Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: A Year I'll Never Forget

Just how resilient is the human soul?

I suppose you only discover that answer when you are pushed past the brink of all you thought you could handle, about to catapult over the edge of the Grand Canyon, hanging on by a thread, your heart throbbing in your stomach, feeling yourself about to fall—

Only, you don’t fall.

You somehow find footing.

You somehow find a solid place.

Sometimes it’s God. Sometimes it’s the people who come to you in your time of need. Sometimes it’s the spirits of those who have past. Sometimes it’s something from so deep within that there are no words, there is only action.

Sometimes it’s all of the above.

And then, you realize that your legs aren’t broken… and that you can stand on them. And if you aren’t ready to stand—you can sit.

I am looking forward to writing “2014” starting tomorrow. I will never forget this year—how could I? But I poignantly and purposefully remember what I have learned, the gifts I have received, and what I am capable of now that I wasn’t capable of one year ago:
Learning how to sit still with grief and to allow it to wash over me at times that anyone would consider to be inconvenient—that is a gift I got from 2013.
Yes—I have these grief-driven blips of time where I feel all emotional growth and maturity just vanishes—and I’ll say stupid things or have episodes of feeling incredibly needy and downright panicky—but then I come up for air…
And I return to me.
Learning what it feels like to return to me, and to practice it—a priceless gift from 2013.
Learning how to stand up for myself, even when it’s hard—that’s another gift I received.
Learning exactly how strong I am, and exactly how resilient my soul is—another gift.
Learning what radical acceptance feels like—of my body, of my soul, of my state of mind, of my attitude, of my life and world and emotions and everything—yes, yes, yes… a very precious gift.
Learning that I’ve chosen worthwhile people to be in my life, because those people came to me in my most desperate times of need instead of running away from me—a huge gift, indeed.
Learning just how brave I am, how absolutely fearless I have become, and how the fears I have remaining do not rule my world—they are just a part of me, woven into the fabric of my soul. I acknowledge… I accept… and I keep moving forward…
Learning how deeply and how fully I love—just thinking about it overwhelms me. Before 2013, I had not realized my capacity for love.
I love with my whole heart. I love with every fiber, every cell, every atom my soul occupies.
And that includes loving me, too.
I love myself.
I [finally] trust myself.
The grace I have received in 2013 is something I can never thank God enough for.
I have learned how to forgive myself.
I have learned that I am basically a happy and optimistic person, and even though I have been through the worst hell of my life this year… returning to me means returning to a general state of positivity and happiness.
I am grateful for this life.
I am braver than I thought.
I can do conflict—and I can actually do it well, and with solidarity.
I am a dancer. And sometimes, dancing helps me express what words cannot.

Yes. It was—unquestionably—the most difficult year of my life. I never expected any period of time to be as hard as the last 365+ days have been.

2013 showed me who I really am.

My word for the year was love.

I didn’t have to think very hard about my 2014 word.

In the fall, I experienced a special class with powerful women. In that class, we identified our top 5 values (from a list of about 185).

That’s harder than you might expect.

And your values drive—or should drive—every behavior, every habit, every interaction, every relationship—every piece and part of your life.

So, it’s meaningful to get it right.

I narrowed my list down to 13, and then I really got stuck. It turned out to be an eye-opening experience, because I realized that believing my values were really that broad actually caused me to lose focus on what is actually most sacred to me.

My list of 13 did not include one that’s actually in my top 5.

There are probably many reasons why (that I could explain ad nauseum)—but here are my 5:
  1. Love
  2. Gratefulness
  3. Serenity
  4. Joy
  5. Freedom

As for the one that wasn’t in my original “top 13”?



(Yes. For real.)

No more!

I am choosing—from the deepest vibrations within me—one very special word for 2014. Because 2014 is going to rock. It is going to be full of happiness, peace, and most importantly—

I have learned to let in moments of joy, even when I was sobbing seconds before. I have felt deeply joyful moments when an instant before, I felt intense grief.

I understand joy. I get it.

But to actually welcome joy into my life, to invite it—
That’s different.

And so…


I am rolling out the red carpet for you in 2014.

Come on in.

You are welcome here!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

My Christmas Wish

So, I was at the salon on Saturday, and while I had my head leaned back in the sink, the fantastic assistant (she really IS fantastic, and her name is Amanda) asked me if I was excited about Christmas.

It's an innocent enough question... except in my case, and except for this particular year. I was honest but polite.

I said that I would be glad when it's over—and that I was ready for 2014. I quietly said that 2013 was the hardest year of my life.

The woman next to me piped up and started rattling off tragedies she's been through and how next year was going to be a banner year for me. She said that life "resets" every 7 years or so. Neither Amanda nor I had ever heard that... so we asked her to elaborate. She said that every 7 years, the cycle of life resets. She cataloged her own life and found it to be true. She said that if one year was especially hard, the next year was destined to be great.

As she bubbled over with her chattering, trying to guess at the hard year I'd had (she listed off things like car accidents, surgeries, kids gone missing, job loss, etc.), tears streamed down my face in rapid succession.

Amanda silently placed a towel on my chest and smiled. I kept crying, and I didn’t bother wiping the tears away at this point. There was no point—it was a constant stream.

Finally, I spit it out. That I had lost my mom and sister.

The woman next to me didn’t miss a beat. She said she was so sorry, that she couldn’t relate exactly (thank you for SOMEONE saying that… for real), but that she could only try to imagine how painful and difficult it is.

She sat up and smiled at me. She didn’t back down from my rawness, from my openness. And she said she would add me to her prayers, and God bless me, and that 2014 was going to be my year.

As she walked away, she turned around, smiled, and said, “It really will! You’ll see!”

And with a flit and a flutter, off she went.

I hope she is right.

I need a really good year.

That, my friends, is my Christmas wish.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Moment of Honesty

I am sad. I want to go to Christmas services, but I know I will sob, and I just want someone to hold me as I cry. And I am tired of people looking at me with pity or confusion or some mixture of the two...or worse, those who just don't get it and don't even try.

My grief feels like a burden. A burden I'm trying to shield others from... because as silly as it sounds, a part of me does feel like because it's been a year since my mom died... I should be "over it." 

And I have so much to say, but none of it wants to come out. Or it comes out how it appears in this blog post—disjointed, scattered, wrought with intensity but not really making much sense.

I feel weak and small and like I can't breathe.

My family will not be together this Christmas. My dad is in Georgia, my nieces and nephew are doing their own thing.

I am alone, although my best friend and I will have a nice dinner Christmas evening.

Truthfully, my family can never be together in the same way ever again, no matter what, and I don’t have any fancy words for it, it just sucks so badly and feels so heavy that I can barely breathe.

I should not be the oldest woman in my family. Not yet...I'm too young. I don't know how to do this... grief is such an evil beast sometimes.

I have made a complete ass out of myself lately—I’ve made so many mistakes, said so many ridiculous things, and felt borderline out of control with my emotions...so much, so raw... to the point that a little piece of me wants to shut down.

Another part of me still doesn’t understand how I am the one living, when no one depends on me, and I think of Kasey—and Leigha, Aaron, and Alexis—and I wonder at the absolute unfairness of it all, how hard this is for someone as “strong” as I am to handle, but how are the kids really hanging in there? How are they actually handling this?

I look around and see sisterly love all around me… and I am blessed to have sisterly love in my own life, too.

But it’s like a part of me has died—forever—because my only sister is gone from this earth. I can see her facial expressions and hear her words and her tone of voice when Leigha talks, especially to her kids—but I ache to hear Wendy’s voice again. I ache to share childhood stories again. I can’t call her, text her, or Facebook message her ever again. This is not a new reality, but it sure as hell feels new… still…

As Christmas approaches so fast… I can’t help but think of all the hours spent putting up Christmas decorations—the careful placement of tiny pixies and other assorted Christmas knick-knacks, the deliberate placement of lights on the tree, the smell of apple cider in the crock pot, the fussing Mama used to do, ordering Daddy around as if he should be able to read her mind at this point—those memories have taken me over a lot lately, and there’s nothing I want more than to be back in the house I grew up in—as chaotic and angry as it sometimes was—because the carpet I traced patterns in was there—the linoleum I made into roadways for my matchbox cars was there—the creaking floorboards were there, and I knew that house so well that I could walk all through it, avoiding every creaking board, quiet as a mouse.

(I sometimes tested that theory after everyone had gone to bed, when I would lie awake, disturbed by some nightmare, and I felt the need to walk through the house, or make my way out to the den to watch TV with the sound turned down so low, I could barely hear it, as I sat totally still, listening for the stirrings of Mama so I could rush to turn it off, undetected.)

The point is—my whole existence began in that house. That house was my first point of reference, and—as every cell in my body and every breath of my soul seeks reassurance, guidance, and comfort—my psyche takes me back to the Pandora’s Box of 535 Northill Drive.

I spent roughly the first half of my life in that house. And all of the emotions and memories and arguments and laughter and meals and the life we lived was contained within those walls. I still go back there in my dreams, and almost every single night lately, I’ve been in that house, dreaming… my mind grasping at things that can no longer be… even in my sleep, my restless, tossing turning sleep…

Like the way Wendy got so mad when I spied on her and her latest boyfriend as they sat in the living room, with the louver doors closed. I peered through the slats and wedged the doors open as little as possible just to get a glimpse of what might be happening. I mostly did it because I knew it drove Wendy absolutely insane. I wasn’t even sure what I was looking for, or what I hoped to catch—I was so much younger… I just knew it made her crazy, and that was enough for me.

And walking around the vintage and antique stores yesterday just before I left Austin was a special kind of nostalgic torture, too, because I saw so many things—things I never would have imagined seeing in a shop like that—that we used to have. Vases I had to dust, over and over again… Season’s Greetings cocktail glasses, the embroidered floral scene with strange coloring and the drabbest taupe-y brown fabric background—including the thin wooden frame—so many things… light fixtures, dishes, furniture—that we either had, had something similar to it, or that somehow catapulted me back to that house… 535 Northill Drive… and that period of time… as if it were yesterday.

I could feel Mama all around, and I could feel Wendy, too.

At one point, I had to get the hell out of there. It was really just too much.


Life is full of these moments, where the flipside of joy is a deep ocean of pain, where tears of laughter and happiness are even louder and more poignant because underneath that big laugh lies a cavernous well of memories and loss…

And I am here, and I don’t know why… I don’t understand the blessings that I have received.

But I am receiving them…

And, I am open.

As painful as it is right now, I am open.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

On Grief & Gratitude

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie
I hoped to have some kind of grand thing to say as I continue to gain perspective on the last year.

I don’t.

Family members are still hurting—and acting out in that hurt.

I am still hurting.

We are all still hurting.

The thing I never expected, though…

My deep, intense grief has changed me.

I have always envied people who are naturally and graciously grateful for what and who they have. I always wanted to feel that in an authentic, genuine way. I even started keeping a gratitude practice (a la Melody Beattie). It felt good, and I processed a lot of anger doing that list. But something was missing…

And when my mom died, that elusive piece finally fell into place.

I suddenly realized how deeply grateful I was for my Pathways journey, so that I had the courage to reconcile with my mom. Together, we built a relationship that was stronger than all of our previous years combined. I will forever cherish the last two years I had with her.

I realized how much my mom actually did for me—how much she sacrificed, how much she gave of herself, how deeply she cared for me.

I realized how many people actually care about me (and by extension, my family). People came out of nowhere to help, offer words of kindness and love, and to just sit quietly and hold me.

(There is nothing better you can do for a grieving person than to sit quietly and offer a hand or hug.)

I realized how selfish I had been when others lost a parent or sibling. It was because of my own fear—I didn’t want to face that impending reality in my own life, and addressing it in someone else’s life made me vulnerable. I have asked for forgiveness for not understanding, for not reaching out when part of me wanted to, for being too afraid of my own thoughts and feelings when I could have stepped into something more important than me.

I have allowed myself to fall completely open. I have been raw. I have allowed others to hold me while I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe. I have posted here and other places. I have exposed grief for what it is, and that has helped me process it and move through it.

I will never get over losing my mom.

You never just “get over” it.

But when I pause to think of how rich my life really is, I am, without a doubt—blown away.

I would trade it all to have her back. Perhaps I could have learned these lessons a different way.

But I can’t change it… all I can do is change my own perception.

Gratitude lives in my heart. Often, my first thoughts when I wake up are, “Oh, good.”

As in,
“Oh, good, I get another day.”
“Oh good, I get to do _____ today.”
“Oh good, I’m up in time for _____.”
“Oh good, I’ll get to see _____ today.”

The dark moments are still there. They aren’t quite as close in front of my face as they were a year ago, but they’re still lurking, and they still rise up to punch me in the face periodically.

In those moments—when hope and faith feel like nothing more than oddly-shaped letters written by someone else, and certainly meant for someone else—one thing has carried me through.


This Thanksgiving, I am doing something whimsical and fun. Maybe I’ll talk about it at some point, and maybe I won’t…

And on Friday, my family is getting together. Not to celebrate… but since this Friday marks one year since my mama’s passing, it felt like the best thing to do. Who wants to be alone on an anniversary like that?

I sure as hell don’t.

In some ways, I feel like I’ve come alive in a completely new way because of all that I (and my family) have experienced this year.

I feel like I can never adequately or appropriately thank everyone who has extended a helping hand over the last year. Everyone who keeps me (and family) in their prayers—those who have mentioned it to me and those of you who haven’t. I have felt shepherded through this year, in a way that I have never felt shepherded through anything. And I thinks The Dude Upstairs™ knew that I needed something extra… a lot extra… and He delivered.

As He always does.

And so, on this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for right now:
For who I am right now
For where I am right now
For who I have right now
For what I have right now
For what I believe right now
For what I hope for right now

Because right now is truly all that we have… it is the only guarantee.

All of the moments of “right now” build up to create moments, hours, days, and years—and the stories of our lives.

That is what truly makes right now precious. Because it’s fleeting, yet if we are present and in the moment… “fleeting” doesn’t matter, because we have experienced right now with every cell, ever sense, every thought, every feeling.

We have this life so that we can live it… right now.

And in my book, that’s about as amazing as it gets…

“The highest tribute to the dead is not grief, but gratitude.” – Thorton Wilder

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The State of Me

So, I’m back in the dating realm. It was a conscious, slow decision this time around.

I joined eHarmony and ended up going on three very promising dates with someone who seemed very… promising…

Except he balked when I asked for—basically proof of who he is. Because to be honest, there were some holes, and some things just weren’t adding up.

Granted—I didn’t handle it well. I could have approached the whole thing better than I actually did. I took accountability for the way I handled it, explained how I wished I had handled it, and asked to move forward.

But as the old saying goes, “God is efficient,” and apparently even though so much felt right with the guy… it was to end swiftly. Because even though he “promised” that we would talk once he was back in town, that talk never came.

It got me thinking that I was onto something, that he was indeed hiding some truth that he didn’t want me to know.

There is fire, and there is lust,
Some would trade it all for someone they could trust.
There’s a bag of silver for a box of nails
It’s so simple, the betrayal,
Though it’s known to change the world and what’s to come…
 – Come on Home by the Indigo Girls

And so it is, I am single and heading into the first holiday season without  my sister and my mom.

I sat in a very full meeting earlier today and caught myself staring at the date: 11/20/2013.

It hit me—like a ton of bricks—that nine days from now is the one year anniversary of losing my mom. Instantly, my mind flashed back to our last conversation, to the last time I saw her (which was on Thanksgiving day last year), to the last time I smelled her scent, to the last time I felt her arms around me.

It’s already been too long.

I kept my composure in the meeting, which I wouldn’t have been able to do only months before now. But now, when I’m at home alone, I am breathless with tears, remembering her smile and her laugh and the way she always knew just exactly what to say, especially when I needed words of encouragement.

I could use those words now, especially about dating…

Nothing helps. Time doesn’t help… time is this cryptic, mystical concept that doesn’t heal anything. The only thing that heals is consciously focusing on healing.

Speaking of healing… my dad and I avoided talking about Thanksgiving for weeks. Finally, I told him that maybe we shouldn’t bother with the meal on Thursday. Maybe we should get together on Friday instead… the 29th… to just be together. That’s the one year anniversary of losing my mama… and I can’t think of anything I would rather do than be around the people who loved her most.

So, that’s what we’re doing.

But Christmas… that’s a whole other story.

I’m not sure I want to do Christmas this year.

I don’t know yet.

For now, back to dating…

I’m not entirely sure how I remain hopeful. It would be so easy to become jaded and assume that every man is a liar and a cheater. But I don’t believe that.

I am a good woman. A really good woman. I have a lot to offer. A lot to give.

And I would like to receive from someone who is equally generous…

And so, I have raised my standards. I have a pretty tall order for the “right” guy, and nothing and nobody will cause me to compromise or settle.

That’s not to say that dating isn’t incredibly frustrating (on multiple fronts… *ahem*).

It is.

But, it’s also fun.

It’s fun to discover new people and broaden my own experience. Every interaction I have helps me further refine what and who I am looking for, and that’s positive. So positive, that perhaps I should write a dating book when it’s all said and done!

(It has crossed my mind…)

Of course, dating is exhausting, too… especially when I come across people who tout one thing so loudly, yet their actions deliver opposite results. It pisses me off when people throw around words like “honesty” and “integrity” without truly following through on the meanings of those words with their actions.

And so… those folks get the boot.


And that’s okay.

One thing is certain: I am becoming much more efficient and adept at combing through the dating profiles as well as eliminating those guys who just aren’t for me.

My sincere hope is that he’s out there.


And hopefully not too far away…

Friday, November 8, 2013

Grief, and Where I Am Today

Three weeks from today is the one-year anniversary of losing my mom.

You might as well say I’ve lived nearly a year without one of my limbs, because I feel like a part of me has been amputated. I have to live without she who carried me in her womb for nine months… she who nearly died soon after I was born because of a severe infection… she who went into the work force for the first time in her life when I told her I wanted to go to college… she who held her tongue many times when she didn’t want to… she who spoke her mind, even when no one wanted her to… she who made a bigger imprint on my very being than anyone else in the entire world ever could, can, or will make.

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year. It feels like yesterday… and years ago. It feels like, just last week, Wendy and Daddy and I were deciding what to put on the grave marker. It feels like a few hours ago, talking to Daddy on the phone and hearing that tone in his voice—the tone I had never heard before, when he told me it was important to come to the hospital—now.

And it was still too late…

I’ve been through so much—we all have, really—and yet, I’m still going.

Some days are easier than others. Some days make sense. Some days don’t.

Sometimes, my mood still astounds me. The grief feelings bubble underneath my surface as I try to carry on normal conversations, actions, thoughts, and words throughout the day. Some days, I succeed.

Other days—not so much.

And of course, if I had “only” lost my mom, that would be enough. But then a drunk driver killed my sister, and then I found out the man I was dating was having an affair. And all of these things have shaped me and changed me far more than I can articulate here, in one blog post.

I wish I could say that I have some sort of grand perspective. That I feel “better” about losing my mom. Or even that I understand it.

I don’t.

I can say that I am more grateful for life now than I was before.

I can say that my mind has opened up, and things I never would have previously considered have become part of my day to day tapestry. Things like past-life regression… visiting a medium… collecting crystals and meditating with them… performing rituals and ritual dances… equine therapy… grief groups… communicating with my deceased loved ones… reading about grief… blogging about grief… EMDR therapy... managing slippery-slope emotions while trying to function like “normal”…

All the while, I’ve been learning how to laugh again.

I’ve been learning how to let joy back into my life without feeling so damned guilty about still being alive.
I’ve become open to the possibility of romantic love in my life again.
I’ve gained more wisdom than I ever wanted.
I’ve learned more than I ever thought I would.
I’ve lost weight.
I’ve started learning what it actually looks and feels like, on a day to day basis, to take care of myself physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually…

But if I could trade it all to bring back my mom…

I would.

Life doesn’t work that way, though. And so, I am here, feeling grateful for the privilege of waking up every day, and I am trying to make the best of it—even through the tears… even through the confusion and heartache and sadness…

Through it all, I am here. Still standing.

Still believing.

And, somehow

Still having faith.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Thoughts on a Sunday Morning

It’s been a quiet morning and a slow morning. I’ve come to realize how sacred my weekend time is to me—that I don’t need to get out and do, do, do all the time—it actually means much more to me to be still—to relax, to do nothing.

The art of doing nothing—ah yes, indeed.

My life has slowed down considerably since my mom’s death. I find that trying to “pack it all in” does little more than exhaust me and wear me out. I have limited energy, and I want to devote that energy to things and people and endeavors that truly matter and that are in line with my values.

As part of an assignment for a class I’m taking, I’ve been noodling with different phrases and words that can help bring me back into focus when I’ve lost it. And since I’ve done a lot of work around taking care of my body lately, I wanted to come up with a specific phrase around that.

I woke up yesterday with a specific word in my head, and I related it to taking care of my body. That word was “abide.”

I knew, loosely, what it meant. But looking it up was actually powerful, because I found new meanings for it. The word goes deeper than what most people assume.

Google’s definition for abide is: “to accept or act in accordance with.”

But I found a webpage with three additional and powerful deeper meanings, and I wanted to share:

“When we abide in something, we are loyal to it even unto death.”
 “To abide means to continue doing whatever is being done even when it is hard and the urge to quit is almost too much.”
 “…to cling to something and have faith in it, even when it seems to have failed.”

When I read that last one, I wept. How many times have I given up on my body, because it failed me? Or because I failed it?

How many times have I given up on myself, because I failed? How many times have I given up on something—anything—because that was the quickest way out? Because the urge to quit was intense, and it won?

My whole self is made up of a very important team: my body, my heart, my mind, and my soul. I need all of my team members to be on the same page. So that means paying attention—asking and listening—in the quiet stillness of my most private moments.

God is part of my team, too—and the quietest moments are usually when I hear Him speak directly to me.

We have conversations then.

We laugh and cry together, and I am reminded that I am His precious child, and what I perceive as failure or shortcomings—He perceives as learning.

Learning, that is, to be more like Him…

And so, in my learning to take care of myself the way that He wants, I came up with a phrase that resonates deeply with me:
My body tells me what it needs, and I abide.

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Sip of Freedom

“Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you're perfectly free.”
― Rumi
Back in January, I went to my favorite yoga class. It was the first time I’d practiced yoga since my mom’s passing on November 29, 2012. The signs of depression were sinking in, and I had all but stopped moving my body—no yoga, no dancing, no exercise.

In that class, I had traumatic flashbacks of seeing my mom’s body in the hospital. And then I kept thinking, over and over again, about how her body could never do the things that mine can do—the things I was attempting right then, during class.

I’m not sure I could ever fully explain what happened in that hour and a half, or why that experience was so deeply traumatizing—but my grief was overwhelming.

From that point forward, the thought of practicing yoga again made me shiver.

I just wasn’t ready.

A month or two ago, my friend Liz Tucker came to town and held a bhavana in motion class at Move Studio.

Yoga was part of the class.

I knew that, and I felt that if I was going to step back on the mat, I wanted to do it in a safe place, with a trusted teacher and friend to help guide me through it.

For about the first 10 minutes that I stood on the mat, I wept. Tears flooded my face and the mat below me.

But I got through it.

But that isn’t what this story is about—I just wanted to give you some context, so you could grasp how much progress I’ve made in the last few months.

I journaled this last night after exercising and practicing yoga:

I’m sitting here on my purple yoga mat, crying. I’m not entirely certain why—except that the other day I realized I needed and wanted some time in pigeon pose, and so, that’s where I finally went.

And then the tears came, as I realized it wasn’t hard like it used to be, it was just a really nice stretch, a lovely pose, one of yielding and release and surrender and femininity.

And then, I lost it—realizing how far I’ve come in three years, since I first attempted yoga—and pigeon pose—
realizing just how much my body has yielded—
to my whims, wants, needs, desires, addictions, sadness, depression, grief—

My body has witnessed it all.

I am thankful…

Deeply thankful for being 38, and I get to choose how the women in y family are remembered. I honor them by dancing because they cannot dance. I honor them by practicing yoga because they cannot—and they never did.

I honor them by living as fully as I can—as exponentially as I can.

“I rise from all my sorrow, I let the sun shine on my face,
All alone in comfort, it’s my solitude I embrace.”
 – from the song ‘Quicksand’ by Natalie Walker/Thievery Corporation

I felt that tonight, as I moved on my makeshift dance floor with a fire and fervor inside of me as I realized—I am one body, dancing for three women who never danced—my grandmother, my mom, and my sister.

I dance the dance they never danced.

I dance my own dance, too.

My dance is the thread that binds together the lifetimes of women in my tribe who are no longer on this earth in physical form.

I practice yoga awkwardly. I am wobbly and odd, but interspersed are moments of purity—
of tranquility—
of grace—
of beauty—

A beauty I cannot express in words, and tonight, it expressed itself in tears during pigeon pose, and I flashed back to my traumatic yoga experience from January, and I honored the depth of grief I felt in those very long moments, realizing I was already (and finally) grieving many lifetimes worth of loss, sorrow, and despair.

And more tears came as I realized the freedom I am beginning to feel—

Freedom from chains that bound me to the past, freedom from the guilt I have always felt under the surface, freedom from a prison I will never adequately describe here.

This life of mine is a gift, and the best—the very best gift I can give to the women of my tribe, including me, including my family—here and gone—is to live it.

Live it fully and out loud…

Live it authentically and imperfectly and messily.

I am here for some unknown number of days. It is a gift I am only just beginning to truly unwrap and discover.

It is a gift I finally feel worthy of receiving.

My mom and my dad and God and the universe and all that is divine within and without—gave me this—
this gift of life.

And it is up to me to truly live it.

Thank you. Thank you for this blessing… thank you for this body, for this moment, for the dance, for the practice.

Thank you for this beautiful moment—where serenity coincides with joy.

And thank you, most of all, for love.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Prayer of Sorts

Grief has a way of humbling me in ways that still surprise me. 

Any sort of ego is out the door. And on some days, it’s all I can do to maintain my confidence and self-worth. 

When you’ve been through as much as I’ve been through in the last 9 months—and truthfully, the last three years—sometimes just getting up and getting dressed and getting to work is all I can manage. And then I am faced with a whole day of tasks, responsibilities, conversations, and accountabilities that have nothing to do with my grief.

But the grief is always there. It’s bubbling under the surface, and what matters is how I manage that on a day to day basis. Some days, I manage it very well. Other days—not so much.

Some days, it’s this Grand Canyon-sized chasm that often leaves me feeling utterly foolish, childish, and out of control. Tears rush down my cheeks, and I can’t stop them.

But the facts do not change. My mom is still dead. My sister is still dead. The man I thought was the love of my life betrayed me in a way I have never before been betrayed—and that relationship is understandably dead.

But I—I am still here.

On some days, that confuses me. I see so many possibilities, and I have a hard time translating those possibilities into focused action. It’s a weakness I’ve always had, but it’s exacerbated by grief.

Today, I ask for the Divine to step in and guide my life. Guide my mind, my soul, my heart, and my body to Your light. I cannot do this alone. I need Your help. I need Your guidance and love.


Thank you.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I Cannot Be Broken

All of the things I've experienced have built the ground upon which I stand at this time.

I am deeply rooted, like an old pecan tree—my roots spanning wide and plunging far beneath the surface towards the core of the earth.

My branches have been broken by trauma, my leaves beaten by the wind and rain of difficulty and strife, my bark stripped by the unrelenting skies of life—leaving me standing here before you, naked—exposed.

How mightily my roots have grown—stronger. My bark has returned, and new branches are growing. At the tips of those branches, tiny leaves are sprouting in the shape of hope.

With my roots so firmly planted in the ground, I have become more flexible—almost fluid.

I cannot be broken.

My arms sway in the wind. My hair whips wildly around my head. I feel the deep-bone chill of cold and the blistering heat of the sun. My skin takes in only what it needs—the rest falls away.

The stronger my roots,
The stronger my soul.

The chaos around me continues.
Inside is silence. Inside is calm.

I cannot be broken.

It is here—in this earth, in this moment—where my home lies.

Here—within me.
Here—in my heart.

I have existed many times, and I will exist many more times.
And yet, I have never before been more present than I am in this moment.

I turn and look at the landscape behind me, and I grieve for all I have lost.

And, I stand in shock—in awe, marveling at the beauty that is my life, the fullness with which I love, and the faith carrying me through darkness I never knew the human spirit could endure.

I am here.
I am now.

I am.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Grief is Temporary

"Time and time again, when I take people through the process of healing and feeling the feelings that are terrifying to them – afterwards, they feel lighter, they feel clearer and they have a sense of peace about themselves.
We all have pain. And there’s no amount of chanting, yoga or green juice that can take away that pain – it must be felt. Not dwelled on for a lifetime, but felt for the appropriate amount of time. It is scary, but on the other side is bliss." ~ Mastin Kipp

I acknowledge that I have done a lot of grief processing here on my blog. And I have witnessed it making some people pretty uncomfortable, to the point of feeling the laser pointer of sharp judgments being flung my direction.

Who does that say more about, though? The fact that I am rather messy in my grief, which I find normal, because grief is messy—but I’m also honestly not saying anything that I regret (and, still not regretting it, even after going back over and rereading multiple posts)… or does it say more about she who judges?

I’m not sure, and it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is recognizing the impermanence of feelings. I recognize the roller coaster of emotions taking me up as I think I’ve got something figured out—and the scary downhill plunge once I realize I have nothing figured out, after all… and then, the intense processing I do when I’m in the throes of valleys, twists, and turns, as I’m tossed about in this learning adventure called life.

It’s all okay.

Grief is disarming. If I weren’t already an “emotionally healthy” person, it might just do me in, cause me to alienate all of my friends, and fold up on a little ball of depression.


But, lucky me—I am fairly emotionally healthy.

So instead, I’ve spilled my grief out all over the place. I’ve felt remarkably immature and lost in some moments, and undeniably strong and grounded in other moments. Most who have witnessed my grief (my therapist, my family, my friends) have said that I am handling things remarkably well.

I don’t feel that way.

But, I also know that I tend to be hard on myself. I tend to not give myself enough credit—for anything. To be honest, I feel like I’m just sorta getting by.

Some days, I feel strong and good and happy. Some days, I can experience joy, I laugh hard, and I smile a lot. Other days, I feel sad and miserable. I miss my mom and my sister, and I wish I could talk to both of them about dating and men and the way I feel.

My “typical” day since my mom’s passing encompasses all of the above and more.

I think it’s safe to say that every day, I experience a much larger gamut and depth of emotions than someone who isn’t in a state of grief.

My typical day can start out with me bawling in the shower, shedding a few tears at my desk at work, laughing hysterically at a joke, having a heart-to-heart conversation with a friend—and while all of this is going on, I’m processing emotions, thoughts, and needs under the surface, too.

So, I am finding that grieving is sort of like being an emotional human—in double-time.

No wonder I’m so exhausted at the end of the day.

So, I just want to say thank you to everyone. Thank you for your love and light, for your words of encouragement, for your energy and thoughts. I know that God, the universe, and all the spirits of my life (this life and past lives) are opening me up, guiding me on a path to something so beautiful and so big, that I can't even fathom it right now. I can't even wrap my head around it.

That is where hope resides... and right now, my hope is gently guiding me forward, baby step by baby step.

And in the dark moments, when hope feels thin and fragile and unreachable, my faith is the bridge that reaches out and invites hope back into my cells.

Right now, I don’t have to have a firm grasp of much of anything, but that’s all right. I can feel that I am loved.

I feel this openness in my heart, that feels like a channel through which light and love flow in and flow out.

And sometimes, when the grief tsunami hits, I feel like the grief might just swallow me whole. It feels like I’m grasping at tiny, thin, delicate strands that might keep me from falling into the bottomless pit, the pit that catapults me out into space—where I cannot breathe, where I cannot live, where I am totally alone.

When that happens, it’s important for me and everyone connected to me to remember that it’s temporary. It will pass.

And I will stand up again, I will breathe, I will move from that paralyzing moment into the next, slightly less whacked moment.

And I am doing the best I can, and on some days, that looks pretty damn good.

And on other days… well—you already know what that looks like.

Grief sucks. And sometimes I feel all enlightened and shit—but sometimes, I feel like the world’s biggest fool.

Grief. Like everything else in this amazing, painfully beautiful existence—

It is temporary.

"Faith means living with uncertainty - feeling your way through life, letting your heart guide you like a lantern in the dark." ~ Dan Millman

"There is no death. Only a change of worlds." ~ Chief Seattle

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Depth of Grief

The depth of our grief is really the expression of our love. Tonight, the depth is bottomless...endless... and overpowering. I feel like I'm clinging to the edge of my sanity tonight, and the grief is winning.

Who am I, without these strong women in my life? Who am I, without the man I thought was the love of my life? Who am I, childless and alone? Who am I, music blaring against empty walls in vain effort to fill this space—this gaping, wide open space that echoes back at me, a mirror to my pain?

It’s everywhere—in every breath, every sob, every word—I am a lost child, wandering in a black forest. I have shrunken back down to my four year-old self, unable to guide myself out of this darkness, and so, here I sit—paralyzed with pain, the intensity and depths of which I have never before experienced. I wish I could pull my heart right out of my body, because I think that might hurt less than what I'm feeling right now.

I am lost, afraid, and alone.

This is a perfect time to call on God. Or all of the spirits that I know are constantly around me. Or all of the above. It’s a prime moment to ask for guidance and help, yet God feels so far away.

I know that’s my own ego, getting in the way of my faith…

This grief makes me weak. So, so weak. I can barely lift my arms, let alone my head. My body is just here… existing in a slump, my eyes heavy and sad, my heart firmly rooted in the pit of my stomach, my legs useless extensions, and my will completely defeated.

My story is written all over me.

Perhaps one day, my story will be one that’s uplifting and hopeful, inspiring and full.

But tonight, I find myself wondering why I am still here… 

(No, I am not going to do anything stupid... and yes, I know that everything is temporary, including feelings like what I've express here tonight...)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Things Happen in Threes...

I’m sitting here in my apartment, in my favorite big chair, with my feet up. Most of the time, it’s a comfortable position for me. Most of the time, it’s a place I love to sit. I love my fairly small, slightly cluttered home.

But right now? After what’s gone down this week?

I feel sick to my stomach just being here.

On Wednesday morning, my boyfriend David hopped in the shower. Because he recently loss my trust (again), I’d taken to going through his phone from time to time (usually with his knowledge, because I did it right in front of him).

I had noticed that he’d been leaving his phone in the car or completely out of sight an awful lot lately, and I took the opportunity of him getting into the shower to grab the phone and look through it.

I saw two unread text messages from a phone number with no contact name attached.

They were the only two messages in the thread.

I read them and forwarded them to myself.

Yeah, that’s right, I’m going to share them. Because this sort of behavior deserves to be outed, and why not in public? I’m feeling a tad irrational, anyway… and I have nothing to lose, because I’ve done nothing wrong.
“And I love you which is why I want you to be sure of your decision. I don’t want you to have any regrets.
Just know that if you decide to stay with her, it won’t affect your job. I don’t make scenes.”

I didn’t really say anything as I left. I was incensed and I also needed to leave for work. I figured we would have the confrontation when I got home. I didn’t even want to look at him.

So, I left for work.

I sent this text when I got to work:
It must be so hard to live a lie.
I went on, saying I was surprised at his silence, and eventually I got his reply:
“There is nothing to say. I did not want to hurt you and that is what I did! I am the worst kind of person, and I am ashamed of myself. You are my best friend and I did not want to be such a bastard. I am so sorry!”
That’s the last thing he sent me.

When I got home from work Wednesday evening, I walked into the bedroom and immediately noticed that all of his watches and necklaces were gone.

I stopped in my tracks.

I walked to the second bedroom, where his closet is.

Most of his clothes were gone.

I stepped into the bathroom.

Most of his toiletries were gone.

I felt all breath expel from my lungs. My stomach instantly tied itself in knots.

He’s gone.

Just like that.

All the rest of his stuff—furniture, DVDs, TVs, kids’ stuff, and not to mention all the stuff in storage—he just left it.


Just like he deserted me—the best thing that’s ever happened to him (according to him, unless that, too, was a lie).

A flood of emotions made me woozy and I tried to call him.

No answer.

I left a pretty nasty message.

And then I called back… and left another nasty message.

And then, because I figured he would probably never listen to those messages, I texted him basically the same things I said… mostly expletives and confirming that Kevin Wheeler was right when he called him a pretty nasty name (starting with the letter “P”).

The last thing I sent him:
You have until July 31 to contact me, arrange to pick up your things, and remove them. If your belongings are not out of here by the 31st, I will consider them my property since I will be paying rent on them. The locks will be changed first thing tomorrow.
Honestly, just changing the locks helped me feel better.

I didn’t sleep Wednesday night, not more than a couple of hours, anyway.

And of course, the whole relationship has been flashing through my mind. Things he said or did, or didn’t say or didn’t do, that I should have seen as red flags or warnings or something… and I just didn’t.

I am fairly certain I’ll never hear from him again. He is highly averse to confrontation, and I’ll leave it at that, because that’s the nicest thing I could possibly say right now.

So, not only am I left with all this stuff…

I’m left with all the shattered pieces. The pieces of what I thought our relationship was. The lies. The masterful manipulation. The cheating.

And since we started having a rocky time somewhere in the window of mid or late March, I’m suspecting that’s when the affair began.

And if you remember, my sister was killed by a drunk driver on her way home from work on April 29th.

Also remember, my mom passed away on November 29, 2012.

And so, less than three months after my sister’s passing, I have also lost my relationship of nearly two years.

Yes, we lived together since about April 2012.

Yes, we’d planned to get married. We had even picked out rings.

They say that things happen in threes.

And I believe it.

David had been hiding so much and acting so weird lately that I had already found myself questioning the longevity and viability of our relationship. I found myself asking, “Do I really want this?” Uncertainty had already crept in.

So in some ways, it is a relief that it’s over so quickly.

And I know I’ll never get answers, because even if he suddenly overcame his intense aversion to confrontation, it’s not like he would actually tell me the truth, anyway. A liar who is so mired in the manipulation and lies is not going to suddenly tell the truth.

And so, I have to create my own truth from this situation.

And so, here is my truth:
  • I gave him so much of myself. I gave him my heart—no holds barred. I loved him big, and this will take some time to work through.
  • I believed in him, when no one else did.
  • I believe that he has a good, beautiful, and tender heart.
  • I believe he is terrified of revealing his true self to anyone, but especially to himself.
  • I believe he feels condemned.
  • I believe he is a Master Manipulator. But I also believe he is the most masterful at manipulating himself.
  • I believe he is in a very destructive, downward shame-spiral, and I hope he allows someone healthy to be there when he hits bottom. (It won’t be me.)
  • I taught him what intimacy, trust, love, and vulnerability look like and feel like.
  • I taught him how to speak to his kids like they’re real people, not as if they’re still 4 year-olds.
  • I showed him what it’s like to have a safe place to fall.
  • He was my soft place to fall.
  • He was safe. At least until he changed.
  • He was always tender and loving, except when he was sarcastic and saccharine.
  • Being in his arms was a heaven like nothing else I have experienced.
  • I feel so deeply betrayed… sick-to-my-stomach betrayed.
  • I have been through too much in the last 8 months. Hell—in the last three years…
  • My family loved him. My friends loved him. Even my therapist liked him.
  • I believe he may be a compulsive liar. He conned everyone… my family, my friends, and me. He even conned my therapist—and let me tell you, she isn’t happy about that.
  • I believe he may have cheated on me more than once. (As if an affair lasting 3-4 months isn’t enough.)
  • I believe he may have cheated on every woman he’s ever been with since his first marriage broke apart.
  • I believe he has built a life around lying and carefully crafting lies to always leave himself a way out.
  • I believe he loves his kids, but he makes stupid choices without thinking about them and how it will impact them and his relationship with them.
  • I am angry and hurt at the way this is bound to impact his kids.
  • I am fortunate to still be welcomed in their lives.
  • I adore them so much.
  • I know that I will be all right—better than all right, honestly. I’ll thrive.
  • I believe that he left five of the things he left quite deliberately. I believe it was his way of telling me good-bye, his way of saying what he could not otherwise say.
  • I believe he loved me with all his heart.
  • I believe he still loves me.
  • I believe that his most divine purpose in my life was to help me through the initial crisis phase of losing my mom. He was simply amazing to me during that time. Totally, unwaveringly supportive. That was a precious gift to me, a real and divine gift, and I will forever be grateful for that.
  • I believe that scared him too much, that intimacy scared him too much, and I believe he could not handle it.
  • I believe that after my mom's death, the way I opened up even more really threw him. I think it overwhelmed him, and he didn't know how to handle it.
  • I knew he was sabotaging our relationship. I could feel it happening, and I even asked him about it… I just didn’t know the extent.
  • I love him and I am deeply in love with him. I am dumbfounded, confused, and shocked. 
  • I believe he is a good person. I believe he's actually so much better of a man than what he has ever been able to recognize. He just makes terrible, hurtful choices because he doesn't believe in himself. 
  • I will always love him.
  • Even though I hurt deeply... I know he is hurting, too. 
  • I am worried about him.
  • Even with all of this—the good and the bad—I have received so many gifts. I have received messages of support and love… prayers… positive thoughts… all kinds of good.
  • I am grateful for the support I’ve received.
  • I know I am loved.
  • And I love myself.

My therapist called me yesterday. Exasperated, she said:
“Well, I guess when someone tells you over and over again that you’re too good for him… believe him.”

(I believe him now.)

I hurt.
Oh, how I hurt.

When you’re with a liar, it’s hard to know how much of the whole relationship is a lie. I could drive myself totally crazy with remembering precious, tender moments, and then wondering whether it was real or just an illusion.

And I probably will do some more of that…

But hopefully not tonight. I am really tired, but I have the urge to move some furniture around, too.

I really, really thought he was the love of my life…

I am utterly heartbroken.

And as I mentioned to someone today—I don’t have a whole lot of hope right now.

But I do have faith.

And, I am loved.

And that will get me through…

And besides—I have some super positive things to concentrate on, like my recent trip to Maine, and a bit of good news that a few of you already know of, and the love I have in my life, and at least I didn't marry a liar, and my cats love me, and I have good taste in music, and my dad reminded me of a family joke in the midst of my emotional despair and it made me laugh.

This life is at least not boring, right?!

Now, excuse me while I go cry in my wine…

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Happy 38th to Me

Today is bittersweet.

In so many ways, I am blessed. I have a great boyfriend, I adore his kids, and my dad and I are closer than we’ve ever been.

Work has been understanding, friends and family have reached out, I’ve got some much-needed respite… and all of these things help me. They all help me heal.

But today is still painful.

Mama always used to call me on my birthday—usually to sing happy birthday, and just to say hello. I managed to save one of her voicemails from an old phone.

But I’ll never get another call from her.

And today, it’s even larger than life, because my sister took the old Kitchen Aid mixer after my mom died. She borrowed it to make pies at Christmas, and I’m pretty sure my dad told her to just keep it.

Thing is… my mom had bought a brand new 5 quart Kitchen Aid Deluxe mixer, complete with her favorite accessory—the glass bowl—and had never once used it.

She actually had my dad get out the old one anytime she needed to use a mixer, because for whatever reason, she didn’t want to use the brand new one.

My dad brought me the new one this week, so I could use it to make some cupcakes for my birthday celebration this weekend.

It’s beautiful and red.

And I broke it in today.

Every time I bake, I think about my mom… I think about all of the things she taught me in the kitchen—how baking is a science, and measurements are important. You can’t multi-task when baking, you need to stay in the moment so you can be aware of exactly what needs to happen next.

Follow the steps in order, stop the mixer and use the spatula to clear the sides of the bowl, add dry ingredients first on one side, then the other, add eggs one at a time, add wet ingredients slowly, add dry ingredients even more slowly—

All of these tidbits came rushing back to me as I used the red Kitchen Aid for the first time. Then it hit me—the last time I had actually used a Kitchen Aid was back in the house I grew up in, standing on the brown linoleum floor, in the olive drab kitchen with mustard yellow appliances, and the old white Kitchen Aid perched atop the big cutting board, whirring away, and Mama standing next to me, patiently giving me instructions.

I think about her every time I bake. Every time I make fudge, every time I make pie… and I suppose it’s worth noting that up until now, I’ve baked without the use of a mixer. But with my carpel tunnel getting worse, I really need it, so now I am glad to have one.

I just hate the circumstances…

And David tried to help me, too. I’d never made cupcakes from scratch before, and I’d never made ganache (that changes NOW… since I now know just how easy it is), and my stress level kept creeping up and up the scale, and he’s trying to do everything he can to help me, and I’m barking orders at him—just like Mama did to Daddy, year after year, holiday after holiday, baking occasion after baking occasion. She needed him to mix, to hold bowls while she scraped them into another dish, wash dishes, get supplies—basically, she needed him to be her extra pair of hands and her extra set of eyes.

And once I realized I was doing the exact same thing, and that I’d stumbled upon yet another thing that makes me just like my Mama… I lost it.

I realize every day how I am like my mom. How I’m stubborn and proud, how I’m incredibly anal and particular about exactly how I want things done when I’m working in the kitchen, and how I need my David, the way my mom needed her David—to help, and to never stray very far, but to only help in the way I want him to help.

The cupcakes look great.
The ganache is setting up.
David went to the gym.
The dryer is going.

The house is quiet, and I’m left with only my thoughts and my tears.

I have so much to be grateful for, and believe me—I am—but I am also deeply sad in a way that I cannot articulate and no one can truly understand, unless they’ve been through it too.

I get to live.

And I am re-evaluating what exactly that means for me, because nothing reset my priorities faster than losing two of the most important people in my entire life.

So, today, I am 38.

I get to live.

I don’t understand that yet, but I am beginning to truly understand the legacy my family has created.

And that I am part of it.

And that my part is not done.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Today is Better

Thank you for your comments and love yesterday.

Today is better.

I am walking through this as best I can. It's messy... it's hard... but I am not going to apologize for my feelings. I feel that we are too often pressured to apologize for having deep feelings, which is quite the paradox... since as humans, we are primarily emotional beings.

Ignoring feelings or trying to push them back down is a little like ignoring my inner child's needs.

Have you ever seen a child act out, just to get attention? In that moment, any attention—even negative attention—is better than none.

Feelings are a little like that.

If I ignore them… especially the big, bad, ugly feelings that are so hard to allow myself to feel, they just get more intense. They stir around, deep in my cells, doing nothing but causing trouble in my mind, heart, and physical being.

And then, I find myself acting out in ways that even I don’t expect, because my feelings want nothing more than to be recognized and brought to the surface. The harder I fight to keep them “down there,” the harder and faster they retaliate.

Acknowledging my feelings helps bring them to the surface. 

Once they're at the surface, I can choose what to do with them. I can release them, as I did yesterday in the form of a rather intense blog post, or I can nurture them, like I did last night and today by accepting love and acknowledging how full of love my life truly is.

Grief sucks. I’ve been through it before—with the loss of my grandmother, who was like a mother to me. I lost other very important things around the same time, too. And, I have been through divorce.

In truth, I would say that grief is and can be like a debilitating illness.

My aim in being so open with my grief is to dispel some of the shroud of shame, confusion, and judgments that so many of us (including myself) have about what it means to grieve.

Grief is something mysterious and hidden and terrifying because it cannot be controlled.

It’s going to be terrible and ugly and fearsome. But I can tell you by my own experience that when I have tried to ignore it, suppress the feelings, or control it—it gets worse. It festers, and it turns me into a different person.

Thus, my post from yesterday.

I acknowledged my feelings, and that they are temporary. This time is temporary. Hell, everything is temporary.

But releasing those feelings was important, because it helps me move forward. It helps me navigate the murkiness while still remaining true to myself.

It also helps me to know that my grief is witnessed.

Healing does not occur in a vacuum.

And that, my friends, is where you come in.

I am grateful for what and who I have in my life. And now, more than ever, I realize just how precious this life is, how fragile it is, and how important it is to allow myself to be human—instead of striving to be perfect.

As you know, I am a believer, and for me, that means there is only one perfect being. And to try so damned hard to be perfect is to put myself above God.

Yuck. I don’t want that.

What I do want is for you to understand that I am grateful for you. You—reading this, praying for me, thinking about me and my family, lighting a candle, or whatever it is that you do that is spiritual, sacred, pure, or loving.

Thank you for helping shepherd me on this strange journey.

Thank you for reminding me that I am not alone.

None of us are alone.

I need to be connected… we all do.

As my friend Mark Rogers says, “We are not needy. We are needing.” We need each other. We need love. We need connection and nurturing and help.

And that is why we are all here. To help each other… to love each other… to live.

We have life so that we can live it…

*I will add that this is also the real face of grief. It isn't always ugly. Sometimes, it's full of light and grace and gratefulness... if you allow it.