Copy that., Grief is Grief

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.

Copy that., Grief is Grief

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.”
Politics and other awkward stuff

The Year That Was

Confetti and noisemakers are so yesterday. But maybe that’s just me.; party animal was never in my DNA. Luckily, my husband was also more into cozy over carnival New Year festivities. Except for an early Chinese nosh, our couch, movies and snacks were our go-to gala though I admit funky party hats were occasionally worn on said couch. Some might think we were either too lazy or minus the imagination to celebrate the night with abandon. But, the cancer elephant in our room was more than enough excitement in our lives. It made more mucho sense to do happy over hoopla.

I suspect I’m plain not wired to do the full New Year’s monty. Having a low-key mindset is not such a bad thing, however. In fact, it came in handy in widowhood. Being able to ‘adapt’ to revelry without my handsome dude in the blue glitter top hat, was an asset. Come to think of it, my kids and married granddaughter must have also inherited some of the New Year homebody genes — so mea culpa in advance for that, guys.

What the new year brings to you depends a great deal on what you bring to it.” Vern McClellan

In the end, the New Year’s Eve ball will never need my help to make its descent into the next year. No liquor store will miss the sale of my one glass of wine and while my comfy jammies don’t fit the red carpet dress code, they are their own microfleece party. My snacks are obscenely healthy. And my out-of-control revelry consists of journaling, movie bingeing and phone gabbing with friends. It works.

When you give yourself space to think about the year that went bye-bye, all kinds of observations pass through your mind. Me? I think about the wide eyed, sweet little New Year’s baby who, by the end of each year, morphs into the weathered, tired Father Time. As each year closes, that long bearded dude passes the torch back to the diapered newbie who takes tentative steps into the next 365. Are we as innocently optimistic about a brand new year as that little tyke? Maybe not but I suspect none of us are ready to be a cynical Father Time either.

 “An optimist stays up until midnight to see a new year in; a pessimist stays up to make sure the old one leaves’”.  Bill Vaughn

Politics can tick us off big time. This past year, walls and homegrown gun deaths went up; morale and trust went down. The rich got mega richer while the poor still poorer. That daily crazy alone can make us doubt we’ll ever be spinning on an even axis again. But, things have a way of turning around. Finances, ditto. Illness? Grief? Those are the toughest of all. When either touch us with the heaviness of a well thrown brick, it’s hard to see any good in the year that passed. I get it. Boy, do I get it. It’s hard to be Pollyanna discovering a silver lining to anything that rips our heart out. Sometimes the digging is hard to find the beautiful moments, the ones that touch that same heart that is also broken.

Continue reading “The Year That Was”
View from the Shoe

What could go wrong?

FallingShoeOn any given day, quite a bit. Or it seems like it. This was not the post I meant to write; that one bit the dust in a sudden power outage when Autosave apparently went missing in action. After I ran out of curse words, I realized that ‘losing my words’ was also a perfect example of the other shoe falling when we least expect it.

Remember when Gilda Radner said “If it ain’t one thing, it’s another’?  Yep, that pretty sums up how a lot of us get through life. No matter how good the day or week, the shadow of the other shoe falling can ruin the best of times. Now maybe a decent blog post wouldn’t be considered an epic good time but still no reason for the blog genie to decide my time was up.

In life, sometimes we just have to start again. No matter where we’ve been, how we’ve been, what we do or don’t bring to a new day, with each sunrise we get another chance. Thank goodness. That is not to say we always get it right or that other circumstances don’t interfere. Remember that other shoe? It makes a lot of surprising, unforeseen entrances like a swift kick to the head. Few examples of that tops planning to marry your happily ever after – and finding cancer will join you lovebirds at the altar (spoiler alert: we still got married ‑ until death did we part, so there’s that.)

If you expect the worst, you’ll never be disappointed. Sarah Dessen

Of course there are plenty of less tragic examples that prove the other shoe point. All kinds of things happen in this life and it’s more than easy to walk around the coast is never really clear. The pessimist in us thinks at any moment, some piece of karma foot gear in the sky will drop you flat when you least expect it.

And you would be right. Continue reading “What could go wrong?”

View from the Shoe

Letter to a Younger Me

Time traveling was never in my wheelhouse. Like it or not, we can never go can go back in time. Our life playbook has only one gear – forward. So since I’m already pretty far forward in mine/our life, kiddo. I thought 18 is a pretty good age to catch you up on a few things. I had to cross a lot of time zones to see the number you are now, but I thought it was time for a chat. Taking the long view (and it’s gets longer every day) there will never be a better time to let you know that no matter what – it’s all gonna be okay.

It won’t always be easy and you’re going to make a hell of a lot of mistakes. You’ll be pushed sometimes beyond your breaking point but you won’t break, I promise you. You won’t always be strong; but you’ll rock it when you need to. In moments you feel the most insecure, the most vulnerable, the most scared, those moments will also most shape you. When you think you’ve reached a dead end, a new path will open. When you feel most like a failure, you’re the closest to finding your center. Sometimes you’ll wonder if you’ll ever recover. You will.

Spoiler alert. The jury is still out on happily ever after but judging all that’s happened, the chances are iffy.  Your heart is going to be broken more than a few times. Trust me that you’ll feel a wee bit resentful that you skipped art school to put a husband through college. That choice will never feel dumber than after said husband exited stage left and you become a typing, filing single mom of three instead of the artist you thought you’d be. But kids grew up, jobs came and went and doors opened to new possibilities. You’ll discover gifts you didn’t know you had. Okay, your art will be less Michelangelo and more commercial illustration and graphic design, but, hey, you’ll be doing it. Your creative self will evolve as you do. And every time you get sucked into the stigma of missed college, a shelf full of creative awards will remind you that, while you did it backwards, you did it. Continue reading “Letter to a Younger Me”

Grief is Grief

Happily Ever After, they said.

Heart in the bark of a tree.Tree with heart shape. Heart wooden cut texture

When this all began, we knew there’d be a price…”Jekyll & Hyde

Some wondered if it was a good idea to marry a man with cancer. Looking back, it wasn’t really a decision. It was actually a no-brainer.

I loved him.

Everyone arrives in your life with baggage. Everyone. Some carry bags as small as coin purses; others drag a dumpster. When we met, it seemed neither of us carried more than a wallet.  (okay, mine included a make-up case, keys with the fuzzy duck, two pairs of glasses and all the just-in-case stuff, but you get the idea) My husband’s, however, grew to industrial size proportions. Even so, we figured real love is a match for ANY luggage, right?  It has to be – when the baggage is cancer. Continue reading “Happily Ever After, they said.”

Grief is Grief

Keeping It…REAL

pakiet.na-zdrowie.3Newsflash – No matter how any of us try to be perfect – that’s not happening. Neither people – or marriages are born to be perfect. Sure, we may WANT perfect, the ideal — but  REAL is what we get.

Marriage is rarely a Hallmark movie or 24/7 euphoria. Instead, authentic marriage means sacrifice, issues, chores, schedules, love, irritation, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, anger, affection (not always in that order). It’s also idiocyncrasies, snoring, worries, richer and poorer. When critical illness and its side effects enters the mix, now that really transforms the playing field. One partner undergoes endless procedures/surgeries, diminished quality of life, anger, pain and fear. The other juggles worry, research, is the keeper of the medical records, and caretaker extraordinaire. That was our  marriage; that was our REAL.

I’ve poured my heart out these past months, writing about deep grief, and the missing of a husband I loved beyond words. It came to me recently, that the painting was incomplete. It was in black and white with pieces missing. While stark pen and ink art has always been my forte, when it comes to portraying a real picture of real marriage, black and white doesn’t cut it.  Grief outlined only in high contrast is pretty flawed and does a disservice to the flavors and colorations a real marriage holds. Continue reading “Keeping It…REAL”

Grief is Grief

Four Funerals and a Wedding

Happy couple in their new home concept

Nope, not the Hugh Grant comedy.  Jill Smolowe’s book, Four Funerals and a Wedding, is pretty much anything but comedic. Her book chronicles not only her personal grief journey but how she coped and grew along the way. In one chapter she mentions how her therapist suggested that her grief began on the first day of her husband’s diagnosis. That struck me as pretty profound.  Given that my husband’s diagnosis was levied 3 months before we were even married, I realized it would not be at all surprising that unconscious grief followed us through those years. Even as we lived and loved as fully as we possibly could, we grieved by inches.

How do you measure the knowledge, however much you stash it in the closet or ‘put on a happy face’, that many dreams just won’t come true? No, my mind never went in the direction of Charlie Brown’s Sally who said “She didn’t want to live and threw herself in front of a Zamboni”. It was just that gray leaden feeling, a sense that no matter what your plans, there would always be an expiration date that coexisted with the daily business of living. Where cancer lives, everything becomes more complicated and layered. All of life takes on a different hue. Continue reading “Four Funerals and a Wedding”