I read this on the first page of a chapter titled, “Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness” in the book, “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Dr. Brene Brown this morning, and I cried. I cried, and then I cried some more.
I read this on the first page of a chapter titled, “Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness” in the book, “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Dr. Brene Brown this morning, and I cried. I cried, and then I cried some more.
I used to believe that bad things happening to me meant I was a bad person somehow. The truth is, the reason so much “bad” stuff has happened around me is simply because I love so many people so deeply and because, well, that’s life.
I used to be afraid to tell you more bad stuff was happening in my life because I don’t want pity, and because I thought for sure I was doing something to “deserve” all this bad stuff. On some level, I think I believed I had not become enlightened/empowered/aura-fied/chakra-fied/fully present/fearless/brave/spiritual/positive thinking enough to transcend suffering.
I wanted so badly in my journeys these last 4 years to find a way to transcend suffering. I really thought if I read enough books, meditated well enough, shared some insight with others who were suffering and maybe wrote a book, gave a speech, that would also help you transcend suffering… then everything would be better.
But, that’s not true. There is no such thing as transcending suffering. In fact, the very revolt against it only solidifies and intensifies its grip of angst on your soul.
I have not done anything to deserve 20 deaths in 4 years, moving 5 times, watching my daughter grieve her best friend, suffering through illness after illness after illness, pay cut after pay cut, job loss after job loss.
I have not done anything wrong. This stuff didn’t happen because I didn’t think positively enough. It didn’t happen because I’ve been living in fear. It didn’t happen because I’m not doing enough to attract all kinds of great things to myself, or because I didn’t practice The Secret or The Laws of Abundance or The Laws of Attraction or The Power of Now well enough to create A New Earth. It didn’t happen because I was unable to Return to Me or find The Gifts of Imperfection or create my own Translucent Revolutions after fully practicing The Four Agreements through a good Conversation With God. (Don’t get me wrong, I have read and loved most all those titles and they all helped me, but they did not help me learn how to fend off life’s lemons – no one can teach that).
All this “bad stuff” happened because I’m human, and this is the human experience. This is just life. This is the life of someone who loves deeply, and thus has much to lose, much to ache over, much to grieve. God, who would want a life that had nothing to miss? Nothing to lose? Nothing to be afraid of leaving behind?
Instead of trying to find a way to live without loss – turn inward, put up walls of solitude and shut out anything that might possibly cause potential pain, I have chosen to keep buckled in on this rollercoaster ride and try my best to embrace both its dips and hills.
I have found the greatest thing I can give myself is compassion. Compassion for ourselves is allowing and softening into whatever feelings arise – good or bad – instead of shunning them away because they are “bad” or “uncomfortable.”
Thich Nhat Hanh says we should cradle our suffering like a baby, so, when I am hurting and angry, I try to look at myself like I look at my 6-year-old when she is in the midst of a full blown meltdown. On the surface, there is anger, pain, tears – underneath, there is sadness, sorrow, hurt, frustration, and a little girl just dying to be heard and understood.
We each have that child within, who just wants her pain to be seen and heard.
It would be easy for me to turn into a mean, angry, violent person. I have so much hurt and anger inside for all the shit I’ve been handed. It takes everything in me to, instead, try to let it out – breathe through it, lean into it, feel it, and go through it, not around it. I have learned that allowing myself to be in the uncomfortable space of anger, frustration, self-doubt, shame, loneliness, and sorrow, is actually the only path through suffering. Lean in, not away. Soften into it. Have compassion for myself, instead of anger at myself for not being a perfect human being who has somehow magically found a way to live a life free of suffering.
So, instead of telling you to feel better today about whatever you are going through, I am going to tell you, go ahead and feel like crap. Have a pity party for one for a minute. Cry, throw a temper tantrum, punch a freaking wall. Then, pick yourself up like a child who fell off his bike, and wipe your tears away with compassion – true, all-encompassing, non-judgmental compassion that allows you to feel whatever you are feeling now.
I’d like to think life will get “better” eventually, but it may not, so I try to embrace whatever is before me – even the pain, because I know more joy is just around the corner, and all of it is part of this crazy, mad, happy sad beautiful life. For everything I have lost, I have loved a whole lot more.**
Bad things happen to good people.
I think we’ve all figured that one out by now, right?!
So, bad things are going to happen to you. Or, like me, LOTS of bad things might happen to you, over and over, with rare pause between crescendos of pain, and you may wake up one day and think, “Wow, really, is this life? Isn’t there something more than this to life?”
I’ve been asking myself that question quite frequently as of late, and I think I’ve figured out a key to finding peace and joy, even in barrages of hardship.
The question is, how to see beauty around pain? Or, as one friend said the other day, how do I see rainbows in the shitstorms? (Please excuse my language if you’re reading this, Mom and Dad, but, well, the profanity was elicited given the circumstances of late!).
I once quoted a story I heard shared by author Mark Nepo on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, and I’ll share it here again.
“The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains exactly the same. However, the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in. So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things . . . Stop being a glass. Become a lake.”
I think I’m figuring out that when bad things happen, if my “well” is full, I can be more able to see the beauty around the pain, and “enlarge my sense of things.”
Your “well” is your spiritual energy input. It is the time you MAKE for yourself to be alone, to be in nature, to be creative, to write or paint, draw or bike, read or cook – whatever it is that refills your well. It is your coffee can on a string to the divine. It’s always there, but if you don’t pick it up and open a connection to allow creativity and beauty to flow into, out and through you, you will feel stifled in your life. You will feel unfulfilled. You will feel stuck. And when bad things happen, you will feel that bitter taste of being a glass, not a lake.
So, just as we must perform daily maintenance around our homes, for our bodies, etc., we must maintain our spiritual vessel daily as well. Every day you feed the dog, your kids, your spouse, but do you feed your soul – your spiritual well?!
We have to keep filling the well, so when a shitstorm comes to try and drain it, we have spiritual energy reserves. We have to have enough beauty in our lives coming in and out through self-expression, creativity, books, music, meditation, friendship and connection, and anything else that helps us feel we are touching the divine, that we can still see that beauty around the pain when it comes.
As Mothers, parents, spouses, employees, we are often sending all our energy out, out, out, out, out, and never taking time to bring energy in for ourselves. So, we’re too busy or broke to take a vacation or spend time in nature? Don’t worry, you’ll have a vacation soon enough when you get an illness and have to stay at home for a week. It’s your body’s way of saying, “NEED ENERGY INPUT!!!!”
I’m home sick right now, because I have not been filling my well, and through a lot more “bad stuff” this last couple weeks, I’ll admit, I could not see ANY rainbows in the shitstorms because I was running completely on empty.
I’m working on filling my well, right now, by writing, to you, because this is my coffee can on a string to the divine. What’s yours?
The next time you’re washing the dishes, fueling the car, packing lunches for the kids, or doing some other sort of daily maintenance on your home or life, remember your well, and please, make sure you’re taking time to fill it every day, too. You don’t even have to leave your house to open up a connection to the divine. Plan a vacation, read a book, call a friend, paint a beautiful picture, jam through a workout, climb a mountain, or just do something, to remind yourself, this is a beautiful lake…er…world, we live in, no matter what happens.
“To offer no resistance to life is to be in a state of grace, ease, and lightness. This state is then no longer dependent upon things being in a certain way, good or bad. It seems almost paradoxical, yet when your inner dependency on form is gone, the general conditions of your life, the outer forms, tend to improve greatly…”
I thought I was doing fine, since the Memorial. I doused that place in a good storm puddle of my own tears on Saturday, and I guess I thought that’d do me for awhile.
But, today, it came back. Listening to this haunting, powerful, poignant, bomb-hitting-your-house sort of poem of Christopher’s. I’ve never heard anything like it in my life. I hadn’t heard it before he died. The first time I heard it was at the Memorial – so now, hearing his voice is like putting a stethoscope to a grave and catching the waves of a heartbeat.
His death has done so much to shake me up. I’m writing again…because he died. I’m unfolding my scared petals again…because he died.
I often think, who am I to be so affected by his death? I can’t even begin to comprehend his family’s pain, his wife’s sickening grief.
And here I am, grief-stricken in my own way…but I’m figuring something out about myself.
I have chosen to put myself deep in the potholes on this road, right in the path of death’s river – because of something a bereaved parent, whose 15-year-old daughter passed away, said to me the other day.
“It is not ours to understand the ebb and flow of life and death…impossible in a dualistic, egoic body. I know grief…losing a child is my awakening to the Unknown. I do know that there is something that is called ‘Mystery’ that knows the way to understanding if we are just willing to not tell a story of it being any different than what it is.”
She went on to say, “It is strange, but loss of this kind, if embraced, is truly the way of accessing something deep within us that would have never broken open.”
I could have distanced myself from many of these deaths. The night my Aunt died, I could have spared myself seeing her die. I could’ve stayed at home, not brought my Grandmother to say goodbye to her daughter, and just had a phone call to feel, rather than the aroma of death itself to haunt me. With many of the deaths since, I could’ve missed out on the last moments – I had all the best excuses in the world, but instead, I put myself right there, at death bed after death bed, for my own unique “near-death experiences.”
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Near-Death Experiences, but in a different way than most. More and more people are coming forward, sharing the depths of wisdom to be seeped out of NDE’s.
I have been having my own NDE’s. Although I’ve never died and come back to tell the tale, I have been “near-death,” as in at its bedside, at its feet, in its hours and weeks and months preceding, in its final moments, in its post-mortem rituals, in its mortuaries, crematories, graveyards, obituaries and Memorials – too many times to count now.
I have meditated at the bedside of agony. I have whispered to the dying. I have sang a Hallelujah chorus’ into Heaven for a Christian. I have held Shiva for a Jew. I have felt the arm of my dying Grandmother on my shoulder from the other side. I have conversed with old friends in my wakeful dreams.
These “near-death experiences” have been my awakenings, as the death of her daughter was my friend’s awakening. They have thinned the veil between life and death, scooped out my soul into a cavernous, porous, eager opening, and reminded me of Who I Really Am, again and again.
Memorial services have become my platform (bet you won’t see that on Ms. America’s docket!) – the place where I, melted down to my purest form of Being, pour out ladles of unencumbered truth, transparency, heart and wisdom I could only have reached in the soils of grief.
And so, today, as I shouldered my bathroom wall like a dear friend, weeping into its arms at the loss of Christopher once again, I find I’m not grieving in this hopeless, senseless, aching, depressed sense of old. I’m just grieving. Grief does not have to bear merely negative connotations. It can bear that ‘Mystery’ – that opening to the divine – if we let it.
I trust that Christopher is still with us. I’m confused, and still trying to wrap my head around the “story” of his death – his young age, good health, lack of explanation for his death, and his beautiful family left behind. But, I know he is still with me, and I am at peace with his death, because I can feel him conveying that message to me from within. Still, it hurts, though, still I ache, and this is par for the course, no matter how much I’ve faced death, how “at peace” I am with it, how enlightened I may or may not be.
For the last three years, I’ve often been afraid to share how I feel, like I’m doing right now…so afraid you were so sick of hearing it again, and again. Sometimes, I post on here, or Facebook, and feel like I can hear my friends’ moans, “Another death for Megan? Oh geez.” I think those are my own insecurities. In truth, I know few people who would feel anything but empathy for the profound prickers of pain I’ve been picking out of my knees lately.
I’m realizing now, that I am who I am for a reason. There is no one like me. Only I have had these experiences, and only I have handled them through this filter of “Megan,” the girl who loves hard, feels deeply, bears her soul honestly, and thus…experiences loss on a profound level, folding in the petals in grief, but opening them again and again each Spring.
So, I’m not apologizing for who I am anymore. These experiences have shaped me and taught me Masters-degrees of wisdom. I may grieve but that doesn’t mean I am “depressed” or that anything is wrong with me at all. It’s just a process, one that is required of, and owed to the honor of every soul we lose in this lifetime.
My NDE’s have given me so much to share…and while the “stories” we tell ourselves usually bear only negative connotations to death, dying and grief, I believe I am living proof that opening ourselves completely to the great mysteries of Life and Death, bears promise in either direction. Why should we embrace one, and shun the other? Both are part of our experience. Grief deserves time, attention, honor and embracing, and a willingness to sit at death’s bedside – to embrace the loss experiences in our lives – while painful, can also give us a glimpse of “Heaven,” the one that we find glowing within, when we, like statues, are broken open.
Are you pushing yourself outside your comfort zones? Are you expanding your heart and your spirit further into bettering yourself and others? Are you living in fear of failure, or pushing through the fear to see what’s on the other side? Are you willing to make mistakes, or do you stop yourself before you even try?
This is almost a love letter to myself right now, because I need to hear this advice, so I’m going to give it you, in hopes perhaps my own psyche will absorb it by osmosis along the way!
It seems my natural instinct is to contract, although this instinct has only become more inherent in me since all these gobs of loss began in my life three years ago. I’ve been a bit like a turtle recoiling in my shell, believing that things would be better in my safe zone within.
Time spent turning within has certainly been necessary, vital, and thoroughly beneficial for the health of my soul, and I do believe that in order to change the world, we have to start with ourselves. But, there is also something to be said for turning without, for following the course of our instincts as they lead us to expand our lives, our futures, our dreams, our hopes, our simplest ideas of day to day “extraordinary ordinary.”
Expanding can be scary, because we may be called to expand in new directions that are unknown, thus uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and scary. But, what is life if we are simply a stagnant pond? What is life if we sit still, if we never move forward, into new unknowns?
I’ve been willing to move to new homes, start new lives again and again, rebirth myself through endless loss experiences. But, I’ve been terrified – blisteringly TERRIFIED – to expand fully into myself: to stand up and say, “This is why I’m here, I have something to share, I hope you can take something from me.”
I DID SOMETHING BRAVE AND SCARY
See, a few months back, right before I found out that I was pregnant, I did something big, brave, and scary. I thought about telling you about it…but, of course, I was afraid of failing in front of you (haha, there’s that old ego popping in again, petrified of being diminished in any way, large or small. Pesky bugger!).
I started to plan a workshop/seminar teaching a simple, intuitive process to finding peace in pain, that I’ve uncovered through all these experiences of loss and grief. I’ve honed this process as I’ve gone through all these losses, adding to it with each one. By the fifth devastating loss I had, I had fallen into a rhythm with this process which profoundly empowered me through all my subsequent struggles.I took a HUGE LEAP, and submitted a proposal for a Grief Conference, which pushed me so far outside my comfort zones I scared myself every day I was working on it. It was great! Exhilarating! Terrifying – in a good way!
I pushed past all my fears that normally would’ve stopped me so many times along the way, and I did something amazing.
Then, I went back in my shell to hide.
WHY STOP THERE?!
I thought, “Who am I? Who am I to say I have something to teach anyone else? What will they think of me if I get up there and share my truths? I don’t have any letters after my name! I don’t know anything about the psychology of grief! I’m just a regular ole’ Joe who thinks she figured a thing or two out along the way!”
So, that’s where I’ve been sitting for the last few months. As I’ve simultaneously hibernated through the first tormenting trimester of pregnancy, I’ve also been sitting in contraction.
I’m not afraid of more pain, more hurt, more loss, more moves, more deaths, etc. I’m afraid that I might not do right with the gifts I’ve been given. I’m afraid I don’t have the worldly qualifications to stand up and say, “Here, here is my gift to you…take it, use it.”
But, isn’t that kind of dumb?!
Last night, after a wonderful day in nature floating down the creek, soaking up sun and serenity, I was driving home thinking about all this…about how I had started to step out on a leap of faith and how death-defying that had felt, and how I had just stopped, and frozen, right on that cusp of something amazing.
Driving along, it hit me like a brick through the windshield. What was it all for – 13 deaths, four difficult moves, a miscarriage, financial struggles, and years of meditating, writing, reading, and soul-searching, digging for gems in piles of sewer spoilage – what was it all for, if I don’t do something GOOD with it?
TIME TO CHOOSE TO EXPAND
This little method I’ve come up with is something that could bring great healing to many people – it is simple, profound, and a path to peace that empowers us to feed and heal our own souls without needing others to do it for us. It could help heal your pain from a loss of any sort, it could help you just figure out why you fought with your spouse yesterday, or why you woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. It could help you make peace with a relative you haven’t spoken to in decades, it could help you find meaning and gifts in grief like I have.
But, only if I have the courage to share it…in person, in a room full of your bright, shining souls…willing to watch me fail, or succeed.
That conference wasn’t right for me, and I knew that from the beginning. But, I submitted the proposal because I knew I needed to develop the workshops and start offering them here, in my own backyard, on a smaller scale, where I can simply share my story with you, and hope you can take something from it.
So, I’m writing this, because it forces me to start expanding again. It holds me accountable to you, the beautiful souls who’ve come here to witness my journey and find something for yourself here. I’m not entirely sure how I’m supposed to keep expanding, but I’m going to try.
I’m so honored by you, by your presence here, and I’m terrified that I somehow won’t give you enough. I’m terrified of standing up in a room and telling you I have something to teach you.
But, I think I have to do it anyway.
Are you expanding or contracting? What are you most afraid of taking a risk on when it comes to your dreams? Is there ONE small step you could take to start pushing through your fears to find out what’s on the other side? Let me know what you find when you get there…
In my last post, I told you there would be a BIG announcement coming soon.
It perfectly explains why I accidentally took a pretty long hiatus from the work I’ve been trying to do in the world here on this blog.
I was reading an article in a magazine at the doctor’s office recently and a line struck me – it spoke about all of one’s creative energy going to one project, and leaving little to give in other areas of life.
Well, all my creative energy has been going somewhere lately, that’s for sure! And to a pretty amazing project might I add! One of the three best, most miraculous, life-changing, creative journeys of my life, in fact.
Yes, my creative energy has been creating…
We spent the evening in the ER with our daughter last night – suffice it to say, her ear drum ruptured and she’s been dealing with some serious on-going tummy issues we’re trying to get to the bottom of.
I find myself much more able to weather the storms these days, though, and be the eye of the hurricane, instead of the winds. Some cool, calm lady showed up at the ER last night – I don’t know where she came from, but they tell me she’s Kayta’s mother!
I think maybe I’ve had enough practice at weathering storms, now, I’ve kind of got it down. I also have much greater perspective, now, in the eyes of so much loss. I see ER visits as far less urgent than, say, fighting Cancer with your child. I don’t know how Mommas like those “Fiercely Brave” Mommas from Camp Soaring Eagle do it, but they inspire me to keep grounded despite all the possible worst case scenarios.
I also practice daily meditation – just a simple five minutes alone with myself, without the assault of incessant, continuous thoughts attacking my senses. This practice also grounds me, reminding me of my true inner nature that is connected to everyone and everything, and I think that is what helps me stay peaceful when the going gets tough.
Of course, I did take a few minutes to shake my fists at the sky last night, “Mess with me all you want to, but don’t mess with my kid!” But, then, I realized…THESE are the joys of parenting…the ones no one tells you about beforehand. When I think about all the potential broken limbs, scars, bruises, skinned knees and torn hearts ahead, this is just a drop in the bucket, I suppose!
So, we tried to make the ER fun! We brought a new Dora drawing kit and colored our favorite characters, watched our favorite movies on the mini-DVD player, and exchanged stickers and smiles. We made the best of it, as much as we could, for our little girl.
Trust? What’s That?!
Sitting in the hospital room waiting to see the Doctor, I found myself trusting that we would be provided with everything we needed – far from my typical old fear-based mentality of, “Oh no, what’s going to happen?!”
I used the “Open Your Mind to Receive” thinking and said to myself, “We are now receiving a warm, kind, sensitive Doctor and nurses who are going to go above and beyond for us in helping our daughter tonight.”
A few minutes later a warm, kind, loving, sensitive Physician’s Assistant greeted us, and did just that. At the end of the night, my kiddo drew a picture of our nurse and had me write, “I love you” to her on the dry erase board in our room before we left.
Yes, sometimes, it’s best to expect the worst when it comes to valuing the time we have with our loved ones as sacred. But sometimes, it’s best to expect blessings, too, and enjoy receiving them.
COMING UP NEXT…
I’ve been working on the first post in a series on how the RECESSION kicked my tookus and managed to give me some gifts along the way, which I have a feeling you can relate to as I know we’ve all been feeling the squeeze. So, watch for that coming soon.
I also have a big announcement I’ll be making in the next week, so stay tuned.
I’ll be back soon after I’ve squeezed 42 ear drops in my kiddo’s ear, bought her a new Barbie backpack as a reward for being such a good patient at the hospital, and squeezed on her enough to make me feel better, too!
How do you find peace in the middle of your hurricanes? Do you find ways to be calm in the storms of illness – yours, or others? What specific methods do you find work best for you? I’d love to hear your ideas on this one.
It’s taken me awhile to have the courage to write this post.
I have a horrific confession.
Do you remember awhile back I talked about my lovely little tea kettle in my post “Accepting the Unacceptable – Part II”?
I had not paid enough attention to my poor tea kettle, and thus a thick residue had built up inside her, which I was unknowingly serving my family in their brown sugar oatmeal and tea.
I used the sweet tea kettle as a metaphor for our unattended pain. Her unresolved issues were affecting my family (what were we drinking?!) just like unresolved pain within us affects our lives and loved ones, whether we see it, or not.
At the end of my post, I made a bold conviction to pay more attention to her, so she could return to her rightful place as the Sole Hot Water Provider in our home, and maybe even move her up to the front burner!
I had left her on the back burner – a reminder that she needed attention, yet still I didn’t feel inclined to get my hands dirty, grab the baking soda and vinegar, and go at that residue within. She just sat there, on the back burner for days, and looked on longingly as I warmed my water in the big, bad…microwave.
It was much easier to just forget about her, and just find a new way to get my hot water.
But, one day, I put a pot on the front burner to boil some frozen peas for the kiddos, and walked away…probably to this computer to check this blog.
Of course, I got lost in writing as I tend to. (Insert sheepish grin here) I don’t know how many minutes passed, but then I heard a strange sound, and smelled a strange odor. It sounded like a balloon slowly fizzing its air out, and it smelled like…something was burning!
I rushed to the stove, expecting to find charred peas glued to the bottom of yet another ruined pot (yes, I admit, this is not the first time this has happened). Instead, I found…this.
I left her on the back burner, and she got burned.
The fire within literally burned her from the inside out.
Poor, poor tea kettle.
In case you were wondering, as beat up as she was, she’d lost her ability to whistle awhile back, so that’s why I didn’t hear anything before it was too late.
Now, I don’t know what to do with her.
But, damn, I’ve learned a good lesson about putting myself on the back burner, waiting ’til later to deal with the hard stuff, and making bold claims on my blog about how much I love my tea kettle and want to take care of her!!!!
I had to come and share my story with you, with a grin and a giggle, as yet another reminder to take time EVERY SINGLE DAY to put yourself on the front burner, go within, and look at whatever is there.
In the last three years, more oft than not, what was “there” was hard for me to look at. There was anger, regret, pain upon pain, sorrow and fear. Not so pretty. But, living with those things inside of me, eating away at my life daily, slowly seeping poison into my life, was more painful, more detrimental to myself and others, then doing the hard work of sitting and looking at the hurts, and releasing them.
2) With your eyes closed, gently bring your pain to the surface like a bobber on a fishing line rises to the surface of the lake.
3) Sit, look at whatever arises. Ask yourself why you’re hurting/angry/scared. Then, begin to peel back the pain like the layers of an onion.
When my Grandma died last year, I could not understand why I was so upset over her death. She was almost 80, had been ill for awhile, and was ready to die.
It wasn’t until I sat with the pain and asked myself in that still, quiet time alone, “Why am I so angry about her death?” Then, waited, to listen for a response from within…that I heard the answer that granted me great peace.
“I’m so angry she’s gone! But, why?! She was old, she lived a long, full life! Why am I so affected by this death – of all the ones I’ve had – hers made the most sense so far?!”
And I continued with this inner dialogue, “Why am I not mourning her like a Grandmother? Why do I feel like I lost…a…best…friend?”
And there it was. The truth that had been hiding under all my hurt, anger, and pain. I was not mourning a Grandmother. I was mourning a best friend. Losing her had been like losing any woman in my peer group who I call up for coffee and cookies on a Tuesday morning.
4) Give yourself permission to grieve.
As soon as I realized this, I felt a huge heave-ho in my soul, and a gush of a release of the pain. I gave myself permission to grieve her like a best friend. I didn’t need anyone else to give me this permission, or to recognize this and validate it for me. I did that for myself. And, in doing so, granted myself freedom. I was able to work through the grief, consciously, and move forward, treasuring the memory of a woman who I was honored to call a friend and a Grandmother.
5) The last step was finding a new way to meet for myself and others, the needs she had met for me.
So, in her honor, despite my tendency towards hermitville after all this loss, I forced myself to work on being a good friend to others, and creating more relationships like the one I had with her. I have also worked harder at maintaining relationships with my remaining grandparents – and creating “friendships” with them, too.
I believe my Grandmother is still with me, so I gave myself one last permission – to keep talking to her like I always used to. When I get quiet, and still, I hear her replying, “Hi Boobala!” just like she always used to. So, in truth, I have not lost anything in her passing – in fact, I have gained so much.
These steps apply to ANY “negative” feeling you encounter in your life – whether it is a deep, devastating loss, or a less intricate tangle with a co-worker that leaves you riled up at work. Whenever you feel “against” something, take a moment to stop and look within, and you will find the true source of your pain which leads to healing, release, and gives rise to move forward with better understanding of yourself and others.
Now, as for that poor tea kettle of mine, I’m at a bit of a loss. I think the metaphor must end now – because frankly, I think I’m just going to have to get a new one finally! I have definitely learned, though, to look under the lid every so often though, and pay attention to what’s within (and, um, pay attention to which burner you’re turning on before you walk away, Megan!).
News of a family member’s unexpected illness last week sent me into temporary panic waves resembling those of the Indonesian tsunami of ’04.
I have to say, I am getting pretty dang sick of my Mom calling, with that hushed tone and the words, “I have news.” (And she’s probably pretty sick of it, too!)
“Hindsight is always 20/20” – how many times have we heard that line? In the last few years, it’s taken on new meaning for me. It seems no matter the terms or conditions of a loss, I always find something to regret in what I did or didn’t do beforehand.
So, I’ve developed a new preemptive strategy. I have decided to expect the worst. And, I’m saying this with a smile on my face because I believe it’s good advice for myself!
I am all about living in positivity, manifesting joy and abundance in your life through positive affirmations, and everything else I talk about here.
But, when it comes to pondering how much time you may or may not have with a loved one…whether they are perfectly healthy, or fighting an illness, my advice is this: Expect the worst.
Treat every person – every experience you have for that matter – like it has a signed and stamped impending expiration date.
When I received the news about this most recent family member’s massive, debilitating stroke, my first thoughts were for her life, and then, for how much I had been in that life lately.
At Christmas-time I had given The Gift of Time to my loved ones, offering ideas of personalized “dates” together that I wanted to fulfill with each.
My first thought at this news was, “But I didn’t get to have my date with her yet!” Followed by, “Geez Megan, haven’t you learned anything yet about making the most of your time with people? Stop procrastinating! I don’t care how much you have going on in your life, or how many people have died lately, why didn’t you go see her like you promised?!!!”
It was at that moment that I decided this time, I’m going to expect the worst. This time, I’m going to rush to see her as soon, and as often, as possible.
I have to admit, going to visit her is going to be hard. Every time, putting myself in the face of illness and mortality has been oozingly uncomfortable. But, I would rather the discomfort of illness now, then the ache of regret later. Regret lives on after a loss, and becomes it’s own illness in us. I’ve tasted it so many times, I’ve really had enough of it now.
So, I’ve decided that the eternal optimist in me has its place, but so does the ever-so-jaded, reality-based pessimist. Honestly, that damn optimist has tricked me nearly every time. When my Aunt was dying of cancer, it said, “She beat it once, she’ll beat it again!” But, she didn’t beat it, and all those months I was telling myself she would, I was two hours away believing for a miracle instead of at her bed, savoring every last second with her.
My Grandmother was in her eighties, fighting late-stage Alzheimer’s and again, the optimist in me said, “She’s strong, otherwise healthy – she’ll be here for years!” When she suffered an unexpected stroke, I felt bruised and betrayed by that damn optimism. I would have treasured pessimism much more if it had forced me to her house a few more times those last couple months, in fear of impending doom.
If I had expected the worst every time, I would have had a lot more of just that – time, with each person. The plain truth is…if I’m too abundantly sanguine about a person’s health and longevity, I’m more likely to take them for granted.
So, my optimism can come along for the ride and hope for a speedy recovery for this one, but it’ll have to come hand-in-hand with pessimism. I’ve decided a healthy fire stoked under my rear is probably the better burn to feel now, then the painful sting of regret later.
Forgive me if I sound morbid, but, dear, dear, dear ones, this is it right here – this is why facing the discomfort of the impermanence of all things, sooner rather then later, empowers you!
Every moment is a death – life is always changing, there is truly nothing to hold onto in this life, that will not eventually slip away. This is not morbid – it is acceptance of the now, of reality, and that is freedom! It helps us treasure the moments we have now fully. Empowered by an awareness of impermanence, you can savor each moment more deeply.
“It is very useful to keep our concentration on impermanence alive. You think the other person in your life is going to be there forever, but that is not true. That person is impermanent, just like you. So if you can do something to make that person happy, you should do it right away. Anything you can do or say to make him or her happy – say it or do it now. It’s now or never.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh, “You Are Here”
“Expecting the worst” doesn’t mean you end up living in morbid, worst-case scenario fright 24/7 – it means you live in eternal gratefulness for each moment, because you now know, each moment is truly a gift.
I am currently living in my fifth home in three years. Letting go of the first one was most painful – now that I’m in the fifth one, I hold it loosely. I enjoy it for what it has while I’m here, and also rest in a knowing that it could easily change. I expect the unexpected now, and this grants me abundant freedom.
The same applies to my loved ones – it’s good to expect the unexpected to ward off potential regret, but at the same time, I hold my loved ones loosely, knowing I have no control over when they leave this earth, and I can only do my best to enjoy them fully while they are here.
The many death experiences I have had have granted me the gift of understanding impermanence, of enjoying everything “for a season.” Grant yourself the freedom of holding life loosely! Enjoy every person and experience as though it were sand slipping through your fingers…wonderful to feel as it comes, and goes.
Update: I went to visit this family member just after writing this, and seeing her determination to regain her mobility, her dedication to living in the present moment, and her positive attitude, moved and inspired me. Seeing her was a gift to me, not just her. I am so glad I went, and I will go back again soon! It wasn’t easy seeing her so changed, but I felt like I’m starting to live up to my “Gift of Time” with her now, and we still plan to have that “date” soon.
I’m very excited to announce that I’ve been asked to be a Contributing Author for Open To Hope, a site focused on supporting bereaved family members after the death of a loved one. Open To Hope is an extremely comprehensive site with sections on Pregnancy Loss, Death of a Child, Death of a Spouse, Death of a Sibling, Hospice and much more.
This is such an honor, as I’m joining the ranks of renowned authors, PhD’s, Grief Counselors, Professors and people like me, who have brandished themselves against the stone of grief to glean what gifts they could.