Day 180/365 The Elephant in The Blog

Those of you who pay close attention to this blog may have noticed that I didn’t publish anything yesterday.

I often don’t have time to write until after I put my kids to bed at night. So, around 8:30 or so I (sometimes begrudgingly) open up my laptop to blog. I guess for me it is kind of like exercise – I often don’t want to do it, but when I am finished I generally feel much better. Sometimes I even get a bit of a writer’s high (is that a thing?).

Some nights I have no idea what I will write about until the moment I am basked in the glow of the computer screen. Other days I find myself turning words around in my head for hours before I have the chance to launch them toward you. The words pour out as soon as my fingers hit the keyboard.

Yesterday, though…yesterday I tried. I tried to make sense of my thoughts in a way that I could translate for you, but in the end I decided to close the computer without hitting “publish” (and you’re welcome, because what I had written was rubbish). I chose sleep, and space, and I hoped that I would find the right words for you today.

The big writing obstacle I am facing is that I am not ready to share with you what has happened….what is happening.

This latest obstacle (Yes, it’s new! We like to keep the hell fresh around here!) is taking up a lot of my energy – physically, emotionally and mentally. Although this blog is all about feelings, and processing life…I can’t share this thing with you.

Not yet.

For the time being I have to find a way to work around it, because this blog has become an important tool as I navigate what has been the most challenging year of my life.

Somehow I’ll have to find a way to be authentic and open without directly addressing…

The Elephant in the Blog.

Okay, you guys…do you need a laugh? I sure did!

I googled “elephant trunk images” and came up with these beauties –

 

 

 

Wait for it…

 

 

 

 

img_4003Yours for only $34.99 on Amazon! They come in sizes XS to XXL.

Do you think the “trunk” is the same size on all of them?

(Asking for a friend.)

 

 

 

Day 175/365 Shipwrecked

What I would like to share today is the most beautiful and accurate description of grief I have ever read (and it even includes my beloved metaphors). It was originally posted in a chat room (?) about grief and has been shared many times online. Unfortunately, I was unable to find out who to attribute it to, other than that he is a self-proclaimed “old guy”. So, with that, I share his beautiful words…thank you, Old Guy.

Alright, here it goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents.

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter what the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.

As for grief you will find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you will find that the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between the waves, there is life. 

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out. 

Take it from and old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.


Day 174/365 Karate Lobster

You know I’m a fraud, right?

It’s not deliberate, I promise.

It’s just…sometimes when I am writing this lovely advice about how to deal with life and loss, I am actually writing words of advice to myself, too.

Sometimes I share things I have literally done which have helped. Other times I write about what I think I should do – or how I think I should handle a situation.

For example, yesterday when I wrote about making each today a good day (rather than waiting for a better tomorrow to arrive), I meant what I wrote, but then – TODAY – ironically, I bottomed out.

Hard.

Leaving me feeling like a hypocrite.

Especially after a dear friend texted me to say she loved yesterday’s post – calling me “wise and wonderful.”

“Thank you!” I replied from my hiding spot under my desk, where I’d been frantically trying to get ahold of my therapist. (Okay, I wasn’t actually under my desk, but I’d thought about it).

The truth is, I am much more Karate Kid than I am Mr. Miyagi.

{Wax on, shall we?}

Within the last eighteen months I have dealt with the sudden loss of my father, as well as the masculine to feminine metamorphosis of the father of my children. (As I said to him a while back – “So you’re telling me my ex-husband is actually a lesbian?” Between he and I, there is almost always humor, Thank God).

Sometimes I think I am living in a John Irving novel.

I also feel a relentless emotional and physical pull toward a man who won’t let me close to him. (While this isn’t as impactful as the aforementioned items) I can’t help but be influenced by his tides whenever we share the same orbit…which is often. It is continually and inexplicably disorienting.

Between the man I’ve lost, the man who is (in a sense) disappearing before my eyes, and the man who seems to forever leave me wanting…sometimes it feels hard to breathe…like the wind has been knocked straight out of me.

Today I have that uncomfortable in my own skin feeling….that I want to crawl out of myself feeling…

I have come to recognize this particular sensation of discomfort…and recently I’ve discovered it has a name – Post Traumatic Growth Syndrome.

Perfect, right?

We often choose the image of the caterpillar morphing into a butterfly as the quintessential metaphor for personal growth.  I think that is inaccurate. It implies a linear path from one point to another…a beginning and an end…

So, I don’t think we are butterflies, not really.

I’ve given it some thought, and…

I think we are lobsters.

{Bear with me, I promise it makes sense.}

In life, we don’t just go through one period of personal growth. At least, I sure hope not. We have many opportunities to discover and redefine ourselves…often after periods of great struggle, discomfort and vulnerability (sometimes manifesting in a desire to crawl out of one’s skin).

Which brings me to the lobster…

Many, many times in the life of a lobster, she becomes uncomfortable in her skin…she wants to crawl out of it. She sheds her old hard shell so she can grow into a new, larger one…to expand her being.

While the new shell is developing, the lobster is at her most tender.

It is a period of great vulnerability.  

So perhaps, like the lobster, we continue to molt – over and over again – exposing our tenderness and vulnerability for a while…until we grow a new and larger shell…and then we wait, until it is time to become vulnerable once again.

We are forever evolving into iteration, after iteration, after iteration of ourselves.

So, I think in life one should not strive to be a butterfly at all.

Instead, be a lobster.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 173/365 Normal Day

Since Dad died in January, I’ve been big on planning things to look forward to – I took a trip of sorts (sometimes two) every month from March onward.  Having something to which to look forward seemed to help alleviate some of the misery I was feeling (albeit only temporarily).

As in…

I feel really depressed…but in two weeks I am going to Savannah with friends. Everything will be awesome then!

And it was...until I inevitably had to come back to my regular life.

I hit some deep lows after those trips.

Then there was the summer –

The girls and I were entirely without a routine, with lots of fun adventures together. It felt as though the entire summer was a break from reality.

The fact that this is the first fall I can remember in which I have not been longing (not even in the slightest bit) to get back into a routine, tells me just how much I have wanted (needed) to escape from “normal”.

Normal without Dad is just not normal. 

Yet, here I find myself, faced with the reality of normalcy – and I am trying not to bottom out yet again.

So far, I’m okay…

Optimistic, even.

Here’s what I’m going to try…

Instead of making big plans* in order to distract myself, I’m just going to work on making today good.

Tomorrow I’ll work on making tomorrow good…and on and on.

I’m going to survive this fall and winter not by skipping ahead, but by slowing down. 

I have had this verse sitting on my dresser for over a year now. I immediately loved it when I saw it, but frankly the sentiment is a difficult one to subscribe to when you’re grieving.

When you are doing your best just to tread water, blessing the day before it departs is just…not happening. Well, unless you are saying, “Thank God that’s over!”  but I’m pretty sure that’s not what Ms. Iron intended.

I’ve realized there is no magic period of time after which I will be healed. I am forever altered; never again completely whole.

Therefore, waiting for tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow to begin to find peace and joy in daily life….well, after a while that seems like a waste of a whole lot of todays.

“Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.”

 

 

{*Definitely making plans to visit Lynette though. I miss her so much.}

 

 

Day 167/365 The Antithesis

As I stood chopping vegetables for the salad last night, I asked my friend, Michelle, what her favorite part of her summer had been. She answered that she’d enjoyed spending days at a local pond with her children. It’s quaint and small, and picturesque, she explained.  There’s a wonderful sense of community there. Everyone knows one another; looks out for one another. It’s comfortable, easy, and safe.

Then she turned the question to me – What had been the best part of my summer? 

I thought about it and realized it had been our trip to the island in the middle of Annabessacock Lake in Maine…and that many of the reasons I liked it best were the antithesis of the reasons she so enjoyed her days at the lake.

Huh.

I’ll explain what I mean, but first, here’s why I loved it…

It was just us – my two girls, our dog, and I, alone on an island – and never was there a time when we were not enough for each other. I loved that, for a number of reasons…

I am keenly aware, having siblings and friends with teens, that there will soon come a time when our threesome alone (particularly with no internet and no phone) may not be enough to engage my children.

I loved the simplicity of our days there…for there was very little to do. The girls relied on each other and their imaginations (and sometimes cards, a canoe, a fishing net…) for entertainment.

They also wanted to participate in the seemingly arduous tasks of cooking and cleaning (no running water, no electricity). The novelty of the water hand-pump and fire pit tending seemed to fill them with a sense of purpose and importance that perhaps chores at home are lacking.

Here’s where I found the starkest contrast to Michelle’s reasons for enjoying the nearby pond…

This trip was challenging, and outside of my comfort zone. I felt scared (in the best possible way). We were never in danger. I was just scared that it would be a disaster, that we’d need to be picked up early because we (I) couldn’t hack it.

I was scared to fail.

Therefore, being there made me feel brave…and it turns out I so needed that.

Somehow, taking us away not only from our friends and family, but from our basic comforts, and still being able to be a strong provider was exactly what I needed.

Why?  

You’d think that after loss and heartbreak, I’d be seeking the safe, comfortable, community feeling of the local pond, but…

It seems so obvious to me now, in hindsight.

Losing someone whom I needed made me want to prove we don’t need anyone.

It sure makes sense to me.

Day 166/365 Few Words

I have but a few words today to express my gratitude for this place. A place in which I feel effortlessly connected to my father.

He is the creak in the floor boards,

The crackle of the fire,

The sunshine and the cool breeze.

He is the giggles of my children,

The ripples in the pond,

The morning fog.


He is everywhere, and it feels like being wrapped in a warm, woolen blanket.

I miss him so much, and this is where I will always find him.

Day 162/365 There Are No Winners

It never felt as though my dad had a favorite amongst my siblings and me.  Even though I’m the middle child, I’m the only girl. Ryan is the “baby” and Billy is the eldest, and dad’s namesake.

We all had our niche, and we are each very different people.

We all adored dad, and we each experienced that in our own way – creating our own relationship with him – each one unique and tender.

When he died, our initial shock looked much the same. When I looked into my brothers’ eyes it was like holding up a mirror to my own pain.

As we have moved through the nearly nine months since dad’s passing, I notice how differently we seem to be processing things as we acclimate to life after death.

We all have different sets of life circumstances, different joys and stressors. We each seek different outlets for our grief and anger (exercise, writing, work…). We each have our own triggers, too.

I am not really sure if, in their daily lives (away from mine and my mother’s), my brothers’ pain is as exposed as it often seems when we are together, or if the very act of being together bubbles it up to the surface for all of us.

I guess there are some questions I’ve been afraid to ask…

Do they have more joy when they aren’t with others who, when looking in their eyes, mirror their pain?

Do they, like me, sometimes feel ashamed during moments of happiness? As if we are failing to don our respectful black mourning clothes?

Or…is their pain truly always so palatable as it seems?

If so, do they suspect I may not have loved him as much as they did?

Did they love him more than I did?

Intellectually I know that my brothers and I all loved my father equally – or more to the point – it isn’t a competition in which he or she who mourns the longest and deepest wins.

Dad would laugh (or likely is laughing) that I would need to be the best at grieving.

When I reign myself in from all of the crazy-making questions, I can see straight to the heart of it –

Just as we each created our own unique and tender relationship with dad in life, we must each create our own unique and tender relationship to him in death.

There’s no wrong way to do it.

There is no timeline.

In fact, there is no finish line.

There are no winners, only survivors.