feeling alive

“You just keep living until you feel alive again.”

My sister-in-law heard that quote on a television show a few days ago and sent it to me. The worst thing about loss is it feels like everyone moves on and you’re still stuck. I learned that nothing and no one will ever let you grieve as long as you want to, or in the way you want to all the time. It was quite a while before I felt completely alive again, and even that was temporary. In the meantime, I had to continue working and making plans.

I believe one thing that helped me the most last year was planning travels with Travis, friends and family. I got to visit quite of few of my best friends, and they came to visit me. I want to tell you about some of those moments. In case you’re ever grieving in the worst way, I want you to know that you can feel alive again. In my case, it was always, always, always my close friends and family who helped me feel that way.

Disneyland I insisted we watch the firework show one night and they played “Silent Night” while the sky lit up with bursts of all colors by the castle. Travis looked at me, knowing I was thinking of my dad because my cousin played that song at his funeral. I cried a little on Indiana Jones. I smiled a lot when the Genie in Aladdin reminded me of him. I took pictures of things that reminded me of previous trips. The corn dog stand. The Carnation Cafe. The Golden Horseshoe. My mom. I marveled at how a person can be everywhere and no where at the same time.

Telluride A friend suggested I plan little trips or fun weekends each month so I had something to look forward to. Soon after that, we were invited to ski in Telluride and I couldn’t pass up the chance. I (slowly) made my way down an icy mountain several times that weekend. I faced fears. I breathed in the world’s chilled beauty – the fresh air, the white snow, the pine trees. I laughed my guts out playing Cards Against Humanity for the first time and during a late-night gondola ride.

Denver My friend Stevi and I got a hotel for a night where I jumped on the bed for about two seconds before falling right off! It was the prettiest hotel with fluffy, marshmallow comforters and pillows. We drank red wine and talked about all things happy and sad as usual. Then we ventured into Denver’s busy downtown and watched Garth Brooks take a late-night Saturday crowd by storm. Stevi and I stood the entire time. We sang our lungs out. We danced. I couldn’t make it to my dad’s birthday party that weekend, but I know he was in Denver with me, too. And now I’m glad I didn’t know / The way it all would end, the way it all would go / Our lives are better left to chance, I could have missed the pain / But I’d have had to miss the dance

Utah Tulips were blooming in every color – deep plum, fire truck red, monarch orange, sunset pink – and the cherry blossoms were putting on a show. My mom and I walked all over Thanksgiving Point looking for heart leaves and talking about my dad. She helped me with my first bridal faire at USU that weekend, and she blew out candles with all five of her grandkids right by her sides cheering for her.

Seattle The sun was out as we drove to the city. I told Brittny I felt like my dad was watching over me, and that days like that day made me feel really lucky and blessed. I asked her, “Who watches over those who are not so lucky? The homeless? The lonely?” She said, “Maybe all we have is today. Maybe those people also have had wonderful days. Maybe someone is looking out for them, too, but maybe all you can do is count on the day you have. This is our day. And we are going to have a good day.” We turned up Beyonce and kept driving into what became a really perfect memory.

Memorial Day “Color is one of the great things in the world that makes life worth living to me.” Georgia O’Keefe said that and I wrote it down the day Travis and I went to her museum in Santa Fe with Emilie and Garrett from Utah. We hiked that day, sipped little chocolate drinks and said goodbye after a wonderful weekend with them.

Father’s Day Weekend Lightning struck, thunder cracked and rain began to fall during the last few songs at the Tim McGraw concert. Was Dad saying, “Hello?” My mom, Chelsea and I hugged and cried as the whole crowd sang. “And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I’ve been denying. And he said someday I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying.”

Durango After spending all day on a working choo-choo train that weaves along the calming Animas River, green pine trees and around canyon drop-offs, Travis’, his dad’s and my face were covered in soot and my hair was wonderfully windblown and tangled. There is something about the mountains, riding in an open gondola, the wind in your face, the non-stop chugging of the train that relaxes you and makes you excited at the same time.

San Francisco The city smells like sourdough, chocolate, garlic, the ocean and wine. One day, Travis and I walked for miles and miles along the northern part of San Francisco, passed the Painted Ladies, then by The Mill where the smell of toast and coffee came billowing through the front doors and onto the sidewalk. We made our way to the Palace of Fine Arts, along the beach near Crissy Field where dogs happily splashed in the water and chased their friends, and where kite surfers glided through the waves. We walked on the Golden Gate Bridge the day after we’d taken a boat ride beneath it with our friends Ken and Claudia. Happy memories for sure. Travis and I always travel well together.

Pool Days The spiked lemonade took us all by surprise and we spent the rest of the day ridiculously laughing at the craziest of things. Then I ate an entire tub of salsa while trying to talk Jenn out of being sick. That’s what best friends are for, after all. The rest of the weekend was filled with long talks, flowers and painting. I’m so glad she came to visit.

Washington, D.C. We wore matching pineapple pajamas to bed, ate macaroni and cheese, toaster strudel and cotton candy grapes. April made everything feel like old times. After she dropped me off in Virginia, Brittny, Holly and I spent our nights talking late into the night about all the real stuff. The day was filled with museums, monuments and bike rides. I’ll love these girls forever.

College Kids How we ever managed to pull off getting together again still seems like a miracle to me. Bret and Michelle came from Utah, and Stevi came from Denver one weekend. These friends were and continue to be main players in shaping my life for good. I’m thankful for the time we spent swimming, quoting our old jokes and exploring New Mexico.

Balloon Fiesta We managed to get my nephews out of bed around 4 a.m. to watch hundreds of balloons take off at dawn in Albuquerque. They were such good sports. As always, we were all amazed as we watched the balloons rise. With little wind that day, they hovered around us for a long time. I’m so glad my brother, sister-in-law and my mom drove down for the most magical time of the year here. Ryan got his Heisenberg hat and wore it everywhere, so I’m pretty sure the weekend was a success.

Christmas The Candyland tree stayed up the whole year and looked just as magical as the first time I saw it. We saw a movie at the Kaysville Theater on Christmas Eve and all laughed during the old-fashioned theater etiquette commercial like usual, then we accidentally turned out to be the messiest people in the place (you probably had to be there)! My mom went shopping for things my dad would have – speakers and car kits – and it made us all so happy. She stood in front of us as we opened them and explained how they all worked. It was amazing!

Breakfast of Champions Potato casserole and French toast were on the menu the morning after Christmas when 20-something friends came for breakfast at my mom’s house. A handful of them drove all the way from Logan, and that meant a lot to me. I tried to invite everyone, but I’m sure I accidentally missed some. I wanted to gather as many friends as possible who had been a major part of my life, and who showed up when things got hard. High school friends I hadn’t seen in years came to my dad’s viewing, and they also came to breakfast that morning after Christmas. I told everyone before we started eating that I had planned to write a speech, but ran out of time. So I just thanked them for coming and said I was glad they were part of my life. It wasn’t enough, but sometimes words never will be. Hence, the French toast. 🙂

New Years Travis and I finished and started the year in Arizona with his parents. We stayed up late drinking champagne and watching the ball drop after my first NHL game where we howled with all the coyotes fans. “Ooo Ooo Oooooooooo!” A new year. A fresh start.

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Those are some of the moments that made me feel alive again last year. Those were some of the days when I felt like broken pieces were being put back together, and when all the nostalgia, and grief, and laughter, and adventure created something really lovely and new. What I know now is that life will never be what you expect all the time. Sometimes it’s really, really hard. What I think I’ve always been aware of, though, is how much the people I love help me see the best things in myself and the world. They keep me strong, and they remind me that life is truly beautiful. Thank you for that. Thanks to all of you.

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perspective

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Yesterday, I went for a really long, much needed drive. It’s something I used to do in Logan when my heart felt heavy and I wanted the loudness of my music and the quiet rhythm of the road to help me sort things out for a while. Sometimes I would leave my apartment late at night, start up the engine and drive to small-town Preston of all places – just to get out of the city, away from my roommates and distractions, and allow myself to think beneath the light of the moon and stars. Other times, I’d let my car take me through Logan Canyon. I’d follow the river and maneuver around the curves surrounded by green and rocky walls in the summer and warm-colored leaves in the fall. I’d go all the way to Bear Lake just to see that clear, blue water, put my feet in the sand, and attempt to let go of my troubles.

I don’t really take drives like that anymore. It’s not necessarily because I don’t need them, but because I never really looked for a new road since I moved. But yesterday. Yesterday, I decided I needed to go somewhere that would remind me that I’m small, and compared to so many people around the world, my problems are, too. So, after work as the January sun began to set and a glow started over the city, I began driving to the other side of the mountains that I’ve come to love here. I drove, and drove, and drove.

I knew right where I was going when I started, and when I saw the sign for the Crest, I made a left turn and started on that 14-mile road that goes straight up the Sandias around dozens of curves and bends. Similar to how I was feeling, everything seemed to be slightly draped in blue. Every once in a while, I could get a glimpse through the darkened, tree silhouettes and I’d see more blue mountains in the distance with snow on their peaks. I listened to country music – no songs in particular – and thought about the things in life that didn’t feel right. I passed the beginnings of some of my favorite trails, the sledding area, the ski resort. This road was somewhat haunting and beautiful at the same time, and I kind of just let my thoughts run as my heart began to ache.

Things will never be as they were.

I’ve made it through the hardest year of my life so far, but this January felt colder than normal, grayer than usual, and while I can’t believe there’s only one week left already, this month has also felt long. I think this is the nature of Januarys. They are harsh, and frozen, and slow.

When I reached the Crest, there was snow all over the ground and it was so cold I knew I’d only stay a few minutes. I parked and quickly trudged through some of that snow in the boots my dad gave me last Christmas so I could see the last bit of the sunset’s glow over the city. I tried to take in the colors … the ocean blue at the top of the sky, and the way it faded to yellow, with pink strips running through it. Lights were beginning to twinkle throughout Albuquerque. People were going about their lives. The mountains to my left were stacked in the distance with trees and bushes poking through the crisp, white snow. My fingers began to sting as I took pictures of the scene, knowing they would never do justice, and then I began to breathe deeply. I thought about breathing in the good, and exhaling the bad. I slowly opened and closed my eyes, trying to focus on how I’m just one life in all this madness – how the world is big, and how my sadness and failures are contained to a small space in my heart. There are so many other things out there. There are those twinkling city lights, and millions of people, and the colors in the sky. The universe is filled with miracles and tragedies, and while I’m a part of that, I’m a small part.

Sometimes it’s good to feel small. It’s good to stand on top of a mountain at sunset and remember that the world is big – that it will keep changing and glowing, and so will you.