Nashville or Bust

The trip that started a longer journey

Letting Go of Roger

September 30, 2018 —  I’m having one of those present to past to present mornings. Sitting down to write something new, which ironically (or not), was about the past and present colliding, I found a draft of a piece I never published. Or to be more accurate, it found me. Within this forgotten post, I became reunited with a woman from almost a decade past. She had something to say the me that is now.

This piece, Letting Go of Roger, was originally drafted January 17, 2010 at 10:32 p.m. Dave was dealing with his first round of Lymphoma and approximately two-thirds of the way through treatment. I wrote this while the house was sleeping but decided at the last moment not to make it public. It was a raw piece that just tumbled out and I was terrified. To publish it would have been exposing too much. At that time, I felt the need to keep my armor intact.

But, in reading this now and reflecting, I find this piece says a lot and perhaps more than it had intended on that cold night.

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Letting Go of Roger 01.17.10

A wonderful friend and therapist told me that we humans have a funny way of developing relationships with the things that enter our lives, not just the people. Even the bad, unwanted, scary and undesired things – they can easily lay claim. That’s why certain events cling and we find ourselves with stuff to reconcile long after change comes.

I realized the other day I’ve been in a freaky relationship with Roger and while I know the end is coming, I need to make sure the break is real. For me.

Yeah – you heard that right. I have a relationship with my husband’s tumor. The thing that threatens the entire balance of my universe has infiltrated my life in a different way. I’ve become so used to Roger being around that sometimes I feel too casual with this cancer thing. I’ve catered to his presence and adjusted so many nuances just because that’s the way it works best for Roger. I even altered how I look because of him. Simply, I’ve learned to live in and with his shadow. Roger has been the first thing I think about every day since August and is always the last thing I think about after I kiss Dave goodnight. Even sleep has elements of Roger – exhausting, taunting dreams that leave me trying to figure out an impossible puzzle or outwit a crazed psycho. Roger is my fog.

Like many relationships, Roger just appeared in my life at a time when everything was happy and ‘normal.’ I was not looking for him nor did I ever think I would take up with the likes of him. It. Just. Happened. He slipped into my every movement and before I knew it, took over. He got inside my brain, twisting it like a pretzel, asking me to cave and choose him. And that’s when the danger began because for a while there, I didn’t know who, or what, was going to win. Talk about lost and alone and everything feeling so wrong. But at times, it felt right too, because I had made the conscious decision to accept the state we were in and learn everything I could from it. I’m not a born hater.

My a-ha moment came the other week when we learned Roger is in fact shrinking, and with every drip of chemo, being reduced into a former state of self. I should have been euphoric but honestly I was a bit stunned – and quiet. It was in the acknowledgement of this positive change that I finally identified the odd influence this acidic glob of mutating cells has had on me. I wanted to celebrate and be free but I honestly felt trapped. I couldn’t help wondering what life was going to be like when Roger was really gone. There was no going back to our past but what was waiting on the other side? I couldn’t quite get over the notion of life without Roger. But I wanted to and that is what is important.

Dave is feeling so much better. Incredible, in fact. In the three-week swing between treatments, the number of good days now outweigh the bad. And while Dave is ecstatic with this ability to feel good again, I find myself reacting with caution. I’m almost afraid to feel good with him because part of me wonders if this is new reality or just altered presence. Will Roger really go away or have I unknowingly granted him permission to stay? When he is gone how long will it take for me to adjust to living without him? Can I easily forget a kitchen with pharmacy bottles everywhere and doctor appointment cards tacked haphazardly to the wall? Can I erase forever Google histories of frantic info quests at midnight or echoes of sobs in my car when driving alone? Will I ever feel like I can hug with abandon and expose Dave to the elements without fear of hurting his back or making him sick? Will I be haunted long after we say good-bye? How much has Roger changed me?

I believe that by examining these things now, I am in fact beginning a new process outside of the cancer fight. I am eradicating Roger from me. And that, my friends, is healthy. I am seeking permission to live, cancer free. I am learning what it feels like to walk alongside a survivor and actually smell the roses. I’m learning to let go and breathe. ~Jacqui

September 30, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

August 25

While Jane was in the hospital, I started a page on Caring Bridge for Jane to help all of her friends stay in touch with what was happening. I had yet another entry today.

Today We Honor Jane

This morning while I was sitting in the quiet, I was compelled to come to this space again. There is no health update nor report from the hospital room–just the sounds of a day waking. I like this time of day when the crickets harmonize with birds before slipping into their hiding spaces. It brings a sense of peace and wonderment.

In two hours we will begin the ceremonies and rituals of laying someone to rest. And while I’ve been witness to this ritual several times before, this one is different. And, I have no idea of how we will do it. But we will.

This space where we all come together–all those who shared, participated and helped shape a well-lived and well-loved life–it is a hard but tender moment, isn’t it? The flurry of this past week’s preparation is finally over and none of us have any busy work to do. That means we are open to what this day means and what this day brings. One small part is slipping into another.

We will hold each other, we will cry with each other and yes, we will even laugh with each other at the memories we exchange. And that, is part of the gift–of Jane’s gift. She’s bringing all of her “loveys” together in presence and spirit. Here and there a hand will slip into that of another and squeeze. You know the squeeze.

Today, we all will honor Jane and in that, we will thank her for helping us all to be better people. Jane will continue to be in our hearts.

August 25, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jane

October, 6, 1990



This past Thursday, August 16, Jane, my mother-in-law, passed away. It still seems surreal to type these words.

There is so much that I can say–and want to say–but right now, find it hard to express. But as a woman, writing about another woman, I want to take a moment to appreciate all that Jane is to me for she truly completed the other half of my mama circle. Jane reinforced so many lovely things that my own mother had impressed (and continues to do so) upon me, while also teaching different things that only the mother of your spouse can. Let me explain.

On October 6, 1990, in addition to becoming the newest “Mrs. Killen” I also became someone else’s daughter-in-law. In this unspoken Ya-Ya Sisterhood-like ritual, something weighty was exchanged. At the time I didn’t realize it was happening because I was too busy exchanging wedding bands. But I’m sure she did. This was the moment when she entrusted me to takeover a big presence of Dave’s heart. Without saying it, she trusted that I would care for him as she had. He was her precious son. Me? I just wanted to be Dave’s wife. I didn’t know how to be the daughter of someone who wasn’t my own mom.

There were times, especially early on, when I wasn’t at my best. Sometimes I didn’t appreciate the inquisitiveness and gestures because to me, in that space, they felt like interference. I didn’t see the gifts. I didn’t understand. When I became a mother myself, it was hard to balance the complexities of all my “mom” relationships. There was one Mother’s Day in particular where I was at wit’s end. Brandon was either 3 or 4. I had wanted to spend time with him and with my own mom. I can still remember how tense things were between Jane and I. We didn’t speak much on that day.

Several years ago while reading, Carry On, Warrior I had to smile when I read the chapter entitled “On Weaving and Repentance.” (An excerpt can be found here, but it leaves out my favorite part. I’ve put it below.*) And while my situation wasn’t as extreme as the author’s, I realized there was a time when Jane and I had tugged on each other’s tablecloths. There were tears and tears. Yet in that space between the heave and ho, something happened. We wove our own pattern together that was intricate and beautiful. Aside from the one tablecloth at the center, we made a separate one. We used it to make forts for the kids. We set tables together for family meals. We draped it to protect furniture from science experiments and bake-a-thons. We didn’t worry about the little spills and stains because frankly, there wasn’t time to fret over the small things. We wrapped ourselves up in this cloth and kept each other warm and comforted each other when Dave was ill. Again, two women who were strangers to each other until they were brought together through a mutual love.

Flying Pig, 2018.

When I became a mother-in-law last spring to Brandon’s wife, Katie, I looked over at Jane during the reception and smiled. She had prepared me well for the moment. I had no doubt, no fear. Katie’s love for my son is deep, pure and true. I was so happy to welcome the newest “Mrs. Killen” into the circle.

Killen Women. Christmas, 2017.

And this past Mother’s Day… Jane and I didn’t see each other but connected via text. While I would have loved to have had this conversation in person, today I’m glad that I have the messages on my phone. I let her know how much I appreciated our relationship. She, in her typical Jane way, sent me a text the length of an email… with an emoji to boot. “…We are both so very lucky and secure in the love and support we have for each other [heart] sleep well dear one.” How times change. How we change. How love evolves.

Thank you, Jane, for everything. While I never could call you “Mom” you knew you were special to me. I love you and miss you. There is so much more I wish I could share with you in this space. But alas, we are where we are today. Know that I will care for our tablecloth and make sure it continues the story. You are an angel among angels. Sleep well. –Jacqui

 

 

*from Glennon Melton Doyle’s Carry On Warrior, page 87:
“Mothers-in-law, enjoy watching your daughter-in-law learn to weave. When she makes a mistake, when she drops a stitch, allow her to notice it on her own. Tell her often how beautiful her pattern is. Be kinder than necessary. Bring her some tea. Be simple. Be sophisticated.

And daughters-in-law, notice the beauty of the rug that your mother-in-law spent a lifetime weaving. Remember that her pattern is mostly firmly established–no need to suggest improvements. Be kinder than necessary, being mindful that the piece of art it took her a lifetime to weave–her masterpiece–she gave to you, to keep you warm at night. One day you’ll give your masterpiece away too. Be simple. Be sophisticated.”

August 19, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Change a Preposition and Change a Perspective (December 30)

Note: This is a post I wrote on December 30 but did not publish. I found it now and realize, it was complete.

It’s cold out. The year is ending and I find myself ruminating.

Sometimes I marvel at the thoughts that wisp through my brain. They can start so small but given space and permission, they run wide. These subconscious nudges that come about on their own accord are so very random and generally, so very unrelated to what I’m doing. Do you have them too?

I’m learning to lean into these musings a bit more — to decode them, ask questions of them, marvel at their obliqueness, and understand their connection. Sometimes they frighten me. Sometimes they exhaust me. Sometimes they float away and try as I might to recover them, forever lost.

Today’s thought however had a little bit of tooth to it and was one of those that rang in fast,clear and strong. Enjoying a lazy moment after defrocking the Christmas tree, this phrase literally spun through my brain:

“I don’t want to die of something, I want to die with something.”

I’m not sure what was more jarring — the fact that this type of thought randomly popped into my psyche or the fact that this type of thought made complete sense to me. In fact, it brought a sense of peace and purpose.

Thinking about it more, I appreciate how changing something like a preposition can be a catalyst for living differently. To not dwell on the basis of transition but rather, to ensure that essential things like love, laughter, gratitude, kindness, spirit, introspection, serenity, simplicity, and humility are always in my bucket. To me, this changes the situation. ~Jacqui

 

August 19, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wait for that guitar to come ’round again… part one

It’s been said that you can never go back. You shouldn’t go back. Trying to go back will only make you sad, yearning for what you had, knowing what you lost. The weight of it all will leave you deep in your cups, cryin’ in your beer…(cue the record scratch) Well, that might be good advice for the masses, but when have we ever followed the voice of reason?

Hers & His at the coveted table in the Willie Nelson smoking section. Our names are etched in here somewhere.

A few weeks ago, we packed the bags, left the kids some pizza money (at ages 20 & 15, what could go wrong?) and hopped in the car. It had been a few years since we visited Nashville and given that this was the 10-year anniversary of how all of this started, heading south on I-65 seemed a proper and fitting thing to do. It was a Thursday afternoon, the weather was perfect and our simple mission was to arrive at Tootsie’s by 6 p.m., local. Unlike the happy accident of my 40th, THIS was a calculated birthday destination. And there at the door to greet us, with those bright blue eyes that crackle when he smiles, was Jake Mauer.

The years have been good to Jake–he’s been blessed with a beautiful family and for many, he has become a reason to go to Nashville. A true gentleman and delightful showman, his homage to the classics is not lost on us and his toasts and stories never get old. Like a good Tennessee whisky, Jake’s voice has mellowed for the better and his personal songwriting approach has become more textured and the stories refined. He was raised right, and we’re better people for having him in our circle.

I couldn’t have dreamed of a more appropriate way to be grateful for all that was my 40s and in the same motion, make welcome my 50s. Singing through the classics (thanks for the Prine!) as well as new material, Jake and his talented band put on an incredible three-hour set. While Dave and I thoroughly enjoyed every golden moment of it, being able to connect with Jake and chat throughout the evening made it all so very fine. From his stage and through the crowd, we toasted everything that has taught us and shaped us over this past decade. To life, to love, to alcohol (because no good story every started with a salad!) and to the honky tonk gods who once again made it so we could hold court at the Willie table, we raised our beer bottles high, letting the dust mites and ghosts of that place embrace us. Thanks, Jake.   ~Jacqui

Our 8×10 black and white among all the others… Tootsie’s. June 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 6, 2018 Posted by | The Birthday Trip 2018, The Birthday Trip, 2008 | 1 Comment

Old Like Candy

The cake… coming to get me.

It’s been a string of sweet and enlightening days — a turning point for certain. The actual day of honoring my Gemini 50 was bookended by discoveries through Kornfield and Hedwig. Appropriate, wouldn’t you agree? In between, so many thoughts, reflections, memories and yes, apprehensions. I wasn’t expecting the range and depths of emotions nor the sensation of emergence and regression at the same time. In spite of it all, the learning and the growing and the love continue. This life is a mysterious blessing and I thank all of you for being a part of my weird, colorful, blissful, fragmented mosaic that is still under construction.

I’ve been quiet lately and perhaps that has come off as aloof. I don’t chatter on social as much as I used to… and I certainly haven’t posted much here. But it isn’t because I’m totally disconnecting. It’s really the other way around. And while I may not be as verbal in the electronic realm, please know that my heart is full and it is because of you. I am grateful.

And now, to segue into something old/new… it’s time to pack the bags and see what Nashville is like with an AARP card in one’s wallet. MmmHmmm….

Keep loving — despite everything — keep loving. It’s the only thing that keeps it all together. ~ Jacqui

 

June 21, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Shine!

Earlier this summer, I was going through a spate of transition. While scary and tenuous, it was a good time for me. I got to re-engage with myself and read some really good books. It was a launch phase into a new realm of life.

One day while on the patio (I spent a lot of time on the patio), I noticed something a bit odd as the Black-Eyed Susans began their annual push skyward. One of the plants had decided to not spring up with the masses but instead, find a place up front and center near the retaining wall.

Now, I could have been a conscientious gardener (although gardener I am not) and gingerly moved the little sprout back to the larger Black-Eyed Susan patch, but I decided not to. Instead, I opted to watch this plant grow and see what happened.

I also decided to name this plant Black-Eyed Stephanie.

As summer warmed the soil, Stephanie took off and rocked her place in the garden. Her. Place. She also taught me a little lesson and one that I’m reaching back to on a cold, albeit bright, winter’s day.

You don’t have to grow where you are planted. You don’t have to grow as someone outside of you has prescribed. You can — and should — take a chance and plant your beautiful self where you want to. Then grow and shine — arms wide to the sun — with everything you are and everything you own.

Don’t be afraid to be like Stephanie. Don’t think that if you went left instead of right that someone will immediately course correct you and put in in a sea of sameness. Contrarily, someone may actually take note of what you are doing and nurture the will to be different and the need to stretch.

For those who helped me be like Stephanie this summer, thank you. ~Jacqui

 

January 19, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Happy Sinko-de-Maya!

 

You can keep your ‘May the Fourth be with you’ memes. Today, and everyday, it’s Sinko-de-Maya around here.

This cat. And that chair. And the divot to end all divots. It doesn’t matter when you pass by, she’s there. Working hard. Oh, to have that singular focus for 80% of every day.

You may think we don’t see you, but we do. Such a strange little beast.

We love you, Maya. Happy Day.

 

 

May 5, 2017 Posted by | Everyday | 1 Comment

As We Watched

It’s been a month and I’m still processing. Similar to the night he was born, it happened in a flash. So much joy. So much love. In a moment, everything was new.

As we watched, life turned. And while words can perhaps set the stage, the story is best told through the eyes. Of everything we saw… and of theirs only seeing each other.

The moment he saw her…

All eyes and she only sees him…

Brandon & Katie Killen  •  March 11, 2017

 

 

April 11, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Different

This isn’t the post I was going to write. And perhaps, once again, procrastination is guiding me to the post I need to write.

Like many, I stayed up most of the night. Between the sinus medication, Bourbon Cream coffee and the TV, I was focused on watching one of two versions of history unfold. At 2:45 am, I did wake up from a mild doze to watch and listen live as the transition began.

As I listened, I recalled something I had read earlier today nestled within my Facebook feed. It was from a post of a mutual friend who embodies understanding and peace. We haven’t met yet but there are times that I feel I know her and she knows me.

M.E. wrote:

“I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the enduring lesson I learned from one of my mentors Bob. Once I got it, well, it explains just about everything.

He taught, “It’s not that we see things differently. We see different things.”

Several times that phrase wormed through my mind yesterday as I sat at work and waited for one of the two versions of history to unfold. We do see different things.

I’m apprehensive about what this day and the days coming will bring to me and my family. How will these days impact relationships we currently have? How will these days shape new ones? We are divided in our subgroups of unity. Some of us so much so that our pain oozes with every word, action, nuance. Things are interpreted and misinterpreted.

If we are to Make America Great… it is not by Making America Great again. That implies we twist backwards. One quick flip through a history book and I see a lot of the backwards that was wrong. What is it that you see? What is it that they see? We need to figure out — and quickly — how to make the America we have now, with all of its beautiful shades, souls, loves and desires, illustrious and celebrated. There is room for all of us. All of the different us. We need to see the different things the other person sees and discuss with civility. We need to learn how to build each other up without tearing each other down. We all have basic human rights. Those shouldn’t be cast off as different.

Freedom gave us all the chance to participate in this entire election cycle. Freedom allowed me and my dear running sisters to gleefully run the dark streets yesterday morning without fear and stand by each other as we went to each polling places to cast our votes. I wore white in honor of the brave women who made damn sure that I could do this. I can only hope that my daughter, can continue to do these things — and more.

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No, this isn’t the post I was going to write and it isn’t perfect, but neither am I. For what it is worth, I appreciate the freedom to write it.  ~ Jacqui

November 9, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment