Just One Picture

Can a person who is hurting and living with grief still laugh and feel joyful? Absolutely. Can that person cry and feel like never getting out of bed again? Absolutely.

Why is it that it’s encouraged and supported to relive and carry with us “good” memories but we are quietly (or not so quietly) nudged to let go and move on from the “bad” ones.

Take pictures of that awesome vacation and the hikes and the milestones that everyone is smiling at. Remember those times in your life blah blah blah.

But grief…loss…death? Oh dear, it’s bad to hold onto that. Don’t dwell on it. Let it go and move on with your life. Don’t let that shape how you see life now. Put it behind you and live your life.

Well guess what? All of those amazing experiences and those happy times are inside of me and helped make me who I am today – and so are all of the not so happy times in my life. Joy and hurt can exist in the same body and mind. At the same time.

Why is it ok for me to talk about a great family vacation and laugh as I remember the ridiculous events and the fun, but when I talk about how it felt to leave my son behind in an emergency psych unit, I get told that bringing it up will just make the grief last longer? Life is made up of laughter AND tears. Trust me on this one, not feeling hurt doesn’t mean that all you feel is joy. If you have lost – or pushed away – the ability to feel hurt, than what’s left is not just joy. It’s apathy and emptiness. As bad as grief can be and as badly as it can hurt, I’ll keep letting myself feel it because it means that I can also feel the swing side of it. There was too long after Willie died that I was numb. I’ve learned over the last two years that starting to feel “good” things again – happiness, love, sensuality and silliness – meant letting in the “bad” that I had been hiding away. I can’t move forward without bringing it all  with me.

Like a picture that hangs on the wall, grief is just there in my life. It isn’t the only picture on my wall and it isn’t all that my life is, like it was at first, but I know now that it will always be there.

It’s always present but I don’t always look at it or even really see it sometimes. Some days I go by and barely notice it. Other days, it’s all I can see on that wall. Its presence doesn’t affect what goes on in the room though. There are days that I cry and rage and scream there. There are other days that I laugh and make love and giggle in that room. Some days the room is quiet and mellow while some days the noise can be deafening.

My life is like that room. So much more than just one picture among the many that adorn its walls. It’s a combination of everything that’s there and all the things that will be brought in still as I experience and live my life. There’s always room for more.

Adding on and growing and with every new addition, it changes and becomes…. and is Life.

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Sometimes it’s laughter and not tears

A gathering lately of friends -people who are, oddly, not necessarily closely connected yet are also,more close than can be explained. Tribe. Family. A weekend that words don’t really do justice.

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Words that still elude me trying to bring essence to the awareness of my experience. A soft knowing that happened in a moment when a smile broke out instead of tears. When I knew that, at that moment, healing meant laughter and silliness and the elation of flying and sharing space with a few amazing women. An oddly secluded and intimate space of time, safe, secure, simple and easy and just… yes. No words. Just feeling.

Feeling that in welcoming joy in, it wasn’t going to be with tears and pain. The wind blowing in my hair and ruffling my skirt around my legs as I giggled and joked and connected – with my Self – and more importantly with the people who I was blessed to be with during that time. The wind and the sunshine, the calmness and the joy in the women with me, the water, the trees, the dirt, the rock that brought me back to my senses even, all of it bringing feeling back.

Words try, but they can’t tell what has to be felt and seen with the heart instead of the mind. Sometimes it takes something so deeply in your body to take you so deeply out of it.

A look at good rather than not-so-good

There have been alot of years ( A LOT) that I have ended the year with a very heartfelt “fuck you” to the months past. This is not one of them.

There’s the good versus the not-so-good scales being reviewed this morning in my head and my heart.

To be honest, 2014 was not a great year in many ways.
As far as personal relationships with others went, it was a year of ups and downs of pretty torrential hell at times. Sure, there were also times that I felt such tremendous love and connection that I smiled inside but it was filled with pain and hurt and pretty much wanting to swear off ever being involved with anyone again.

It as a year though, that I made huge gains in my personal relationship with my Self and that is a good balance to keep in mind.

But, looking back, it was also a year that held many highs rather than lows. Sometimes I have a hard time seeing the good but this isn’t one of those times.

2014 was the year that I set some significant physical goals for myself… and achieved them.

It was a year that in which I did things I didn’t think I could, and I’m owning the pride that I deserve to feel for that.

It was a year that I accomplished some things that people said I couldn’t.

It was a year that brought times of absolute joy in my life and for that I’m grateful.

It was a year of experiencing things that made my spirit soar and my heart feel open again.

It was a year of new experiences and new connections to see grow and flourish in the next.

It was a year that held a lot of good.

It was a year that helped me believe that more like that , and better even, are possible.

So goodbye 2014, you haven’t been all bad and for that I’m thankful.

Good enough isn’t good enough

There comes a time in life when you look around and take stock and have to be honest with what and where you are.

Birthdays are that for me. Having just had one, it’s was a time to reflect and analyse.

I’ve had a life that was, at times, nasty and rough and hell to wake up to. This same life has had moments that took my breath away, times that I simply could not have been any happier without bursting was how I felt. Lots of times of just middle of the road “ok” as well. We all have. I know what it’s like to be miserable and unhappy in the truest meaning of those words. I count my blessings that my life is pretty good now. I have a lot to be thankful for – and I am.

So what’s worse than “bad”? It’s becoming complacent with less than what you really want. Becoming accepting and tolerant of the unacceptable.

So I asked myself what’s so unacceptable in my life? Settling. Not going hard for what I want. What I desire. Having dreams and goals and not making them happen.

I’m tired of listening to my Self desire and to seeing my Self no further towards the realization of that.

It’s easier to look around and say “it’s pretty good”. My son said to me the other day that he wonders who he thinks he is to feel that he should have it better than other people… That made me reply swiftly that not just him, but everyone, deserves – seriously deserves – the best and to have dreams and goals come to fruition. Then I had to sit back and wonder why I wasn’t necessarily living that sentiment myself.

I have been, for a couple of years now, allowing myself to start to grieve the death of my dreams as I get older. Shelving some aspirations as unrealistic or unachievable. Telling myself to stop dreaming and smarten up and just enjoy what I have and not desire anything else. There’s always something that comes up and demands energy and focus… and I allow that “something” to be not Me. I allow that “something” to take that focus and energy in entirety…leaving nothing for me to draw from to make happen what I want to happen.

I get slightly infuriated with myself when I take time to look at where I am with regards to achievements. Knowing that I am the only reason why I haven’t progressed further. Time to change that.

I look at travel options and lifestyle choices and I ponder and I think “one day” or “maybe” to things that I want, things that speak to me living my truths. Then I face the “why not?” … and the only answer is for me to get off my ass and make it all happen. No more waiting, no more “one day”. We all have a finite number of days and we don’t usually know what that magic number of them is, so….

Good enough isn’t good enough anymore. A nice life is nice…but I want one that sweeps me off my feet and leaves me breathless and grinning and saying “again!”. It’s my life, time to craft it, nurture it and make it that way.

We all deal differently

We all deal with things differently. Going through the death of my son has shown me that in so many ways.

I was at a conference recently where I saw and reconnected with people who I haven’t seen in a long time. Some of them were colleagues that I haven’t seen in a year or two; not since I moved away in summer 2012.

After the death of my son, I never really went back to my job. I did briefly but it was a disaster. People not sure what to say to me or how to act around me. On my part, I was trying to be “ok” and not at all pulling that off. After a couple of miserable attempts at getting back to “normal” I made the decision to not return. So the end result was that I basically fell off the grid to most of the people who I had known for the last 20 years or so.

Coming face to face with a few of them last year at another conference was hard. It was 2013 and it was my first time back since I had moved. I spent that conference ducking most people. The first hour I was on site I ran into a couple of people. With one, I burst into tears as soon as I saw him and had a hell of a time regrouping myself; the other turned and almost tripped over herself trying to take off in the other direction and pretend we hadn’t made eye contact.
Needless to say, I spent the rest of that weekend with my head down, going from session to session as isolated as I could and getting off site as fast as possible at the end. Not exactly a great experience.

This year, very different, and interestingly so. A lot of healing and change has happened in the past year in me. Also, I was open to just let it come as it would this year.

I spent the first couple of hours this year very similar to last. I saw a number of colleagues and past friends in the first hour or so…and avoided them. Quickly changing direction to move to a different hallway… shifting my glance and making like I hadn’t seen them when I saw them turn towards me. For the most part, it worked. They were all ok with not coming in contact with me as well. Then the unavoidable happened. I walked almost face into one of my previous staff. No avoiding this and we both stared and said hello. Awkward chatter ensued and he seemed relieved when I said I was going a different way and would see him later. But the seal had been cut. I had done it. I had spoken to someone and I was ok.

It got easier after that…and a funny thing happened. I found that I started seeing that everyone deals differently indeed. Some people who I had known very well, who I would consider very close, were surprisingly distant and vague with me. Lots of chit-chat and “how are you” but very superficial and almost cold. It was apparent that it was a “please don’t tell me how you really have been… I don’t want to/can’t handle hearing the real honest answer”. So they got the standard reply of “doing good” and that’s that. Some mindless talk about catching up with who’s still working where etc and we would hug and say how great it was to see each other again and move on. This went on again and again with lots of people throughout the weekend.
On encounter in particular thought made me notice how different people are though… and how you can’t tell how someone is going to be.

A colleague who I hadn’t worked with in years but who I had known for a long time before that saw me across the entry area. I thought this would be a quick hello and great to see you and I’d be on my way. Her and I had been friends and work companions for almost 10 years at one point but we were never really close. I was stunned when she hugged me and asked, very plainly, how I was doing… saying in the same breath “I’ve been worried about you, losing Willie must have been horrible. I don’t know how you got through it”. Bang, right out there. No tiptoeing about or sad faces while she did the “how are you?”. Just a straight forward acknowledgement that life had dealt a shitty blow and there’s no point putting it any other way. It took me by surprise but also was a breath of fresh air. And a funny thing occurred. I answered her, openly and honestly. I teared up and wiped them away and kept talking through it… and it was all ok. We wound up walking and talking for almost half an hour until the next session. She was someone I ended up spending a few breaks and a lunch with that weekend, with other people too, but also alone and catching up.

She gave me the gift of seeing that the grief and the pain and what happened is just simply there. Not to hide from other people or to pretend it never happened. It’s just there. And it’s ok if it’s uncomfortable or if it hurts. Life’s like that. She talked about her son’s struggle with depression and how he’s doing ok now. Just simple, open conversation. Refreshing. And needed.

I needed to see that some people will run, some will mask it and pretend everything is how it was, and some will face me head on and openly. It’s all ok, not one is good or bad, no right or wrong, just unique.

No one can tell me how to grieve… and no one can tell anyone else how to react to someone grieving. We all deal, differently

The Answer

I’ve been in a place in my life lately where I have been seeking and feeling very unsettled. It seems to be going around. I have a few friends who have been struggling with some significant decisions as well. Lots of questioning and soul searching has been happening.

With some, it’s a matter of choices. There are clear and laid out options. This or that, or maybe a few this and thats but essentially, the options are known. The talks and texts…the coffee dates and the walks… all connecting and trying to come to some sort of place of knowing, really knowing what is the “right” decision to make. Weighing all the pros and cons and talking it over for hours. Calculating out and projecting and trying to make rational and logical decisions over matters of the heart and spirit. What it inevitably comes down to is what “feels” right. What does your gut say? What sits right in your heart?

At the end of it all, when you take the chatter and the lists and the scales of option a or b away… you’re left with the truth. The scary truth that we avoid with a vengeance.

The truth is, we each know the answers we are searching for. We know the answer even before we’ve let ourselves pose the question; because, by the time we start to question, the answer has been found inside already. The question is our mind and hearts way of bringing us to that answer. Sometimes it takes a little longer and sometimes we have false starts and we pick the other option that we know, deep down, isn’t “right”. But the fact is that even then, it is right. For that time. Because it wasn’t the right time yet to make the choice we need to make. But we find our way eventually. We always will, if we look inside and listen. That’s where the answer is. Always has been, always will be.

The place I have found myself in is a bit different. There’s no way to listen to the answer because I’m stuck with my Self not being able to bring through the question yet. Just unsettled and knowing that there’s a maelstrom brewing underneath. A change needed, a time of growth is here and a direction needs to be seen. Some answers have already been discovered and they feel right. But there’s more. Not sure exactly what or how or where but a calmness is inside, knowing that the answers I look for are waiting for me to find them. And I will.

The Seeking Spirit

I came across a term today that struck me and inspired me to put to words something that has been on my mind for the last year or so.
“The asking animal”, a term used to describe the human animal. What it is that makes us different from the other animals that we share nature with. Got me thinking though… are we all “asking”, or as I phrase it, seeking?

There are those of us who are seekers. Those who hunger and thirst for the “why” and for so much more that the status quo in life. Those who aren’t content with just accepting. Those who see where they are, not as the destination, but as just part of the journey. Not to say that this is the same as being always looking for the next best thing or the greener grass just on the other side of the fence. I’m talking about seeking and journeying towards more intangible gains. The striving to understand, to grow and become “more”. To desire to expand and experience rather than to be complacent. The wanting to be a better Self, a more aware Self, a more realized and actualized Self.

There are those who simply exist and bumble along in their lives. Like someone who simply drifts in the canoe down the river while the oars rest in the bottom of the boat. Maybe enjoying the ride and even looking around and appreciating the view. Happy with the direction of travel but not in control of where they go or how they get there even. They never wonder if there is a different stream to travel; one that might offer an alternate environment. They never think to take time to rest in a nook, to get out of the current for a bit. They never pick up the oars. They never even think to, never mind act on the thought. They never think of the even more radical idea of getting out of the boat altogether and striking out on foot for the mountain in the distance. The live aimlessly and complacently with whatever comes their way.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the option of simply drifting isn’t for me. Seeking and growing is who I am and how I live my life. It goes beyond just acknowledging that I am in control of my reactions to what comes my way. It’s an awareness that , in most ways, I can orchestrate how my life is lived and experienced. I may not always have control over what comes my way, but the reality is that I, we, have more input than we think we do.

To seek, to yearn and be in a constant state of growth. This is who I am. Life took a bit of a veer off for me in my twenties as I stumbled through a bad marriage and trying to live as I “should” but about 15 years ago, I made a choice to change the way I was living. I embraced who and how I am. Embraced that the striving and constant yearning to seek is me…and that it’s how I need the people who I keep close to me to be as well.

This past couple of years, living with grief and pain and finally seeing that I am the builder of my life, again. Putting it back together again after it had been torn apart by loss. Part of that entailed rediscovering that my Self craves holding the rudder and oars of my vessel. That it’s who I am. That I am happiest when the people I hold dear to me not only accept but share this embodiment of living. Choosing to cultivate relationships with the people in my life as purposely as I need to craft the rest of my environment for my Self to live. Making choices in drawing closer to those who grow and feed my spirit through friendship, chosen family and loves. Persons who support me and nurture me and accept me, as I do for them. The joy of being with those who lift me up and who I delight in seeing thrive in their travels through life. Hard choices also being made to release from my life those who merely drift and whose path encumbers mine in an unhealthy and suffocating manner. Understanding that for some, the oars will never be used and it’s time to wish them well and watch them drift away.

It means being happy and content with what and where I am but knowing that to stagnate here and to stop yearning and growing and opening my mind and my heart is to die.