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.