A couple of weeks before 2017 came to an end, I started to reflect on the last few months. They happened so fast, and were filled with so much joy, and heartbreak. As I thought back to what had happened, I could feel the energy swirl through my body. For the first time that I can remember, I felt clear of negativity. It was such an unknown feeling, I almost did not recognize it. I just knew that I felt lighter—and free.
Freedom is something that I have been chasing my whole life. Freedom from the abusers I encountered throughout my life, freedom from my own negative self-talk. Freedom from the darkness. Sure, the light had always been there, but the weight of it always lurked near by. Depression is like that. Waiting to pounce when life seems to be going too well.
The months from 2017 replayed in my head as I allowed this new feeling to linger. January tested me in a job that went against everything I believed in, and it was Tom Petty that helped me see what I needed to do in February. “Can’t sell your soul for piece of mind.” Tom was right, he is always right. I walked into my job without a plan and quit. The money was good, but it demanded I went against my own ethical code and left me angry. I did not want to waste another day being unhappy.
Quitting a job with no backup plan was not something I had ever done before. There was no time to have a plan in place, I just had to jump and pray that I landed. A week of feeling sorry for myself and letting anger fester inside of me, I picked up my manuscript that I had received from my editor, Alice Peck, in September 2016. I dusted it off and began to go through it. There was a lot of work to do, and the thought of it was overwhelming, but I brushed away the fear and developed a plan.
February, March and April were spent reading, writing and rewriting some of the most painful parts of my story. Depression came crawling back as I sat alone in the living room remembering things I had spent a lifetime trying to forget. Each section of my story I became the age I was writing. I dropped myself back in time and relived each painful memory. Tears fell from my eyes as I typed. It was exhausting, but I was not going to let the pain keep me from my dreams of being a published author.
It had also been almost a year since I had the attunement for Reiki II, and I felt that I was ready for the Master training. I reached out to SaliCrow and asked if she was able to offer the training. She had a Reiki II class coming up at the end of the month, so it was perfect timing. I spent some time studying and making sure I was ready.
April came with the anniversaries of my gram’s and my mom’s death. Year eight for Gram and the first anniversary for Mom. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ 40th Anniversary tour began on April 20th—the year anniversary of my mom’s death. I sat in my car listening to Tom Petty Radio talk about the beginning of the tour, and read comments from friends on Tom Petty Nation talk about the meet ups and the shows they were going to. Most of the friends that I had made in Tom Petty Nation were going to the show in Nashville, TN. I remembered how badly I had wanted to go the year before for the Mudcrutch tour so I could meet them.
A thought popped into my head, as though it was a message from my mom. You have to go. There was no way that could happen. The show in Nashville was five days away. I’d need a plane ticket, a hotel, transportation once I arrived, a ticket to the show, a place for the kids…these thoughts tried to talk me out of going. There was no way it would work, but the voice telling me I had to go was louder than the others.
When I got home I told George about it. A familiar phrase came from his lips, “You have to go.”
But how? How could I pull it off? It was now just four days before the show. I went onto an airline site—tickets were available. I stated looking for a place to stay…but I didn’t even have a ticket to the show. I searched for a ticket…the only ones available required me to buy two. Maybe this wasn’t going to work out after all. Discouraged, I went back on Tom Petty Nation and asked if anyone had one ticket they were looking to sell, and let the others know I was thinking about going. More people told me what George had said, “You have to go!”
Messages began coming in. An offer of a place to stay and a single floor ticket gave me hope. Maybe this could happen. I went back to the airline site…tickets still available. I let George know it really could happen. When I couldn’t get him to talk me out of it, I purchased the plane ticket and made plans to buy the concert ticket at the meet up and confirmed that I would have a place to stay.
With three days to spare, there really was no time to be nervous. When I drove myself to the airport I was only hours away from meeting a bunch of people I had been friends with for years online who love Tom as much as I have. Only my second time flying I was a little afraid of what might happen, but I had to do this. It might have been the reminder that life is short, or something else leading me there, but everything lined up just right to make it happen.
When I arrived at the arena I learned the floor ticket I had bought from another TPN member was seventh row…center. The show was magical, and like always, it felt like Tom was the only one in the room. With less than twenty-four hours in Nashville, there was not too much time to explore, but I was able to meet a bunch of amazing people who understood my love for Tom and my connection to the music.
After the show I went back to work on my manuscript and prepare for my Reiki Master training. On April 30th, I became a Reiki Master. Still unsure of myself, I felt something pushing me along. I was moving forward, and maybe not on my own. I felt that I was on the right path.
After completing the Reiki Master training I had more time to think between writing. While I was thinking, something told me to look for front row seats for one of the upcoming Philadelphia shows George and I were going to. I found a pair right away, but the price almost stopped me. I logged out of the site and went back to writing. It was a crazy idea. The mouse clicked on the ticket site again and I added them to my cart. I watched the time tick away before they were thrown back to be sold. I closed the screen again and went back to writing.
What if this is my only chance to ever meet Tom? What if I never get the chance to see him front row again? I’d spend the rest of my life regretting not doing it. I went back to the ticket site and added the tickets to my cart again and made the purchase. They were going to be a surprise birthday gift for George, but when he got home I could not keep the smile off my face. I needed to tell him the exciting news, but I wanted to surprise him. When I couldn’t stop smiling, I spilled the beans. “Guess what I did today.”
“What did you do?”
“It’s an early birthday gift to you and me…we are going to see Tom front row!”
He was as excited as I was, but the only problem was it was a two month wait. How could I wait that long? The excitement filled my every thought, but left just enough room to continue on with my rewrite. Tom’s music filled the quietness of the room as I wrote. His voice kept me grounded as I relived abuse and betrayal.
By June my rewrite was complete and it was sent off to a new editor. Now that the manuscript was out of my hands I had plenty of time to think about the upcoming shows. As I waited for the tickets to arrive I became increasingly anxious…what if they were not real? What if someone just took my money and I won’t even get the front row tickets? I held back the excitement enough to not be severely disappointed if it did not turn out as I hoped. No tickets in hand until two hours before the show. The excitement did not return until we were sitting in our seat. This was real. Tom Petty was going to be feet from me. An impossibility was becoming reality.
As Tom and the band walked on stage I felt warmth radiate throughout my body. A smile so big that my cheeks hurt. I couldn’t jump and shout…I was too much in awe of who was in front of me, and who was beside me. Tom made eye contact with me a few times, maybe my smile got his attention. I knew he could feel my gratitude. I sang along with him and continued to smile. At song number seven he walked over to where we were standing and finished playing “Free Fallin’” right in front of us. At the end of the song, he looked right at me and tossed his pick to me. George was taking pictures and did not see this happen. I started to cry. Tom saw me, and he knew. He knew that he mattered to me, and that was as good as meeting him.
It was like a dream. I couldn’t even talk about it right away. It was unreal. Stuff like this didn’t happen to me. As we looked through the pictures when we arrived home we saw it. George had captured the pick being tossed to me. A spilt second caught on camera to cherish the moment forever. There was no denying what had happened now. My heart was full.
The month of July was filled with three more concerts. The first night in Boston a TPN member told me Ron Blair was in the hall talking with people. I quickly walked out…and there he was. I went up to him and shook his hand and walked away. What just happened? I found George and told him…he followed me back out to where Ron had been and another TPN member, Brien was there standing next to Ron. George convinced me to ask Ron to take a picture with me and he and Brien took some pictures for me.
The next night we had not planned on going, but after the night before I looked for tickets and found front row tickets marked way down. We were both exhausted, but George told me we had to go. Less than twenty-four hours later and we were back in Boston. Dana Petty came out to dance while Peter Wolf played, but it didn’t look like she was able to see. When she came closer I offered for her to stand in front of me so she could enjoy the show. She smiled and thanked me but continued dancing where she was. Then one of her favorite songs came on and she came over next to me and danced. It was so great to see her enjoying the show, and be able to be a real fan without a bunch of people bothering her. At the end of the night she came up to me, thanked me, gave me two picks and hugged me. What was happening?
The next show was back in Philadelphia, this time third row. I was a little sad this was going to be our last show of the tour, but so grateful for what had already happened. I was also a little nervous that this might be my last time seeing Tom live in concert. After all, they had said this was their last big tour. I left that night with a little sadness in my heart. Something deep inside me told me we were driving away from the last show. I tried to brush it off. What a great time we had, and I wanted to keep that euphoria alive.
In August I was offered a job after spending a few weeks looking for a good fit. At the interview everything just felt right. The people were nice, it was a job I had done before and I knew how to do, and best of all, the stress level was nonexistent. Things continued to fall into place.
September came and I had my manuscript back from my editor and it was ready for me to go through one last time. My cover had been designed and everything was almost ready for my book to be published in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. On September 8th, The Monster That Ate My Mommy went live. I panicked as I realized what happened, and had no time to prepare for my story to be live in the world, but felt there was a reason.
Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe’s book, The First Signs of April had been published on September 5th, and because of the closeness of their publication we were able to have a couple of co-author events. M-E helped push me on the path to healing, and beginning this journey with her was serendipitous. The first event was planned for October 20th, to honor Tom Petty’s Birthday, as well as the anniversary of my protection order.
I spent the next few weeks preparing for the event. I picked three pieces to read, one about child abuse, one about domestic violence, and the last, a happy one, about my first time seeing Tom Petty in concert. The chapter about Tom was the saving grace; the only piece that held any happiness. Until October 2nd. That awful day that the world learned of his death. The pain of this loss was devastating. How could losing someone I didn’t even know hurt so bad? That’s where I was wrong. I knew him, I had known him for years. He was a dependable friend. My only source of constant joy for the past twenty-two years. His words had gotten me through so many tough situations. Healed so many broken hearts. Gave me joy, and hope, and happiness.
I tried to practice the chapter, and as soon as I saw his name on the page I could not see past the tears. I was ready to give up, to quit this dream, but I knew I couldn’t. His songs gave me the strength I needed and pushed me forward, just as they always had. Tom was gone, but he left such a beautiful legacy behind, and I wanted to do the same.
Just a week after my book went live, I started the End of Life Doula program at UVM. I completed the online course in November and received my certification. All the pieces I had been missing were coming together. The picture to the puzzle was beginning to become clear. I need to use my skills to help others, to heal others.
The rest of the year found my book seventy-one reviews on Amazon, most all 5-star, and the others 4-star. Readers were saying incredible things about my book; about me. I was getting messages from people who read my story and thanked me for sharing so honestly, and helping them see things differently. That life of darkness I thought I had lived was now a bright light, helping others see the way.
As I went through the year’s accomplishments with George, I told him how grateful I was for all that had happened. I told him how, for the first time ever, I felt at peace, as though I am right where I should be. Calm. Peaceful. Right. All unknown feelings, but the freeness of them felt so in sync. He told me, “The year is not over yet.”
Hours into December 24th George asked me to marry him. Knowing I get to spend the rest of my life with someone who treats me with love and respect, and who builds me up and encourages me to follow my dreams is what I have been searching for my whole life. Until I met him I did not believe such people existed. I thought all the movies lied to us and set us up for disappointment. George showed me love is real, and love is true, and best of all, love is returned. For the first time ever, life is as it should be. The freedom from negativity is overwhelmingly present.
As I think about all that happened in 2017, all that I accomplished, all that I lost, all that I gained there is no room for sadness. No room for sorrow. The sun is shining, even on the darkest of days. There is hope in each day. Maybe there always has been, but my blinders are lifted and I can see. I can feel. Only goodness to come.
Tom was right (he always is), “Something Good Coming.”
In Memory Tom Petty and my second father that were lost in 2017. May you Rest In Peace, play a little music, cause a little trouble and feel all the love we send your way. Thank you both for your part in rescuing me.