How to Listen to a Woman.

Until you give her the attention she’s vying for,
She cannot feel validated.

Turn your eyes toward hers.
Look into the endless well of unmet needs.
See the shards in her heart where
Listen to me! screams.

Look deep. Listen hard.

Pet her chaotic temperament and
Tame her mental tantrums with
Pure presence and no intention.

Look into her eyes.
Listen to her story.

Like giving medicine to a
a crying baby,
You have the power
To soothe her.

This isn’t about you.

Or becoming
Her friend.

It’s reminding one soul
She is worthy.

It’s overriding the instinct
To dismiss or disengage
Because you can’t contend
With the childhood rage
That reverberates in her energy.

Because we believe we need to fix.
(Just like men.)

You shake your head.
You don’t like this girl.

Is likability the sole criteria of a
Woman being welcomed—and if so,
Isn’t that just your subtle way of silencing?

Isn’t that the very action—
The nonchalance of others—
That throws you to your knees?

Or makes you fight
Like a caged raccoon?

A girl needs love.
Even if she’s 33,
Talks loudly and speaks of
Masturbation.
Makes you cringe.

Just know, you have the power
To continue the cycle that
Has her spinning.

Your subtle little putdown:
“Do you meditate?” reveals
You’re trying to make her
SHUT UP.

You are. But, she cannot.

She needs to be heard. Validated.
Accepted. Loved.

Like you. Can you do for her what
Other women have done for you?

Can you listen in the way you claim
To want men to listen?

You—collectively—women—me—us.
Can we authentically listen
To each other?

We talk. We empathize.

Yet, we often compete to share our stories.
Me,too! is necessary and true.

It’s time to speak. We validate
Ourselves by owning our stories.
AND
We help wipe away the tears
Of unworthiness when
We listen to hers.

With our eyes.

How Grief Lives in our Cells.

“To be broken is no reason to see all things as broken.” ~ Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

I live with my sister. We’re both in our 50s, which means we’re perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves and we value communicating and checking in with each other.

We’ve learned accidents do happen and people we love sometimes die.

We balance these not-fun facts with our inclination toward optimism.

Last night, Jayne went out with a friend, which is also a treat for me, as I relish my time alone. I used it well last night.

I skyped with an advanced editing class from my old alma mater (Metropolitan State University, Saint Paul, MN). The students asked me thought-provoking questions about my blogging process and purpose.

After the meeting, I took notes about what I learned from them and how I’ll implement some of their ideas.

Inspired by virtually being in the classroom, I dove back into a book assigned in my first politics class: American Democracy in Peril: Seven Challenges to America’s Future. How far-fetched that felt in 2002!

After reading, hunger overtook me. I noted the time: 10 pm. My sister would be walking in the door soon.

I made cauliflower rice with sautéed kale and cabbage and plopped in front of the TV.

Around 10:30, I texted my sis just to make sure she was ok. It’s not typical of her to stay out late on a “school night.”

On Scandal, the old Olivia Pope had returned—or had she? The President was going down—or was she?

My sister still hadn’t texted back. Again, not like her. She’s an IT manager and the constant bing of work messages is her norm. She’s the prompt texter backer.

I told myself she was fine, as fear felt its way into my body, the kind that says saying things are ok doesn’t make them so if they’re not.

After all, the day my boyfriend Kevin was due to arrive but didn’t, when worry hung in the air, my sister’s boyfriend said, “It’ll be ok.”

I even tried to convince myself Kevin would burst through the door, larger than life, wrap his big arms that felt like home around me, and spin some crazy story the way only he could do.

But, we were wrong. He would not be walking through my door or anyone else’s ever again. He would never tell another story with his Lentz-man vocabulary.

Everything was not alright.

My beloved died in his sleep of a heart attack. That cruel fact cannot be overridden by my mind.

The news, the truth, the day my life transformed lives in my cells. My body knows.

So, until I heard back from my sister, I suppressed the possibility of a reality I’ll never be ready for.

I didn’t even know where she went to dinner, some Mexican restaurant. She could be anywhere in the city.

God, please let her be safe.

How would I find her if she didn’t respond? I could find her friend on Facebook.

Would I call her son, the cop in Michigan to ask him what to do? Or the one here, who called the police for me and got them to search the freeways Kevin intended to drive on, and then his home where they found him in his bed?

I wouldn’t want to worry my nephews without reason, but what if my sister was in a situation where time was of the essence and could possibly save her life?

Silly, these thoughts, I tried to tell myself. I’m not a worry wart, but my mind played the sport while I simultaneously resisted the churning in my stomach.

Until Jayne’s text: “I’m sorry. I’m good. Coming home soon.”

Ah, the message of peace. I crawled into bed unscathed, tired and happy.

This morning, on her way to work, Jayne apologized again. I’ve done it to her, too. It’s no big deal.

But, then I cried because I can’t bear the thought of going through that again. And because I don’t have to.

Not now. All is well.

My sister admitted she’s been pierced by grief’s arrow threatening the worst repeating.
After all, her husband determined to beat cancer, but that day never arrived.

Like our brother who didn’t make his destination from California to Tucson and died on the side of a desert highway (car accident).

Still, I believe in the power of prayer and positive possibility.

Beautiful memories like falling in love, dancing under the stars, and splashing down water slides also dot the map of my life.

I refuse to live in the worry zone, but sometimes I take a trip there, making me grateful to return home to my current safe and sweet realty.

 

What “This Is Us” Teaches us about the Right Way to Handle Grief.

“Grief is as necessary as joy. It comes inconveniently, often catches us unprepared, but we understand that a full, rich life experiences both ends of the spectrum.” ~ Alexandra Stoddard, The Art of the Possible

Recently, a woman told me she’d also lost her boyfriend. He died.

So, yes, she knows grief. But, she had to put it out of her mind so she could get on with life.

Each person chooses her path and I can’t say she’s wrong.

However, in my life, grief grabbed me, shook me, shattered me, and dared me to look directly at it.

That’s where I found the gifts of grief, the metamorphosis of myself, and the place from which I’m rising as a woman transformed.

I get why people don’t want to get into the grief. They can see what a mess it causes.

Tears in public places? No, thanks. Being dragged down? No, stand tall!

Be strong. Don’t let it beat you.

Well, I believe what Arielle Ford said to the Book Mama, Linda Sivertsen: “Grief is your superpower.”

It’s a passage, like adolescence or menopause, or maybe a mid-life crisis.

We must go into the mess in order to get to the metamorphosis.

My friend’s daughter is 17, just on the verge of adulthood. Not many months ago, she claimed she was already an adult and couldn’t relate to kids her age.

Now, she’s decided she doesn’t want to be an adult. In fact, she wants to go back to being a baby.

Yes, I’d like to go back to being the happy woman I was in May of 2014, sunning on Big Daddy’s boat on Lake St. Louis, gushing with gratitude for how great my life felt.

Unfortunately, I can’t unknow falling in love with my man Fire and him being put out of this life.

Often, we want to be in a different stage from the one we’re in.

We’re single; we want to be married. When a teenager, we’d rather be an adult. As our kids ready to leave home; we wish them younger and still contained by our love.

When we’re in the thick of grief, we crave the hole in our heart be filled with yesterday’s joy.

Of course, there are extremes, like the widow who keeps her husband’s clothes hanging in their closet 20 years after his death, clinging to what can no longer be.

But, who’s to say? What’s the timeline? There isn’t one.

On a recent episode of my favorite show This Is Us,  it was the 20-year anniversary of Jack, the father’s death. Each of his children and his wife found a different way to deal with the memory. (Spoiler alert.)

Every year, his wife makes lasagna. She spends the day cooking and eating alone, even though she’s now married to another man.

One son does his best to ignore the day. Like him, I’ve tried that in the past (unsuccessfully).

If only December 10th, the day my brother died and the day my mom was diagnosed with cancer, could be removed from calendars!

On the show, the daughter beats herself up with guilt every year and chooses to be melancholy. While on the surface this may sound like a poor choice, she needs to indulge in her feelings.

Sometimes, it’s diving in that allows us to resurface stronger.

On the opposing mindset is the other son, who leaps into celebration mode, throwing a Super Bowl party and going overboard with determination to create big fun.

Trying to overpower grief can catch us off guard. When his daughter’s pet lizard dies, Randall ends up turning the party into a funeral too somber for children and a lizard.

When it comes to how to handle our grief, there’s no right way.

There is, however, a call for courage: to admit the mess, allow the loss to transform us, learn our individual lessons, and especially, the courage to love again—not just another person, but life itself.

When we see, feel, and honor our grief, we can grow into more awake and compassionate people.

We become intimately aware that some of the people we love will pass on, leaving a missing piece in the picture of our lives.

The death of a loved one can feel like none of the pieces fit and life is a puzzle that can’t be solved.

But, if we’re willing to let the pieces fall and scatter, when we go to pick them up, we may discover a new picture.

When that time comes, we’re not over the loss. We’re transformed and made new in the face of it.

We more clearly see others in the process and allow space for them to find their way.

This Is Us—all of us, dealing with grief the best way we know how. And that’s enough.

 

 

 

Why We’re All Seeking the Same Thing.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” ~ Hebrews 11:1

You might think it would be easier if your wife had died—
Rather than trying to kill something in you by sleeping
With other men, even those you thought friends.

I could be tempted to say, At least she’s alive.
I wish my man was, even if he betrayed me
And tried to break me. At least I could
Hear his voice and look in his eyes.

A teenage girl tells her father,
“This ear infection is so bad
I’d rather have the flu for a year!”

Yeah, right.

Some say divorce is as difficult
As losing a loved one to death.
Having experienced both, I beg to disagree.

But, then I remember that’s just me.
My divorces (yes, two!) weren’t brutal.
No one got betrayed or dragged through court.

But, hey—I bet both those men would say
It was the worst experience of their lives.

What else could it be when the woman you love,
The one you intend to invest all your years with
Chooses to walk away?

Maybe there’s no easy.
Not when it’s yours to bear.

It wasn’t easy for my sister to lose her husband
To cancer after 33 years in a marriage many envied.

I’m still reeling from the loss of my beloved
Who went to sleep and never woke up.

My sister and her husband had history
And prepared to sail into the sunset.

My beloved and I were blessed with sacred love
Finally, in our 50s! Hope coursed through us.

Whatever we must face, it’s ours. That’s what makes it hard.

Heartbreak is our puzzle of life,
The beautiful picture shaken
And scattered on the floor.

Pieces disappear. Emptiness arrives.
Previous pieces don’t fit. Everything is a jumble.
Where did these odd, misshaped ones arrive from?

Life. Life. Life.

It’s a series of pictures coming together and falling apart.

We make new pictures.

Mine is not harder. Yours is not easier.
Yours is not harder. Mine is not easier.

It all a puzzle. We’re all seeking the pieces.

 

 

Why I’m Calling This Child Hope.

My dog’s a kid magnet. So, one neighbor girl has been hanging around uninvited since the day I moved into my sister’s place four years ago.

This three-year-old little girl and her ten-year-old brother came over to pet my Black Lab Phoenix, who was six, and almost as rambunctious as the kids.

They threw tennis balls for her with the Chuck-it while I fantasized about their parents coming to find them. (They never did. Like never.)

Long after the boy grew too cool for anything but basketball, his little sister still came around, mostly during the day when my sister was at work and I was busy writing the next Eat, Pray, Love.

Now, I’m going to call this child Hope. Her real name, sadly, sounds like another word for rejection. Like she got labelled even before she was able to knock on neighbors’ doors looking for friends. She had to work harder at that than the other girls.

Hope carried the look of different. She certainly hadn’t become accustomed to positive attention. She could only receive it in small bits, although she could hang in my home for over an hour on any given afternoon.

It’s funny how a kid can seduce you with, “Can I play with your dog?” if you did the same thing when you were a girl.

Like little Hope, I had to be taught some basic manners.

“You don’t just walk into people’s homes, honey,” I said, “You have to knock.”

I doubt anyone had to tell me this, as I did her: “Okay, so when you knock or ring the bell, if I don’t answer, you stop knocking and go away.”

“But,” Hope said, “I knew you were in there because I saw your car.”

“Yes, Hope, but sometimes people are home and they don’t answer the door because they’re busy doing something else, like taking a shower.”

“I know. That’s why I kept knocking—so you’d hear me.”

One neighbor said, “You just have to be stern and send her away. She knocks on everybody’s door trying to get someone to play with her.” As if it was a crime.

All the gossip couldn’t come up with a good reason why her parents’ parental practices didn’t line up with the norms of my cul-de-sac neighborhood.

The thing is, I was once that girl and nobody called me Hope.

So, in the early visits I gritted my teeth and tolerated the kid so many resisted.

As the weeks, months, and years passed, I couldn’t reason why no one had embraced her before.

Hope grew more confident and less irritating. She stopped following me when I took Phoenix for walks, insisting she was joining us.

The day she was locked out of her house because her brother was at basketball, her dad was at work, and she couldn’t find her mom, this frightened five-year-old found her way to my door. Her vulnerable voice shook as tears ran down her face.

I was as relieved to be home as she was to see me. She wrapped herself around me in a helpless child hug. In that moment, I was her adult.

Later that evening, she came back and apologized for bothering me. “You’re not a bother, Hope. You can come to me any time you need.”

I saw the shame release from her face.

Hope’s presence became a norm in my life—without any formal introduction to her parents (I tried) or real relationship other than designated neighbor.

After a while, Hope was assigned a sister from Big Brothers, Big Sisters. She eagerly awaited those visits.

One afternoon, Hope told me she met a “real author” at school and how cool she thought that was. I did, too. Then, she said his name: Jack Hanna.

She also told me about her friends at school and the kids she tended to get into arguments with.

She mentioned how on special mother-daughter days she got to go to the movies with her mom while her brother and dad did father-son activities.

Sometimes, Hope and I colored together. She couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t give her my dragonfly coloring book after I’d said yes to so many other things.

Hey, the girl needed some boundaries, and these were my dragonflies.

So, I made copies of some pages for her. She said, “That’s okay” and left them.

She spent countless afternoons at our kitchen table and on our deck chairs doing homework like the good, smart kid she is.

One day, Hope said, “Can I come in and talk to you?” She was seven, so grown-up compared to the tag-along three-year-old sister I met on day one.

“My mom and my brother and I are moving to an apartment and my dad, he’s moving to New Jersey. That’s where he spends a lot of time because that’s where he’s from, and also, it’s where his girlfriend lives. So, that’s it. My parents are getting divorced. There’s a lot of stuff to pack.”

“Okay,” I said. “How’s your mom doing?”

“She’s sad, but I think she’s kind of relieved. They’ve been fighting a lot.”

Years before, this bright young girl who no one wanted to listen to said, regarding my sister whose husband had recently passed, “She just seems so sad.”

Hope knew what sadness looked like in another’s eyes. I winced seeing it in hers, especially after I’d gotten so used to the light.

I asked Hope how she was feeling about her parents getting a divorce and about moving. She said, “I guess I’m both sad and happy. I’m going to have my own room.”

I flashed back to the awkward, lonely girl I once was, my neighbor Mary Ashby who let me knock on her door and “play with her dog,” which led to playing cards and drinking sweet tea, and how my parents divorce hit me when I was just 10.

Sometimes we do kind acts by overriding our resistant egos and our constant need for comfort and convenience.

Hope was inconvenient. At first, I found her hard to take.

However, by the time she came to say a brave-faced goodbye and it was likely I’d never see her again, she’d tattooed herself on my heart and left me hopeful.

How to Find Your Way out of the Valley.

“So, it will come to pass for all of us—for all couples who stay with each other in love—that someday… one of us will carry the shovel and lantern on behalf of the other.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed

You’re strong. You’ve seduced Hope and slept with Faith.
You carry compassion across your body like a bullet-proof vest.    You’re a woman who loves fuller because you’ve lost.

When your earth splits, you strengthen every muscle,
So as not to fall into the pit of desperation.
You balance yourself, on all fours if you must.

You invest in people and experiences,
Recognizing the impermanence and
Declaring gifts in the midst of grief.

Against your will, you know
You’ve grown more authentic,
Wise, and alive in the aftermath.

You think back to your selfish, smart-*ss, 20-something self: invincible.
Until your brother’s car accident that made him leave the life he
Partied, worked, and loved his way through for 27 years.

Now, you’d live for two.
You’d put the joy back in your mother’s eyes.
Oh, the yearning for yesterday’s light!

I’ll learn from this, you said, as if
That could prevent repeating
The lesson: Live! Love!

You were living large and loving your
Mom well when cancer kicked her *ss and
You saw the strongest woman you knew fall.

You stood taller.
You made better choices.
You even got comfortable again.

Before life’s forces shook you
To the core, emptying you of
Possessions and identifying labels.

Once again, you were free
To fall. Or celebrate and
Recreate your life.

You did. You found your
Purpose in a pen and your
Power in an ever-expanding heart.

You even danced in sacred love—
You allowed it to capture you and
You’d never been so thrilled

To submit to its forces.
It felt like flying. Like
You’d earned your wings.

CLIP!

Like that. Your beloved’s death
Slammed you into the valley
And you began to crawl again.

Deeper love. Deeper valley. Deeper woman.
Wiser. More understanding.
Humble and fierce. Transformed.

Maybe you’re the clay and
God’s the potter and the
Punches shape you for the better.

You may not love life’s forces, but you honor
The evidence of metamorphosis in the eyes of
Those who’ve walked through grief’s valley.

No, you’re not clay. You’re free will.
You choose to merge with the mystery and
Some magic manifesting the new you—again.

 

 

How We Can Allow Life to be Easy #bloglikecrazy

“Someone who has more information than we do about the nature of reality is worthy of respect.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa, Smile at Fear

My yoga teacher started class with the intention: “Let it be easy.”

She wasn’t just talking about yoga. She was talking about life.

Let it be easy. Let it be. Easy.

But, “Life is hard.” And, “No one said it would be easy.”

Sometimes we take the grains of truth and tattoo them on our minds like chosen mantras.

My stepmom once said, “We have to learn everything the hard way.” But, do we?

Could we stop making everything hard and let it be easy?

Sometimes, life is hard.

But, Addie, the yoga teacher I so admire, suggested I could let it be easy.

As if I could stop trying so damn hard.

Wow. What if I’ve been the resistance in my life? That’s not easy to admit.

I’ve taken challenges and made them struggles. I’ve made miscommunications reasons for refusal. I’ve forced financial situations into avalanches. I’ve owned life’s difficulties.

Could we really just let it be easy? It sounds so easy it seems absurd.

“Easy for you to say.”

Does everything have to be difficult to be worthy?

I used to live by the words:” “What doesn’t destroy me makes me strong.” But, at a certain point I was attracting circumstances to prove my strength. I stopped doing that (intentionally).

The Question Book asks: If you could have a consistently good life or one filled with the highest highs and the lowest lows, which would you choose?

I’m certain I chose the peaks and valleys before I arrived in this world.

Even so, can I let it be easy? The idea attracts me like a handsome man I’m not sure I can have.

Easy sounds sweet and seductive, so much so my instinct is to dismiss.

However, when I took the easy intention to my yoga mat, I had one of my best practices. I was strong, focused and flexible—with ease.

Yoga is the master teacher. What we learn on the mat follows us into life.

Come on, ease!

What if I can let it be easy…

To regain my health, energy and vitality? I could stop searching for answers and diagnosis and allow my body to rebalance itself.

What if I let my writing be easy? Writing is easy for me. That doesn’t mean it’s not work.

But, I can return to flow, where my soul resides and my desire to be of benefit unfolds.

What if I let my relationships be easy? I could stop putting them under the microscope, judging and determining their worth. I could be present, with ease.

Could I let building a blog, attracting an audience, landing a publisher and contract be easy? Why not?! I’ve tried to make it hard. I’ve tried to suffer for my art. Enough so that I’m willing to try a new way.

Could I let my grief be easy? A year ago this would’ve been larger than leaping the Grand Canyon. But today, I let my tears fall easy, my memories land lightly and the signs arrive as they will.

It’s better than trying to make myself get over it and move on or demand the kind of communication that only arrives divinely.

The more I think about it—letting life be easy is about letting the divine unfold—rather than ordering and dismissing miracles.

I doubt the flowers sprouting through sidewalks or cardinals finding my feeders fought their way there. Isn’t nature easy?

Maybe it’s only human nature that makes life hard. Why do we do that?

It’s a protection mechanism. Like if we accept or prepare for how hard life is, it will be less so. Unfortunately, the mechanism is faulty.

Listen, I don’t believe in positive denial. I’m a stickler for truth—although a friend recently pointed out I’m not perfect in this area either. That’s true.

I’m not seeking perfection and I refuse to affirm, “I’m happy! I’m happy! I’m happy!” or even, “It’s easy.”

However, we don’t have to make things hard or assume they are.

We can just let life be as easy as it is. We can allow for the ease.

Sometimes we take grains of truth and tattoo them on our minds like chosen mantras.

My new mantra: I let it be easy.