***TRIGGER WARNING: INFANT DEATH & SUICIDE***
This month marks 7 years in Oregon.
Seven years has gone by, and my life is completely different than it was when my family first moved here. It has been a painful evolution, but there has been so much beauty in it, too.
It feels as though I have been slowly dying during this time; all the old versions of me. Every part of myself that I thought I knew is falling away, slowly making room for the new parts.
The beginning of the end was completely excruciating. As my family was packing up to move to Portland, one of my closest friends lost her son. He was the same age as Kjell, just two weeks older. We had gone through our pregnancies together, and many milestones of our babies' first year together. Suddenly, Alex passed away at almost 7 months. It was utterly shocking and devastating, with no possible reprieve from the horror of reality.
I have never experienced or witnessed the depths of pain and grief that my friends were going through, and I have also never felt so helpless in my life. To watch people I love so dearly experience this kind of pain made me feel physically ill. To know that the pain I felt didn't even scratch the surface of what they were going through was impossible for me to comprehend.
Not long after, my little family left Denver to start a new chapter of our life, unaware that more painful endings were on the horizon. I was a brand new mom, navigating a whole new world of responsibilities, major lifestyle changes and a deep level of isolation. My heart was broken for my friend; feeling horrible for leaving her behind during the worst time in her life. My once happy and fun-filled marriage deteriorated, sinking under a heavy load of stress, poor communication and resentment, among other things. The person I thought was the love of my life became a stranger, and our marriage ended.
What was once a fun, easy, vibrant life, disappeared. I lost so many friends and acquaintances, many of them in disbelief that I had the audacity to leave my marriage and "destroy my family" when I had the "perfect life". Many people in my life fell away, making assumptions without bothering to ask what happened. A lot of people projected their own fears onto me, treating me as though divorce was a contagious disease. It was again, excruciating, but in a different way. It felt like my whole world had been stripped away and I had fallen down a deep, dark hole.
When the divorce happened, I didn't know where Kjell and I were going to live. Luckily, one of the few friends I had made here kindly offered us his spare bedroom. He and his wife took us in for a few months so I could get back on my feet and make sense of my new life. By the time we moved out, they were preparing for their own family.
Other hard things happened during this time. My beloved aunt in Korea committed suicide, leaving my immediate family to grieve thousands of miles away. My sweet cousins lost their home and all their belongings and narrowly escaped the vicious Paradise Fire. I felt lost; completely at the mercy of what life chose to throw my way. I was weighed down by a heavy blanket of depression, and felt desperate to escape the unending feelings of sadness, self-loathing and emptiness.
Fast forward 7 years. I worked my way up at my company, climbing the corporate ladder enough to live a humble but comfortable life and provide for my family. I met amazing friends, made incredible memories, and had so many new experiences. I dated as an adult for the first time, had my heart broken, and learned to love myself. I lost people I thought would always be a part of my life, and am still learning to accept some of my relationships as they are. I had mysterious health issues that turned out to be cancer, and am still making my way out of the woods.
Life has a funny way of illuminating what's true. When things fall apart, those that truly have the capacity to love you and accept you for who you come into focus. Those who run towards you, and not away from you, in your darkest moments are the true gems in life. Hard life circumstances will always reveal these things to you.
I'm learning and healing and growing so much. I'm learning that I'm resilient, adaptable and have a huge capacity to love. There have been so many lessons in all of this, and I have no doubt they will continue to arise.
Tomorrow is Kjell's first day of school. As he starts a new chapter in his life, I will be witnessing the end of someone else's. My friend, the one kind enough to take us in many years ago, will be saying a final goodbye to his son.
Seven years later, I will witness another friend experiencing the darkest depths of pain and grief, living every parent's worst nightmare. Saying goodbye to his beautiful boy, who passed unexpectedly last week. It's strange to experience a similar situation as a totally different person. Just like last time, I feel incredible sadness, grief and the feeling of helplessness, wanting to help but knowing I can't take away their pain. My heart breaking once again for a wonderful family who deserves better than this. The deep fear, lurking all around me, reminding me that the most precious thing in my life could also be ripped away at any moment. The reminder that while we are resilient beings, life is fragile and precious.
Wrestling with all of these emotions as I recover from surgery and having cancer feels very confusing in my body. One foot is planted in deep love and gratitude, with the other is planted in fear and grief, as I feel the intensity of all the things at once.
Being a human is painful. It's exquisite, agonizing, and exhilarating. It's all the things in between.
This the human experience.
This is my human experience.