How to Be Brave Again.

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” ~ Anne Frank

I used to be brave. I climbed in canyons alone and hitchhiked when I was a kid. I rode a bus across the country at 14 to go to Outward Bound. I rock climbed blindfolded.

I knocked on doors and did in-home sales for decades, going into strangers’ homes unafraid of anything but flubbing my closing lines.

I drove across the country numerous times and moved to Mexico once. 

Even after being raped by a boss at age 24, I held an invincibility at my core.

Things are different now. I’m different, but so is my country.

Years ago, my sister and I went to the Bahamas. On a walk along the beach, local men laid like lizards on cement walls and leered at us like we were meat. Their eyes on us felt animalistic.

I’ve seen that look in the eyes of some American men more often in the past few years.

There was the guy in the parking lot at the Mexican restaurant when I walked to get my jacket from my car parked next to him. I said hi and his eyes met me with hatred, enough to make me sprint back to the restaurant. I’d like to say he was the only one, a rarity.

But, in today’s society, being female is a vulnerability. Yes, it always has been, but not to this extent, not for a long time.

You can tell me I’m paranoid, or just devoid of logic. Logic isn’t what’s guiding our society. Even when it was, that left out female knowing.

I know too much, see too much, and feel too much fear.

It’s not just about the men who leer. It’s about knowing, due to our hyper-vigilant gun ownership, any altercation could turn dangerous. And it’s not just altercations. It’s concerts, movies, and children going to school gunned down in innocence.

This isn’t to point blame or suggest maybe we have a problem with violence. It’s acknowledging that the overwhelming presence of guns most places I go can make me want to stay home, to hide in safety.

My mom owned a gun and believed in gun rights and the NRA. Oh, what I’d give to have a conversation with her today.

Just like with pizza or beer, a little isn’t bad, but as a lifestyle too much can be devastating.

I’ve altered my lifestyle for safety and security. Certainly, this is in part due to growing out of youth’s invincibility.

However, even as an adult, I used to feel freer, just a few years back.

Isn’t America about freedom? I don’t feel as free and fear it will get worse.

Too many of our heroes have been revealed as dangerous predators. Too many more roam free, eager, and now, emboldened.

What’s a woman to do, but be afraid? Be brave! You say?

Yes, but not in the way of denial of danger. Not, for me, in grabbing a gun to be part of the society hell bent on rights beyond legitimate concerns.

We all agree mass shootings are bad, as well as individual ones. Cop killings are bad. Cops killing? Really bad.

What I fear is the structures we’ve come to count like the ground we stand on are crumbling. The rules have changed in every area. Truth is disputed.

Serious journalists, the likes of the New York Times and Washington Post, once the bastions of our civil society, who took down Nixon, have been framed as enemies.

Roger Stone has a tattoo of Nixon on his chest and the guy in the White House defends him.

No, I’m not bashing. I’m looking clearly.

As a nation, can we see, or shall we continue to be as blind as Camille Cosby?

No matter the facts, she chose loyalty to what she perceived as truth, to the man she knew as good. Who can blame her?

We love who we love. We put our faith in them. We lower bars to make way for them.

When it’s personal, like a marriage and family, it takes time to see a reality so in conflict with what we’ve been told and shown and believe in our core.

As a county, do we have time?

I’m fearful. I’m told to think positive. I try not to be cynical.

Shall we wait until global warming becomes unbearable?

Geez, this gal’s negative! Turn away. Or don’t. I understand the impulse.

What are you grappling with? Where is the collective personal and the personal societal?

Apparently, we need to learn from personal experience and until it touches us, let’s turn off the TV, call the truth fake, and for God’s sake, take care of ourselves.

Yes, I’ll take care of myself to the best of my ability. I’ll also care for loved ones and strangers when and where I can. I’ll speak and write truth.

I’ll be brave again. Courage is revealed in the face of fear.

To call upon mine, I’ll reread Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl and Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

Like Frank and Frankl, even if the worst is upon us, we can be diligent in our faith, seek purpose, and imagine ourselves being a part of a better world, or at least paving a path for future generations.

We can be brave again. We must be brave again.


 

Facing the Fact.

What’s lurks, as I lean into life?

I’ve cleared my vision,

Shifted into my old optimism,

Dove back in for another revision.

I went running—pain free—three times.

I went on a date—without talking about my deceased beloved.

I readied to claim my progress.

But, like a bully who knows me too well,

Grief casts her shadow.

Still.

I know what I don’t want to know.

Worse than the fact:

He’s never coming back

(which I still—three years, nine months in—don’t quite believe),

I never stop wishing

He was here

Making it easy

To lean into

My life

Without him.

The Spirit These Times Require.

So, my dear,
you’ve learned to cry.

Not just reactionary tears,
earnest ones born of
your brave heart.

You see the darkness and refuse
to disrespect yourself
into denial.
Bravo.

Welcome to the juxtaposition:
No one asked you
to lay down
your joy.

Claim it again.
Be a warrior, enlightened.

To fight for light,
enter the darkness
dancing.

Let them hear your laughter.

Flash your smile
like a peace sign
as you pledge to do your part.

In one bucket, carry the problems.
In the other, the spirit with
which to transform them.

 

Why We’re All Seeking the Same Thing.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” ~ Hebrews 11:1

You might think it would be easier if your wife had died—
Rather than trying to kill something in you by sleeping
With other men, even those you thought friends.

I could be tempted to say, At least she’s alive.
I wish my man was, even if he betrayed me
And tried to break me. At least I could
Hear his voice and look in his eyes.

A teenage girl tells her father,
“This ear infection is so bad
I’d rather have the flu for a year!”

Yeah, right.

Some say divorce is as difficult
As losing a loved one to death.
Having experienced both, I beg to disagree.

But, then I remember that’s just me.
My divorces (yes, two!) weren’t brutal.
No one got betrayed or dragged through court.

But, hey—I bet both those men would say
It was the worst experience of their lives.

What else could it be when the woman you love,
The one you intend to invest all your years with
Chooses to walk away?

Maybe there’s no easy.
Not when it’s yours to bear.

It wasn’t easy for my sister to lose her husband
To cancer after 33 years in a marriage many envied.

I’m still reeling from the loss of my beloved
Who went to sleep and never woke up.

My sister and her husband had history
And prepared to sail into the sunset.

My beloved and I were blessed with sacred love
Finally, in our 50s! Hope coursed through us.

Whatever we must face, it’s ours. That’s what makes it hard.

Heartbreak is our puzzle of life,
The beautiful picture shaken
And scattered on the floor.

Pieces disappear. Emptiness arrives.
Previous pieces don’t fit. Everything is a jumble.
Where did these odd, misshaped ones arrive from?

Life. Life. Life.

It’s a series of pictures coming together and falling apart.

We make new pictures.

Mine is not harder. Yours is not easier.
Yours is not harder. Mine is not easier.

It all a puzzle. We’re all seeking the pieces.

 

 

How History Helps Us Endure Grief.

“Acknowledging and letting go of these feelings brings us up to courage and, with that, finally acceptance and an inner peacefulness, at least as it regards the area which has been surmounted.” ~ David R. Hawkins, Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender

I’ve fallen into grief’s pit again. I know; I’ll crawl out faster this time.

It’s temporary, but this is the place I miss him the most. Grief is a gross comfort.

In grief’s grip, no matter how magnificent my daily life, it pales in comparison to any moment, memory, or experience shared with my now-deceased beloved.

Before Kevin stepped up into the role of boyfriend, he hung around the sidelines of my life ever since my first career opportunity, where we met, and my first marriage, which I left.

Yep, Kevin was there decades ago as I burned rubber out of both.

He seemed to pop up in every chapter of my life, while I gave him little thought, took our friendship for granted, and tried to set him up with my girlfriends.

Actually, I thought him a bit of an ass. I had no desire to impress him, which allowed me to feel free in his presence.

He wasn’t trying to win me over, either. So, I benefitted from the safety of a man by my side, like a brother.

Back in 1989, Kevin took me to his friend Ed’s party out in the country, close to St. Louis. Although I didn’t see Kevin much throughout the weekend, I felt his presence as we each mingled with other people. I knew he had my back.

The physical safety a man can offer came automatically with Kevin’s 6’3 stature. But, there’s another kind of safety.

Like when I said something I feared I had to wrap in an apology or explanation, his reaction proved the wrapping unnecessary.

I once said, “I’m not trying to judge you, but…”

Kevin said, “If you want to judge me, that’s ok. It’s on you.”

He showed me what it meant to be non-defensive, which I wasn’t used to, and non-judgmental, which I, like many people, longed for my whole life.

Best of all, Kevin embraced the gifts of my words, opinions, feelings, ideas, stories, and even my anger and fears.

It’s a whole new level of safety when a man loves a woman the way her dog does—not trying to change, impress, prove wrong, scold, compete with, or rescue.

I’d had enough of all that.

Finally, I didn’t have to or want to feel or say anything but my soul truth.

I didn’t have to work so hard at being happy or understood.

Amazingly, I saw Kevin the way I wished I’d see all the men who I’d shared chapters of my life with, but never quite managed.

He knew my sh*t. I knew his—and loved him even more for it, the way I wanted to love the other men, but didn’t.

With Kevin, I saw the quirks and flaws I’d normally judge—his loud mouth and undeniable ability to be politically incorrect, but I felt within me a new level of understanding and compassion, which felt oddly natural.

Here was a man full-on present in a way I’d never known a man to be.

Our experience flowed, rather needing to be reasoned around.

Sure, we had our moments. When I exploded with anger or jealousy (because he showed me it was safe to feel and deal with both), we got through it together.

Early on, I told Kevin I wanted nothing less than authenticity—because I couldn’t handle any more lies or disappointment—after my last three strikes with men, which he knew all about.

Like an old-fashioned gentleman, Kevin put his promise in a hand-written letter and mailed to my home: “As we go down our path, I pledge to give you the authenticity you crave and deserve. I want to have it all with you, Ice. Will you let me?”

Ice. He called me Ice. I let him melt me. Thank God I did, but damn, who could say no to that?!

Well, me—the gal who said no to or walked out on plenty of men who offered their hearts. It was just never enough for me.

Until Kevin. He was far from perfect, but he was real.

I’d have paid any price to take the ride we took together.

I relaxed and became my full self in his arms. He grew and awakened in my presence.

Our deal was divine.

Now, he’d dead—physically. (Heart attack in his sleep.)

This fact challenges me more than anything ever has.

My losses and lessons before couldn’t prepare me for this one.

This grief is like a gal with math anxiety learning calculus.

I face confusion, vulnerability, and some days, despair.

However, history says I’ve worked my way through before.

History says: love comes around again.

 

 

 

How to Say Goodbye to Grief.

“All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love.” ~ Leo Tolstoy

Hello, my old friend, Grief. It’s like you to visit in honor of my deceased beloved’s birthday.

I tell myself it should be a day like any other. It’s the day my friend Sharon will visit, randomly scheduled and now seemingly divine.

It’s also my stepbrother’s birthday. I never remembered it before my man Kevin died. Now, it’s a forever-linked coincidence.

Kevin Lentz was born, along with his twin brother Keith, on their father’s birthday, January 17, 1958. This year, his twin will turn 60 years old.

Hello, my old friend, Grief. Of course you visit today.

I felt my productivity wane and my emotional brakes firing before I even realized why.

The calendar turns and suddenly just another day feels like a shadow of all my yesterdays.

No matter how I try to minimize, January 17th haunts me without my beloved here to celebrate his birthday.

But, I’ll smile, toast him, and try to be true to him by being true to myself.

That’s how I say good bye to Grief—a little bit at a time, as the occasions arise.

I celebrate in Grief’s face.

I see her in the corner, a little taken aback not to be the center of attention.

See, I decided to invite Love to this birthday party for my beloved.

Love shows up. She shines. She showers me with memory and the sound of his laughter.

Love blows me his kiss and touches me with his hand.

Love reaches across time and boundaries and warms my heart like Fire.

From across the room, I catch Grief’s eyes. She smiles and winks.

Held by Love, I smile and wink right back.

Angel of Grief

“I now realize the Angel of Death would have to be God’s most tender and understanding angel, to be sent at such a significant, frightening moment.” ~ Marianne Williamson

Tried to hide in busyness,
Attempted to invite you in
At the appointed time, even
Determined to be done with you.

Until slapped straight.
You’re in control.

You’re not the minute
I thought you’d be,
Or the obstacle
I strived to surmount.

You’re not a season, like winter,
I thought I’d come to peace with.
You cannot be defined,
By me or others.

More than a visitor, as
Inappropriate as a stranger’s touch,
Deeper, you reach inside me
To places I hardly recognize.

Yet, you and I have been intimate
Many times over the years;
I find myself leaning into you,
Welcoming you to do

What you will with me.
You smash collisions of
Untouchable memories
Causing untold ache.

But, still…
Every breath with you
Conscious, clear, alive,
Trivial cannot touch me.

On my knees and
Simultaneously
Standing tall
Angel of Grief, you are not the Devil.