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.

How to Know When You’re Getting to the Better Side of Grief.

How to Know When You’re Getting to the Better Side of Grief.

When drinking out of that one striped coffee cup (his)—which you relegate to a special place and celebrate sipping from, holding the connection to him the way a child holds her Teddy Bear—no longer feeds you an emotional feast.

Of course, you still choose it the way you’d still choose your beloved were he alive, but its existence, meaning, and memories don’t grip as tight as they once did.

When you flirt with other men because you want to, not just to prove to yourself you still can.

When meeting potential suitors, you no longer seethe from your soul the words that rolled off your tongue fresh after his death: Every other man is going to be such a f*cking disappointment!

Although each one will say or do the wrong thing by virtue of not being the man you called Fire!.

He lit you, warmed you, melted you, and went out in the night while you each slept snuggled in the peace you’d longed for your whole life.

Yet, you remember you once gave him a hard time, too–even considered him unqualified.

Until he shattered your walls with his Southern, all-in, “I’m not those other guys” determination and dedication without expectation.

Damn. He showed you how a real man steps in.

So, you might be getting to the better side of grief when you believe maybe there’s more than one emotionally courageous man on this earth, even another for you.

You stop banking on your beloved coming back, although you still secretly believe.

Your fascination with the other side, psychics, and signs subsides.

Sure, the songs still come, like Summer Nights for your sister, the flash from her first date with her husband some 35+ years ago, before he died after decades of love and a devoted family foursome.

That same night in the Bahamas, gals sing and slaughter Ice, Ice Baby, the song that originated Fire’s nickname for you in 1988 when your friendship began, as playful as a paintball tournament.

You’re getting to the other side of grief when these songs, reminders, and hellos from heaven break a smile instead of your heart.

You find yourself fully present vacationing with your sister, letting the alligators in the Everglades and lobster on the beach in the Bahamas own your attention.

Easy, one might say, but to grieve is to always wish you were elsewhere: with him.

When every breath isn’t I wish you were here; I miss you so much! Although the thought still indulges your days, it’s not every. single. moment. Progress!

Now, you’ve done 30 Days of Meditation, cleared everything from your chakras to your lineage, and found your heart bursting with love.

Determination isn’t only in your head; you embody it.

Goals and dreams matter, rather than just trying to convince yourself they should.

You might be getting to the to the better side of grief when birds singing and feeding at the feeder that belonged to your beloved goes from bittersweet to simply sweet.

Morning air and the wearing of his KISS robe isn’t ripe with flashbacks of early country mornings, arising from his bed and arms to let your dog out, hearing your favorite holler, “Come back, Icey! Come back!”

When you stop betting 100% he will.

Once again, you start finding two pennies repeatedly. Then a nickel and a penny, hearing him say, “For your sixth cents,” laughing, and you laugh, too.

Your own laughter rings as real and unrestrained as it flowed back in 1989, before your brother died, when you called The Fire! only Kevin, and he helped you pack your Honda CRX hitched with a U-Haul, so you could haul your ass out west and run away from husband number one.

You no longer want to run away from your own life.

Instead, you lean into the laughter and how it feels in your belly and looks on your face reflected in the eyes of your sister, friends, and strange folks you’ve yet to know.

You could be getting to the better side of grief when gratitude doesn’t feel like false affirmation, when you look forward to time with friends, and frankly, you stop wishing you were dead.

When you don’t keep your eyes on the clouds, begging for the heart shapes so prominent and clear in the first year after he died.

You begin looking at all that is before you.

You stop carrying conversations on autopilot like your decades spent in sales. You listen to others’ pain as more than pacifier for why yours isn’t so bad.

You still yourself and speak from your soul without the deafening echo of his goneness.

You hear joy—theirs and yours—and let it rise like a favorite song you sang in your 20s. Passion!

I find I’m getting to the better side of grief when I want to grab every morsel of life.

I don’t want to miss out on one grand, or even mundane experience, like savoring coffee, because I’m so damn busy missing my beloved, my Fire!, although I always will.

I crawled through the dark tunnel of grief after experiencing the ecstasy of sacred love.

It hasn’t died. His love lives in me. I’m forever his Ice Baby.

I’m all that he fell for—broken, vulnerable, smart, strong, feisty, funny, and beautiful.

We were crazy, sexy, cool. He still is; I still am.

I’m alive, eager for the moments before me, and excited for the chapters unfolding.

I feel like me again. I’m a woman who loved unbounded and grieved with every fiber of my being.

I’m not a fool. Grief will grab me again. She can knock me down with the power of a colossal ocean wave. I accept her power, her nature.

But, we may be getting to the better side of grief when we once again feel our own power and God’s grace within this brutiful life.

And giddiness! There’s no such thing as giddiness in the grip of grief.

So, if you’re in it, I extend my hand in hope to hold with your honorable despair.

There’s another side to grief. May I see you there.

How I Regained my Mermaid Status.

“I must be a mermaid. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.” ~ Anais Nin

When my boyfriend Kevin died suddenly in his sleep from an unanticipated heart attack, I was like F*k all the positive thinking, healthy eating, personal growth crap! In fact, f*ck everything!

Kevin wasn’t a positive spin guy. But, he was a work hard, party hard, turn up the music, laugh out loud, storytelling, lovemaking fool for the juice of life.

He wasn’t a health fanatic, but he was a rebel.

So, when diabetes, cancer, and the long arm of the law tried to take him down, kick his ass, and reduce his freedom, Kevin, aka the Fire! revolted by coloring vibrant and audacious within the lines.

He worked out most mornings. He took me to his gym to meet his hot female trainer. Like, “Here, Icey (what he called me), come look around the corner and see me. There’s no reason to get jealous.” It was a cool gesture.

Kevin worked out and ate better for his health, but his motivation tuned up as we became Fire & Ice (as in Vanilla Ice and “Ice, Ice, Baby”—not because I was cold, though I could be.)

I turned up the heat in my life, too.

Because great relationships generate synergy. Isn’t that the purpose?

When our Fire & Ice synergy spun as smooth as a Ferris Wheel glides, when we were on top, holding hands, smiling like kids eating cotton candy, awash in peace, tickled by embracing all the world’s sparkles and the rightness of the moment, the ride shut down.

Like a curtain lowered, my life’s lights darkened the moment I learned Kevin left this world.

A crowd hustled, bustled, and moved noisily on the ground, but I was stuck up there, at the top, in the dark, solo in a car made for two.

I wanted to rock my way out, climb down, scream for help, and cry for Kevin. And my mom who died decades ago.

I didn’t want to get off the ride. I wanted the lights back on! I wanted my favorite person by my side.

Maybe that’s why our ride never stops.

Kevin and I were friends for two decades.

Then, we grew into our friendship on a whole new level.

Later, as lovers, we swam to the deepest levels in the sea of intimacy.

He dove in seeking treasure. I enchanted him like a mermaid.

I could go on with the metaphors, and we could swim in a few clichés, but the diver’s oxygen ran out.

There are innumerable ways to tell our story and I choose the meaning I make from it.

People die—even in the midst of a groovy love affair.

People who work out and eat healthy can be convinced to try a pharmaceutical that’s fine for 90% of the people who take it—and be the one it kills.

Life. Reality. Unfairness. Sadness.

Such wretched grief I thought it would eat me.

Then, I swam to shore. Finally, I stood and walked barefoot through time.

Although the diver no longer breathes air, my Fire still walks the sandy shores and swims the sparkly seas by my side.

I’m still a mermaid. And, I’ve still got the treasure.

 

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 to Endure the Darkness. #bloglikecrazy

“All not-good things in the world are transient, containing within themselves the seeds of their own destruction.” ~ Peace Pilgrim

Sometimes darkness comes upon me as strong as my brother’s fist when we were kids.

I remember times in my youth when I believed darkness was my destiny.

Darkness can be like claustrophobia; it’s only threatening until the release.

Finding my claustrophobia funny, an ex-husband used to lock me in our tiny half-bath. I took control back by hiding books under the sink. My panic dissolved when I dove into reading. Then, the door opened.

Now, I prepare for darkness with my candles: prayer, writing, yoga, music, movement, and occasionally conversation.

The greatest power is knowing darkness’ temporariness.

If you’ve been engulfed by the black night, I offer you the idea the light will return.

I can’t tell you when or how. Just consider the idea: This is temporary.

Say it and let it seep into your mind.

Sometimes, it can be a long, lonely night. I will not belittle your darkness.

I’ve tasted its bitterness and touched its sharp edges. But, I won’t pity you.

See, I believe we’re made for these moments because we’re capable and there’s something for us in the dark.

Sometimes, the strongest way to wrestle is to simply sit with gloom and allow it to pass through like a ghost.

While you endure, I send you a candle and my faith that you’ll find the light again.

Hold still. Let your aching heart rest.

Ego and others tell us to fight, as if we aren’t already trying hard enough or just need fresh affirmations.

Whatever works, but so many suggestions seem to come from people born with sparklers in their hands and music playing in their minds.

My birth certificate says I was born in morning, but I’ve danced with darkness since childhood.

Five decades in, she no longer scares me. She can’t slay me.

Darkness is a visitor. I give her the attention she deserves. I offer her tea and ask her what she knows.

I listen, aware of her tendency to tell tall tales and make fake new feel real.

And yet, like that really tough teacher, I’ve learned some of my biggest lessons from darkness.

I don’t pretend her away or allow darkness to highjack my identity.

I respect her when she arrives in my home, regardless of invitation.

Sometimes, like the friend who talks too much and keeps saying he’s leaving, darkness stays for what feels like forever.

I encourage her departure. I even hold the door open, but pushing her is like pushing the lid of a jack-in-the-box.

I now trust darkness’ temporariness. In this, I am strong.

I have faith in light’s return, as a child has faith her parents will come home to release the bad babysitter.

Until then, I trust myself to sit with darkness.

She will not manipulate me into choosing her; I’m attracted to the light.

Soon, darkness will walk out my door, dropping lessons as she goes.

Sweet light will make herself known again. Because she always does.

How I Returned to Joy after Grief. #bloglikecrazy

“One’s first appreciation is a sense that the creation is still going on, that the creative forces are as great today as they have ever been, and that tomorrow’s morning will be as heroic as any of the world.” ~ Henry Beston

Society served me platitudes and stared me down,
Eyes expectant with time frames.

Grief—get over it.

Even a writer can’t weave words to wipe out grief.

But a woman in love? She can cry
And howl to the moon how much
She misses her beloved,
Letting tears cleanse
Every cell of heartbreak.

That’s what I did,
What I’ve done,
The way I deal
With his death.

Nobody sets the terms for my
Grief, any more than they
Arranged the parameters of
Our Love.

Do you see me rising, laughing,
Singing? Maybe not.
Because you were looking
For that yesterday.

Believe me, so was I.

At the same time, I laid myself bare
For the divine organic healing, the
Way I did for
His Touch.

All the words in the world can’t make a woman
Love a man she doesn’t.
Or shake her out of
Grief’s Fire.

I had to fly, swim, crawl,
And allow the clay of my
Soul to take on a
New Shape.

Which I still don’t recognize.

I lean into the new
Foreign familiar:
My old friend, Joy.

She catches me in the morning.
There’s a smile in my voice,
A lightness in my body.

It’s pure, organic, real,
The divine return
To Life.

Sure, darkness still seduces,
But I’m no longer trapped.

In fact, Joy brought
A friend to this party.
His name is Freedom.
He’s kind of hot.

 

 

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!