How Grief Helps Us Grow. #bloglikecrazy

“Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed.” ~ Wikipedia

Grief is a truth teller when we like to believe the lies.

Grief slays us from our easy chair and smiles at our idea of control.

I thought her evil, pointing out my deficiencies, even stealing joy and freedom.

Grief speaks the loudest at funerals, but that’s not the only place her voice is heard.

She whispers throughout our lives and we resist her presence repeatedly.

She says: He’s got another woman (when he does). Your mom has cancer and will likely die. (Sometimes grief sounds like a doctor.) Your parents are divorcing. You hate this job. You’re going to lose the house. The doctors had to cut off his foot. He’s unresponsive.

We think grief is the b*tch, but she’s more like my new stepmom when I was a teenager: introducing rules which felt restrictive, but showed me what it meant to be a family.

Grief is strong and no doubt she can be harsh, but she’s loving.

She’s like the junior high school teacher who made my brother read in front of the class. Except Bill couldn’t read; so he slapped her.

That teacher revealed a truth my brother had been denying.

That’s the kind of teacher grief is—willing to be hated, even abused, in order to remove the mask.

A friend of mine told me he was sexually abused, by more than one person, starting at age five. He told me he doesn’t feel sad or angry. He says it didn’t affect him. In fact, he’s fine.

I recognize that mask. It’s the I’m okay mask.

I wore it for almost a decade after I was raped. I not only denied the pain, but avoided it entirely (actually how denial works).

I thought I was brave. I thought I was strong. I thought I was fine.

Actually, I didn’t think much about that night at all.

It wasn’t a #metoo campaign that made me face my pain.

A qualified therapist knew it takes more than just listening to a client like me paint pretty pictures so she feels better.

This therapist encouraged me to take off my I’m fine mask, look at the truth, and allow the tears to break where my trust had been violated.

She helped me face what I hadn’t known how to. And to move past it.

It’s not only the experiences we want to avoid; it’s the grief.

Grief says, “Yes, you were raped.”

What a b*tch. What a truth teller.

It takes courage to face our pain. That’s why so many women don’t come forward until years later, if at all. It’s easier to deny.

Our ego convinces us to be “strong” and in doing so, we often end up lying to ourselves through minimizing.

I have friends whose fathers left them or never showed up when they were kids. For years I’ve watched them dismiss the impact of an event like that.

Then, as adults when they get conscious and courageous, they can cry in the arms of grief. It’s the beginning of releasing that mask they all but glued on their beautiful faces.

When they finally take off the mask and let the grief in, the light comes. too.

When we face people’s (including our own) imperfections, manipulations, and violations, at first we’re hit with grief. But then, we’re set free.

We’re no longer captive to the actions of others. That’s why society applauds so many women and men coming out of the shadows and saying #metoo.

We’re witnessing their individual healing and society’s collective awakening.

We minimize our pain not because we’re strong or brave, but because on some level, we believe the grief could devour us.

She won’t. She waits like a patient parent or teacher. She helps us remove our I’m fine mask and the illusion of being in control.

Grief invites us to lay our hurt and humanity at her feet.

She holds us in our raw pain.

Then, like my stepmother and my brother’s teacher, grief helps us grow into more conscious and compassionate human beings.

 

How I Lost and Found my Faith. #bloglikecrazy

 

“I’m pretty sure that it is only by experiencing that ocean of sadness in a naked and immediate way that we come to be healed—which is to say, that we come to experience life with a real sense of presence and spaciousness and peace.” ~ Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies

I don’t know how it happened, but I lost my faith.

There was a time I believed so deeply in the Universe’s ability to line things up for me—because I had the evidence.

After losing my job, marriage, home, husband, and dogs, I found myself at home with my sister at a time when she needed me and I was available.

I was graced with the opportunity to dive into my writing dream.

And, the cream in my coffee was the Universe, God, and all the angels created space and time for my beloved and I to find each other and open our hearts in a way neither of us ever had, to know sacred love.

I felt like every heartache, break-up, divorce, and disaster led me toward fulfillment. And, it was only the beginning.

You know those chapters in life when everything feels right, you love living in your own skin, and magic moments become commonplace?

Well, if not, that’s on its way to you—because everyone gets at least one chapter like that.

Sometimes we don’t even know it’s been delivered until it’s taken away.

Not me. Not this time. I knew. So did my beloved.

We were old enough to have experienced plenty of so-almost-right relationships.

Our crazy, sexy, cool tasted like pure nutrients after junk food.

We’d also been burned by death’s flame devouring our loved ones and made individual vows to suck the marrow out of life.

So, we did. We loved deep, honest, expansive, surprising, and as undeniable as the three-day storm that shut down I-40 after Kevin’s last Christmas.

We didn’t know when we drove into that storm headed from his place in St. Louis to my parents’ home in Santa Fe, NM that the rain wouldn’t stop and we’d be forced to return to his home.   

We were stuck in each other’s arm with an open agenda. Big bummer. Not! I’ll forever cherish those three days of rain.

Like the time I spent with him the following February. Kevin asked me to stay two weeks instead of the one I planned. I did.

Then, he said, “Come on, Icey, one more day!”

He always asked me to stay. That last time, I did.

Surely, God and the Universe lined up these gifts of added time for us, like the way we came together after decades of never considering anything more than friendship.

People say things like that and sometimes we think, really?

Yes, really. I had zero attraction to the man, like he just wasn’t for me.

Until he was. Our magnified intimacy and connection intensified my faith.

Part of me believes it all went the way it was meant to.

How could something so right be wrong—even though it ended in his unexpected death in his sleep on a random night before he intended to visit?

Yet, in the rightness and grace of it all, my faith in the Universe, or God’s ability to align my life, fractured.

I started striving to survive grief’s pain. Then, when it began to subside, I set goals for accomplishment the way a lonely girl seeks a man.

I came more from sickness and sadness than faith. And that’s ok.

My faith doesn’t have a brand or a label. It doesn’t fit into a box and barely belongs to any church.

However, my faith—somehow reignited today—is as big as the God I believe in. And as mysterious.

Today—days after Thanksgiving, in Ohio—I sit warmed by sunshine on my deck, my dog at my feet, a pen in my hand, and paper receiving my words.

I feel the magic moving in me again.

I feel aligned, although I don’t know exactly what for.

Just as I had no idea the Fire (my nickname for Kevin, my beloved) would melt this Ice (what he called me since the 80s, as in Vanilla Ice’s Ice, Ice Baby). Or that the Fire would go out.

I simply remember this feeling of faith—as clear as the day I laid back in his friend Big Daddy’s boat on Lake St. Louis, soaked up the sun, smiled at a man who was not yet mine and said, “I’m so happy right now. I love this moment.” It was days before our first kiss.

What a ride!

Thank you, God. For all you’ve given, for how you’ve reawakened and realigned me after the darkness threatened to seduce me.

I’m here. I stand—well, actually sit, in sunshine, in late November, in faith.

 

 

 

How to Embrace Opportunity for Metamorphosis. #bloglikecrazy

“Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?” ~ Rose Kennedy

My friend is lucky.
Her love lives.
She has a wife and a kid.

She’s unlucky.
As writers, we declared
Long ago: j-o-b-s distract.
She’s dedicated to a distraction.

Committed by way of marriage
And her ego’s need for independence
Managing the only 24 hours given each day.

I’m lucky, granted—by grace and my sister’s magic—
Freedom to pursue my passion daily.
The gift every writer dreams of: time
To work on our calling, the way others work
On their professions. Writing defines everything.
Writing rights us. We know no other way.
We’ll squeeze the whole world out to fit our
Writing in, but we don’t want to do it that way.

I don’t have to. I’m lucky.
Certainly luckier than most.
Of course, unluckier than many.
Losing everything, and my beloved dying.

I live my grandfather’s legacy:
I’ve had a lot of loss, but
I’ve had a lot of love.

Both unlucky and lucky,
Like my friend, all my
Friends, family and strangers.

Love, freedom, time and money.
Health, opportunities and obligations.
Coping, managing and manifesting.

Luck. We can’t hold it. It’s a
Hot potato. Good and bad luck.
We juggle them both, knowing:

For all the good, there’s a price.
I willingly pay.
And the bad?
Opportunity for metamorphosis.
I play my part.

I change. I grow.

We’re all lucky. And unlucky. Then, lucky again.

Sometimes life swings full
Circle and you realize
How lucky you are.
How lucky you are!

It’s My Birthday! Version 5.3. #bloglikecrazy

Fly free and happy beyond birthdays and across forever and we’ll meet now and then and when we wish, in the midst of the one celebration that never can end.” ~ Richard Bach 

It’s my birthday. “5.3, Icey!” I hear my deceased boyfriend say.

Yes, I’m 53. It’s a gift, I tell myself—trying to overcome my feelings with my mind.

I’ve already gotten 26 more of these celebrating days than my brother’s 27.

I’m three years shy of my mother’s whole life.

There was a time when their deaths made me dig in and live with fury.

I’m slower now, not old woman slow, but embodying acceptance that I’m not in control, trusting grace and allowing life to reveal itself.

You know, when I’m not comparing to those I marvel at and clinging to the sweet taste of yesterday (my beloved, aka The Fire!).

I’ve never been one to settle, but I find beauty in coming to peace with it all.

I’ve spent too many autumns of my life missing the colors while cursing the bitter winter I knew was coming.

The seasons are predictable, just not their intensity. Saying I want to be complete with my grief is wanting winter to end.

Spring will come, but there are often the surprise cold snaps after we’ve put our winter clothes away.

I’ve walked a thousand miles in grief’s shoes and I’ll walk a thousand more, because once I move into spring regarding the death of my beloved, another death of another loved one will arrive in my life—unless I go first, which I refuse.

So, I vow to live with the knowledge: people die. We know this. Yet, we resist.

Me? I’m going to live, eyes and heart open to all the seasons. I’ll grow old with grace and gratitude.

Today, I’ll sit back and laugh with my ladies. I’ll smile at babies and pet puppies. I’ll count on the sunset and let it caress my eyes. Heck, I might even dance on tables, just to prove I’ve still got my groove.

I’m still here. I breathe the breath of spring and find the delicious in everyday delights.

Life unfolds. Angels hold me, owning this space and time, infusing me with courage and refining my character.

There’s nothing to chase. I stand in this moment and allow memory to befriend me.

I smile with every drop of my flowing blood, picturing my beloved flexing in his bedroom on his final birthday: “5.8, Icey. Pretty good. What do you think—5.8?”

I thought he’d live longer. I thought he was the most handsome version of 5.8 ever created.

I love the way he saw himself and how he helped me see all of me with new eyes.

As my birthday dawns, I celebrate life’s rich hues. It’s been colorful and even when I can’t feel it, I hear him say, “It just keeps getting better.”

I lean into my belief: “5.3, Fire, what you think? Pretty good. It’s me: Icey 5.3.”

How my Sister & I Grew up in Different Families. #bloglikecrazy

“There is space within sisterhood for likeness and difference, for the subtle differences that challenge and delight; there is space for disappointment—and surprise.” ~ Christine Downing

My sister once told me one reason siblings are different is they’re not born into the same family.

Jayne—the one and only first born—was welcomed into the world with hope during a stage my mom and dad had been told the world was tough, but maybe they didn’t quite believe it yet.

Our brother—Mr. Middle Child—arrived on the scene into Hey, maybe we can make it.

Then, just five years after my sister’s arrival, I was born into the heart of challenge.

I swam in my mom’s frustration for nine months. I ate her Oh God, what have I gotten myself into? for nourishment.

Maybe that’s why I spent too many years wishing to leave this world.

Or what I was doing at the age of eight weeks, returning to the hospital with pneumonia, checking into an oxygen tent, and keeping human touch at a distance.

My mother said the doctors told her, “Go home and take care of your other children.”

Five days later, when my parents picked me up from the hospital, a nurse said, “This time, take care of her.”

My mom hardly had room for me in her arms with all that pressure.

Besides, my independent streak and fighting inclinations had already taken root in that tent. I won my first battle and was ready for more.

However, as a toddler, I quickly learned my mother was not somebody you wanted to do battle with.

The lessons my sister learned—baking, measuring, and Winnie the Pooh seemed spent before I arrived.

We all learned about Mama Bear and that saying: If mom’s not happy, nobody’s happy. Yeah, totally true.

My mom wasn’t happy.

My dad worked. If I said all the time, it might seem like an exaggeration, but if I said he was a workaholic, that might be underplaying it.

My father appears as a visitor in my young memories.

Then, right at that crux, where my parents parted and my sister did her final years at home, the families my sister and I lived in shifted again.

By the time I was a teenager, I knew parents were just playing at righteousness and big sisters were really the difference makers.

After all, who explained divorce and that love that goes on, anyway? Who took care of me when I was sick or let me tag along on dates? Who worried when I stayed out late?
My big sister parented me when my parents were busy doing other things—like trying to get their sh*t together.

Ok, are you with me so far?
1) Parents fall in love.
2) Get pregnant.
3) Get married.
4) Have my sister.
5) Have my brother.
6) Have me.
7) Struggle.
8) Make a new decision.

My formative years were filled with my parents arguing, cutting up credit cards, building bookshelves, road trips to therapists, and me being left alone. Well, often in the care of my brother and sister.

This was the 1970s. These things were done. My parents tried for traditional, but that’s one thing neither of them could adhere to.

The thing is they tried—really hard. They wore us all out with the struggle.

What a different world develops in five short years—both the years since my sister was born and the ones after my parents divorced.

Jayne found love and leaped into it. She moved to the other side of the country.

I was unprepared for life without her. She built a family with her husband and sons, as she should.

I found myself a part of a new family with my stepmom, stepbrother and stepsister. We did family stuff like vacations, dinners, and playing canasta.

I was getting the love I needed. So was my sister—in another world.

In the beginning—her beginning—my sister was served hope with a side of parental presence. I arrived for leftovers.

I never saw the full meal in my original home, so I didn’t miss not getting dessert.

Jayne knew something had been left off the table. She took off to find something sweet.

I stayed home and was introduced to peace. Plus, I got my turn to be the big sister! I poured love and protection into my stepsister’s atmosphere.

See, my sister showed me how, having arrived first in the world. And those five years, they made all the difference.

 

 

How to Say Hello to Your New Shine #bloglikecrazy

If you’ve immersed yourself into a world that’s not your own and tried to fit into places you don’t belong (because you so want to belong)…

If you find yourself defending yourself, your attitudes and ideas to people who portray themselves as friends (but they’re not)…

If your true self seems a misfit in your daily life…

Realize the value of changing direction.

Begin again. Take a fresh start.

What? You think it’s too late?

What’s the appropriate age to make life changes?

Twenty-eight and you find yourself two decades late?

Well, my dear, what happens if you decide not to give a damn about all the consequences you’ve been so concerned about?

You think you’ll wait and when you meet the maker of this mess called your life, you’ll take her down?

A better idea might be to take her by the hand and say, Baby, I’m sorry we got lost. What would you like to do now?

Listen to her fears because that’s what she’ll tell you first.

She longs to be heard. Nobody’s listening. Listen with your soul.

Let her cry. Wipe her tears. Help her up. Come on, baby, we can do this.

Ask her: what does she want? What makes her dance?

Pull out your magic wand that glitters with gumption and go for it.

Dive into a fresh world. Swim into your desires. Sing off key, even bad.

You’ve got nothing to prove and you’re not on trial.

Turn away from yesterday. Set a route for tomorrow.

Kiss all that doesn’t fit goodbye.

Say hello to a gal shining in the glass in the morning. Let her be you.

How I Pray for my Friend in the Meantime. #bloglikecrazy

“Being open to miracles is a discipline and an art.” ~ Marianne Williamson, The Law of Divine Compensation

Dear God,

This is a prayer for my friend. She’s lost her way and is starting to question.

Be her answer. Be her flashlight. Be her map.

Hold her hand through the dark.

Show her the way and reawaken her to what matters.

Let her know you didn’t forget her.

Unclench her clinging hands.

Free her from the burdens of her body and let her return to love—the love she had as a little girl, before she followed the rules and they broke her.

Take her heart to the time before she tried so hard and decided it was never enough, or she wasn’t worthy, before her subconscious kicked her to the curb and encouraged her to settle for less.

Give her a clean slate. Refresh her spirit. Present new opportunities she’s yet to imagine.

Whisper her soul’s song to her again.

Deliver the kind of connections which reflect back the picture of her you keep on your dresser.

Remind my friend what she calls mistakes merely prove her perfectly imperfect humanity and the arrangement she made with you so long ago.

Revive her passion with opportunities offering fulfillment and surprise and make her rise like she came here to do.

Let her feminine come out to dance and play. Brighten the light in her eyes.

Map out all that’s meant to be, and in the meantime, while she waits and hesitates, infuse her with patience.

One day she’ll arrive in that place on her path where she stands in awe and knows it was all worth it, but she’s not there yet.

Please, God and angels, meet her where she is.

Give her your omnipotent kiss.

Thank you.

Amen.