She Laughs

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Tragedy or comedy. Given a choice who wouldn’t pick the latter? But, we don’t always get to choose and when we get that big dose of suck, it can sometimes be impossible to even manage a smile. Yet, so many who have little reason to be amused, show us light every day. “Life would be tragic if it wasn’t so funny” said Stephen Hawking, a genius trapped in a wheel chair forever. Now, if he can find humor in what we would readily describe as a really dismal poker hand, we have every reason to create our own smiley face.

“ From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.” Dr. Suess.

People with the best senses of humor are life’s pied pipers. They are the ones who help us recognize and cope with life’s absurdities. Humor can be just what the doctor ordered, especially when the diagnosis is something we want to mark return to sender. A good laugh recharges your batteries. A sense of humor can improve your immune system, lower stress hormones, relax muscles and lower blood pressure. (Note to self: Remember that a good joke helps the brain on days when I walk upstairs three times before I remembering what I went there for.)  Who knew humor did such a heavy lift?

“The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.” Mark Twain

There are many things that are funny; but these days, even when grief doesn’t make a personal call, there are many very unfunny things that fill our world, too.  In fact, a whole lot is downright scary. These are times we need a little humor, or a lot, but when we are smack in the middle of the scary, a smile is mile away.  Even when the problems of the world take a day off, the negative noise from the Beltway, can snuff out the fragile sprouts of humor. Continue reading

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Life Is But A Song

GettyImages-183850483-1--58b072ef3df78cdcd886ad57“The problem with reality is the lack of background music.”  Anon

Okay, maybe the title overstates it a wee bit, but let me ask a question. When you hear a song from the past, does it take you down memory lane? Can you picture exactly where you were or what you were doing when you first heard it? I thought so. That’s why, whether you rewind or forward, whether a song is happy or sad, music is the soundtrack of life. And life is what I need to focus on this week.

This weekend marks the 2nd anniversary of my music man’s death, and it would be all too easy to sing the blues. But knowing how adamant he was about not dwelling on the past or the negative, I’ll try to change the tune — without rewriting the song.

I can still hear my high school friend, Patty, and I loudly singing “He’s so fine, wish he was mine . . . doo lang, doo lang, doo lang” for whichever awkward heartthrob we pined for at the moment. My single days saw me rocking with gusto and gal pals to my fave, Don Henley’s song “All She wants to do is Dance”. Through the years there were many “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and though I wasn’t “Desperado” to jump into marriage again, someone snuck in who loved music as much as I do. And though I was more the lyrics fanatic, and he was more the singer of them, we both had music in the blood and we blissfully sung our hearts out. Maybe that’s why we never saw the train coming, but that was just as well. From opening night on, our bittersweet musical needed all the harmony we could muster.

“Once there was a time, like no other time before, hope was still an open door”  Jekyll & Hyde

Hearing music in everything is what helps get you through all the times of your life, no matter how the rhythm changes. It can calm anxiety, help lull you to sleep, express feelings and fuel creativity. Like music, life is a series of high and low notes and it needs both to be complete. Song reflects the times of your life and give them context. The songs that have touched me most, the music that made me dance, cry and sing, they are the playlist of my life.

Didn’t we come together, didn’t we live together
Didn’t we cry together
Didn’t we play together, didn’t we love together
And together we lit up the world
Now and Forever – Carole King

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Seize the (Birth)Day

0-mCUEodc9AMkbMyenI’m not old, at least, that’s what I tell myself. The number on my driver’s license would have a snarky response, as well as the fact that I can’t clean both floors of the house in one morning flat anymore, would say different. And with another age showing up uninvited this weekend, I’d better make up the guest room because it’ll take up residence.

“Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed.”  Charles Schulz foretold. In fact, some years those age numbers seem to actually burn rubber! Reminiscing with one of my Cub Scout grand boys, I told the tale of another scout and his Pinewood Derby adventure. Smart aleck mom that I was those years ago, I stuffed a fishing weight into the belly of my son’s little wooden hot rod before he sanded the heck out of the wood putty that covered it. Since there were no strict rules at the time, we were pretty free to think out of the box and did. Mixing creativity with built-in speed, he won the Derby handily that year. Made sense but doesn’t explain the acceleration that now propels birthdays so swiftly around the track. I’d say it was the junk in my trunk but oddly, the J-Lo butt has sailed and age-related gravity lightened that load. The only ballast left is the iPhone in my back pocket.

Gone are the Dixie cup ice cream and pin-the-tail games of kidlet birthday fetes. With life flashing before your eyes at an amazing rate, I’m darn lucky just to grab a brownie before the supply runs out. Watching my life replay at warp speed, gulp, it’s equal parts thriller, romantic comedy, chick flick, and tear jerker. I suspect it’s a lot like yours, give or take some emotional special effects. Whether or not I love everything that flashes on that big screen in my head, it all happened and it all made me who I am today, whoever that may be. But no matter how anyone would rate my life’s movie reel, it is entertaining, though not always in a good way.

Some day, we will all die, Snoopy,” said Charlie Brown.
Snoopy answered, “True. But on all the other days, we will not.”

I’d like to say ‘I’m not getting older; I’m getting better’ but I’d have to ask — at what? If the answer is perception, sensitivity, awareness, I’ll take it. After all, if the best years of a woman’s life are the 10 years between 39 and 40, I’m way past my expiration date anyway. I need to hold on to all the good stuff about this age and the numbers to come. Continue reading

Kintsugi (huh?)

kintsugi-1-e1439584328650The Japanese have an awesome way with broken things. Their 500 year old art of kinsugi or ‘golden joinery’ restores broken objects, using a silver or platinum laquer. They don’t pretend something isn’t damaged; they repair it with gold leaf to enhance, not hide the breaks. A piece that was priceless becomes more so. To the Japanese, the spiritual background or history of the piece is what is important making the piece more beautiful for having been broken. This belief is woven from their philosophy of wabi-sabi, meaning to ‘find beauty in broken things’. Wow.  How much more are we, who have been broken by loss, disappointment, and other life crises, deserving of a little gold leaf – or a lot.

I’m not saying everything in us can be healed. Like make-up, even gold leaf can’t make devastated pretty. There’s nothing that make losing a mother too early, a child ever or a spouse suddenly – ‘okay’. That pain can never be erased; maybe it can never be completely healed. Some things just can’t be ‘fixed’. That kind of broken leaves us irrevocably altered. All we can do is try to patch our lives as best we can, and bear witness.  If a bit of gold leaf helps do that, definitely gild the broken.

We are not less because we are broken. Our torn places are testament to our history. To elevate the cracks, the painful scars on our spirit, is to reincarnate the spirit of the person who is no longer here.

Real estate has a cutesy name for a house that needs a boatload of work – handyman special. I suspect the only people who get warm fuzzies from this term are those who love a challenge – as well as their hammer and drills. Sometimes I love to DIY broken or time-worn challenges, though not always successfully, especially if they required a drill.  Still, I try. Continue reading

Guilt Trip

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No one programs this trip into GPS but, survivor guilt is something anyone who’s lost someone feels at one time or another. The soldier who returns from devastating traumas of war. A parent who’s lost their precious child. Siblings, like my sister and I, who lost a young brother. Those still standing after a disaster. Or maybe, like me, you were the ‘healthy’ one to the partner no longer here.

Being a survivor isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

Yet, survivor’s guilt is ridiculously normal. (Yea, I’m normal!) Teeny bit or boatload, it’s not unhealthy, even if it feels that way sometimes, unless of course it doesn’t ease over time, becomes overwhelming or obsessive. If it does, there is always help waiting to reset the balance. But even when survivor guilt is the run of the mill, ‘normal’ kind, it’s still a buzz kill.

Don’t get me wrong. Having done everything I possibly could, every day and year I had my husband, I live with no guilt about my life with him. He and I did the very best we could with what we were handed, and when he left this planet, I know he left knowing, as I did, that love survived it all. So what’s the guilt about then?

I’m here — and he’s not.

When my young brother died, I was a new mom, complete with house and babies, but he didn’t live to have any of it. It felt so wrong, so ridiculously bizarre, that his life was stolen and mine was beginning. He’s been gone many years; my husband only two yet, an empty space is still an empty space. Their journeys carved gaping holes, making it easy to think – why them and not me?

The hole only a grandpa could fill was never more glaring than at my granddaughter’s engagement party this past weekend. Our beautiful, sometimes rebellious teen, with a gorgeous singing voice, has become a gorgeous, gracious soon to be Mrs. I didn’t have to ask if she, too, was remembering the grandpa who mentored her, taught her to drive, loved and believed in her. She is the woman we always knew she would become yet her doting grandpa won’t be here to share her wedding next year. As we celebrated the engaged couple with laughs, hugs, toasts and enough steaks, and beer to float all the milennials’ boats, I believe he was there. I suspect he watched as paparazzi gramma snapped away, soaking up every bit of happy with my kidlets and grands. I wondered, was he watching somewhere in the ethernet, teasing our grandgirl about ever present can of Red Bull? Did he whisper to her ‘You did good, sweetie’? I’ve never been into Houdini vanishing acts and can’t say what he can see or feel (he’s not talking) but I believe that chatty man would never miss that party.

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An Accident . . . of Fate

MyCarRingI don’t know who she was. I don’t know her name, age or where she was going that sunny Saturday noon. But a few nights ago I was told that she, an unsuspecting passenger in the car that hit mine that Saturday — died. I had wondered, in the days since, if she and the driver, not much older than I, were alright given the force of the crash. The truth did not set me free, if indeed I had needed it. Instead, her death hit hard and I grieved for a woman I never knew, who was merely a bit player in a sad, now deadly scenario.

I should be used to life’s wayward swings, its errant pendulum. How else could I explain the crazy things that happen in mine and everyone’s life? Could there another explanation for why, leaving my husband for just an hour, I came home to find him dead of an embolism? Was it his crazy luck of the draw or mine; God’s ‘plan’ or the universe blinking? Whichever way we toss the cards, we’ll never get to hold a full house for long. Even if we get a straight flush in our grasp, none of us hold on to it forever.

Accidents don’t come with a bell around its neck.

When I envision that fateful day, just 3 weeks ago, I wonder what might have changed the trajectory of each of our fates. Maybe I could have browsed longer for gifts or took another route home. The mom driving the car behind me, could have taken the kids that usually sat in the empty car seats instead of likely leaving them with her husband so she could run some quick errands. And the car barreling toward both of us? What put them on that road, in the wrong lane and speeding without slowing down. Were they going to visit friends, grandchildren, even an early movie? All I know is that something went terribly wrong that noon hour and a woman is dead because of it. The driver? I have to think a spirit is broken, and a heart is heavier than the weight of all three of the cars.

Just one moment can change everything. A momentary lapse in judgment or ability can happen and, in a blink of an eye, something irrevocable happens. That kind of realization can cause a mighty kick in the gut.

Message received. Continue reading

Making America ‘Real’

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These last months there’s been a lot of talk about making America ‘ours’ again. Hello? That might come as big news to those early North/South American settlers. Remember those guys who came from Asia more than 20,000 years before the Nina, Pinta or Santa Maria ever cruised these hallowed shores? The indigenous native populations, who treasured forests, nature and spirit, were the original owners of our fair land before they got their walking papers. They had make room for the upstarts from across the pond; the new kids on the block took over big time. Now, I’m not saying we haven’t done a great job with the place. It’s flourished nicely these 241 years since we made it official. I’m pretty darn proud of this America, even though it has a shadow side we sometimes conveniently forget.

So, we shipped the first owners to the hinterlands. Weirdly, though we couldn’t understand why they weren’t thankful for the ride! (We get a little defensive about ownership and the acceptable types who should live here.) This country was becoming  pretty nice place and soon more settlers came and set up shop.  Others got the memo that the place was open for business and they came in droves, but as the land slowly sprouted farms, ranches and tiny cities, we needed to call in the ‘help’. So we grabbed them from another continent, then owned, traded, worked the frightened captives we indignantly believed had no right to be here! We have a little problem with this ownership thing.

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms 
it will be because because we destroyed ourselves.
Abraham Lincoln

The Chinese, Italians, Irish and Germans also traveled the high seas to this land of opportunity but the welcome sign wasn’t always up for them either. They came escaping wars, poverty, and starvation only finding they now would struggle to survive, and fight to belong. They built our railroads, worked in fields, and factories. Yet, for many years, finding a place in their new home’s pecking order came second to simply knowing their place. Continue reading