“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.

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Looking “Out There”…

As I am sitting here drinking my morning tea, I am distracted by this show on the TV, the Nate Berkus Show.  It’s one of those morning shows where the host shows you how to decorate your home, cook the perfect meal, dress in style, do charitable works- the typical American morning show.

I don’t usually watch these things.  It’s on because my son, who of course has left the room, put the TV on and it landed on this channel.  I just haven’t bothered to turn it off.  Although I do find some parts interesting, especially the cooking, I am usually reminded by how obsessed we can get with “things”; how we are constantly looking for something “out there” that will make our lives better, more beautiful, happier because what we have already is not enough.  And how sad that is as any of us who has lost someone dear knows.

How many times do people look back after someone dies and wish they had spent less time working and more time talking and laughing with him or her?  And all the fretting and stress we cause ourselves about not being able to provide all these “things” for our loved ones, feeling like we are not striving hard enough or don’t care enough if we don’t.

In my worst of times, I have had to take time off from working so our income has been diminished and our home has been in disrepair. I allowed myself to fall victim to this sense of embarrassment, not wanting to let people see us not at our best, lest they think poorly of me.  I know all of the clichés that my true friends wouldn’t care but…I would not have thought that I would have let myself give in to this.  But grief attacks your self-confidence and can make you behave in ways you would not have thought possible.  At the very time I needed to invite people in, I shut people out.  In this case, due to my physical surroundings and succumbing to the societal pressures around me.

So forget the clichés and take it from the heart that people who love you don’t care if your house is a mess- they will help you clean it.  They don’t care if you look like a model- they will take you for a haircut.  They don’t care if you cook them dinner- they will cook for you.  Don’t be distracted by what you see on TV or in the magazines about who you are supposed to be.  Just be.

Frustration

I went to visit a friend the other day who has suffered a different but very significant kind of loss.  Last April she miraculously survived what is commonly referred to as the “flesh-eating bacteria” illness.  If you haven’t heard of it, it is a powerful bacteria that seems to come out of nowhere and very rapidly attacks the body, destroying muscles and organs, often claiming the lives of its victims within a few days.

My friend was a healthy, vibrant mother of three with a thriving home business one day and a month later woke up to find herself wheelchair bound and still struggling to survive.  You see, although she made it through the initial phase of the illness, it left her hands and lower legs needing to be amputated in order for her to live as they had “died”.  She made the choice to do that so she could stay and still be a mom to her kids.

I tell you this because I see her now struggle with grief.  It comes from a different source but I recognize so much that same sense of losing the life you once knew, not ever being the person you used to be as everything has changed.  I don’t presume to know what she is going through as obviously, it is a completely unique experience.

But the common thread that ran through our conversation was the frustration she feels with having to go through all of this sadness and grief over losing who she once was.  She just wants it to be over with.  How often have we all felt that way?  How I wished that I could have told her the magic date that she would feel ok again; that it would be “x” number of days till she would feel like jumping back into work.  She wants so badly to wake up each day with a sense of purpose.  And all I could do was to empathize with her and reassure her that the day would come.

So, I did my best to encourage her, as I do you, and to share that as icky as it feels, I have learned that the only way to the other side- to that better day, is through…you have to feel it all and let it out.  Don’t hold back, don’t shove it down deep and keep that stiff upper lip- it will only prolong the inevitable.    As for my friend, I will keep visiting her and we’ll keep talking.

It’s All Relative

Last week was a terrible week.  A bunch of things happened that just made me feel like nothing was going right.  Nothing earth shattering- nothing that could compare to things I’ve had to deal with in the past.  College issues with my son and we ended up without heat on the coldest day of the winter and you know, all that life “bs” that happens when you’re trying to just get along- good days and bad days.

But it became one of those times when I felt overwhelmed.  It was one of those times when the remnants of the stress and coping and healing process swirled around me again like a dust cloud and I questioned my ability to keep on in my forward motion.  I wept a lot, I swore, I even yelled at God (I do believe in God in a “new” sort of way).  This was probably the biggest “down” I’ve had in a while.

I have people whose answer to me in these moments is “that’s just life”.  Well, I know that.  But that doesn’t really help a lot when I’m just looking for a little support.  And I see  things on Facebook where people share stories of others in terrible circumstances to make us all aware of how appreciative we should be. But that doesn’t really help either at these times.

Ok, I know there are people whose lives are way worse than mine.  Even in the most horrible moment of my life, someone was having a more horrible moment than me.  But does that mean that I should have “bucked up” and pushed back my tears and said “well, it could be worse”?  Obviously not (although when I called my grandmother, whom I loved dearly, to tell her through my tears that my father had died, she told me I had to keep my chin up and be strong for my mother).

Please don’t think that I don’t appreciate the hardships that other people experience.  I thank God every day for all the good things in my life and for how lucky I am.  By all rights, I shouldn’t even have the 2 children I do have.  And how many people are still married to the same person after 30 years and still actually like him?  I am surrounded by people all the time who remind me to respect life and live every day.

But I also know that trying to brush away negative feelings or letting them pile up by comparing yourself to others can be dangerous.  We are meant to feel those things and get them out so that we can move on in a more positive way.  It’s not a competition over who has had it worse.  It is all relative to you and your life situation.  Obviously, there are some limits here.  A teenage girl having a breakdown  over losing her cell phone might be a bit excessive, but…even then you never know what else might be going on.

There can be a fine line between feeling your feelings and letting them out and self-pity.  If things are rough and you’ve had a bad time as will happen in this life for whatever reason,  feel what you feel. Just so long as you eventually get back up on that horse and keep going. If you are grieving, that may take a long time and it may not be a steady ride.  You’ll probably fall off a lot as I still do now and then.  As time goes on, it still doesn’t feel good but it doesn’t take as long to get up again.

As for me, I am back at it.

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