Who, What, Why, Where, and How? The Turbulent Past Year of My Life.

 

WHAT happened? 

In November 2016 my father, a healthy and active man, started to get really sick. The doctor told him it was Pancreatitis. He got a little relief from the diet they prescribed, briefly, and then things got worse. On Super Bowl Sunday he survived a heart attack, only to be diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer days later.  There was hope that he could get chemo and have a few months of less pain, but that was short lived when he went into septic shock from an infection and died on March 8, 2017. My world collapsed, my heart was torn from me. It was the cruelest most unfair thing to happen to a great man. He was only 64.

my daddy and I

The story gets sadder, but you learn by listening to what other’s have endured after a death, it’s not that uncommon. My father’s wife has always had it out for me, and making sure I got nothing was her biggest concern. I didn’t want anything. Actually that is not true, I wanted his kayak and cattail that we picked together in fall of 2016 in Vermont to use as punk for the following July 4th. My father LOVED shooting fireworks in the green mountains. I wanted to do the things he didn’t get the chance to. The day we picked that cattail he said something about not being around next year, I told him not to joke like that. Did he know? Why didn’t he tell me?

His wife, who I wish I didn’t have to mention, made it her mission to harm me. She made terrible accusations, turned it into a legal issue and not one person in my “family” had the courage or decency to help. It is literally impossible, but she is influenced by a very demented sister, the whole thing is very sad. I was told “I don’t want to get involved” or “I’ll pray for you”. Well, they knew my Father asked for one thing, something good to come from his death, and they didn’t care. So I had to say FUCK YOU! (noway to G-rate that and maintain authenticity, sorry)

As for my Father’s widow, well she has to live with herself everyday, when you hate more than you love things don’t turn out well for you. I can honestly say what I have always believed, the truth ALWAYS comes out. I showed her compassion, she showed me rancor.  I was understanding to her loss, I waited and hoped for a better outcome. It was in December (My birthday, then his, then Christmas and nothing) that I realized, this is who she is. I am finally free! My Father didn’t ask me to stick around to help her for a reason. He loved her, for many years so did I, so I wish her well. I have never been one to enjoy seeing anyone suffer, so fortunately its not too hard. At some point I hope to be able to forgive, but it doesn’t mean I have to accept them into my life again. I have a little brother that is so lost right now, I still have hope for him. In time, maybe. I really wish things were different, but they just aren’t. It gets easier when you accept that you are powerless to what another person does. My main mantra now  is “not my problem” when it comes to self destructive people. They will take you down with them, if you let them.

Keri anne slater best dad

My Dad and I

The years before my Dad got sick things weren’t as great as they used to be. I learned too late, Pancreatic Cancer lies dormant and makes people depressed and act out of character (for years in many cases). I didn’t know how to handle this changed man. I think as girls our fathers are our heroes, super heroes almost. I know mine was to me. He worked really hard and still found time to be my softball and basketball coach. He took us to other countries and taught us so much. I still feel so much guilt, even though I know you can’t change the past. I wish I was kinder, spent more time with him, had more patience, appreciated him more. Sadly so many of us don’t learn that our parents are only human too until tragedy. It doesn’t mean we can’t wish, right? Time travel was not proven impossible, only implausible. If anyone deserves a second chance its my Dad.

I was the last person with him when he was alive. I hate that I left the hospital that night. I fear he died alone, and he did not deserve that. I thought he needed to rest for dialysis surgery the next day. I blame myself for not doing more. I was so busy worrying about getting him help for the next day, the next week that I ignored how sick he really was an how his wife was in no place to be in charge of his care. Another reason why telling my “family” to Fuck off was easy, I called them for help before he died too…. They knew his wife was unstable, and that I was concerned with the care he was getting. They did nothing. It was all on me, and I let him down. I have to live with that everyday. I’m a very cerebral person, I know, it is a fact that if I handled things differently he would have had more time. I am sure he would only ask for a few more minutes, because there was not an ounce of greed in my Dad.

WHERE have I been?

Well, after seeing what “family” meant, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING,  (and that ALL lawyers are good for nothing parasites who want to milk legal drama for as long as they can to rob you blind) I left Long Island. I had been planning to leave anyway so it was a good thing, like my Dad had wanted. There were a few weeks on a farm in beautiful Upstate NY, but it wasn’t far enough away. I was still in shock, barely able to keep it together. A lot of people were worried about me, heck I was worried about me too – it was do or die, literally. My anxiety was out of control. I could not think straight, I could not handle anyone else’s drama. I needed to take care of me.

In August I packed my little Subaru Forester and drove cross country. I took the I-80 from NYC to Ohio got on the I-70 to Utah, the I-15 to Nevada then to California. It’s stupid easy to get to the other Coast, by the way. There were some amazing stops along the way I will share in another post. So, I was in Los Angeles and now I was going to be a star! NO, I actually had been working for an NPO for a few years and was out there to manage the national launch. That is a story for another day because the founder, was more interested in trying to tie me up in rope, than the non-profit (that wasn’t really a non-profit). Anyway that sucked because I didn’t just leave a job, I left someone I thought was a good friend too. Hopefully they get help for their issues, (repeat to self “not my problem” mantra) It will make for an LOL/WTF blog at another time, maybe a book…

hollywood sign

Griffith Park, Los Angeles

I was not a big fan of Los Angeles: the amount of homeless people is heartbreaking, it smells like urine, the traffic is no exaggeration, and there is no functional public transportation (NYC has the best public transportation in the U.S, I am sorry for all the times I complained) To be fair to Los Angeles, I was tired of city life in general.

I am thankful that I got to: hang out in Malibu, hike a few awesome trails, see some cool places, and meet some interesting people, some who are now dear friends. All was not lost with the crap that went on with the NPO. Long time friends from NY were only an hour north of LA so I got to see them and their precious kids regularly and catch up. I may not have a family in the traditional sense. but I am building one amazing tribe. I have a lot to be grateful for. I also see the humor in things. Like that time I narrowly escaped a “Buddhist” cult and the Church of Scientology. California is kind of like that.

swamiji

I left Silver Lake right after Thanksgiving,  and I currently reside in Orange County. Now I am living a quiet life while I figure things out. I have a roomate who is an artist, who should just be able to paint all day because she is very talented. It’s pretty chill. I hike all these amazing trails I don’t even have to get in a car and drive to.  When I am not working or hiking I spend my time studying and meditating at a Vedanta Monastery, or dancing and chanting with the Hare Krishnas.

WHY?

I ask myself that every. single. day. Why did my Dad have his life stolen from him? Why am I one of those girls with the tragic tale? Why are the people that I thought were supposed to be there for me, not? WHY WHY WHY? The only answer I am comfortable with is, I DON’T KNOW.  I know I left NY because I needed to do something big to save my life. Nobody was going to do it for me. There is nothing anyone can do or say to make it better.  There was nobody left to stick around for. Only people who wanted to harm me.  My protector was gone. All I had was the wisdom, heart, and humor that he instilled in me. It was all I had, and it was enough.

For the longest time I blamed myself. Bad things don’t happen to good people right? They do, its the balance of the universe. With absolute certainty I can say my Father did not deserve what happened to him. His death changed my perspective. There would be no flowers without rain, and no light without darkness. I also feared judgement from the horrific accusations made about me, but I learned those who know me, love me and don’t question me for a minute.

Why? Maybe because life is just hard sometimes. It’s not fair, it makes no sense for the most part, and you often just have to find ways to keep your head above water.

WHERE next? 

keri anne slater hiking dandelion

Hiking Belleview Trail

Since I am on the West Coast might as well see what opportunities there are for me out here. I am currently looking into San Francisco,  a lot of amazing projects going on there and I have the flowers in the hair thing down (yes, I am referencing Scott McKenzie) Nothing is secured yet, but the only thing that can stop me, is me (or a better opportunity elsewhere). I believe I need a mentor, I finally learned that I know so little. I can do amazing things, I know my potential, I just need to master my skills.

I want to make the world a better place. I want to help those fighting cancer in some capacity. Its hard right now: having not been paid for my work with the NPO I mentioned earlier, having to tap into my life savings,  taking a hit on my credit score (not having bills forwarded, thanks USPS), having my property stolen (including my Blackberry and computers), and still grieving makes everyday a challenge. I just try to focus on the good things I have in my life and move forward. There is literally nothing else I can do. You can’t fix legal issues without money, and there is no way in hell I am backing down. Wrong is wrong. I believe it will all work out in the end, I do. Besides, there are better things for me to be doing with my time, like being of service to others.

I found a Guru in Swami Vivekananda, now I just have to find a mentor. I also have this deep belief India is in the near future. Every day is a new chapter, all you have to do is turn the page. I know marketing is something I believe in and I’m really amazing at it. I love my clients, well the few I have left. I can and want to do more though. More for them, more for the world, more for my Father, and more for ME.

WHO have I become?

I look into the mirror and ask myself that every day. I am not the same person. Losing my Father changed me, drastically. While he asked for something good to come from his death, how do you do it without guilt? I am trying to figure that out, and trying to enjoy the journey. I know one thing is for sure, I am now unstoppable.

Things weren’t going too great for me even before my Dad got sick. I don’t know if I had a self sabotage thing going on, but my last two relationships were something out of a Lifetime movie. that all hit my self esteem, HARD. In my business I took on too much and crapped out, wasted time with border line con artists, and was just starting to get ahead again before my Dad got sick.

The things that used to debilitate me, no longer matter. I have become a warrior in a sense, I train for battle everyday. I exercise my mind, body, and spirit. Its not easy. What other options do I have? A Swami visited my Monastery this past weekend and he said this “If you have been influenced by anyone who is no longer here, prove it though your life, not through your tears.” Those words are my present and future. Without struggle there is no atman.

vedanta sunset

Vedanta Monastery has been a Sanctuary

Spiritually I struggle too, I am still often agnostic. I was raised Catholic, and that is definitely not for me. I have always been drawn to Hinduism, with lots of criticism from my “family”.  Their judgement doesn’t matter anymore, I am doing what feels right for me. I would say I had been a philosophical Buddhist since high school. Science states that energy never dies, it just takes a different form. I would love to believe that when I die there is a heaven and I get to see my Dad again, but I just don’t believe that. For the most part I believe in some way we will cross paths again, but not as the same people we were in this life. I do however face days where I believe in nothing, thankfully those days are less and less often. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about my Dad, and the hardest are the moments I forget he is really gone.

HOW am I still so optimistic? 

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What else am I going to be? If you don’t have hope, what do you have? The thing I have learned though is hope without action is nothing. I don’t just have myself to fight for, I have my Dad’s dying wish. H e l l o, my company is named after the Dandelion, I am all about making wishes reality. I am also a tried and true Sagittarius, like my Dad, so maybe that helps.

There are a lot of really awful things I have chosen not to share at this time, but in comparison to the world losing a great man, its small potatoes. Part of my new outlook on life is to climb the biggest mountains first, save the hills for when you have spare time.

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Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.

~Rumi

If you have ever lost someone to Pancreatic Cancer please consider making a donation to the  Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, thanks.

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Peace, Love & Dandelions,

Keri-Anne