Copy that., View from the Shoe

An Anniversary — Springs to Life

Some anniversaries aren’t meant to celebrate but to remember and learn from — while you make plans to move on. This is one of them.

Last month we marked one year since our world stood still, but a global pandemic does not call for anniversary champagne toasts. One year in, and we still have few reasons to celebrate this milestone. You’d think spring didn’t get the memo, however, since it still sprung, right on schedule. The season, however, is so much more than fuzzy chicks and bright pink peeps, April showers and May flowers. At its core, spring symbolizes an escape from despair and dark times, and that pretty much defines this past year, no? Despite the heavy, colorless winter past, confused crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths still stubbornly refuse to give up. Uh, little dudes, did you see the weather?

“Despite the forecast, live like it’s spring”. Lily Pulitzer

Living like it’s spring can be a tough directive, especially in times of loss and quarantine and this past year was the poster child for lost jobs, livelihoods, and people we loved. Sneeze-inciting ragweed may be in bloom but the pandemic elephant still reminds us daily that the deadly virus continues to infect and kill. Confusion reigns about what we can or can’t do once we’re finally vaccinated and social distance is still the norm. Even so, spring proves we have the strength and heart to bloom again, even when we often push through frozen ground to get there. And one thing is for sure. Life, like every season, inevitably goes on even if it might not be the same on the return trip — neither will we.  

Nothing is more intrinsic to nature and humanity than change. From hurricanes and earthquakes to fires and epidemics, nature can transform our world in a nanosecond. We can try to control it, but like a pandemic, it laughingly tells us who’s boss. The virus will eventually lessen its stranglehold. Life will slowly return, but not to ‘normal’ — and that may not be a bad thing. We are so due major reset. The wealthiest 5%, remain at the head of the line, while the rest struggle exponentially from job loss, and financial difficulties. Some will still have no healthcare, live from paycheck to paycheck, often in abject poverty. In a country divided by affluence and lack of it, political party, race and gender, this pandemic has been definitive proof that illness does not discriminate and the more things change, the more they remain the same.

“You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming”. Pablo Naruda

As life begins a baby-step return, we see defaults as clearly as we see change. Time is inhabited by both good and painful memories, love and loss, joy and tears. Happy times are no less happy when they are joined by sad. Like the lion and lamb of life’s seasons, they inhabit the same space. And, while they are polar opposites, they are part of the same equation. That’s life’s eternal dichotomy. No one complains when the pendulum swings the fun way, but our little world teters on its axis and hands us things that suck, whoa! Yet, that life is exactly that; conundrum of all things good and bad. It’s up to us to find the aha moments.

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Regrets. I’ve Had (more than) a Few.

” ‘If only’ must be the two saddest words in the world.” Mercedes Lockey

Image CanStockPhotos

When I hear people say ‘I have no regrets’, my first thought is “I’ll have what they’re having”. Living a life that gathers no regrets is something we all want, but as years, events, experiences pile up, it’s harder to to come by — at least with a straight face. The truth is, we each have our own vision of how we wanted our lives to be and how they actually unfolded. As years add up, so do regrets. Whether they are productive or unhealthy often is not the point. Yet, they still have a way of elbowing into your consciousness, invited or not. They become like an accusatory Jack-in the Box, gleefully popping up with a laundry list of things you did or didn’t do and once it starts, it’s hard to shut up.

One of the biggest regrets of life, I think is a sense of having gone on the trip, but missed the adventure. Gary Haugen

The complicated, worrisome year we’ve all lived through is cause enough for mental review. More than ever, we realized just how precious life is — and how short. The obvious fragility of life was a newsreel re-run over and over through months of a pandemic. I suspect many of us, seeing very real mortality all around us, were treated to inadvertent flashbacks of our lives, enabling regrets to saddle up for rando visits. I’m that kid who, instead of pressing ESC, say ‘hold my beer’ (as if I actually drank), and settle in for masochistic doomscrolling of all my failures.

Recently, I was treated to an insomniac night of life review on an endless loop. I saw a 19 year old girl supporting a husband through college instead of fighting for art school, obviously not the smartest decision I ever made on many levels. As years spin by, I saw relationships I should have run from with my hair on fire, or left long before their expiration date. I’m a slow learner. I was starkly reminded of how parents’ threats of distancing and disapproval shaped my life as well as any confidence or idea of myself long into adulthood. I saw all the chances I didn’t take, in living color. All the places I never saw, risks I never took and the chicken-little fear that controlled it all.

Living in regret will become your biggest regret.  Bill Johnson

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Life doesn’t rhyme . . . and that’s okay.

Expect the unexpected . . . then roll with it. (That’s the tricky part)

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

Long ago, in a lifetime far away, I wrote poetry. Reams and reams of the stuff. It wasn’t great stuff or that well written. It was just another way to try and make sense of the mangled, searching thoughts of a young mom, in late nights with little bodies soundly sleeping.

As women, we’ve gone through so many lives in the one we were given. In my case, I’ve gone through several last names in different married lives. I lost a wonderful young brother; I birthed three children. I was a harried young mom, baking like crazy, driving to piano lessons and soccer practices, scout meetings and school pickups. I dragged oranges to games, towels to swim team and lunches when they didn’t. I was very attached to church, kids and home – and I loved it all. That was one me.

One by one, the kidlets began to fly away and the house became emptier, dinners more of an afterthought and the washer, dryer and dishwasher less on overdrive. I jumped into the work world, both in-house and home office, built an advertising design business, which later added a partnership with a future husband. I suddenly found more time for friends and less time for introspection. And I loved it. That was another me.

The last child left, the weddings happened in succession and grandchildren began to arrive. Having been divorced for a number of years and dated at least my share on that roller coaster of single life, I struggled with money and self-esteem. One day, I found my perfect ‘Match’, love of my life — and married him. We worked together, loved our blended family together, jumping headfirst into the roles of grandparents with crazy adoration. There was of course, a thorn in the rose which showed up before we even said ‘I Do’. The elephant called cancer refused to be ignored, as it threw one curve ball after another into our happily ever after. Yet, we lived our life as best and big as we could and I loved it. It was yet another me.

One day, I came home from my first downward facing dog, Namaste session to find that my husband had suddenly passed from this planet. Many of you have experienced that shock, that trauma so I don’t have to tell you how it devastates in a nanosecond. I had to regroup, find my way out of the dark and into yet another ‘me’. I certainly didn’t love that renovation but, it had to happen. With no alternative, I became both the same and different, both old and new, both sad and happy. Ultimately, the realization that life still stubbornly stuck around in an army of friends, and my immeasurable treasure of kids and grands, I penned this not-so-perfect poem:

     Renaissance

Wisdom never comes

in perfect doses.

It arrives unwitting

As a fragile wisp, or

Bitter medication.

Fed by truth

Pruned strong by life

Stubborn hearts

Resist shallow wars

and good sense.

I am woman, not girl.

mother yet maiden

crone and child

passion and reason.

I am a survivor.

Use my shoulder,

My arms, my laughter.

If not welcomed,

I’ll gather all up

as I turn to leave.

I am not my past.

I’m not the wrong page,

But a new page.

Aging new book;

Reluctant new life.

I don’t melt.

I don’t flinch or run

Unless I am pushed.

And then I walk,

And then I cry

And then I learn.

Like my poetry, life is hardly perfect. It doesn’t always rhyme; sometimes, it even sucks. But, ah, when it works, when words or life pierce your soul, fill your heart or bring you gratitude, that’s everything and then some.

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Toying with Change

You won’t always stick the landing. Change is hard. It’s also inescapable. Growth, however, is optional.

Courtesy of Wallpaper Flare

Sometimes we choose change; sometimes it chooses us. And at times, it just yanks us by the hair, and drops us, kicking and screaming, into another place, job or life. Change has paid me a galaxy of visits, mostly when I wasn’t looking or planning on it. It’s nudged me in unexpected new directions — and thrown me directly into the deep end. Often, change was only a small part of the total package.

Even animated characters know a little bit about change. For nearly 25 years, Toy Story movies have boasted an evolving, merry band of comic toy misfits who just might make you forget they aren’t real. Chock full of psychological metaphors, Toy Story proves watching animated characters getting life lessons is a blast, though you might not know it from the tissues in my hand. That’s right, my friends, I cry at Pixar movies. In fact, I have a feeling that many of the characters in their movies are created specifically to suck out every emotion. Just add soul to the already heart grabbing assortment of beloved, remembered playthings, and you have the whole enchilada. You also have a nifty vehicle that both teaches kids and reminds adults of identifiable life lessons.

We can all remember our first day of school, though some of have to reach back a bit farther than others for that memory.  When 5 year old Bonnie, Toy Story’s little owner of Woody, Buzz and the gang, faces her first day of kindergarten, she’s terrified. Hoping to make her scary first not her worst day ever, floppy cowboy Woody sneaks into Bonnie’s backpack, hoping he’ll make her feel less alone. When her arts and crafts were stolen, it could have been traumatizing — if Woody hadn’t fished a plastic spork out of the trash helping to create googly-eyed, new kindergarten bud, Forky. This funky little runner gains all the attributes of humanity, yet can never quite leave behind the cozy security of his trash beginnings.

Like most parents, Woody puts Bonnie’s well being ahead of his own rapidly changing life. While he desperately wants to be her ‘number one toy’ again, he can also see the crayon writing on the wall that he’ll soon be an afterthought in her world. Ironically, pipe cleaner and popcicle stick Forky totally gets how Woody feels. As literal trash, not feeling important has always been his gig!

“Well, you watch them grow up and become a full person. And then they leave. They go off and do things you’ll never see. Don’t get me wrong, you still feel good about it. But then somehow you find yourself, after all those years sitting in a closet feeling…” Woody
“Useless?” Forky Yeah.” Woody
“Your purpose fulfilled?” Forky
“Exactly.” Woody

Listen closely and you can totally identify with Woody’s sadness and anxiety, hearing echoes of our own struggles with change. To every empty-nest parent, whose children don’t seem to need need them anymore, it strikes a painful chord. To every aging worker, feeling obsolete, and left behind in a rapidly, evolving techie world, it’s wincingly real. Like Woody, when faced with heavy life changes, we’re filled with questions. What do we do now? How do we feel when our own purpose, our ‘thing’, is winding down or disappearing before our eyes? What happens when our little world, where we knew every space and corner, begins to shrink? Are we still relevant?

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LIFE is a one-way ticket.

There are no do-overs or instant replays. This is not a dress rehearsal so, for God’s sake, do things that matter.

You only live once. Yeah, we know. We don’t need an in-your-face acronym to remind us, nor Mae West’s nifty, ad nauseum admonition that if we do that livin’ right, once is enough. That’s a big ask. What if we do life wrong? What if we pass up chances? What if the boxes we check off, as years go on, are those of regret?

Well, as they say – that’s life. There’s zero chance that we won’t make mistakes during this time on the planet. Regrets are just part of the ribbon tied package. Decisions we made, and those we didn’t. Words we said and those we never got to say. Still, if we judge our life solely on our mistakes, we miss the whole boatload of what we did right. Hell, even the fact that we did anything at all.

“Life is short, if you turn around you might miss it.” Ferris Bueller

Living life by a catchphrase can have a few flaws. YOLO doesn’t give us permission to run wild through our human years, acting dumb, drunk and clueless. It isn’t just one long Instagram worthy moment. It’s also not a green light to indulge with privilege, or disregard the innate gifts of health and heart you arrived here with. If you spend moolah like there’s no tomorrow and realize that, oops, indeed, there is, it will suck to know you burned through your bank account, right?

At its core, I think YOLO’s sister phrase might be Carpe Diem – seize the day. After all, your life is packed with days to seize. Knowing we come with a one way ticket with an expiration date, maybe we should plan on making each day the best we can. Chase our hopes. Seize each day. Live our lives to the fullest.

One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.

We’ve lived these last months within the frightening uncertainy of a pandemic that’s taken more than 100,000 people in our country in the blink of an eye. They had no time to consider if their YOLO was enough. COVID-19 gave them no choice in the matter. But, while we still have time, are still healthy and aware of all this world can hold, we still have time to stick the landing.

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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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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.

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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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Chick stuff, Copy that.

Get REAL

      

Real life doesn’t come equipped with background music. There’s no re-takes, no script, and no fast forward.

Yearn for a world of cunning deceptions, illicit romance and characters teetering on the brink of chaos? Nah, me neither. But, just tune in to shows like Housewives, Bachelors and Bridezillas, and you’ll get a hefty dose. Is getting ‘Married at First Sight” a remotely good idea or is ‘Amish Mafia’ a thing? Would anyone really want to ‘Swap Wives?’ The idea of being a ‘Survivor’ on a wild isle is difficult enough; maneuvering it naked, hell to the no. Maybe the sheer crazy of it all is reason enough to watch reality TV but in my offbeat experience, real life coughs up more than enough drama without adding technicolor crazy.

Reality shows let you experience life’s idiocyncrasies and dramas by osmosis, right from the comfort of your own couch. While they are often a bit redundant, bizarre antics of a celeb family can provoke emotions the daily grind fails to deliver. (thank goodness!) Once upon a time, media experts thought reality TV was a passing fad, now it dominates channel lineups.  Sure they’ve been criticized for dumbing down their audiences, but to many, it’s the recreational payoff that counts. To be fair, some might be educational, some even inspire, but hey, ‘Honey BooBoo’? Seriously?

Imagination and fiction make up three quarters of our real life. Simone Weil

While visiting another dimension that allows you zone out from real life for a half hour might be cool, I’m still kind of sketchy about how much they actually resemble ‘real’ life. Peeping into each mundane moment of people’s lives, albeit contrived, is a little too George Orwell for me. It also begs the question ‘why’? Disguised as entertainment, some of the worst values and personal qualities have been enshrined, things we teach our children every day not to do or be. Even the craziest show somehow doesn’t get ‘voted off the island’, along with any stalwart naked adventurers.  And it helps no one’s entrepreneurial initiative or spirit to be rewarded with a sneering ‘You’re fired’.

We all know where THAT’S gotten us. Continue reading “Get REAL”

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Everything Happens for a Reason . . . and other fairytales.

by Tori Morrison – UNSPLASH

Believing that nifty mantra wholesale can be hard to swallow sometimes, especially when ‘everything’ ain’t so pretty. We want to believe things happen for a reason simply because order seems a whole lot better than chaos, right? We tell ourselves and others, when we don’t see any other explanation for things that happen in life, that it’s part of a bigger picture in the karma universe. When lives are turned upside down. When our spouse, parent or child is gone in an unthinkable instant. When a sudden loss of job, income, or house leaves us upended and lost. Thinking it was all part of a greater plan might bring momentary comfort, but it can also leave us frustrated and stuck.

We look for reasons everywhere. We try to justify why the world, and the people in it, behaves as it does. We become scarred and scared by experiences that seem to happen for no reason whatsoever. Cancer. Alzheimers. Death. (Anything on that one? I’ll wait . . .) Oh sure, eventually we learn and grow from all the hard stuff. Done right, we even become better people from living through those times, but the ‘why’? That’s the million dollar question.

Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried. Megan Devine

Things can and do happen for no reason at all except one that’s universal – we are just human beings having a human experience (in other words, shit happens). In our bumbling search for answers, we forget that no one promised us a rose garden. So, we run in circles looking for cause because the effect often sucks. We look back on our choices, decisions, roads taken – and not taken. We might find a breadcrumb, a clue we hope will lead us to believable reasons. But when illness visits, loss completely ravages, we lose our livelihood or worse, someone we loved more than our own life, no facsimile of a reason will ever be good enough.

There’s no earthly way we can sugar coat the why of murder or child abuse, decimating tornadoes or the crushing grief of SIDS. As much as we yearn for any emotional or psychological balm, no matter how well meaning, any phrase du’jour about life events having a reason can’t take away real pain. In fact, it might make people feel even worse. As lousy as it sounds, feeling desolate when bad things happen is part and even necessary to the grieving process. There’s no easy out and attempting to explain it away with platitudes, just get in the way.

“Don’t try to fix me. Acknowledge me. Stand with me. Be with me.” Tim Lawrence

Continue reading “Everything Happens for a Reason . . . and other fairytales.”