March 17th, 1996, Star Patricia entered the world. I was not there, but I have no doubt she was standing, then running, at a record pace. Star was not one for casual milestones; rather she would often skip steps or do it all at once. I can imagine her gangly, filly body, running as fast as it could, slamming on the brakes and then spooking at nothing. This picture makes me smile.
I can imagine this pretty confidently because she was up to the same shenanigans; running full speed, slamming on her brakes, and spooking at nothing (just chubbier) when I fell in love with her 9 years later. But that’s kind of just how Star was: all or nothing. She was either a top-speed, bucking machine or you couldn’t get her to move. I preferred my bucking bronc.
And truly, that’s pretty much how she died: going 100 miles an hour, living a happy and healthy life, bossing everyone around, and then, just like that, it was over. She didn’t suffer. She didn’t wait around. But then again, she didn’t wait around for anyone, even me.
I lost her December 26, 2019. March 17th, 2020 was to be the first time in 15 years that I didn’t celebrate her birthday with her.
You see, I know it’s Saint Patrick’s Day, and perhaps more tellingly, I’m even Irish. But March 17th is and will always be Star’s birthday to me.
Ironically, March 17th, 2020, was also the day that the world ended in Omaha due to COVID. All businesses (besides essential) were shut down, we were advised to take our office equipment home “for the time being” and the grocery store pick up lines flooded onto the highways.
In a way, it wasn’t surprising, part of my world ended when Star died… and I didn’t expect the first birthday without her to be any less “world-ending”.
But at the same time, WOW, the world as we knew it, pre-pandemic, really was changing. I had no idea it would be months before I saw my family again. I had no idea it would be months before I saw my friends and my office again. I had no idea that making doctors appointments, and eye appointments, and dental appointments, would become impossible. I had no idea we would soon be fighting for toilet paper, and nonperishable foods, and that limitations for permissible amount of Clorox Wipes purchased would be set.
I don’t think any of us saw the world changing, quite like this, and I considered myself “braced” for a world change.
I had prepared myself for the first year without Star. I knew things like her birthday would be hard. So, OCD Ashley planned. On March 17th, 2020, I made a goal to make 24 people smile (Star would have been 24). I preordered flowers for all my favorite ladies, I sent candy bouquets, I paid it forward in the coffee line, I brought my team breakfast (which no one would eat, thanks COVID). I planned for the worst, or what I thought was going to be the worst, and knew how to face it. Smiles. 24 to be exact.
I planned on collecting 24 “good for my soul” memories in 2020 to honor Star. I had trips planned, I had concert tickets purchased, girls weekends were calendared in. The whole shebang, I was not going to spend 2020 sad, because I knew that is not what Star would have wanted.
But then the world ended (basically). Concerts were called off, shows cancelled, sporting events skipped, trips postponed. I spent 3 months inside, terrified to infect anyone I love, and mostly alone. Praise the Lord for Matty and the dogs. 🥰
My experience was not unique. I worried about my granny, I worried about my family. I missed restaurants. I missed social gatherings (only kinda). I mostly missed going to the grocery store without people yelling at me for going down the aisle the wrong way.
I even watched Tiger King (which I still feel really weird about – this needs to be a discussion board topic someday)
After a while, a lack of routine started to get to me. My need to separate work and home was becoming increasingly evident. I was starting to hate all the other dog owner’s in my neighborhood for being the most active/dedicated dog walkers in America. I got bored of books, and Netflix, and DoorDash. I started to mourn the normalcy for the elderly, the kindergarteners and the seniors in high-school that I feared they were missing. I even missed random smiles from strangers on the streets, without a mask blocking the view.
Selfishly, I missed concerts and trips and restaurants. I wanted to patio drink without a mask on my face. I missed clothes shopping with dressing rooms and recognizing people when I passed by. I missed being able to see my family and friends without worrying that they were going to get infected.
This is not unique. I am not unique. We all missed those things/still miss those things, and we all still worry about these things. And we all, want the world to go back to the way it was, before March 17th 2020. (Or whatever day was the day before COVID interrupted your life).
Well.. if I could have it my way, I’d go all the way back to December 26, 2019, but that is neither here nor there. Besides, I can’t imagine what all I would have missed by avoiding the “end of the world”.
I would have lost out on experiencing the most true, humbling, and profound gratitude for those around me. I would have missed out on moments and times with friends and family that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I would have robbed of my extra long visits home, if the world hadn’t “ended.” These were the longest visits I have had at home since I moved. I would have been at bars instead of doing puzzles with my family. I would have been traveling instead of using the time to just be. I would have been busy, but not really mourning.
You see, I had every intention of living every single day as if Star wasn’t dead and the best way to do that, at the time and in my mind, was to throw myself, face first into living. But then… the world shut down.
In the last year, I have cried more times than I can count. I have wished for five more minutes an infinite amount. I have begged to not be stuck at home, to not be stuck in my thoughts, and to get out of my own memories. But I’ve come to realize… that is living. The world had to end, my world had to end (so to speak) so that I could learn how to live, and feel, and hurt again. I had to learn to be strong, to count on myself, to entertain myself, to control my mind, to control my self-talk, and to love myself.. all by myself. Star was a part of me, a huge part of me, and she was easy to love. It was a lot harder to love me, without the most me-part-of-me.
So Star, I’m sorry, but my world didn’t end December 26, 2019. It also didn’t end March 17th, 2020. Despite the world’s best efforts, I still grew, I still loved and I learned how to trust and rely on myself. I still prefer me with you and I would much, much rather be telling a story about you kicking me off and being sassy or something silly, but that’s not the purpose of this blog.
March 17, 1996, an absolute force to be reckoned with, my best friend, MY horse, Star was born and with her life, she taught me bravery, she made me both physically and mentally strong, she brought me more joy than can be quantified and some of the most precious memories of my life.
March 17, 2020, the world as we knew it, collapsed. Spirits were crushed, people were lost, morale was low, and honestly, it has been a very hard year.
But March 17, 2021, I’m here to celebrate: to fresh beginnings, to renewed hope, to personal growth, to setting boundaries, and to loving myself. On what should have been your 25th birthday, I will do nothing special, I’m not going to go out of my way to make people smile, but I can promise you, I’ll remember you, I look back at our memories together, I’ll cry into your mane a little, and I’ll miss you. But then I’ll grab myself by the bootstraps, roll around in some dirt, and take off running to a better, happier, brighter future – just like you would want. Your lessons haven’t left me, even in end of world times.
I said you didn’t wait around for anyone, even me, and that’s sort of true. But I believe now, more than ever, that your presence is always with me. I know you’re not much of a waiter, but I still have a lot of life to live, so wait for me at rainbow bridge, will ya?
Miss you Star, with all my heart. Happy birthday, baby. ❤️
PS: you really dodged a bullet Star, you would have HATED covid.
Sunny daze ahead friends (probably). 🌞