Archived Opinion

Loving and kicking my way through October

Loving and kicking my way through October

I recently wrote a blog post about September being the worst month of my life. One day seemed to awkwardly stumble over the next with no rhyme or reason emotionally or logistically. I was in a grief-induced fog, feeling a lot of anger and isolation, just basically trying to take each day in its singular form and not worry about what was to come.

In that post, I vowed that October would be better and so far, I’ve stayed true to my promise. The cool crisp air alone has improved my mood significantly. It’s also my birthday month and the birthday month of my sister, dad, and best friend from high school. 

I’m a fan of Halloween and a mom who likes to create DIY costumes for one or both of my boys. I usually end up making my older son’s costumes. He enjoys dressing up as a traditional character like a mummy, vampire, pirate, or Frankenstein. This year he’s going as a grumpy old man. My little one typically wants to be a superhero, Power Ranger, or Ninja Turtle, so his costumes are shipped from Amazon. Despite being brothers, the two of them are so different.  

There’s always a lot of celebrating during October and thankfully, that’s shifted my mind’s focus onto something other than my mom’s death. A few other unique experiences have also offered some light in my life. 

I’m writing this column in the back of a coffee shop in Old Town Alexandria. My dad and I flew up here last Friday so we could be together as a core family of three during our birthday month. October 19 is my sister’s 40th birthday, and my brother-in-law planned a big surprise party for her this past Saturday. It was a lot of fun. 

My dad gave both his girls matching necklaces of a family tree with the words “My Family, My Love” etched in the border of the circle that encompasses the tree. My sister and I have allowed ourselves to do some of the things we always did with our mom like shopping, going out to brunch, and getting our hair styled at the salon before Saturday’s party. We obviously missed having her with us but also know she would want us to have fun. 

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And without my two little monkeys here, I’ve spent a lot of authentic time with my 16-month old niece, Maddie. Despite some tears and open talk of struggling with grief, it’s been a wonderful, healing, relaxing trip. We leave tomorrow, and I’m already sensing the melancholy that will come during our good-byes.  

Even though October is a beautiful month of the year and one that includes holiday and birthday fun, it’s also Breast Cancer Awareness month. I know these awareness months highlight certain illnesses, disorders, and causes, and they generate revenue for research. For all of that, I’m happy, but these months can also serve as painful reminders. 

My mom battled breast cancer and overcame it but after only three months in remission, she was diagnosed with a second type of cancer called multiple myeloma. It was complications from the latter that ultimately took her life. But the breast cancer diagnosis was sort of like the beginning of the end. Typically all of the pink and ribbons and ta-ta wordage doesn’t bother me at all but this year, I’ve sort of avoided it, until last Thursday. 

Friends of mine, Scott and Jennifer Worley, opened a 9Round circuit gym in Clyde. I’ve heard great reviews from a lot of people, but since I abandoned working out a while back, I hadn’t tried out 9Round myself. And as a former runner and avid fitness buff, this has been gnawing away at me. I stopped working out after two wrecks that happened in 2015 and the drought has gone on entirely too long.

Last Thursday, 9Round hosted a breast cancer awareness evening where kicks corresponded to a dollar amount. The more cumulative kicks by everyone, the more money donated to breast cancer research. A friend of mine encouraged me to go. She knows all I’ve been struggling with lately and knew that an afternoon of punching, kicking, and hanging out with good friends could this gal a lot of good. 

I went with my friend, not really knowing what to expect and wow, it felt incredible to be back in the gym sweating and feeling fierce. The workout itself was quick yet brutal. The 9Round system knows how to work all muscles and boost metabolism with only a 30-minute workout. I absolutely loved it and plan to go back this week when I return from DC. I was still sore three days later. 

It’s hard to believe we’re already on the second half of October. This month I’ve been grateful for friends and family members who have sensed my troubled state and pulled me here and there to laugh, talk, cry, and exercise. 

Creating a new normal is horribly challenging, and I’m nowhere close to feeling stable or settled. But I’ve learned over the past two months that when darkness comes, the light of others shines so brightly, I can still see my way forward. It may be faint, but it’s there. 

(Susanna Barbee is a writer who lives in Haywood County. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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