Wednesday, February 22, 2012

with every goodbye you learn

Who hasn't experienced the pain of a broken heart? Who hasn't hung their hopes on someone else and then had to rush to pick up the scattered pieces when it fell apart? This poem has had a home on my wall in every home I've had since college, when my first love broke my heart. I always find something in this poem that rings true to whatever relationship I'm in at the time. Yes, it's true, I'm stronger than I think and I can endure, but just once I'd like to not have to. Just once.

AFTER A WHILE (Veronica Shoftshall, 1971)

After a while you learn the subtle difference
between holding a hand and chaining a soul
and you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
and company doesn't always mean security.

And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts
and presents aren't promises
and you begin to accept
your defeats
with your head up
and your eyes ahead
with the grace of an adult,
not the grief of a child

And you learn to build
all your roads on today
because tomorrow's ground
is too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way
of falling down in mid-flight.

After a while you learn
that even sunshine burns
if you get too much
so you plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone
to bring you flowers.

And you learn
that you really can endure
you really are strong
you really do have worth
and you learn
and you learn
with every goodbye, you learn...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Angel visits

The other day I went to see a friend - someone who has been an inspiration, a mentor, a healer, and a motivator in my life and my journey through grief. I was telling her that I've been having trouble with staying motivated and haven't been running regularly, so she suggested that I run the Starlight run again this year. After all, it was the run that got me started in the first place. Two years ago, I ran it on my best friend's birthday. As the day went on, I was thinking about our conversation and I remembered this passage I'd written a few weeks before my first 5k. I'm looking forward to a few fun ABBA inspired runs as I get ready for the next one... and it never hurts to have an angel cheering you on.

May 26, 2010

Last night, I went out for a 3 mile jog, preparing for the 5k Starlight run that I’m running in my best friend Rochelle’s memory on June 5 (also her birthday). As I was leaving my house, I chose the ABBA gold album to be my running partner. ABBA always reminds me of my best friends Rochelle and Shauna, and the hours we spent driving around our hometown singing at the top of our lungs more than half a lifetime ago.

About two miles into my jog, I was really starting to feel tired. I was thinking about Rochelle, half wondering what she thought of my crazy plan to run a 5k on her birthday. I mean, it’s not something she would have ever done. I’m doing it for myself, my health, dumping my sweat, grief and emotional baggage on the road and leaving it there. The Starlight parade will follow, and Rochelle enjoyed a good parade, so I imagine her silliness, playfulness, and happiness will be with the crowd that night.

Anyway, as I plodded along, feeling weary, this song came on. For the first time in many years, I listened to the words. Heading up that shady wooded path, I started to smile. My breath felt easier, my feet felt lighter, and by the time the second verse started right at the 2 mile mark, I was smiling and laughing as the line “pushing through the darkness still another mile” tickled my ear drums. I couldn’t help but feel that this was Rochelle’s way of letting me know she approves of my crazy plan, she believes I can do it, and that she’s looking forward to the parade on her birthday.

I do believe in angels. My best friend is one.

"I Have A Dream" (Abba)

I have a dream, a song to sing
To help me cope with anything
If you see the wonder of a fairy tale
You can take the future even if you fail
I believe in angels
Something good in everything I see
I believe in angels
When I know the time is right for me
I'll cross the stream - I have a dream

I have a dream, a fantasy
To help me through reality
And my destination makes it worth the while
Pushing through the darkness still another mile
I believe in angels
Something good in everything I see
I believe in angels
When I know the time is right for me
I'll cross the stream - I have a dream
I'll cross the stream - I have a dream

I have a dream, a song to sing
To help me cope with anything
If you see the wonder of a fairy tale
You can take the future even if you fail
I believe in angels
Something good in everything I see
I believe in angels
When I know the time is right for me
I'll cross the stream - I have a dream
I'll cross the stream - I have a dream

Monday, February 13, 2012

Heartburn - and how I named this blog

There's a movie from the 80's called Heartburn. I haven't seen it in many years, but I remember watching it several times with my best friend Rochelle. We were in high school, and it was a very grown up movie for us to see, not our usual fare of Back to the Future and Can't Buy Me Love.

Carly Simon sang a song for the soundtrack of that movie, and it quickly became a favorite song for both Rochelle and me. The song, Coming Around Again, includes children singing Itsy Bitsy Spider. That song has been a frequent flier in the soundtrack of my life, and my favorite lyric is, "so don't mind if I fall apart, there's more room in a broken heart."

Over the last few months, I've been through a bit of an emotional wringer. Another friend, another cancer, another child left to grow up without his mom, and another husband left without the wife he adored. If you know me, you know I've been down this road. I understand what it's like to lose someone you love. This time, however, it wasn't MY best friend. Instead, it was a family member's best friend, and a lifelong family friend. In some ways, that made it harder.

While I was losing a friend too, I felt the pain that my family member was experiencing . I saw what she would go through before she did. I could anticipate the course of emotions, the frustration, the anger, the helplessness, the worry, the need to drop everything and just be with your friend. And yet, I couldn't totally understand because she deals with life differently than I do. This cancer was different. The families involved had different communication issues. There was tension I hadn't felt when Rochelle was ill and dying.  So, while the stories had similar endings and parallels, they are different.

Regardless, my pain in losing Holly was compounded by the memories and pain it stirred up. Things I'd already dealt with and worked through and scars that were healing from when Rochelle died were ripped open. I felt like I'd taken a giant step backwards, and I suppose in some ways I did. I retreated into comfort mode. Comfort food, comfortable clothes, comfortable couch potato life.

But what does that have to do with this blog? Well, let me tell you. I got sick of being comfortable. I was so comfortable some of my clothes were becoming less so. Nothing too drastic, but my running shoes had not been getting much of a workout and it was showing. So, I made a plan to get myself back on track. I started focusing on my diet again. Back to the gym. But I was having trouble staying motivated and sticking to it. Then I realized I was missing the secret ingredient - my monthly dates for acupuncture.

I made an appointment, and back I went. As I was sitting there, catching up with my acupuncturist, telling her the story of the last few months, she reminded me of how far I've come, even though I've slipped backwards for now. There were several things she said that day that stuck with me. She's good at that - planting seeds of thought. One was a suggestion that I write a blog, because I have a different perspective than a lot of people about grief. So much is written on grief about losing a parent, a child, a spouse. But how much have you seen from a friend's perspective? At the end of the appointment, she said something that hit home so hard I couldn't even speak. She said, "I know it sounds cheesy, but there is more room in a broken heart."

So, I'm here to share my stories. I hope they make you laugh and cry and remember and learn. And when the sun comes out and dries up all the rain...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

not a runner

I wrote this last year - but I re-read it the other day, got goose bumps and teared up again, and I knew then that I needed to share it here. The words you say to others are so important. They can shut you down or lift you up.

“But, you’re not a runner.”

That’s what someone said to me two weeks AFTER I ran my first 5k. I know that what he meant was, “Wow! You accomplished something you’ve never done before,” but that’s not the words he used.

Later that day, that phrase came into my head again, “You’re not a runner.” I started thinking about it, and I realized that the statement was true of the old me; the one whose best friend of 23 years hadn’t yet died of cancer; the one whose life and career were in a rut, in imminent danger of becoming stale and burned out. That version of me stopped existing on Oct. 4, 2008.

The new me started growing a few months later, after the shell shock of saying goodbye to Rochelle started to wear off and life started to make sense again. The new me knows that my life will be what I decide to make it, and that I will be whatever I choose, not what anyone else tells me I am or am not. I live with the constant memory of how fragile life is, and am dedicated to having a life that is well-lived. The new me is no longer afraid of failure or success, or of dreaming new dreams and changing course.

Since the day I was reminded that I’m “not a runner,” I have run a half marathon, and I’m currently training to do two more this spring. I’ve experienced the runner’s high, and the injured runner’s low. I’ve had the joy of running on a sunny summer morning, and the pain of 13.1 miles in the pouring rain. I’ve listened to my friends and family tell me how impressed and inspired they are by what I’ve done in such a short time. I’ve watched my own mom turning into a runner, and I’m excited to cheer her on and run with her for her first half marathon.

I wonder how many times I’ve let success slip by me because someone said something that discouraged me. I can think of a few. Because someone else didn’t expect success from me, I let myself live down to their expectations. Instead of living up to my own expectations, I let a dream go unfulfilled. How often have the words and actions of others, disguised as the voices of reason, stifled my dreams? Do I do this to people too? Have I encouraged someone to choose the safe path instead of encouraging them to dream big and try anyway? Perhaps, but I know that the new me doesn’t want to be a voice of reason. I want to be an encouraging spirit in my friends and families’ lives. I hope I am.

Go. Dream. Learn something new. Live your life. Be happy. Grow as needed. Change when necessary. Love without regret. Be there. Try harder. Don’t wait.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

40 things I’ve learned – a collection of personal observations, truthsand some quotes that have shaped me into the person I am

I recently turned 40. A milestone event for sure, but not traumatic as many would want you to believe. I feel stronger, healthier, more centered at 40 than at almost any time in my life. My life is in no way perfect, but it is generally good. I came up with a list of 40 things that make up "me" and wanted to share them with you. Who am I kidding? This is my first blog post - no one is reading it yet...

  1. “Should” is a word that we use too often.

  2. The rhyme we learned as children “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” isn’t necessarily true. Words can hurt. It’s what we choose to do when someone uses a hurtful word that means the most.

  3. A lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.

  4. Sometimes, boys are stupid. I’m not saying girls aren’t, but you can write your own list if you want to say that.

  5. Laughter heals. So do tears.

  6. You can love someone with all your heart and they can still walk away.

  7. Don't pole vault over mouse turds.” Excellent advice about keeping life simple and not overdoing things if it's not necessary.

  8. I hope I’m never too old to remember what it’s like to be a kid.

  9. "A bad habit never disappears miraculously; it's an undo-it-yourself project."– Abigail Van Buren

  10. I really am stronger than I think I am sometimes.

  11. Watching the news is not good for my outlook on humanity. Watching children play is.

  12.  Chocolate and peanut butter will always be my favorite flavor.

  13. Grief is hard work. And even when you’ve walked it yourself, you don’t know what someone else’s path through it will be like.

  14. You don’t get to choose how you are going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you are going to live. Now.” - Joan Baez

  15. Just because I like plants doesn’t mean I have a green thumb.

  16. My dog has taught me more about myself than I thought possible.

  17. Qualifying an apology with an excuse destroys the apology. Never say, “I’m sorry, but…”

  18. "If you judge people, you have no time to love them." Mother Teresa

  19. Having a friend who will look you in the eye and tell you something you don’t want to hear, especially when it’s something you need to hear in order to grow, is a gift.

  20. Popcorn and wine for dinner is okay once in a while.

  21. Action is as important as words.

  22. "The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself."– Anna Quindlen

  23. I’m extremely grateful for my childhood, my hometown, and the community I grew up in. Even if I tell stories that make it sound otherwise sometimes.

  24. Self esteem is not about anyone but me. It’s not friend esteem, or job esteem, or family esteem, or physical appearance esteem. No one else is responsible for how I feel about myself.

  25. We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.” – Dr. Seuss

  26. It’s possible that I watch too much tv.

  27. The poem “Live with intention” by Mary Anne Radmacher changed my life.

  28. I don’t keep track of how many best friends I have – but there are a lot of them. I’m lucky that way.

  29. Life isn’t always fair.

  30. Sometimes, you just need to get out the paper, scissors, and glue and have a craft day.

  31. The smell of juniper, sage brush, and pine all together smells more like home than anything I know.

  32. Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit." --E.E. Cummings

  33. Being single doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you or that you’re incomplete. It can be a blessing at times. I’m one of the happiest people I know. I can paint my walls any color I like and buy new towels whenever I want.

  34. Nothing beats a good belly laugh. Especially one that involves snorting and crying.

  35. If you don’t end up with marshmallow in your hair, you aren’t making s’mores correctly.

  36. When I was about 6 years old, a dear family friend told me I had music in my heart, and I should always remember to listen to it and sing my own song.

  37.  If you think you want to run a marathon, go cheer on a friend at mile 21. If you want to feel that “good,” go ahead and sign up.

  38. Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than you think.” – Randy Pausch

  39. Avoiding telling someone the truth because you don’t want to hurt them does more damage than telling them.

  40. Live imperfectly with great delight.” – Leigh Standley (Curly Girl Design)