I Once Was, I Now Am, I Will Be.
About 6 months ago I wrote a post called “Who I Am Without You”. Before, I was a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a “conscientious” student and unbeknownst to me, a carer. My role in this life was clearly defined. I knew what this life expected of me, and I was good at what I did.
Mum passed away and my reality, along with my idea of self, shattered into a thousand shards. Sifting through these jagged and unrecognisable pieces with bloodied hands, I had no idea who the warped and distorted reflection was staring back at me.
I tried to continue living my life the only way I knew how; focusing my attentions on what I used to do so well and distracting myself by focusing on other people. All the while I was tiptoeing around the gaping hole in my life that was grief, threatened by its overwhelming capacity and power.
It’s been 15 months now, I think. Before I’d be able to tell you exactly to the hour how long I haven’t seen my mum for. The ticking of time was all I could hear. Now I have to think about it. But yes, it’s coming up to 15 months now.
So, 15 months ago, I was stripped of everything that I thought made me, me. And what came after a deep long look and sorting through those jagged pieces, was less noise. A silence. Nearly every aspect of my life, to an extent, has been stripped, and what’s left is me.
So, who is Katie now?
Once so desperate for silence, I have now fallen back in love with music, the type with lyrics that really speak to a person’s soul. Once again, I turn the volume up as loud as my little car allows, no longer quietened by the empty car seat beside me. Rather I sing for the both of us and I am left feeling exhilarated with a hoarse voice, as though I have been to a live concert after each long distance journey.
Speaking of concerts, just as when I was 17, I have recently made live music a priority and Evee and I have been to see some of our favourite bands for our birthdays.
Once so anxious for what tomorrow might bring, I have learnt how restful sleep can be and now wake up excited for the day. I’d even go as far as considering myself a morning person (I can hear my mum laugh as I type that). I know that whatever tomorrow does bring, I can handle it. So I wake up early these days, my time is precious to me and I want to make the most of it. Also, I’ve learnt just how much I love breakfast dates with good friends.
Once so starved; I now give to myself first – my attention, food, time. I no longer busy myself by pleasing others. I am learning to claim what is mine and define my boundaries. Mum always said that I wouldn’t say “boo” to a goose and, really, her and Evee are the only people I have ever felt protective over. Not anymore…I’ve had to ruffle a few feathers and say “boo” to one or two geese recently by learning how to stick up for myself. In doing so I have also learnt to put myself on a pedestal instead of other people and listen and trust the words that come from my voice first.
There’s still a lot that I am trying to figure out in life, aren’t we all? It’s easy to become fixated on all that we lose in our lives – deaths, relationships that have broken down, lost friendships. I used to think that my experience with grief defined me. I thought people could see it hanging over my head from a mile off. I thought it was going to make me bitter.
During this harsh sort through all of these facets and dealing with my grief, I am getting to know this “stranger” that mum left behind. I have come to realise that I wasn’t a “stranger” at all.
I am still Katie with a dirty laugh that Mum used to describe as a cackle. I am still fiercely independent as she always taught me to be, and I still have my integrity and morals. Sure, I make mistakes sometimes but i can look you in the eye and speak my truth.
What I have come to learn is that identity is fluid. Beliefs, morals, personality make up a person’s core but a person’s identity moulds and grows to the life around it. We all choose how life affects us and our identity. I choose to be better, not bitter.
6 months ago, I wrote, “Now I am faced with life after Mum. Life without Mum, with myself, a stranger, who still bases their decisions on what their Mum would do.” I’m not afraid anymore and i know now that I’m certainly not a stranger. While we lose so much in our lives, I am so thankful to have had 23 years with my mum. I am so thankful to be able to say that losing my mum didn’t mean that I lost myself too. And I am at a point in my life now, where I am grateful to be given the time to get to know myself.
In the last few months, since moving to London and into what I am calling my Purification Phase, there have been moments that I have had to pinch myself because I had no idea that after such losses, life could be this beautiful just for me. I am finally able to say that I recognise the reflection looking back at me and I like who I see.
“I’m a man on fire
Walking down your street
With one guitar
And two dancing feet
Only one desire
That’s left in me
I want the whole damn world
To come and dance with me”
Man on Fire – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
I’d like to thank Sean Woolnough for encouraging me to take a look back on some of our older posts which inspired this one. And I encourage the person reading this to take a look back on your own journey whether grief features or not. Reflect on where you once were, where you are now, and where you are headed. You’re on the right path and your future is so bright. You are doing amazing.
“You say the sun doesn’t shine for you
I hope you learn that’s not true, in time”
Woman – Mumford & Sons
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