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Posts tagged ‘moving on’

The Next Adventure…

Dear Reader,

First, I want to thank you for coming on this journey with me. When I arrived at the three year mark of my diagnosis and wasn’t dead, I knew I wanted to do something worthwhile with my life. To make a difference. To leave something behind so that when I did die, I’d be able to feel a little less helpless about it. I wanted to write a book. I wanted to write a series of letters to my Lochlan so if I wasn’t around to teach or guide him, his mother’s voice could still resonate in his life. When it was suggested I write those letters as a blog I was hesitant. I didn’t read blogs. I didn’t know blogs. It felt insincere to join a space that I had no knowledge of, or even, real interest in.

When I decided to move forward I did vast amounts of research. I took an extensive New York Times course and I made countless notes on what I thought worked for other bloggers and why. The publishing of my first post was thrilling because I’d never done anything like it before. My voice was “out there”. I was no longer anonymous or protected. I had allowed my story to be public and I had made myself accountable to that persona.

Leah Lee  002In the meantime, I found I loved writing. I loved the opportunity to be honest and reflexive. I loved connecting with people, both strangers and close friends but, most of all, I was grateful for the catharsis. Writing made me feel less afraid. Every post I published was one less thing I would never be able to say. The process of creating the world of ‘In Case I’m Gone’ gave me a power I no longer had in real life. It allowed me to be in charge of my own story. It became less about what was happening to me and more about what I could learn from it. Writing, and hearing from those who were reading, made me feel less alone, less panicky, less fearful that soon there would be nothing left of me than a picture in a frame. Everything I published became a reminder that I had lived. That I was real. That I’d loved and cared and made mistakes and learned from them all.

underwood picWhen I was approached to write this blog as a book I was thrilled. It was what I’d hoped for. The opportunity to write my story in a forum I really understood. To leave a part of me behind. To be able to look back on my life and feel as if I’d done something real, something tangible. What I didn’t realize at the time was how long it would take to write that book. How difficult it would be to honor someone else’s idea of how it should look and feel while still making it my own. It took me almost three years to get it right. To have a book that really felt like me. This wasn’t some fictional character’s story. This was my real life and I had to do it justice. It had to be exactly right.

Though I continued to write the blog I found it was a real effort to keep the two things separate. I’d have an idea about something and think, is this a blog or a chapter? Is it on message? Does it serve a purpose? Would anyone care? Lochlan_McGowan-152It was a crazy amount of work and, I’m not ashamed to say, there were months where I wasn’t sure what I was even doing anymore and the book would sit completely dormant. When everything clicked last summer I was able to rewrite the book in it’s entirety in just over three months and, after two more of rewrites for my agent, by January we were ready to submit to eight different publishers.

I’ve never worked harder on something in my life. I’ve never done anything as intimate or daunting. I put my heart and soul into those pages and it felt right. In many ways it made my struggles feel worthwhile. As if coming to terms with my own death I could potentially help others live a better life. It felt hopeful and personal and, dare I say it, successful. The day I finished I cried. I cried my eyes out from relief and exhaustion and pride. I’d done something, something real and, at the time I said, “Even if the only person who ever reads it is Loch. It’ll be worth it.” 

photo copy 2Little did I know how true those words might be. As of now, all eight publishers have passed. Passed in the most glowing, complimentary way but, passed all the same. Apparently everyone loves the book but doesn’t know how to sell it and in a world of marketing and branding and everything being for sale this isn’t particularly good news. I can’t properly express the greatness of my disappointment but, I can say, I’m almost positive it’s not the end of that tale. The outcome may not be what I’d hoped, but the product is. I’ve written a book I’m truly proud of and, hopefully, someday many of you will want to read it. For now, I have to be resigned to it sitting on a shelf.

Which brings me to today. I haven’t been writing much lately and, though I could blame it on a million “busy” things, I’ve come to realize it’s because I’ve reached a crossroad. The completion of my book, though not culminating in the desired result, still represents the end of a journey. A journey I started in 2011 and one that’s now reached its’ conclusion. Lochlan is finally at an age where he’ll remember many of things I’ve said. He’s old enough that he might actually get to know me. I’ve made a singular impact on his life and, even if I haven’t, I’ve left a tangible part of myself behind in my writing. No matter what happens to me now I’ll have existed for him and, honestly, that’s all I ever wanted.

IMG_2326I am called to something new. I’m not exactly sure what it is but, until I take my foot out of this world I’ll never be able to firmly plant myself in another. I have a million things to say and I don’t want to feel boxed in by a “brand” or “message”. I’ve loved writing from the perspective of a mother who’s dying because, I am and I will but, these days I feel drawn to tell a different story from a different perspective and, if I’ve learned anything from being sick it’s that you have to listen to your heart. I could write ‘In Case I’m Gone’ until I was, but for now, I’m actually here and I owe it to myself to see where the next road leads.

Thank you for supporting me. For listening to me. For reaching out and sharing with me. I wish you luck and love and success on your own journey. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, I’ll be writing for you again but, this time from the pages of a book, the dialogue of a movie or, even, from the mouth of a politician who believes, as I do, that we as a people can do better than we are.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting me as I found my voice. I promise to try and do something truly worthwhile with it before I go.

All my love,

xo Leigh



Dear Loch,

Not so long ago you asked us the difference was between a thief and a robber. Your Dad and I both started answering before we simultaneously realized we didn’t know the answer. It’s fun when your children start teaching you things. Even if it’s by simply pointing out there’s more to learn. As it turns out, the difference is this:

Thief: one that steals especially stealthily or secretly
Robber: one who takes money or property from (a person or a place) illegally by using force, violence, or threats

So, one uses force and the other stealth. It goes without saying we’d all rather be theif-ed than robbed but honestly either kinda sucks. We discovered that recently when all our luggage was stolen out of the car we’d secretly packed to surprise you with a trip to Disneyland.*

When bad things happen, especially after getting sick, I often feel like…Did I break a mirror at some point and not notice? Recently it feels more like…Did I break a mirror while walking under a ladder kicking a black cat? This is ridiculous. Was I a hideous person in a past life? Am I being punished for something? As far as I know I’m good, I have no memory of being otherwise, and yet when life rises up and slaps me in the face I think, what is this all about?

Even with those kind of thoughts, which I understand are a bit ridiculous and cause your father to roll his eyes, I recognize our theft could have been much worse. We had only packed for two days (three, as I tend to overpack) and all our electronics and toiletries were still in the house along with the important un-replaceables, like your beloved bluies and stuffed animals. We lost a bunch of clothes for sure, shoes and other sundries that all can eventually be replaced, but the thought of trying to re-cobble together my makeup or face creams, your Dad’s contacts, or having to replace all of our i-everythings, would have been a complete nightmare.

I no longer own any of the clothes I'm wearing in this picture.

I no longer own any of the clothes I’m wearing in this picture.

Aside from one momentary spazz attack (5 seconds max) when I realized our stolen day bag included my driver’s license and large number of my medications, I was pretty calm about the whole thing. Now “pretty calm” may sound unimpressive, but for someone like me who’s prone to dramatic, emotional outbursts, it’s actually saying a lot. When I called to tell my parents, Granddad was astounded I wasn’t hysterical. I think he thought I’d been body snatched, but really, freaking out was a useless endeavor. Yes, being robbed is rotten. Sure, it’s inconvenient. It definitely made me wildly angry, but having a breakdown about it wasn’t going to fix anything. I needed to handle the situation and dissolving into a pile of mush wasn’t going to get my credit card cancelled or our police report filled out.

The most frustrating thing, aside from losing my beloved grey skinny jeans and favorite black boots, is how much of your time is stolen when your things are stolen. On top of taking our stuff, this unknown skeeve has taken hours, probably days, of my time sorting out his mess. It took us three hours of initial callings to police, banks, and insurance companies and two more filling out all the necessary paperwork. I still have to go to the DMV to get a new license, the bank to get a new bank card, the Ford Dealership to replace my Navigation card and to figure out how someone could have acquired access to our locked car in the first place. Letters have to be written to my health insurance company and on-line pharmacy to start the process of reissuing my medication and they’ll be a huge deductible to pay before we can even start replacing what was lost. Factor in the time I will spend on craigslist inanely trying to crack the case myself and you get the picture.



Having things stolen makes you angry. You feel violated. You ask yourself who would do such a thing? I didn’t freak out in the moment but, after the fact, I felt furious. Who breaks into someone’s car and takes suitcases and backpacks not even knowing what’s in them? You don’t need anything specifically, you’re just hoping there’s something in there you want. Who combs through someone’s possessions cherry picking favorites like they’re shopping in a store? Sunglasses? Check. Car seat? Nah. What kind of person feels justified emptying someone’s car into their own? Our thieves had to have brought a vehicle because there was just too much stuff to have carried away without one. An entire bag of coffee table books and novels? Really? You need that? They didn’t even have the time to use my bank card or ID between when the car was loaded at 1:30am and when we found it emptied 5 hours later. Will they try and sell our clothes? They’re not worth much used and yet they’ll cost us at least a couple thousand to replace. What’s the point of it all, other than to increase our sense of distrust and to make security companies more money? It all seems so senseless.

We still made it!

We made it!

Driving to Disney that afternoon (because we were still going damn it!) your Dad and I talked ad nausum about how livid we felt being taken advantage of that way. We discussed how we couldn’t even fathom how hysterical and vengeful we’d feel if it was a person and not stuff that had been taken or violated. In those hours following the robbery we really understood how people find themselves at a place where they feel a visceral need for retribution. A dark place of fury and vengeance. We lost jeans and boots, sweaters and jackets. How do people lose people and ever get past it? And if they do find out who it was, how do they possibly live with that? I imagined how I might behave if I was confronted with our thief and it was alarming. Your Dad wants to put trackers in all our luggage now. I want to chip the both of you for safety.

New matching suits just in time for their night swim!

New matching suits just in time for their night swim!

As horrible and heartbreaking as the whole situation was, our family will come through it virtually unscathed. Terrible things happen to people every day and, in the grand scheme of things, this theft is merely a blip. An expensive, annoying, waste of time blip, but a nothing all the same. Things can be replaced. People can not. We can choose to be mired down by the bad things that happen to us or we can choose to move on. I’m very glad we didn’t let the bad guys ruin our plans. Life goes on. Their are still lots of good people in the world and we chosen to try and focus on that. The lovely folks at Quicksilver in Downtown Disney started that ball rolling by giving Daddy and you the (completely made up) “you had your luggage stolen discount” on your new bathing suits. It was a small thing but it really made us smile. Customers for life!

S*^@ happens and you have to work to not let it change you. Don’t get me wrong, if I saw the SOB that took our stuff I’d be pretty fired up, but I’m not going to waste any more time than I already have to devoted to his actions. Karma, as they say, is a bitch and if it turns out it’s not me she’s after, I hope she takes a real crack at him.

I love you baby.

xo Mom

photo 4

* For the record this is the third time in two years our car has been broken into in our driveway.


Dear Loch,

When I talk about baggage I’m not talking about the Tumi 4 wheel luggage I wish I could afford, but about the metaphysical baggage we lug around that become part of our personality. I’m talking about issues, perceived wrongs and past experiences that weigh us down. I’m talking about things that happened in your past that go on to dictate your future, and I’m talking about it because it’s not a good thing.

Man I love this bag. Why it’s $1200, I’m not quite sure.

Metaphysical baggage needs to be checked. It needs to be put down and left, but unlike real baggage, it should never be collected again. Root through it, take what you can use (like wisdom and knowledge) and walk away.

Bad things happen, they do and it’s terrible, but it’s important that you’re able to move on. You can’t live a happy, fully functioning life while carrying the scars of your past traumas. Eventually they start dictating both your personality and decisions. Old wounds should not dictate new relationships. One person is not another, and just because something happened once doesn’t mean it will happen again. In fact, the more you fixate on history repeating itself, the more you move towards creating a self fulfilling prophecy.

Your Dad and I have a friend that was burned once by someone he trusted. It screwed him up to believe in someone whole heartedly and be betrayed. The problem is, he is unable to let it go, and that inability or unwillingness has made him a skittish person, quick to think the worst of people. In many ways he’s lost the ability to trust and for that everybody suffers. The actions of one person dictate how he sees all others. He’s so weighed down by his past that he’s become defensive at the slightest perceived slight. A past friend’s actions have made him guarded and overly sensitive to new friend’s behaviors and it’s a tough road to climb.

emotional baggage at

Imagine your girlfriend cheated on you  and you carry that fear into your next relationship. You become hyper vigilant and accusatory, convinced the same thing is going to happen again. The new girl has done nothing to deserve your lack of trust. It’s not her fault you were betrayed and it’s not her problem to deal with. Eventually you’ll drive that girl away with your fear and nerves. What you needed to do was learn from the first incident – ie. I could have spent less time at work, I could have paid more attention to her, I shouldn’t have dated a tramp, whatever the lesson is – chalked it up to life, and moved on. If you carry the baggage with you, you are not only unable to learn from it, because you have no distance  to gain perspective, but you are unable to move on from it. You create a pattern in which all future relationships have to live up to or prove themselves against and it’s unfair and unreasonable to expect people to do that. People do not deserve to pay for the mistakes of others, and it’s on you to make sure they don’t.

If you’re hurt baby, I’m sorry. I know it can be devastating, but you must allow yourself to heal so you can get on with your life. Don’t expect to be burnt again. Take your lesson, store it, and leave the pain behind. Try to enter all new situations with an open heart. Trust people until they prove untrustworthy. Innocent until proven guilty isn’t just for the courts. It’s not naive to expect the best in people, it’s hopeful, and often people will rise to the occasion to justify your trust. If you expect the best from people you might find yourself disappointed but you won’t find yourself jaded. Disappointment you can move on from, jaded is a state of being, and not a particularly great one. Jaded people may be burned less, but they enjoy less. Jaded people, the one’s who refuse to “have the wool pulled over their eyes”, who protect themselves from hurt at all costs, are never able to fully relax, to truly enjoy. By not seeing the best in others they are unable to be the best versions of themselves. You have to put yourself out there in order to reap the greatest rewards.

Don’t be this gal from

I’ve been burned a number of times in my life but I’m very happy. No matter what’s happened to me, I’ve always believed things were going to work out. I believe that with my health, with my career and I believed that with my love life. For all the horror stories and ridiculousness that came before your father, I never lost hope. I never stopped believing I was going to find the right person, I never changed my mind or decided to settle (despite my mother’s suggestions). I fully committed to every new love whole heartedly, and though I was disappointed every time, I never gave up. My faith and hope was rewarded when I met your Dad. He loved me utterly and completely and, no matter what preceded him, I felt I deserved it and could trust him. It would have been easy for me to become apathetic when it came to love, to let the disappointments of my past build walls around me, but I never did and I’m convinced it was that openness that allowed the right person walk right up.

I’m a trusting person. I was fired by a man who more or less derailed my acting career and I went back to work for him again. Did I like him? No. Did I trust him? No. But I believed that I needed to take the chance because it was good for my career. What I did do, however, was take the lessons learned from our previous dealings and use them to protect myself. Iron clad contracts and defined creative control so there would be no confusion as to where the power lay. Unfortunately for me it didn’t work out again, but it wasn’t from lack of preparation or foresight. At the end of the day he’s just not someone who can trust other’s ideas might surpass his. It was his baggage that made it impossible to move forward not mine. I still got burnt (I spent almost a year creating a series of children’s books I had no rights to unless they were published, and I wouldn’t publish them unless they were something I was 100% behind) but I wasn’t afraid to try. I wasn’t unable to take a leap of faith. He, on the other hand was. His closed mindedness, and past baggage of not being in control, have made it impossible for him to collaborate or bend and he suffers for it. Walking away from that project, I was both frustrated and liberated. I’d taken a risk and it hadn’t paid off, but I’d also learned that no matter how good the deal, some people you just can’t work with no matter how hard you try.

My advice, no matter how painful sometimes, is to throw yourself into things every time. Don’t be a whiny suck living in the past. Leave the past where it belongs and move forward. You aren’t protecting yourself by carrying the hurt, and it’s not anyone else’s job to help shoulder your burden. Learn from your mistakes then wash your hands of it. There are always other opportunities, always other loves, always other jobs. Do the best you can and expect others will do the same. Will you be disappointed? Sure. Sometimes. But you’ll also give yourself the chance to be happy and that’s worth the risk.

I love you.

Just let it go.

xo Mommy

Strive to be like this guy at