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!  

 

In the Presence of Writers

This fall I took a writing workshop on Martha’s Vineyard with the legendary, Nancy Aronie, who I have deemed a “Literary Guru”. As a writing teacher she moves fluidly, dancing gracefully through her life, sorrows, pain, and joy in such a way that it invites and inspires her writers to do the same. Nancy has the uncanny ability to create the space that allows each writer to submerge themselves in their memories, dreams, disillusionment, and prayers to evoke words, prose, and stories that made me weep, laugh, and applaud with astonishment and joy. Nancy creates a safe place for each writer to slowly shed their cocoon and emerge into the brightly beautiful butterflies we are constantly struggling to become. She allows us to become the writers we have each longed to become. Every day each person was required to write from one of Nancy’s daily prompts and no one disappointed, although collectively we bemoaned, “what would we say? Could we even write about ‘that’?” “Am I even doing this right?”.

These amazing writers showed up with their humor, their heartbreak, their tragedies and they wove a web of stories that enthralled and entranced everyone within earshot. As the rain steadily pounded the studio’s windows, these unique voices, shared their eloquent prose, poetry and purpose. They told stories that made me feel honored to have sat among the last vestiges of  fall’s, leaf-colored, canopy, in the in bleak ending of November and weep with unabashed abandonment. Tissues were quietly passed from person to person as we heard stories of suffering, and so much sadness that people have endured in their lives and have lived to tell about it. Each testimonial and written word was as individual as the writer but the collective experience of being human beings trying to navigate the morass of our own childhoods, teenage angst, and adult lives made me long to comfort them in some way. The best thing I could do was to sit silently, breathe deeply and bear witness to their incredible stories and then applaud like I was at a rock concert when they were finished.

You could hear a pin drop as each one of us were preparing to read our words, tell our stories and share our hopes and dreams and often revisit the very pain that had brought us there. Each voice was as distinctive as the writer. There was a richness, a catch in their throat honesty and the willingness to endure, that allowed us to be  swept away into their worlds and into their shared moments of dreams, triumphs, successes and sorrow. At the beginning of each class I was sure that we had heard the best writing and then I would be lulled, lead, and laden anew with fresh tears as even deeper stories emerged and these brave souls bared their spirits and shared their lives with such courage, writers who were strangers to me no more.

All writers were funny, raw, theatrical, heartsick, loving, imaginative, vulnerable and unflinchingly truth tellers who sat in a sacred circle and bared their underbellies for the rest of us to see. What I heard was a cacophony of vibrant voices, experiences, and writing styles, but these were WRITERS, true artists. No one else could have told their stories and shared them with 23 strangers with such rawness, profound honesty, honor and grace. Each voice, each piece was an expression of what that writer brought to the group and it could not be duplicated by anyone else. That is what being a writer is about, I suppose. Telling a story that only you know the intimate details of and making us see, feel, and step back into the piece with the same clarity and tangible, tactile feelings that the writer sees in their mind’s eye. It is the ability to draw other people along, to envision your steps, your views and your emotions that makes someone a talented writer and an artist.

As I sat listening, laughing, and languishing in empathy, sympathy, and pain, I realized, this is writing. Each person is responsible for telling their story, their way, with no apologies. Each writer’s words and voice lent itself to the story being told and on some days I wondered how it is that we have all survived. If you’re a writer, you put the pain, sorrow, and longing on the page and you tell your story because invariably the other people reading or listening are sharing in the triumphs and losses, just as your exquisitely chosen words intended to convey. It’s like writing music, the tempo, the melody and the visionary, inextricable placement of each word delivers the listener to another world, another layer, where you are the star and we are the audience, there unseen, unknowing, and unaware of where this beautiful song will lead.

I have been changed by this class and as my favorite quote reminds me, “When I move, Providence moves with me.” Stay tuned as I write about the other revelations that have emerged from this one simple act of stepping out on faith. It turns out, getting out of my comfort zone, challenging myself, and standing in the presence of greatness allowed me to find a bit of my own greatness amidst the crowd of writers that I now call friends.

#writers, #gratitude #inspiring

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

I think sometimes I am so caught up in my day to day grind that I forget what is happening around me. I complain because a class is cancelled or a check didn’t arrive on time or the damn squirrels are eating all the food out of my bird feeder…and then I am sharply reminded about real pain and suffering.

When someone I love is in unbearable pain, suffering in some way, my hear shatters with and for them. Recently a friend of mine was caught in the quagmire of grief and angst and there was nothing to be done about it. It was not pain of her own choosing but someone she loves more than anything. Her sorrow and palpable grief tore my soul asunder. I could do nothing to assuage her heartbreak, nothing but sit in the shadow of her hurt and to be present and bear witness.

Like falling down the rabbit hole, everyone who loves her is swept away in the torrent of her unspeakable, unshakable, unbearable agony. Down, down we all fall, tethered to her as she tumbles further into the abyss. All that can be done, is to fall silently, supportively, and soulfully into the darkness with her so that she isn’t left alone.

I know that I can’t heal or spare her this wrenching horror. I also know that by sitting in the stillness, the injustice, and sadness, I pray I am helping. It works against my nature to not be able to offer some solace or a game plan to ease her pain. Instead it is in the steadiness and assuredness, and the uncomfortableness, that I can show her my love, my loyalty, and my faith.

I try to remember and to focus on, all I can do is show up and pray that the waters will calm and she will commence sailing on smooth waters once again. Until then, I will weep, hug, laugh, and pray with every fiber of my being that she be free from this immense misery and that there will be a profound and magically lesson learned, after this tragic storm.

#friendship #sorrow

Cabin Fever

Usually I write when things are crazy. It’s how I cope but with the endless snow and the kids being home more than in school for the month of February, I’m exhausted. As if the snow days weren’t enough, we are coming to the end of February vacation and though I love my sons and would rather spend time with them more than anyone else on the planet, I can’t wait for them to go back to school. To get back to some sort of routine; theirs, and mine.

The snow is higher than my windows and I admit, I may be suffering from cabin fever. Oh sure, I’ve been out and about and working super hard but the white, whiteness of the snow is getting to me. Everywhere my eyes can see, there are mounds and mounds of snow too tall to throw snow on top anymore. Shards of ice dangle precariously from everyone’s house, and businesses, and the lakes and oceans are coated with huge chunks of floating, frozen, frigid white ice, far and wide.

I crave colors, green grass, the smell of fresh flowers, the warmth of the sun, and the water cascading over my head as I wade out to swim in the ocean. This is beginning to sound more like a plea for help or a message in a bottle from some foreign land. I’d laugh but I’m afraid it might sound a bit maniacal.

So hopefully, March will roar in like a lion and I know everyone here on the east coast will dance with fevered merriment and joy when the temperatures hit 50 and the only sounds we hear are the drip drop of snow melting, melting, melting. And our lives return to some semblance of order. I will end by sending the final snow photos for 2015 and hope that the next thing I write will be more optimistic and this winter will be something I talk about with nostalgia and not while gritting my teeth, my white teeth. I know, I’ve gone too far.

The freezing ocean
The freezing ocean
Dock frosting
Dock frosting

IMG_5975

 

 

#endless snow #cabin fever