Tag Archives: perspective

My Parting Words to 2012

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We will open the book.  Its pages are blank.  We are going to put words on them ourselves.  The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.  ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day. ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

This is my last post for 2012, a year that has been such a mixture of grief and gladness. So much has happened since February 10, “The Day My Earth Stood Still” and my family’s life took an abrupt and alarming turn. If I could go back in time I’d change everything, rewrite so much and devise a different and happier outcome. Of course, that’s not how our time here works, so instead we choose from the options we do have. Mine has been to look for what is good, what is positive, what is happy, and what is joyful. It’s taken some effort at times and I’d be lying if I said it’s been easy as pie every day.

I’ve spent the last week battling a pretty nasty cold, one that has wanted to linger despite my protests and medication. I haven’t been sick like this in a very long time. Someone asked if I thought it could be related to losing Brian and I’m beginning to suspect that it is. I was dreading the arrival of the first Christmas without him and the emptiness that came with it. Perhaps it was just a virus picked up during holiday shopping, or maybe it was just my body giving in to some feelings of grief. Who knows for sure?

Early this morning, around 2:45 actually, I woke up and thought, “Wow! I feel a lot better. …and I still have almost six hours until the alarm goes off!” Today I feel more like myself and I believe I have caught up on some much needed sleep. While I was under the weather I ran across this quote:

“She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts.” ~George Eliot

I’ve wrestled with grief this year, resisted parts of it that were uncomfortable and tried to push away what I didn’t want to face sometimes, perhaps even to the point of physical illness. But there has definitely been a welcoming as well. I’m learning that it’s simply part of my life for now. It’s part of everyone’s, really, at one time or another. So why not make it a companion and share our thoughts with it? When grief enters our life, it’s here to stay for a while, so we might as well be welcoming.

As this year draws to a close, I want to thank each and every one of you who has walked alongside me in 2012 as I have travelled this rocky path. It’s been nothing less than a joy to feel the compassion and encouragement from each of you, to welcome new friends and draw closer to those I’ve known for a long time. It’s time to say goodbye to 2012. I recently read about a burning ritual done by a fellow “griever” and I love the idea of tangibly saying goodbye to a 365-day journey around the sun and all its ups and downs. I plan to do that on December 31, 2013. I may even set fire to a few mementos of 2012 tomorrow… we’ll see. I hope you’ll look back over 2012 and let go of what was sad or hurtful, what made you upset, and what you’d rather forget. I hope you’ll also leave behind some of what was grand and left you feeling elated! Let that be what you see when you look back at 2012. Prepare yourself for what is waiting ahead in a brand new year. Get ready to open a new book, one of blank pages to fill any way you like. I’ll see you there!

Parting with the Past = Joy 

Advice for Younger Me

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Older Me

I’m not sure where this picture came from, but it’s circled the Internet and when it popped up I identified with it. If only we could whisper into our own ears and let our younger selves know some things. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.

Older me would have whispered quite a lot to my middle school self. I would have let that insecure girl know that she had a voice and shouldn’t be afraid to use it. I’m not a shy person, but I do get a bit nervous when I have to talk in front of people. It wasn’t always that way though. As a little girl I performed for family and friends, put on little skits and dances, and talked a lot. I knew when to be quiet – in school or church – and when it was okay to let loose. But then I had to give a short speech in 8th grade and the substitute teacher gave me what I felt was an unfair grade because she said “your voice was shaky.” From that day on I avoided speaking if possible. I grew quieter. But older me would go back and tell that girl that shaky voices don’t matter and, quite frankly, grades don’t matter. Trying matters. Going out on a limb matters. Even failing matters… sometimes much more than success.

Older me would have whispered to my high school self to have more fun and not be so serious. I would have told that teenager to get out more and not take the extra classes. I would have told her to enjoy school and study hard, of course. I would also have told her to keep playing music and never let her love of creating art die. Somewhere along the way I decided those two things were no longer important. Now I can no longer read music and while I’m still creative, I sometimes wonder what “masterpieces” never happened.

Older me would have whispered to my 20-something self as well. I would have told her that it is okay to be a young mom and not know what the heck you’re doing. I would have assured that frazzled homemaker that every mom feels that way, whether she’s 20 or 50. I would have told her that you do the best with what you have. Brian always wanted to be a better parent than his parents and that is not to say his were bad in any way! He just felt we should all try to take what we have learned and do more if we can, strive to be the best that we can be. Of course, he and I fumbled many times as parents and always said our kids turned out the way they did in spite of us, not because of us. But older me would tell that 20-something mom that it’s also okay to take credit for the good stuff. I did do things that shaped my children and made them into the great young men they are today. It’s okay to be proud of that.

Older me would tell my 20-something self to be humble and look around for opportunities to learn. While I lacked some confidence in my parenting skills, I sometimes felt I knew more than I really did in other areas, that I had answers and that I was better than other people my age. We all have those feelings at times, of course, where we roll our eyes and feel a little smug about how smart we are. I was a little more judgmental back then and saw the world as black and white. Now, I know that the older I get the more I have to learn. The more I know, the more I realize how little I know!

Older me would tell the younger me entering her 30s that life is very short and we don’t have time to take things for granted. I would tell myself to live every moment fully and appreciate everything and everyone around me. I would have told myself to pick my battles carefully and let a lot of nonsense go. I would have told myself to love more fiercely, feel more deeply, watch more closely, speak more kindly, give more freely.

Like the picture above says, I would whisper to my younger self that I’m not alone. I know that people identify with me and feel the same things I do. I know that we all struggle. It happens in different ways, but it’s struggle nonetheless. I’d whisper that it does indeed get better. Even with ups and downs, loss and heartache, it gets better. If we pay attention to the lessons of life we can find joy and happiness in the darkest of times and we can make those foggy days clearer.

There’s an older me waiting down the road, who wishes to whisper to the me I am right now, at 38. I know she has things she wishes she could speak right now that would make this path a little easier. I kind of wish I could hear those words of advice. Since I can’t, I will just remember that she’s waiting for me somewhere out there in the future and she does hope I’ll take care. So I will. I will take care of myself by paying attention to the little things that happen each day, by giving myself permission to wade through the bad in whatever way is necessary, and by being mindful and enjoying the good. And I’ll thank older me now, in advance, for doing her best and living well.

Whispers from Older Me = Joy 

Waiting for Normal

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Sometimes I feel I’m on a strange roller-coaster and you are all joining me in my ups and downs, wondering when this ride will level off. Another widow advised me, before Brian passed away, not to make any decisions or any big changes for a year. I listened, but in the back of my mind I just knew I’d be different, able to do things in my own time and my own way. In some ways, that is probably true, but I am beginning to see the wisdom in her words. She’s lived through many years of the different life that follows losing the person with whom you shared an existence. She probably knows far better than I that time is a great healer and guide through grief, and that your perspective can change from one month to the next, or even one day to the next.

It’s not a big secret that I am an introvert, a person who craves solitude and doesn’t mind quiet. But solitude is quite different than loneliness and quiet doesn’t always mean silence. Unfortunately, filling the loneliness and silence isn’t as easy as it may sound. You can’t just go out with a friend or watch a comedy. It doesn’t work that way because the one you long for the most can’t be replaced with a laugh track or even another person.

I have a lot of trouble sleeping these days. For a while I was okay, falling into deep sleep and waking up rested and ready to go. That was probably because of the chaotic sleep patterns I had while Brian was sick. After he died it was a relief to have uninterrupted sleep and not worry about his comfort and care. That’s all far behind me now, and I find that sleepless nights have returned. The worst has been a period of almost two days with not much more than a wink. The norm is several hours that are restless and sometimes filled with dreams I’d rather not remember. Once in a while my body finally shuts down and I sleep for 10 or 12 hours. I wish for a regular pattern.

Family dinners are nice and I appreciate that I have my parents here to support me. I even enjoy cooking meals and the routine of setting a table and calling everyone to dinner. But they are nowhere near the same as they once were. He’s just gone and that has changed everything. I’ve been out to dinner and it’s great to be waited on and share a meal and good conversation with other people. But it’s not the same. His laughter and jokes aren’t there. And I drive away alone, not wanting to face that he won’t be there when I get home either. Eating out by myself is a new experience and one I should learn to be comfortable with, but I’m not. It has nothing, yet everything, to do with sitting alone. I was part of something and now I’m not. It was taken from me.

I had a normal life. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was good and I liked it. I had a family and a little world to tend to. It was ripped from my hands without my permission. That hits me more often and harder lately. Sometimes it makes me angry and the last words I want to hear from anyone are “things happen for a reason” or “this will make sense someday.” I do understand that we have no control over some circumstances, only our reactions to them, and I have been very fortunate to have lived and enjoyed what I have. But I feel selfish sometimes, wanting to rewind and have what was. If I were to make a big decision now, it might be to run very far away and leave everything familiar behind me, to start over where not a soul knows me or knows what has happened. That could possibly be a wonderfully amazing adventure, but not the smartest decision. Or I might try to reconstruct a very similar and familiar type of life to replace what I had in order to get those feelings back again. That could also be a great adventure, but not a really smart choice.

Instead of running or replacing, I am sitting still and waiting. I’m trying to wait patiently for the time when life will move forward… or maybe just sideways. I have responsibilities, things I need to do and wrap up before I go anywhere or try to do anything new. Then, I need to learn to be on my own. I need to learn to be comfortable coming home without anyone to greet me. I need to know it’s okay to live alone, cook alone, do laundry for one, and be happy without him here.

This is my sweet November of renewal and I have been focusing on gratitude and finding joy in the little and big things that are good in life. There’s a lot there – I haven’t lost everything, that’s for sure, and I don’t want to be grumpy and whine and wallow. This season will no doubt turn out to be a beautiful and transformative one. Time will surely show me that normal isn’t only what I had, but what I will one day have again in a new way.

Waiting for Normal = Joy

Sweet November

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Today we begin a new month. The last 31 days I spent looking at life in new and different ways. I have a set of 12 composition books that I use for journaling. At the beginning of October, as I began some “group journaling” online, I named the journal for the month “Promise” and the pages contain plans, hopes, fears, dreams, worries, questions, and imaginings. Yesterday as the group time ended, one of the women asked what word came to mind for the new month. Immediately, the word “renewal” popped into my head, so as I take a fresh composition book out of the cabinet I’ll put that word front and center on the first clean, lined sheet of paper. I don’t really know what will come as the days begin and end, but I have a feeling it really will turn out to be a month of renewal. Last month did, indeed, reveal to me the promise that is ahead in life.

This month a President will be elected and regardless of who wins, it is a new term, a time of renewal as we move on and focus on what’s ahead – hopefully in a respectful and positive way whether our candidate of choice wins or not. This month we change our clocks… is that some kind of renewal? Sure, why not? We gain an hour! This month we give thanks and honor veterans. Those days can certainly be times of renewal as we look at life and how precious it is and how much we have, no matter our circumstances. Hopefully we will see water recede and communities draw together as cleanup efforts begin after such a devastating storm. Although there was much lost and damaged and ravaged by wind and water, the time afterward can certainly bring renewal if we allow it.

For me this month will be a mixture of happy and sad as I continue to reflect and go through the process of moving forward to happy tomorrows while remembering the sweetness of days gone by. I’ll no doubt continue to shed healing tears and find a renewed sense of strength to keep going through each day. I think from here on out I will just keep giving each month a name… a word that I will focus on for 28 or 30 or 31 days. I like the idea of passing time in that way.

Thank you for reading, for following my story, for being a part of my life in such a profound way. I never expected 2012 to be this way. Tears are trickling down my cheeks right now just thinking of all that has transpired, the devastating and the marvelous.

As I close, I’ll ask, “What would your word be? What do you hope this month will hold? What is one positive, happy, JOYFUL word that you’d like to focus on this month?” I don’t normally ask questions, but I would love to hear from you. I wish a little bit of renewal and a lotta bits of joy for each of you.

A Sweet Month of Renewal = Joy

Promises to Keep

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…But I have promises to keep, 

And miles to go before I sleep, 
And miles to go before I sleep.

(from “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost)

On Saturday I went ziplining. All those who are Facebook friends have already been inundated with photos of the day 😉 ! Afterward, I told a friend how much I loved it and that I would like to travel via zipline. Standing at the top of the first line, knowing I was putting my life literally on the line with a piece of metal and rope, my heart was beating a little faster than normal. But as the guide let go and I started forward, the only feeling was exhilaration and happiness. My smile was huge. The view over the treetops was awesome and I got that familiar feeling that happens now and then: I’m such a tiny piece of a big and wonderful world. As each person in our group took to the line and zipped away, they became smaller and smaller, just little dots on the landscape.

Inside my pocket all day was my old phone full of pictures of Brian. I took it along so he could join me on one of my first adventures. I missed having him there because his enthusiasm would have been infectious and entertaining. We had talked about ziplining before; it’s a common excursion on cruises, so we figured we would end up on a line in a rainforest somewhere on a cruise stop. And we no doubt would have if time had been on our side. Instead, I find myself trying to keep the promise I made that I would do some of the things we planned together. I can check one off the list! He would have been proud of me for being spontaneous and deciding to book the trip as soon as it popped up as a possibility. He would have been proud that I put an invitation out there for others to join in. He would have been proud that I followed through and that I loved it.

There are other promises I still have to keep: writing, following my passion, scuba diving, visiting Europe (preferably on a shoestring with one backpack), living outside the United States for a while (Anyone have a place that needs watching for an extended period of time?), taking chances, and living life to the fullest. All of those things, quite honestly, are going to be challenging for me. Ziplining was getting my toes wet on the steps of the shallow end of the pool; the rest will be like a canon ball off the high dive. But each one will be worth it for what I will gain and also because…

Keeping Promises = Joy