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

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Guilt Trip

LettingBirdsGo

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.

Continue reading

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’

American-Flag-Faces

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

Tricked Out Alchemy

AWSBook

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

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