Is Your Well Full, or Are You Running on Empty?

© Ashwin82 | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Ashwin82 | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

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?”

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Dear Sweet Nephew: I’m Smiling at the Memory of You Today

Dear Sweet Nephew,

Hi, how are you? What’s it like living in the light you were on Earth?

I thought today I would write to you, because today it’s been 10 years since you left this Earth. I know you are still nearby, and all around, but, losing the chance to hold you in my arms and run my fingers through your beautiful blond hair again, that was the hardest thing I have ever had to let go of.

Marking 10 years today makes me look back on the last decade of my life without you. Of course, I wonder how things would be different if you hadn’t left. I wonder what an almost 13 year old version of you would look like, be like; how you would fit into a space in my life, how you would be a big brother, a son, a cousin.

But, I try not to dwell on thoughts like that, because obviously I can’t change what happened, I can’t bring you back. In my mind, you’ve stayed almost 3 eternally. In a way, that is a joy, because you were such a bright, beautiful, innocent beam of light in your short little life, and you’ve stayed that way in my mind.

These anniversaries have always been hard for me, but strangely not today. Today, I felt nothing but joy in remembering you. I can’t believe it’s taken 10 years to get to this point, where I can think of you and feel more joy then sorrow.

For the first few years after you died, I ached for weeks before March 15, every year. I wanted to hold a memorial service or plaster a huge sign on my roof, “I LOST THE BEST THING I EVER HAD IN MY LIFE!” I wanted the world to see my pain, I wished every person on this planet had known you, and known what they lost when you left this Earth so soon.

Then came all these ridiculous grief experiences these last few years, and each one has reminded me of you. So, I thought it was about time to deal with the pain of your loss. I started writing my book. I know you’ve been watching me write it – you’ve been right there in the pages of it with me. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to publish the parts about you or not – but I was meant to write them.

I know some people might think it looks like living in the past, but I think, actually, it was the first time I could look at the pain of your death with eyes of compassion for myself, with awareness, and courage to face the depths of the pain.

I wrote out every last detail of you – I put to paper every single piece of you I could remember. I wracked my brain for memories, so I could put into words exactly what it felt like when you ran your fingers through my hair, what it felt like to chase you to the Ice Cream Truck on a warm summer afternoon, what it felt like to hug you for the last time.

There were a lot of memories of your death that I had buried, and they were painful to dig up, but I faced them, courageously, so I could get past them. Writing about you seemed to help heal the wounds, leave them there on the pages once and for all, with all the ugliness and betrayal I felt over having to say goodbye to you forever.

Now, 10 years later, I’m not stuck in the pain of your loss anymore.

I’ve been reminded of how blessed I was to pay witness to your little life, your curiosity and zest for observing every little thing, great or small.

Now, I realize, the best way to honor your life, would be to live like you did, and to help others live that way – to live in pure JOY.

So, that’s what I want to do. I want to help people find a way to joy.

The pain of your loss was so hard because I thought I had lost that joy, but now I’m realizing, joy is not something that can be lost forever. It is simply lost, then found, again. It disappears, and reappears in other forms. When we hold no attachment to how we receive joy, we open ourselves up to receiving it from a gazillion different abundant sources. But, if we stay stuck in the sorrow of a loss, we lose out on seeing the joy that always exists around us.

After my Grandma died last week, I decided, I’m moving forward, just for the joy of it. I keep hearing those words over and over and over in my head since that day I sat at her bedside and felt her, as if she were standing behind me. I could hear her saying, “Just for the joy of it!” With that much exuberance, too! She was telling me to live just for the joy of experiencing every moment.

I needed that wake-up call because these last few years have sent me to Hell and back, repeatedly, and each time, I’ve come back with the fire and brimstone ashes of Hell’s fire on my feet, treading pain and anger everywhere I go.

I don’t want to live like that – in the pain and suffering; the lack of loss. I’m realizing, joy and sorrow are on two sides of one thread, and it’s up to me which ends of the threads I want to use to weave my life together from here.

So, today, on a day that has always made me wistful and melancholy, all I can do is smile at the giggle-busting memories of you. I usually cry on this day every year, but today, I don’t feel an inkling of a tear in me. I just remember how much I used to love to play with you – I lived to be invited into your little Universe each day. I would follow your breadcrumbs anywhere they took me, because I knew every moment with you would feel magical.

I've been trying to spread the smiles with my own two kidlets - looks like it's workin'!

I want to try now, to create those giggle-busting moments in my own life, with my own kids, and the people I encounter each day. I want to try to be to my kids as a Mom, what I was to you, as an Aunt.

I want to push myself to expand in joy, instead of contracting in fear and pain. I want to spread joy, not just to my family, but to tons and tons of people all the over the place. Will you help me do that? Nudge me with a little inkling of your light every now and again so I don’t forget it? Help me keep this promise to myself and my little neck of the world?

You are not a part of my past, sweet boy, you are part of my present, and always will be. The joy you gave me, the light you filled me with – it’s still here. You’re still here. I can feel you. Thank you for all the indescribably perfect memories you gave me, for making me feel so special in your world, for two years and ten months of joy I’ll never forget with you. Thank you for loving me then, and loving me still. I’ll see you in my dreams and giggles, sweet boy. I’ll see you in my smiles. 

Facing Another Loss

#13 is looming on the horizon…

Not going into details to respect my family’s privacy in such a hard time, but just thought, seeing as this is my place to share on life and loss, and my journey through it…I’d come here in the rawness of grief and tell you, think of me.

It’s been a hard couple days, but yes, the piano practice of grief has made me a beautiful composer.

I forced myself to get out in nature day before yesterday, and had the most blissful amazing day of “seeing the beauty around the pain.” I hiked all the way up a mountain, unprepared, not intending to. I had to carry books in my hands up steep cliffs, in the wrong shoes, with only half a bottle of water on a wind-whipped day. But, I forced myself to do it, to remind myself how strong and capable I am, how I always have everything I need within me.

It reminded me of the journey through grief. We often feel unprepared, but find, we have everything we need within to get through it.

On the way back down the mountain, butterflies danced with me. Butterflies are my sign from the other side, that my angels are with me. Yes, I do have lots of angels. Lots of angels on heaven and earth with me. That is one thing I have in abundance.

As hard and numbing as this space is, I feel so raw and pure, so unadulterated, unfettered, innocent and hauntingly vulnerable. I am proof that there is beauty in pain.

Maybe it is my job to BE the beauty in the pain.

Maybe it is my job to simply SEE the beauty in the pain.

I’m not sure, yet, because right now, I feel more pain than beauty, but I am trying, trying, trying…trying to be the beauty, see the beauty, and not let the pain consume me.

Thanks for listening to my grief ramblings.

“And With This Compost, He Made A Flower Grow”

“If you look deeply at a flower, at its freshness and its beauty,

you will see that there is also compost in it, made of garbage.

The gardener had the skill to transform this garbage into compost,

and with this compost, he made a flower grow.”  

~ from “You Are Here” by Thich Nhat Hanh 

Did Thay (I like to call him that, because that’s what his followers and friends call him, and when he speaks to my soul, I feel him like a friend) say this just for me? Did he see my life and speak it just for my soul to remember it is simply growing?

I’ve been struggling the last couple weeks, just sitting here looking at the latest pile of garbage I’ve been handed, wondering what to do with it. I am always the first to damn the obstacles in my life, no matter how well I know better. I look at them, yell at them, curse at them, shake my finger at them, and then I curl up in a ball and pout ‘til they go away.

‘Cept that just leaves me curled up in a ball, pouting, waiting forever, because I am living proof that an obstacle-free living does not exist.

“You are a gardener, and you have in your hands the power to transform garbage into flowers, into fruit, into vegetables.

You don’t throw anything away, because you are not afraid of garbage.

Your hands are capable of transforming it into flowers, or lettuce, or cucumbers.” 

~ from “You Are Here” by Thich Nhat Hanh 

I think this may be the most beautiful analogy I have ever heard for how I have felt these last few years. I’ve been handed so much garbage. Sometimes I have to sit and look at the garbage for a long time before I remember my ability to turn it into flowers again.

I’ve had to work very hard at reminding myself that I am the gardener. It is so much easier to play the helpless victim, whining, “Poor little me!” in the corner.

It is remembering our power that is so hard. Being willing to step into it, own it, and wield it like a sword, because the Earth was created for us to live fully in it. We are not born to breed a small, pinched existence. Our purpose in this life is to remember our inherent nature as limitless beings.

Thich Nhat Hanh goes on to speak of how flowers and garbage are both organic in nature, that we should not condemn the garbage (anger, fear, sorrow) because it exists in us in the same way love and compassion do.

He’s so right – it’s when we create this duality in ourselves of things we are “for” or “against,” that we create suffering. I look at obstacles and feel against them, and then I reject them, repel them, do whatever I can to make them go away, or pretend they’re not there. That creates my suffering, because I’m living in a constant state of not accepting ALL of what I’m feeling. I don’t like feeling angry and sad so I condemn those feelings. I forget that, as the gardener, it is my job to transform those “garbage” feelings into fruits or flowers. I forget that I know very well, just how to do that – I have, after all, had lots of practice!

The truth is, our anger and sorrow are equally a part of us. They are not ugly or even “good” or “bad.” They are simply the garbage, waiting to be transformed into flowers. They are the necessary compost to our inner garden.

Thay’s teachings on compassion towards our “garbage” have been the most transformative tools for my grief and pain. He teaches us to simply look at the garbage with eyes of compassion. It’s amazing how this simple practice has transformed me out of the pent-up swells of anger, into a place of peace, even as I’m still riding out my hurricanes. I take a moment to go within, and in the stillness and silence, I look at my pain and acknowledge it, softly. Immediately, it begins to break down, just as garbage breaks down into compost.

For the last week or so, I’ve been curled up in that ball cursing the latest obstacles in my life as this recession hands me more lemons upon lemons. Thay’s words today reminded me that I am the gardener, and I’ve already turned so much garbage into abundant corn rows of lilies and blooms!

I have to laugh at it a little because, really, for all the garbage in my compost pile, I’ve got an arboretum of copiously fragrant flowers coming, folks!

~~~

I know you have suffering, anger, hurt and sorrow in your heart, my friend. I hope you can look at them today with eyes of compassion, and remember their beautiful place in the fields of your soul.

That’s why you are here, because you wanted to remind yourself that you are the gardener, too. 🙂

Be A Lake, Not A Glass

A beautiful story for you…

An aging Hindu master grew tired of his apprentice complaining and so, one morning, sent him for some salt.

When the apprentice returned, the master instructed the unhappy young man to put a handful of salt in a glass of water and then to drink it.

“How does it taste?” the master asked.

“Bitter,” spit the apprentice.

The two walked in silence to the nearby lake and once the apprentice swirled his handful of salt in the water, the old man said, “Now drink from the lake.”The master chuckled and then asked the young man to take the same handful of salt and put it in the lake.

As the water dripped down the young man’s chin, the master asked, “How does it taste?”

“Fresh,” remarked the apprentice.

“Do you taste the salt?” asked the master.

“No,” said the young man.

At this the master sat beside this serious young man, who so reminded him of himself, and took his hands, offering:

“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.”

~Author Unknown