Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Who is Ashley?

Ever since I was 16 years old I have been Ashley/Bryan. During the years where most people form their identities and find out who they are, I was building a life with Bryan. Instead of becoming an individual, I became a couple.

Bryan was my first boyfriend. He was my first love. He was the first person that I lived on my own with. He was there the day my sister was born. He was there when my sister needed open heart surgery. He was there during finals week when I was 200 miles away from my parents and had to go in for surgery. He was always there... he was my everything.

I never really knew how much my life was based around Bryan until he passed away. Sure, I knew that I liked the same music as him... watched the same TV shows as him... and enjoyed the same food as him, but I never knew that my opinions and routines were all based off of the decisions that we made together as a couple.

I did not realize that I had became obsessed with cleaning the house because Bryan was allergic to dust. That I enjoyed fishing and watching the hunting channel because Bryan loved being outdoors. That I had become used to calling him every time I got in the car and planning out our dinner/night. Everything that I did and everything that I wanted to do was because Bryan and I had done them together.

He was my day... he was my plan... he was my life.

How was I supposed to go about my routine and daily activities without him? I wasn't.

After Bryan passed away... I felt lost. I did not know how to function or how to be me. I always thought that Bryan was perfection and that I was so lucky that he had picked me. I knew that I had struck gold with him. When I think back to our relationship I now know that Bryan made me feel like "someone" because he picked me. I knew that if I was able to win over such an amazing guy... I must have been worth it... I must have been special. When I lost Bryan, not only did I loose my identity but I lost my feeling of self worth. I went from cloud nine to feeling like a muddy slug that no one wanted to touch or see. I went from feeling special to feeling worthless.

When Bryan passed away, instead of becoming "Ashley" I became Ashley/Owen. I did not have a transitioning phase where I learned how to become an individual. Instead I jumped right into forming my identity with someone else. I never worked on figuring out what I liked or what I wanted to do with my life. Instead, I worked on doing things that made Owen happy. I was not able to take time and figure out who I was as a person without Bryan. I reverted right back to being semi-dependent on someone else. I never found me... I found Owen's mom.

Ashley was not an individual and had not been since she was 16 years old. Who is she? What is she like? When would she find herself? Would I like her?

When I take myself out of the situation and look at it from the outside in... I like to think that Ashley is a strong person (although I know I am not). I would like to think that she is a great mother and was a great wife. That she loves to write and take pictures and listen to music while she cleans. That she loves to help people and make people laugh. That she loves life...

But, on days like today, when I can't seem to figure out who I am or what I am here for... When I feel like I am not worthy...

I think back to those wonderful days in Sioux Falls. When I would wake up and roll over to Bryan's beautiful blue eyes staring into my soul. When he would tell me that he was madly in love with me and that he was so happy to be my husband.

When I go back to those days I feel worthy... I feel special... I feel wanted.


  1. hey ash-
    i commented on a blog post of yours a while ago.... and I said that myself (and others) will be there to proclaim truths about you, truths that we see (and know to be true), even if you don't feel it....
    Ashley, you are a strong woman.
    Ashley, you are a great mother.
    Ashley, you are so loved.

    you (and your family) have constantly been in my prayers- and will continue to be.

    i pray,as you continue to discover who you are- as your identity continues to be shaped, that it may be shaped around all of the gifts, talents, love you have... that you may feel the worth and value that you have.
    because you are so worthy.
    you are so special.
    you are so loved, wanted.
    you are claimed (as mother, child, sister, friend.... and as loved child of God).

    I think you are spot on when you asked where is God- and answered: God is with you, grieving alongside with you. (and don't be afraid to be pissed at God--- God can handle your anger).


  2. I cry every night, when I open my reader and you pop up in it. You pour out your grieving heart to all us strangers in your computer. I want to let you know that we receive it. We are here, grieving with and supporting YOU.

    I have this necklace called 'God's heart for you'. On each of its four sides, it says the following (just the words. the verses are where they come from):
    cherished (jeremiah 31:3)
    celebrated (zephaniah 3:17)
    created (psalm 139:14)
    chosen (deuteronomy 14:2)

    All these things... you are. You are.

    praying for you tonight, Ashley.

  3. Ash, you are my gift from God. I shaped most of my identity in my adult life being Ashly's dad. For many years you were my constant companion attached to my hip. Dragging you to the library so I could study, finding creative ways to get you involved in my passions like movies and art. (you went to your first movie when you were 6 months old).

    I would not change a thing. You were my reason to succeed and persevere.

    Although a day does not go by that I do not think about and grieve about the loss of Bryan I can never feel the deep pain you must feel.

    What do you do when you loose your soul mate?
    Nothing seems important anymore, birthdays, anniversary, Christmas...once a time of celebration now a time of dread and pain.

    Days turn into nights, weeks turn into months and you loose half a year in grief.

    You see him everywhere you go even places he has never been before.

    Everyday you continue to wake up and continue to breath, you do all the mundane things that life is, make breakfast for Owen, visit family and friends, say the right things and smile in the right places, people say "you're so strong, your coping so well" but are you?

    Instead you cry quietly holding his clothes and photos. You visit is grave and talk to him as if he is still here.

    There isn't a second that that goes by that you You miss him more than words can say and love him as much now as you ever have, how are to go on living. Will you ever know happiness again.

    I know in my heart you will be happy again. You will feel joy and love and yes disappointment and sadness. But you will feel again.

    You are not alone in your grief.

    You have learned a deep lesson about love through Bryan. What will you do with that blessing? Love is bigger than we are. I believe that the way to grow through this experience, also also to experience your Bryan in the spiritual worlds is simply through love. If, when you think of him you only think of sadness and wishing him to return, you are not accessing the part of him that is eternal. Which is love.

    So when you think of him from now on, it's okay to spend some time feeling bad for yourself, crying, talking to him about how you are feeling. But don't limit your connection to such self-concern. After you have given yourself some time, then give him some time and send love to him, just the way you always did. Wish him well. Ask him for help in getting through these hard days. I promise you, if you shift your attention to loving and caring for his well-being, you will begin to feel your life turn around. And you will also begin to sense his presence, in your dreams, when you walk down the street, when you wake in the morning.

    You have some hard times ahead, but I know you have strength, despite what you may think. You are your fathers daughter after all.

    Love Dad

  4. Ashley,

    I breaks my heart and brings me to tears to read that you don't think you're a strong person. I know we didn't ever hang out in high school,but we knew each other and as an outsider looking into your life, to me you are incredibly strong.

    You were unfairly forced to now be a single mother and have a beautiful son that you wake up for and get out of bed every morning for. You have started your photography business, you took Owen hunting the other weekend, you are showing him and exposing him to things his father loved doing.

    I understand that it's hard, and that some days you don't feel happy. Your dad is right when he wrote that you should try to remember how much Bryan supported you and loved you, and send some love his way. You will be happy again some day. I wish there was something I could do to take away your pain and sadness.

    Ashley you are loved, you are cherished, you are so worthy of having a good life, you are a good mom to Owen.

  5. What an important question. One I wish we would all ask ourselves more often (or at all). I think we grow best through constant self reflection and examination. It gives us meaning. It makes us strong. It makes us human.

    Until recently I only knew you as Ashley/Bryan. And as you mentioned, for a short while, I only knew you as Ashley/Owen. But for whatever reason, in the past few months, I know you as ASHLEY. And Ashley in a BIG way. You are wildly hilarious, Bob and I just about pee our pants over your sarcasm. You truly make an effort to understand others, and accept them completely for who they are. You are so caring - you have kept us all in touch with Bryan's friends, passions, and memories, and even through your own pain, you encourage us to express our's in our own way.

    You are brave and fearless; I've seen you get out of your comfort zone time and time again b/c you know it's important. You are the ultimate family woman; you put us above all else, especially Owen, I pity the person who ever tries to mess with him b/c they will have Ashely to deal with lol! I love your ability to tell stories, and express yourself. I think that's one of the biggest changes I've seen in you; you've found your voice, and I'm so glad you have, b/c I had no idea what I was missing out on.

    Bryan 'chose' you b/c you are amazing, and he knew it. You were the greatest love of his life (and O), and having so much love at the foundation of who you are - I mean, you can't go wrong.

  6. Hi Ashley! My name is Melissa and I found your blog through Matt Logelin's. I don't know you personally, and all I know OF you is what I've read in your blog, but even I know that you ARE a strong person. I imagine sometimes it seems overwhelming and impossible and that you can't possible measure up....but from what I get from you, you are strong. Stronger than most. Stronger than you know.

    Hang in there. I think you're an inspiration!

  7. Ashley,

    I linked to your blog from Matt Logelin's and have enjoyed reading about and getting to know you and your amazing little boy. After reading this post, I felt compelled to comment because I have been through a situation somewhat similar to yours and know what it's like to not only lose someone you love dearly, but also to suddenly realize how little individual identity you really have. I just want to offer some words that, had they been shared with me when I was in your shoes, I think they would have helped:

    You are all of those things that Bryan saw when he chose you. Those things all existed prior to him coming into your life and the relationship you two built just helped to enhance the best in both of you.

    It's wonderful to be a part of an "us", but it's equally as wonderful and important to value the "you" that helped to create that "us". It may be cliche, but realizing your own worth and loving yourself is perhaps the best way to truly honor and remember the love you and Bryan shared and to do what he would most want for you: have love and confidence in yourself. You can make it through this, you already ARE. Your husband knew all these things about you and I'm sure it made him love you that much more.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you as you heal and grow and thank you for sharing your inspiring story with the world.

  8. (((((HUGS)))))

    You have to be strong and beautiful and loving to been through everything you have been through.