Yesterday. A Grief Day. A New Day.

FullSizeRender (16)Yesterday marked the 4-year anniversary of my dad’s passing. Which is still unbelievable to me. This past year has been one filled with big moments. I had the first major surgery of my life in February and, in April, was in an accident that (sadly) totaled the last car my dad ever helped me pick out. I started a new job last June. Gained a new niece last September and a new sister-in-law this past May. It’s been an incredible year in which my dad has been missed in every moment, large and small. I usually use these posts to recap how I coped with the past year or how I thought I would try to handle the coming one. But this year, I’m just going to focus on how I navigated yesterday because it was a long and strange day, filled with more emotions that I know how to properly express.

Yesterday morning I woke up early and, like I have for the past few years, sat down at my computer to try to put my feelings and emotions into words. These blog posts, every year since his death, have been hugely therapeutic for me and I expected this year it would be the same. Right now it does feel therapeutic. Yesterday however it just felt confusing. And emotional. And I couldn’t figure out what to say. The difference between yesterday morning and the mornings of the past June 3rds is that, instead of waking up in the comfort of my apartment, I found myself in a hotel room in Chicago… on a trip to find a place to live. Yes. You read that correctly. I’m moving to Chicago. I’m sure there will be a post about that crazy decision soon but, long story short, I’m moving there for work and I had somehow managed to plan the making of a very emotional decision on a very emotional day. Not my best idea.

I arrived in Chicago on Thursday evening. That night, as I walked around checking out the neighborhoods, I felt confident that I’d made the right decision. I felt, as I have for the past few weeks, that being able to make the decision to move so far from my friends and family was a healthy sign of how well I was doing. How strong I am. It’s a decision I would have never made in the first few years after he passed away. It would have been unthinkable in the wake of that tragedy. I needed the consistency of the familiar, the support of friends in Dallas, the knowledge that I could get home quickly and easily should my family need me… or more often than not, should I need them.

I had a plan for yesterday. I was going to wake up, go for a walk by the lake, write this blog post, get ready for the day, head into the local Kapow office for a bit and then go look at a couple apartments in the afternoon/evening. It was a solid plan. Unfortunately it didn’t quite pan out that way. Instead I woke up feeling strange, emotionally not physically. I scrapped the workout and then tried and failed to write this blog post. After a few failed attempts, I shut it down and began to focus on my work for the day and the task of finding a place to live. I decided to work from my hotel room for the morning because I was too emotional to go to the office. Can’t have those people thinking I’m crazy before I even officially make the move! By 11am I was feeling a bit better and tried again to write this post but couldn’t quite put my finger on what I was feeling. So I moved on with my day. Hopped from Starbucks to Starbucks, trying to get work done and check out apartments on my way. Had a few calls. Answered a few emails. Met a few strangers. The day flew by and it wasn’t until the end of day, when I found myself sitting on some random park bench, that it dawned on me why I was feeling so weird. It occurred to me at that moment, that by leaving Dallas and my apartment there, I would be leaving behind the last place my Dad ever knew me to live.

So there I sat, on that park bench, on an absolutely beautiful day in Chicago, crying like an idiot. It’s a ridiculous notion, to cry about leaving a place simply because that’s the last place he knew I lived. It’s not like my dad is going to come knocking on my door in Dallas. He can’t. He’s gone. On that point, I am very clear. Since he’s been gone I’ve changed jobs, gotten new furniture, changed my hair, made new friends, traveled to new places and have made many decisions that have affected my life in various degrees. But this is certainly the biggest decision I’ve made without his input and the one that most affects my daily life, as he knew it while he was here. I’ll be leaving the last apartment of mine he’ll ever visit. Leaving the city he’d helped me move to 11 years ago. It’s the end of a chapter in my life that he helped me create. One in which he was physically present and where I have pictures of and vivid memories with him.

When I start the next chapter of my life in Chicago, he’ll never have that physical presence. He is always with me but there will never be any pictures or memories of us at a Cubs game together, riding rides on Navy Pier, having a drink at a local pub or doing whatever people who live there take their parents to do when they visit. For me that’s the cruelest part of grief and the hardest part to come to terms with, the un-lived life of someone taken from this world far too soon.

While the grief may have gotten the better of me for a moment yesterday, I eventually picked myself up from that park bench, wiped away my tears and shared an Uber with a saxophonist from Brazil named Marcio. By the end of the day I was back to feeling confident if my decision. I even felt a little bit stronger because of that brief breakdown. Why? Because I didn’t let the grief win. I dealt with it and moved on like a boss.

Yesterday’s emotions ran the gamut. I was sad, happy, excited, mournful, amused, lonely, content, annoyed, optimistic, anxious… I think I literally had all the feels. Yesterday, for the first time since making the decision to move, I truly began to picture what my life might be like in Chicago. It started to feel real. I’m super excited for this new adventure but sure wish he was still here to be a part of it. As always, I try to take comfort in the hope that somehow, somewhere, he has a ringside seat to the movie of my life.

Signing off. – Jen



The Third Year of Grief: Putting the Pieces Back Together

Jennifer Mullinax and her dad at Oklahoma State game.3 years. 1,095 days. 8,760 hours. 15,768,00 minutes. This is how long I’ve missed him. Give or take a few minutes. When people told me it would get easier as time passed, I thought they were referring to the loss. That the loss would feel less immense. That his absence would be less painful. I misunderstood. It’s not the loss that gets easier. I miss him today just as much as I did the moment he was gone. Not being able to pick up the phone and call him, his absence when I go home, never being able to hug him or hear him say “love you kiddo” sucks just as much today as it did from day one. What gets easier is dealing with it.

If I could sum up the first year of grief, I would say it was the year of survival. It was damaging and difficult. Every “first” without him was like a punch in the gut, like having a wound reopened. I didn’t always handle the loss in the smartest or healthiest way. I survived the year but I wouldn’t say I came out of it whole. The second year could be summed up, for me, as the year of coping or acceptance. It was in the second year that I began to truly understand that he was gone. Permanently. I learned how to better manage my grief, how to balance joy and sorrow, how to deal with the guilt of the living. I learned how to live in a world without him. A world I’d never known, imagined or wanted to live in. Continue reading

Rain. Rain. Go Away.

I was joking in my last post when I said that I might talk about the weather next. But then again, at the time, I wasn’t expecting the weather to go full throttle on the crazy lever…

Turns out there really can be too much of a good thing. A month ago the state of Texas was desperate for rain. After a four year drought, lake and river levels were extremely low, reservoirs were drying up, aquifers were depleting, the Trinity River in Dallas was basically non-existent, people were praying for rain. Now, not so much. The Texas drought is over, many prayers answered and wishes granted. Four years of drought was brought to an end after just four weeks of rain. It came at a heavy price though. Death and destruction. What began as a mild inconvenience, with people complaining about not getting a proper “patio season” and having to “leave work later than normal to avoid getting soaked on the way to the parking lot”, quickly escalated to a state of disaster. The rain. Just. Kept. Coming. It was relentless. I heard one reporter refer to it as “biblical” and “apocalyptic.” In total, enough rain fell during the month of May to cover the entire state of Texas in 8 inches of water. Texas is a gigantic state. Continue reading

Let’s Face It… I’m A Terrible Blogger.

It’s been nearly a year since my last blog post. Yikes. That’s pretty unacceptable. After all, what’s the point of having a blog if you don’t use it? When I first started this blog, 2 years ago, I imagined it would be a place where I could share all of my creative DIY projects, document my fun adventures, air my frustrations, share my joy and write about things that mattered to me. Therein lies my problem, writing about things that matter to me. By starting a blog where I poured my feelings into some posts about the fairly heavy things happening in my life, I created a situation where everything else I started to write about seemed trivial in comparison.

It’s not that I forgot about this blog or have been “too busy” to write. Quite the opposite in fact, I think about it often. I’ve logged in and drafted dozens of posts in the past year but I haven’t published a single one of them. Instead my thought process goes a little something like this… I think to myself, who cares about this? Why would anyone want to read about how I built a headboard or turned a dress into a skirt? About my thoughts on age and the judgement people place on themselves and others based on this one simple number? About the amazing four days I spent in Cabo with some of my best gal pals? About how I loathe lists of things people should or shouldn’t do, places they should or shouldn’t go, things they should or shouldn’t say, clothes they should or shouldn’t wear? Who cares about these things when there is war in the world, when there are starving children, when there is death and love to write and read about? This post is boring or too opinionated or seems braggadocios.The internet is already so saturated with pointless and useless information, why would I want to contribute to that? How can I post this stupid blog post right after the one I posted about my dad? Then I delete my draft and log out. Only to repeat the same process the next time I get the urge to write.

So, I’m a terrible blogger. That’s a fact. I’m going to try to be better because I really enjoy writing and do want to create a space where I feel free to express myself and will be able to reflect on my journeys and my growth many years down the road. I will always want everything I write about to be true to who I am, to come from my heart, my brain or my soul but the writings can’t always be so emotion filled, nor would I want them to be. Maybe I’ll write my next post about baking, the weather, beauty products, sports or the one and only time I went to see a psychic. Whatever it is, I hope I hit the publish button instead of the delete button.

Grief and the Pursuit of Happiness: Two Years Without My Father

Jennfier Mullinax hugging her dadTime is a funny thing. Often there seems to not be enough of it and as I get older the years seem to fly by faster and faster. When I was younger, when the years seemed to last forever, I remember “old” people telling me this would happen. I didn’t believe them. Hindsight is 20/20.

It’s been two years since my Dad passed away, suddenly and unexpectedly. Sometimes that day feels like yesterday and sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago. That’s the other thing I find odd about time. It seems to fluctuate. Kind of like you can travel thru it… with the onset of a memory or through the notes of a song… you can be transported.  Not physically of course. I hope you know what I mean.  Continue reading

This Little Mug of Mine…

VDay MugI’ve always enjoyed Valentine’s Day. I’ve never seen it as a day exclusive to celebrating romantic love but as a day to celebrate love in all forms. It’s a day to let people know that they are loved and appreciated! Who wouldn’t enjoy a day dedicated to celebrating love and connections, family and friends, the intangible emotions that make the world a better place. Here’s one of my favorite Valentine’s Day memories…

9 years ago. February 14, 2005. I had been living in Dallas for approximately 1 month. I knew very few people in town and I wasn’t dating anyone. I was at work watching deliveries arrive for my co-workers. I wasn’t expecting a delivery with my name. I was happily taking part in the delicious office deliveries from vendors and sharing in the joy my co-workers received from their personal deliveries. (Sidenote: The only thing I love more than giving gifts is watching people receive them, even when I’m not the gift giver.)

So, imagine my surprise when, toward the end of the day, a beautiful bouquet of flowers arrived for me in this sweetheart mug. Here’s the best part, they weren’t from my parents or my grandparents. They weren’t from a friend or a lover. They weren’t from anyone ‘obligated’ to send me a Valentine. They were from one of my brothers. Who, at the time, was a broke college student. They were so completely unexpected. I was overwhelmed by the love I felt at that moment… I’m even getting a little teary eyed as I type this. He wanted to let me know, on my first Valentine’s away from my friends and family, in a new city, on my own for the first time in my life, that I was loved and that someone was thinking of me, even if they were far away. To this day, it’s the best Valentine’s gift I’ve ever received. It’s also the gift that keeps on giving. As you can see, this mug is well worn after 9 years. Every time I use it I think about my brother and that day. I’m not sure I’ve ever told him how much that gift meant and continues to mean to me. I’m actually pretty sure there are no words to properly convey how I felt in that moment and how I feel every time I relive it.  The best gifts are always the unexpected and totally unnecessary ones. If you have a chance to do something like this for someone you love, I highly suggest you do. This little mug of mine is more than a mug to me. It’s a reminder, on good days and bad, that someone loves me and that love is the best gift of all. Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone!