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.