Fiendishly fluffy bunnies. Cavity inviting chocolates. Treats in colors that don’t exist in nature. Enough cheerful Easter goodies are born each year to fill baskets to overflowing. They make it hard to remember the holiday is anything more than a Hallmark moment. But Easter is a season, a timeless, ancient season of being reborn, renewed and transformed.
The oldest Christian holiday, Easter focuses on Christ’s triumph over death while the Hebrew Passover commemorates freedom from enslavement. No matter which you celebrate, both converge in a message of hope.
“Spring is God’s way of saying – ‘one more time’.” Robert Orben
Like nature’s seasons, life, too, is indeed short. Remembering its transience makes our own, and every life around us, even more valuable. That transience of life is symbolized colorfully each spring in Japan, when the appearance of cherry blossoms signal the festival of Hanami. Like the cherry blossom, each and every life brings color to the world. When lives are lost, summer is drained of sunlight, autumn becomes colorless and winter is long and empty to the loved ones who remain behind. Eventually, the weather turns mild and the season graduates to one of hope. That’s why spring is so much more than fuzzy little chicks and bright pink peeps. It symbolizes an exodus from dark times; a delivery from despair. Pretty apt for people who grieve.
“Every flower must go through dirt first”
When I picked up my pen (uh, mouse) to begin this blog, I had no idea how long the conversation would continue. In those dark days, I had no words. Yet, I had plenty because, well, that’s how I roll. Sometimes they made no sense, even to me. All I could do was send my soul out to the universe in kooky missives that, gratefully, you read and shared back to me. It’s been two years this month since that first blog post, and it’s only now, as I survey the emotional landscape, that I realize those words were actually breadcrumbs strewn toward the land of the living. They helped me leave behind the expectant vision of two old people rocking on a front porch that clearly would never be, and somehow steadied me on the path I now walk alone.
“The most painful state of being is remembering the future.” Kierkagard
Don’t get the idea that these last two years have been clarity-filled light bulb moments. There hasn’t been an overwhelmingly gung ho determination to race through a bucket list. Full disclosure? Most days, I’m not too sure of anything at all. I just bluff pretty damn well. Okay, there was that time (twice to be exact) I came out on the winning end of a them vs me go-round with car dealers, especially the fight for Blueberry 2.0. And of course, there was the reluctant (what’s not to like – it was free) trip to CA, where in spite of myself, I had a good time. I even wrote a pretty damn good review for my client. Bonus. Christmases have passed, so have Easters. Valentine-less Days and birthdays without my man. But lonely I wasn’t. Surrounded by super great adult kids, gorgeous, blooming grandkids and amazing friends in abundance, I can only be grateful.
“Life must go on; I forget just why.” Edna St. Vincent Millay Continue reading
What am I saying? Of COURSE, you can see me! An ol’ newsman who never met a story he didn’t want to write or tell? I’m quite sure I’ve been in your sights since the night you died. The question is, what do you think? You’ve been gone more than two years so I’m sure, as usual, you have plenty to say as you watch me traipsing through life each day. You knew me really well, as I knew you, but since that night you left, we’ve had way different journeys and I’m at a little disadvantage. Hanging out in the ethernet, I’m guessing you know more about what my trip looks like than I do yours.
Anyway, you may have noticed that I’ve developed a kind of (even more) offbeat way of being, of maneuvering the world on my own. In those first awful months, it was just about staying afloat, treading very dark waters until I found my rhythm. And though rhythm always jazzed us both, this tune was hardly something dance to. I could hardly envision how I would ever get through without-you life but somehow, I’m still here. When you’re dropped in water over your head, you sink or swim — and I’m swimming. (or something like it. I’m no Michael Phelps).
You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you
Here I am, hanging out in this world and ‘adulting’, as our granddaughter would say. Like all people on the planet, I’m just doing the best I can, with what I have, if you include a personal weird spin. Have you been critiquing this reluctant reinvention? A sweet widow friend you may not have met, echoed that same thought last week, as we joke-texted one night about our packing up Christmas decorations antics. As she wistfully considered her late husband’s appreciative laughter at her fight with her own fake fir, I decided our imagining must be ‘a thing’. That said, if you, my other half, if your new career is ‘wife watch’, here are a few highlights to consider: Continue reading
My Christmas tree is not a family affair. It used to be when kids, pets (even hamsters and fish) filled the house, but the empty nest arrived, so did the anal graphic designer mom. Even my poor husband, who once upon a time gamely offered to assist, gave up. He realized there was a light stringing game plan that didn’t include haphazard laying on of strands. I suspect, however, he became more than happy to volunteer help from the safe distance of the couch, contentedly watching Antiques Roadshow. And I’d bet real money that he counted on his finicky wife not taking him up on his offers to help.
Back in the day, when little kids reigned in my house, when gingerbread houses were built, advent calendars were opened and elves, Santas and reindeer abounded, my tree might have been described as eclectically homey. I was less concerned about matchy-matchy and more interested in making sure the dog didn’t swipe candy canes off bottom branches. When a cat replaced the dog, wire securely anchored the tree to the wall so our artistic greenery didn’t crash in the furry alpine climber’s race to the top.
The winter I awaited my last baby was a long, freezing one, complete with a blizzard that snowed us in. My girlfriend and I, two very pregnant chicks, decided to keep our already busy selves occupied with sewing and stuffing pre-patterned patchwork ornaments. At the time, they seemed like puffy masterpieces, maybe even ‘shabby chic’. Now they only qualify as shabby. The hardy few that survived all the years since my baby became a parent herself, earned their places on discreet bottom tree branches of my tree, along with two worse-for-wear drummer boys from my childhood tree. Many ornaments have retired, not so much from age discrimination but an inability to assimilate cosmetically. In other words, they are the plaid bellbottoms of ornaments.
Ornaments with aching sentiment are a completely different story. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, the more they are loved, the more cherished they’ve become. My granddaughter, who will be married next year, made an oversized padded and lace ruffled heart ornament in kindergarten, complete with sewn little charms. Okay, now it has drifted toward the back of the tree, it will always be there and always treasured. A photo of each child and grand, in funky little frames, dot the branches, as well as their grandpa, who is and always will be, front and center. Next to his framed picture, hangs a proud silver knight, symbolic of my guy’s crazy collection. The first Christmas Eve without him, the string of lights beneath those ornaments began to blink. Not all the strings of lights, not even a few rows – just this one section. The following morning, the lights stared me down unblinkingly. If that wasn’t a mischievous sign from beyond, I don’t know what is. Continue reading
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
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.
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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