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 59/365 Trapeze, No Net?

Yesterday I wrote about how being partnerless on Mother’s Day feels a bit lonely. I wondered why I felt this way this year, when I’ve been a single parent for the past three. Somehow being without a partner was feeling heavier to me this year.

Running it all through my mind in a stream of consciousness way…Mother’s Day….Mother’s Day without a husband, not so bad…Mother’s day without a husband and without a fatherwounding. Why?

I feel the feminist inside me dying as I write this, but I think it’s about traditional roles. “The dad” (and then the husband/dad) is the protector. The mom is the nurturer.  Here I am nurturing my ass off and where is my protector?

He’s gone.

They are both gone, albeit in entirely different ways.

When you get married, (if you’re lucky) your dad “gives you away.”  They literally ask that at the alter, “Who gives this woman…” (Actually, writing it down this way, it seems so perverse; creepy even. I’d like to think I was not a possession to be given away, but…)

It’s all about symbolism, right?

I was his only daughter.  To “give me” to someone else – it meant something to him. It meant he was trusting another man to love me as deeply as he did, to honor me and to protect me. To respect me. To keep me safe from harm.

I’m sure some readers are rolling their eyes or suppressing vomit at the moment – but I believe all that. I’m an independent, self sufficient woman and I still want a man who makes me feel safe, protected, and looked after.

There, I said it (wrote it, whatever). Deal with it.

When all of that safety and care fell away in my marriage, I still had a man in my life who made me feel safe and cared for. In fact, he was the best man I’ve ever known –

My dad.

I was not conscious at the time of the emotional safety net he provided during my trapeze act, for I never needed it.

Going off on my own with my four and seven year old daughters in tow, I was strong (as strong as I could have been at the time). I was capable.

Deep down, though, I suppose I always knew that if I fell – really fell – he would catch me. He would keep me safe.

So now…

I guess I feel a bit like a trapeze artist who has suddenly looked down only to realize the net – the one she always knew was there for her –

That net has vanished, and it’s scary as hell up here.

Even though she knows it was never really the net that kept her safe; it was herself.

Just the same, knowing the net was there made it feel safer to take risks…

It made it easier for her to step off the platform and to trust herself to make it to the other side in one piece.

She knows the show must go on…

She’ll steady her breath, fix her gaze ahead, and stay balanced,

…but she’ll miss that net.

Day 26/365 It’s Not About Daffodils

Every year at this time, when the daffodils appear, I think of the poem by William Wordsworth,

I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud

Do you know that one?

He stumbles across a massive field of daffodils. He stops and marvels at it, not realizing as he does so that he is creating a memory that will bring him joy for many years to come. I love the last bit –

“I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”

 

I don’t know if there is a greater gift to us as thinking, feeling beings than to be able to conquer up memories of people, places and things that have moved us.

“…and then my heart with pleasure fills…”

Sometimes I have these moments of panic that I am going to lose the memories of my dad.  I frantically search my mind the way a nervous woman’s hand might plunge into her misplaced purse.  As her fingers grasp each familiar item, she slowly begins to relax –

Her wallet, her phone, her keys…

(His laugh, his smile, his humor…)

Ah, yes…

It’s all still here.

Deep breath.

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I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
 
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
 
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
 
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
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Day 25/365 We’re All Mad Here, Alice

Earlier today I was all set to serve you up a post about daffodils….trying to stick to the gratitude theme and all.  However, writing about those sprightly little bits of sunshine today seemed, well…at best, insincere, and at worst, like I was shoveling BS.

(Maybe I shouldn’t say that on account of the lovely daffodil post you may very well be reading tomorrow! 365 days, people!).

So, as you may have noticed I’ve drifted a bit here and there from the original impetus of this blog, which was to record a daily practice of gratitude. The thing is, through this daily writing process, I have uncovered and explored a lot about the grieving process from within myself, as well as from many of you. I think this exploration is, and will continue to be, a much truer refection of the year than if I were to purely focus on what brings me joy.  By allowing myself (and you) to witness and honor the more uncomfortable feelings, we see a much more authentic picture of…well, of life, right?

Of life and death and everything in between – the human experience.

So, yes, not only has gratitude been shared here, but also sadness and anger, and perhaps some worry.  What hasn’t reared its ugly head yet (I don’t think so, anyway) is anxiety.

Until now…

Well hello, Anxiety!  We should’ve known you’d show up!

It’s because of the post about Risk, isn’t it?  It’s because I suggested we shouldn’t worry about ANYthing, because NOTHING is really within our control, anyway? 

I thought so.

Anxiety has arrived to call bullsh*t on this funloving, bohemian view.

It landed powerfully yesterday.

I battled it with deep breathing, rest, sunshine, and reading to distract myself.

Then, today…it was back.

In spades.

Oh, and I see you’ve brought your friend, Fear.  How lovely! 

This morning I was entirely (and completely irrationally) convinced that some terrible fate had befallen a friend. I’m not going to get into the details, because, well…it’s just embarrassing.  Part of me knew I was being irrational (and fortunately that was the part of me that willed myself to wait at least ten minutes for a text response before going off in search of his lifeless body).  The other, very visceral part of me had tightly lodged my racing heart well up into my throat.

The thing is, we can talk about risk and lack of predictability, and about letting go of (the illusion of) control, but…

If you are a parent, or a child, or a sister or brother, a husband or wife, a lover or a devoted friend…and on and on…

Let me simplify –

Do you love?

Are you loved?

Then, I don’t believe you can ever be truly free from fear of loss…not when you have opened up your heart.

Especially when you have lost before.

But…

I also know that we cannot allow anxiety and fear own us, for example – by putting us into a panic when someone we care about goes out of view, or isn’t where they are meant to be (small children aside).

So, I know I will have to learn to relax my grip on the steering wheel of life…after all, I do know I am not really driving this crazy train.

This ease of hand and heart may take time, and I’m okay with that.

By the way,

When I heard from my (entirely not dead) friend this morning, and I told him how insane I felt, he replied…

“We’re all mad here, Alice.”

(I do love my friends.)

You must be mad, or you wouldn’t have come.

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