How to Hike the Grand Canyon of Grief.

“The canyon is so large that it’s size can be misleading without a frame of reference.” ~ Mike Knetemann

There will come a day, a shift, a change, a decision, a reckoning with your grief.

Although you’ll never stop missing your special person, the loss that carved your heart into the Grand Canyon will shift like sand and dirt and rocks.

You’ll climb, step by brutal step, even while for days you’ll hide from the storm in your tiny pop-up, one-man tent with only the small sterno can of memories to warm you.

You may not know your tears from the rain or a flood in the belly of the canyon.

Your person, tethered to your soul as they are, left the earth. Left you. Unbelievable. Unfathomable.

You may notice all the wrongs in the world now. Or feel as though your loss is the worst. It is. When it’s yours. When you’re in the canyon, cold, hungry, alone, without a map or a backpack.

A common, “How are you?” can pierce like a sword.

Be alone, if you need. Nobody knows this pain, the wretchedness. No, not yours. Yours is personal, brutiful, and deep with layers.

Yet, many have walked the Grand Canyon of Grief.

While I lived within its walls, I walked cemeteries to impress upon me the truth that people have been dying for a long damn time. The headstones sing their songs. Baby. Husband. Father. Daughter. Beloved.

I let the dead, and the angels I called on, witness my pain, in the canyon, in the cemetery, in the woods.

Nature kept changing her colors. My beloved departed in spring. Summer grew under my feet. Autumn painted beauty in my face, forcing me to see honeysuckle gold, granny-apple green, and red rich as Elvis velvet. Winter white seemed appropriate, although nothing was. Not anymore. Not in the canyon where I received the news.

When my beloved died, life threw me in the hole.

Survival. Even that instinct threatened to leave me. Maybe you question, too.

Please stay.

I offer no magical promises. No ridiculous predictions, like when my friend said, “It will take a year.” It took a year to get to one year of grieving. Then, I heard, “The second year is the hardest.”

Grief tells jokes, like the ones about getting married. Only experience teaches.

And, you don’t have to learn a damn thing if you don’t want to.

You can just do your time and come out on the other side like an ex-con returning to the game.

You can let grief take you down. Yes, people do die in the canyon. Please, my dear friend, don’t let it be you.

Think of one person you don’t want to have to walk the canyon on your behalf, because you can’t. For me, it was my sister. After my beloved died, I didn’t want to live.

I walked in circles in the canyon. I sipped water, and sometimes guzzled beer.

I communed with animals and howled like one. I curled up in fetal position and hid in small alcoves. I walked in my grief like in boots with blistered feet and a backpack full of canned goods—with no opener.

I abandoned much on my journey. You will, too.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find the waterfall, shower in it naked, and let it pummel feeling into your body. See, it’s easy to go numb in the canyon, or become disoriented.

Drink water. Keep walking. Rest when you need to.

If a man offers you a sip of whiskey, take it. If you want to. Even wanting that is desire for something other than the one thing you can’t have—your person back.

Some days, you’ll walk for miles. Others, you’ll be immovable.

Grief isn’t a race. Take your time.

The youth run ahead, desperate to escape the canyon. That was me when my brother died. And five years later, when my mother joined him. Then, I was 28.

I’ve both met and played the denier, too, drunk on illusion. I was not in the canyon—because I said so!

Wise women and men smiled.

Now, I speak to you, my grieving friend, not as one with answers, but one who’s walked much of the canyon and found no shortcuts to the switchbacks.

Grief never ends. But, the canyon? You can climb her walls.

How long will it take? I can’t say. I don’t know how deep in you are, how heavy your pack, what kind of boots you walk in, or if you have clean socks. I don’t know what kind of shape you’re in, mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Grief tests them all.

I don’t know how many miles you’ll trek in a day, if you’ll enter that meditative state where you just keep moving.

I don’t know if when you become most motivated, you’ll find a side canyon and a little shack where they sell the best damn green chile cheeseburgers you ever tasted and Coca-Cola you swear is the original. You may fall in love with that tiny Indian village and convince yourself you want to live there, with them, in the canyon, forever, as an act of resolution.

Trust me, they don’t want you to stay. They’ll point you on your path.

I don’t know how long you might resist before you begin the ascent. You may stay, watch the seasons change, see how the sun rises and sets even down there, even for you, even after the death snatch.

Learn the value of water. Listen to your body. Quiet your mind.

Within despair, a golden butterfly may flitter your heart awake. An electric-blue dragonfly may perform magic.

Breathe deep, my friend. There will come a day, a reckoning, a rising.

Before this day, there may be hundreds of declarations, “This is it!” only to realize how far you have to go. Not a race. No points for arriving first. Some have to go back down.

Do what you’re there to do: grieve.

She’s yours. Born of love and loss. Grief’s your companion in the canyon. She is the canyon.

You’re human. You’ll learn the brutality of this and wish you were the golden butterfly.

Walk. Sip water. Rest. Listen to nature and your own instincts, which sharpen in the canyon like night vision.

One day, more than seeing, insisting, determining, you’ll know. The reckoning realization of how far you’ve climbed from the canyon floor will strike you like a clock strikes the hour.

You no longer belong to the canyon. You will, at an unexpected hour, and after you’ve run out of water and eaten your last apple, glimpse the rim. It’s the rim a new possibility.

How to Be a Tree.

“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it is up to us to merit the face you have at fifty.” ~ Coco Chanel

This tree, she is a woman. I’ve walked beside her and put my hands on her, exchanging energies for seven years. I never tire of her, through all the seasons, atmospherically and metaphorically.

I’ve brought special people to meet her. Kindred spirits recognize her before I introduce them. “That tree is a woman,” said one boyfriend walking with me in my grief, trying damn hard to make me love him. In that moment, looking at her, he forgot. We loved her together.

She greets me and calls to me whichever way I walk on trails through the woods. The other day, I noticed, from a certain angle, she appears pregnant. When I face her from the other side, where the bark is bare and my handprints lay, she’s a woman’s legs reaching upwards, her head buried beneath the ground. She holds her center between those long legs reaching to the everything, her privates so clear and public.

My sister and I once spotted baby racoons peaking out and hiding there, from their tree mama’s womb. They ran back down into her for safety, solid and wide, a condominium complex to creatures, in her body.

Today, I merged with her. I felt the rings of history traced and expanding within me. Bark like skin has endured and grown through a thousand seasons, rainstorms, and children’s laughter on the path beside her.

She adjusted her stance and deepened her roots years ago when people came close and carried electronics into her vibrational field. Most recently, she startled with so many human voices released into her arena. She’s come to welcome them as kindly as the deer and little masked thieves. She holds a sense of humor about humans bearing masks, only matched by her compassion.

This tree is a queen. No one tries to overthrow her. Little ones bend before her. Grass gathers at her feet in spring. A white blanket snuggles close in winter. She’s in love with the river running at her back. Like her, he’s ever-changing and always remaining. Her strength is indisputable. If she were a poem, she’d be titled Phenomenal Woman.

She sways and radiates her vibrant lime-green leaves with the wind in celebration for life. Yes, on blue sky days, but also under gray clouds, starry nights, and times when she finds herself naked again.

This tree stands at a crossroads of several paths which intertwine and encircle her, along the river, through the field, across to the cemetery where old trees salute, and home to neighborhoods where visitors live.

Today, I embody her. When I asked, she said, “I’ve been waiting.” She’s as sexy as any wide-open woman. She houses many and cares for all. All are welcome, like the Lady Liberty of our united nature. She hears and feels it when other trees fall in her forest. She nourishes the collective air and peers at the fish performing. She’s regal, standing at grace with everything. She sings with the all the birds and lets owls perch on her arms.

Nothing deters her from her purpose. To be a tree.

Why I’m Still Dancing.

“Joy comes to us in moments—ordinary moments.” ~ Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

Good morning, thoughts.  Let’s wrestle.

I wrote an article yesterday full of big truths I wanted the world to face, in the face of Coronavirus.

People are dying and more will die.

Somehow, I blamed it on positivity, rose-colored glasses, and some people’s belief in a buffoon of a president.

The piece landed with a thud—making me rethink my purpose and passion for truth, as if there’s one.

Yet, I keep insisting, in writing, and in public: juxtaposition demands maturity.

How about me?

The truth is I’m scared.

Sometimes it’s hard to sit with Fear, harder than Grief—and she’s a bitch.

Grief is yesterday. Fear is tomorrow.

Hope lives today on behalf of tomorrow, despite fear.

Because I believed, affirmed, and read The Secret and Awaken the Giant Within and still landed on my ass, I wanted to disavow all that.

But, last night, while distracting myself from myself with the TV, I caught Garth Brooks being honored with the Gershwin Prize on PBS.

He played “The Dance” and damn, I’m glad I didn’t know the way it all would go.

That’s the truth I’m afraid of. Not knowing.

I didn’t know when I went to St. Louis for a Hall & Oates concert, I was going to fall in love, and for a moment, he would be my king.

I’m glad I didn’t know he’d die in his sleep.

I didn’t know when I came to Ohio to stay with my sis, I’d live with her, love it, and get to pursue my writing dream, for seven years! It’s been the best thing.

Life is juxtaposition. We must decide how we’ll face it.

“You plan and God laughs” doesn’t mean he’s laughing at us. There’s a bigger picture.

Sometimes I’ll go for a party and find sacred love, go for a summer and find a home.

Heck, I couldn’t even know when I opened the curtains this morning, a pink cotton-candy sky would drop into baby blue like a kiss from above, “This is for you.”

Sure, there are facts. Wash your hands!

There are fears. Hello, humanity.

But through it all, I’ve met the crazy, grand mystery.

Good within bad, bad within good, and only because I’ve called them so.

Today, I surrender to the not knowing how it all will go.

But believing in beauty, I’m still dancing.

How We Get to the Truth When We Don’t Want to go There.

The false dilemma fallacy is often a manipulative tool designed to polarize the audience, heroisizing one side and demonizing the other. It’s common in political discourse as a way of strong-arming the public into supporting controversion legislation or policies.” ~ David Ferrer, 15 Logical Fallacies You Should Know Before Getting Into a Debate

Are we so set on pulling up our bootstraps we can’t recognize the sadness of a worldwide pandemic?

Many of us have lost and will lose. Jobs, homes, and 401ks. We don’t want to hear that or believe there’s a train barreling towards us. Not me is our first instinct.

Yes, denial is the first stage of grief. We’re grieving the falling away of many of our personal and societal foundations.

I know grief intimately. Not just from the deaths of my brother, mother, brother-in-law, and beloved.

By the way, when the police officer on the phone first told me he found my boyfriend dead in his bed, I screamed, “NO!!!”

That was after he tried to tell me the man I love more than anyone in the world was “unresponsive.” I wanted to know what hospital they were taking him to. My heart couldn’t hear the truth. For several years, I believed my dead man could come back to me. I kind of still do.

How deep does denial run in the face of losing who or what we love?

“It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear,”Donald Trump said about the Coronavirus.

Sure, I myself have practiced delusional positivity.

When my mother was diagnosed with death, I fired the doctor, determined to take her somewhere to save her. I thought the doc not only cruel, but full of sh*t.

Apparently, that’s what Trump thought of journalist Peter Alexander of NBC asking the President of the United States what he’d say to “Americans who are watching you right now who are scared.”

The Commander in Chief snapped, “I say that you’re a terrible reporter!”

Yeah, that’s how I felt about the doctor who delivered the truth in a tone I didn’t like.

Maybe our leaders aren’t always able to guide us, but sometimes reflect who we are.

I’m nothing like that jerk might be what we insert, or worse.

Or, like my ultra-successful businessman friend—who once complained about having to pay $5 million in taxes—maybe you only see the good in a man who glares with disdain for truth.

Our delusional positivity is unbending when it suits our favor.

There’s a fine line between The Secret that swept our nation in 2006, just before the worst financial crisis in our history, and our ability to look at truth, facts, science, or unbecoming characteristics of our chosen ones.

The finger I point here is at the woman in the mirror.

When five years into my marriage I felt disconnected from my husband, I focused on his good qualities and how much I loved him. I refused to look at, let alone feel anything but my good feelings because that’s what got me there.

I kept saying, “I have a great life” and “He’s a good man.” Both were true.

We like to look at our favorite side of the coin, spiritual bypass with love and light, and pretend if we adhere to affirmations, we can keep the bad at a distance. Trust me, I’ve done it.

Some people live like this for a lifetime. I’m not just talking about the naïve and blind.

We always think it’s them—the Republicans or Democrats or the kind of woman who can’t get her act together, or see what seems obvious from the outside, from our oh-so-wise perspective.

It’s easy to be objective when your heart isn’t in it.

Check this. No one would call Camille Cosby clueless. She has a doctoral degree. She wrote the forward for Dear Success Seeker: Wisdom from Outstanding Women. By all accounts, she’s one of them. She even worked as her famous husband’s manager.

Camille Cosby was in Bill’s business and knew his business, or so she thought. They shared a home and a family and a history of his proven good character. She would know if he was drugging and sexually assaulting women.

Or so she insisted against irrefutable evidence—as we often do when presented with truth that doesn’t align with what we’ve decided to shine the light on.

We like to believe if one thing is truth, that’s proof another thing (the one we don’t like) is false.

That’s how the American story goes. Think positive and take action.

That’s how my ex-husband’s business went bust while he worked his butt off and assured me everything would be fine. He wasn’t lying. He drove himself to delusional positivity and I rode that ship until it sank.

Maturity is the ability to look at the juxtapositions of life, people, and situations.

Let’s be mature as we face this pandemic. We fear certain truths will destroy us.

Yet, the brave ones on the front lines have been forced to face the truth, no matter what they told themselves or believed in the beginning.

That’s what serious sickness does. It wakes us the f*ck up.

Still, I have friends claiming this is hype. They believe their president knows more than doctors and scientists who’ve been studying and preparing for this. Ok, Camille.

I’m sorry, but this is different. This is real.

If you’re on the front lines, thank you for bringing dignity, grace, and honor to all of humanity. We are forever in your debt.

To my niece, a nurse, nephew, a cop, and other nephew, a firefighter, I could not be prouder of you or more scared for you. Please stay safe, I say, knowing where you work is the least safe place in the world right now.

Truth sets us free once we embrace it. Denial can kill. Especially now.

How Queen Corona Rules.

“A queen is wise. She has earned her serenity, not having had it bestowed on her but having passed her tests. She has suffered and grown more beautiful because of it. She has proved she can hold her kingdom together. She has become its vision. She cares deeply about something bigger than herself. She rules with authentic power.” ~ Marianne Williamson, A Woman’s Worth

Queen Corona has come to town, travelling with a thousand horses and an army of men. She is feminine power.

You cannot pay her off.

She’s not a princess you can seduce.

Or a child to be trifled with.

People step aside for the queen, yet peer behind for the king.

Where is he? The king got drunk on power, slept with all the pretties as if they were playthings, spent his fortune, and send his troops to wrong wars.

The king beheaded himself.

Queen Corona is feminine power.

We all bow before her.

First, in fear.

The closer she nears we see the parade is not for show.

She earned her crown. The queen rides with dignity.

She’s come to clear the field, to wake us up to our own greed and evil.

Queen Corona teaches us what matters by her royal presence.

She loves like a mother, after the father fled and the children grew wild.

Although she’s shrewd, Queen Corona doesn’t pretend everything is a business proposition.

She sends us to our rooms, lays down new rules, takes no backtalk, and reminds us what’s important now.

Take care of each other. We are family.

Grief Day 1: Phoenix.

I had to have my pal Phoenix put down. I’m still in shock. The house feels empty. I’m the only one here. It’s been Phoenix and me for so long.

Anyone can own a dog, but sometimes a bond beyond explanation is born between person and dog. It’s obvious good fortune, a gift, a blessing. God’s knowing.

Of all the impossible and unforeseeable twists and turns that had to occur—me coming upon a desire for a puppy at the time Phoenix arrived in the world, locating her through my neighbor whose cousin bred Labs, and having her brought home when I told my then-husband to get the other pup—sings of synchronicity.

Destiny delivered a special soul in a Black Lab body to partner with me on my journey.

Love was Phoenix’s mission; I was her assignment.

She loved life, chasing balls, hanging out on the deck, walking in the woods, greeting neighbors, and spreading joy.

One neighbor often hollered, “Here comes Phoenix, happiest dog in the world!”

Phoenix was partial to her own kind when it came to dogs. Labs had an automatic in.

She loved most people but picked her favorites: like Carol, who connected with Phoenix on a trip to the beach in NC and her husband Pete, who Phoenix took to like a long-lost father, and Wayne, who Phoenix walked beside—no leash required.

Phoenix chose me as her favorite person. If dogs got tattoos, Phoenix’s would’ve said, “I’m with her.” Her gentle, undivided loyalty poured forth pure and untainted by the world for 11 beautiful years.

I never celebrated her birthday before, but this year felt like a major milestone.

She seemed to know. She made it a good one, with a long walk three doors down to the neighbor’s coveted healthy, lush, green grass. She made herself at home as if the world belonged to her. I sat down and pretended too, practicing Reiki, prayers, and presence on someone else’s lawn.

It didn’t matter. We were grabbing the good, our final togetherness.

Before we had to let go.

Somehow, Phoenix’s body broke down. Maybe for the simple reason life doesn’t last forever and there are many paths to getting out. We all go out. Ugh! The fact I don’t like.

I don’t like saying goodbye; I’ll never see you again. The worst!

However, if I’m going to keep living, I ought to find a better way to go through grief. These are the things we think of on Grief, Day 1… Maybe we can logic our way around. HAHAHA!

My heart hurts. My baby’s gone. I miss her presence, energy, persistence, her black shadow everywhere. I miss her marble-brown eyes looking into my soul. I miss laughing when she ignores me and walks away to sh*t in the neighbor’s yard at 3 am.

Missing my companion makes me miss my dead boyfriend even more. Isn’t that crazy?

Maybe it’s because Phoenix was “just a dog” in the way that Kevin was “just a boyfriend.”

Selected by God—specifically for me—to know, experience, give, receive, sit in, and cherish divine love. Divine. Sacred. Special. Undeniable. Unforgettable. Irreplaceable.

Soul connection.

Now, Grief walks in. No handcuffs. No threats. No tricks.

She reaches out her hand in invitation: “Come, walk with me a while again. We’ll journey deep but rise like dolphins out of water. We’ll return with radiance polished like diamonds.”

Grief looks different.

“Yep,” she says. “That happens when you’ve been looking at me for a while.” Then, she asks, “Are you ready?”

It feels like I imagine when I was a soul and I said yes, I’m ready for a body, and when I was I was a baby, but before I’d been birthed or touched the earth, I said, yes, I’m ready to join the world.

We don’t know what we’re ready for! Can we prepare for Grief? No, preparation isn’t necessary, but it helps.

It helps to be grounded.

If you’re not grounded, Grief can f*ck you up as bad as your worst bad, bad girlfriend.

Grief can make you love her and let her move in, not just to your home, but your heart.

Grief can take over your emotions the way a spoiled girl takes over closets.

Ah, but Grief carries crazy-cool wisdom woven in her womb. She’ll crack you into something new. She’ll sprinkle enlightenment around you and teach you how to feel the music in your blood. Grief will caress you and honor your secrets. She’ll comfort you in memory and heighten your senses.

She’ll make you think you’re high or crazy, but you won’t care. Once you have the courage to climb in bed with Grief, you may resist the world the way a teenage girl falling for her first boyfriend resists her parents.

Because that’s where the juice of life lives—where the heart and soul dance with unbridled emotions and the mind is merely a witness, all previous lessons dismissed.

While some people run from Grief, knowing she’s a too-large wrestling partner for their likes, the brave lean in. But, the wise don’t get lost or stuck.

I intend to be wise this time. Grief smiles as she takes me for a little spin.

How to Welcome Change.

“There’s little more satisfying than the feeling that at last you’ve taken ownership of yourself.” ~ Marianne Williamson

There comes a time.

You set yesterday aside,
Softly.

The thing you held;
Coveted.

Soft addictions cling like
Teddy Bears carried
Into adulthood.

Until you leave them.
Without tears.
Or fanfare.

There comes a time.

You pick up new habits
The way you used to
Lovers in bars.

It’s a new day.
You delight in what’s
Sweet, soulful, and true.

Your radiance.
In the mirror.

How I Took on the Bully Grief.

Grief used to grab me like a predator in the night.

I never saw her coming–trapped at her mercy.

She’d punch me in the stomach, hang on my shoulders,

and stir my thoughts like cocoa into milk.

My heart jiggled like Jello-O.

I felt weak and I didn’t care,

like a heavy person ordering a pizza.

I accepted Grief’s pressure.

Better than the strain on the faces of people

who fake fine, but everyone else sees

their emotional limp.

I didn’t want that limp, so I gave in:

Go ahead, pummel me, Grief.

She beat me severely.

Over time, her fists tired.

I passed through the pain,

like holding pigeon pose in yoga.

First, the scream. Then, the release.

Today, Grief swaggered in my direction.

She set herself upon inhabiting my space.

But, in this moment, she didn’t intimidate me.

I didn’t resist.

I breathed into my grief.

She passed me by like the wind.

 

 

 

How I Found my Forgotten Bank Account with a Million Bucks.

“And further, the thing put to rest–whether it be a loved one, a dream, or a false way of seeing–becomes the fertilizer for the life about to form.” ~ Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

There’s no man in my life right now, but I’m embracing love. I’m letting it rise in my body like the sun from behind the trees.

I was in love with life before I welcomed my friend Kevin to claim me, calm me, and call me into sacred love. We uncovered our deeper desires as I neared 50, after dancing in and out of a decades-long friendship.

Then, he died. March 4, 2016. Unexpectedly. In his sleep.

Losing him put me on my knees in prayer and sorrow.

A few people said things like “Kevin wouldn’t want you to be sad.” My response was a basic F*ck off!

Kevin wanted me to own all my emotions. We had a no bullsh*t zone. That’s why our relationship transformed into something each of us had only dreamed of before.

Sometimes I try to minimize the extraordinariness, as if that could dim the pain.

Then, some random 6:00 am morning, I open the drawer of my bedside stand to the letters he wrote, even as there’s a chant in my head: Don’t do it!

Handwritten letters starting in 2014, as rare and special in the age of text and email as our crazy, sexy, cool love was.

The one letter I allow myself this morning reminds me of the truth I know and try to let go as much as I cling to it: ours was no ordinary love.

It tasted as real as shared morning coffee, felt fun as the seven trips we took together in under two years, and opened as passionately as his smooth, swooping handwriting curving across lined yellow pages.

What follow are Kevin’s words from only one of the dozens of letters:

“Being with you, loving with you, and talking with you takes my emotions to places they’ve never been before.” With. He was so with me.

“Listening to you read last night touched me in a place I didn’t know I had.”

“You and I are unique in this love affair.”

“My devotion to you will not waver. I love you deeply more each day.”

He never wavered. Our relationship didn’t falter. We had no warning. He was gone.

I’m left with a drawer of letters mirroring the magnificent gift we somehow manifested.

We embodied Kevin’s last unfulfilled mission on earth: to love and be loved without walls.

How blessed I was to be his last love. Being involved and intimate with Kevin Lentz welcomed a pivotal shift in my life.

It’s one thing to believe that kind of love exists, but experiencing it was like the quench of water when I hadn’t realized my thirst.

Losing him was like the sun going behind the clouds and refusing to come out.

However, Kevin didn’t define me. He refined me.

I know and accept myself more completely since being loved by this man who knew, accepted, respected, and appreciated me.

His death made me starved for his affections. And yet, he never really left, as he reminds me: “I’m here, Icey! I’m here!”

Icey. I miss getting drunk on sound of his deep, masculine voice calling me Ice Baby and revealing to me the secrets of his soul.

I don’t doubt his words in my head, but it’s not the same as physical presence. In that, I’ve been ghosted.

On the other hand, imagine you’re struggling to pay your bills and you find a forgotten bank account with a million bucks and your name on it.

Yeah, Kevin left me a full account of love. Not only that, I’m the woman he fell for.

On the weekend that transformed our friendship into my favorite love affair, I was engaged with life.

I was in love with my writing dream and pursuing the publishing of my book. I was drenched in gratitude for my dog and sister and sitting in Kevin’s friend Big Daddy’s boat, soaking in the sun while we floated on Lake St. Louis.

I leaned back, looked up at the sky, and shouted, “I’m so happy!”

Kevin said, “With what, Icey?”

“With this moment. With my life.”

Yes, I was rich in love before Kevin and I became Fire and Ice. Fire filled my bank account to overflowing and never drained it.

I’m rich! All the love I had and all the love he gave lives inside me. I’ve been left full.

In fact, sometimes I think I could burst with the love I feel for my beautiful 10-year-old Black Lab companion. She’s a special creature, as anyone who meets her can attest. We share a beyond-reason bond, even getting sick simultaneously.

Once, when I went with Kevin to Florida, the kid who was watching Phoenix called with some bad news. There was something wrong with her. I asked him what he thought it might be. He nailed it: “Master Separation Anxiety.”

Every morning I give Phoenix a dog massage and tell her she’s the best dog in the world. We go for walks in the woods daily and I take as many pictures of her as new parents do of their baby. She’s got me captivated. Still.

And my sister? Don’t even get me started! When I moved in with her “for the summer” five years ago, I thought I knew everything about her.

We were close, even more so due to holding each other up through the losses of our only sibling, our mother, and Jayne’s husband.

Now, I think what I knew of Jayne just a handful of years back was like what you read on the spine of a book compared to what’s inside. We’ve learned so much more about one another, not just the stories we hadn’t had time or felt ready to tell, but the day-to-day way we walk in the world.

Jayne has taught me how to share a home with someone in a healthy, committed, communicative relationship. You’d think I would’ve learned that after two marriages and five decades on this earth, but what I’d learned was how to manage parallel lives. It’s as similar and different as water and ice.

My sister lost her husband of 33 years. She modelled how to rise after your favorite person dies, although neither of us imagined I’d need the lesson so soon.

My sister consistently speaks her mind and feelings and encourages me to do the same, as if she and Kevin were given the same lesson plans.

She puts present time experiences front and center and makes plans for us to spend time together, the way Kevin did.

Whether it’s grabbing a beer at Pies & Pints, riding camels in Australia, going down water slides in Orlando, taking road trips to Michigan to visit her son and daughter-in-law or home to Ohio from our childhood state of New Mexico, Jayne isn’t just riding along; she’s with me.

The way some people sleep on road trips, too many people sleep through their relationships. They’re missing out because there’s always more to learn about a person.

Jayne Gerlach is my sister and she’s one of my best friends. I’d say I couldn’t love her more, but I’ve learned love keeps growing.

And life, just like Kevin said, “It just keeps getting better.”

Even through the pain, I’m falling in love again—with life. Mine.

What do you love most about your life?

 

So, I drank too much wine and slept with a stranger last night.

So, I drank too much wine and slept with a stranger last night.

“The journey back to ourselves begins with wanting something to change.” ~ Jennifer McLean, Spontaneous Transformation

Sometimes joy rushes in like a child, “Mommy, there’s a pony!” Other times, she rises like steam from a hot cup of coffee.

Joy crashed my party last night, the welcome addition to friends swapping so many stories a line formed behind the laughter.

How did these friends weave their way into my world?

We met in a writers’ group and respected each other’s critiques for years before we started sneaking away for beers as a threesome after group. That’s when the conversations started to get good.

Then, like children lined up for spankings, we each got ours.

Death crashed like waves washing away all that didn’t matter and taking those who did: my beloved, Jeff’s brother, Sharon’s sister. Just. Like. That.

We formed a bond. We talked. We cried. We wrote. We listened. We laid off.

We struggled with our individual losses branding our hearts with sorrow. We admitted we weren’t good company and flipped off the angel of death collectively.

Now, over 12 months have passed since our latest loss. Our gaping wounds are healing scars. Our every conversation isn’t laced with tears and wretched sadness.

So, I invited them over to my place last night. Sharon brought her husband. I fell for him as easily as my Black Lab leaned into his long legs. The combination of Clint Eastwood looks blessed by a liberal bias, and one-liners that had me forgetting life isn’t the funniest joke I’ve ever heard.

Last night, it was. Roy was a hunk of authenticity and as comfortable as sweats on Sunday morning. However, when I say I fell for him, I don’t mean romantically or that I’m attracted to him.

It’s just that I don’t always dig my friends’ mates as much as they do. Of course, that’s ok. But Roy? He’s in the club. No application required.

In fact, I think I spotted a bit of a bromance between he and Jeff, as they talked about sneaking off together alone to share their well-developed music tastes.

But, hey, Jeff left me the Eliane Elias CD. Probably trying to expand my musical palette, which I appreciate.

It seems where the three of us had been holding the umbrella for each other, Roy showed up with the sunshine.

Suddenly, as if we hadn’t been saddled under grief, we swung on the laughter of life.

We’d planned a casual get together. It turned into a real party where I drank too much wine and slept with a stranger.

Her name is Joy. She spent the night, stayed for coffee, is still hanging around, and even planning our life together. You should see the smirk on my face.