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!

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.

How I Learned to Turn the Corner in Grief. #bloglikecrazy

“Often, that which is hardest to digest, to process, to integrate into our life experience is what ultimately transforms us in a positive way.” ~ Marianne Williamson

I’m turning a corner. I can feel it. I’m rising up again. I love the image of the phoenix flying through the fire.

However, this rising from grief is more like a toddler learning to walk.

I fall to my knees, repeatedly. I stand. I’m walking! I take three steps forward. I try running. I fall. It surprises me. I cry. I crawl.

Sometimes, I’m more comfortable on the floor. Until I’m not.

So, I push myself up. I stand again.

But, rising from grief—or learning to walk with it—isn’t like a little one learning to take steps with a cheering audience.

Although people don’t speak it aloud, something inside me feels the crowd cringing each time I fall again. Unlike a baby who cries for the pain of the moment, each time I trip, memories multiply like dominoes.

My resistance screams from the insane part of my brain where society lives and speaks pretty platitudes—like Time heals all wounds. Does it?

When I cried as a child, my mother often said, “Alice Ann, that’s enough!” If I couldn’t make myself stop crying, she’d send me to my room.

It’s not such a bad move. Alone, I can cry it out and let the sadness run through me.

These days, I’m maturing in my grief. You no longer catch me wailing in public restrooms. Well, at least not as a habit.

I’m turning a corner. Unlike a child who has seemingly only minutes behind her and a whole world to look forward to, my yesterday held me in my beloved’s arms like bookends of a lifetime, making today’s future feel like drudgery.

Still, I remind myself to stand. It’s not my nature to stay down.

Hope whispers as my grief quiets. Remember.

Years ago, I couldn’t fathom I’d turn the corner from divorce and fall into sacred love with my friend Kevin. But, I did.

As we giddily rode the curves of love, we couldn’t imagine he’d die unexpectedly in the dark of one night. But, he did.

So, here I am riding grief’s groove. I’m being graced with an expanded heart and maybe even a sprinkling of wisdom.

She’s telling me a groove can lead to a rut. (Get up!) With grief as my constant companion, it’s seems impossible to set my sights on tomorrow.

Actually, I don’t believe I have to, not any more than I had to seek for love.

See, I lived my moments full, letting my losses of long ago create a wake that propelled me into my destiny.

Sometimes we can’t see that beautiful gift coming at us.

So, I simply choose to embrace this moment. I allow myself to feel what I do in the present and know, by that mysterious force, I’m turning a corner.

How to Hold Hope.

Today, I hold Hope.

I hold her like a darling baby.

She’s precious and I must care for her. I’ll feed her and watch her grow. I’ll witness the sparkle in her eyes and welcome my soul to expand in the light of her face.

She’s arrived at a time when the world is smothered with fear. Hope is here after the Fire. She’s here within the mess. Through prayer, Hope has shown up in my life again.

A long time ago, we were friends, but she played with ego and witnessed death in a dark alley. She quieted in the face of fear.

But today, once again, I embrace Hope. I hold her gently. I let her sit with me and lean her head against my chest. I’m consumed by my love for her, especially with all that’s wrong outside the door.

Hope is in my hands. She’s asking me to dance, claiming every song is her favorite. So quickly, she’s taken over my heart and swirling in my mind.

She asks me to explain nothing, only feel. I feel alive.

I’m Sick of People Telling me What I’m Ready for or not Ready for.

“And when you have reached the mountaintop, then you shall begin to climb.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

When my sister Jayne started dating after her husband of 33 years died, a friend told her, “You’re not ready.”

She said, “I’m sick of people telling me what I’m ready for or not ready for.”

As if anyone else knows, right? After a break-up, divorce or death, deciding to move forward is an individual decision.

Or sometimes, it just happens. I went out with my sister and a friend one night and suddenly months later, I’m trying to decide if this guy is right (for me).

I never made a conscious decision to start dating after my beloved’s death.

I did determine to stop saying, “Every other man is going to be such a f*cking disappointment!” I wish I could stop feeling that way.

I wish I could be ready to allow a man to replace the irreplaceable. Of course, that will never happen. How nice it would be to invite a man into the space that once held me like a hammock swinging at the beach.

It’s still a stretch I’m not sure I’m ready for. It’s been a year and a half since my Fire (as I called him) went out of this world.

He called me Ice for 25 years before he melted me with intimacy and we became us. After his departure from earth, part of me froze again. Then, shattered. You know what it’s like when you drop a bag of ice on the cement? In grief, I’m that ice, and forever his.

He (still) wants for my happiness in the way that I ache for his presence.

Maybe I’m not ready for another man. However, if I wait until I’m totally solid again, I could turn into one of those women who swear off love. Wouldn’t that be a shame?

My sister Jayne has taught me that once you’ve had a happy, successful relationship, it means you know how, you’re capable, and when you’re ready and open, you can create it again.

From where she stands now, it may appear easy to the outside world. Nope.

I remember her first date with another man and how she crumbled the second she got away from him, like I did after my first date with someone other than my beloved.

Those dates weren’t with less-than-fine men. They just weren’t ours.

Jayne had great love with her husband, Tom Gerlach for triple decades. They never stopped holding hands, laughing, and navigating life in unison—until his life was over.

She went on, the way one braves Mt. Everest. Moving forward tested her.

Now, five years later, my sister’s in love with a man who fulfills and ignites her in fresh ways. She’s different now.

Not just different from the 18-year-old who pledged her love to a man a lifetime ago, but transformed through the experience of grief.

Grief drops us. The pieces that once fit easily are lost and new parts form.

We determine to be ready for life without the one thing that matters more than anything. Then, we say, F*ck it! I’d rather die.

Fortunately, or unfortunately as it feels at the time, we know better. We could never willingly inflict the pain of loss onto our loved ones.

So, we determine to be ready, to turn the page to our next stage of life. We do this over and over again.

We take baby steps when we long for gargantuan leaps. We smile and laugh and find ourselves caught off guard when the tears engulf us again.

Grief is kind of like being a teenager; emotions are raw and we’re growing, but we can’t see it. Like a teenager wants to be grown, we want to be woke.

Who’s to say when we’re ready? Just the quiet voice that whispers, Yes!

(#2) Dear New Man.

“Pure and complete sorrow is as impossible as pure and complete joy.” ~ Leo Tolstoy 

(#2) Dear New Man,   

I’m sorry to tell you, but whatever you do, you’ll fall short. Not because there’s anything less about you, but because my broken heart insists on comparing you to my deceased beloved.

With him, sacred love sweetened my everyday into ecstasy and then, in a blink, I was brought back to normalcy.

To you, Kevin is a name, a man who loved me, someone who died and left his mark on my life.

To me, he’s everything. Still. It’s unfair. It’s wrong.

He was the most right thing in my entire life—not just in hindsight, but while we lived our love and relished each other.

He proved the reward for my fortitude. He ignited my authenticity, welcomed my weirdness, and still encourages my joy, happiness and success, wherever I may find it.

I can’t stop looking in the rearview mirror. I ache for yesterday.

I strive to move forward with you, New Man. I see your character and kindness. I’m awed by your congruency.

I yearn to feel with you the way I felt with him. I only know I can’t force it.

Damn, if it doesn’t hurt that you’re like a dessert after a delightful meal, but I can’t taste a thing.

I have a friend whose taste buds have gone awry after her sister’s death. Maybe my feel buds have gone numb.

I try to put myself in your position and imagine how you feel. I think I’d be gone. Part of me wants to say it’s your own damn fault if you stay, but please don’t go.

It’s not fair, it’s not right, what I offer you. Only truth. It’s all I have.

The truth is I don’t trust my feelings and sometimes what I feel is nothing.

I see you. You’re here. I’d like to celebrate. Lucky me.

Instead, I contemplate. I try to remember my resistance to Kevin in the early days, but our early days came decades into our friendship after dozens of phone calls and a history of conversations.

When he called to tell me his mother died, he cried his vulnerability into me and I drank it full.

I called him on road trips. There were many between the time I left my ex-husband and after I landed in Ohio to live with my sister. Kevin and I talked about divorce and death, his ex-wife and current girlfriend, the guy I was seeing at that time, and how our lives had changed since the early days back in Champaign, IL when our friendship formed, in spite of me.

I took Kevin for granted for 20 years. I don’t want to do that again—to anyone.

However, as I did then, I must trust my gut. I only know that I’ll know when I know. Right now, I don’t know much.

Maybe the resistance isn’t about my deceased boyfriend, any more than it was about my sister or the distance with Kevin.

Maybe it’s just my nature. Maybe you and I don’t have a future. Maybe we do.

Right now, all I know is you’re the new man and I’m still undeniably in love with the old one.

He may have died, but my love for him didn’t. People tell me to stop looking back, but that’s like telling a girl at the beach to stop watching the waves.

Yesterday blocks my view. Yesterday also taught me we can’t imagine the packages love will arrive in.

So, I remain open to surprise. I’ve always found it by feeling my way.

If you choose to go on yours, I get it. This is new to you, too—building a relationship with a woman who’s in love with another man, a dead one.

Oh, New Man, I feel for you. That’s compassion. I care for you. That’s appreciation and gratitude.

Still, every time I go to unfold the map to my heart, it points to yesterday. Where there lies a sacred love that was blown out like a candle in the dark.

The only thing I can swear is I’m looking for light.

 

 

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.