I Signed up for This.

“You ask for what you want and you pay for what you get.” Maya Angelou

God/the Universe has plans for me. I signed up for this.

Sure, I was probably in a hurry and running late and only listened to the part that said, “After 49 years of challenging relationships, you’ll be blessed with crazy, sexy, cool sacred love and your heart will be full.”

I doubt I read the fine print—the part about him dying.

I’m not a fine print gal. Details and contracts? Yeah, yeah, where do I sign?

Like the time I put my precious belongings in storage and moved to Mexico. I didn’t read the tiny words that stated if I was late with my meager $30 payment my stuff could and would be sold to some guy named Daryl. Oops.

Then, one of the most important contracts—a marriage certificate—I resisted signing the first time because I knew there would be a few uncomfortable clauses in there. Turns out, the officiant and the best people have to sign, but guess who doesn’t? The bride and groom. Maybe I mentally used that as my out. I didn’t sign a thing!

Oh, but on round two, I knew. I was committed, ready, in love, no doubts. But damn, I couldn’t see how that future would play out.

I’m not disregarding my responsibilities, but I believe it’s all been a part of my divine destiny: the love and the loss, the success and falling on my ass, sweet summers and brutally cold winters.

Sometimes I think, why me? A part of me knows.

I came here to love, learn and grow into a compassionate heart, surrendering to life’s seasons in order that I may be a more full, authentic, feminine force for good—using my voice, listening, standing beside those whose ride is bucking them like a bronco and leaving them flat on the ground with the wind knocked out of them.

Sometimes the most soothing words aren’t advice, stories or questions, but simply, “I’m here.”

Yes, I’m here. I signed up for this.

Grief is the Brave Dance We Do.

“Life is a continuous balancing of love and loss, because in order to have any loss mean something, we first have to have something we truly value.” ~ Alexandra Stoddard

On the front of my 9×11 hardcover calendar book it reads: “2017 is a good year to have a good year.” But, am I?

There’s a chasm between wanting to be over the grief of my beloved dying and clinging to the chaos born from his death.

After losing a loved one, this is the brave dance we do. We wrestle, grapple, fight, resist, and take ownership of our grief. We acknowledge, admit and attend to the full array of feelings which arrive with sorrow’s storm.

Many choose not to undertake this step. They prefer denial and bucking up. I don’t blame them. I’ve been there. I’ve tried the detour.

Folks are free to choose any path that works for them.

However, this time, I just can’t go around. I’m in the mess as much as I was into the relationship with the man I love who died a year and a half ago. A man I called Fire who burned bright right up until the night he died unexpectedly in his sleep (damn heart attack!).

He said to me, “I’m all in,” and he was. Until he was out. Not by his choice. Nor mine. I was all in, too.

Since his death, I’ve grieved like it was my profession.

Grief has been an honor, a spiritual opening and a building of my emotional biceps. And yet, even athletes don’t stay in the gym all day.

A friend recently asked me, “Do you think it’s true that the greater the love the deeper the grief?”

I said, “Yes, with a caveat.” (Because I love saying that word.) I had great love, as did my sister. So did the woman standing before me asking the question. We each still experience deep grief.

And yet, I don’t think the longer and harder one grieves is the measure of their love. With hard loss comes pain. How people cope is as individual as the paths to love.

For me, grief is a challenge, gift and opportunity bestowed upon me by the grace of a sacred love I was lucky enough to live. The aftermath is wretched. And it’s beautiful. In this moment, I vow to do my best to grow from it.

There’s no right way. There’s no wrong way. There’s only grief.

Like the Moon

Can you feel it–

Your soul coming

on full

Like the moon?

While it’s never

truly gone,

There have been times

it felt like only a sliver.

But, those were the

nights of yesterday.

The light is arising

from within.

Like a tender

sprout through

the earth.

As unsteady and

beautiful as

a baby deer’s legs.

Soon, she will run.

Like you–full

and elegant.

Catching gazes

once again.

I Really Was Such a Baby About the Whole Thing.

“Don’t get me wrong: grief sucks; it really does. Unfortunately, though, avoiding it robs us of life, of the now, of a sense of living spirit.” ~ Anne Lamott

My friend’s husband cheated on her. I’m not going to tell you the details, but let’s just say there were circumstances. Because there always are, right?

Still, in her mind, the action was unforgivable. Her family agreed. But, what about her kids? He was still their dad.

My friend loved this man and never imagined him cheating. She trusted him. They were the kind of couple that fit like puzzle pieces. They made a beautiful picture.

How f*cking dare he?! Well, you know—circumstances. No, not excuses. However, yes, in hindsight, I saw his humanity and how he came to be with that other woman, practically unapologetically.

Betrayal like that breaks something in a person.

Still, for a handful of years, my friend—you know, for the sake of the kids—continued taking family vacations with this man she meant to divorce. She had every intention. Because she couldn’t forgive him.

A couple years ago when I saw her, she mentioned his name without disdain or discussion of divorce. The way his name rolled off her tongue was casual and light.

I looked into her eyes and asked, “Are you guys back together?” The answer was yes without explanation, apology or fantasy. Just solid.

“How did that happen?” I asked.

She laughed. “You know, I was really such a baby about the whole thing.”

Ha! I’d say she’d been grieving. In grief we cry. We bitch about what happened. We analyze. We decide something different every hour of every day. We turn in circles like a dog, never finding the right spot. Until we do.

Grief is a game changer. It shatters the ground we stand solid on. It takes us with it like being sucked into a sinkhole. When our foundation crumbles, so do we.

My friend is one of the most balanced people I’ve ever known in my 50-plus years. She’s not naïve or gullible, more like strong, sensible, genuine, and yes, loving.

However, in her early stages of grief, she almost checked herself into a mental hospital because she met with rage that wanted to kill and sadness that wanted to die.

Instead, she learned to rise. So did her husband—after she determined she’d be okay either way.

It took time. In her case, years. Grief—whether from betrayal, death, divorce or tragedy—doesn’t come with an expiration date. It’s not linear and each case is different.

I recently read an article about a woman who was burned—face, hands, and body—life-threatening burns, in a camp fire started by her husband. After she arrived home from the hospital, her husband hit the road because she was just too much for him to handle. However, her young daughter needed her mother. The story revealed this woman’s resilience, faith and determination.

All I could think was, F*ck! I’ve been such a baby about this whole my-boyfriend-dying thing.

Maybe. But, like my friend, I can laugh. I went into the depths of my pain and came out with my lessons. I’m coming back to myself with new awareness and understanding, compassion and certainty, which, in this chapter, this time, could only be gained by going in.

This was master’s level grief. It required more of me. It demanded I go through the dark and crazy, and invest the tears and time.

Babies cry when things are sad. They naturally honor their emotions, rather than trying to buck up. Then, they stop crying and get back to playing—after they’re all cried out. Or had a nap.

So, yeah, I guess I was a baby about the whole thing, too. And yet, I don’t regret a single tear.

Let’s Restore Peace to the Playground of Life.

“When we turn on light, darkness disappears.” ~ Marianne Williamson

We want black and white, good and bad, light and dark. We want to choose sides, draw lines and know we’re right—in the church we’ve chosen, the political party we’re affiliated with, and the side of the law “our” people are on, as if DNA hasn’t exonerated hundreds of falsely convicted.

It takes courage to examine the gray.

Personally, I like to draw a line and call Donald Trump the devil. Maybe, but maybe he’s the wake-up call our society has served itself. Maybe there’s some good there.

That thought is quite a stretch for me, but I actually like trying to understand, even when I disagree with other sides. I’m curious how people come to their conclusions.

While I’m a thousand miles from sharing certain ideologies, I can sometimes see, stretching into openness, how someone arrived. Sometimes I can imagine maybe if I was born to those parents, with that DNA and raised in those circumstances, with their challenges (or wealth and opportunities), I might conclude things that given my particular path I can’t fathom.

Curiosity is a start. Not just what do you believe, but how did you get there?

Maybe if I understand another’s journey, I can simply honor—for them—the seductiveness of a philosophy that’s foreign to me.

And yet, this consideration scares me, due to the rhetoric and bullsh*t I like believe I’m immune to. How many of us like to think I’m smarter than that?

Well, I’ve seen intelligent women fall for deceiving men (and vice versa), smart businesspeople fail, and good family members and friends vote for a charlatan.

I myself have been manipulated, multiple times. Then, I awoke.

Things I believed in my 20s and 30s no longer serve me. That doesn’t mean I was wrong. I was on my path.

Maybe that’s the best I can do—respect each has a path and invite light on mine. What I can’t do is become so understanding of darkness I go there.

I cannot condone hate. I cannot stand idle to the fall of our democracy, to mistreatment of children, animals or marginalized groups.

But, maybe I can say, “Yes, I see you there” because people want to be seen. I see you in your darkness. I won’t make you defend it.

I hope and pray with everything I’ve got that I may shine light. Not me alone, but together with other women and men walking in the light.

The truth is I’m afraid of the dark: violence, anger, hatred, judgement, self-righteousness. Screaming is enough to shake my soul. I’m a peaceful warrior.

For so long, I’ve been walking the path of peace and believing that was enough. Now, it’s time to awaken the warrior and spread the light.

I’m little in a sea of opposing forces. But, still I swim here. I live here. I love here. Collectively, I’m part of a new path. I’m walking in spite of my fear.

Why show up at all? For one, I have a beautiful little niece named Madeline who’s dancing in the light of childhood and innocence. Life will teach her many hard things. My hope is she doesn’t have to grow up into a world welcoming her with proof that darkness prevails.

Second, my mother fought for women’s rights. I witnessed that fight and naively believed it had been mostly won. No, the baton has been passed. I’m called to continue.

Third, my stepmom marched for civil rights. Doesn’t the name say it all? What happened to civility?

We, as a country, have turned cruel. We’re not embodying the basic principles most parents teach their children—kindness, fairness, decency, respect, showing up, not being bullies.

My God, I saw a group of middle-aged adults engaging in fist fights at their children’s high school graduation, over someone saving seats. Really?!

This is the playground of life. Some swing on the swings happily oblivious.

But, there’s a bully beating others to a pulp while a crowd chants, “Fight! Fight! Fight!” Someone runs to tell a teacher/leader, but they don’t want to jeopardize their comfort. So, they hang in the lounge pretending not to hear.

We must walk through the crowd of instigators and pull the bully off our democracy. We must say: Stop. That’s enough.

We don’t care who threw the first punch. We care about stopping the fight and restoring peace to the playground.

Sure, it’s more complicated than that. Or is it?

My Heart Broke in the Midst of a Party.

Grief is bittersweet. I have the most beautiful vision of a place I can never go again.

People say, “Don’t look back.” “Don’t live in yesterday.”

I miss my young spunk and the belief that all great things were coming to me. They have. They did. However, when we’re young, we don’t acknowledge all that can fall away or the price we may be asked to pay.

I thought I’d paid upfront for legendary love. I thought my lessons before Kevin and I became a couple were my ticket to fly with him. And, oh how we did!

For a brief time. We were so in when he was taken out of this world. I wasn’t young or full of naïve hope. For two decades, Kevin bitched about women and I bragged about men.

Shortly before we got together, Kevin said, “Hey Icey,” (his nickname for me), “Am I your only guy friend you haven’t slept with?”

I laughed and said, “No, there are a couple others.”

In all those years, I never imagined I’d be Kevin Lentz’s girlfriend. In fact, I thought he was an ass.

Don’t get me wrong, I was quite the brat when we met back in our Britannica selling days. Somehow, I overlooked his bullish, but Southern behavior and we became friends.

Still, I didn’t envision or desire anything more until after our time together in May of 2014. I was staying in Kevin’s home for Mother’s Day. We talked until late in the night, huddled on his living room floor.

We told stories about our moms, their health and deaths, our connections with them and the challenges these strong women delivered us as kids. Kevin and I shared the good and bad about our moms and ourselves.

It’s like I’d always been standing outside the house of Kevin. We’d been close, but on that visit he threw open the door of his true self and said, “Come on in!”

How many people stand outside the house of others believing they know the interior? How rarely we really reveal the depths of ourselves.

Kevin did. He invited me to do the same. As much talk as there is about authenticity, there’s a level so much deeper than most of us ordinarily go.

Kevin invited me in—not just to the living room, but to the bedroom and basement of his soul. I walked timidly at first, trying to express my fears and explain how I’d been hurt in the past.

The way he said, “I’m not those other guys” was like walking into a friend’s basement when you fear it could be a dark scene from Law & Order, but he says, “Don’t be scared.”

So, I stopped being scared. When we got into the basement, I had as much fun as those kids on That 70s Show had in their basement.

And riding in the car with Kevin was like that, too. If you’ve watched the show, you know the feeling of singing and laughing, the feeling I had with Kevin. Then, our show was cancelled.

I know I’ll fall in love again. I’m lucky like that.

But, I’m not new at this game called life. I’d been on earth for 49 years—some 17,885+ days—before Kevin and I became Fire & Ice. He held my heart for 660 days and those were my favorite of them all.

I thought all beginnings were good, but Kevin said, “No, they’re not. This is different.” He was right.

Kevin was convinced his mom, from the other side, brought me back into his life because this was the kind of relationship she always desired for him. He made me believe and even assured me we’d “just keep getting better and better.” We did. Until he died.

Now, I’m trying to adjust to the idea that my life will just keep getting better and better, even with my Fire burning on the other side. That’s a big idea when my heart broke in the midst of a party in the basement of our souls. I was crushed, buried in my grief.

I’m crawling out. I see the light. I feel his love. I’m finding my divine direction again, but this grief still tastes bittersweet.

A New Language

Speak to me, entities
Beyond the clouds and trees,
Those who live in the other
Room and alternate realm.
I yearn to learn
Your language.
Whisper secrets
Into my soul.
Shout truth beyond
The human struggle.
Help me dance my
Days on earth, and
Be of benefit
Where I can.
Show me color
In darkness,
Life in death,
Humor in seriousness.
Overcome me. Overwhelm me.
Rearrange me. Introduce me.
To light. Sway me like
The ocean waves. Take me
Under. Throw me into new
Waters. Tumble my yesterdays
Into something that shimmers.
Let me see anew.
Limitations be gone.
Expectations expire.
Hope renews.
Mind ignites.
Body moves with grace.
Gratitude seeps from
My very being.
I am here. I am there.
I am aware and willing,
Open, steady, rocking my
Way into something more.
No plan. No demand.
Soaring like an eagle.
Unquestioning.
Prevailing.