365 Days STRONGER












As of Jan. 24, I am 365 days STRONGER than I used to be.

Jan. 24 is a significant day for me. Officially declared my “Day of Strength,” it marks a day of standing in my strength and speaking my truth, even when my voice was was shaking. It marks a day of doing the hardest thing I’ve ever done, a day of facing fear and real-life horror … AND RISING ABOVE IT and becoming STRONGER than I’ve ever been.

It was on Jan. 24, 2017, that I faced my dad’s killer in court – a close family member who I once knew and loved. Trusted. Who did the UNFATHOMABLE – unimaginable – when she committed such an unspeakable HORROR against my dad and our family, the details of which are too gruesome to go into here.


I walked into that courtroom nervous, trembling and terrified … but READY. Just like with an Ironman, I had trained so hard for this. I had worked so hard to survive. I had overcome so much just to be able to show up for this. I felt the sweat dripping down my back, but it was as if my blood went cold … I hesitated, but then … somewhere from deep inside I found the strength from within and I became the FIERCEST version of myself I have EVER been. I became fearless. My husband had reminded me to have the following mindset, and it helped tremendously – she is nothing but a coward. I was the one to be feared. I was the one she should be afraid of. Because when I spoke my truth – when I used MY VOICE TO SPEAK FOR MYSELF AND MY DAD – I WAS UNSTOPPABLE. I swear it was as if my daddy was standing right beside me pumping his fist saying "SEMPER FI," just like he had been when we running the marathon!!! It's like I could hear him saying it: "SEMPER FI – THAT'S MY GIRL!!!!!!"


My voice was quiet and timid as I started to read my victim impact statement to the court – to the judge and to the killer – I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. But then I grounded my feet on the floor, literally dug my heels in, felt my husband’s strong hand on my back and heard my voice grow louder and STRONGER. Stronger and stronger throughout. This was MY time to describe the horror and trauma and sheer TERROR she had caused us since that horrific day on June 29, 2014, when she took my dad’s life.

I had spent EVERY SINGLE ONE of the days since fighting to survive the pain and horror – and in that moment, it suddenly served me well. It made me stronger than I have ever been. All that pain turned into undeniable power. Strength. Courage. It made me a force to be reckoned with.

With Travis’ hand on my back and all of the love and strength my dad ever gave me – and the support from this entire ARMY OF LOVE – I spoke my truth. I was a voice for my amazing, kind, wonderful and unbelievable dad. He spent his whole life taking care of me, standing up for me, protecting me, making sure I had every opportunity in the world to succeed and making it possible for me to chase my dreams. And now – now I FINALLY got to do this for HIM. I not only got to speak MY voice, I got to be HIS voice.


The more I spoke, the stronger I became. There were times I felt my voice start to tremble, but I paused and found it again – then spoke even louder. I did not shy away from describing the pain, panic, sheer terror and suicidal thoughts I had fought so hard to overcome to make it to that day and be able to stand before the court. It's no exaggeration to say the pain was so much at certain points that I did not want to live it. Let me paint an even clearer picture during what those early months into the tragedy were like, especially as my dad's killer attempted to torment us from behind bars – I simply thought, there's no way I'll even survive this – this shit will kill me and then I'll finally be out of this pain. Luckily, I refused to give up.

I made sure everyone in that room knew how amazing and kind and funny and loving and FULL OF LIFE my dad was – and what a COWARD and murderer she was. And most of all, I made it clear how absolutely terrified I was for my safety – and my family’s – should my dad’s killer ever be released from prison. (Read the news story here.)

It was a fear I had fought every day since the day it happened. It was a fear that ate at me, gnawed at me, left me sleepless for so many nights it was a wonder how I could function. It consumed me, left me in a constant state of panic for months on end. And that was on top of the extreme and excruciating pain of trying to live in this world without my dad. Psychiatrists and psychologists call it “complicated, traumatic grief” – I just call it hell on earth. But I learned to live with it – navigate it and carry it as best I could. Through hard work, grit, determination, help from DAD, intense therapy and medication – and most importantly, the love and kindness of my husband and amazing friends, and strangers who became like family – I learned to live with that fear. I got pretty damn good at it, actually. It eventually just became part of whatever our new, fucked up “normal” was.

Believe me when I say that I KNEW I was carrying an extreme amount of fear, anxiety and pain, but I had gotten so good at carrying it that I’m not sure I realized how heavy that pack was … until I could finally take some of it off. And that happened the moment I finished delivering my victim impact statement to the court.

I did not leave that courtroom the same as when I walked in. I was STRONGER. I got back a huge part of myself that had been taken, that fear had stolen from me – and I gained strength I never knew I had. What I really got that day more than anything else was a new lease on life. The power to REALLY start living again. Freedom is the word that comes to mind. I was no longer a prisoner of this fear, this horrible, evil person. I’m not sure that freedom is the right word, because I’ll always carry a certain amount of fear – and certainly the pain and grief and heartbreak of losing my dad in this horrific way – BUT I was MORE free that day than I had been since the day our world was shattered and my life suddenly had an unwanted permanent line marking “Before” and “After.”

I immediately felt more ALIVE. More free. More ME. More EVERYTHING. I literally felt like I was living in a new dimension. I saw colors brighter, the sky seemed a more beautiful blue, I felt a sense of joy – different from before, but joy nonetheless – that I hadn’t been able to feel before. I felt lighter on my feet – I literally ran faster and farther than ever before. I had a new lease on the life I was living. I felt like I could feel the good again. Not that I hadn’t felt it before, but it was different now. Sharper. More in focus. I suddenly didn’t have to fight AS hard to get through every day, and that was huge. It was a RELIEF. The first real relief I had felt since June 29, 2014. And that felt amazing.

In the days, weeks and months following, there was so much AWESOME. While the past 365 days have certainly had their share of pain and struggle, they’ve also held so much AMAZING. More than I could have ever dreamed of, really. And certainly more than I could have imagined that day I walked out of the courtroom last year.

In that year, there’s been five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes (cue the “RENT” song here) of ... SO MUCH. Joy, pain, love, loss, coffees, friends, birthdays, dinners, surprises, small and quiet moments to scream-it-from-the-rooftops awesome moments and everything in between. There’s been our pups, pool parties, visits with old friends, the pleasure of making new friends, people coming and going, growing, pushing past comfort zones, taking risks and more. There were marathons, new personal bests of all kinds, exploring new places, an amazing vacation and more. And … BUZZING LOVE was born!

 

Above all, there was LOVE. There IS love. And kindness. And that’s what allows us to live with the pain. It’s how BUZZING LOVE came to be.

I don’t think you ever “overcome” pain and heartache … you just keep going THROUGH it and you keep getting STRONGER. You keep finding ways to make its razor sharp edges a little less cutting. A little less jagged. A little more tolerable. It’s the love and kindness that we put into all that pain that makes it livable. It’s how we shine the light in the darkness.
 


I’ve met so many kind, incredible and amazing people in this world, and especially in the past three and half years. Even in the past week! Whether we share memories that date back to kindergarten or met last week, I’m so grateful for everyone I’ve been lucky enough to cross paths with in this life. Nobody should have to get through the hard times alone – that’s why we’re here to HELP EACH OTHER. To share our love and kindness with one another. Because we’re STRONGER TOGETHER. (Listen to “Stronger Together” by Matt Lashoff)

Whether you’ve been here at Buzzing Love since the beginning, had a hand in creating this amazingness or just landed on our page a few days ago, THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE. Thank you for being part of this ARMY OF LOVE.

I’m 365 days stronger (and then some) now than I used to be thanks to all of this love and support, and I can’t wait to see what the next 365 days of BUZZING LOVE holds for all of us.

Inspired by my dad, Gary A. Baranyai, who lived his life by helping others, BUZZING LOVE is a reminder to love big, laugh loud, lend others a helping hand, spread as much kindness as possible and leave the world a better place than you found it. 




Let us inspire and encourage one another – one smile, one hug, one word, one act of kindness at a time. We’d love for you to share your random or not-so-random acts of kindness with us and others on social media using the hashtag #buzzinglove. Or if you’d like to remain anonymous, send us a message and we’ll share it for you. Or if you’d like us to know about someone being kind and awesome, tell us that too so we can highlight them and share their story here at Buzzing Love.

Everybody has a story, and you never know what heartache people are carrying. Let us be kind and let us all try to do our part to make our corner of the world a little brighter.

CATCH THE BUZZ … SPREAD THE LOVE.

 


Strength, Smiles and Blue Skies, my friends.

Peace & Buzzing Love, 



Jaime (Baranyai) Mowers



P.S. I got my bison tattoo in October of 2016, prior to the trail in my dad’s case as a symbol of strength. I added the word “STRONGER” yesterday on Jan. 24, 2017, as a poignant reminder that I’m THIS many days stronger than I used to be. That we’re all STRONGER than we realize. That each of us are STRONGER every day than we used to be … and that we’ll keep getting STRONGER TOGETHER.

"Stronger" – New Ink Added To Bison Jan. 24, 2018  (Right Wrist)

The file my counselor gave me after I delivered my victim impact statement.

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