Thursday, December 4, 2014

2014: Year in Review, the Bad

You know when someone asks you if you want the good news or the bad news first? I always pick the bad news. I want to rip the band-aid off, and then end on a high note.

I thought 2013 was a wild ride - between starting my dream job, then being fired for the first time in my life, then celebrating E's college graduation- I'd never had had such emotional whiplash!

But 2014 looked me right in the eye and said "Sorry, girl. I don't think you've had enough yet."

I'm looking forward to 2015 and all of the new opportunities and life changes it might bring, but in order to do that, I need to reflect on this year. I want to stare right back into the eyes of 2014, accept the crap that came our way, and then put it away. The good stuff - and there's a lot of good stuff, don't get me wrong - I'll treasure and hold on to. But I'll get to that in my next post.

So. 2014. I started the year "unemployed". I had a job, actually, working at a local wine shop (that's one of the great things that I'll talk about next time). I absolutely loved working there, and I'm so grateful to the owners for helping me when I was really down. But if we're being completely honest, it was really, really tough, financially. I was barely making a living wage working full time hours, which lead to enormous amounts of stress related to paying down my debt. I'd lie awake at night worrying that we'd eventually be homeless, and I'd have to move back in with my parents.

Fortunately, I started a new salaried position on January 27. Whew. Problem solved!

So, that weekend, E went on a ski trip with a friend and broke his leg! He was completely helpless for the first 2 weeks or so, bless him. I didn't mind taking care of him at all, but because he was unable to stand, much less walk, for about 2 months, he was effectively unemployed. And paying high medical bills. So the financial stress just lingered, like an unwanted house guest, for months.

E was finally cleared to go back to work sometime in April, and was back to full time by May.

Then tragedy struck. My uncle passed away suddenly, leaving his two adult sons absolutely heartbroken and given the task of dealing with what comes after. My mom and I went down to Florida to help where we could and provide a little bit of support. It was an incredibly difficult time for my cousins, for my mom, for my grandmother. I certainly spent time reflecting on the good memories I had, but I felt more like a witness to the grief of others. My uncle and I weren't close, and honestly didn't have a very good relationship at the time that he passed. Instead, I focused on being a shoulder for those around me. I hope I provided some comfort. His death started me thinking of my family, its history, its drama, its heartbreak. His service was held at sea, on a speedboat, attended by 2 of his 3 sons, his daughter, son-in-law, sister and myself. It was small and lonely, and just really damn sad.

Summer passed, and it was finally time to deal with something I haven't really spoken about publicly. Last September I found a lump in my breast. I started a post about it several times, but nothing I wrote sounded right to me. I found a lump in my breast. It's one of the greatest fears a woman has to face. Maybe not THE greatest, but it's up there. I found it last September and went to a doctor immediately. After a brief examination, the doctor told me it was unlikely to be cancer, and that I could wait for my health insurance to kick in before scheduling further tests. At the time, we assumed my insurance would start in November, but instead I was unemployed. Once I started my new job, my benefits kicked in immediately, but it was a high deductible plan, and I had to wait until I had money saved.

So in September I went back to my doctor, who stated I needed a mammogram and potentially an ultrasound. Also, I didn't have one lump anymore, I had several. I scheduled my mammogram for the following week, and had an ultrasound on the same day. I was told I needed to schedule an appointment with a specialist immediately, and that there was a "potential for malignancy". HO. LY. SHIT. I was put in touch with a family friend, who happened to be a breast specialist, and got in within 2 weeks. After several hours of waiting, sitting with cancer patients and survivors, generally working myself into a self-pitying frenzy, another ultrasound was performed, and when I finally got to see the doctor her first words to me were "it's not cancer!". Thank. G-d. She determined it was most likely a fibroadenoma, but it could be another type of cyst, so a biopsy would need to be performed. She then said there was a miniscule chance that it was cancer, but that she would be absolutely shocked based on all of the evidence. So. Back again the next week, biopsy performed, confirmed it was a fibroadenoma, scheduled surgery, went to surgery, the end!

And then 5 days later my grandmother passed away. My grandmother was...complicated. Her life was complicated, her relationships were complicated, she was complicated. I loved her in a way that you're supposed to love your relatives, but she was mean and spiteful, and in the end she'd become a huge burden to my parents, who she'd lived with over the last year or so. I used to say things like "bad people have families too!". I was back at the office on Monday, and around 1:00 my mom called me to tell me it was over. My grandmother had been declining for the last 2 years, but in the last few months, almost immediately following my uncle's death, she lost the ability to speak. Her quality of life was just not there. She passed away in her bed, with her caretaker by her side. My mom went home immediately and sat with her until the funeral home could come. I went home to be with my mom, but couldn't bear the thought of seeing my grandmother, my Nana, gone. I sat in the breakfast room, working from my laptop, when I heard a commotion. I got up to see the funeral home had arrived, and they were taking my Nana away. I saw her hand fall out from under the sheet, and I just lost it. The next few hours were rough, with my mom trying to make the arrangements. There was confusion, and anger, and sadness. And there was fighting. So much fighting. I went home that night and cried for hours. It really is true, you have no idea how much you'll miss someone until they're gone. I was so angry with my Nana while she was here, and as soon as she wasn't I just wanted to feel her stroke my hair again, or hear her sing to me. It hadn't occurred to me that I would be so sad, so I wasn't prepared for the grief that followed. My mom and I went to Boston the next week for the funeral. Nana was laid to rest next to her parents, and her daughter, my Auntie Nancy.

It was an another incredibly difficult time, and almost immediately following that, E quit his job. It's not my place to talk about it here, but suffice it to say that we'll be starting the new year with another unemployment, and another few months of financial stress.

I have both friends and family who have suffered so much worse, and my problems weren't insurmountable. I know have a lot to be thankful for, and believe me I'll cover it all in my next post. But this has been the most difficult year of my life so far. So, my apologies for being uncouth, but 2014 can blow me.

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