How to Be a Warrior for Love.

I learned how to love by watching wise women.

Mostly, they learned the way we all do—life.

Some of the strongest relationships are third-rounders by try-harders determined to get it right. Others are first-timers who acknowledge luck, serendipity, and stick-to-it-ness.

My best friend learned by leaving and slamming the door for a damn good reason on the only man she ever loved—then years later, opening to him and love again.

Women getting love right, I salute you. Women who found your ideal mate, no matter how many frogs or fools you fell for along the way, well done. Those of you stacking up the decades and gluing them together with joy, hard work, and well-earned connection, impressive.

From you women warriors, my family and friends, I learn we each choose what works for us, what we’re attracted to, and what we cannot or will not tolerate.

For me, I absolutely refuse to endure apathy. Connection and intimacy invite me stay.

You’ve taught me one can see an upsetting truth about one’s mate and set it aside for the sake of the relationship. That doesn’t mean you’re stupid (or smart), just your eyes are open.

You have to want to stay. You have to want to make it work. Yet, you can’t manufacture those desires any more than you can make magically appear the one with whom you’ll feel that way.

When you do, as long as your partner also wants to stay and make it work, anything can be a source of growth.

Wise women, you’ve shown me marriage is a balance between working on it and letting go, being true to yourself by speaking your mind—even when you may be considered a bitch or too sensitive—and respecting with compassion your mate’s legitimate choice of a different perspective.

Watching you gals, I see the variety of relationships and marriages and how each pair is an entity of its own personality, rules and character.

Ideally, whatever the shape, it represents a synergy in which two individuals become better because of the presence of the other.

Thank you ladies for keeping me believing in serendipity and holding out for the real thing, even after I lost Mr. Crazy, Sexy, Cool.

I look forward to my next adventure, as a warrior for love.

Drinking Memory

“Your memory has gone through me like thread through a needle. Everything I do is stitched with its color.” ~ W.S. Merwin

I’m drinking Tim Horton’s coffee like taking a hit of memory.

Once, the man I love was alive, here, with me. We went to Tim Horton’s.

Now, the coffee tastes like that particular day and all of his kisses. Ordinary memories I could’ve forgotten find me falling into them since his arms are no longer available.

In less than two years, I became as addicted to Kevin as I am to the coffee I’ve been drinking for 40 years. Kevin became a part of my normal, my ritual, a thing that kick started, comforted and warmed me.

Any addiction is beatable, but one must have the craving for sobriety as strong as the call for one more hit. What if I don’t want to quit?

What if I want to drive through Tim Horton’s on random Thursdays, play Etta James and absorb memories like vitamins? What if I don’t want to move on?

I suppose that makes me like my friend’s son after she cut his hair. He screamed, “I want my yesterday hair!”

I want my yesterday man!

Don’t tell me there will be others; there are others. It’s like telling a boy his new short hair looks fine. Maybe it does, but he’s not yet identified with the new look. The change shocks.

The change. The loss. The shortness of our time together. Shocks. Me.

In my days, I move forward, take action and set my vision. With my head, I lean into tomorrow’s tape. In my heart, I still wait for yesterday to pass me the baton.

I wait. I look. I see the crowd. I feel the excitement of other runners. I’m ready. I look back and wait.

My hand stretches open as if Kevin could reach for me once again.

While I wait, I drink coffee. I summon my soul to save me from the place I really want to go—where my beloved lives. The place from where he cheers me on and on through the memories which hold the magic we once danced with and the passion that never dies.

Yes, the passion of my soul lives on like a fire that never goes out.

Butterfly

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Every time grief washes over my sister’s face, I feel it like a slap. I want to fix it—the way she’s fixed me up and put me back on my feet.

My sister doesn’t yet see her reflection as the butterfly she’s becoming. It’s still sticky where she lives, in a cocoon of grief. But, the sunshine is bursting in and someday soon she’ll realize she has wings.

Right now, she’s remembering all that went wrong and why can’t it just be yesterday? From the sidelines, it’s almost too much to endure, like watching a teenager attacked by hormones screaming hatred and then melting into a hug like only the innocent and broken can do. But a grown woman does it all with poise.

My sister was broken when I arrived to live with her. Now, she’s spiraling up in life. She’s loosened her grip. Sure, occasionally she trips. And no, she’s not there yet. And yes, grief’s shadow haunts her every step.

Still, sometimes I stand a few steps below. The vision of my sister is radiant. She turns to look at me, always looking out for me. She sees me beaming back at her and gives me undue credit. She can’t see all the light shining from behind or the team of angels assuring, “We got her.”

My sister can’t see her ocean-blue eyes are alive again. She stands oblivious to the formation of her wings. Perched at the edge, just a little bend and the right whiff in her direction, this gal’s going to fly.

Simple Joys

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She came back today, that girl who cries. She cried on my deck and in my bathroom. I told her it’s ok to cry. She cried more. I asked her what I could do. She said, “Take me back to last October!” Then, I cried.

That was the best October ever, the one I spent with Kevin, in his home with my dog. So beautiful and normal, like coffee together in bed every morning. Like his touch, quiet conversations, and my Lab loving the country life.

Simple joys. Gone. Replaced with tears.

Dear Grief Stricken

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Dear Grief Stricken,

I’m so sorry for your loss. I know your heart is hurting. Yes, other hearts hurt, too. But, let’s talk about you. You had no choice in this pain. Your loss was thrust upon you, like being thrown from a car or poison injected into your system. Everything changed.

People will tell you you’re not alone. The truth remains, although others suffered similar or stand by your side, your grief is etched with your name. Deciphering how you deal with your pain and the people around you resides within you. Yet, I tell you, you’ve got a thousand angels standing guard for your heart alone, even if you think there are none.

Still, the path you must walk can only be carried by your feet. The vision forward and the meaning you give the past—all yours. The tears you shed run down your face. The memories play like movies in your mind.

How long this takes is your journey, but that doesn’t mean you get to choose a time frame or how deep you’ll delve into the pain. You’ll go as deep as it pulls. But, baby, you’ve got this.

Sometimes it feels like you’re a candidate for the looney bin. So, be it. If you can’t go crazy over grief, when will you let go?

You’ll be tested. I won’t tell you it’s going to be okay or don’t cry or don’t laugh. I’ll not advise you, knowing the line at your door for that.

I simply say, and I’m paying it forward here: I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry this happened to you. I’m sorry your heart is hurting. May it hurt less tomorrow.

 

 

Trying to get up out of the Casket

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Believe in your dreams. Make your own path. Make your mark. Let them know you lived. Let them say you fucked up or let them say you hit it big, but damn, give them a reason to talk. Live a rich life. Losers aren’t the losers in this world; the people who choose not to play are.

Go for it—your dream, goals, love, marriage, art, kids, travel, writing, a degree, a business… What calls you is your true north. Go! Boldly. Trust. Have faith in something or someone. Hell, the more you believe in, the better. Love at first sight, the American dream, you name it.

What’s your four-minute mile? Run it. You know all those people who believe in you? Prove them right. You know all those cynics? Fuck ‘em!

You know those people dying? One day you’re going to be one of them. Could be soon. If you’ve got something you know you’re meant to do, you damn well better do it. Is there some gift you’re supposed to deliver to the world? They won’t wait forever. When 50’s horizon is behind you, you start realizing guarantees aren’t a good bet.

Life is for living, loving, laughing, learning, enjoying. You can’t live someone else’s life. Their rules won’t fit you and vice versa. Find the common ground, but make sure you’re not just following the common path because it’s easy or you’re afraid or nobody gave you permission or you don’t know how.

It’s your life. Figure it out. What do you want? Not some dream that impresses. What’s your dream that presses on your chest if you imagine today is your day to die?

Don’t be someone who dies saying, “I wish.” Be the gal trying to get up out of the casket because you love your life so damn much.

 

Skipping Winter

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Pain. It’s part of life. Yours. Then your sister’s. Then yours. Then your nephew’s. Yours. Then your friend’s. Your siblings’, parents’, and strangers’.

Pretty soon, you better learn to manage this shit. Or make peace with it. You can’t keep pretending things are going to smooth out for good at some God-approved time and la-la-la, from here on out, we’ll have only spring!

Somehow, absurdly, optimistically, we keep thinking we’ll skip winter. Or, may they all be mild. Some years, we might like to go to the beach. So, make it warm, but not too hot. Eighty-five and a breeze, please. No rain.

I used to say, “I hate it when it rains at the beach.” Now, I say, “If I’m at the beach, I’m happy.”

The first time my boyfriend Kevin took me to the beach in Florida, I told him, “If I’m depressed someday or on my deathbed, just bring me back here and set me in a chair to be soothed by the ocean waves.”

He said, “Okay.” In that moment, I pictured being old with him. It was the spring of our relationship. He was falling for me and I was following behind.

All those 25 years I knew him and never considered dating him. Ha! I thought he was a player, until he decided to get serious with me.

I watched Kevin crack before me like a coconut. Inside: purity—the rich white meat of his soul. The juice of his spirit ran free without his personality protecting him. I couldn’t have imagined the magnificence that man carried. Or that he could heal my scars and nourish my heart.

Did you ever want a clean slate? To be able to get into a relationship with your long lost hopeful innocence rather than a long list of things that could go wrong?

That’s what happened when Kevin’s shell cracked. Mine did, too. He was a bad boy gone good. I was a woman at peace with herself—finally.

We walked through the seasons in love, holding hands. Then came his death, sudden and worse than the coldest, darkest winter in Minnesota.

I thought I said no more winter! Ah, “we plan and God laughs.” Yet, because of Kevin, I hold out for spring. And summer. And fall. I embrace it all.