I’m an artist. Well, at least I’ve been masquerading as one for a long time. If the creative awards that dot my office shelves mean anything, I’ve pretty much gotten away with it, too. For most of my adult life, I’ve worked as an illustrator and graphic designer both at in-house in ad agencies as well as in my own house, partnered with my husband in an agency of our own. Shockingly, people actually paid me well for my work, which is kind of handy when it’s your livelihood. Yet, having been completely self taught, I’ve never felt like I fully stuck the landing. In a world where college degrees are your admission ticket and even proof that you are relevant, my lack of educational credentials was always my Achilles heel. Still, somewhere along the way I graduated the school of hard knocks, leaving behind old insecurities about not being good enough. Now, I figure that my website, and all it contains, speaks for itself, thank you, so love it or leave it.
That being said, I still regularly get serious crushes on those authentic, passionate artists who live their art on their own terms. I have a healthy envy for the badass artists who bring it, delivering their passion in everything they do. They are the ones who allow the craft to drive them and not the other way around.
I’ve never been that artist. Continue reading
To love at all is to be vulnerable. C.S. Lewis
From the time we emerge, wrinkled, red and screaming our heads off in the delivery room, we begin to grow. We bravely take first steps, say first words and train daily for life as a fully realized human. We get skinned knees, scrapes, spills and tears along the way to all the good stuff and then we realize – it might not be all good stuff.
Pinocchio got a crash course in what it means to be ‘real’ when he became a human boy. Suddenly, he had all the best and worst of being real. He also had to choose not to lie, not only to everyone else, but also to himself. We’re all a little like that wooden boy. As we grow, we learn to embrace true selves including all the splintered, broken pieces because it’s in those pieces we learn to be kind, genuinely, and sincerely kind. We learn to say what we mean and mean what we say, trying not to hurt others but empower them. We learn, we learn, we learn. . . if we’re lucky, if we’re aware, we become ‘real’.
Part of being real is being authentic, broken parts and all. It can be really tough to dive deep inside ourselves for our truest feelings but those are the only ones that count. We all get broken in different ways in this thing we call life and need to be mindful of what we experience to stay connected to ourselves. Maybe we could take a page from The Velveteen Rabbit’s playbook; as plush toys go, those guys were pretty evolved. “You become. It takes a long time.” the Skin Horse explained to the Velveteen Rabbit. Real “doesn’t happen often to people who break easily or have sharp edges or have to be carefully kept.”
Last October, the calendar said I graduated. No cap and gown necessary. Completing a year of ‘firsts’ after my husband died was the only requisite for graduation. A friend who reached that mark herself not long before, warned me that the ‘second year’ can feel even worse than the first. Good talk. Seriously, this year wasn’t bad enough? How hard could the second year be?
Let’s just say I hate when people are right, don’t you?
Last year I put all my energies into ‘doing’, not being. And all the distractions worked fairly well to push me through those hellish 12 months. Gradually though, all the ‘first’ holidays, birthdays, big and small family events were put away, like that bulky down coat when spring finally settles in. And then you wake up with a thud in the real’ zone, loudly reminded that the one you love is Not. Ever. Coming. Back. I realize that’s not exactly breaking news but in the first year you shoved that little fact up on the shelf until you can handle it better. Spoiler alert: When the smoke finally clears, it’s still there — grief 2.0.
You found out the hard way, that there’s no short cut, or quick path through grief. Yet, you pushed through, cuts, scrapes and thorny brush because when you’re in the real zone you have no other choice and no GPS to help you navigate. Richard Branson quipped that “If you find yourself stuck in the middle, there’s only one way to go – forward.” Good plan.
Things will never be what they were – neither will you. That’s what the ‘real zone’ is all about. Once the last shreds of the smokescreen are stripped away, the reality of the missing is exposed. The emotional and physical connection we had with the one no longer here is starkly visible. Continue reading
“Spring is God’s way of saying – ‘one more time’.” Robert Orben
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 of every dimension. 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.
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. Continue reading
Stuff happens every day. Some really big things can knock us off our feet in an instant. A mere cable meltdown should be a blip on the radar, right? While it might certainly be true most days, being snowbound in a blizzard without tv, phone and internet qualifies as solitary confinement.
Having no other sound in the house but yours is awkward enough most days but come on, no cable in a blizzard? Really? That pushes the envelope . . . off the table.
I was actually kind of looking forward to a nice, February snow day. I penciled in phone calls and emails I badly needed to return, as well as tv shows that begged a bit of binge watching. My lazy day schedule was taking shape nicely, thank you. That is of course until I realized, well before even one flake fell, that my internet disappeared. Probably just a brownout, I thought. No worries, I said to myself. I’ll just check to see if my neighbor’s cable was down as well but no sooner had I opened my door when I spied a cable truck already parked in our shared driveway. Huh? That was quick. Before I could process the speedy response, I saw said repairman already leaving my neighbor’s door. Hmm, I thought, fast fix! But no, things are NEVER that easy. Oh, he did repair my neighbor’s faulty phone alright, but he detonated my entire system in the process! Brilliant.
As I made my first call to the cable company, I was agitated, especially when they advised me that, yes, there was an outage in my neighborhood. Newsflash: Of course, there’s an outage – MINE! They assured me that they were repairing it on their end which was mystifying since the outage happened on MY end. “Ma’am” they said “we’ll be there first thing in the morning to get you up and running.” I reminded them, of course, that 10″ of snow was expected ‘in the morning’. “We’ll be there”, they promised. Their 6am call the next morning advising me that we were having a snow storm (duh) and couldn’t make it, was no surprise. (By now, you are catching the ‘drift’ of this story, right?) They asked IF I would like to reschedule for the following day. (Seriously, they really asked that question) I mentally counted to ten and told them “Sure, it would be lovely if their trusty ‘cable guy’ in his bright colored truck could finally make an appearance”! (or something to that effect.) Continue reading
Barely two months after my husband died last year, I insisted on picking out and dragging home a real Christmas tree myself. What was I thinking? Clearly I wasn’t. Surrounded by spirited couples and families choosing their own holiday tree, I stubbornly struggled to yank out one of those heavy green suckers. But smack in the middle of all those scented firs, tears also threatened to spill over. Although I was more than grateful for the kindly sales guy who tied one lucky green adoptee to my car’s roof, the experience keenly reminded of my suddenly solo status.
Thanks to my grandson and loving son-in-law, the tree was retrieved from the roof and set in its rightful place. As I recounted this adventure to a widow friend of mine who had lost her husband the year before, she sympathetically also warned me that her second Christmas was actually worse than the first. Swell, I thought. That’s just perfect. Here I was thinking that no matter how hellish the first Christmas holiday would be without my merry Elf, I should look forward to the next being even worse.
With that second Christmas now a little more than two weeks away, I arrive a battered and hopefully bettered survivor of my year of firsts. Strapped in the roller coaster I hadn’t bought a ticket for, I was too consumed by that ride to worry about what would happen the SECOND year. Yet, here I am.
My husband died barely two months before the season of jingle bells and holly last year. I don’t know if I was even breathing as I robotically threw myself into Christmas decorating, cooking, and wrapping. I was determined to be sleepwalk-busy straight through the season. I even held a few brunches for some of the treasured pals who loved and lifted me through the long, ghastly weeks since the funeral. But I was on auto-pilot through it all and, when Christmas day finally arrived, it was clear the whole family was. Younger grandkids were their irrepressible selves, though a tiny bit more sober. The older ones watched me for signs of meltdown, which I’m sure would have signaled their exit stage left. The adults were in their own unique spaces of grief yet all ate holiday ham, unwrapped gifts and were enveloped in the spirit of family despite being barely able to look at ‘the chair’ which somehow loomed even larger in its emptiness. Continue reading