Relax and Exhale

The grief of losing a coworker is still creating ripples across our lives. Grief comes in waves, leaving you feeling fine one moment, and devastated the next. It also comes in layers. Just when you think you’re moving forward, a new reality of the loss wraps itself around you and squeezes the breath out of you. We are all still adjusting to this new reality. It’s going to take a while.

Recently a friend posted this to Facebook.

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It summed up recent expereinces so perfectly. At first, life in L.A. was amazing. Then it was awful (for a loooong time). Then when I left  and came to Missouri, it was suddenly amazing. Then losing a coworker was awful. However, between each of those amazing and awful cycles, there was a lot of ordinary and mundane. I don’t do ordinary and mundane so well. I start to feel a little depressed. I begin to question, is this all there is? Week after week, getting up, brushing my teeth, going to work, coming home, watching TV, brushing my teeth again, and going to bed. Day, after day, after day with some occassional fun thrown it. Is this really life?

The answer to that – yes it is. That restlessness, that desire to create distance from the miracle of the ordinary, tells me I’m no longer in the moment. Rather than become restless for something else, I need to enjoy those moments as much needed breaks from the upcoming awful and amazing. Because, as amazing as the last few months have been, they cannot be sustained. Eventually the shiny dulls. Thankfully the periods of awful are also usually brief. If you’re lucky, you spend most of your life in the ordinary. Wouldn’t it be a shame to miss out on most of your life?

For me, meditation is the answer to this dilemma. Making a committment to be still, focusing on nothing but the ordinary act of breathing in and out, makes it completely clear how rarely we are present. The mind is full of thoughts it seems to generate itself… thoughts that, upon examination, can be tied to either running away from awful, or chasing amazing – two states that simply can’t be sustained. With practice, those thoughts can be stilled, and the heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life reveals its beauty – The quiet moment of trust when a kitten curls up on your chest and purrs. When crickets sing you to sleep. When a stranger holds your gaze on the street and breaks that barrier between souls. When a cooking casserole fills your home with a salivating aroma. When a coworker tells a story that makes you laugh so hard you can’t breathe.

What breathatking beauty ordinary life can hold. Relax and exhale, and try not to miss a moment of it.

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Death, Grief, and Rejoicing

Today, millions of words will be written about the collective loss we all experienced on 9/11. Friends, spouses, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, parents… all ripped from the people who loved them. We lost our feeling of safety, discovering that oceans and friendly nations could not protect us. In our rage, we lost our way, lashing out at people we could get to, instead of the people who harmed us. We lost some of the lofty ideals our nation stands for, simply because of our fear and pain. There was so much more than 3000 lives lost on this day 14 years ago.

I often wondered if the loss each individual felt was eased by the fact that the nation shared their loss. To anyone who has suffered the death of someone close, it’s confusing that life just keeps humming along. People laugh. They fall in love. They go out to dinner. Inside, the grieving want to shout at the world to stop. The person they loved is gone, and it’s not right that people act as if nothing has changed. But, with 9/11 the world did stop. Almost everyone across the planet grieved in the days following the attacks. Did that help? Or only make the pain worse? And what of those families who had the misfortune to have loved ones die near the 9/11 date? Was it made worse by the fact that everyone was grieving the victims of the day, but grief for their loved one was largely ignored.

Today, some of those confused feelings are my own. Much like 9/11, yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day. The first hint of how the day would go was when we realized a client was waiting and her instructor was nowhere to be found. It’s easy at first to assume it’s a missed alarm, or a family emergency, or something benign. But as the hours ticked by, and phone calls and texts went unanswered fear began to grow. The morning was spent searching online and in our records for contacts that could help. Our work family mobilized, each taking on a role to find our missing member. Despite our fears, there was still a sense of shock and overhwelming disbelief when she was found, likely taken from us by an unknown medical condition. 40 years old. A life only half lived.

Today most people are focused on the lost potential of 14 years ago. Today my community is focused on the lost potential of yesterday. There is a sense of disconnect from the rest of the world.

When thinking about what I wanted to say today, I still feel at a loss. There are no great words of wisdom to share. It is too soon for lessons learned, other than the much repeated phrases that life is short, and the knowledge you should never leave kind words unsaid or kind actions undone. There is no understanding of why a very fit woman got 10 years less than obese me has had. There is guilt in not reaching out to connect more. There is also comfort in seeing that our work family really is a family. We came together with support and love, making sure we were all okay.

One thing did occur to me as I chased sleep last night. Death also gives us the opportunity to rejoice. Pain reminds us that we still live. We still have a chance to say those kind words to those who are here. We still have a chance to reach out with love and caring to those around us who need those gifts. We still have a chance to become the kind of person we want to be. It pains our hearts to be without the people we care about. We can take that pain and lash out and cause damage as our country did on 9/11, or we can use that pain to rejoice at the fact that we have been given yet another day to experience the joys, pains, loves, losses, beauty and ugliness of life. Those we have lost would tell us we should do the later.

As you grieve today, what will you do with your grief? Make a good choice and rejoice that you have it to make.

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Twinges

Here we are again. Another week has gone by. It’s been 3 1/2 months since I arrived here in Missouri. In some ways it feels like I’ve been here for years. In other ways I’m still settling in. There is still a hefty list of things that need to be done before I’m fully “settled.” As I type, my sunporch is finally being screened. I’m excited to get that off the list, and to be able to enjoy the outdoors without the mosquitos. They can go snack on someone else, thank you very much.

Heading towards my fourth month here, things are definitely starting to normalize. Every commute is not another opportunity to marvel at the lack of traffic and abundance of courteous drivers. Now it’s just a commute… a 10-minute, lovely commute, but still just a commute. I still obsessively check WeatherBug to see if there might be a thunderstorm that day, but thunder is no longer the novelty it was when I first arrived. Even my cats can now deal with all but the loudest cracks of thunder.

With this expected loss of novelty and excitement, I am starting to have twinges of… not sure if I would call it homesickness, but I am starting to miss people from California. It’s starting to sink in that despite Facebook, I’m really not around old friends anymore. Yes, I can see their lives play out, but we can’t get together for dinner, a hike, or a laugh. I don’t regret the move, it’s just a fact that old relationships are missed, despite having developed new ones here. When I first arrived, people would ask me if I wanted to go back to visit, and my answer was always a resounding ‘no!’ Now I’m starting to feel like it would be fun to visit. Time does make the unpleasant fade, and soon I will only remember the good aspects of life in California. Several clients at our fitness studio have taken trips to CA and their thoughts when they come back are that they can see LA would be a miserable place to live, but it’s a lovely place to visit. They may just be right.

Work has provided some wonderful access to some amazing physical treatment and care, so I’m no longer living in so much pain. This has given me twinges of restlessness for physical activity. Today I took my first cardio class and it was just as awful as I expected. Ha! I should have gotten up early to eat early, but instead ate just an hour before class. Combine that with my desire to push myself hard and see what I’m capable of, and about 2/3 of the way through class, I was losing my breakfast. Lesson learned. I was disappointed I couldn’t keep up with class, but on the other hand, it’s pretty much the first cardio I’ve done in a year. What did I expect from a 50-year-old, out-of-shape body? I’m tired, I know I’ll ache tomorrow, but it feels good.

And finally, there have been twinges of frustration as I have struggled with the prologue for my novel. I just couldn’t find the right voice. As soon as this post is finished, though, I will be writing, because I think I’ve finally found it. It’s going to be a very short prologue – no in depth information, which was making it feel like reading a history book. Just a quick, simple, and light couple of paragraphs to help people understand where they are. Then I will get back to writing the story. I’m truly beginning to believe that some day this book will be published, even if only friends and family read it. And as I’ve learned with weight loss, or finishing a novel that could take years, without faith you will not continue. You have to believe that your goal is possible.

I believe!

 

 

 

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