Tuesday, September 25

coming clean

i think a majority of my life has been shaped around two things: the death of two cherished and loved family members. i've kept quiet about things happening in my life that aren't so sunny lately out of respect for my family and those people who it has most affected, but i feel like it is now appropriate to open up about a subject i'm ready to talk about.

the first time it happened, it was only days after my eleventh birthday that i lost one of my favorite people in the world. that summer, my grandma had bought me a shirt with an '11' on it and my grandpa was the one to point out that it was also how old i was turning and therefore, it was my birthday shirt. i wore it proudly and remember feeling like it was also "our" shirt, too. losing him was something unbearable and something that breaks my heart today because there are still moments i wish i could call him to tell him that i got yet another good grade on my test or to hear about his latest fishing trip. and worse, i know that it is so much worse for my dad and my grandma. he wasn't one for words, but the quarters he sent me after a good report card and the memories i have of him buying me capri suns, taking us on 4wheel trips through the Wyoming desert, and fishing in the creeks of the Wind Rivers are some of my best. they are quite literally the things i remember from my childhood and in a way it felt like my childhood was taken away when he passed away. it woke me up to the harsh reality that the unexpected happens and at eleven, it was a crude lesson to learn. quite terribly, i realized that nothing was really ever guaranteed. i stayed up late at night afraid that my parents wouldn't come home from work the next evening in their commute. i was always afraid of it happening again. and after, i always vowed afterwards to live up to his expectations and live for the moment and in the moment.

the second time i was sixteen and this one was difficult in an entirely different way. i hate to say one was worse than the other, but somehow this time it felt more tragic because losing a grandparent who has lived long enough to live a full life is so different than a child who had barely begun his beautiful life. an eight year old. my cousin. and the week we spent in nevada with his family was perhaps the hardest i've lived because never before had i witnessed such raw pain. i miss that little boy so dearly, but what makes me more sad is the life he can't live with his sisters and parents anymore.

as you might remember, my aunt has been battling cancer for the latter year and a half. on monday evening, she passed away. but not before she was able to wake up miraculously on my mom's birthday after not being lucid for weeks and quite literally spring out of her death bed to celebrate her birthday with her. cancer is a lot of the things you hear about, valiant and strong, but it's also just so ugly. there were times when i think we all silently wished it would just end already but who wants to be the first to admit that? there were times when seeing my mom and family endure such pain was beyond anything i knew how to process. i didn't talk about it because i didn't know how. i didn't know what to do because in most cases, there wasn't anything to do but watch in agony as those closest to me went through the worst things someone can.

i finally realized why i wasn't talking about it both publicly and to my own close friends aside from respecting those directly associated with it. and i realized i wasn't talking because i didn't feel like it was my pain to have; it's always felt like their thing, their suffering, and therefore i didn't have any justification to feeling anything i did whether it was sadness, shock, or confusion.

i'm not writing this today because i want to be felt sorry for. i'm writing this because if there's anything i've learned from watching so many amazing and wonderful people pass away between family members and several remarkable people in my own community i was close to, it's that life really isn't something to just let go by. i've tried lately to make every single day count for something and to do something every day that means something to me, whether it be the big or little choices. in a lot of ways, it seems silly i ever second guessed taking an alternative route to my college degree because i knew it wasn't going to make me happy. if it isn't going to make you happy, stop. if someone is bringing you down, walk away. if there's something you can do this second to make you a happier person, just do it. work towards something every day. get that flippin 20oz coffee at starbucks even if it's 600 calories because it'll make your day better. read a terrible magazine you secretly love. study your butt off for an exam because it'll be worth it to ace it. do something you're truly passionate about if even for fifteen minutes a day. make something matter every day.

i never ever want to grow hard to the things that just plain suck in life, like death or bad days or just bad anything. i hope i'm always this sensitive and i hope i always feel everything that happens this deeply, because boy do i ever. opening yourself up to what hurts is half the battle and even though it hurts, i'd rather feel something than not.

i'm tired of letting things hold me back, whether it be the past or silly excuses i make not to get done the things i want to. i've been told that if something means a great deal to you, you'll make the time for it. if there's anything you can do today to make me smile while i'm struggling to hold my head high it's to just go do one thing today you might not have done otherwise because it'll make you happy. and tell me about it. i want to know what you did. order a cheeseburger, go on a run, call someone and tell them something you should have said a long time ago, skip homework to watch the new newgirl, write in your journal, or anything that means something to you. that'll make me feel better than anything i do for myself today, i promise you that.


kylee said...

maggie you are amazing. you shared this in the most beautiful and respectful way.

Jennifer said...

What a beautiful and honest post. I am sorry for your family's loss and am sending you lots of good wishes. Today I will finish my essays and eat wonderful healthy food and write in my journal. And be happy. I hope you are too xx

Jasmine, Transient Withdrawal said...

Love you x a million<3

You are one of the strongest people I know Maggie, and you know I'm pretty sure all of these experiences and wonderful people have helped you become the amazing friend I've grown to cherish today. You're sensitive, yet strong--and I absolutely adore that about you! And you always know how to express your feelings in the best possible ways. This post was so beautiful! I can't say that I've had the same experiences with death since I've only had one close person to me leave this world, but I think just one experience is enough to teach you that life is just so beautiful, fragile, and sometimes so tragically short. Whenever I do think about Vincent and the life that he should be living or could've lived, I get sad definitely, but I also just try, like you, to make each day count. You've grown so much this past year and I'm just so so so proud of you Maggie! This has been such an incredible journey to go along with you and just watch you grow into this beautiful, smart, eloquent woman! I love you so much Maggie! Sometimes I seriously pinch myself because I just can't believe that you and I are such close friends--and that we met on the internet of all places! You are amazing! <3

Maggie Shirley said...

You're wonderful. I get everything you are saying here. My uncle was diagnosed and passed away two years ago. It was incredibly hard on the whole family, but we all felt the same way that you felt—it was their pain.

Also, I know you love quotes as much as I do, so I leave you with this beauty from Augusten Burroughs: "All the people you have lost in your life have taught you what value is. They taught you how rare it is to breathe, how unbearably beautiful and sacred it is to feel an ache in the center of your heart."