The Butterfly Effect

Do-overs — what a concept. Unfortunately, life doesn’t dole out too many of those. Something good happens when we expect the worst, and we’re over the moon. Something terrible happens and we say ‘What the?’.  If we’re lucky, we get the chance to change direction, which may change the outcome – or not. Remember when you stuffed yourself dinner and became so green with a stomachache you had to ditch that Broadway show? Or how about when you bluffed on your resume, forgetting you’d be actually be expected to KNOW what you said you did. There are a million things, big and small, unimportant and critical, even tragic, that we’d love to wriggle our Bewitched-nose and change. Sorry, that only happens on TV.

If you ask any widow, whose love story suddenly ended or a parent who’s lost a precious child, if they would have cancelled the devastation those losses brought, their answers would be a resounding ‘yes’. But, if it meant they would also have to cancel all that went before, would any of us still choose to pass?

I think not.

Small things can have big effects. A tiny grain of sand can alter history and shape destiny. The smallest things can have the biggest impact somewhere we may never know.  Even if we don’t see the change, it can happen in our own lives, our friend’s, even in those of people we’ve never met. Scientists say that everything is interconnected. One single action can trip off something completely different in the future.

It’s been said that something as small as the flutter of butterfly’s wings can cause a typhoon halfway around the world.  Chaos Theory

In 1963, Edward Lorenz proposed that a butterfly flapping his wings can cause a hurricane somewhere in the world. Admittedly, that sounds a bit outer limits. But, by the 1990’s, physics professors, working together, proved the theory true and accurate. It can be hard to understand how seemingly random changes can effect the course of your life, but even small ones can cause huge changes in another time and place. Continue reading

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Those Damn Little Things.

Pollyanna had a Pity Party. Just when I thought I had this grief thing down to manageable pieces, just when I thought I stuck the landing — I landed on my butt.  There was no big crisis; nothing I could say “Oh, geez, now why did THAT happen.” Nope. There was just an avalanche of little teeny things that crept up and smacked me upside the head. Was I oblivious or just naive enough to think I had grief nailed.

Boohoo.

I almost didn’t write this post. I didn’t want to burst the bouncy bubble of my usual optimistic posts but into every life some rain must fall and we have all had our share of floods. As I’ve said before, I might talk a good game but no one would accuse me of having it all together. That said, put on your slickers, kids, here we go.

Life is hardly predictable or neat. Each time we think it might be, things pop up, like a gophers in a mine field, and knock you on your keister. All the things and people that once made us so happy are the very things that can take us down when they are no longer there, simply because — they are no longer there. Sure, those sweet spirits will eventually bring only healing memories, smiles and warm, fuzzy feelings but until then, things can be iffy.

Trauma creates changes we don’t choose. Healing is about creating change we do choose.

This fall, It will be 3 years since Elvis (otherwise known as my husband) left the building. It’s hard to believe all that time has past, yet here I am, folks. Just me. And sure, I’m doing okay, or as fine as you can be after your life went off a cliff. Every person who’s ever had a rude coupling with loss gets it, boy, do they get it. After loss, you may be under construction for awhile; you might even need a few critical renovations. Still, as time goes by, tears become less copious, days become less brutally empty and even laughter sneaks back when you’re not looking. Slowly, you find a new normal but even then, there are always those days some dopey ‘little things’ pop up. They use their inside voice to say, “hey, remember how it used to be?” and then your new normal becomes a freak show. Now isn’t that special. Continue reading

Hope SPRINGS Eternal

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”

Continue reading

Merry, Moving Memories

christmas_movieBy the time the clock strikes Christmas Eve in a few days, most of us have watched more than our fair share of holiday movies. Thanksgiving weekend alone, the annual kickoff for all things merry, aired enough sugary Christmas movies to replace the pecan pie. The year I binge-watched Hallmark Countdown to Christmas on a snowy weekend, I vowed, that from then on, to set limits on the saccharine sweet bits that populate the season like sprinkles on a sundae. There’s just so much of that stuff you can inhale before your sugar high propels you to la la land.

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” A Christmas Carol

When my kids were small, we nailed all the prerequisite family holiday movies, Rudolph, Frosty to Charlie Brown Christmas. We watched them all – from animated fun to traditional Yuletide schmaltz. We cheered the Grinch’s change of heart and Rudolph’s blinking red badge of individuality. But, like anything else, an overdose of sweet can put your teeth on edge. Maybe that’s why Christmas movies come only once a year. You need time to regroup before getting your annual fix of contrived cheer.

As I grew older and kids flew the coop, shows like Santa is Coming to Town — left. Grown-up shows rang in the season but didn’t always ring my bells. My house didn’t quite measure up to the Martha Stewart-like holiday décor that draped over every available space in every Hallmark movie. All that perfection can be exhausting.  My Christmas lights would never measure up to Clark Griswold and my slowly morphing monochrome color schemed house (think coastal, remember?) would disappoint any self respecting North Pole resident.

I was beginning to like letting my not-so-inner graphic designer out,  the kid with a ‘more white space’ and Pantone color palette in mind. Still, I’d watch those Hallmark movies with a certain amount of wistfulness — and curiosity. Did you ever notice how that snow, that fell artfully on coats and hats never melted? Somehow, hairdos that were pelted with the white stuff never ended up with the wilted, wet dog look I got after snow showered me. And those dollhouse movie towns, bedecked in snow globe perfection. Doesn’t everything seem just a little too blindingly bright, a little too magical? Any resemblance to the world I live in is purely coincidental.

“Welcome, Christmas, while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand.” How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Living in a less than picture perfect world is not a bad thing; it’s a real thing. Unlike a Hallmark holiday-wrapped movie, life isn’t perfect but it’s mostly good, even blessed, not with fairy dust but cookie crumbs, crayon marks, dog hairs and milk (or wine) spills. Still, those Christmas movies, heartfelt or cheesy, come with something for everyone, including a good shot of holiday spirit. Forget the recycled plots and inexorably happy endings. It’s the life lessons, the timeless moral fables that sucker me back in each Christmas season. 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

HimsELF. . . on a shelf

elf-shelf-1920x640-1024x341Does that red-suited, creepily cheerful holiday imp visit your house each Christmas? If you have anxious little munchkins, the wacky, double-jointed sprite shows his bad self in a different spot each day. Though I’m well acquainted with this Santa tattletale, my grand- teenies just visit so the imp doesn’t do acrobatics in my house. The only mischievous Elf I’d want to see — left the building before last Christmas. Since then, he’s been sighted on shelves around the house, but now stilled in timeless frozen smiles.

Last year, there was plenty of tears, numbness and grief. A plastic smile and lots of fake cheer prevailed. This year, I’m determined not to have a ‘bah humbug’ Christmas. My Elf would HATE that. Oh, he’d definitely understand last holiday’s emotional sipher. In fact, if I WASN’T in in joyless funk so soon after he died, I suspect he’d be more than a wee bit surprised. But I also remember well his favorite retort to any conversation he thought went on longer than he wanted. “Don’t belabor the subject” he’d say. Of course, the phrase was usually uttered after my spousal unit related his views on something — but before I came close to finishing mine. (And yes, it ticked me off bigtime!)

Each person has their own timetable for grief. That ominously annoying phrase really isn’t welcome in that space. Though we might each have a loving village, we come into our healing in our own time. With the expectations of Hallmark happy, holidays don’t really help change the narrative. If anything, as all the firsts morph into the next year, and the next, you might be wondering why you feel even worse. (if that’s possible)  Unless there was a second coming, your loved one hasn’t returned; nothing really has changed — except you. Each holiday comes and goes and, you sometimes you really would like your seriously deflated (I’ve fallen and I can’t get up) spirit not to ‘belabor the subject’. Continue reading

A rainbow of grief

7b47cba0-12f0-0134-e753-0a315da82319All the colors of humanity, of love, of loss. We saw each in Orlando in terrifying technicolor this weekend. Sons, daughters, brothers, sisters – lost. Each of us, who’ve lost the person closest to us, know well the journey their families now will take. Those families, those parents, siblings, grandparents had their hearts ripped out in a second of senseless violence. San Bernadino, Newtown, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook. Adults, children all cut down in the business of living.

Plumbing the depth of my own loss, the slicing off of an artery in your heart without warning, I can’t help but think about the people grieving this week. Many years ago, my young brother died at 19 of leukemia. His loss was immeasurable and I saw my parents nearly destroyed by it. A life that never got to be lived. Watching the mother weeping uncontrollably for news of the son she couldn’t find in the melee, I recognized the anguish. And knew the bottomless pain she now will swim through.

Her son did not survive.

I usually write of my own trip through loss that I never packed for, but tonight my words are for Orlando, the latest headline from hell. There is way too much talk of hate, of exclusion, of retribution – and no healing, no coming together, no real answers. I’m angry, frustrated that weapons of war (um, you don’t need an assault rifle for hunting deer – or PEOPLE!) are available at ANY level especially for the unstable, violent or disenfranchised.  The time has come to listen for truth within the rhetoric and for more than tears and talk. I can only hope it is now.

We need to remember the trusting children who left for school, those who went to work, or a casual night of celebration — and never returned home. And we need to remember the families whose new normal will be mourning.

I have questions and no answers. Maybe all we can do is think carefully about Mahatma Gandi’s words “The future depends on what we do in the present” because if we do nothing – there will be no future.