Riptide…

 

It’s been months since I’ve written and I wish I could have been able to express what I was feeling. I confess, my grief just wouldn’t allow me to do much else but ponder, ruminate, and contemplate…the desolation of nothingness and nowhere. I just didn’t have any words or ideas to communicate. My spirit had folded in on itself and I was working on putting one foot in front of the other, and mimicking some version of myself.

Mourning is an all-consuming process and it refused to ebb and flow on my command so finally I surrendered to melancholy and sorrow. I gave myself permission to activate my copilot, but inside my mind, I vacillated between frenzied hysteria and eerie, lonely silence.

For me grief reminded me of swimming in the ocean when I as a kid. I would dare myself to swim out as far as I could, where the water was dark and cold. My teeth would chatter and my skin would wrinkle and prune and with my eyes wide open, I would submerge my head under the mysterious swirling black water and despite the burning from the briny depths of the gauzy green sea, I would open my eyes. Under the misty water, the silence was soothing, aquatic life floated by seemingly oblivious to my anguished presence. There are no human sounds,  emotions are muted, distorted and insignificant. Looking up at the sky through the kaleidoscope of the foamy waves, the sun can be seen floating, glittery and hazily in the distance like a diamond. I felt removed and insulated from life. 

And just like when I was a kid, the need for air would overcome me, and with my lungs bursting, I would be forced, gasping and scrambling back to the surface.  I realize now that grief had clung to my skin, my cells and my heart, and swimming in the ocean allowed the water which had blanked, and for a while sustained me, began to recede. 

When I emerged this time, I found I no longer wished for the fickle darkness of the enigmatic ocean. I decided instead, to let the wind and brilliant sunlight soothe my soul and heal my grief laden spirit. It allowed me to release myself from the riptide of grief that had consumed me.

So with renewed vigor, I am swimming back to shore and to life with renewed energy. That’s the magic of the ocean. Despite its beauty, it can be treacherous and desolate. But if I relax, surrender and float, it’s like a beacon that always leads me home.

The shore…

Struggling to the Surface!

Grief and loss are emotions I would prefer to experience from afar. For now, it hasn’t worked that way. Sorrow has seeped into my cells and attacked my gratitude, joy, light, love, and peace. I find myself struggling to find that place inside me where optimism and hope have always lived. My friend, Pam, recently reminded me that with all my internal struggles and trying to process it all silently, instead she thought I needed to “write it down and put it on the page.”  So Pam, this post is dedicated to you for your faith in me that I have words to say while my spirit broods caustically. You reminded me that I don’t need to have it all figured out before I share it. Maybe just maybe sharing it will release me from the depths of sadness and pain. Here goes.

Losing my aunt, losing period, sucks. I’m not a dark soul so being immersed in pain and shadows disturbs me. I have found in this darkness a resting place for everything I Fear most. In the murkiness and depths of sorrow, I discovered there was a place for me. A place I have chosen to visit but fear I may have stayed far longer than I had anticipated. It’s tentacles which once comforted me in my grief, have now reached out to entangle me in its web. Like swimming underwater, sounds are muted, light is dull, sunshine is hard to find and my breath escapes in small bursts. I have tarried here too long, way too long. It’s time to swim to the surface and let the warmth of the sun remind me of all that I am grateful for and all the good things and wonderful people that have loved and supported me now and always.

I’m sure that most people would be surprised to read this as I do an amazing job of putting on a good face. Underneath it all, I can’t help but remember what I’ve lost. Loss, lost, gone, buried!! These  words reverberate in my head. Why can’t I see all that I have gained instead? When does the hurt subside?

I lost a person who truly saw me, warts and all. A person who helped me laugh at myself and to share who I am without the walls and bravado that steadied me through chaos. A person who I took for weekly, monthly, year after year, (30 or so years), of car rides to nowhere, while I worked out the person I wanted to be and not to be. We would call each other and all we had to say is, “you wanna go for a ride?” I would pick her up and we would ride for hours. No destination, no particular plan, except of course, therapy. Perhaps it was sitting side by side that allowed me to bare my soul. Perhaps because she was a therapist who know how to get under my defenses and let me know failure was a part of my learning curve, not to be deemed a weakness. Perhaps it was because she would laugh with her whole body and the world would right itself for a while. Or perhaps because she loved me and was proud of me and told me so often. She loved with her whole being and believe me, if she loved you, you knew it. Perhaps because she loved me unconditionally and I treasured that and miss it more than words could ever convey.

These are gifts I hope I repaid while she was here on earth. I know she knew how much she meant to me and that she gave me permission to share my love, worries, and hopes with her without judgement. She never judged me. She cajoled, reasoned, and occasionally would yell at me to get it together, and always with a hint of humor and grit.

A month or so after her death, I found a voicemail from her singing me happy birthday. God how I treasure that message. I pray someday I can listen to it without weeping and feeling sorry for myself. I know she’s in good hands now and her body is healed again and strong. I know that she is telling jokes in heaven and caring for all the underdogs who need a champion. I know because she was my champion.

So while I kick my way to the surface, I hear her cheering me on. I am reminded that while loss is a part of me now, so is gratitude, for I had one of the best friends anyone could ever wish for. I know she lives on in me and remains one of the brightest parts of my soul. I believe beyond any shadow of a doubt that she is telling me to get it together and to focus on all the wonderful things we did together and that someday we will ride together again. Godspeed Maureen. I love you to the moon and back again.

 

 

The Winds of Change…2018

Happy New Year to All! I’m more than happy to say goodbye to 2017. It was a difficult year of loss, political divisions, sorrow and change. 

Truthfully, I’m not much of a political pundit and usually after an election year I am eager to let go of political debates. This year was a wholly different animal. The politicians and their enormous egos, hubris, and selective memories have literally left me speechless. I keep wondering where are the adults? Whose responsibility is it to change the trajectory of our political discourse? As my sons and I grapple with the magnitude of our country’s growing pains, I am heartened to hear my children say they’re prepared to change the legacy that we have unfortunately burdened them with for the foreseeable future. I am extremely proud to have raised two teenage boys who are paying attention to what’s going on in the world and have their own ideas about how to solve our country’s looming credibility problems, our fiscal nightmares and our racially stoked divisions. To the future!

Grappling with the death of loved ones has been personally much more daunting. I’m at the age now where I am letting go of my heroes and learning to live without their guidance, support and advice. Frankly, I should attend a support group for adults handling the circle of life. From childhood to teens, twenties, etc. and finally the natural progression of my elders passing away and suddenly  I’m the wise one in the room, (mostly due to age and not actual knowledge). I feel like I looked away for a minute and the people that I love and trust most in the world, who know me sometimes better than I know myself, have gone. And while they will never be forgotten, I miss their wisdom, their experience and their ability to spot bullshit when they see it and thankfully never felt shy about sharing their opinions with me. Somehow in the chaos of growing up I realize that my friends and I are becoming “that old generation.” I don’t think I’m ready for full-time adulting!

 


So goodbye 2017, and thanks for the lessons. Its’s been rough and I know that in some ways I am much stronger. I guess I can be grateful for that, only not so many hard lessons, if you please, for 2018! While I admire strength and resilience, I have also come to realize how vulnerable and fragile my life truly is. That nothing is promised, not even my next breath, is the hardest lesson I have learned deep in my bones this year. Before they were just platitudes and clichés and I nodded along with everyone else thinking that that “time” is so far away. 

I pray that it is still far away but I know that grief will visit me and my friends and family again, all of us at some point. I hope that when it rears its ugly head, I can be as good an elder to the next generations as the grownups were in my life. I hope the wisdom that was shared with me will benefit my children and their children for generations to come. If I teach them nothing else, I will teach them to treasure every moment with the people they love, admire and respect. And when the time comes for them to say goodbye to those “going home,” I pray they will hear the love, cheering, and wisdom from their elders like their own personal  soundtrack. I pray that their lives will be filled with more ups than downs and that when the people they love leave them, they can take comfort from knowing they left them and all of us better than they found us.

Yes, the winds of change are here and I hear the whispers of the loved ones who are gone and I know they’re still rooting me on, laughing when I screw up and heartened to know, I did learn some valuable lessons from them along the way. I also hear, “I told you so,” on a regular basis but who could blame them? They so often did tell me so!  

 

Voyeurs or Friends?!

When Facebook first came out it seemed like a cool way to travel through space and time, to reconnect with new and old friends, coworkers and family. Slowly though I wonder if it hasn’t become a venue for voyeurism more than a place to share information, thoughts, friendships and images. I feel like there are times when someone is posting something extremely personal, and I’m uncomfortable viewing it. Suddenly I am engaged an extremely personal conversation with someone I know very little, or only as an “acquaintance.” The level of information being imparted for all to view, is sometimes cringe worthy and deeply private.

Without warning I find myself brought up short by knowing the ins and outs of someone’s IBS, ,(irritable bowel syndrome), their divorce and hatred of the ex, or a photo of…”what is this on my back?” I wonder, is there no one else that can look at that thing growing on your back to decide what it is and more importantly how to treat it? Must I be scrolling through my timeline with my coffee, barely awake only to see a boil the size of a small bird perched on your back, gag a little and sit back and wonder..wth!

Back in the day, there was a saying, “TMI”, too much information. It is my nature to be guarded and less likely to share personal successes and failures with “virtual strangers.” Make no mistake, while we are all FB friends, we are strangers in one another’s daily lives. It’s difficult enough to be talking with someone who is bashing their ex in real time but at least, hopefully you know their back story. On FB, it’s a momentary blurt of information without context. It doesn’t account for nuances, for two sides of a story, or for questions. Instead, we’re left with judgements and I wonder, what knowledge have I gained? Is there value in knowing you hate your ex? What if I like your ex as a person?

Have we reached the point where the “likes” are the driving force behind the posts. Who liked it, who commented, who started trolling to initiate hate and discord? Who is listening?? Is anyone listening? Perhaps that is the problem. In our lives it seems things are moving so fast and now everyone has a way to gauge who is moving faster? Who is traveling, who is getting married, having babies, buying houses/businesses, going to fantastic parties and meeting amazing people? How do I measure up? Am I losing?

In a way, it sets us all up for dissatisfaction with our own lives. Why am I not getting anywhere when everyone on FB is going everywhere? How can we live our lives with gratitude and be in the moment if the moment is only there for the sake of the post? If the motivation for having the experience, is so you can post it, are we really connecting to one another? I have been out with friends and while we are hanging out having fun someone inevitably says, let’s take a picture and post it. Suddenly everyone is primping wondering if they look alright, how do I compare with everyone else and Boom…you’re completely out of the moment. Transported again through space and time as the picture is immediately posted and you pray that everyone likes it, I mean really likes it so that everyone can see you’re doing alright. Is it a validation of who we are or are we voyeurs in other people’s lives, constantly watching, trying to measure up and wondering, am I liked?

If you combine this with the unprecedented hacking of FB, I wonder if we are soaking up hate and division more than we are benefitting from the connectedness of sharing? Have we lost the ability to see beneath the surface? Are we all just creating movie posters of our lives without the story. For me as a writer, the post is the cover of the book but the richness of the person is in their stories. Without knowing the rise and fall of triumph and the agony of defeat it seems less meaningful, less authentic. Almost like we are inviting people to look at us, to judge us, only don’t look too closely. Just tell me you like what you see.