Day 304/365 Show Up

Some of you, especially those who have been reading this blog from the beginning, have come to regard me as somewhat of an expert on grief.

Well…let me clarify

I am not certain that I have had any revelations that literally anyone else who has experienced loss hasn’t had – but what I have done is share my thoughts and feelings about my father’s death (among many other things, as it turns out) with all who care to read about them.

As a result, I have been told that my gift is putting words to some universal feelings around loss and grief. I suppose in this way I am able to shine a light on the fact that as human beings who have loved and lost, we are never alone in our pain.

Many readers have told me that when someone they know experiences a loss, they recommend my blog to help that person process it. I have to admit this feels good. I like knowing that my choice to process my grief in such a public way has helped people (other than me), and perhaps will continue to help people even after I am done with my “365 days”.

I hope so.

At the moment, though, I feel that my words are completely inadequate.

My 45 year old friend, Melissa, became a widow one week ago today – a widow and a single mother of four.

I have written about how we do ourselves and others a disservice by comparing our pain (or our cause of pain) with that of others. I have said that grief is grief; loss is loss. We feel how we feel, they feel how they feel. Everyone’s feelings are valid and true, regardless of whether we perceive someone as having more or less reason to suffer than we do.  As with anything in life, comparing ourselves to others in any way does not serve us.

While I still believe that to be true, sometimes I just can’t help it.

As I watched the children’s faces as their father was being lowered into the earth, I felt emotionally gutted. I couldn’t help but think: I had roughly three decades longer with my wonderful father than these children had with theirs.

My pain was enormous. So…what of theirs? Can you even image?

As for my friend, she lost the person with whom she planned to spend the rest of her life (happily, I might add). The life she has, they built it together over the course of more than twenty years.  Everything in her home whispers a story about Jaime.

He is everywhere and nowhere all at once.

In some ways I feel afraid of (or perhaps intimidated by) the grief I imagine she holds within her. I am not proud of that, but I will own it, because I know my discomfort comes from a desire to relieve her pain, coupled with a deep knowing that I can’t possibly do that for her.

Her pain is hers to process, and she is so incredibly strong and capable.

That being said, I can show up for her anyway. I can show up even when I know I can’t take away the pain. I can show up to witness her in her grief. I can show up for the hard and messy and complicated stuff that lands heavily and mercilessly after the dust settles.

I can show up.

 

Day 210/365 Violin Lesson

Last night Beau really had a meltdown about her violin playing skills. She said she was horrible at it, and that every note she played was wrong.  There was a lot of playing of one or two notes, followed by sounds of complete despair. This went on for a long time….a long time. It was painful for all of us. Finally I suggested she put it away and try again tomorrow.


I have been exhausted lately. I am blessed to have so many people and things that are important to me. Sometimes it feels as though I am not giving any of them enough…not as much as I want to give. This makes me feel sad and tired and overwhelmed.

I got to work this morning and I was talking to a colleague and friend about an upcoming special event at the school. I was feeling overwhelmed by the idea of it. She quickly and easily broke it down for me – what has already been done (most everything). “What can I do to help?” she asked.

I nearly reneged on having friends over for dinner on Saturday evening (something I’d planned a week or so ago), due to feeling overscheduled. The friends offered to take a rain check, but when I said the girls had really been looking forward to having them over, my friend offered to make dinner. “I’ll bring dinner. No worries. Just breathe,” she wrote.

I described my crammed Thursday schedule to another colleague and friend…from the bus stop to a lengthy meeting in Pawtucket, from Pawtucket to the girls’ school, from the girls’ school (45 minute ride) to their dentist, then to a doctor’s appointment. What’ll I do with Louie (my dog)? I hadn’t thought of him. He can’t stay home alone all day, and there’s no room in my schedule for me to stop at home. “Bring him to me,” she said. “I’ll watch him.”

After a meeting in Warwick this afternoon I was running late to the bus stop to get my kids. I called a friend to see if he could help in case I didn’t make it. “I’ve got them. No problem. I’m here,” he said. 

I appreciated all of this help, but… 

It also compounded my feeling that I am somehow failing at life.

I should be able to handle everythingall by myself.

RIGHT?!

I arrived at the bus stop just as the bus was unloading. As the girls got into my car, Beau  (carrying her violin case from today’s lesson), announced…

“Guess what! I am not actually terrible at violin! It turns out I am just not good at playing it all by myself.  It just doesn’t sound as good as when I’m playing it with my friends.”

I’m telling you, I burst out laughing – hysterically. The girls seemed confused at first, until I said between gasps for air, “After all that drama last night, it turns out you are not actually terrible?” The girls both started laughing with me. “I know!” she said. “All that drama for nothing.”

It wasn’t until later, when I crawled into to bed to think about the day (and to write to you) that I drew the parallel…

I am not failing at life.

“It turns out I am just not good at playing it all by myself.”

And what a blessing that I don’t have to be.

Ghesh.

All that drama for nothing.

 

 

 

 

Day 152/365 Nichole (Colie)

Her startlingly clear blue eyes radiate such kindness and depth of soul, and reveal just a flicker of mischievousness.

There may not be a more gentle soul. She is a lover of all children, with a soft spot for those who need a little extra love, attention, and support. This makes her job as a special education coordinator the perfect fit. Brimming with compassion and drive, she has been recognized by Newport Life magazine as a groundbreaker in her community.

Colie has been a vegetarian for many years because of her deep love of animals (but she doesn’t shame us meat eaters, bless her).

Colie embodies such a contrast to me…and I love it. She is deep and philosophical, and she also loves inappropriate and silly humor…never letting an inadvertent reference to one’s anatomy go without a smirk or a snicker.

She is the most wonderful mother – lovingly firm, patient and so much fun.  She sometimes seems to be in perpetual motion, which has been a gift to her active sons.

She has always been high energy.  When we were neighbors in our twenties she would use a workout with me as a warm up to her actual workout.

Colie has taken some hard knocks, but she has pulled herself up, brushed herself off, and moved forward. She doesn’t let anger get the best of her. She believes in letting karma do its thing.

Colie loves her family fiercely, and somehow I have been lucky enough to earn honorary family status somewhere along the past twenty plus years of friendship.

I am so blessed to claim her as one of my people.

I love you, dear friend. You are an absolute ray of sunshine.

colie 1.

 

Day 148/365 Shane

Shane, you are one of my favorite people on Earth, truly.

I believe when I wrote about my younger brother, Ryan, I wrote that he is love personified.  I feel the same way about you, Shane.  You have the same energy.

The word that comes to mind when I think of you is warmth. There really isn’t a warmer, more genuine man.

Shane has an unabashed bleeding heart. If someone is hurting, he wants to help.  Thank God, that includes me.  Whether he planned for it or not, he has gotten himself a platonic “bonus wife” of sorts….thank goodness his actual wife is my dear friend, Sarah.

He is completely comfortable with female energy…having two daughters and four sisters, he seems to consider the company of women an honor. I truly believe that.

Shane is a skilled woodworker by trade. He is also a talented singer…though he is incredibly humble about this part of himself.

Shane is quick witted, and so very fun. People gravitate toward him.

He is easy going almost to a fault – he rolls with whatever is happening.  I don’t believe I’ve ever actually seen him angry, through eighteen years of friendship.

His luminous smile welcomes all, and he truly is one of the kindest people I know.

Shane, I am so grateful that you are my friend.

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Day 146/365 The Other Woman

I am about to embark on my fourth annual Maine vacation with Monica, Austin, and all of our children. It is sometimes hard to believe that I have already been a “single lady” for four years.

Other times my marriage feels like a lifetime ago…so much has happened.

Most of my close friends are a part of a couple, which I would imagine could be a difficult thing for many singles – having the old “third wheel” feeling.  I am lucky to have friends with whom I never feel that way…in fact, it hardly ever crosses my mind at all when I’m with them.

I am very grateful. I love their company so much – individually and together in pairs.  They are great people whichever way they are packaged.

I guess they feel the same way about me…

My married friends don’t act as though they’re afraid being divorced is catchy.  Blessedly, they aren’t constantly trying to fix me up with someone in order to balance the wheels.  We are balanced already.

If anything, I’m worried about making sure whichever man I ultimately bring into the fold blends in…

{Though there doesn’t appear to be an immediate threat.}

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Day 7/365 – SARAH

Sarah and I have known each other for…well, forever. Our lives have always just organically intertwined…

We lived across the street from each other for a time growing up; her parents and mine becoming close friends, while she and my brother, Ryan, were inseparable. (A decade later, her best friend dated him for a long time.) We worked together ages ago, and she then married into one of my favorite families…cementing us as faux sisters-in-law.

Though we had all of this connection spanning decades, it was becoming mothers around the same time that really bonded us. There’s nothing that brings people together more than having a shared experience that is both wonderful and terrifying – especially when you are brave enough to admit to each other that you don’t know what the hell you are doing.

There are so many things I could say about Sarah, but here’s what I love most – she is the most wonderfully kind person, AND she has FIRE. She will stick up for the people and the ideals that she holds dear (which are many!).

This is not to say she goes around looking for arguments. She is a peace lover. An idealist. A Bernie supporter. I’ll tell you one thing, though. I’m grateful to have her in my corner.

Though she be but little, she is fierce. – Shakespeare

sarah

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Day 1/365 – AUSTIN

Austin, I’m starting my gratitude flood with you, because you are the one who popped into my head this morning and made me think about all the amazing friends I have. On Thursday, I texted Austin and asked if he could take a call from me for a computer issue I was having. I (kind of?) jokingly wrote, “I promise to try not to cry.” I swear he showed up five minutes later. Not a call…he just showed up. He always shows up, eager to help me or my kids in any way possible. I’m grateful for you, Austin.

A cute story – The girls like it when I sing to them (bless their wounded ears) and one song they like is “Just the Way You Are” by Billy Joel. One night I started to sing, “Don’t go changing, to try to please me; you never have to work that hard…”
Beau interrupted me and said, “That sounds like something Austin would say.”

PS I was gonna cry, and he knew it.austinn

This blog is a 365 day journal.  If you would like to start here and read the entries in order, scroll down to the bottom right to find the next entry (in this case, Day 2) and repeat at the end of each piece (Day 3…and so on). Thanks for reading!