“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.

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…

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.

Hope- not just a girl’s name

When you are in the throes of early grief, you can feel like all the joy and zest for life has been sucked out of you.  You may even wonder why you should want to continue living at times.  Most of us luckily do have something in us that tells us to keep going, that it is worth it to keep moving.

I think this can come from many different places. For some it is their deep faith, for others it is from the strong love and support of family and friends.  It may rise up from reserves of a well grounded personal strength or sense of duty and being driven by knowing that we have responsibilities to others that we must see to.

I would go a bit deeper than this and say it is something more innate – a basic human tendency to have hope.  I think we are all born with it.  I think it is what keeps us going in all kinds of situations, large and small.  It inspires us to try new things, to want to be involved with other people and stay involved even when things go astray, to work to change things that need changing.

When you look at a baby or toddler, you can see the light of hope shining from them.  People love to be around babies because they are so happy and innocent reminding us of all of that potential and maybe offering some renewal of our own hope.

Hope – verb– to believe, desire, or trust

We have all seen people who have lost hope.  They no longer believe that things will get better for them.  They go through each day rotely doing what they must at work or home with never a smile or encouraging word. Sadly, some can’t even do that and they wander aimlessly or just sit staring at the tv.

Others have given up all desire for anything new or better in their lives.  They never think about trying a new activity or changing anything about how they go about their lives.  They may think they don’t deserve it, it’s too hard or uncomfortable or unattainable.  They become complacent.

And then there are those who don’t trust anyone or anything.  They know life will never get better because it’s always been that way.  There’s no point in expecting anything different.  You can only count on yourself.

People become hopeless for all kinds of reasons.  Usually, it’s not just one thing but a culmination of experiences since childhood that bring them to that point.  The more lost they are, the harder it can be to face difficult or tragic situations that arise.

When you lose someone like a spouse or child or anyone you love deeply, it truly can feel like there is no reason to believe that you will ever smile or laugh again or feel good again.  The only desire you may feel for a long time is to have that person back or to know why this had to happen to you.  And trust– well you may be gun-shy for a long time, not wanting to invest your feelings too much in anything or anyone again as you don’t want to take a chance on losing something or someone and going through this pain all over again.

You may not realize when the glimmer of hope starts to show itself again or in which way but it will if given a chance.  Every time you take a step forward from the day before, it is there urging you on.  We so often look for the huge leaps of change to show that we are “making progress”.  In grief, I have learned that it is these day-to-day small steps, forward, and backward too, that get us to where we want to go and hope leads the way.

Small Things

Every morning I have to take my 2 little dogs out for their morning constitutional and for some reason, they like to wander around in the woods behind our house to do so.  They have plenty of space near the house but that isn’t as intriguing I guess as all of the smells and possible pee and po… well, you know, spots that only the woods offer.

I actually don’t mind it because it gives me a chance to take a soul refreshing moment, a moment when I stop and just look and listen and feel the peace of what’s around me.  Sometimes I don’t even breathe for a moment so I can really feel it.

Some days the sun is streaming in through the trees and fills me warmth and a quiet energy.  Other days, it’s damp and misty and calming like a blanket wrapping around me.  In the midst of all the turmoil of day-to-day living and the burden on my spirit over all of these past years of grief and loss, it is that small moment that gives me that joy and peace that cannot be gotten from any thing or person; the peace that is not “of this world”.

This morning as I was drinking this in again, I realized that it was the small things like this that have helped me to survive and keep moving  forward through all the pain and confusion of grief.  Life was incredibly overwhelming so much of the time, so intense, yet had to be lived.

Through it all, I still believed that life is a gift so finding a way to see that there is still a beauty and a purpose to being here wasn’t easy.  I remember that I found it some days in just putting everything aside and listening to my kids tell jokes and laughing, staring into my little chihuahua’s eyes and seeing the innocence and gentleness of life, sitting on my couch savoring and actually tasting the good English tea that I love to drink which usually goes cold before I get halfway through, knitting instead of cleaning, or going to visit my sister and sitting in her living room chatting with my nieces and nephews, listening and really getting to know them.

When you are hurting, it’s the small things that get you through.  It’s a cliché, I know, but if you “stop and smell the roses” when you are in pain, give yourself that small moment to just be in the moment, it may give you the soul refresher you need to get on for another day.  I hope so.

Risky Business

I am a “dabbler” in Etsy.  If you’ve not heard of Etsy before, it’s a wonderful site where creative people can sell their work and it has become very popular.  I have just started with them, looking to maybe try selling some beaded jewelry and baby sweaters.  They are great at what they do because they give a ton of support and “how tos”, one of these being regular email postings of helpful hints.

The “hint” that came today was incredibly well-timed and reminded me full on about what for me became my biggest and probably most  surprising challenge of intense grief– my loss of self-confidence.

After I had my daughter, I returned to my job as the Director of Family Support Services at an agency serving people with Developmental Disabilities.  I continued to work hard at my job and moved up “the ladder” taking on more responsibility, eventually becoming Executive Director of a Subsidiary Corporation.  The point here is that while at my job, in my work environment, I was for the most part my capable, strong self- full of purpose, direction, multi-tasking with the best of them. But when I left work and went into the outside world…

I remember going to my son’s soccer game and standing on the sideline feeling like I didn’t know anyone.  Suddenly, I seemed to be incapable of talking to people, even though I might have just come from running a big meeting.  I would avoid going to large gatherings because I felt like my head was as big as an elephant and everyone was staring at me.  And it wasn’t because they were thinking about what had’ happened” to me – most likely, they didn’t even know. I just felt like a zero, like I had nothing to offer. I didn’t fit  I didn’t know how to put words together anymore.

The Etsy email referred to a blog post about learning to take “mini risks”.  The author talked about picking up on little opportunities to chat with someone- complementing on a blouse or hairstyle, asking how he likes the phone he has or the book he’s reading.  This is not to say that it still won’t feel awkward or like you’re going to pass out if the person doesn’t smile back you.  When you are grieving, it’s a whole different ball game as they say, and it can take enormous strength and courage to just walk into a room, never mind actually to talk to someone.

But I like the idea of “mini risks”.  I think it can be a good way to look at it.  You can even practice ahead of time.  You can think up a couple of questions before you get to wherever you’re going and then look around and target someone and go for it.  You can always have an escape plan if it doesn’t go the way you want or it doesn’t feel good or you can only handle a small bit.  Excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, get a drink or food, “see someone you know”- whatever.  With cell phones handy, you can always get a phone call!

“Mini risks” can start out in the open- in a store, on a bus, in a restaurant- no commitment.  It can be with complete strangers or acquaintances.  The main thing is to get your confidence back.  I think that’s one of the toughest blows of grief.  One day you’re in control and the next, you realize you never were.  It shakes your very foundation.  But you can get it back a bit at a time- one “mini risk” at a time.  With each step you feel a little stronger to take the next one.  And when you have “bad days” in the future, as we all do, you can remember that you did it before and you can do it again.

http://www.jonathanfields.com/blog/how-to-pick-up-a-stranger-or-produce-brilliant-work/

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