How Facebook Helped Heal my Grief. #bloglikecrazy

Dear Facebook Connections,

When my boyfriend died in March of 2016, you heard my cries. You read my words.

You walked beside me on my journey and many of you shared yours. We connected. You helped me heal by hearing my pain and not minimizing.

I’m fortunate to have a web of flesh friends and family who were there for me. I’m grateful for them, obviously.

Yet, Facebook folks were also integral to my healing. You were a safe space for me to publicly state my truth and share my tears without being faced with grimaces, the oh-so-subtle rolling of the eyes, the sigh of impatience, or the look of pity.

Nor did I feel alone. Many of you commented on and connected with me in my grief.

You also stand witness as my sister and I commemorate, celebrate and memorialize our loved ones who left this party called life too soon.

Not just my beloved Kevin, although losing him weighs heaviest on my heart. With him, I experienced sacred love. The love endures and you continue to react to my writing through this metamorphosis. Thank you.

Thank you, Facebook folks, for serving as a support system.

My sister found great solace with widownet. Deep Grief, Great Love and Grief Yoga educate, elevate, comfort, and even commiserate with me. Yes, sometimes we need that, too.

Elephant Journal publishes pieces (including mine) on grief, how to live a better life, and be of benefit to others.

Facebook friends, you’ve benefited Jayne’s life and mine by welcoming our stories about my beloved Kevin Lentz, my brother-in-law Tom Gerlach, my mom, and my brother Bill.

Thank you for serving as a sounding board for our losses and allowing us to use you to keep their memories alive as we learn to live without them.

We miss our people who died. It’s indescribable, and yet, you let us try.

Finding Comfort Outside the Comfort Zone

I started this Lose 10 Pounds in 7 Days Diet along with several girlfriends. By the way, it’s nothing crazy. It’s all fruits and vegetables and I’m just looking at it for a health restart. Plus, I’ve gained weight since moving in with my sister.

It’s interesting to see how our resistance to change and our fears arise in the face of something hard. Day One: I gave into coffee, because yes, I’m addicted. My sister asked did she have to eat all four oranges and all four apples? Our friend Steph had hardly eaten, but had finished her ten glasses of water. Crap, at 8 p.m. I still had seven waters to go! Yep, it was actually hard to eat fruits and vegetables and drink water even though I love fruits and vegetables and water. Just because we love something or it’s a great idea doesn’t make it easy. Just because something’s hard doesn’t make it unworthy. Anything outside of our comfort zone is hard.

If we’re going to make a big change (like losing 10 pounds in one week) it’s going to take moving outside of our comfort zone. Because what’s inside the comfort zone? Chocolate. Law & Order. Beer. Scandal. Facebook. Moving outside of our comfort zone is sometimes as simple as just getting outside. Simple, obvious steps to a better life aren’t always easy.

A lot of things sound good in the moment of decision. Fruits and vegetables for a week, no problem! I’ll do it! This is going to be great! Let’s all do it together! Then, we realize since we’ve been living on pizza and French fries and nachos and drinking beer and coffee, the change feels uncomfortable.

It’s in the uncomfortable where we find out what’s truly important to us. My friend in the group who probably had the most weight to lose questioned the whole thing on day one. I care so much about her health and happiness and want her to remember feeling good in her body. I encouraged her and reminder her, of course we knew this was going to be hard, right? But, that’s the thing. Sometimes we don’t.

We focus on the end results and forget the difficult process. We do this in several areas of life, but each of us tends to embrace or resist the uncomfortable differently. For example, my sister is a phenomenal manager. She’s into having courageous conversations and managerial integrity. She easily confronts situations that her boss avoids.

For me, I’ve had the habit of exercising, at least sporadically, throughout my life. So, even if I go months without working out, I bust through the uncomfortable more easily than my sister who’s never felt the runner’s high. We’ve each got to prioritize which areas we’re willing to push through the uncomfortable. What’s the price of this change, really? How much discomfort? Am I willing? Do I believe? Am I ready? What would be the reward? Is it worth it to me?

For years, I wanted out of sales, but I was so comfortable in a world where I’d mastered the necessary skills. For years, I wanted to complete my bachelor’s degree. I went to five different colleges before finally, at age 37 I completed something I’d started at age 17 and had found too uncomfortable each time in between. I had to finally get to the spot where I was committed to going through the discomfort: of feeling stupid, long nights of studying, asking questions and working in groups that intimidated me. Earning that degree did something for my identity, as challenge and change can do.

Sometimes, it’s the fact that something is hard that makes it worthwhile, whether it’s weight loss or education or writing. We forget that something we love and want more than anything in the world can be the most uncomfortable thing in the world, while things we care so little about can lure us into years of comfort but leave us feeling unfulfilled.

At age 49, I’m now pursuing my writing passion. It’s been my dream since the third grade. Some days, I have to remind myself, of course it’s hard! If writing a book was easy, people would be saying, “Yeah, I wrote a book, too” instead of “I always wanted to write a book.” If getting published was easy, the question wouldn’t be so irritating. If getting an agent was easy, people would be saying, “I’d like you to meet my agent.”

This going for goals and dreams and the things that are really important is hard. It’s uncomfortable. But for those things that really matter, the uncomfortable is worthwhile. And I find comfort in that.

When Your Father’s Friend Gets His Book Published

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Carl’s been my father’s best friend since elementary school. He’s now 77-years-old, sitting across from me in a booth at Olive Garden in Wichita, KS.

I’m an aspiring author frantically trying to find my path into the publishing industry. My memoir hangs on me like a child I want to protect, prepare and send into the world.

Over the post-Christmas holiday celebrated with my parents, they once again repeated how thrilled they are that a publisher picked up Carl’s book. Wow, isn’t it great?

I’m not sure they intended to say: What’s taking you so long? Carl didn’t need an agent. Why aren’t you really going for it and getting published, like Carl? If your book is so damn good, why isn’t it published? But, that’s what I heard.

My writing dream is being supported by my older, wiser, and more successful in the corporate world sister. Her grand gesture felt like the lucky tap of a magic wand. It has been, in that I have what every writer dreams of: time to write. Hell, I had enough time to write a book. I wrote a book—a damn fine memoir. I also wrote a book proposal and polished it with some high-priced and well-worth-it editing and coaching.

Still, I’ve yet to land an agent. Carl says he was told you don’t need an agent.

I wasn’t born yesterday. Just because I haven’t proven my publishing knowledge—by way of being published—doesn’t mean I haven’t been studying the industry like a menu at a fabulous restaurant.

Here I am at Olive Garden in Wichita with Carl. He’s my dad’s age. A couple years ago, Carl’s beloved wife, Clee passed away after battling Alzheimer’s for years.

After she died, Carl found the numerous stories Clee wrote in writing classes she took to ward off the memory thief.

Her stories reflected her life in Iran with her first husband. Well, more like life with their daughters and his Iranian family. She wrote about lighting up when Carl came around and negotiating her way out of her marriage while maintaining close connections to the family she’d come to love. The stories revealed Clee and Carl stories, starting in Iran, going on to various places in the US, and Germany.

Compelled by these stories and his discovery that his late wife had aspirations of being published, Carl was compelled to complete a mission. It was a mission of love when he desperately missed his mate, playmate, friend, lover, wife and wise counsel.

Carl put Clee’s stories (along with photos and his words to fill in some missing pieces) into a book. I read the book and wondered what I would say to Carl about it.

I asked him what some of his favorite parts were. I honored both the book and the writer (mostly Clee) by telling the truth.

The truth is, through Clee’s Odyssey, I came to know a woman who was a friend of my parents for decades, but who I “never really knew very well.”

Carl said, “You didn’t know her at all.” I’m familiar with grief’s reflexes.

He was right. Now, I feel honored to know of this woman, Clee Fox, in the same way I’ve known other heroines, like Jackie Cochran or Eleanor Roosevelt.

In this book, I learned of a woman owning mistakes and choices, and leaping into opportunities like failing was foreign. For her, it was.

Carl told me they led a charmed life. As I read the book, I kept waiting for a person to turn on Clee, or a plan to fall through. They did have some travel challenges. Mostly though, the writer Clee’s attitude and life on the page revealed flow, grace and nonjudgment.

No wonder Carl, some 30 years later, and less than a handful of years since her death, remains enchanted.

I’m enchanted with this woman I met in a book Carl paid to have published. I knew when I saw it. I knew when I heard the process. I knew when I looked at the publishers’ website.

I tried to explain to my folks the difference in what Carl had done to what I was doing. “I’m trying to build a career as a writer,” I said. “But, isn’t it just wonderful what happened to Carl?!” my parents said, again.

As I ate my chicken Marsala, which Carl suggested, and drank a wine he favored, I leaned into my memories of the book. Across the table, Carl and I played with Clee’s stories, and marveled at her magnificent character, and the luck of their love! And ski trips across Germany! Stepdaughters blended in like the Brady Bunch. It was all so fabulous I dripped on the inside with hope, jealousy, and sadness over Carl’s loss.

I had to shift gears. I had to know. Had he paid to have Clee’s book published? Yes. He told me the figure, in the ballpark I imagined. The truth I knew all along. If only my only goal was to be published…

Back at Carl’s house, he showed me his earnings on Amazon. So pitiful we laughed. Carl was silly.

Happy to have talked about his beloved, to be sharing her book and the joke of it all, along with the out loud wonder about how a guy who grew up in South Dakota got so lucky.

He told me how pleased he felt when the publisher agreed to take him on. I thought, “Yeah, because you paid him.” Then, Carl said he asked the guy why he agreed to publish Clee’s Odyssey and heard, “When I read about a guy who’d given up on love and then got this life, I was hooked.”

I was hooked, too, as I witnessed Carl glowing talking about Clee. My cynical self quieted. I applauded Carl and Clee and dreams coming true. I celebrated the power of stories and individual paths. I considered the price Carl paid to get this book published—well worth it. For Carl.

 

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Bread and Circuses, Baby!

I see you, Society,

Trying to seduce me

With your subtleties,

Telling me, selling me

How I should yearn

To do it your way,

The one way,

The right way.

Trying to distract me.

From my plan,

Put me on your program.

Say I’m free to choose,

But, there’s a right choice.

Consequences to actions,

Think about tomorrow.

You hold up examples,

Suckers to security.

I take my freedom seriously.

I’ll not march to a beat I can’t feel.

I dance to a tune you can’t hear.

Someday you’ll like saying my name

Under the banner “American Dream,”

Though we’ll both know

That wasn’t what you were selling.

I see you, Society,

Trying to seduce me.