Monthly Archives: September 2014

Growing Pains

It was only our second day together, Doug, his parents, and me, but it felt like the 100th. I don’t know how it happens, but it seems that almost every time I visit with someone lately, we all end up in tears. In this case, as in many, those tears were tears were of grief for loved ones lost. Do I feel more connected with my boyfriend’s parents now? Absolutely. Do I feel good about bringing them to tears? Not so much. But as Doug pointed out today, we never really move on when someone we love dies. Instead, we go through a process of acceptance. We’re all trying to accept their absence, just muddling along sometimes, and for me – a year later – still wanting to pick up the phone to call my mom just one more time. Especially on today, her birthday.

I feel that she has never fully left me. Sure, we can’t hop in the car and go shopping together. We can’t go and price new customers & discuss our estimates. And yet, I still have those conversations with her in my mind. That’s how I get through, and how I don’t move on, but I have gained acceptance that I will never again see her here on Earth. The clothes she wears now, don’t start out with pricetags, but with ethereal flow, they’re free just like she is now. Free from Cancer. Free from worry. Free from wonder. I feel like she’s become my cheerleader. My life in the last year has seen some drastic changes that began with her passing and has ended with my stepdad in a new relationship, and with me in the very relationship I was always meant to experience.

For me, death is not just sorrowful and feared, but also life-altering for all those left behind, and not always in a bad way. When my father passed just months before my 12th birthday, my mom and I became closer than we had ever been before. We no longer lived in hospitals, and we spent tons of time finally getting to really know each other after years of tending to dad’s needs. With mom’s passing, I’ve learned so far that life is too fleeting for hesitation, that if we feel compelled to do something or be with someone, that’s exactly what we should do, regardless of the doubts and fears involved. My Faith and confidence are at an all time high, as if she’s whispering in my ear, and I’m listening to her now more than when she was living.

The other not-so-bad thing about death is that the very experience of watching someone we love die, is a bonding experience. Death connects us in a way that nothing else will, because we all must experience it, and we’re all profoundly affected. This becomes a spiritual connection, I believe, and that’s why we share tears. When your spirit becomes part of the conversation, something is moved, something changes, and people unite in grief. Look at 9/11 afterall. That’s not to say that death is the ultimate goal, but it is to say that death is inevitable, and making the best of something so tragic is the healthiest and really, most Godly thing, we can do as humans. We should never shy away from conversations that move us spiritually just because they’re a little painful. Afterall, we still have growing pains, even as adults. It’s just that now, are legs aren’t the target of those pains. Instead, it’s our hearts that must grow, and THAT is a beautiful thing.

Reflection on the mirror

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a reflection worth? For most of my life, I would’ve answered ‘about five cents’. I never gave much credit to my own reflection. She was too short, too stout, with chunky cone-shaped legs, a muffin top, and sagging breasts. In fact, this dialogue had gone on so long inside of my own head that I had grown quite comfortable with the discomfort of myself within my own skin. Apparently, and to my surprise, many of those around me have had the same struggle. It was always easy to accept the inside of me, to even ‘love’ myself internally without ever ‘accepting’ myself externally. When we are self-aware, we become pros at this dynamic – loving one part, and rejecting the other. 

The problem is that if we do not accept and embrace our complete selves, then can we really ever ‘love’ ourselves? When we fall in love with someone, we generally love them completely, or at least – that’s how we should love. 

We all have a choice in this. If we do not love some part of ourselves, we have an opportunity each and every day to change that part for the better, and if we focus on what we want to become – I truly believe that is what we will become. But we cannot settle for our own excuses, and that my friends, is difficult. 

As for my own story, I have been putting in the work for a few years now, the fix what was broken inside of me that caused me to linger on the negatives I saw in my reflection. That work began on the inside, the spirtitual, the psychological, the emotional, and eventually transcended to the outside once I felt stable enough to add that work. I have always worked out in some way – yoga, pilates, kickboxing, running – but I never could achieve that ‘number’ – size, weight, measurements, that I so desparately wanted….until now. I had to get to that place in my mind where the voice pushed me farther when I wanted to quit. I had to delve deep down into my ‘hunger’, into my relationship with food, to understand why my choices were sabatoging my journey. 

In our society, food is largely accepted as its own reward. We socialize around food, comfort with food, and reward with food. But food isn’t really the problem here, anymore than a gun without an operator kills. We need to fully understand our thought process, question our own ‘hunger’, and most of all, we need to stop telling ourselves that eating healthy means we are depriving ourselves of the very happiness that others around us have the joy of receiving. When we make choices, they only effect our own bodies.

I am not perfect, by any means. And as my boyfriend would tell you, I still have slight mood swings when I eat foods that are unhealthy because I still battle the guilt of those choices. But for the most part, I make good choices now because I am motivated by this new feeling of acceptance that I have for – not just the inside of me – but for the outside as well. It has taken me almost 38 years, but for the first time in my life, I believe that a reflection is worth a gazillion words, and not just pretty words, but words of strength and self-awareness. I have a deep-seeded need to help others get here, not for reasons of vanity but for reasons of acceptance and self-love, because in all reality, if we stop battling ourselves, we also stop battling everyone around us who love us. We cannot change our reality by excusing ourselves. We can only change our reality by accepting ourselves. Acceptance and self-love ripples from us and into our relationships by transforming self-doubt into self-love, which also just happens to make happinesss a little more contagious.

For the Love of Love

My six year old said it best the other day. Completely out of nowhere, he declared in his loudest most outside voice ‘God is a great big HEART!’. I giggled, and peaked at his reflection in my rear view mirror, noticing the sincerity of his expression. He wasn’t laughing. To him, this was another ‘aha’ moment, which seem to be flowing in streams lately. I straightened up my own expression, and after gaining my composure, simply said, ‘that’s right! God is love, so God is a great big heart.’. His pride flickered, and he continued gazing out at the watercolor sky, mesmerized by his own random thoughts. 

Love is a crazy thing though, really, and just as abstract and powerful as God himself if you think about it. Sometimes we fall in love and get our hearts broken. We fall ‘head over heels’ which is kind of how we stand up anyway, and are blinded rudely by the one person that we wrap our world around, by the one person who claims to be the very person we were meant to find. Sometimes it happens because that person wasn’t aware enough to understand their own feelings. Other times it happens because the one who we love passes on, be it expectantly or unexpectedly. And we are left to face the world, once again, alone.

I’ve given a crazy amount of thought to this particularly this weekend. 

First, I discovered Thursday that my stepfather’s new girlfriend of 2 months has moved in with him, into my mother’s home, the place that was a pure extension of her vision, the very place where I had my first marriage, my college graduation party; the very place that I had helped my mom decorate & renovate just years prior. I didn’t directly find out from my stepfather, and while that was a difficult pill to swallow, I understand that the same pill would be just as difficult to administer. My mom died one year ago, and as much as I cannot understand his urgency, I can certainly not understand what he has gone through in the past year living there without her. I watched him loving her with everything he had. I watched as he cared for her, prayed over her, and cried over her with each passing phase into death. My heart broke more for him than for myself at times, but here again – love is as painful as it is joyful, or is it? The resilience of his heart gives my own heart hope in some strange way. I will never replace my mom, no more than he will replace his life. But we both must move on for the sake of love.

My other cause for reflection took place at my friend’s parent’s renewal of vows on Saturday. Dave and Jane have been happily married for fifteen years. It wasn’t long after meeting my new friend Erin, that she told me about her stepfather who was dying of Cancer. I quickly reached out to her, and eventually shared with her the story of my mom. So when Erin invited us to attend their renewal of vows, I knew I had to be there. It wasn’t until we were exiting the car to walk over to the ceremony at their home that it hit me. This may not be the easiest thing for me to watch. And it wasn’t easy, but I think it was necessary, my being there…for the sake of Erin, as well as for the sake of love. To watch her parents, her stepfather thin as a rail, and weakened by his battle, her mother glowing with admiration for this man who had made her life so much happier. Watching their love for one another, I realized that love does not die with the passing of life, just as my mom’s love did not die with the passing of her body, but rather we are all constantly transformed by love – by the love that invades and consumes our hearts, just as much as we are by the love we receive. After Dave passes, Jane will be different, just as my stepfather was after mom’s passing. My prayer is that she marches on too. For the love of love. God does not want for us to throw in the towel, because he is love himself, and he is as neverending and timeless as love itself. That’s reason enough for me to savor, accept, and march on. Part of loving after all is acceptance and appreciation.