At the Bar: The Hard Stuff

As I sit down to write this, I don’t really know how. It’ll be two years Sunday that my Uncle died. And as I type that, my heart rate climbs. I get anxious and tears well up. Two years ago we got the call that he’d shot himself.

As I type it, I want to erase it. I don’t want to conjure up that day, I don’t want to conjure it up for my family, for myself. But oh how over the last week memories pop up on Facebook or Instagram, and I look at them and think, that was before. Before that day. Before I know I changed.

I type it and I don’t erase it because it’s important. It’s important because it’s a choice I make every day in my life. The choice being, do I make the best of things, or do I make the worst of things? Do I let the sadness, pain, the horrific things that happen define me negatively or do I choose to remember the real things and live my life seeing the beautiful things? Do we all do that? How do we sort through and dig through the, excuse my french because there is no nice way to say it, shitty things?

At this very moment that I’m typing I have “I See Stars” from Mean Girls on repeat. I’m choreographing a dance to it for my ensemble, and back story, one of my oldest dearest friends that was in this ensemble with me when we were kids, is now in Mean Girls on Broadway and singing on this track. His mom is going to come to our rehearsal tonight and if that isn’t just a clear representation of how beautiful and special this life I’ve been given is?…. Then honestly? I am choosing to not pay attention. How the things in our lives come full circle and though I could still be so much better, I think it’s important to recognize, voice, and teach that our lives are interconnected. That these things inspire, touch, and make us better. To also text this same friend and tell him that one of my students is writing a paper on him and for him to write her a personalized message back? And then tonight, she will be dancing to something he sings? You never know, these things could change everything for a person.

And all it takes is one moment to change everything. Positively or negatively.

My uncle had a hard life, hard cards dealt to him. But he lived his life with joy. He had the best sense of humor, he’d give people the shirt off his back. He got a Christmas bonus once and immediately walked into a bar and said “drinks on me until the money runs out!” To a bunch of strangers! That’s just the kind of guy he was. He thought so much of others and when he walked into a room it was lighter, brighter, and full of laughter.

As we get into this second anniversary, I feel the difference in me. A year ago at this time, I was still so hurt. In so much pain. This year, I realize how much that event shaped me. How I choose to see the world differently. How I say no to certain things in order to say yes to the things that matter. How even though I was close with my dad before, we went through Hell and back that week together after, and I respect, love and admire him even further. How important it is to look at others and not judge. To be honest with myself about what I’m feeling and accept them as emotions not facts. These lessons have made me better. I would give anything to go back and change that day and reverse what happened. It hurts my heart every day that he will never meet Yale, that he won’t be at my wedding someday, that we can’t laugh together about how Baby John has the Madison hairline… but oh how I know he is with me every day and oh how I choose to try and be better every day because I refuse to forget the kind of person he was. I hate that I consider myself a better person because of what happened. How guilty that makes me feel. But it happened. I could stew in that guilt. I could. I would be disrespecting him and my family if I did that. He deserves for his life to continue to make the world a better place. And I will take it on. I will keep moving.

I struggle to post this because I don’t want to make my family cry. I don’t want to hurt them. I don’t want to conjure up pain for anyone that has been through something similar. But I DO want people to know that this world is about connection. That we all matter. That a single smile could change the world for someone having a dark day. That a text letting someone know you thought of them could make them feel like a million dollars. But also, to accept that if you are having a bad day, and you can’t be the light THAT DAY, you are not alone. Change your surroundings, take five minutes to feel whatever you’re feeling, then give yourself a project. Change your reality. Two years from now, because you made those small steps for yourself, you may find yourself in a position that you hope you make the world a better place by digging into the shitty stuff and and learning from it. By reshaping it.

So while this weekend may be hard, I have to look at what’s really happening. What is my reality? This weekend I will go to a concert, I will celebrate Baby John’s first birthday, I will snuggle my puppy and hug my boyfriend. I will watch my students come together and take recital pictures celebrating their camaraderie and hard work. I will relish having Grey’s momma in the studio watching me teach. I will hug my family oh so tight and I will remember. I have the gift of remembrance. The gift of remembering who he was, who I was, and relish and remember who I am now.

“You are real. And you are rare. I want to say I see you there. It’s me and you, not us and her. ‘Cus if we knew how strong we were. We’d say what we are. Stars. Say what you are.” –Mean Girls

“Stay low and keep moving.”– James Leslie Madison

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