Bettering Myself

Humour me for a moment while you read the next two paragraphs, and trust that this post is not all gloom and doom.

Two years ago today, Ben’s world came crashing down around him.  He went to see Dr B for the results of his MRI which was supposed to determine whether or not he would need back surgery or a cortisone injection.  Instead, he received his death sentence.

He didn’t tell me about it for two days, so I lived in blissful oblivion and whistled my way through the next 48 hours doing and saying exactly what I wanted.  My most prominent memory is coming home from work on April 8th and saying “Why didn’t you empty the dishwasher while I was at work??!!”  Yes, Ben had just been given a death sentence and I was worried about the dishes. Not my proudest moment.  Granted, I still had no idea that our lives had just come to a screeching halt, but my annoyance over the dishes remains one of the things I remember and sure wish I could take back.  (Let that be a lesson to anyone reading this … shut up and stop complaining about trivial things.  Take a moment right now to stop and throw some love out to your other half.  No matter what happens, the two of you will not be together until the end of time.  One of you is going to have to live like I am currently living … without my Love and carrying regret over the fact that I bitched about the dishes.)  If you’re interested, I wrote about that day in this post.

Moving forward, I recently came across a blog post written by a fellow named Benjamin P. Hardy, titled “50 Ways (that) Happier, Healthier, And More Successful People Live On Their Own Terms.”  (For the record, the word “that” was not in the title, but I thought it should be.)  His post struck a chord with me because I happen to agree with many of the 50 points on his list for living my best life, although I currently do not adhere to them.

That is about to change.

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So, on this most significant day that my brain currently recognizes as “The Day Ben Found Out He Was Dying,” I have decided to begin something that he would be most proud of. Something he would have done himself, because he was a man who spent every day of his adult life trying to become a better person than he was the day before.  And although some of his self improvement schemes were annoying, like his continual preaching “Everyone must go gluten free! You will die if you don’t go gluten free!”  (I assume you can see the irony in that one), most of his efforts could only be admired as he regularly searched for ways to expand his mind, improve his overall health and fitness, and to be a great Dad and partner.

 

With Ben as my inspiration, I have decided to use Mr. Hardy’s list to improve myself.  I’m going to challenge myself to act on one of his suggestions per week until I work my way through most of them.  I look forward to seeing how I come out the other side, and I may be able to change the name of this day to “The Day I Changed My Life In Honour Of Ben.” Or at least combine the two titles.  That’ll be a mouthful.

*Note that I said I was going to act on “most” of Mr. Hardy’s suggestions.  Not all of them. That’s because some of his suggestions are things I already do (see #5) and some are just crazy. (see #1)

Here’s the list, pared down without all the extra detail around why it is important to do each one and how it will positively effect you if you do.  If I’m moved to blog about each one I try then I will provide his detailed explanation at the top of each post.  (I say “if I’m moved” to blog about how I do because I don’t want to commit to do that and then not follow through.  Let me get some momentum going and see how I do.):

  1. Stop consuming caffeine (See?  Crazy.  Not doing it. Well, maybe.  But not right away)
  2. Pray or meditate morning, mid-day, and night
  3. Read 1 book per week
  4. Write in your journal 5 minutes per day
  5. Marry the person you love (Definitely already knocked this one out of the park)
  6. Make a bucket list and actively knock items off
  7. Stop consuming refined sugar (ouch)
  8. Fast from all food and caloric beverages 24 hours once per week
  9. Fast from the internet 24 hours once per week
  10. Stop consuming the news or reading the newspaper
  11. Do something everyday that terrifies you
  12. Do something kind for someone else daily
  13. Go to bed early and rise early
  14. Get 7+ hours of sleep each night
  15. Replace warm showers with cold ones
  16. Say “No” to people, obligations, requests, and opportunities you’re    not interested in from now on
  17. Say “Thank you” every time you’re served by someone
  18. Say “I love you” 3+ times a day to the most important people in your life
  19. Consume 30 grams of protein within the first 30 minutes of waking up
  20. Listen to audiobooks and podcasts on 1.5 or 2x speed, your brain will change faster
  21. Decide where you’ll be in five years and get there in two
  22. Remove all non-essentials from your life (start with your closet)
  23. Consume a tablespoon of coconut oil once per day
  24. Buy a juicer and juice a few times per week
  25. Choose to have faith in something bigger than yourself, skepticism is easy
  26. Stop obsessing about the outcome
  27. Give at least one guilt-free hour to relaxation per day
  28. Genuinely apologize to people you’ve mistreated
  29. Make friends with five people who inspire you
  30. Save 10 percent or more of your income
  31. Tithe or give 10 percent of your income away
  32. Drink 64–100 ounces of water per day
  33. Buy a small place rather than rent (Done)
  34. Check your email and social media at least 60–90 minutes after you wake up
  35. Make a few radical changes to your life each year (Well, clearly I’m no slouch in this department.  Lose Ben.  Retire.  What more does he want?)
  36. Define what wealth and happiness mean to you
  37. Change the way you feel, think, and act about money”
  38. Invest only in industries you are informed about
  39. Create an automated income source that takes care of the fundamentals (Done.  But I’m going to think on this one anyway.)
  40. Have multiple income streams (the more the better)  (Again, done.  But again, I’m still going to think on this one and see what else I can do.  I don’t think my current income streams are what he had in mind.)
  41. Track at least one habit/behaviour you’re trying to improve
  42. Have no more than 3 items on your to-do list each day
  43. Make your bed first thing in the morning
  44. Make one audacious request per week (what do you have to lose?)
  45. Be spontaneously generous with a stranger at least once per month
  46. Write and place a short, thoughtful note for someone once per day
  47. Become good friends with your parents (Done.  Thank God.  I can’t imagine how I would have survived without them.  I think I will change this one to: Become good friends with your adult children.)
  48. Floss your teeth
  49. Eat at least one meal with your family per day
  50. Spend time reflecting on your blessings at least once per day

Well, there you have it.  The List.  I think I may add some of my own that aren’t included on here, like:

  1. Work out or get some type of strenuous exercise 5 times per week and
  2. Spend time outside in nature every day

Those ones would be numbers 51 and 52 but I can’t seem to make the numbering work. Perhaps I should add “learn how to use numbering in a blog.” Anyway, you get the picture.  Writing this blog post today fulfills #4.  I’m exhausted.  Haha.

Now that I’ve publicly declared my intent I will begin by choosing which one of the above points I will start with.  I’m not doing them in numerical order.  My plan is to practice each one regularly for a week and see what sticks. Hopefully a week of flossing and another week of drinking lots of water will turn into habits that I can continue throughout the following weeks into forever, as I attempt the rest of the points.

Number 48 is probably a wise place to begin.

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I think Sundays will be a good day to begin something new each week.  I guess that means I don’t have to floss until tomorrow.

Have a fantastic weekend and do something nice for your spouse.

 

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Take Me Home

I vividly remember this day last year.  After nine months of traveling back and forth to hospitals and doctors, it was finally Ben’s last day in hospital.  Ever.

The day before (January 5th) while I was at home with the kids in the middle of the night, Ben texted me and said that he didn’t want to die.  I’ve been torn up about that text ever since. It hurts to know that he was awake while everyone else in the world slept peacefully, and he was thinking about how he didn’t want to die. How I wish I had gone right back to the hospital at that minute.  How I wish I had never left.

I know at the time it was impractical to think of staying at the hospital overnight.  By this time last year Ben slept far more than he was awake and there was nowhere for me to rest. Ben was not in hospice – he was just in a shared room with some guy who snored a lot.  Someone needed to be home for the kids and I stayed with Ben every second that I reasonably could.  But in hindsight I wish I had been there with him when he woke up that night and started reaching out to his loved ones via text and saying goodbye. That may be a peaceful thing to do for some who have accepted that they are going to die, but Ben had not accepted it and he had not made peace with it.  Ben was still fighting for his life, so the fact that he was saying goodbye “just incase” must have been terrifying for him.  I wish I had been there, but I do find some solace that despite having moments of clarity, Ben was predominately foggy due to medication, so he didn’t necessarily dwell on thoughts because he couldn’t retain them for long.  I’m glad for that.

On the 6th of January I stayed at the hospital with him.  Its funny because I remember some of that day well, but I have no recall of other parts.  I don’t remember where the kids were, but I remember that my parents and sister were there for what seemed like the entire day and night.  Of course they were.  They always were.  But they couldn’t have been there for the entire day because the room wasn’t big enough and I do recall there wasn’t enough seating.  Still, I recall them there for hours and hours.  Maybe it was.  Maybe that’s when Lisa came back over from the Island.  I’m not sure.

I remember Chris Thomas texting me on January 6th … scared because Ben had sent him a confusing text in the middle of the night and then when Chris responded he never heard from Ben again.  I remember telling Chris that Ben was dying.  That there was no more treatment for him and I was waiting to take him home.  How terrifying that must have been for Chris because he was also dying at the time.  He asked me for our address because he wanted to send something to us, but he died before he could.  I have no idea what it was.

I remember that Ben was speaking in a whisper this day last year and he slept a lot, but when he was awake he just wanted to leave.  He wanted to go home.  He asked me where his “stroller” was.  He was referring to his walker, and when I told him it was in the car he said “that’s not very convenient.”  Haha.  Even when he was dying, he was still funny.

He was frustrated by the fact that we had to wait for hours for any EHS attendants to be available to help bring him home, and I deeply regret that we waited.  I thought I needed their help to get Ben inside and get him upstairs, but instead I wish I had just called on several of his friends and asked them to come get him and bring him home.  I hate that he was stuck in hospital because he did not really understand why he was there.

In this video clip there was a nurse in the room.  When she turned her back, Ben mouthed the words “I want to go home,” followed with “This is ridiculous.  I love you too but I want to go home. I want you to drive me home NOW.”   At the end of the clip he is just making faces.  He still made me laugh.

It was after midnight before I got him home, and the EHS attendants were rather assholish.  They were clearly annoyed that they were being utilized to bring a dying patient home, and I wish very much that I had told them exactly what I thought of their lack of compassion.  I wish I had reminded them that someday, one way or another, they would be in exactly the same position.  But I didn’t have the energy at the time – I just wanted Ben home.  I knew he was coming home to die.

I don’t remember what happened on January 7th in the day time.  I imagine I just sat around with Ben and took care of him as best as I could.  The Home Care nurse probably came, and I remember Ben liking the attention of the first young one, although he did fall asleep while she was here.  I think my sisters were here.  I know my parents were.  I know that various friends came in and out and I know I just started keeping the front door unlocked so people could walk in and out freely when they wanted.  I didn’t have the energy to keep getting up.  I remember that Ben did not want to be stuck upstairs and so we helped him down to the family room.  I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to get him back upstairs where he could shower and sleep in the bed.  I remember Lisa saying, “If he has taken his last shower, so be it.”  So we helped him down.

I very clearly remember that Dr. B visited Ben at our home that night.  I remember that Ben had a coherent conversation with him and asked him, “Am I going to die?”  That was the moment Ben believed.  It was also the last time that he spoke of death.  He spent the rest of his remaining days having visitors come in and out to play crib, and talk, and laugh.  He fell asleep often while people were visiting, and he sometimes said strange things.  At one point he tried to show off for Lisa (my friend, not my sister) which startled us but it was funny.  He told one of our kids they were adopted. (Not sure if he was joking or if he believed it after all the years of joking that Raegan didn’t look like anyone in the family).  I don’t think he actively worried about dying anymore, once Dr. B said it was so.

As I rapidly approach one full year without My Ben, I am feeling a small sense of relief that I (hopefully) will no longer constantly find myself thinking “this time last year ….” Instead of wanting to slow time down, I now want to speed it up.  I want this year to be over despite the fact that time is pulling me further and further away from Ben.  But since I cannot stop time I want to experience some relief from having that first year over.  I want some freedom from the pain.  I don’t want to constantly remember that “this time last year the pain was terrible.”  I don’t want to remember that I was scared. That the kids were anguished.  I just want that part to be over.

This morning I woke up thinking about the number 13.  I have always said that 13 is a lucky number for us because it is the day that Ben was born and the day that Raegan was born.  I realize that it was also the day that Ben died, but that was also the day that Ben’s pain was left behind.  Which is good.  I wondered to myself if there was meaning behind all the 13’s,  and then I heard Ben say “stop looking for meaning where there is none.  It just is.” Ever practical Ben.  Maybe he’s right.  But then I went to add this song to this blog post and for the first time I watched the video open up.  Well, check out for yourself what it says at the beginning.  I think Ben was wrong this time.

 

 

Two Reasons

Full preparations are under way for Hawaii.  I am looking forward to the time with my kids in the place Ben loved best.

The days keep passing by and I find myself remaining exhaustingly busy.  Lately I have taken to wondering why I am so busy, especially since I’m not working right now. I thought it was because Ben left so much unfinished business behind, but that’s no longer really applicable. I have pretty much straightened everything out.

So I asked myself what I have been doing with my time.  Well, I have been getting the floors re-done (they look spectacular) and arranging for the cabinets to be sprayed, redoing my bedroom, planning our holidays, working out a lot … the list goes on.  But when I put it all down in writing I realize that none of those “must do’s” have anything to do with Ben. It all has to do with me.  Just me.  But why?

The working out part is a no brainer. The kids need me healthy and I also need myself healthy.  But why the rest of it?  Why am I in such a hurry to take on so much, so quickly, especially when I often find myself overwhelmed and exhausted by the end of the day? And why am I in such a hurry to change so many things around here?

I have come to the conclusion that there are two reasons.  Here they are:

Reason Numero Uno is because I love my home which also happens to be filled with memories of Ben.  Really great memories for the most part.  But in addition to all the years of great memories, I am now haunted by 9 months of horrifying memories which seem to have taken over everything. I want to stay in this house and hold onto the good memories, but the ones from Ben’s diagnosis to death are indescribably unbearable.  They hurt so much that I desperately want to erase them from my brain, but I have found that impossible to do.

I can’t walk into our ensuite without seeing Ben fall and hit his head and cry out for me while he was unable to move or get up.  I can’t stand in my kitchen without hearing him cry out “I have cancer.  It’s in my kidney and my bones.”  I can’t enter the house without seeing him sitting on the seat of his walker, completely dejected and exhausted from trying desperately to get to the front door so he could drive his truck just one more time.  (Which led me to think … when exactly was the last time he drove his truck?  Did I know it was the last time?  Did he?)  I can’t walk into the family room without seeing him sitting in his chair, feet horribly swollen and asking Dr B “am I going to die?”  and seeing Dr B’s sad face as he said “Yes Ben. You are going to die.  You get the picture. (I want that chair out of here.  I know that is such a waste of money but I hate it.  I can’t stand sitting in it.  Too bad Mom already bought the same one – she could have taken Ben’s.)

So basically, I need change without selling my house because I no longer want to remember the tears and desperation.  I want to be able to envision Ben playing guitar, or cooking in the kitchen, or laying beside me in bed in better times.  (Strangely, our bed is the only thing I don’t want to sell. I find that odd, because I think many people wouldn’t want to sleep in the same bed where their spouse died. But I do.  It’s the only way I can hold on.)

Reason Deux for doing so much around the house is because when I’m overwhelmingly busy I don’t have much time to dwell on all that I have lost. And much like the first reason, it allows my mind to stay off of the horrifying memories that torment me.  I’m not sure what I’ll do when there are no longer any new things to fix or change around here.  Anyone need help?

Raegan’s birthday is fast approaching, and it is not lost on any of us that her 15th birthday will also mark exactly six months since Ben died.  And only six short months before that, this was happening:

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That picture was taken July 13, 2015.  Look how wonderful and happy Ben looked!  Ben was presenting her with a very special necklace.  I remember how he thought about waiting until her 16th birthday to give it to her (which was when he gave Jaime her necklace), and I held my breath because all I could think was “you won’t be alive on Raegan’s 16th birthday.”

At the moment I clicked the camera to take this picture I was thinking how it would be the last birthday where Raegan would sit beside her Dad opening gifts.  I remember really, really appreciating that moment, and knowing that even though I knew it was the last time, I still wouldn’t be able to adequately prepare myself for how unbearable it would be for her next one.  How quickly time passes.

I miss his voice, and his smile, and his steady, calm strength, and the knowledge that he always seemed to know the right thing to do.  I sure do miss having him around to calm me as I freak out as per usual in the pre-travel days.

However, we have in fact found some laughter in our lives again.

The picture in the back yard was from when we were toasting Ben on Canada Day.  The others are the girls and I out for brunch, and all of the kids mooching off of me in the mall.  (Who doesn’t need a new pair of flip flops for the beach? Am I right?)  And speaking of the beach …

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My nails are Hawaii ready!  So are the girls’ nails …. we made a day of it but I don’t have any other pictures because I was too enthralled with my own.

Speaking of nails … Jaime had to pay a visit to the doctor the other day and he told her that her chipped toe nails were disgusting.  Hahaha.  I knew better than to go there with a bad pedi, so I wore shoes.  While I was there we had a discussion about why my foot keeps randomly swelling up, and he decided I should donate some blood just to rule out a blood clot since my calf was fairly tender too.  I donated the blood and left the office, and then it occurred to me that there would be a problem with me flying to Hawaii if I had any signs of a clot.  So I sent this:

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 OK, that’s good.  I wouldn’t want to have to cancel.

By the time I went to reply again, I happened to be standing in front of my microwave which always messes with my texts for some unexplainable reason.  My phone literally develops a mind of it’s own, and “I” replied with this:

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Whaaaat????  I SCOTT u?  What the heck is that?  So I quickly moved away from the microwave and sent this:

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And good ol’ Dr B, ever with the quick sense of humour sent this:

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So you see …. laughs.

And one other thing that made me smile was an Instagram chat with guess who ….

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He remembered me.  And I still love his hair.

A little further chatting and he told me he is coming to Seattle in November and likely Vancouver.  Anyone want to join me?  That is one concert I do not want to miss!

Hug your people.