Copy that., Grief is Grief

Just Say It.

Pandemics have a nasty habit of making us question things we take for granted. When life seems a whole lot more fragile, words become a lot more important. Don’t let the right ones get away.

image by raw pixel

Whether you’re speaker or listener, words matter. They can heal or hurt; inspire or humiliate, encourage, teach or comfort. They can be the tiebreaker in an argument; a deal breaker in a relationship. They can make someone feel important or diminished; deeply hurt or transformed with love. They can criticize, accuse, or malign. The can also soften a heart and change the trajectory of someone’s life. Words can change lives for worse or for better; or through their absence, leave a hole that is often never filled.

The give and take of words is all part of human speak. We ask work questions about marketing and quality control. We ask about freshness of the lettuce or what’s on sale that day. We ask our kids it they remembered to pack their homework and sneakers for gym as they run out the door. More often than not, we don’t give a whole lot of thought to the mundane exchanges we have every day. Yet, the power of our words is immeasurable.

You better know that in the end, it’s better to say too much

Than to never to say what you need to say again.   John Mayer

There are people who never stop talking and who knows,  I may be one of them. But, with all our talk, talk, talk, what is really said? We use hundreds of words every day – but how many cut to the chase of life? How many of us carve out that critical second to say the one thing that could transform a heart? In a world as uncertain, as volatile as we live today,  we are all painfully aware of our human vulnerability. We are reminded each day, as we see numbers across the world tell the story of humans gone too suddenly, that life is not forever. Just as words we say in haste or anger form a destructive legacy that never be taken back, many that need to be said, that could change everything in someone’s world, are not. The time when they could be spoken is no longer and there is no better proof than the now 100,000 people who have gone forever. Words we wish to have said have disappeared into the ether.

There is no time to leave important words unsaid.  Paulo Coelho

In my book, the most magic words in life are often the simplest, yet time slips by and what we meant to say disappears with it. Yet, words, those very words, can mean the world like:

Thank you. It always amazes me how little we acknowledge kindness and thoughtfulness. Sure we dole out automatic thank you’s like M&M’s, with no real thought. Now, I’m totally onboard with politeness, in any setting, but authentic, cognizant gratitude is the real deal. My mother always told me, if you don’t thank someone who sends you a gift, you don’t deserve it. Words on paper count, too. But as treasured as a call or thank-you note is, the heart behind the thank you makes all the difference. Don’t sell these words short. From a grocery checker to a child being thoughtful, these two little words say ‘I see you – and you matter.’

I’m sorry.  Even if you did something you totally regret and would never do again, an ‘I’m sorry’ is the way to go. In fact, these two little words are some of the most important you can ever say. Apologizing never comes easy. In fact, when we are really pissed, (it happens) that ‘I’m sorry’ seems almost impossible. Said from the heart, though, it means we learned the hard way, that we realized we hurt someone and even if what we did won’t go down in history as Titanic sized, we are truly bummed it happened. Taking responsibility for our actions can go a long way to healing our relationships – and ourselves.

Forgive me. When we value a relationship, our greatest hope, when something goes wrong, is to repair it and restore it to its original condition. We should never take a person we cherish or their forgiveness for granted. Extending the proverbial olive branch with hope, not expectation, is a leap of faith. Acceptance is their gift to us, not an automatic expectation.

I love you. Don’t wait for the funeral or the door closing to tell people how you feel about them. Say it when it counts. Say it as often as it needs to be said or as often as you feel it. Say it before it’s too late. And people who grieve the 100,000 authentic, cherished people, claimed without warning by COVID-19, may always wonder, as I did when my own husband died suddenly, if “I love you” could have been said just one more time. No matter how many times “I love you” is said or even written, not one of us will ever say, “No more. I’m good thanks”.

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Grief is Grief, View from the Shoe

Out of Touch . . . Totally.

Welcome to the pandemic version of ‘home alone’, a place where stillness has a roaring sound, and touch is a thing of the past. We are embracing a new normal – without the embrace.

Photo by rawpixel

As SNL’s Roseann Rosannadanna used to say, “It’s always something”.  Sometimes, that ‘something’, creeps up so sneakily you don’t even notice it until it pokes you on the shoulder. You might have thought it was in the rear view, then, bam — whiplash. Like your very own Pennywise, the shapeshifting clown, it feeds on what gets to you most. It gets under your skin because it’s there that this particular taunting creature, called ‘loss of touch’, lives. 

Yep, loss of touch is a thing. Humans need to be touched. When our arms and cheeks are stroked, nerve cells release boatloads of happy-making endorphins. Simple cuddling can slow the heart rate, and speed up digestion, helping our immune system to be its best self. We instinctively look to hold hands when we’re frightened. We put our arms around each other to comfort; kiss one another to show affection. We need touch to feel safe, anchored — and seen. But, those of us who live alone are on our own – literally. In a time of grief, of quarantine, we go without touch of another human for weeks and months. Stuck in the middle of today’s epidemic ‘touch starvation’, mental health professionals see depression, insomnia and anxiety issues in unprecedented numbers.

Why talk about skin hunger now, when it’s dwarfed by people dying in shocking numbers from a worldwide pandemic, and fear pulses beneath every face mask? Even with an epidemic raging across the globe, we are each quarantined in our own small worlds. Our thoughts, emotions, and feelings still live and grow there. Most have partners, kids that share their quarantine and touch may not be an issue. But domestic violence also finds fertile ground in quarantine and loneliness, anxiety and depression make no distinction between households. Whatever was lacking, lost or thought to be quieted, now has a loud voice and things like absence of touch takes on new life.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch. Leo Buscaglia

When I was first widowed, disjointed emotion and grief were in strong competition. My thoughts centered on coping with the worst trauma of my life. Sudden loss of the person you thought you’d go through time can do that. I assumed nothing, from that point on, that life could throw at me could be worse. In fact, I was pretend badass enough that not even a scary car accident a year later could knock me over. But, when the fog cleared, I realized the elephant in the room was a spouse’s touch I’d no longer feel. Funny how simple neck massages and hand holding can kneecap you. But loss of intimate touch, the kind that says ‘You’re mine. I have your back. I love you” leaves a lasting mark.

To any grieving person, distance is not a new concept. In fact, it’s probably the hardest consequence of loss. The distance of sound, touch and connection gets only wider between us and the person no longer in our world. When we were younger, in the midst of busy lives and busy households raising kids, we barely gave ‘touch’ a thought. We had plenty of it, whether we wanted it or not. Yes, I do remember those times I thought “Puleeese stop poking me” to kids or dogs anxious for attention. Back then, our tapped-out selves yearned for the utopia of sublime peace; maybe even an undisturbed month — alone. I get it. I lived it.

Continue reading “Out of Touch . . . Totally.”
Politics and other awkward stuff

The Pandemic that Ate the World 2.0

Once we’ve dialed back the epidemic, what will we bring to the world it left behind?

Photo by Branimir Balogović on Unsplash

What is ‘the good life’? Everyone defines it differently. For me, it’s pretty much every day I’m alive, can see friends, squeeze grands, talk to my kids and my wonky belly feels decent. The good life isn’t always exciting, but if we’re fortunate, we’re living the one that feels good to us. That life can seem boring, hectic, or aggravating, depending on the day and our frame of mind. Our kids drive us nuts, ditto the spouse. Jobs seem like an endless Lucy and the Chocolate Factory conveyor belt. We dream of taking that great trip that doesn’t materialize, of having more money, more time, and more of well, life. Still it’s our life and it fits us.

Just when we thought we were in control of that life, the coronavirus arrived and shook everything up like a vengeful snowglobe. Fear replaced anticipation, excitement with anxiety. Homeschooling replaced lockers and classrooms. We Netflix binged instead of going out to movies meetings, baseball practices, lunche  — or visits in with grandma.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. . .” Ecclesiastes

This, indeed, has been a hell of a ‘season’. An epidemic from across the sea, rolled in like a tsunami, leaving a deadly season in its wake. Social distancing became the new lexicon as we desperately worked to thwart the virus’ deadly rampage by our separateness. Yet, no matter where we stand in the collective narrative of this deadly virus, we all are connected in the fight to survive it — and what happens after. That’s where yin yang comes in.

Yin yang, the symbol of crisis/opportunity, is what we’ve experienced after wars, wildfires, monster earthquakes and yes, pandemics. Incredible crises have sparked incredible heroism, sacrifice and generosity. They also create opportunities for growth and change. We can either travel through hellish journeys, bitching all the way, or find our moments, however small or elusive, for positive growth.  We can get swallowed up in the sadness of a world gone incognito or use these uncertain times to evolve. We can lament our vitally changed individual worlds or discover, with gratitude, new ways to navigate them. When we look in the rear view mirror after this difficult time, we’ll also hopefully find that:

Technology can be an uber good thing. When social distancing separated us from friends, relatives and colleagues, technology enabled us to stay connected. We Zoomed our way into face to face chats with other isolated family and friends, discovering new channels of being together. We telecommuted, realizing we can be just as productive virtually. In turn, we decreased traffic, improved air quality, while increasing precious family time. Win win.

We trust science; politicians not so much. Desperate for information on COVID-19, our ears opened to everyone who had some. But we quickly discovered that political gain and re-election hopes can overshadow actual facts from medical professionals. Whether it’s climate change or pandemics, trust the experts.

Continue reading “The Pandemic that Ate the World 2.0”
Grief is Grief

An Epidemic of Grief

Grief comes in an assortment of sizes, tailored to fit each type of loss. When you feel like the entire world has changed, grief can’t be far behind.

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

It’s been said that the only sure things in life are death and taxes. I don’t know about your taxes, but if you’re reading this, I’m thankful, at least, the grim reaper is AWOL. Death drops by with nonchalant regularity, taking with him parents, friends, siblings and spouses. In fact, I can include one or more of each in my list of losses. But these are different days, first in lifetimes days when illness and death seem only a sneeze or cough away. And the perfectly fit the MO of a brutal, worldwide pandemic we have come to know as COVID-19.

Worries about, and results of, this coronavirus epidemic have touched nearly everyone around the globe. With each generation, the world becomes smaller, enabling shared experience as well as shared disease from countries oceans away. Since the virus arrived at our shores, we’ve watched death rates climb with frightening velocity each day. Sure, we lived through SARS, Swine Flu, and Ebola but nothing has struck fear in our collective hearts since the flu of 1917. Some infected become merely carriers; some present with mild symptoms. The unlucky others feel the savagery of the disease — and many, too many, die of it.

And that’s where death’s natural partner, grief comes in. Grief is the way we process trauma, death, and losses of all sizes and flavors. It can devastate us enough in normal times, but in the era of COVID-19, grief can be unnaturally derailed. Where do we put grief, when loved ones die alone? How do we express it, when the people death leaves behind are dumped into socially distanced shock and loss?

Mourning rituals are critical to healthy grief and healing yet, uniquely absent in a pandemic. Instead, overloaded funeral homes greet no grieving families. Masses, wakes and shivas are non-existent. In their place, awkward digital groupings are becoming common as family gathers on Zoom to mourn. The basic comfort of connective touch is absent, making grief as grim and devastating as can be.

Losing my husband in a blink of an eye one night was obviously an unparalleled shock. Yet, many have endured similar experiences; mine was not an anomaly. But, to lose a loved one without warning, in a lonely COVID-19 cocoon of masks and humming ventilators, is incomprehensible.  My heart breaks for every single one whose grief is quarantined, without the ability to offer last words or touch. Long ago, when my 19 year old brother died of leukemia, half the town turned out to grieve with our family. My parents deaths, 12 years apart, saw their friends gather to grieve, and when friends died, I shared my grief along with others they loved. These are not those times; this is fear and grief on steroids.

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View from the Shoe

WORDLESS WEDNESDAY

Signs of the pandemic times.

In our neighborhoods, in the city, in our own homes, signs are all around us that we are ‘not in Kansas’ these difficult days. We are physically separated but together in our common fears, hopes and desire to help, to do good in whatever ways we can to help those heroes who are doing what we cannot.

I invite you to post your OWN images below of what life around you looks like around these historic and critical times!

Copy that., Politics and other awkward stuff, View from the Shoe

The SILENT SPRING of a Pandemic

The world, as we know it, will change. So will we.

Photo by Claire Mueller, UnSplash

Change is pretty much innate to living. No matter how evolved and enlightened we think we are, nothing is more intrinsic to nature and humanity than change. From hurricanes and earthquakes to fires and pandemics, nature can transform our world in a nanosecond. We can try to control it but nature will always tell us who’s boss. The current pandemic is deadly proof that when humanity and nature collide, things will change and not in a good way.  Hello, COVID-19.

Scheduling a big family reunion? Nada. An out of town vaca? Nope. Planning dinner with friends? Well, dining out – is out. Those quick little errands will have to wait, too, maybe for quite awhile. Being ‘up close and personal’ has become a little too personal – and risky. (And no one misses hugging more than an Italian girl!) We’ve entered a Rod Serling universe and we can’t just change the channel. Social distancing has become a thing, the ONLY thing that can help slow the spread of the virus and save lives. Will it eliminate risk? No, but it’s critical to lessening the upward curve, a curve that can lead to worst case scenarios.

We change jobs, houses and hairstyles but changes that create sudden empty shelves and streets, one that mandates social isolation? No, there’s nothing ‘normal’ about this kind of change. Our connected society is suddenly off balance. Schools, parks, stores, and jobs are shut down. Stocks have been in free fall. Healthcare workers are begging for beds, supplies, and critical equipment. Why wouldn’t we be upset, anxious as hell and complain about all we take for granted being put on hold? But, if we can be resilient enough to manage a few weeks sheltering in place to care for ourselves and one another, we will do more than just wade through a pandemic. We will have learned, like the Velveteen Rabbit, to be ‘real’.

A few months ago, I wrote a blog about ‘first world problems’, and while being in isolation certainly isn’t a walk in the park, for most it’s hardly ‘worst case scenario’ either. We can feel depressed and anxious when we look at our daily lives and barely recognize them. Other than missing hugging and smooching my kids, grands and friends like crazy, I may be luckier than most. Working remotely for many years was a type of training wheels for living in place. And often, after my husband’s procedures, we hunkered down for an isolated recuperation. That’s not to say, I’m also spoiled with the ability to hop in my car and run to the library, post office, and grocery when the mood or need hits. Those times will come again and when they do, I’ll consider them with different eyes.

An avid reader of the WW2 period, (go figure) helps me put a little perspective to these current times. There is little comparison to the rationing, blackouts and terrifying bomb shelter life people endured during those long years. The spirit of community, embracing uncertainty and the greater good shown in that era is an enduring example of how people ramp up in times of crisis. With fear and sacrifice as constant companions, people kept living each day, as best they possibly could. What their ‘can do’ spirit, resilience and sense of gratitude accomplished earned them the title ‘the Greatest Generation’. We’ve only experienced a drastically changed lifestyle for less than two weeks. What will future generations say about us?

When COVID-19 eventually lessens its stranglehold, the country will slowly return to a new normal. But, in some areas, the more things change the more they remain the same. The wealthiest 5%, remain at the head of the line, to be saved once again with bailouts, while the other 80% will struggle exponentially from job loss, and financial difficulties. Some will still have no healthcare, live from paycheck to paycheck, often in abject poverty. Those people will see complaints about missing happy hours, gym time or trips to the mall as alien as those of another planet. In a country divided by affluence and lack of it, political party, race and gender, this pandemic is proof illness does not discriminate; only the way we treat it.

Continue reading “The SILENT SPRING of a Pandemic”
Copy that., Grief is Grief, View from the Shoe

MARCH On.

For some, March is a springboard to a blooming new season. For others it’s a slippery slide into grief or depression.

March was always the stuff of angry lions — and I’m not talking about the weather. The month’s windy grayness matched somber memories of my brother, whose birthday and death day at 19 forever book-ended it with shrouded memories. That is, until the year a kooky March wind blew in the guy who would become my husband. That year, March saw a first date in the restaurant that became ‘ours’ for every important celebration. One year later, that month saw a courthouse wedding, totally off script, but when the cancer dragon rudely inserts itself and you need new health insurance, you ad lib. But, since we were crazy romantics, a few weeks later, we also squeezed in both church wedding and casually cool reception, complete with rubber ducks swimming in a margarita fountain. Go figure.

With happier new markers in place, I was able to feng shui the month with brighter bookends. Yes, far too soon Death did come again to end this happily ever after but at least it picked a different month. This is not about how the story ended, however. It’s about things can be revised, with new defaults. If we allow ourselves, we can often see clearly how much a month can really hold, how everything can change according to how we view it and how we embrace it. Time can be inhabited with both good — and painful memories; love and loss, joy and tears. Happy times are no less happy when they are joined by the sad. As both lion and lamb, they can inhabit the same space and, while they are polar opposites, they are part of the same equation.

March is a month of expectation. Emily Dickinson

The flip side of joy is pain. That’s life’s eternal dichotomy. No one complains when the pendulum swings the fun way, when life seems perfect and all in our little world is balanced on its axis, spinning merrily along. But when it hands us things that really suck, things we are helpless to change, whoa! Yet, that IS life; the conundrum of all things good and bad. Like a seasonal temperature inversion, a peaceful, balmy day can morph into a hair wrecking windy storm in a nanosecond. And just as quickly the sea calms, the weighty fog lifts and, if we pay attention, we just might see the big picture with stunning clarity. We find our aha moments.

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