Tricked Out Alchemy

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Alchemists have an active imagination. Webster may define alchemy as the power to transform something in a mysterious way, but I think grief really tests that description. In medieval times, alchemy embodied the transformative art of turning lead into gold.  Those who practiced it, considered it a metaphor for the inner process of changing consciousness. Sounds complicated, right? Actually, alchemy is a perfect description of grief.

Some say grief is about being strong but anyone who’s been there might have a little something to say about that. When loss breaks you completely open, it’s hard to put one foot in front of the other let alone flex your emotional muscles. If our minds are working at all, we worry that if we surrender fully into the grief spiral, we’ll hurtle, like good old Alice in Wonderland, into darkness we might never return from. But we’d be wrong. It’s hard to imagine that all the tears, anger and exhaustion won’t drown us. Instead, they do what they were meant to do — help to heal us.

Our bodies are pretty great life guides. They know when to rest and when to cry, even when our minds are complete mush. Tears, even the ugly cry kind, are a cleansing release, a vehicle for healing. I didn’t say ‘cure’, by the way. Grief doesn’t come with that. But thank goodness, our body has built-in release triggers that trip the healing process we need to open the door to whatever is next.

“We live on; we don’t move on”.

Nora McInerney

There’s no shortcut through grief. Bummer. We move through the process in our own time and pace. Luckily, along the way, we might uncover our heart’s true capacity to feel and to love.

There’s no ‘normal’ in grief. You move when you move. Period. Continue reading

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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

a beautiful vintage mirrorAh, mirrors. Can’t do with ‘em, can’t do without ‘em. Sometimes they’re pretty darn handy to take a close look at that bump on our chin, roots growing in or a tooth that’s been bugging you. But sometimes mirrors show a little more than we want them to since they don’t lie (unfortunately). I can’t say that for a lot of other things today.

Media is a little like a mirror, at least when it’s done right. Mirrors are designed to be true, not magic. Sometimes they show more than we want see but then it’s not a mirror’s job to blindly assure anyone they are “the fairest one of all”. They reflect what’s real, not a prettied up version. Mirrors reflect who we are, in all our human frailities. Mirrors just ‘can’t make that stuff up’.

I don’t love mirrors yet my vanity (sounds cringe worthy) table sits in front of my bedroom window lest I get any ‘whoa, there’ surprises when I leave the house. I guess I just like to just good to know what I’m ‘facing’, no pun intended. which is pretty much the same reason I watch news, read blog posts or watch trusted news stations. Ya just gotta know what’s going on.

‘I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. That we need the media to hold people like me to account. Power can be very addictive, and it can be corrosive, and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.’
George W. Bush

Like a mirror, the news is only your enemy if what you see or hear isn’t true, not if it’s just not what you want it to be. Even when they don’t agree with what we believe or want, facts aren’t any less true — unless they aren’t facts. My mother used to say, ‘the truth hurts’ and sometimes it does. I tell my peeps to always tell me the truth, even if I don’t like it. I mean, who else will tell you if you have a poppy seed in my teeth or new ‘do’ does absolutely nothing for me? Yes, the truth can hurt but it can also heal. It can make us think, incite us to act, and at the very least, trip some changes in the way we view things. Continue reading

I Miss — Having a Mister

solitudeBeachIf you think I need to be a wife to feel validated, the answer would be a no. I’ve been married and divorced; remarried and now widowed. But, no matter what place I am in life, I’M still there. I don’t need to be possessed by someone, but to be a true partner, a loving mate? Ah, that’s the winning powerball ticket. It’s a role I’ve cherished in life.

That being said, I kept the boat upright this last year without my partner, albeit listing a bit to one side at times. I’ve paddled my own canoe through in both home and work. With a home office for more than more than 15 years, days alone in that home are a given.

It’s the nights that bug me.

Last week, despite my reluctance to pull that trigger, I ended up in the ER — at 2am. Groan. My rebellious bad belly had been particularly spiteful these past weeks but it was nausea and a heart racing out of control that woke me from a sound sleep. Not able to put the brakes on it, I shakily called 911. My friends know well that my fresh-out-of-bed, no make up look would normally have made me want to rethink that call but wee hours lightheadedness, in a house where death already visited, does not make for a cool head — or an attractive one.

More important than my pounding heart that night was the ache in it as I sat in my ER bed and looked over at the empty chair that sat alongside.  It was the same chair I filled in that and other hospital ER’s, waiting rooms and recovery rooms for so many years. It was a chair that I sat in as wife, business partner, medical advocate and pit bull. It was a chair that I sprang out of to chase doctors down when my husband was having an issue or to harass nurses to check for xray results. It was also the chair, in another hospital, at another time, where I sat only 3 days before he died.

I hate that empty chair. Continue reading

Good Ol’ Summertime

DSC_0330.JPGFull disclosure — summer not my favorite season. I’m not a hater; I’m just not feelin’ it. Oh, I feel the heat alright. As temps rise, I melt and it’s not pretty. (think Wicked Witch of the West) My husband, however, loved everything about summer. Despite my dire warnings about skin cancer (duh), he basked au soleil whenever he could. Neatly positioning himself wherever rays beamed, he thrived on getting ‘color’, which he hardly needed given his robust black Irish coloring. Bright blue eyes and full head of thick, wavy grey hair made him sufficiently handsome without another cancer to worry about. He never saw it that way.

Still, even now I can envision every freckle, crinkle of skin and strand of hair in startling detail. That in itself is kind of ironic knowing these days I can’t remember where I put my glasses or what I had for dinner the night before. Loss creates a really annoying photographic memory.

“I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day
In everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way”

The light and gay part kind of escapes me, but I remember well how that man thrived in summer warmth. (That made one of us) As I baked, he bloomed. Even days when side effects weighed heavily on him, he wanted to be on the move. Despite soaring temps, he’d be ready to rock. Well, maybe not quite that energetic but you get the gist. To me, summer just meant pressure to DO stuff. When the sun lights all the trees and you can smell the freshness of grass before you see it, what reasonable excuse can you give for staying inside? You’re absolutely obligated to take a day trip, walk, anything but curling up in your house. Yet, though I still often crave a nice comfy, rainy day, I admit the memories of those summer moments with my hot weather boy remain.

This summer, I’m not quite sure how I feel. Two thirds done already, the weeks have been pretty uneventful. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I’ve had quite enough life changing ‘events’, thank you very much. Still, I don’t foresee a trek abroad, a palm tree packed island cruise or even a visit to my favorite place – Cape Cod. (more about that another time.) It’s now the second summer without the guy who loved this season and I haven’t yet gotten my sea legs. Summer is still — meh. Continue reading

Hello, Darkness, my old friend.

DarknessOldFriend

Ah, the dark. We can’t ignore or outrun it. We can only walk, tentatively, nervously or purposefully through it. Pretty good spiel from someone who turns to TV for sound in a silent house and flips my lights on through an app, assuring me that life is visibly still present. Yet, I still remember, back when there was an abundance of life and noise in my house. I wince now remembering how I would make the occasional nonsensical wish that I’d have “just five minutes without someone arguing, or calling mom, mommy, ma.” I guess that’s not abnormal in a life with three active kids, right? Now I hear those same kids, whose babes today populate their homes, make that same joking wish sometimes. However inadvertent, my unvoiced wishes for the occasional quiet were answered to the max last year — and , boy, does that ever suck.

They say ‘Be careful what you wish for because you might get it.” Hey, universe, I never wished for THIS! Yet, all of us humans yearn for the greener grass, never really contemplating that it might be overrun with dandelions. Try telling a kid, who can’t wait for a grownup’s clothes, and privileges, that it ain’t all that, and you’ll get a withering look. How about newlyweds who wish they could take a short cut through all the trips and falls on the trip to real oneness? The one thing none of us wish is darkness, the kind that illness, loss of love, loss of dreams and of course the mother load that scary dark  brings — death. Yet, dark is the flip side of all the good stuff. We can’t avoid it, we have to find our way through it.

No one is comfortable with funerals or wakes. I used to shake each time I entered a funeral home, wishing with all my might, I could just phone it in. Maybe it had something to do with my Italian grandmother’s hysterical wailing as she threw herself, pulling her hair as she went, on my grandfather’s coffin. Yeah, that might do it. Or the earth-swallowing experience of standing in the pouring rain while they lowered my young brother into the ground. I’ve always been plain terrified of even the mere mention of death. It’s never been the topic of chatty conversation and it’s only as years go by that the obits seem like a good place to start your day. (that was a joke).  Yet, death pays the occasional visit to everyone in some way. The night it slithered up the stairs in my own home, gloating over my husband, it forced me to look straight into its eyes and changed me forever. Continue reading