Flailing Like a Woman

For four years

I flailed in the winds of life

Like a kite

I let grief take me

Twist me

Rip me

While I practiced

Yoga and gratitude

To remain grounded

Held by a string

I prayed to fly higher

Or stand still

To be as beautiful

As a butterfly,

As solid as a dog

But I’m none of these

I am a woman

With feelings and dreams

Living, leaning, loving

Organically

As authentic me

Flawed, but finding my way.

Today, I dance with wonder

Realizing, acknowledging,

Accepting just how much

It takes to recover when

The man you’ve been

Searching for

Your whole life

Dies.

How to Show up During the Coronavirus.

“The ability to recognize these times of pressurized pain as opportunities to love and heal—along with an openness to accepting what is and facing it unflinchingly—become the wings of freedom.” ~ Jennifer Salima Holt, PhD, Sacred Gateway of Loss and Grief

It’s Sunday morning, the first in the Coronavirus shutdown. It’s surreal. It’s out there.

My friend’s 24-year-old son died Friday night. That’s close.

I can feel his pain, although he’s several states away. I ache for him.

I remember my mother, a warrior among women, weakening when she lost her only son, my brother, at age 27.

I held her hand as we drove from Oklahoma to Arizona to see his body for the last time.

I stayed with my mom when my then-husband told me to come home. I was 25. I didn’t know anything about grief, except my mom needed me.

Now, I’ve endured several seasons of grief, losing my mother and others.

I’d like to think I know something, like when my friend’s mom died recently. I wanted to have the right words.

There are no right words, except maybe what my friend Lisa said when my beloved died: “I’m so f*cking sorry this happened.”

I’m 55. More deaths will come.

My friend who lost his son has a pain as deep as the core of the earth.

I won’t pretend I have any power to take it away or that words mean anything when grief hits like Ali.

I stand in my friend’s corner. I stand witness to the blows. No matter how hard it gets, I’m here.

I cheer him on, even as he bleeds tears. His pain is as strong as his love. He’s a fighter, but he never wanted to be in this ring.

May he feel the crowd chanting on his behalf. May his children who still live be his Adrian, his reason. May he endure the pain like Rocky.

This is the hardest fight of my friend’s life. In the face of this, Coronavirus is tiddlywinks.

Just getting up from the bed, holding morning coffee while grief grabs everything, is round one.

From the sidelines of those we love who’ve lost their mother, sister, brother, lover, spouse or child, presence is our only power.

Let us step into their corner, wipe their wounds, offer them water, witness their pain, knowing it’s their fight, but we sit in the ring of grief with them.

We stay present while they fight. We love them as their bones of reality crack and break with every blow. We wince while they take the hits.

We are here because worse than grief is having no one in your corner while you face it.

Even though we’re all practicing the new normal of Coronavirus, let’s still be there for one another, even from afar.

Be in someone’s corner today.

Why I Stopped Seeking the One Thing.

“If your heart is a volcano, how shall you expect flowers to bloom?” ~ Kahlil Gibran

In the past several years, I’ve taken yoga classes and teacher training. I’ve been a student of kundalini, meditation, and reiki. And, of course, writing and publishing courses galore. I’m a seeker.

Someone asked me the other day, “What’s the one thing that’s made the biggest difference?”

It’s the same question I asked my friend Sam, who recently lost 90 pounds.

I’ve known her for 25 years and never seen her look better. It’s more than physical. She’s embodying the best version of herself. So, of course, people want to know how she did it.

I asked, “Is it being away from your stressful job?” She was let go, one of those gifts one wants to throw back, but can’t, and therefore learns to seek the opportunity.

“Is it your diet?” She’s gone vegan. “Is it working out?” Sam’s running, biking, and hitting the gym consistently. She’s always been an athlete, but now upgraded, no longer competing with or berating herself.

Her answer: “It’s not one thing; It’s everything.”  

At first, I this everything-answer discouraged me. I’ve already been overwhelmed chasing health, reducing stress, and seeking publications, with the never-ending steps.

Over weeks and months, my friend’s answer started to settle in, the way truth tends to do.

I reviewed my efforts, after losing my beloved four years ago, to overcome grief and strive for solid ground. It wasn’t one thing.

Each step propels us forward, even when it seems immeasurable in the moment.

Now, I stop looking at what I’ve done with the judgement of: That didn’t work! Next! constantly searching for that special magic to cure me of uncertainty, save my sanity, or make me as strong as I know I can be.

I also refrain from envying others’ accomplishments. I see the steps that led up to Sam’s success, including the previous loss and regaining of weight, taking her to a level of disgust and determination to never go back, all played a part in her everything.

This mental shift allows me to be kinder to myself about what I’ve done or not done yesterday.

For example, when I originally wrote my memoir, I needed to put down the 130,000 words. I didn’t yet know 80,000-100,000 was the norm. I couldn’t revise what I hadn’t written, and I couldn’t, even if I’d known, just stop at 85,000.

I also didn’t understand how to write a book proposal or the art and challenge of creating a succinct, impactful query letter.

On another note, for several years, I endured physical sickness which interfered with the quality of my life. That is, if you call this interference: belching as loud as a team of seals, not being able to catch my breath, constant pain, nausea, and inflammation, having strangers run up to help me on the street, and visitors to my home suggesting I see a doctor. Of course, I’d been to many and endured numerous tests, to no avail.

I tried avoiding gluten, dairy, meat, and the other things I suspected might be the culprits—with nopowerful relief. I tried a couple (literally—a couple) of pills doctors prescribed. I searched for answers, but held a deep fear I might be dying.

A few years ago, I learned about lectins, proteins in certain plants that can cause havoc in the body. Bingo! Avoiding lectins became the next step on my path, inconvenient, but now manageable. And, as far as lectins go, they’re not in one thing. They’re in everything!

I could go on, and I will. On my path. Learning, trying, and experiencing what works and doesn’t work for me, as each of us does.

We don’t have to do everything, but everything we do helps us learn what works for us, what we have the capacity to continue, and what we can dismiss because it doesn’t work or we’re unwilling to do the work.

I stopped seeking the one thing to save me, even though hundreds of advertisements tell me daily: THIS IS IT!

I’m still a seeker, just not of the one thing. We don’t have to do everything. We can lean into what works for us, trust our intuitions, hearts, and minds to lead us on our journey to embodying the best version of ourselves.

Then one day, someone will ask us, “How did you do it?”

Be Like Kevin

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Call. And call again. Take the calls—even when you’re driving to dinner with your girlfriend and looking for a parking space. Take the call, especially if it’s your dad. Not because he’s 85, because he’s your dad.

Connect with people. Laugh. Let your funny be infectious. Don’t be a hater. Speak your mind. Apologize when you screw up. And mean it. Move on.

OWN your anger. Be forthright, but be gracious. Love women. Really love them. And music. Listen to music-LOUD! Especially the 80s. Hard rock. KISS.

But take Etta James and the candles. Yeah, bring that old boom box to the beach. Play the game Washers.

Read. The Bible when you feel nudged. Take pleasure in reading. Find your guy. Kevin’s was Lee Child, but he also read Mark Twain, JR Moehringer and Alice Lundy.

Give people nicknames. ICE! ICE! ICE! Let it be your way of honoring them.

Pray. Out loud. In the morning. While drinking coffee and watching birds with your girlfriend.

Say, “I LOVE THAT!” often. Say, “I love you.” Write it. Write letters. Send Valentine’s Day cards with love to everyone.

Enjoy good food. Make memories, like taking your gal to Tony’s, where you used to go with your mom. But, also go to dive bars. Bring home Taco Bell sauce packets that say “Marry Me” and present them like a bouquet of flowers.

Seek love. Be romantic. Be real.

Follow your passions and applaud others. Take care of your business, but don’t be so serious. Make work fun. When it’s not, refocus. Readjust. Decide what you want and go for it.

Change. If you want to. Become better.

Be at peace with yourself. Take care of yourself. LOVE YOURSELF. And especially, BE YOURSELF. Kevin was totally himself, not imitating a soul.

Be emotionally courageous. Say: This is how I am. I have a temper and I can be selfish, but I’m the man for you. Yeah, be a man—in the best sense of the word.

Support your team and Diva’s team and your people. Show up. Be on time. And have some style!

LIVE your life. If it ever comes to your door, kick cancer’s ass!

Speak a different language with your brothers—one your girlfriend couldn’t understand if she wanted to. Make your cousin a brother and make the word BROTHER mean something. Make friendship and family mean something.

GO ALL IN. Whatever you’re doing: sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, sales, wooing a woman, loving your mom, hanging with friends, frying fish, developing relationships, telling a truth, listening,… damn, Kevin could listen.

I know he could talk, but he could really listen.

Open doors. Pull out chairs. Hug. Hold your partner tight through the entire night. Kiss too hard and love like this is your last chance and you want to get it right.

Buy little gifts. Don’t expect so much from others. Give because it makes you feel good.

Tell stories. And make them good!

Hang with your boys. Be wild when you’re young, but never grow old. Get out of the house, but spend time hanging at home, just chillin’.

Be like a kid. But be a man. Face life head on.

Be like Kevin, but you can’t. There was only one. So, be like you—the one Kevin loves. Still.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Grief is Life’s Little Sister.

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” ~ Vicki Harrison

Grief never really goes away. She fades into the background at times.

Other times, she insists on being the center of attention.

As an indeterminable amount of time rolls on, Grief makes larger circles before she gets back to you. But, she always returns.

The more time that passes, the more shocking her arrival seems because you—of such faith—believed Grief already had her way with you.

The truth is she’s just getting started. Grief is a force—both softer and harder than death. She’s only given to the living. In fact, the more alive one is, the more likely to experience her.

See, Grief is Life’s little sister. She’s a tag along. Death is their brother.

The longer you hang around with Grief and listen to her, instead of assuming she’s a nuisance, the more she reveals her wisdom and light.

Grief is nothing we imagine her to be—not enemy or friend, not a season or a time.

She’s both sickness and cure. She’s resurrection. Grief is a thousand stairs to climb, but she’s worth every step.

How to Walk the Bridge to Better

“Our job isn’t to fight fate, but to help each other through, not as soldiers, but as shepherds. That’s how we make it okay, even when it’s not.” ~ Lucy Kalanithi

Bridge Builder, Light Bearer. Those were the words I wanted on my tombstone.

Now, I think escort might be good. No, not that kind of escort!

It’s been my honor to chaperon people across their own life bridges. I didn’t have to build the bridge, but I often shined the light.

Sometimes, like when your sister’s husband dies, all we can do is sit in the dark with our loved ones and hold the light until it catches them.

The bridge seems to form under one’s feet as they walk the path of life.

However, traversing through the darkness—whether it comes from death, divorce, disaster, or simply losing our way—is lonely.

No one else can feel our unique brand of despair in our precious, vulnerable hearts.

That’s why for many years I didn’t let people in. I preferred to suffer the dark nights of my soul alone. I’d saddle up to my suicidal tendencies and keep everyone away from me. Until I didn’t.

Even now, I can’t let everyone in, but I’ve learned to recognize the light bearers. They’re the ones who stand in the darkness with you, shine the light, and fully acknowledge your right to sit where you are for as long as you need to. Light bearers aren’t there to convince.

They’re a power by their presence. They see your pain and appreciate it without pity. They don’t try to pull you out of the pain, but hold your hand while you’re in it.

That’s what my sister does for me—always. Not just since the death of my beloved.

Jayne showed me the light when we were kids and our parents divorced and later, when I was a teenager, she opened her home to me.

My sister has held the light a thousand times.

The light is like bird food. I can’t actually feed the birds. But, I can fill the feeder and let them come.

Now, I’ve become a woman whose heart fills with the sight of cardinals’ colors, beaks and feathers outside my window.

I’ve done nothing; I’ve done something.

I offer food, but I can’t physically carry or direct the birds to it. That’s not my job; it’s God’s, or angels or the Universe. This Amazing Force alerts the birds the food is out and calls them to fly to it.

For me, that’s God. He builds bridges and sends the escorts to help us across the dark chapters of our lives into the light.

God isn’t just in the magic. He’s in the in-between moments building bridges to tomorrow, to our next beautiful chapter.

My biggest lesson: we don’t have to build the bridges!

Often, I have no idea how I’m going to get from here to there.

How would I get out of my marriage and onto solid ground? How could I get out of sales after 20 years? How could I become a writer? How could I get out of relationships that weren’t right—especially when I was desperate to make them into more?

Sometimes falling apart is the bridge.

If those men I was involved with hadn’t let me down or dismissed me, I would’ve missed the greatest love I’ve ever known—sacred, worth-it-all love.

Deep in it, when my beloved Fire died and I cried every f*cking day, when devastation felt like my middle name, God was building a bridge.

My sister—and so many others—held the light.

Earlier, when my sister’s husband died (four years before I lost my guy), I wanted to be the one to build the bridge for her. But, the only bridge she wanted to walk over was the one leading to yesterday, the one that no longer existed.

So, I prayed and stayed present through the black nights that rippled into days, weeks, months and years. I held the light, as did a whole gang of angels—both human and beyond.

Somehow, my sister, after going one direction for 33 years of marriage, learned to walk a new way through the darkness. Over time, a bridge to a better life formed beneath her—right there, in the dark.

Now, after all we’ve been through, I no longer feel the need to be a bridge builder.

Instead, I pray: God, use me. May I be of benefit. Let me shine the light. And especially, Help me pay it forward.

All I can tell you is this: that rush I get from feeding the birds is nothing compared to being a light bearer for another human being.

When the light catches their eyes—after the darkness—they almost fly.