Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

My resolutions this year come from the lessons I've been learning.  This is not a checklist, as these are goals that will hopefully continue on limitlessly. I've come up with five mindset shifts that I want to embody in 2014 and for the rest of my life:

1. Look for the beauty in every place, person, and situation
2. Take the time to reflect each day, either in writing or conversation
3. Nurture important relationships. Give sincere compliments and act with generosity and kindness. This applies to your relationship with yourself as well.
4. Check assumptions before they turn into biases or judgements. Seek to understand and accept multiple points of view
5. Practice forgiveness. Always forgive, especially yourself. If you ever start to slack on any or all of the resolutions 1-4, that's ok. Remember that there's always time to refocus, reenergize, and recommit.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Time (A Poem)

One month, three months,
six months, more
each day passes slowly
but looking back, months soar.

They told me time heals
even the deepest of pain
but if I believed them then
at seven months I'd feel insane.

You see, time does nothing
but change the hour and the date
It doesn't add distance,
doesn't fix, or recreate.

Paradoxical is the eternity
since I've seen his face
and the short length of time
since I've felt his embrace.

He's so far away
but yet, so near
He's been gone for so long
but I can still feel him here.

One year, three years,
six years, more
each month passes slowly
but looking back, years will soar.

Now I tell them time doesn't heal
or even lessen the pain
but it taught me to have patience,
reflect, rebuild, and remain.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Without You

I spent the entirety of today on planes: Miami to Brazil, Brazil to Uruguay. Twelve hours total including the layover. This left me with ample time, free of distraction, to fixate on Blake and his family's first Christmas without him. The lack of wifi on these international flights frustrated me to no end. I wanted to reach out to everyone and check in on their hearts. I knew this day wasn't going to be easy for anyone, so I wanted to feel connected to them and show my support.

Although Blake and I were in a relationship last year during Christmas, we only got to be together over video calls throughout the day. I was on a trip to Panama that I planned with my parents before Blake and I started dating. Because I was thousands of miles away, there was no way I could spend the holiday with him. Blake was really upset by this. Christmas was his favorite holiday and he wanted to spend it with everyone he loved. I cheered him up with promises of the best Christmas ever together next year and for years after that. Today, that failed promise to him weighed heavy on my heart.

After I landed, I rushed to connect to wifi so I could finally send his family messages.  As I saw his sister's picture of him and her from Christmas a few years ago and his cousins sweet comment sending her prayers, my heart started breaking all over again. I thought of the macaroni and cheese he would've scarfed down and the laughter he would've surely brought. I thought of his empty chair at the table and the empty space in the family pictures. Missing presents, missing smiles, missing love. It didn't seem fair.

But I realized that even though Christmas is a day of heightened awareness of loss due to the intense focus on family, it's really just another day. His family will get through Christmas just like we've gotten through every other day since his death: minute by minute, hour by hour. Although I begged Blake all day to be with them and make sure they knew he was there, I got an overwhelming sense that they all already knew. Just like I've gotten stronger, so have they. We handled the funeral weekend, his birthday, Thanksgiving, and now Christmas. Those days were all hard, but we got through them together.

Every day I'm inspired by his family's strength. Not only have they gotten through every day with grace, but they've constantly found a way to lift me up whenever I'm a mess. Whenever I think that I'm messaging them to give them strength, in actuality it seems like they are the ones helping me. Through trying to comfort them, I end up receiving the love I need to fill my heart. I just hope that I have been able to do for them even half of what they've done for me.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Phoenix Airport

He's everywhere I look. The table where we split a bowl of ice cream, the chairs where he convinced me to wait until the very last minute to leave, the security line where he begged for "One more kiss!" not once, not twice, but five times. Every single square inch of this place reminds me of him. Reminds me our joyous reunions and our final hours together. The bittersweet ghosts of moments passed.

I wonder if I'll ever be ok in the Phoenix airport again. I've traveled in and out of it a dozen times since Blake's last night, but it's the one place that never seems to get easier. I try to remain present while a continuous loop of memories haunt me, but it's no use. It feels like I'm holding my breath the entire time. When I can finally breathe again, my lungs ache from the strain. Anxiety buzzes through my veins until I get the change of scenery I need.

Airports in general have always been a place of positivity for me. When I'm there it's either because I'm flying somewhere or coming home from a trip. Since I'm my happiest self when I'm traveling, airports have always been a part of this bliss. It hurts to be disconnected from that feeling when I'm in the Phoenix airport, the airport that's supposed to feel like home.

On a morning when I'm embarking on a trip to South America with my family, I want to feel nothing but excitement. I've dreamed of Argentina and Peru for years and I'm finally going. It's not that the experience is tainted by Phoenix Sky Harbor, but in a way I feel being here is a roadblock. There is a barrier between me and my joy. I can't fully embrace this new experience because I'm allowing myself to be held back by the past.

But I know that one day I'll pass Chelsea's Kitchen and smile. Maybe I'll even buy myself a bowl of ice cream. I'll see couples holding hands, soaking in every last minute together, and wish them strength in their long distance relationship. I'll pass through the C gate security without crying. I won't hear echoes of "One more kiss!" and won't turn back hoping for one last glimpse before rounding the corner.

And when I don't do and see these things, it won't be because I've forgotten. I could never forget. Instead, my mind will be so filled with thoughts of adventures ahead that there won't be any room for sadness. That's when I know I've reclaimed the Phoenix Airport.

But for today, I'm just glad to be leaving this place so I can breathe.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas at the Cemetery

The cemetery was packed today. When I went to go visit Blake's grave to give him a Christmas present, I saw more people than I've ever seen there. Since I've always been a huge fan of people watching, this was really fascinating to me. I ended up observing for a couple hours.

A few rows behind and to the right of Blake's plot there is a grave of a little girl. Every time I've visited, I always noticed her's because it's decorated elaborately for every occasion. She's had balloons, toys, pinwheels, and this time, a Christmas theme of tinsel, Santa, and fake snow. Today she had about 12 visitors. There were adults, teenagers, and even a couple of babies. Since the group was in my line of sight, I ended up watching them almost the whole time I was there. It was interesting to me that all throughout, not a single person cried. In fact, it was exactly the opposite. The family laughed, joked, embraced each other, and added to the pile of decorations overflowing from her plot.

In stark contrast, there was a woman who briefly stopped by to visit her mother. She came alone and without a smile. I watched her walk up to the headstone, tour around it, and kneel down. She feverishly plucked the stray blades of grass around the perimeter. We made eye contact, she bowed her head, and returned to her car. The wheels screeched as she sped away just minutes after she came.

And then there was me. When I wasn't busy observing everyone else, I had bouts of endless tears. I realized that I haven't been crying very much lately. I guess all of the emotion stored up was finally released as I sat by Blake's grave. I cried and cried and cried, like I was the person who invented it.

I sat there with an achy feeling. I started thinking about us during Christmas time last year and remembering how much Blake loved this holiday. I let my mind drift to a scene of what this week could've looked like for us. I wanted to capture that image in a snow globe, shake it, and let sparkles dance around it. But I wasn't joyous like the little girl's family; I wasn't uneasy like the woman either. I was somewhere at the intersection of the two, trying to figure out how to express both my love and sadness. Honestly, all I wanted to do was lie down on the dirt and rest my head next to his picture. A spiritual connection wasn't enough; my body hurt with the urge to physically be with him.

So I put on lipstick and kissed the back of some receipts I found floating around in my purse. Even though I wasn't actually kissing Blake, the sensation of forming my lips into a pucker felt strangely calming. My lips were made to do that, so I think that's why they've felt a little lost and useless these past seven months. They were born to scrunch their soft skin and communicate the love contained within them. Even if it was silly, it was a comfort to finally put my lips to use.

I realized today that every time I visit the cemetery, I'm looking for something different. The first time I went on his birthday, I wanted to feel united with his loved ones. I needed to feel like we will all get through this together with each other's love and support. On our anniversary, I sat there with the need for connection. I wanted to feel his presence to confirm that we were still part of each other. And I guess today, I needed to give love. I needed to show myself that I still have the capacity to kiss. To prove to myself that I'm not irreparably broken.

Everyone I observed at the cemetery today came for a reason. I believe that the cemetery was so crowded because Christmas time reminds everyone of loved ones and togetherness. Some of us, like the little girl's family, came to honor their loved one by celebrating the lives they're lucky to still be living together. Others, like the daughter, came to quickly, solemnly, and earnestly pay their respects. And people like me came in search of something: an emotional release, a connection, or maybe a sign. Although these motives represented by the family, woman, and me may seem different, we are all the same. No matter how we chose to express it, our actions were all rooted in love.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Sparkle

A message from a friend this morning:
"I noticed in the pictures you've taken recently your eyes seem to have more life in them. Like there's more of a sparkle and happiness that they didn't seem to have for so long."

I looked at the picture I posted from yesterday that she was referring to. After finishing my last final, a friend and I had an impromptu leaf fight/photo shoot outside of the building. It was ridiculous, but special. I saw all of the crispy, fall leaves (it's December, but hey, I live in California) coating the ground and I had an overwhelming urge to play in them. So I did.

My life has been a lot like that recently. I get a pull in my heart to do something, so I do it. Whether that means throwing a bunch of leaves with a friend, chasing a sunset to the beach, or giving myself permission to stay in bed all day long to read. I do all of these things without second guessing. I figure that if my heart wants something, it's for a reason. Maybe I don't know why, but I figure that's not the point. The why comes later; the importance lies in the now.

I believe living this way is the reason the sparkle has started to return to my eyes. Trying to understand how I got to this point, I reread one of the poems I wrote back in August called "Recent Photographs." In it, I talked about the light in my eyes that had dulled. No matter who I was with or what we were doing, my eyes appeared somewhat lifeless. But when I wrote that poem, I knew that that shimmer hadn't died out; there was still hope. I didn't know when this hope would start resurfacing in my gaze, but I believed it was in there. And now, I think it finally has started to emerge.

This transition started with me finally "Facing Mirrors". I don't feel ugly anymore, like I did for the first six months, but I'm not quite at the stage of feeling beautiful again. Blake really made me feel beautiful, every single moment of every single day. It's amazing how a person can do that for you. And it's incredibly hard not knowing how to get that confidence back. I look back on the pictures of a girl so obviously in love with the man next to her and I revel at my beauty. I looked so wonderful... I want to look wonderful again someday.

And I will, beginning with the sparkle. A sparkle in my eyes that shows my love for the world and the experiences I'm lucky to be a part of. Seeing every moment of every day as an opportunity to learn, grow, and take it all in. To read incredible books, chase sunsets, and play with leaves. I will be beautiful again, once I realize that I have been beautiful all along.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


I was sitting on the couch studying when an unnerving thought crossed my mind. As I stared at the Vicodin bottle on the table that I was prescribed for my ear problems, I started to wonder how many I'd need to take to pass out. My mind wandered to the kitchen, questioning if I still had that bottle of wine I never opened. Maybe if I had some Vicodin and wine together the mixture would knock me out. Maybe I could lay in bed all day in a groggy haze and leave this life behind for a while.

Just as the elaborate spider-web of thoughts was woven into potential plans, I swiftly knocked it down. WHAT?! I retraced my trail in an attempt to figure out how my brain got me to that point. Did I really want a drink? No... I don't even like getting drunk. Was I feeling depressed about Blake? Not particularly. Is suicide anything I'd ever considered, even in my darkest days? NO.

I freaked out! I felt like I had lost complete control of my body. The four days since I started taking medication for my ear, I had been eating non-stop, feeling anxious, and having the most depressing thoughts cross my mind. I thought back to a conversation I had with one of my best friends about how she was put on steroids and it made her gain a ton of weight. Oh my gosh... the Prednisone! I quickly looked up the side effects for the steroids that the doctor put me on. Sure enough, increased appetite, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts were all listed.

I didn't know whether to feel relieved or mad. At least my weird behavior had an explanation. I wasn't regressing, it was just the chemicals in my brain telling me to do these things. But that just made me angry. WHY did the doctor not warn me that Prednisone causes suicidal thoughts? If I had informed him about the recent death of my boyfriend, I'm sure he would've thought twice about prescribing me something that could send me on a downward spiral!

I called my mom and dad sobbing, explaining to them that THIS was the exact reason why I have such a distrust of medicine. The fact that the doctor checked me out for less than 20 minutes and put me on all of these dangerous meds seemed disgusting. How could he do this to me? How could doctors everywhere do this to people every DAY! For all he knew I could've had an extremely addictive personality and the Vicodin he casually prescribed me for pain could have triggered a life long addiction. I hated doctors for me, for Blake, and for the whole world.

But after a while of fuming, my mom helped me see that it's the system that's broken. Doctors give advice about what to do to naturally heal, but people want medicine. If the doctor can't give them a quick fix, they'll move on to one who will. And people don't do the research necessary to help inform the doctors about what they need. How can doctors know all of the potential problems you'll have with a medication unless you tell them? It's our job as patients to be advocates for our health. If we don't guard our own bodies with vigilance, who will?

So I stopped being upset and changed my perspective. Thank goodness that I know myself well enough to catch these thoughts. I knew right away that I was not upset about Blake, so my depressive and suicidal thoughts were definitely abnormal. I don't like drinking, so there is no reason I'd be contemplating getting drunk in the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday. None of this added up to me, so I knew something was wrong.

I realized that it's not the doctors fault, my fault, or the pills fault. It's actually no one's fault. What happened this afternoon was a wake up call. I need to be the number one advocate for my mental, physical, and emotional health. Only I will be able to know when something is wrong, so building up my self-awareness is my best defense against potential problems. Just as I have been vigilant with this blog tracking and paying attention to my emotions, I need to do the same with my physical health as well.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Detroit Hyena

Since Blake's death, I've tested out hundreds of ways to cope. The most controversial of which has been befriending a heroin addict in Detroit. Five months ago, in a strange mixture of compulsive interest and morbid curiosity, I looked up "#heroin" on Instagram. What I found shocked, terrified, and intrigued me all at the same time. With one simple search I was given unlimited access into a private world. From the safety of my bedroom I got an intimate look into the lives of people who share their drug use through pictures. It was all there: everything I read about, but had never been exposed to.

There was one person's profile that I kept coming back to. She seemed to take pride in her drug use and the scars it left on her body and life. She was so open, honest, and unashamed. But as much as it scared me to see her photos, I could sense a goodness in her. While looking through her profile I felt a magnetic connection to her that can only be explained by fate. 

A week or two into my secret fascination with her account, I finally decided to make contact. What started out as a simple question turned into several comments back and fourth. Then emails. Then texts. I explained how my boyfriend died from a heroin addiction I knew nothing about and she detailed her 15 year-long battle with the same drug. We listened to each other, cried together, helped each other reach a new level of understanding. We made an unspoken commitment to leave judgment at the door and support each other unconditionally.

In the five months since we became friends, Hyena has committed to sobriety and relapsed several times. And on a night I'll never forget, she talked to me during her suicide attempt as I desperately tried to remind her how much she had left to teach the world. And to teach me. Her story was far from pretty, but I've always been convinced that she deserved a happy ending. Through it all, I held the hope that deep down she believed she deserved one too.
Detroit Hyena is now 27 days sober. Although her other attempts at sobriety have ended in using again, I know it's different this time. I know this because everything about her is different this time. 

I feel different too. In an unexplainable way, from across the country and with completely different life struggles, I feel like she and I have made this journey together. When I look at her only one word comes to mind: metamorphosis. It's been an incredibly gruesome past few months, but through the turmoil I believe there's been somewhat of a rebirth, for her and for me. 

Through Hyena, an unknown junkie from Detroit posting pictures on the internet, I learned that kind questions grounded in a desire to understand are the passageway to greater awareness. An awareness about those who are different than you and, more importantly, about yourself. I am forever grateful for the day that the strange mixture of compulsive interest and morbid curiosity lead me to her. I told her before, "I don't always support your choices, but I will always support you." And now, with incredible pride and love, I can finally say I support both.
Congratulations on your 27 days, Detroit Hyena. Here's to 27 and forever more.

Here's the link to her blog. She's an incredible writer:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Prescription for Vicodin

I have a huge distrust of medicine. Although Blake's addiction to prescription pills amplified this, I've felt this way on some level for as long as I can remember. When someone offers me Advil or Ibuprofen for a minor ache or pain, I always decline. It's not that I don't think they work, as I'm sure they will, I just don't like putting random chemicals in my body. Something about that has always felt weird to me. Unless something is seriously wrong, I'd much rather let my body heal itself. 

For the past couple weeks, I've had a pretty bad ear infection/ailment of some sort. I'm actually not quite sure what's wrong because the doctors keep telling me it's something different every time I come in. At first I was just going to wait it out like I usually do, but when I told my parents about it over Thanksgiving, they insisted I go see someone. So I saw someone, she looked in my ear, wrote me two different prescriptions, and that was that.

The whole thing felt really rushed to me. When she gave me the prescriptions she said, "These might help, let me know if they don't." Might help? So I'm going to pollute my body with pills that might not even help? And if they don't, you'll chalk it up to trial and error and send me home with another set of prescriptions? This was just too much.

But with the insistence of my parents that I need to get better at taking care of myself, I've been taking the prescriptions exactly as directed. I've been waking up each morning with three pills, taking four more throughout the day, and can't fall asleep until I remember the last two. All the while I've been waiting for my ear to feel better, but it only seems to be hurting more. 

When I went to the doctor this morning, he said he saw no signs that I ever had an ear infection to begin with. But even though I don't need the antibiotics I was originally prescribed, he advised me to keep taking them to avoid the potentially bad effects from cutting them short. Ugh. After he prescribed me something else to attack the ailment he thinks I actually have, he told me he was also giving me Vicodin.

My stomach dropped. "Are you sure I need Vicodin? That's a really serious pain killer. I don't think I really need that one." He was confused, as if he'd never had a patient question his decision to give them medicine before. He explained that if the pain is making it hard for me to sleep, a pain killer could really help. He told me that I don't need to suffer; these pills can mask the pain. 

I don't need to suffer; these pills can mask the pain. 

As that sentence continued to echo in my head, I wondered if it's the mantra of every addict. I wondered if it's that kind of thinking that leads to the justification of coping mechanisms that only serve to hide a problem instead of fixing it.

I let these thoughts carry me away. I wondered if it started out like this for Blake. After his accident, his doctor harmlessly prescribed him Oxycontin. He told him he didn't need to suffer; as he healed, these pills could mask his pain. And they did. They masked his pain and then started to mask everything else. Created a disguise so encompassing that it ended up numbing him to all pain, not just from his injury. A feeling so addictive that the suffering of a real life seemed too unbearable. 

After crawling down the rabbit hole for a while with that thinking, I had to ask myself: will I take the Vicodin? It has been pretty horrible staying up until four or five in the morning wondering if the pounding in my ear will ever cease. The doctor is right, I don't need to suffer. If there is medicine out there that can help me dull this pain, it would be silly not to take advantage of it. So I won't deny myself the help if the help is what I need.

But the difference is being in tune with what exactly I mean by "I need." I know that pain killers like these have a way of tricking you into thinking you need to continue taking them or at a higher dosage or more frequently. What you "need" can potentially change because pain killers make you feel good. And who doesn't like feeling good? If you could get the feeling of peace, ease, and weightlessness instantly from a pill, a pill a doctor told you to have, who wouldn't want to? The lines between what you need and what you want begin to blur. 

I see the pros and the cons, the benefits and the hazards. I can't spend another night up until 5 AM, but I also can't allow myself to believe a cure lies simply in a white tablet either. I am still uncomfortable with how readily doctors hand out prescriptions for pills, based on surface level guesses at what's actually going wrong. But even though I've always had a huge distrust of medicine, I also understand that it is necessary in some situations. What other choice do I have than to put my trust in a doctor? The only thing I can do is take this medication with a critical eye, from a position of ever present self-reflection.

Friday, December 6, 2013

"Awake My Soul" (A Song)

Have you ever felt like you were having a "religious experience"? I'm not sure if that's the right term for it because it had nothing specifically to do with God, but "religious experience" was the thought that popped into my head when I heard this song:

There are few things in this world that I enjoy more than connecting deeply to song lyrics. It's like three or four minutes of complete hypnosis. You can't think or move. Maybe you can't even breathe. You become a vessel through which the words of the singer are lived. Every heartbeat begins and ends with each passing note.

When I was driving to work today, "Awake My Soul" by Mumford and Sons came on. I could go through each lyric and explain how they all hit me so profoundly, but instead I want to focus on just one part. When he belted the line "Awake my soul," time stood still. In that moment everything made sense. I am awake because of him. Blake's death woke me up.

A month and a half ago, my thinking completely changed. Now, I search for meaning, symbolism, and signs in everything I do and every experience I have. I am aware of the world, how it works, and how we are all connected. How nothing is ever lost and that sight is more than just visual perception. I feel, for the first time in my life, like I'm awake. This song seemed to me like a battle cry for charging on in life with a dedication to spiritual awakening. Every day, awake my soul.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Facing Mirrors

I went through the majority of the past six months avoiding mirrors. Seeing my eyes felt too intimate. If I ever looked, I'd have to search inside of them. And when I did, I saw sadness, fear, but most upsetting of all, I saw a stranger. I didn't know this girl and honestly, I didn't like her.

I very rarely wore makeup. But when I did, I silently cursed at my reflection the whole time I was applying it. I had always prided myself on having great skin, but the face in front of me had blemishes all over. Maybe it was the stress. Maybe it was the lack of sleep. But most likely, it was because I stopped caring about myself. I gave up on this new person I had become.

As a birthday present, my best friend bought me the book "The Bridges of Madison County". When I was in New York over Thanksgiving, I read it and highlighted some of the lines that spoke to me. One part that immediately caught my attention was when Francesca was looking at an old photograph that her lost love, Robert, had taken of her:

"She looked at the picture again, studied it. I did look good, she thought, smiling to herself at the mild self-admiration. 'I never looked that good before or after. It was him.'"

I've done the same, countless times. My smile never looked bigger, or brighter, or more genuine than in my pictures with Blake. I look at those old photographs and I see the Briana I was, the Briana I wish so desperately that I could be again. But I can't. I can never be her because she died with Blake. It's frustrating to realize that now that he's gone, I will never be the same again. I've mulled it over a million times and it never gets easier to wrap my mind around. I realized that maybe I didn't want to face myself in the mirror because I didn't know who I was without Blake.

But since coming back from New York, I caught myself looking in the mirror for the first time. As I brushed my teeth this morning, my eyes lingered on their reflection staring back at them. I wasn't ready to search them yet, so I scanned the rest of my face first. I immediately noticed that my skin had finally cleared up. I smiled. My nose was still slightly crooked, my teeth still "she definitely had braces" straight. My face was oval, just like my sister's, my cheekbones high, like my mom's. My face wasn't perfect, but it looked familiar. I liked what I saw. With a deep breath, I worked my way up to my eyes. When I fixed my stare, I poured myself into them, searching for a glimpse of the girl I used to be. But I was right, she wasn't there anymore.

What I did find, however, was something new. I had to strain my neck to get a closer look, barely an inch from the mirror to make sure. There it was. Almost completely hidden by the lower lashes of my left eye was a tiny, new freckle.

Freckles have always been important to me. I only have about ten, so I know exactly where all of them are. One of my favorite memories with Blake, which I shared in our video, was the night we discovered that he had a freckle in the exact same spot as me on his shoulder. He called them our "Twin Freckles" because they connected us and made us one. Maybe this new freckle, under my eye (I), symbolized a new journey focused on just me. To show me I'm different, but still beautiful.

This morning, the addition of the 11th freckle reminded that I am a new person. Although that feels scary and makes me want to run and hide from myself sometimes, it's the truth. I'm not sure if being a new person is good or bad, but it's reality. A reality that's mine and can't be avoided. I need to nurture this new person and learn to love her just as much as I loved the Briana from the photographs with Blake. Who knows, maybe I can grow to love her even more.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Losing Blake's Things

Five minutes away from the Long Island airport, I realized that I left him. I had done a mental check of all the usual things I tend to forget, (make up bag, check; charger, check; shoes I wore last night and kicked under the bed when I took them off, check) but he was so obvious that I forgot the extra security clearance. As I sat in the car, past the point of being able to go back, I stared into my bag in disbelief. I left Blake Bear at my grandma's house. Cue the flood of tears.
The picture I sent to Blake on May 28th at 12:57 AM
to show him I was sleeping with the bear he bought me.
This was unknowingly sent right after he passed away

I've mentioned Blake Bear before, but never his vital place in my life. He was my last gift from Blake, which alone would make him special enough. But not only did I sleep with him the whole last week I was with Blake, he has been my constant companion ever since since then. Although I don't hide him in my purse and take him with me during the day anymore, holding him is the only way I can convince myself to fall asleep. I clutch him close to my heart and wake up the exact same way.

In the past 193 days, I have only slept without Blake Bear twice. The first time was at the end of August, when I accidentally fell asleep on my best friend's couch after my first truly happy night out. And the second was in September, when I decided to spend the night at a hotel with my parents instead of driving back to my house. When I realized tonight would have to be the third and tomorrow potentially the fourth, I had a breakdown.

I evaluated the situation in my mind as rationally as I could. I was a 25 year old woman crying over a teddy bear. And if that didn't seem silly enough, I also reminded myself that this stuffed animal wasn't even lost. I knew exactly where it was and could have someone mail it to me in the next day or two. I went over these facts again and again in my mind, trying to reason myself out of my panic. There was actually nothing to be upset over. I made it through nights without it before, I can do it again.

As I started to calm down, I realized a deeper message in all of this. The most concerning thing wasn't that I worked myself up over an object, but that I even gave an object that much power over me in the first place. I understand that the sentimental value attached to material things holds significant weight for me and many people, but does it need to?  Are our "things" essential representations of our memories and love? If I woke up tomorrow and all of the jewelry, clothing, cards, cologne, and pictures that I surround myself with to feel closer to Blake disappeared, would I still feel connected to him? After getting over the initial shock of loss, I'm positive I would answer "Absolutely."

In my purest moments of connection with Blake, it's just him and me and the feeling I get deep in my heart. Although it's always nice to smell the scent of his cologne, hear his laugh in our videos, or hug the Blake Bear he gave me, I don't need any of those things. What I feel in my heart is enough to let me know he's still with me, regardless of any object I have to remember him by. He isn't in them, he's in me. When I think about it this way, the trauma of grief seems unnecessary. This way of thinking reveals that nothing is ever really lost. Since true attachment is tied to the heart, we carry our love ones wherever we go. There is no such thing as separation when there is love.

I already know that tonight without Blake Bear will be hard. There's a possibility that I may not be able to sleep at all. But I will not think for one second that just because I don't have the bear, I've lost my connection to Blake. Although my material representations of him and our love aid in our connection, they are not the connection themselves. Eventually, I hope to get to the point where I'm beyond the need for physical reminders and can rely on just the signals I get from within. But for now, I'll continue to remind myself that Blake is not separated from me just because the bear is. And I'll wait patiently for the package to arrive.