ve never been, and it was SO FUN. I loved traveling alone with the girls. Of course I adore my husband and enjoy traveling with him most of all, but I also think it’s really important for girls to understand that grown women have the ability to travel alone. To manage tolls, to manage figuring out where to go when, to deal with people in a strange city – these are not jobs that need to be left to dads and men. We had amazing conversations, we did such fun things, and it was the perfect little break from work, school, and home.
Two weeks later, my husband and I took off for Vegas. A trip we canceled twice in 2020 and had already moved once in 2021 (to avoid wearing masks at the pool). For four days we sat by the pool, shopped, had amazing meals, worked out in the lovely gym at the Bellagio, and unplugged from our world almost completely. There is nothing like laying by a pool with nowhere to be and a Miami Vice in your hand. The sheer relaxation – something that has been harder to enjoy in the past year – was priceless. We got back to town feeling refreshed and renewed.
Two weeks later, my girlfriends and I headed to Hayward, WI for our summer girls weekend. We go to Hayward every fall and had never gone in the summer. Even though the cabin in which we stay is on a lake and has a boat. We spent three days boating, coming in to replenish drinks and eat lunch, then back on the lake. Each night we went out to dinner somewhere in or around town. I made my mother-in-law’s famous Brandy Slushies (gone after 1.5 days), we binged Netflix each night (we discovered Hacks on HBO – a MUST SEE!), and we got coffee every morning. I remember sitting at the back of the boat, eyes closed, wind blowing in my face (one of my fave things – this is why I love running – more on this later), drink in my hand thinking ‘this is seriously livin’ the dream.’ I’d had three very different and enormously soul restoring vacations within six weeks and I felt f-cking awesome.
In between my vacations, I was working out five days a week, and feeling so good about myself. Mentally and physically. I’d started training for this year’s Twin Cities 10k – one of my favorite races to run, I was boxing, I was biking, I was walking. I felt great in my own skin. We were plotting our house remodel. Everything was going along in a way that felt right and fantastic. We were rocking the summer of 2021 like nobody’s business.
Two weeks after my girls’ weekend, we lost Sully. Almost a month ago now. And it still just guts me. My constant companion is gone. It’s hard for me to even wrap my head around it.
The day after we lost Sully, I went for a run – it’s a blur now so I’m not sure if I was running too fast, or too hard (no Sully to pace me) – but I did something bad to my already wonky knee and it stopped my workouts dead in their tracks. It’s to the point that there are days it hurts to even put weight on it. I can’t box (no pivoting, no kicking), I can’t run (because obviously), I can’t bike (it hurts to bend it that frequently), it sometimes hurts to stand for the hour it takes me to get ready in the mornings, oh and, I couldn’t get in to see a doc in orthopedics for a full two weeks.
Two weeks after we lost Sully, my daughter was in a car accident that left her car totaled. She was fine – thank Jesus– but it was scary and horrible just the same.
Three wonderful and soul strengthening vacations followed by three awful and life altering events. The extremes of the good followed by the extremes of the bad have left me nearly breathless. I’ve found myself overwhelmed by things that normally don’t cause me to bat an eye. Work feels so much harder, keeping the house clean feels impossible, and all of the things that I can usually manage near effortlessly now feel like I’m trying to sprint through quicksand (with a bad knee and no running partner).
Whiplash is the only word that accurately describes how I’m feeling. A royal jerking around of our lives. I’m not sitting around moaning “why me?” It’s more like looking around and wondering what the f-ck just happened here?! And then – what now?
Loss and grief, injury, and a car accident won’t be the end of me and my family. I know that. But it’s taking me a second to come to terms with how this summer has veered in a direction none of us expected or planned. It’s taking an even longer second to figure out what to do next. Like the chiropractor would treat the neck and spine in the case of physical whiplash, I need to find what will heal my spirit and mental whiplash.
Time with friends, which is harder as we all roll into yet another unpredictable school year with our children. Exercise, which is harder when injured. Meditation, which is harder because in the midst of all of this nonsense we welcomed a new family member – Finlay FitzSullivan O’Keefe. I will attempt to focus on all of these things, regardless of difficulty, so we can get back on track to enjoy what was looking like one of our best years.