A Refocusing of My Energy: How an Instagram Challenge, a Grandmother With Dementia, and The Loss of a Friend Helped Me Refocus

This piece was originally published by The Opal Club, check it out!

Summer 2017 completely rocked my world. It shook me to my core. It made me consider things I was not ready to consider, from the loss and deteriorating of life, to pushing myself to wonder if my energy is being sent where I want it. These moments weaved themselves together into a perspective I never want to lose.

This past July I participated in something called the Bikini Rebellion, an amazing challenge to help buck the stereotypes of what a bikini body is and where we focus our attention in life. The creator, Neghar Fonooni, explains that “Together we will work to reject the social conditioning that’s been handed to us, and instead hold our bodies in the fullness of our power.”

Every day participants were given a prompt for journaling, a video, and a new way of thinking about “bikini bodies”. Day 1 asked, “How is the system that maintains the bikini body concept stealing from you? How does the narrative make you feel? Empowered and inspired, or unworthy and small?”. I mean that was just day 1! It only got more insightful and caused me to dig deeper with every following day.

Am I waking up and beginning to worry about the things I have yet to accomplish? Can I wake up and think about being thankful for my body? Should I be worried about making sure my legs are silky smooth or my eyebrows are perfectly plucked? Maybe some days. Maybe not others. I have the power to decide what is best for me and that is a privilege that I do not want to take for granted. I want to fuel my body, speak kindly to it, love it, cherish it, reward it with the occasional Talenti raspberry sorbet because I DESERVE IT.

On day three of the challenge, Neghar asked us Bikini Rebels, “What Do I Want for My Body and Why?” What a big question. Every morning while I was reflecting on the questions from this challenge I was eating breakfast with my maternal grandmother that was diagnosed with dementia in 2015.

Our family has decided to care for her ourselves for as long as we can. This past summer I have been lucky enough to spend more time with her. It is easy to see the progression from when she was here a year prior. Last summer was still a phase of frustration riddled with questions like, “where’s my car?”, statements like, “THEY took my house”, and just not wanting help at times despite desperately needing it. This summer there are fewer questions fueled by anger and more confusion. She also has moved into a space of needing more care – help with meals, showers, sometimes just getting dressed.

Growing up, the elders in our families are wise, care takers, and the people who sneak you cookies before dinner if you have anyone like my Grandpa Art in your life. But sometimes as time passes their role changes and they become the ones needing care instead of giving it.

While I was happy to help and assist with Grandma I didn’t realize I would be learning so much and reflecting on my own life because of her.

My grandmother appreciates the little things and is eager to express it. I am attempting to learn how to play the guitar and it has been a slow go of it – damn you F Major chord! But when I practice she just sits and listens and appreciates being around music, the woman makes me feel like Stevie Nicks. When I take her for walks or to the lake to search for the best rocks she is so excited to find rocks that sparkle in the sun and wanted to put them in her room where she could see them every day.

Spending time with her has reminded me to slow down and really look around me. She goes into the yard and picks flowers and is truly excited to share what she found. She adores our dog and tells him (and me) how beautiful he keeps his fur, nails, and how good he is at putting away his toys every day (he’s not, but we agree with her). Don’t get me wrong. There are still moments of pure frustration, it is not an easy feat. I continue to be impressed with the strength of my mother and the patience of my step-father for all they’ve done.

Seeing someone you love unable to hang up her own clothes or remember how to buckle a seat belt can break your heart. But it can also remind you to cherish the moments you have with the people you love. I keep thinking of the questions that were given to me through the Bikini Rebel challengeI want for my body to experience things, to be healthy, to be taken care of, to be loved, to be remembered. Because along with spending time with my grandma I lost a loved one this summer that really drove this point home.

On July 9th, 2017, the Earth lost a shining light. Siri Jean Raskob, the sister of my best friend Liv, passed away after a grueling five years with cancer. Liv and I have been friends since we met in Vacation Bible School at eight years old and I had been bugging Siri for almost just as long.

Siri was someone you looked at and wondered how they were such an incredible human. She had her shit more put together at age 16 than I do now at 25, no joke. When I was younger it was things like her impeccable sense of preppy style and ability to talk to boys with the perfect mix of flirt and confidence that impressed me (some of this knowledge came from Liv and I reading her diary, sorry Siri!) But as I got older I noticed so many things that made me respect her.

Anything Siri decided to do, she did and exceed any expectations. She had a giggle that was so infectious you wanted to keep finding ways to make her laugh just to hear it. After leaving for college she would still call to catch up with me when I was in high school, she had a way of making you feel heard.

She had an unmatched humor that was the perfect combination of a basic dad joke and an inappropriate pun. I looked back on Facebook at our friendship and was caught off guard by the massive amounts of messages we sent each other that I had completely forgotten about that included a few gems from Siri such as, “my love for you is like diarrhea…it just keeps coming” to which I obviously had to reply with, “Did you fart? Cause you blew me away”.

Every human that Siri touched remembered her because you could not meet her and forget. I would believe anything she told me because she was good at anything she did, listening and learning. Whether it was a small thing like learning how to tie-dye shirts or something larger like believing her when she told me she thought she was falling in love her first semester of college. Two more things she did well, she could tie-dye a mean white tank and she found an incredible human to become her partner. She even loved in incredibly remarkable ways.

Siri will be missed but Siri is always with us. When I hear a Jack Johnson song, when I wear tie-dye, when I glance through pictures of us all as kids one day just because I need to. Her energy is in all of us because that was Siri.

I started and stopped writing this piece for over two months. The wounds were too deep, the thoughts were too real to yet reflect but when I pushed myself the words poured out and I felt renewed. And that is all part of this journey, this realization, this thoughtful consideration. I want to do things with the people I care about while we are lucky enough to be on this earth together. I need to tell people I love them every day just because we all need to hear it. I will continue to explore how to take care of my body, my mind, and my soul in ways that that allow me to be my best self and renew my spirit. I always knew these things but there are moments in your life when you meet something that make these thoughts unavoidable. And what you do with those moments is what counts. I want to appreciate things like my Grandma, I want to live fully like Siri, I want to reflect on where I push my energy into the world and where I get mine. I don’t know if I can do it every day but I vow to try. 

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