Normally when I write a blog post, I sit down and write it all at once. I don’t think about it. I don’t question whether or not to write it. And I definitely do not think about how to word it. (For those of you who know me, you know I have no filter… not even a little, tiny one.) For this post, I’ve been struggling. Not with what I want to say, I feel strongly about that, but with how to say it.
A couple weeks ago I woke up and it was like a light switch had been flipped overnight. I’m not saying I was suddenly done grieving or I figured out how to fix every broken and messy piece in my life. That would be way too simple and I would be writing a best-selling book instead of a moderately viewed blog. But, back to the point. I woke up…. ready for it? Happy. I woke up happy. Fourteen months, three weeks, and two days after the absolute worst moment in my life. Fourteen months, three weeks, and two days after I thought I would never truly smile again, let alone feel happiness ever again. Well, I did it. It happened. I woke up and realized I was ready for the next chapter.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I started that next chapter of my life before this moment. Or, at least, I attempted to start it. I went back to school in August. Back in 2104, I graduated from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business with a marketing degree. After Bryan’s accident, I wanted to do something completely different. After some time (9 or 10 months) passed, I realized I wanted to get away from the racing world (at least for a bit) and I was yearning for “normal.” The kind of normal where you can be on a plane next to a stranger and they ask what you do and you don’t have to show pictures and/or videos or go into an in depth explanation of what a sprint car is. I was searching for stability and a solid basis for this next chapter and “normal” is where I thought I could find this. Nursing. That’s nice and normal. Everyone knows what a nurse is. For that reason, among several others, I decided to go back to school for nursing. I am back at Indiana University (IUPUI) for the second time. I am almost finished with my first semester of prerequisites. Going back to school has turned out to be a great decision. I am back to being on a schedule, I feel like I am well on my way to do something meaningful in life, and I have a reason to get my butt out of bed in the mornings!
Not only did I go back to school, but I have made a lot of “adult” decisions and changes in my life lately. For starters, I bought a car (thanks for the help, mom and dad!) – a new-to-me Chevy Cruze. That was my first official big girl purchase. (Unless you count those very official, very expensive student loan payments that have been coming every month since graduation.) I just moved into an apartment. Again, another major first for me. I have never had a place of my own, so I am excited for this, but it is also VERY scary. Change is hard, I don’t care what the situation is. I have never really been a fan of change. This is coming from the girl who cried when her favorite baseball player got traded (after signing a multi-year contract… so much for that). That happened when I was in grade school. I have suffered multiple favorite-players-traded scenarios since then, but they never really get easier. My point is – change is not fun and I don’t like it. But, I had no other choice than to keep on keepin’ on in my situation.
That’s another thing – Everyone keeps telling me how tough I’ve been throughout this journey. (That’s what I refer to the awful reality of losing Bryan as – the journey. And all of YOU are on it with me. It’s why I continue to share my life with you.) I really had no choice other than to be tough. I realized that right away, while I was sitting in the hospital room, actually. As terrible is it seemed then, and sometimes still does now, life will go on. It simply will. My heart didn’t stop beating when Bryan’s did. My life, although it really felt like it, didn’t end when his did. Bryan’s life got cut short, but I’m not going to stop living mine because of that. I remember telling someone early on something like, “If you want to truly honor Bryan, live your life to the fullest. It is what he did and what he would want you to do.” So, that’s what I’m going to do.
I will never, ever, ever forget Bryan or stop loving him. I wake up every day and think about him and he crosses my mind every night before I go to sleep, but that doesn’t mean I’ll never love again. Bryan will always have a special, important place in my heart, but I am really starting to see that I have room for more in there.
I am moving forward with my life. I am going to live and love fully and deeply. Bryan taught me how to do those things. He taught me to enjoy the little things in life and I can confidently say he made me a better version of myself. I take time to take it all in now. I didn’t do that before. I don’t stress over the things I can’t control. I don’t freak out when getting the hair ball out of the shower drain… “It’s just hair, L.” That’s one of the last things I remember Bryan telling me. Weird memory to hold on to, huh? But for me, it’s so much more than that. Quick background: hair in the shower grosses me out. Like really, really freaks me out to the point of gagging. Well, I shed almost as much as Chevy and Stewart, so I leave a nice, little (big) hairball behind in the shower drain. Bryan saw me getting a handful of kleenex one day and asked what I was doing. I told him I was getting the hairball out of the drain. He half laughed, walked over to the shower, bent down, and picked up that disgusting, still wet, hairball with his bare hands. He walked towards the trashcan, threw it away, and so casually said, “It’s just hair, L.” That moment sums up Bryan perfectly. Always cool, calm, and collected. I try to be a little less anxious, stressed, and neurotic, and a little more like Bryan every day. So, I say that to myself multiple times a day. Stuck in traffic? Spilled coffee on my white shirt? Forgot to drop something off at the post office? It’s just hair – no big deal, I can handle it.
Bryan will always be a part of my, and my family’s, life, but we are navigating this new chapter together. Changing a picture on Facebook doesn’t mean we are forgetting about or replacing Bryan. It just simply means we are doing our best to continue moving forward. I have the most supportive, loving parents, so I have to brag on them for a second. Even though I have to remind them I’m not made of glass sometimes and that I really can handle things on my own, I really, really appreciate everything they have done and continue to do for me. So, thank you, mom and dad. (Remember these kind words next time I get a little sassy!)
The point of all of this is: I am finding happiness again. I am moving forward. And it feels good. I’m not saying I’m “over” Bryan or “done” grieving. I don’t think either of those things will ever happen, nor does anyone expect that. What I am saying is, I am finding myself again. I feel more like “Lauren” in this moment than I have since this journey started fifteen months ago.
So, I am going to continue to move forward. Not as Bryan’s fiancé. Not as Chevy’s mom. Just me. Lauren. Obviously, a part of me will always be Bryan’s fiancé and I am still very much Chevy’s mom, but those things do not define me.
So, cheers to new adventures and new beginnings. Although it sort of seems like an end, this journey is far from over. I have a lot of healing, living, and loving left to do. We’re not done yet. I am simply turning the page to the next chapter.