September

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.” – Paulo Coelho

September is chock-full of change – new school year, Football season (eye-roll) and fall on the horizon. Grounded into the newness are lingering summer nights that leave me grasping for the memories and feelings of more carefree days. 

It’s officially September 2019 and I do not want to pass go. I do not want to collect $200. I just want to rewind the days. What if tomorrow was September 6th instead of September 8th? Land mines fill the month. Birthdays and all of the “last year at this time” memories. Last this and that. 

It seems impossible, and yet, we’ve survived impossible over the last year. Standing up after he died and speaking to nearly 1,000 people, that was impossible. Lindsey and Brandon’s wedding, impossible. Dark days of grief, impossible. Writing a book about him, also impossible. And yet, we’re doing it (and people do even wilder, more impossible things all the time). 

All of the impossible hasn’t been for nothing, it’s actually been for many things. Of which I will collect sometime in October. 

One of my biggest layers of resistance for September 29th is a sense that I need to relive that day. But why do I need to relive that day? Who says I do? In EMDR therapy last week I had an incredible moment of knowing (a message and gift from Dadio).  It was this: do what we loved to do. I had a beautiful vision of scouring the tide pools in one of our favorite places, Laguna Beach. So that’s what I will be doing.

As I’ve learned this year, it’s not going to be okay. It’s never going to be okay that he’s not here. But, I know that we can handle it (even if it’s not pretty), and I know that we are never alone (held every step by God and Dadio). Resilience is something that’s earned, it’s not just a given trait like curly hair or green eyes. 

What would my dad say? “It’s just another day”.

One More

One more song with the windows rolled down,
One more trip to a bucket list town.
One more beer,
One more cheers.
One more comforting hug,
One more full-bodied laugh,
One more finance chat.
One more piece of advice,
One more after-dinner orange slice.
One more Bass Lake run,
One more game of Yahtzee, anyone?
One more visit to the office,
One more kind gesture, anonymous.
One more side glance,
One more awkward father-daughter dance.
One more Sports Sunday,
One more “everything’s going to be okay”.

Hard Days: A Road Map

Overall I’m having more “good” days than “bad” days right now. After a string of good days, the bad ones still catch me off guard. Is it grief? Is it motherhood? Is it an aggro-crag of PMS? Is it just a hard day?

My dedicated brain is always trying to understand and find an explanation for the spontaneous feelings and happenings in my days.

During the hard ones, I (sometimes frantically) pull out my road map of tactics and try to remind myself that I’m not back at the beginning, but just having a hard day.

With grief, new losses amidst the bigger loss are emerging. The loss of Father’s Day, our family unit as we knew it and the simplicity of nachos with jalapeños at baseball games. The loss of me, as I knew her. 

When I have conversations with my future self, the one who has that “my kids are now wiping their own ass” glow, she always comes with one clear message. 

You will never regret showing yourself compassion. 

She goes on to say…

What you are going through is hard.
Asking for more help is necessary.
Not feeling like you can do your job of motherhood everyday is okay.
Wondering if it will always be this hard is normal.

She doesn’t say to try harder or do more or get a new job, she just says:

Be kind and take care of yourself.

 

Hard Day Road Map

  • EFT – tapping
  • Constant prayer and putting up a force field around me of love and support from my guardian angels and God (sounds a little “woo woo” like Oprah would say, but it helps immediately)
  • Meditation – I love the Calm App
  • Stream of consciousness writing 
  • Getting outside for walk or a swim
  • Yoga
  • Walking barefoot around our front yard
  • Calling someone or meeting up with a friend
  • Crying and allowing the feelings

Out Of Office

There’s always something specific I daydream about over and over before vacation. Last summer it was sitting under a moon-lit sky eating pizza. This time, it was boogie boarding in the warm water and getting lei’d. (No offense Ryan, but I mean that literally, like the smell and feeling of the cool fragrant flowers around my neck in the fanned hotel lobby). 

Choosing to go on a parents only vacation to Hawaii when you’re in the thick of parenthood is a little dicey. It’s a wonder we made it back and didn’t ship our kids out to Kauai to start our new life on a plantation. We appreciated this trip like two people who have never seen the ocean before or felt sunshine on their skin. My heart was on my knees in bewilderment and gratitude every second of the day. 

We had free minds, free time, connection, sleeping-in, extra long showers and so much shredding and snorkeling. My pre-trip daydreams were fulfilled in abundance and by night, I actually dreamt about a happy sea turtle doing flips in the ocean (in contrast to either not dreaming because I’m not sleeping at home or that recurring high school nightmare where I can’t find my bloody class schedule). 

While it was a great escape, grief still weaseled it’s way into my luggage. This trip wasn’t about my dad, or for my dad, but I couldn’t stop thinking about my dad. 

It’s hard to find the flow between seemingly opposing emotions; to gracefully move between happy and sad without getting stuck. 

One morning I sat mindlessly in awe of the beautiful view from our hotel room and then suddenly was hit with the strong, familiar scent of an unfolded newspaper on the bed. My dad came flooding in. When our speedboat tour took off into the ocean, the sound of the engine and the wind on my face made it feel as if my dad was the captain in the bucket hat. As I flew through the clear waters on my boogie board with nothing but a gigantic grin on my face, I could feel him by my side. 

And yet I resisted the pull to “go there” every time. Sometimes when I’m happy and at peace, I just want to stay in that place as long as I can. It feels hard to cry. 

But after too many moments of not going there, I was forced to go there. Emotions built up like a volcano and I had to release it all; I had to feel extreme sadness while spying palm trees out of the corner of my eye. 

But just for a few moments. 

This feeling of feelings business is hard work. Learning how to navigate the tides with resilience, to move like the wind. She does it so seamlessly; for me it’s like a full-time desk job. 

While I’m at it, I also wonder how to bring “vacation” home with us. It feels unacceptable to not feel that level of bliss more in “real life”. My dad always used to grow a casual goatee on our summer trips and then he would shave it off the day we got back home. Back to reality

Let’s keep the goatee on. I want to chase the sunshine and easily find peace of mind. Kauai Ry – can you come home with us too?

I cried leaving my girls and then cried to coming home, but the middle – the salty, intentional, sweet, refreshing middle – was all worth it. 

Another eye opener from vacation: we need new pillows.

 

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Borrowed Time

In talking with a friend about her friend’s near death experience, I asked, with a misplaced chip on my shoulder, “I wonder what he plans to do with his borrowed time?”

The words left my lips and immediately made a swift u-turn, staring at me blankly in the face.  

Ah, right.

We’re all on borrowed time. We’re all on God’s schedule, lucky to even have these thoughts and breathe this breath. 

Even distant stories of death or illness have a way of slamming us into our shoes of the present moment with a clear map for how to live. This phenomenon gives way to a little dance I’m always practicing – finding the balance between carpe diem and everyday to-dos. Acknowledging death and feeling safe in the world.  Loving myself, my daughters, my husband and my family with a whole heart of love, rather than a heart motivated by fear. Holding death at the forefront, not as a stressor, but as a way to stay in alignment with priorities and timetables.

As a mom, I often forget that having fun and leading with happiness is a serious option for how to live my life. Choosing fear and anxiety can feel safer, but it’s merely a facade for my misguided mind. With every moment of practice and intention, my armor of lighthearted joy is getting stronger; a much better fit. 

So the question is: what am I doing with my borrowed time?

More of these things: boogie board, forgive, feel my daughter’s cheek on mine, pay attention, listen to what feels true to me.

And less of these things: hold resentments, judge, feed anxious thoughts, listen to what I’m “supposed to be doing”. 

 

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

What I Used to Think

“You can turn over every stone on Earth and still not find what you’re looking for.” 

I used to think I’d find myself in the color of my hair, or the clothes I’d wear; the number of piercings in my ear. 

The friends I’d make, the boys I’d kiss, the jobs I’d win, the places I’d go; how fast I’d fly down the track. 

“Just be yourself!” they’d say. 

I looked everywhere; couldn’t seem to find her anywhere. 

Until these days, when what I used to think isn’t working out so well for me anymore. 

Right now I’d say:

I’ll find myself right where I’m standing, in whatever shoes I’m wearing, in the voice I hear that’s both mine and the Divine. 

In the sea and the trees, a deep breath of love, in things that glitter on the inside. 

A me that doesn’t don’t fade, leave or scar; whole without even trying. 

I’ll still turn over every stone and travel the Earth, but seek only accessories to the real me.

Triggers

I drove to Creative Mornings with mascara on, feeling brave and un-smudgeable. I met my friend and creative dreaming partner, Suzanne, coincidently twinning in a golden shirt, jeans and brown sandals. It was her birthday and the day before Coura’s birthday. I was feeling excited to hear some inspiring words on creativity.

Five minutes into the presentation, the speaker started talking about her childhood. Mostly, all about her dad, photos in a slideshow of her dad, her relationship with her dad. More about her dad. And then, a tape recording of her as a kid talking with her dad.

That’s when I lost it. I became unhinged in every sense of the word and started uncontrollably sobbing in a silent auditorium of 200 people. I ran out as fast I could, my tears fleeing my eyes at the same pace.  It was the most blindsiding, unexpected wave of grief yet.

Triggered.

Who knew? What are the rules on big, flashing trigger-warning signs?

DAD TALK COMING. ALERT. AVERT. PREPARE. TAKE A DEEP BREATH. TURN AROUND. RUN HOME AND CRAWL INTO BED.

Some triggers are obvious like going to my parents house, the spot of the phone call, a photo. Other triggers are more camouflaged, hidden inside innocent keynote speakers or coffee shop playlists.

Thank God for Suzanne who knows dark humor and what it means to cry in public. It helps to be surrounded by people who know how to position your arms so that air can flow into your lungs.

As uncomfortable as that was, I would take a public cry over holding that gigantic ball of energy in my body to wreak havoc on me in some other way. I’m slowly learning, that if I face my grief head-on with honor and kindness, it actually releases it’s death-grip and even lends a reward of peace on the other side.  In kid terms: It’s less like an annoying house guest who never leaves and more like Tom the mailman, just dropping in with a quick message and then on his way.

I wonder if other people wanted to cry that morning. I wonder who else has been hurting when I’m sitting in beautiful oblivion. 

One of the many gifts of grief: compassion.

Triggers I want more of: sprinklers on a hot summer day.