#329 Death at a Wedding

“What if, when there is a wedding, there is also a funeral?” my twelve year old daughter says to me from the backseat on the way to school this morning.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“What if when a person gets married, there is also a funeral…to bury the person they were. Because when they get married, they become a new person. A different person. Like…before she was Miss Leafstone…or whatever. That person will die and she will become a new person – Mrs. Whatever. 

So…when you get married, there’s a wedding…and a funeral.” 

Did I mention this was on the way to school? I had not had nearly enough coffee.

Sure, perhaps she was simply talking semantics – Miss changes to Mrs, with likely a new last name, too. Therefore, she becomes a different person.

Perhaps she was not being literal, you say. Perhaps this child of divorce has not come to equate marriage with death.

Perhaps.

Except…this child of mine…I have never met someone paradoxically so dreamy and so awake.  WHO KNOWS what she meant.

So what does one say to a twelve year old (at 8am, during a five minute car ride) about marriage as it relates to death?

“Hopefully when you get married you will still feel like YOU,” I said.

It was admittedly trite, but no matter. She had already lost interest in the topic. Her question was rhetorical. She does this to me often. She knocks the wind out of me with her words, and then moves swiftly on…leaving my head spinning with what was to her a fleeting – even whimsical – thought.

I pondered it all the way to work.

Now, I am self-aware enough to understand that my own experience with being married casts this funeral-wedding scenario in a particularly ominous light.

Right there at the wedding…she ceases to be.

The She she was, is gone.

I can understand that those of you who are happily married, or who are looking forward to becoming happily married, might even look upon this metaphor as beautiful and poetic…perhaps even envisioning a sort of two headed phoenix flying up from the ashes of your former selves. If so, I am so very happy for you, truly.

But…

So many of us – women and men alike – lose ourselves within marriages. To a certain extent that’s what is supposed to happen, right? (Looking back I’d even say I was eager to become lost in my marriage.)

“I” becomes “we”.

We no longer make decisions for ourselves alone. The consequences of our actions, for better or for worse (as they say), are felt in tandem. Our lives become intricately interwoven.

Whether a marriage is healthy or not, we do change. We should, at the very least, grow. Hopefully, we find someone who makes us strive to be the best version of ourselves.

The shadow side is, sometimes we change in ways we never wanted. Or worse, we move beyond change and completely lose ourselves. We as individuals cease to be. Which can become a problem if and when we realize that the marriage is not going to last.

If we are no longer We, and I am no longer I

Who is this person? 

Back to the funeral at a wedding thought…

If we (metaphorically) die when we get married, what happens when we divorce?

Are we resurrected? 

Morbidity aside, it makes me laugh a bit to think about digging myself up – the me in the white dress. I would be quite surprised by the trajectory of my marriage….of my life. If I woke her up and informed her of all that has transpired since the wedding –  the last five years especially – she might ask where the shovel is…

Put me back in!

That girl was NOT READY.

No, thankfully…in this metaphorical scenario…I don’t believe we are resurrected. At least, not as our former selves. No, my dears…we are so much more. We have grown so much. We can handle what we thought we never could – or what we never imagined we’d have to.  We’ve struggled to put one heavy foot in front of the other, and now we look back and see that we have walked for miles and miles.

Perhaps all of life’s obstacles and tragedies are about dying little deaths; about letting go of who we were and meeting new versions of ourselves.

If we’re lucky, each iteration of us is a wiser, more compassionate one…

One who knows how strong she really is.

#328 Thin Skin (& a Nod to Katie)

Here we are, rounding the corner on two years since we lost my father.  It’s funny, my family – we keep trying to remember bits of last Christmas.

It’s foggy.

One of the few things I remember is that Karen wore an elf suit to Christmas dinner (bless her heart), because she said everyone needed some Christmas spirit.

(It is impossible not to love that woman.)

The first set of holidays after you lose someone, from what I gather, is always the most difficult. (I mean…duh). Last year, as far as Christmas went, we just wanted to get through it.

Quick and dirty.

For while we were all still grieving my dad, and the first holiday without him (not to mention the anniversary of his passing), my mother was in the full throes of chemotherapy.

Good times.

Alexis called it, “A Very Cancer Christmas”.

Whatever, you guys. Sometimes if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. I guess we’ve done our fair share of both.

So here we are, approaching Christmas #2 sans “Papa”. I won’t hold you in suspense…it isn’t any easier. Not really.

I should tell you, things for me have been good…so good. The girls (now 9 and 12) are great. My mother is healthy. Work feels fulfilling. I feel healthy, having lost the 15 pounds of grief-weight I gained last year. After having rented for the five years since my divorce, I recently bought my first house. That feels amazing, and the girls and I are so in love with the new house.  It could not be more perfectly us.

We have so much for which to be grateful…and we are. I am. So grateful.

Still…

For the past few weeks, I have felt on the edge. I am so quick to well up with sadness…over a song, or a memory. I miss him. I have also been feeling the grief of others – those who have lost loved ones this year, so heavily.

I carry it all with me.

I thought to myself earlier today, it’s as if I have a thinner skin now. It’s as if at any moment, my thin skin threatens to spill my very essence all over the floor…revealing the most raw and unapologetic parts of me.

My skin is barely containing me.

The good news is…the thin skin keeps all of the good stuff right at the surface too. The joy and the gratitude, those are aching to burst forth as well.

I am feeling everything with intensity. Every emotion courses through me, filling me up until it has nowhere to go but to leak from my eyes.

This evening I found myself sitting by a fire in my beautiful new house, reading a book, and enjoying a glass of wine. My two most favorite little ladies sat beside me – one drawing, one reading. I suddenly felt overwhelmed. This is too good, I thought to myself.

This is a perfect moment. How did I get so lucky?

Lately, I have been having dreams about a young mother who lost her battle with ovarian cancer just a few weeks ago. I did not know her well…hardly at all, really. When I first met her, she had just begun her battle with stage 4 cancer. She was already terminal. Yet she seemed more full of life than most.

She glowed.

It’s the kind of perversely glaring contrast that sticks with you.

Honestly, I can’t make much sense of the dreams…but I feel as though I am seeing her, repeatedly, for a reason. If I had to guess, I’d say she has come to remind me. To remind me that it is okay to feel it all.

To feel BIG and to love BIG…

Even, or especially, when I am feeling so much that my skin can barely contain me.

Because I am here.

I have the privilege of being here,

In my thin skin,

Feeling it all.

beth at home

Day 314/365 A Blog Mostly Full

One year ago (one year and two days, to be precise) I announced that I was going to write a blog a day for 365 days.

You may ask…

What the hell were you thinking?

That’s a fair question – and one I have asked myself more than once. The answer is…I was drowning, and somehow I knew that writing would help me to keep my head above water.

I wasn’t wrong.

I wrote every day for more than half the year, but at a certain point I began to relax a little and to allow myself to take a pass, or two…or as it turns out…51.

I can choose to see this as a blog partially empty or as a blog mostly full. Personally, I think writing 313 blogs in 365 is an accomplishment, so I am going to go ahead and take this as a win…with the condition that I will keep writing. Stopping now would feel like tripping and falling with the finish line in sight. If I had 314 blogs in me, I am sure there must be 51 more kicking around in here as well.

I’ll find them. 

The truth is I wasn’t sure exactly when I started the blog (the precise date), but the first ones started showing up in my Facebook news feed as “memories” two days ago, so…there was my answer.

All this time I have deliberately avoided going back to read any of them. I honestly have no idea how doing so is gong to make me feel, but I am curious

Will the me from a year ago seem far removed from the me I am today? Will I relate to my own words differently now with the perspective I have gained?

Is it a time capsule I am really prepared to unearth?

For Dad – you’re why I’m here…asking the questions and seeking the answers.

Day 282/365 Is It You? Is It Me?

I just wanted to share a story tonight – it is an old Buddhist tale…

There was a monastery that had once been a thriving community, but had declined over the years. The monks were having trouble attracting new people into their fold, and the monks themselves had become lazy in their practice. Few people visited.

One of the monks went to see a sage for advice about how to save the monastery. When the monk shared his woes, the sage told him that the reason for the trouble was that the Buddha was actually living amongst the monks in disguise, and he was not being treated with respect and kindness.

Astounded by this, the monk went back and told the others what he had learned. They all eyed each other with a mixture of suspicion and awe –

Who among us is the Buddha? 

Is it you?

Is it me?

Not knowing who it was, they all began to treat each other (and themselves!) with great respect and kindness. The monks honored their practice, and found great joy in their days. Over time people took notice and were drawn to the beautiful energy of the monastery. They came from all over to visit, and many wanted to become monks themselves.

The monastery thrived forevermore.

I love this story so much. To me God is love, and love resides within each of us. Sometimes our own personal triggers or personality conflicts can make it harder to form a kind and respectful relationship with a person, but if we dig deeply we can usually find that spark of one-ness within each other.

I also love that the monks were faced to ponder the possibility that they too could be the Buddha. I think many of us have a hard time – maybe the hardest time – directing that same kindness and respect inward, toward ourselves.

Beautiful story, beautiful perspective…

Who among us is LOVE?

Is it you?

Is it me?

YES, it is.

Day 277/365 Unexpected

I have a handful of loved ones going through really hard things right now. Each situation is, in a sense, completely different from that of the others. However, a common thread exists, and that is that none of them pictured themselves here, experiencing this moment. They are all dealing with things they’d never expected they would.

Things were not supposed to be this way. 

That’s the hardest part to get our heads around – reconciling what we thought would happen with what has happened or what is happening. We all have ideas of how our lives will be…our careers, our loves, our families, our health – and…

Maybe things haven’t fallen into place for us, or maybe they did – only to have them slip away in tiny increments, or so suddenly it took the wind right out of us.

A friend wrote to me that he “fell through a hole he never knew was there.”

What a powerful image. How many of us have experienced that moment when suddenly our legs came out from under us, and we found ourselves in a free fall? I bet most of us have experienced this to varying degrees…to various depths.

There have been a lot of surprises in my life over the past few years…ranking pretty high on the list of unexpected happenings was finding out my husband is gay…and then a year later finding out he has a girlfriend…and then a year after that, finding out he is a girlfriend.

Things like this loosen one’s attachment to things following a predictable course. I will always love him dearly, but this was not the marital trajectory I imagined when I put on that white dress and walked down the aisle. (It was a great dress, though.)

I think I have gotten better about not having expectations – or at least never imagining I know what will happen next.

Here’s what we know for sure…

When life is moving along beautifully, it will change. When life is really hard, it will change. The pace may be too fast or too slow for our tastes, but it will change.

What is it they say…

You can’t control what happens, you can only control how you react to it?

We can all practice operating at an even keel. We can work on not letting the small quakes rattle us. Life sure is less exhausting that way.

But…

What about the big ones? What about the life altering, foundation crumbling earthquakes?

When we fall into a hole we didn’t know was there –

What then?

Sometimes we have to reach up out of the hole, and grab a hand or two. We have to let people help.

The people who matter will never fault us for ending up down there…and they will celebrate us when we climb back out.

 

 

 

 

Day 250/365 Why Dogs Are Happier Than People

This afternoon I bundled up for a walk with Louie. I threw on my dad’s hoodie sweatshirt, which usually hangs comfortingly on the back of my bedroom door (I’m not really one for sweatshirts – I’ve saved his purely for sentimental reasons).

Having it on under by coat felt like a warm hug. It felt like I was taking him with me.

As I was pulling into the parking area of our favorite spot, I thought of a cartoon I saw a while back. I tried to google it just now but couldn’t find it. Anyway, it depicted a man and his dog out for a walk in the woods. They each had a thought bubble over their heads. The man’s thought bubble was filled with a dozen things that were on his mind. The dog’s thought bubble simply had an image of the man and the dog walking in the woods. The dog was thinking about exactly what they were doing.

The caption was, “Why  dogs are happier than people.”

I don’t know if the cartoonist was deliberately illustrating the benefits of mindfulness, but nevertheless, to me it was a well made point. No one is more “in the moment” than a dog.

My mind is busy most of the time (often too busy, in my opinion). Getting out in the woods usually does wonders in clearing my head…if only for a little while.

The woods bring calm, and it really is in the form of mindfulness. I notice and appreciate the changing canvas through the seasons – the carpet of leaves, the newly bare trees, the joy in my dog.

Sometimes I am stuck on something that I can’t let go and I need to process, and the fresh air does help…but I most enjoy a walk when I can just be there in body and in mind.

Today was one of those days. I am grateful.

 

Day 222/365 Important

Last night we had a bad storm. I don’t know if I just wasn’t paying attention (totally possible) but it’s intensity seemed to come out of nowhere. The wind absolutely howled and clawed at my windows as I lay in bed.

One child had already climbed in with me before I had even turned out my reading light. Laying there listening to the wind, I had such a strong urge to go and lift my little one out of her bed and bring her in with us. I imagined a tree falling on the house, hitting her side. A mere twenty feet away from us seemed too far.

In the end I pushed the thought away. I knew she was sound asleep, and that it would be out of selfishness that I would wake her so that I could feel more comfortable.

I awoke at 5:30 to a text message from the girls’ school. No school today, presumably because of a power outage (we had also lost power in the night).

About an hour later I received a text from a friend.

She shared, ruefully, how lonely she had felt in the storm.  Her children had been with their dad overnight, and she wished she had a man with her through the storm, to hold her closely, or to at least check on her wellbeing.

“I completely understand,” I wrote back, and I do. I have been there and have felt that way.

It’s funny though, I never had that thought last night. I was completely focused on the children, on them being safe…on protecting them.

I have a feeling if my friend’s children had been at home with her, her feelings would have shifted in that direction too.

Because…

I don’t even think it is about a woman needing or wanting a man to take care of her. I think it is about wanting to feel important to somebody – whether you are the one being cared for or the one taking care.

So…

If you are reading this right now, I hope you know that you are important.

Your wellbeing – It matters.

The way you care for others – It matters.

You are important.