“If only…” (again)

After a great luncheon workshop the other day, I got the chance to take a break and hang out with some women at a local beach bar for the afternoon.  That was really a treat as usually I spend my days with my 2 dogs and as I work from home, don’t see too many people, especially other women.  I really relish the opportunity to just let my hair down, which is a bit of a trick since my hair is very short, and relax and remember what it’s like to just “be” female.

And it was a great afternoon.  I did have this one little moment however… I really hate it when those little “moments” have to happen.  They always seem to have to creep in, just when you’re having the perfect time.  I’m lucky though that at this point I know how to handle such “moments” and can sail through them pretty well, kind of put them aside in a little holding pattern to be sorted through at a later time if necessary.

So anyway, what happened was that I was chatting with a couple of women about some events that had taken place in the last year or so and they were going back and forth about who was where when these different events occurred.  I might have chimed in once or twice.   One woman was talking about how she was on some exotic island somewhere both times this annual event took place and then this last time something happened, she was on a road trip somewhere else…

The gist of all of this is that as I’m looking at her and how successful she obviously is, the success that has allowed her and her husband to go on all of these trips,  my thoughts start wandering into that forbidden territory of “if only”. That’s “the moment” – the one that I sat there saying to myself, “oh no, this is not good.  I don’t want to go down this road”

But…there it was. “If only” that hadn’t happened and that hadn’t happened and that… I would be where she is today.  Or at least I wouldn’t be where I am.  I wouldn’t have had to reinvent myself and start over (and over).  I wouldn’t have to struggle with the constant reminders that life is unfair and painful and hard work.  I wouldn’t have cried enough tears to fill an ocean and wonder what I did to deserve this.  I would still have my career and my health would be better and we’d have some money in the bank.

Now I know this is all irrational thinking.  There are never any promises in this life.  When “the moment” passes and I get back to it later, I am able to remember all of the truth of this.  Would I rather some of these things had not happened- obviously. But they did. Why?  Who knows.

I never really thought about what to expect from life. I know this sounds odd to say, but it was quite shocking to me to experience the deaths that I did, particularly losing my dad when I young, and having a baby die- that still feels like something from a dream.

As I have wound my way down this path, I find more and more that it really is about living in “this moment”.  Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not.  Some days the past will creep in and hurt, most days we worry about what’s going to happen next.  The best thing is to try really hard to just think about right now and this day and what I am doing to make this one good.

I know that I am not protected from more pain happening to me and that worrying about it will not change that.  I also know that it has a lot to do with me and how I look at things.  And believe me, I know that some days things can look pretty crappy and that’s ok.  But another lesson I have learned on this road is that when the crappy day comes, just like “the moment” or the “if only”, I have to just let it happen.  It will pass.  It will work itself through, get itself out and I will survive it.  Whatever is in me that has brought me this far will bubble up again and push me forward again as it has all along.  Trust me, it has been a nightmare at times, but I am here and I have survived and I am determined now that I will thrive.

You can too. I swear.

Is it really worth it?

Well, the Olympics are over.  I love watching the Olympics! Every nite, I was glued to my tv to see what was happening (or should I say what had happened) and stared in awe at the amazing things those athletes did.  My particular favorite was the gymnastics, with track a close second.

Not being the sinewy athlete type, I was amazed watching those people flipping through the air and landing on a 4″ beam and swimming like rockets across a pool, with arms like tree trunks.

I also listened to them talk about their lives and how they’ve spent their whole lives “working for this moment”.  Olympic athletes spend so much of their lives focused on their sport, driven toward some distant goal.  We only see the very few who reach the top- the ones who get that golden prize. Even coming in 2nd is seen as “losing”.  Some of them are really devastated when all those years of sacrifice goes wasted and they only get the Silver Medal. I saw more than one burst into tears or bury their heads in shame when not getting that gold.  I do understand that frustration at working so hard and missing the mark by some tiny thing that went awry at the wrong moment.

But…what about all of that life that has been wasted in the meantime?  All those days and moments that they can’t get back while they drove themselves with unbending focus toward that one and only moment- a moment that for most never comes.  What about the sacrifices of their families – not just time, money, things they’ve gone without- but actual presence with each other.

There were so many stories of  athletes who had gone to live with other people for years so they could be near a coach or training facility.  And there was even a commercial that kept playing where athletes said things like “you know that bestseller, I’ve never read it” as she’s diving into the pool.  Yes, there are the Michael Phelpses and Gabby Douglases out there who live the dream and maybe reap some benefit, but what about all the others who never do? All the hundreds and thousands of those who dedicate so much time to 1 single thing and miss out on so much else.

Those who have lost someone, especially a child, know what a precious commodity those moments are.  You know that you can’t get them back. Of course, I don’t advocate that you hold anyone back from something they want to pursue.  I have always supported my kids to do whatever activities or interests they have had.  I strongly believe that everyone should be encouraged to pursue and develop their skills and talents and “follow their bliss” as the expression goes.

But I think that we have raised competition and achievement to be such lofty virtues that we rob people of the joys of just being alive and sharing that with each other.  We have forgotten that there doesn’t always have to be an end game, a goal, an achievement for something to be good and worthy. We all hear about kids who are pushed too much and in our current political climate, we are constantly reminded of our American ideal of work, work, work – that’s how you get ahead, how you get what you want in life.

But then time is gone, and we may be so sorry for all that we have missed.  So many of us grow older, regretting so much wasted time- rushing here and there, filling up every space with “doing”-  especially if something comes along and shatters our world and we face not being able to get back those precious moments. If we lose someone who is very young, we can wonder “what did we do with all that time? was it really worth all of those things we thought were so important, was it really worth that gold medal- or getting into that college or onto that team or all A’s on the report card or to be able to buy clothes from XYZ Store….”

If there is some silver lining anywhere in all of this grief stuff that I have experienced it is that I have learned that it is all a balancing act.  You need to continue to move forward and see a future and have something good to work toward but more importantly, you need every day, every minute, to look around you and enjoy who is there and what you see and hear. To me, that is what makes life worth living.

Can you help me?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been working on this new life of mine, particularly from the “career” standpoint and have, as many do for various reasons, turned away from my previous work life seeking new passions and new directions.  It has not been easy what with juggling all the emotional turmoil that grief has offered and the guilt associated with walking away from all my years of experience and education; that sense that I should continue to give back and “use” what I know.

It has been a very interesting, frustrating, revealing, and often painful time over these years of realization that I can no longer do what I used to do.  Without getting into too much detail about my previous work and the whys and wherefores, suffice it to say that it has been shocking to me really to find that I would ever not want to do that work in my life anymore.  It was something that meant so much to me, that I invested so much time and heart into and yet here I am, walking down a path in a totally different direction.  It has been a really tough adjustment.

I know people think it’s about “burning out” because my work had to do with Human Services but that’s not really the full story.  It’s more about the toll that grief has taken on me at the same time.  I don’t regret one minute of what I did.  The people I met, both clientele and coworkers, taught me amazing things about humanity and gave me great strength to get through the most difficult times of my life. I wouldn’t change the decisions I made at the time – I did what made sense for me then.  But it did come at a cost.

As hard as all this has been to get me to where I am today, I can say that I have truly learned to just take each day as it comes.  I know that sounds like a cliché but it really is true.  Anyone who struggles with grief knows that, even years down the road, some days are good and some not so good.  I can remember sitting in my home office talking to my friend on the phone, feeling so down, and just wanting so badly not to feel that way anymore; just wanting it to be over and be launched in my new career.  Then there were days when I felt really pumped up that I had a great idea for something I wanted to do and would sit and write up all the details that I needed to accomplish to get it done. A little forward, a little back…

As I said, it’s a long road…and along that road, life keeps happening all around. Obviously, it’s different for everyone and it depends on what you’ve experienced.  The important thing, I’ve learned, is to let yourself be and not add self-criticism and guilt on top of everything else. It is what it is. You need to let yourself be free to feel what you feel and find the life that you can live with as you move forward from the loss that you have endured.

Sooo…as I have moved forward, I have been melding a few of my experiments into a direction that I feel captures where I am best suited to go now.  Being able to offer support to others in some way is still important to me.  I also feel drawn to “creative” activities as it always makes me feels a sense of hope when I make something new.  After my daughter died, I started knitting because I needed to build something new and beautiful where something had been taken away.

Thus, my new business endeavor is creating Birthstone Remembrance Jewelry made with sparkling Swarovski Crystals and Sterling Silver or Gold-Filled beads and clasps.  Initially, I will be offering these pieces for sale on Etsy and will eventually have a dedicated website for them.  The purpose behind the jewelry is for people to have something to wear as a reminder of someone they have lost or who is ill, or perhaps someone who is far away and really missed.  I found that when I lost my daughter that it was very comforting to me to have something like this that I could wear as a tangible reminder of her, even if no one else knew what it was for.

My problem is deciding on a definite name for the business.  I am considering the following:

On My Mind Jewelry

In My Heart Jewelry

Always and Forever Jewelry

Remembrance Jewelry

Remember Me Jewelry

Thinking of You Jewelry

Forever Jewelry

I would love any feedback you could give me!  Of course, if you think of anything else, that’s great too!

Wishing you peace and hope on your travels…

“Don’t be so sensitive…”

I have found that life is full of ups and downs, tosses and turns. I have always been a person of “deep feelings”. “Don’t be so sensitive” they would say.  But being sensitive is what would make me be able to be good at my job I would say.  After all, I was working with people. People who needed to be listened to, people who were facing difficult circumstances, people who were searching for answers – pretty much like everyone at some point or other in their lives.

What’s wrong with being sensitive? Feeling things?  It can be such a roller coaster ride I know but even after all of these years, I have to believe it makes you a better person.  I have fought so hard against becoming one of those people who just turns off and gives up; becomes hardened to the disappointments and struggles of life.  I’ve seen the damage that can come from having the rug pulled out from under you or having expectations for a certain kind of life and not having it come to fruition.

And I’ve worked with many of the stereotypical callous public service worker, long removed emotionally from their job. While assisting a young woman desperately needing some help for her 3 young children, I sat across the desk from a man in a city welfare office feeling his venomous barbs spewing from his road weary soul after years of people just like her coming and going from his office. It’s hard not to give in and stay true to hope and good thoughts and feeling positive and “sensitive”.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “I just can’t do this anymore, I just don’t have it in me anymore”.  I just want to give up and say I’m done.  But then, there’s something in me that remembers those people I’ve seen, and those people I meet who seem so unhappy, so, well, dead inside, and I think, no- I don’t want to be like that.  I swore I would never be like that.  No matter what happens.

I can look around me and see beautiful things – I live in a beautiful place.  I force myself to look beyond the things in my house that need fixing and look at the green of the trees and feel the breeze on my face.  And I can stop and look at the faces of my 2 beautiful boys (not kids now really) and remember how incredibly lucky I am to have them and I can remind myself how the most important thing to me is that I am here for them as I know what it’s like to not have that.

I am reminded of the television show Monk, one of the few shows that we ever watched regularly.  He was a detective who had a severe problem with an Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder which also made him incredibly great at solving crimes.  His favorite response to people when they commented on his “issue” was that it was a “blessing and a curse”.  Sometimes, I feel that way.  I think being “sensitive” and feeling things so much can make me able to empathize with people really well and understand what they need.  At the same time, it can be so very exhausting to feel so much to the point of driving myself to the edge and back.

The one thing I know for sure is that I never want to become one of those people who just gives up and gives in, hardening myself; someone who stops “feeling”. Or even worse, only feels the bad things. I know I will and have changed.  I’m still adjusting to that…but for today I will keep on keeping on, soaking in all the feeling I can, emphasis on the good ones, and I hope you will too.

“Never give up, Never Surrender”    from the movie Galaxy Quest

Words of Wisdom

From a famous doctor…

“…Today is your day.

You’re off to Great Places!

You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

You’re on your own.  And you know what you know.

And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll look up and down streets. Look ‘em over with care.

About some you will say, “I don’t choose  to go there.”

With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,

you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

…NO!

That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.

You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping, once more you’ll ride high!

Ready for anything under the sky.

Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you’ll go!

There is fun to be done!

There are points to be scored.  There are games to be won.

And the magical things you can do with that ball

will make you the winning-est winner of all.

Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be,

with the whole world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don’t.

Because, sometimes, they won’t.

I’m afraid that some times you’ll play lonely games too.

Games you can’t win ’cause you’ll play against you.

All Alone!

Whether you like it or not,

Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance

you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.

There are some, down the road between hither and yon,

that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

But on you will go though the weather be foul.

On you will go though your enemies prowl.

On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl.

Onward up many a frightening creek,

though your arms may get sore

and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike.

And I know you’ll hike far

and face up to your problems whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course,

as you already know.

You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.

So be sure when you step.

Step with care and great tact

and remember

that

Life’s a Great Balancing Act.

Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.

And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?

Yes! You will, indeed!

So…

be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray

or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,

you’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!”

In case you haven’t guessed yet, the Doctor is Dr. Seuss, a man who always seemed to be able to say the most profound and wonderful things in the most imaginative ways.  The book is “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” which was written in 1990 as a Commencement Speech.

The sky is falling…again

So it has been several weeks since my last post, since my “feeling good, flowing-in-the-breezes” post.  I was doing very well- until that Supreme Court thing happened.  Obamacare- wow.  People are really going crazy in this country.

Don’t worry- I am not going to get political here.  Actually that is the last thing I want to do.  I just find that all of this political foolishness and the frenzy of emotion that it whips up reminds me again of what grief and loss has taught me.

Let me preface this with a couple of things:

My husband is what would be termed a “political junkie”. He loves to watch the tv talk shows every nite so I am continually immersed in the goings on of our nation’s political scene.  It’s like watching a soap opera as it goes on and on, hashing the same thing over and over again for hours.  I do think it is valuable as people need to know what ‘s happening out there and we do get to see and hear first hand a lot more of what our “representative government” is up to. But it is also like being beaten over the head with a stick at times.

The second thing is that, having worked in the Human Services, non-profit sector most of my life,  I do tend to be on, dare I say it, what’s called the left side of things. I hate to use that term as I really can’t stand that we label ourselves in these camps but that’s a different discussion. I’ve never understood this whole party system idea anyway.

So when the Supreme Court upheld the so-called Obamacare, the nastiness and almost violent reactions of people just started to get to me.  The seeming lack of caring and concern for others and assumptions that those who don’t have what they need are in their circumstances because of their own doing is overwhelming to me.  I didn’t even want to look at Facebook as people were posting all kinds of crazy posters saying “if you agree that Your Freedom is being taken away then hit like…”  and all the opposite too of course.  I mean seriously people, your freedom?

What really did it for me was hearing a politician say that when we wake up tomorrow, the America you know will be completely different, it will never be the same, implying that it will be a terrible place where life will be awful, without freedom, etc.

Well, when I woke up the next day, it was beautiful outside.  The sun was shining and there were birds singing.  There was a beautiful breeze.  I had my tea, the kind I love and look forward to every morning.  My husband went to work as did my oldest son, the one that I was so incredible lucky to have since I only had a 2 out of 6 chance of having any successful pregnancies. He works really hard, takes care of himself and he’s trying to take classes on-line even though he’s had a tough time with traditional college.

Later I showered, ate, got dressed, and sat down to work on developing my jewelry business which I still have the drive and opportunity to do despite all of the ups and downs and stops and starts.  I also chatted with my other son, another miracle, who made me laugh, and listened to him play his guitar while I worked on my computer.

In the evening, as my husband drove home, he stopped at the store and picked up some food- our checkbook was low but there was enough to get what we needed.  I also talked with my sister on the phone for an hour.  So do you get where I’m going with this? The sky didn’t fall- freedom still prevails- life is still good despite all of the challenges.

When you experience heart wrenching loss, your perspective changes.  You don’t  really care so much about whether you have the latest doodad or if your kids are wearing the finest designer clothes.  Your values tend to shift, or at least become clearer.  Life shattering experiences make you see things very differently.  Granted, it’s not always easy to come out on the positive side of this change but hopefully, you can take that and move forward to use that clarity in a good way in your life.

You know how when you go to a funeral and someone says, “I wish I had spent more time with him”, “I wish had gotten to know her better”, “I wish I had appreciated him more”, I wish, I wish, I wish…

Why is it that it seems to only take a few seconds and a few well placed words be it from a politician or a media spokesperson and all of that is forgotten?  Suddenly that realization that the only things that matter are relationships and caring about other people goes out the window;  it’s every man for himself as the saying goes.

Many of us waste so much time looking outside for someone or something to blame, to keep us angry for not getting whatever it is we think we should be getting . When you experience significant loss, you can go 1 of 2 ways.  You can stay with that approach. You can keep looking for that answer, that “thing”, like in this case, that 1 issue like Obamacare that will make or break your life, or you can start to breathe in and absorb how real the day to day little things are that make up your life. I know that’s not always easy.

There will always be someone willing to tell you how bad your life is.  They may even think they’re helping you.  Step away -look and listen to the good that is there, even if it is just little, simple day-to-day things. Some days will be easier than others but it’s better than the alternative. And you will feel better for it.

Back and forth…

I have been “in absentia” for a while as I have been thinking a lot about where I want to go with this “blog” thing.  I started writing partly to see what would come out but also because of a desire to offer some kind of support to others who might be going through what I have already experienced.  Kind of make lemonade out of lemons, you know.

As I’ve tried to sort out what I’m to do with myself since I left my old life (aka career) behind, I kept coming back to this idea that I could or should do something with all of this grief and loss experience.  If I combine that with my “professional” experience, well, I might really be able to do something.  I really want to.

I really want to see people suffer less from this terrible grief thing and be able to find an understanding shoulder to lean on.  I want to see people start talking about death and loss like it’s a reality that we all really know about and stop acting like if we ignore it, it will go away. Maybe then when it happens to someone we know, we can reach out a hand and feel comfortable being there- not just for a month or two, but for the years it may take for a neighbor or an aunt or the lady in the office to get back on her feet again.  I want to not see anymore people be shattered and fall apart  because someone they love so dearly dies and they can’t reach out for help because they’re supposed to just be strong and get on with it.  I really want to do something to change all of this.

But as I have worked to put together a plan of how to do this in a more formal way, I keep feeling this resistance nagging at me from inside. Rationally, I know that I have learned so much emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, even physically as I’ve worked my way through my own years of grief.  I know I have a lot to share.  How can I let all of this “experience” go to waste?  Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?  A lot of people do. But then, that’s the other side of this coin.

Now, I’m not one to back away from a challenge but… I have spent pretty much all of my adult life working through grief and loss, starting when I had just turned 20 and I lost the most important man in my life.  As years went on, every time it seemed that the ground might have gotten a bit more solid, another quake came along, one loss after another.

Recently, a whole new dimension has been added to my dilemma – a good one though.

I started Acupuncture treatments as an alternative approach to deal with some physical and emotional stress issues.  I have been amazed by the results, especially since I had no preconceived ideas as to how I would feel.

The biggest thing that pertains to what I’m writing about here today, is that I have for the first time, had these brief glimpses of a possible future without grief and depression and sadness.  Please don’t think that I walk around every day hanging my head like Eeyore.  I do smile and laugh and have fun and enjoy my life.

What I mean is that I can envision moving on in that way where that deep core of sadness, that persists for so long with heavy grief, will let me breathe again and I can choose to “do” something with myself that is fun and happy. Thus, the problem with doing grief work as some kind of  formal job.

I think there are ways for me to still offer support and caring to people- like writing here, and on my Facebook page, offering the Remembrance Jewelry that I make, and who knows what else.

But I think for now, something is telling me that it is my time to be free for a while- to fly a bit and just enjoy the breeze…

To better days

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