Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Just When You Think You Know Someone…

Last week I went to Chicago for a couple of days. My friend, Ann asked me to come and help her organize her papers/files. I got hit hard with a sinus headache and was in bed for a couple of days. I reluctantly went to the doc because I was pretty certain she was going to tell me I had to cancel the trip. Part of me wouldn’t have minded because I felt so awful.

Instead, she said that knowing me, my soul probably needed my friends and so she decided to shoot me up with steroids. I was skeptical because I couldn’t imagine feeling good enough to fly in less than 12 hours, but I should have known better than to doubt Grace. Holy crap! I love steroids!!

I really do appreciate that the airlines keep us safe, but honestly, what a pain in the rear. It is hard enough to get up early and arrive at the airport before 7 AM. But then, you have to basically start all over. Put your luggage down and pull out your boarding pass and driver’s license. Take your laptop out of your bag. Take your shoes off. (When you are wearing the hiking sneakers the doc insists you wear, that is no small task.) Take off your coat. By the time you are done, you have about 12 of those gray baskets with all your stuff in it. Then what? Reverse it all. Pack your laptop again. Put your shoes back on. (When you are wearing the hiking sneaks the doc insists you wear, that is no small task.) Put your coat back on. Arrange your purse, computer bag, and luggage so you can carry it all by yourself.

Last time I flew, I didn’t take my computer and I regretted it. I learned my lesson. I had a much shorter flight this time, but I wasn’t going to be bored. Besides, I got an email that said my flight had free Wi Fi so I was going to get a lot of work done. I boarded and asked the flight attendant and she looked confused. She didn’t know anything about that. Of course not. Why would they want to promote the free internet service? Now I have to find that damn email.

So I sit in my little seat and the plane is full. No elbow room. No spreading out. I swear, if anyone had videotaped me, I could have won on America’s Funniest Videos. I am already a clutz by nature without even trying. I set up my computer and look for that email. I was going to enjoy proving the staff wrong. Oops. Upon more careful reading, my bad. Free TV. Ha ha. Joke is on me. I decided to take the leap and pay the 8 bucks for the internet service anyway. I had counted on getting a lot of work done.

A notebook computer takes up the entire space of a small tray table. Where am I going to put the mouse? Very, very carefully on the edge. My computer bag takes up the space under the seat in front of me so I put my purse under my seat. Well, the guy behind me didn’t like that so he asked me to move it. I was cursing him under my breath. I finally get settled and the flight attendant says I have to put everything away until take off. Crap. Just let getting dressed and undressed at the airport. Put everything away.

Once I get re-settled again, I realize that I need my glasses. I’m blind as a bat now without my cheaters. No problem. I carry them in my purse. So I awkardly move the laptop to grab my purse. Ha ha. I forgot I had to move it so I grabbed that guy’s feet instead. I found out he wasn’t so bad because he and his wife and I had a pretty good laugh about the thrill I gave him.

Get re-settled. I figure out I need paper and pen. Also in my purse. What a fiasco. So now I have my glasses, laptop, mouse and pad, pen and paper, all in a two-inch space in front of me. Ridiculous. I’m a trooper though, and I manage it all. That is, until I drop the mouse under the seat in front on me. Soooooooooo stupid. Set all that stuff on my seat so I can crawl around on my hands and knees to find it, and created another round of laughter from everyone around me. Glad I could entertain them.

All in all, I did get a pretty good amount of work done, but holy cow. What a comedy of errors. It culminated in my trying to get off the plane without remembering to unbuckle my seatbelt. Amusement for all.

Ann and I got a lot of work done. We’ve been friends for years and years. But I tell you what, you learn a lot about a person when you go through their files. More than you want to know, sometimes. The best part was uncovering over $200 in cash she didn’t know she had. She promptly insisted on playing for my plane fare, which was awesome. But then, there was the color photographs of her colonoscopy that fit in the TMI category. Her husband’s esophagus wasn’t much better… lol!

I did get to go to an Ethiopian restaurant with my former boss and friend. I am not very adventurous with my food, but I had to admit it was extremely tasty. 20141023_193146

I was telling Ann’s husband about it and he says in the most straight-faced, serious manner, “I didn’t think they had food in Ethiopia. Why the hell are we sending them all that food?” Talking to my friend on the phone later, he also had a quick-witted response of, “Were you still hungry when you left?” All joking aside, it was great.

All too soon it was time to go back home. Ann dropped me off, and I couldn’t believe my luck. I got picked to go in the pre-check line. I mean, that never happens to me. I thought I was in heaven. And just to emphasize how lucky you are, they remind you the whole time you are in that short line. “Leave your laptops in your bag.” “Keep your shoes and jackets on.” “Keep your cell phones in your purse.” Life was sweet… until I realized that I forgot my cell phone in Ann’s car. Oh ****!

This really nice, young girl offers to give me her cell. I was momentarily stumped when I realize I have no idea what Ann’s number is because of course, it is listed in my cell. Then, thank God, I remembered to just call my own phone. She answered and said, “I’m turning around now!” All the way out of the airport and back to the curb.

Do you think I got lucky enough the second time to go in the pre-check line? Nope. I just had to laugh as I took off my damn shoes, unpacked my laptop, and blah blah blah. By the way, I decided to sleep on the ride home. No juggling this time :).

I’m ready for the next trip. Anyone wanna travel with me?

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Halloween

I got out our Halloween decorations this week. I think it’s probably my second favorite holiday to prepare for besides Christmas. (Not that I don’t complain about the overwhelming task of decorating for Christmas, but you know what I mean.) My daughter Emily hails Halloween as her favorite holiday and she has rubbed off on me over the years.

It ends up being a time for reminiscing. When Frankie was just a couple of months old, he donned his first Halloween outfit that read “Treat or Trick” on his baby butt.

David- Trick or Treat!

The first award Frankie ever got was a trophy for the cutest costume in the town parade. He was only a year old and he was a bumblebee. He was the cutest kid in the world, so that title was well-earned. Out comes the trophy at Halloween time. I had to include his other costume for that year in the pictures- the pumpkin. That would have won an award also if he were allowed to enter twice :).

David-  Halloween costume

David's Halloween costume

He was Darth Vador three years in a row and it rocked. The helmet was a voice changer and he sounded like Darth when he said “Trick or Treat” and then he would activate the heavy Darth breathing. Superman a year or two. A werewolf once. Then there was the year he was Cinderella. He was gorgeous! His classmates went crazy. He was fine with it until we went trick or treating that night and everyone though he really was a woman (because he was so pretty). We cut the night short and he came home and took off his costume… lol.

Last year he was Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers’ movies. He can do a great imitation of him as well. He looked and sounded great, but was disappointed at the Halloween dance when only two of his classmates had ever even seen an Austin Powers movie. Ah, that’s what happens when you spend most of your time with a brother two and a half times your age. Anyhow, I tried to download the video for you on this, but it’s the wrong format :(.

Makes me smile to remember, then I do what parents usually do. I have a moment of sad, realizing how quickly he is growing up. I wonder what he will choose this year? I dread the day when he tells me Halloween is babyish and there won’t be a costume. Will this be the year? Yep, this is the year. He is saying he doesn’t want to do anything at all for Halloween. I’m hoping he is like his brother, Matthew. Matthew gave it up too until he was a little older. Then one year it hit him that it was very little work for an awful lot of candy.

I guess it’s a time when you get to be someone you’re not. Usually, it’s someone you wish you could be. I wonder who I would be if I were clever enough. No one comes to mind. When you are depressed, you just spend time wishing you weren’t you. It’s not so much you wish you were someone else in particular. You just don’t want to be in your own skin. Anywhere but there would be fine. And have you ever wished that other people in your life were something they were not? I’ve done that, too. I guess that’s called having expectations. Not usually a good thing. Or maybe you don’t really expect anything different from them, but sometimes you hope anyways. Sometimes, you are just that desperately in need.

Anyhow, Happy Halloween a week early. I hope you enjoy the pictures!


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The Winter Season

I saw Bob, my spiritual director, today. He helped me sort through another rough week and added yet another layer to my ever-growing understanding of grief.

This week was the fourth anniversary of Tim’s death. Many times, the anticipation of difficult days ends up being far worse than the actual event. Not this time. The day was tough from the moment I woke up until well after midnight.

If you know me, or if you have followed my blogs for any amount of time, you know I have been blessed with an exceptional quality and quantity of support people. Sometimes I have conversations and experiences with them that challenge my thoughts and beliefs, and sometimes I just plain end up disagreeing with them. And that is okay.

I went into Bob’s office today with a specific question in mind, based on some of the conversations I have had this week. If a person is truly grateful- i.e. really, honestly understands on a deep level- for the blessings in their life, is it possible to remain sad or depressed?

I knew my answer was yes, because that is what I am experiencing. I know enough, however, about human nature, that sometimes we are blinded to truths that are painful for us to accept. I wanted Bob’s unbiased opinion. He was quiet for a moment or two, so I knew I had asked a difficult question, one that was more complicated than it appeared on the surface. When he gathered his thoughts, he very confidently answered that yes, most definitely you can experience both at the same time.

He is a man who has experienced plenty of grief in his life. He sometimes shares some of his stories with me. Today we talked about the frustrations of complicated grief. He said that we do the “work” of grief, whether or not we are even conscious of the fact that we are doing it. He mentioned how there are times when he feels sad or angry (or both) and doesn’t know why. Then he puts two and two together and remembers it’s an anniversary date or a particular time of year that is historically related to his grief.

I kind of jumped at that. I have had that happen, too. But I pointed out how when you ARE conscious of why you are sad or angry (or both), then sometimes the criticisms come out. (At least it feels like criticism.) If you KNOW you are at a difficult time of the year (or whatever), then suddenly you are dubbed as having a negative self-image. You are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. You are not “letting it go.” You are holding on to your pain. I swear, you just can’t win.

I go out and preach all the time about being willing to hold opposing truths in your heart and soul, even though it’s difficult. It didn’t click with me though, until this session that this is another one of those deep paradoxes of life. Yes, I can absolutely be grateful for my home, my healthy children, my amazing friends and family. I can be completely aware of how lucky I am in regards to those things compared to other people. But that doesn’t mean for one second, that the test of that gratitude is how happy or depression free I am. I can be grateful, and yet still be knee-deep in grief and depression.

I have no idea where grief ends and depression starts or vice-versa. I don’t even know if there is a difference. And I don’t even think it really matters.

I received some gifts on the 14th, which were intended to help lift my spirits. Was I grateful? Yes. But truthfully, I had a long talk with the gift-giver about how I was a little uncomfortable with it. It was a day to grieve. Opening gifts was in opposition to that. And me being me, it created a sense of guilt. I felt pressure to be happy and grateful, when I was anything but that. After my session, I felt more secure in the fact that it might actually be just fine to feel that way.

Bob says I am in a very, very long season of winter. It is what it is. It does not seem to be going away any time soon. But he also stressed that I AM NOT STUCK. I am alive and moving. He also said not everyone will be able to wade through the journey with me.

I was hurt by a guy who wasn’t able to be there for me on the 14th. I know there was an element there of him not wanting to be bothered, which is just plain disappointing. But Bob pointed out that for most men (sorry, guys!) there is also an element of fear. Men don’t connect with their emotions as readily as women do. To sit on a couch with me while I was so in touch with my sadness, would be a place that some people (men or women) just couldn’t go to. I had to admit that is most likely true. And while genuine caring is still there, sometimes people try so hard to help, because they can’t stand their own pain of watching someone else suffer.

It’s two days after the 14th. I’m feeling a little better than I was on that day. I’m glad for that, but I am very aware that I am still deep in winter. Just know, that when people like me are there, we are not “choosing” to be. There isn’t a formula to follow that will change it. No amount of saying “positive” phrases or focusing on blessings is going to erase it. That doesn’t mean I still won’t try, because I will. But I have made a promise to myself to try not to add guilt and judgment to my sorrow, and perhaps it’s a good reminder for you support people out there, too when you are watching me (or whoever).

It is what it is. And it is winter.


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Truer Words…

Two weeks in a row I’m going to talk about Mary Chapin Carpenter. She is such a woman’s woman. She is so completely human and down to earth. When I saw her in concert a couple of years ago, she was talking about a dark period of her life and thus her album and songs about grief. She has gained some weight over the years so she doesn’t fit the Hollywood star stereotype. I love that about her.

I am still on the “C’s” with my CD’s so I was listening to another one of her’s. I heard this song and I just had to blog the lyrics. I couldn’t freakin’ believe how almost every single line is just a rewording of what I say most days. And frankly, what I hear a pretty significant amount of my friends/clients that are my age say as well. It’s called, “Simple Life.”

You’re making lists today of all the things you haven’t done yet
You’re driving everyone crazy, are you having any fun yet?
Mother says you oughta get married
Shrink says here’s a little blue pill
Too young for your mid-life crisis
Mirror says you’re over the hill

There’s nothing wrong with you
The simple life gets complicated
There’s nothing you can do, just enjoy the view; be glad you made it

You’re making resolutions and it isn’t even New Year’s
You could try a new religion, you could wait until the dust clears
Friends say you’re way too choosy
Shrink says see you next week
Guru says control your breathing
You’re afraid you might have peaked

There’s nothing wrong with you
The simple life gets complicated
There’s nothing you can do, just enjoy the view; be glad you made it

Cuz things could be better, cuz things could be worse
Cuz life can be charmed and cursed
There’s fast, slow and stall, no reverse

There’s nothing wrong with you
The simple life gets complicated
There’s nothing you can do, just enjoy the view; be glad you made it

Truer words were never spoken. At least for late forty-something women. That “cuz” verse is just another version of bittersweet. I’m working on enjoying the view and being glad I made it. Oh, and working on actually believing there is nothing wrong with me. There are days I know without a shadow of a doubt that there is something desperately wrong with me, and most of the people around with me would be happy to verify it if they were brave enough to- ha ha!

I’ve gotta run. I have a big to-do list of things I haven’t gotten done…


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Serendipity and Irony

You know by now that I’m a bit OCD. (Some of you may say more than a bit, but I interact with some people who make me look mild, so I’m gonna go with “a bit.”…lol) I have my CD’s arranged by category and then alphabetized. Every once in a while I decide I’m going to listen to them again and I start taking them to the car. In order, of course. My first shelf is country and I just finished the B’s (i.e. Garth Brooks, Brooks and Dunn) and started the C’s. That brought out two of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s CD’s that I don’t know very well. Is there a point to this story? Yes, there is. The point is, I don’t listen to music that often, and the selection of the CD I was listening to was purely a systematic, OCD decision.

Today I went to the cemetery. I was talking to my friend on the way there and she asked me if it was a hard thing for me. I told her it wasn’t. If I’m honest, it’s more of an annoyance. I’m not really big on the cemetery. I feel like I have to go or people will think I’m cold and heartless. But it is only Tim’s bones there. I don’t think his soul is anywhere around. (Or so I thought…) I had an appointment in Orchard Park so I decided to stop there. I’m supposed to take things off it by October 1st. I was close, it’s the fourth. I got there and removed the Fourth of July decorations. Shows you the last time I had been there. So I picked them up, stared at the stone for a minute, then kissed my hand and touched the stone like I usually do.

I got in the car. You can only drive one way so I drove around the circle like always. I reach the corner where I look over for one last glance and my quiet “Goodbye, Tim” that is part of my ritual. Right at that exact moment, the next song on my CD starts. It’s “Grow Old With Me.” I had no idea it was on that CD. John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote it. It’s a lovely, slow, unassuming song. And it is the song that Tim and I had sung in our wedding.

So after I fainted (not really, but I felt like I could!), I decided I better sit there and listen to the whole song. It’s beautiful and daunting. I didn’t cry, but I was very moved. I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to believe that is all strictly coincidence. I think it was some kind of spiritual connection.

Then the irony hit me. The words are not just about commitment and wedding-ish type lingo, but it is (obviously) about growing old together, specifically. I thought about how ironic it is that we chose that song, and we most definitely are not going to grow old together. Tim will not grow old at all. I wonder often if I will grow old alone. Strangely, for the first time I think, I’m slowly starting to not be terrified of that. It just might be fine.

Anyhow, just thought I would share the story. If my second book wasn’t already in final layout, I would be adding today’s blog to the chapter I called “Visits from Tim.” I think this would definitely qualify!


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Happiness or Hope?

I read a most intriguing article this week. It is from the magazine The Psychotherapy Networker, and was written by Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener. The title is “The Downside of Happiness.” Here is the link if you want to check it out: http://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/magazine/currentissue/item/2551-the-downside-of-happiness

As a person that struggles with depression, I have certainly spent a lot of time pursuing being happy. As a single person, one of the most repetitive things I hear is, “You have to be happy with yourself before you can meet someone else.” The next logical step in that thinking, is that if you are alone, you must not have achieved being happy alone. (The next step is, “It’s my own fault if I’m alone.”)

The article doesn’t debate the obvious benefits of happiness, it just points out the balance of the other side. I won’t go into details, but let me say that the research seemed well founded and ethical. Here are some of their interesting conclusions.

“Researchers have found that when you enter into a situation with the goal of becoming happier, you actually make that less likely to occur.” “…adults with the greatest desire to be happy felt lonelier, more depressed…” Well, that explains a lot.

The upside of being less than happy? Also pretty intriguing. “…if your goal is to gain assistance, this is the wrong time to feel happy, express happiness, and minimize the unpleasantness of sadness.” When you need to be a highly effective advocate for yourself or someone else, it is good to “own your feelings of frustration and effectively communicate them.” In the workplace and other environments, it is better to let everyone know that it’s safe to feel a full range of feelings, rather than being sure that positivity “reigns supreme.”

The article also warns us to distinguish between wanting and liking. It is human tendency to want something far more than we actually like them for the long-term once we actually get them. Hmmm…

Summary statements: “…under certain predictable circumstances, being mildly unhappy seems to be better than being happy.” And “…if you want to be surrounded by productive, creative, satisfied people, create an environment where diverse feelings and behaviors are honored.”

Don’t get me wrong. I still want to feel more happy than I am. I most certainly do. But I admit I felt a little better after reading this article. I especially love it when I have figured something out on my own and then read “evidence” to back it up later. What I mean specifically, is that I developed a tagline when my first book came out and I still stick to it today. EMBRACE IT ALL. Own all of it, be honest with all of it. The happy. The sad. The hard. The easy. The ugly. The connection. The loneliness. The positive. The negative. I will hope for happiness, but I won’t be afraid to admit my sadness. And apparently, that’s not such a bad thing.

Then I got an email from my friend I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. She sent me this song about hope: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KIhYZQ_ovw&app=desktop It’s worth cutting and pasting the link!

The words describe the darkness without holding back. Then it refers to hope in God and love. I think that can also apply to any person here on earth that loves and cares for us, even if it’s not a “significant other.” It was great timing for me. Instead of “pursuing” happiness, I think I will concentrate more on hope. Sounds like a good plan, even according to “research!”