Best days of my life? Round II

Below is a post from exactly a year ago.  I don’t often go back and re-read pieces I have written, but I was curious as to where my head was a year ago.  Interestingly, I could have written this all over again today.  No, things are not settled, in fact, many things are even less settled than they were way back in February, 2012.  Everyone is a year older and has the war wounds of a year of turmoil to prove it.  Harrison is nearing the end of his senior year (and has a full-blown case of inoperable senioritis), Jessie has longer (but not long enough by her standards) hair and a wardrobe that would be the envy of any eleven year old girl you might happen to meet.  Rich and I have separated (it has been several months at this point) and are establishing a new normal which is working for everyone.  We did not split because of Jessie.  In fact, it is one thing that we are very much on the same page about.  His support of her and her decision has been exemplary; some readers might recall that he was the one who took her, on more than one occasion, to the American Girl Doll store to load up on accessories for her dolls.  On Saturdays.  Even when she was still George.  And didn’t complain.  We’ve done something right because Jessie, thankfully, doesn’t blame herself for the split.  Nor should she.   Our issues are our issues…not her’s or Harrison’s. 

We are all on this adventure together.  We have better than a year under our collective belts and will try, like hell, to indeed make these the best years of our lives.


About a year after I had finished my run-in with breast cancer, Tony Snow (the former White House press secretary) returned to television for the first time since having been diagnosed with colon cancer.  It was a school/work morning and Rich and I were trying to get ourselves and the kids up and out the door.  “The Today Show” was on and we were half listening to the interviewer when he asked Tony for reflections on what he had been through.  He responded by saying that it was “the best year of his life.”  Rich looked at me and asked me if I knew what he meant.  Indeed, I did.

Whether it is cancer, or a death or a divorce or a little boy announcing that he is really a girl, difficult life experiences have this crazy ability to turn logic on its ear and prove to be wonderful times in one’s life.  Sounds insane, I know.  But, having had my fair share of trying times, I can honestly say that with each crisis, once the hysterical part of it has passed, I am a little bit better for it.  I am a little bit stronger and have a whole lot more faith in mankind.  Would I wish for any of these things?  No fucking way.  But in a strange and beautiful way, I wouldn’t take them back, either.

I always thought that feeling this way was peculiar at best, morbid at worst.  Not really a glass half full kinda gal, it isn’t necessarily my nature to find the positive in any given situation.  It is easier to get caught up in the fear, anxiety, anger and “why me?” than to see the upside of things like facing down a bi-lateral mastectomy  just days after my father-in-law lost his battle and my father was en route to losing his.  I could have opted for a complete shutdown when I landed in the hospital with a herniated disc in my back which provided me with what I can easily say was the worst pain imaginable.  And when George came to us to tell us that he felt that he was a girl, it would have been simpler to keep it to ourselves, go underground as best we could and simmer in the angst that any parent would feel when their child makes such a major announcement.  But, when you see the love, support, encouragement and strength that the people in your life are willing (no, not willing, but eager) to share with you, it results in a paradigm shift that can only be fully appreciated during well, a crisis.

Like many people, I am not particularly good at asking for help.  It used to be a source of pride for me – an indication that I was a strong and capable woman.  And then I got sick.  My family and I needed help with the everyday crap that doesn’t go away.  We needed dinners, and drivers and shoppers.  Once I acquiesced, it was mere hours before a cooler was outside our door and a sign-up list was fully populated.  We were fed, driven and attended to for weeks and weeks and weeks.  It not only saved us in the day to day, it saved our spirit, too.  (It also served to add several pounds to my midsection – a few too many delicious lasagnas with brownie chasers!)

Right now, no one (thank G-d) is ill.  No one is physically compromised.  We are, however, emotionally spent and mentally exhausted, yet not struggling.  We aren’t struggling thanks to the undying support we have gotten from family, friends and even strangers.  Those who approach me (even those who do so tentatively) are ready to lend their support in any number of different ways:  maybe it is by forwarding an article or sending a gift certificate (go Justice!  go Clairs!), or passing along clothing their daughters have outgrown…it doesn’t really matter.  What does matter is that everyone, to a person, has reminded us that we are loved.  And, any time you know you are loved is always a good contender for “the best year of your life”, no?

I’m not going to lie – this ain’t easy.  At every turn lurk surprises, successes and failures.  I have no idea how this is all going to play out but I do know that everyone in my family, perhaps my life, will be different (read: better) for it.  There are moments, hours, even days that I pray for a rewind to life before (such as it was), but I know, deep down, that I will someday be able to look back at this and be grateful for the lessons learned.


20 thoughts on “Best days of my life? Round II

  1. Julie, I swear we are meant to be friends. As I’ve mentioned before we have many things in common and now we have one more……my husband and I also recently separated (it’ll be a year in March). Like you, I seem to be able to take things in stride. It’s a lesson I learned from my Mom. When I was younger, I can remember driving to nowhere in particular and she would blurt out “Isn’t it a great day to be alive?” My Mom is always the optimist and she unknowingly instilled that quality in me. When my Dad passed away almost 15 years ago (she was only 52), she mourned (and still mourns), but she pulled herself up and she made a fabulous life for herself. She is my role model and I’m grateful for that. Life isn’t and will never be perfect. My husband and I had been married for 17 years and a couple for 25. Things didn’t work out, but I have faced this challenge with strength and optimism. It is just another bump along the way that I need to tackle, but I refuse to let anything get in the way of the “best years of my life”!

  2. I hear u loud and clear .. It’s not easy no matter what slice of life U take.. Any time u need to vent and shoe shop.. U know where to find me Alan list his job three weeks ago I’m understanding but despite the ugly Health care issue him putting pressure On me to go full time perhaps But I’m not leaving ROCHE.. I don’t care if they transfer me to West Roxbury .. Prayers to and your family. Well get thru this..

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. Beautifully said and poignantly written. I agree that in times of trouble we rise up with the support of dear family, treasured friends and beloved neighbors. Those troubles define us and make us who we are today … for better or worse. Though I tend to think it’s for the better. Rising up from the challenges that scare us to our core allow us to see how strong we are and make us think, yup, I can get through this. I grew up at the feet of a single mom who worked 7 days a week to support us (3 sibs) – in the 60’s. Our family was an anomaly of sorts. Not many divorced families back then. When friends would ask my mom what she was up to, she’d say I’m working and they’d gasp in horror saying you’re working?. Fast forward to the 80’s when we’re all out of college and she officially retires, at our request. Friends stop her and say, hey what are you to, she says not working, and they gasp in horror saying you’re not working? I have told that story a million times since the 80’s and it still makes me laugh. People will judge and unless they are you, they don’t understand why or how you make the decisions for you and your family. My mom is the strongest woman I know having survived three bouts of breast cancer … woo! hoo! Nothing gets in her way; she doesn’t give a shit about what people say or think; and she has the most wonderful attitude … like you Julie. Life sucks sometimes and it’s so not fair, she always says to me, but we’re here and we have each other and in the end, that’s all that matters she goes on to say. I have my mom’s strength and that gets me through the dark times, the tough times, the sucky times and allows me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I also have her humor which allows me to flip the bird to life as I often do and find the joke in everything. It’s been quite a year for you Julie Ross and for Jessie too and your family. I have followed your blog relentlessly and love knowing about Jessie’s hair, Harrisons’s swim successes, Rich’s trips to American Girl on Saturdays and your bad hair days. I have laughed and cried along the way with you. Life is made up of these wonderful connections that sometimes surprise us and fill our hearts with joy – mutual friends seem to be a common theme with us. Thank you for letting us follow you on this amazing journey. I wish you and your family lots of joy and laughter in the days ahead. I wish you and Rich a peaceful journey as well. Love you Julie Ross!

    • What a great story. And, in case you ever wondered, I love you back. As a wonderful teacher you always had my back with George…and he wasn’t even in your class! You are a special person, Caren, and I am so proud to call you friend. xo

  4. Julie,
    I “met” you through a friend who introduced me to your blog. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your life’s adventure. So much of what you write resonates with me. What a wonderful mitzvah you are doing by sharing your life’s story. The people you are touching… you will probably never know the impact you have on so many. I’m sure you have your “days” when things don’t feel so great… however, you have such an upliting, positive attitude. Just wanted to stop by and say THANK YOU! Keep on doing what you are doing and being who you are being. You are amazing!

  5. Julie, in the last year, your writings have made me both laugh and cry. Most of all, they have made me think. Your “reentry” of this blog post has given cause for me to think of the elliptical orbits we take in life, where forces greater than ourselves may take us seemingly astray of the perfect little circles we try to make for ourselves. At times, it is good to come back down from these orbits, where, upon reentry, we can assess our lives with both feet on the ground (How’s that foot doing, by the way?). This time of assessment should be short, however, and should serve as fuel for our next launch. For it is in that elliptical orbit where we really live our lives and find the adventure. To do so serves to make every year the “best days of our lives.” Jonathan Swift put it so simply when he wrote, “May you live all the days of your life.”

  6. Hi Julie and Family sending lots of huggs and prayers. my name is nancy Georges ( Jesse ) love, first teacher at soule sending Jesse my love. God bless all on your new journey in life. Please know there are good people sending all the happiness in the world to you harrison and jesse. fondy nancy. ❤ your a wounderful caring mom

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