Tag Archive | grief

Book Review: Keep Moving

Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity and Change, by Maggie Smith

“Accept that you do not get to choose who loves you, who keeps their promises, who forgives.  But you can choose to love, to keep your promises, to forgive.  Choose well.  Have — and live — your own say.  Keep Moving.” 

Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change

Maggie Smith experienced the crushing loss of divorce, after 20 years of marriage.  To begin healing and moving on, she told herself that everyday, she must write.  It might be nothing but a few sentences, but she wrote.  This book is a collection of the things she wrote, the things she told herself to keep moving.

Each quotation expresses the profound sorrow of loss, but also the idea of hope.  In reading them, her readers can choose which resonate the most; which quotations help them to keep moving.

“Tell yourself kinder truths.  You are not failing at life; you are reeling, sure, but you are succeeding at surviving.  Keep Moving.”

5 stars.

 

Memorial

Hey you…

You weren’t supposed to die this soon. You weren’t supposed to die like this. You weren’t supposed to leave me wondering if I’m now at that age where my people die.

We didn’t want the same thing out of life.  I was the shy introvert who always felt awkward around your friends. You were the larger than life extrovert. I wanted the quiet career and the white picket fence (I still don’t have that fence by the way).  But for that four years starting with the Halloween after I turned 18, you were my people. My first roommate. My first adult relationship. The one who taught me about love.

You wanted to be in a metal band. To make it big. I hated metal and wanted to be in bed by 9:30 – well maybe midnight back then… You stayed out all night going to band practice and playing Dungeons and Dragons, while I studied and watched M*A*S*H before bed. I never worried about what you were up to because band practice and Dungeons and Dragons was your obsession. I knew where you had been because the smell of that damned pizza on your sweat when you crawled into bed.

You were a genius. One of the smartest people I ever knew. You knew so much about history. We used to talk about it when I was learning things in school. I always wondered why you didn’t want to go back and get a degree. 

We shared my car until you got your own.  You borrowed the money from my parents.  Do you remember how you would get off work late on the day the payment was due, and even though I would try to convince you to do it tomorrow, you insisted on driving over to my parents house that night so you could make the payment on time.  My dad always respected that about you.  I wonder if you have seen dad up there in Heaven and have had the chance to catch up. 

You bought me my first legal drink at 21.  You nursed my hangover when that night ended up like most 21 year old birthdays do.  You made sure I didn’t feel so adrift at parties.  You were always a better cook than me. And your bathroom habits set the standard to which I compare every man since you. Every parent should teach their sons so well how to keep a bathroom clean.

We had lots of good days together, as broke kids just starting out, even though we were destined to go our separate ways. I loved you. You were kind. You treated me well. Those who came after you could have learned a thing or many from you.

We stayed friends after we broke up, after we got through that awkward phase.  I hope we both recognized we were good people who just wanted something different from life. I know I always thought you were a good man.

I see all your friends’ tributes to you on Facebook, and I feel removed from them. Most of them don’t know me. I came from a time before. My pictures are from a time when we almost children.  Now your oldest daughter is older than we were then.  My pictures have fresh young faces unmarked by time, and the weight of life. But I see the grief in your friends’ words, and I feel that too. I feel their pain. I feel what they feel so profoundly that it makes my heart ache and the tears fall in torrents.

I could never get behind all those cheesy sayings you did later on.  It’s the introvert in me. It’s the Virgo in me too.  I never wanted to be on stage, to be the center of attention the way you did. But you connected people with those cheesy sayings and made people feel valued and seen. That was your gift. I wish more people had that gift and used it. I wish some of the men that came since you had that gift and used it.

God speed Jeff. I know your soul is free and you will shine down on me and everybody else who is hurting with your loss. Vaya con Dios.

April 27, 1975 – May 25, 2021

 

COVID Diaries: Day 420

This past weekend I took a brief trip to the Washington coast.  It was full of solitude, but realistically, that’s basically the same as being at home.  Except the sandy beaches. 

I found a little, cute motel in Ocean Shores, and spent a few days walking on the beaches, looking for sand dollars and agates.  I got up before dawn to get to the agate beach at low tide, and barely saw another soul in the hours I was there. I found several agates and lots of interesting jasper rocks.  I also found one gorgeous, large red agate (not pictured)!  I can’t wait to see how they look after getting polished in the tumbler. 

I also found a ton of sand dollars, as I wandered all by myself on a windy, on-and-off rainy Saturday.  Going to the beach in the Pacific Northwest, at any time of the year, isn’t for the faint of heart.  I was cold and tired by the time I got back to the room each time, but on Saturday I got 20,000 steps wandering along the beaches.

Cora issued stern looks when I got home.  How dare I go away…  It was good for me to get away, but I’m lonely.  That part never really goes away, whether I’m at home or away.  I haven’t quite learned to settle into that skin. 

I started a new puzzle; one I received as a gift for Christmas from my aunt and uncle.  I made quick work of the border Monday, but haven’t done more yet.

Somehow we got a reprieve from going back into a tighter lock down.  Our governor “put a pause” on rolling back counties that weren’t meeting the metrics, including my county.  It’s almost as if he’s just making it up as he goes along…  Yes, I’m being sarcastic…  I guess we’ll see what happens in two weeks.

COVID Words of Wisdom: I found myself thinking about you last night and about everything that was lost.  But it was different this time.  My heart reminded me that I still have everything.  You are the one who lost it all.  — Alfa Holden.

Anniversaries…

In the last year, I have been examining people and their motivations, including my own. It hasn’t been any easy process, but I’ve felt that I have needed to get more nuanced in the details of human behavior. I want to understand where things have gone wrong in my own relationships, and what I could do to not fall into that trap again.

Here are some things I have learned:

I have a hard time letting go.  I love hard and try hard.  I miss you a lot longer than I should.  Long after you show that you don’t deserve me.  Long after you walk away and replace me.  I’m working on this, but I’m not really sure how to stop caring about someone.

Your ego got in the way of a successful relationship.  I really just want to be treated well; with love and respect.  It shouldn’t be that hard.  I don’t want to be subjected to your narcissism, or your contempt.  I don’t want to have my boundaries belittled or trampled.  I don’t want to be raged at when I offer a suggestion or advice that you don’t agree with.  I’m not questioning your masculinity (although if this threatens you this much maybe I am); rather I just think a partnership includes a two way dialogue and input.

I want a man who acts like a man.  I don’t want to have to make all your appointments for you, or remind you 4,743 times to pick up something from the store before you actually get it.  I don’t want to have to worry about whether you filed your taxes or paid your bills or if you ever put money into savings.  I want you to take care of your shit, and do your share of taking care of the shared shit.  I want to let go of the reins sometimes, and leave things in your capable hands.

I want to be surprised sometimes.  I want a man who plans the weekend getaway, who gets the groceries for camping, who takes care of the arrangements so I don’t have to.  That’s been a rare thing in my life.  Too rare.

I need to trust.  That’s been the hardest part of this journey of mine; the disintegration of my ability to trust.  When your words don’t match your actions.  When you caused my tears yet you do nothing to try to make them better.  Trust issues are the death by a thousand cuts.  I sometimes wonder if I will ever trust a man again.

I want to hear the truth. And I want to hear the apology when it’s needed too.  I don’t accept you turning it back around on me and blaming me for your behavior.  I’m certainly not perfect, but I do apologize when I have been wrong or hurtful.

My therapist said that the best deceivers can keep up the facade for about six months.  That’s probably about right.  It’s so discouraging to think that by the time you even start to see someone for what they are, you may have wasted a half a year.  I don’t have a half a year to waste every time.  Every half a year I waste is a smattering of gray hairs and worry lines.

We always want to believe that the one who went away… still longs for us.  But chances are they don’t.  You may cross their mind in a season of unease.  Hard times always make us reflect.  But when they’re engrossed in a career, family, life in general, they aren’t thinking about the person they left.  Remember this when you find yourself wasting precious time on the ones who walked away.  They walked away.   — Alfa Holden

I’ll keep trying to get better at letting go.  It’s sad that of all the skills I thought I would need to know, this one is the one I need most.

 

 

 

Choose Kindness

This year has been the holy hell of years.

For me, at first it was the the losses.  Losing my horse, relationship and friend within 6 weeks of each other in the middle of the worst part of the lockdown last spring.  It’s been the isolation.  The loneliness.

At the beginning of the pandemic, these were the things that were getting me down.

But lately, it is something else entirely.  We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  People should be filled with hope.  It is spring; the light is back and the weather is better.  But I’m struggling…  I’ve been thinking a lot, trying to figure out why.

Lately, it has been the absolute vitriol that emits from the mouths (and fingers) of people who once were (or at least seemed) kind and reasonable.  It’s the disregard for people’s feelings; it has turned into hatred for anyone who doesn’t agree with them.  It’s the not knowing anymore who you can trust; it’s best to say nothing rather than cross someone.  It’s the lies, the twisting of facts and the misrepresentation by meme…

I see some of my friends’ social media posts laced with profanity, name-calling anyone who might disagree with them.  I see other friends using an opposite tactic – the I’m so enlightened/morally superior and I just can’t understand those morally inferior peons that believe something different.  It’s tiring.  It’s draining.  The only thing I know is that opinions are like @s$h*l&s; everybody has one and they all stink…

I wonder if people think about the fact that you might someday need that person who has a different viewpoint than you.  Maybe they have an in at that job you really want.  Maybe they own that horse that your daughter really wants to ride.  Maybe they can pull a few strings to get your husband that oncology consult…  Why napalm the bridge?  Maybe kindness really is the best policy. It used to be that you helped your neighbor.  Now it seems like you first ask them to fill out a 5 page questionnaire to find out if their opinions align with yours… When did we stop being kind?

If it is draining for me to see so much hatred, I wonder how tiring it must be for them to carry it in their hearts.  And I tell you, I am exhausted.  Like about to go take a Vitamin D supplement and an Iron pill exhausted.

Please people.  What happened to lifting each other up?  What happened to straightening each others’ crowns?  What happened to the Golden Rule?  Listen to hear and learn, rather than to respond.  This world won’t last very long if we don’t stop trying to tear each other down.

As for me, I’ll keep trying to claw my way back to happy.  It hasn’t been easy.  I haven’t been ok.  There are days when I feel so let down by people that I want to give up and move to an off-grid cabin in the woods.  I’m not quite ready to give up though…

“She knows who she is. She just forgot for a little while.” ― Donald Miller

COVID Diaries: Day 365

That’s it…  We’ve hit a whole year.  A whole year of disrupted life; isolation, worry, and all the other things that have gone along with COVID.

On this day last year, we were sitting in my employees’ office, making last-minute plans to work from home.  Sending telecommute agreements to managers to have their employees sign, assigning cables and peripherals for Surface computers.  Testing Microsoft Teams for videoconferencing.  St. Patrick’s Day was the last day that I was in the office on a regular basis.  The official lockdown in Washington was announced on March 23.  Although I have been in to work since then, it is for a day at a time, once a week at most, but generally a day every couple of weeks. 

I mourn everything that has been lost since then, and I have struggled mightily at times.  I haven’t had a real vacation in that time, as I am not a fan of staycations.  I’ve had a few days off here and there, but it isn’t the same as getting out and fully decompressing.  I long for a flight to a far away town.  I long for a road trip to a National Park.  I think I just need to book something soon. 

I continue to believe that COVID has been a huge boost for the early retirement plan.  With nothing to spend money on, I have saved so much!  But I have had a hard time feeling motivated to tackle all the home projects that I ought to do.  Purging all the random crap that I know I should get rid of?  Still not done.  Selling stuff on Facebook Marketplace?  Nope.  COVID has not been the shot in the arm I need to take on these tasks…  See what I did there?  Clearly this lockdown has not made me more witty either! 

Anyway…  15 days to bend the curve and all.  Maybe year two will finally start looking up.

COVID Words of Wisdom: They said I changed a lot.  I said a lot changed me.

How are the rest of you all feeling on this one year anniversary? 

It Wasn’t Real

It is those moments before falling asleep and those moments spent in wakefulness in the middle of the night when I have my most powerful thoughts.  I’m too tired to have my guard up, and it is too quiet in the world to have the distractions of work, friends, home and other obligations.  Whether I like it or not, I am alone in my thoughts.  Lying there, marinating in those thoughts, feels painful and vulnerable, much like writing these words.  Yet, I have to feel it – I have to speak these truths.  The only way out is through…

This week I learned that my former love, a man I deeply loved, is engaged.  It hurt.  I cried tears more forceful and raw than I have in months.  I have struggled to move him to the “has been” pile, and push his presence from my heart.  Even though I have long known that I do not occupy his.  He was a Jekyll and Hyde who went from sweet and funny to critical and even frightening.  But I miss the times when he was sweet and funny and caring.

I have long suspected, but never knew for sure, that our relationship wasn’t “real”.  It was real for me; a man who occupied my whole heart and with whom I wanted to spend a lifetime.  Sadly, I realized over time that it was more a game of manipulation for him, rather than love.  Those sweet, funny and caring times were an act.  He sought to control and had no issues with trampling over boundaries.  He reduced interactions to a zero sum game of winners and losers, in which he was the only acceptable winner.

This week I learned that our stories, the ones upon which he framed our relationship, have been recycled for her.  Of course, I only had a tiny glimpse into the new life he has fabricated since leaving me.  I say fabricated because that is how it feels to me.  I know he created a fantasy in which I was placed on a pedestal, and inevitably I tumbled to the ground when he suddenly saw me as nothing more than my flaws, my imperfections; no longer the Madonna or the angel that he originally believed me to be.  It isn’t as though I changed; but his perception of me did…

I’m sure his pattern is the same in his new life; she is perfect – until of course, that moment when she no longer is.  The only mystery is when.  And when the inevitable tumble from the pedestal occurs, I know the pattern.  The critical comments, the questioning, the name calling.  The “fact-checking.”  I wonder if she knows – I imagine not.  I didn’t.

Meanwhile, I struggle to learn to trust again.  I don’t know if I will ever take for granted that a man may mean what he says, or say what he means.  Every word will be analyzed, dissected, and replayed in my mind at 3 am.  I will probably always expect a man to walk away.  Because I’m not perfect, or I have boundaries, or will not tolerate being belittled, or because he found a new Madonna to believe his stories.  I’ll never really know why – I will only know that he left.

As for my former love, I’m left with his stories.  Whether they were truth or fiction – it probably doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that I don’t believe them anymore.  I’m working towards building a new story that includes trust, and I hope one day that is the only one I live.

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COVID Diaries: Day 328

I’m exhausted.  Like bone tired, even after what I feel like is a good night’s sleep.  I’m burning the candle at both ends because one of my employee positions is vacant, but the work doesn’t slow down, it just falls harder on the two of us who remain. I think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel though, as interviews are Thursday!

There’s a cold front blowing in, well right about now, that’s supposed to bring below-freezing temps, high winds and maybe even snow…  I can’t decide if I want this or not.  The snow part – I definitely know I don’t want the bitter cold and the wind!  I guess it’s fine as long as the power doesn’t go out…  Aforementioned interviews on Thursday and all…

I need a break in a bad way, but the combination of the workload, plus still not being able to go anywhere anyway keeps me trying to buckle down and wait it out. Who else is feeling this way?  Do you have any brilliant ideas to break up the monotony?

Last Friday was two years since my dad died.  Most people don’t remember the day specifically, and I suppose you wouldn’t, but I dreaded it for weeks ahead of time.  I was working, so it wasn’t as hard as I feared, but the days after got progressively harder for some reason that I can’t really explain.  Yesterday was the hardest – low, low energy…  I miss him so much still.

I have an meeting with my financial advisor next week to see how I’m progressing towards my early retirement goals.  After my horse died last March, I put extra money to my retirement fund, because, well, horses are expensive.  I’m excited to find out what that means in terms of the long game.  I literally cannot wait until I can retire!  COVID and lockdown has certainly put that into even sharper focus for me.  I’m ready to really enjoy what I’ve worked hard to build.

COVID Words of Wisdom: “How do you know if a man values you?” You wouldn’t even be questioning it.  –Unknown

 

2020: A Year in COVID

It has been a long, strange year.  That might be the most positive spin I can put on this COVID year…

Usually my year in review sums up my year of adventure, accomplishments and trials.  With the lockdowns, adventure certainly took a back seat, and I found myself reliving more past experiences than living them in the present.  And the trials…  Oh, the trials…

The year started out so promising!  After having surgery at the end of 2019, I was healing and feeling better than I had in a while.  I took a weekend trip to the Washington Coast, and visited Cape Flattery, the northwestern-most point in the lower 48, and walked the beaches at La Push and Olympic National Park.  Although I was moving very slowly, I did manage some walks that could be considered hikes, with plenty of stops to rest during and after.  The King tides that weekend made for a spectacular chance to see the awesome force of nature, and we had a front-row view from a cabin on the beach.  Who knew that that cabin (located on tribal land) would be closed in March and remain closed even now.

At work things went a bit haywire even before COVID, and I ended up spending several months working on projects I hadn’t planned for.  Even now, one large project is still on my plate.  I’m happy to be valued, and glad when I can do some work that stretches my mind, but 2020 provided a bit more than my fair share.  I look forward to the day I can spend more time focused on my regular duties.

In March came the first wave of lockdowns.  My last day working in the office (other than a handful of days here and there) was March 17.  Since then my coworker-cat Cora has been by my side at about 3 pm daily, demanding her early dinner.  Let’s be real – she would be happy if I would give her two or three dinners each day, but she would no longer be able to walk!

But March also delivered another blow.  My sweet horse Biz got sick in early March.  Fever and lethargy.  I drove home early from a trip to California for days of IV fluids, heavy doses of antibiotics and other care.  He seemed to be improving, but at the same time, at 32 years old, I knew his time was short.  I had even asked Tracie, the woman who owned the barn, if he could be buried there on the property, because I just couldn’t accept the alternative that exists for horses. On March 25, Biz went outside on a sunny, spring day, enjoyed the day in his paddock, then died at about 3:20 pm that afternoon.  He lay down in his stall after being brought in, and was suddenly gone.  Even though he was 32, and I’d been expecting this day for years, it still tore me up.  After all, he’d been in my life for over 30 years.  Longer than most of my friends; far longer than any romantic relationship.

I got a bit lost after that.  Locked down, working from home, drowning in COVID related mitigation planning, and lonely.  So when my boyfriend and I got into a fight in early April because he hadn’t followed through on things he said he would do, I was sad and frustrated and wanted a few days to think about things.  Instead of a few days, he left for good.  Not without taking the opportunity to lecture me on every single thing he thought was wrong with me though.  Because that’s how you show someone how much you love them.  And you do all this on Easter – for good measure.  Talk about being kicked while you are already down.  April truly is the cruelest month…

I wish I could say May was an improvement.  I was starting to see the light again, starting to feel like myself again.  The morning of May 15, I woke up thinking I hadn’t talked to my friend Roger in a while and I needed to text him.  COVID had put our beer nights on hiatus for a few months, and I was missing them.  I put it off, because I got busy with work, and then in the early afternoon, I got a call from one of my former employees.  She was calling to tell me that Roger had died that morning in a fall.  He was too young and too special to be gone so soon.  I sobbed…  If you are thinking about contacting someone you care about, just do it now.  Don’t wait – not even a couple of hours…

So three major losses in less than two months.  I really struggled this spring.  I spent a lot of evenings walking, alone, feeling numb.

Summer was a bit better, because I had the chance to hike and get outdoors, things I need so much in my life.  Plus the lockdown had eased somewhat so I could go out to dinner and happy hour with friends outside.  But I still felt lost.  So I decided to give therapy a try.  I think she was honestly surprised when I tallied up all the losses I’ve experienced over the last few years.  My dad, my horse, two close friends, the dream of having children.  And those are only the biggest ones.  I’m not very good at talking about the things that really bother me.  So it was a challenge to have to open up and get real about things.  That has been hard.  And how do you assess whether or not it’s helping?

I’ve cried more in the last two years than I probably have in the last 20 years.  Honestly I’m not a big crier, but the tears have fallen, long and hard.

I think my year might have been easier had I been able to travel more.  Travel has been cathartic and healing for me.  To stand in front of the glacial lake, to see the ancient ruins, to read the interpretive signs and think about what happened at this spot so many years ago.  I put the car bed back in my Honda this fall, but my September camping trip coincided with thick, choking smoke from horrible wildfires.  Thanks again 2020.

I did have some amazing fall hikes and felt real connections with new friends and old.  That was a silver lining.  I have tried to appreciate the blessings that I do have.  Other than the isolation and loneliness that COVID has brought so many, I have not been affected in any real way.  My family and friends have not gotten seriously ill and my job is secure.

I’m slowly feeling like I’m regaining my footing.  It hasn’t been fast or easy, but I’m getting there.  I certainly won’t miss 2020, but I have things to look forward to, and I’m feeling hopeful.  My wish is that all of you find joy and happiness in the New Year and that 2021 gives us a bit more to be thankful for.