Friday Favorite: Day 33 of 365 Days of Motivation

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.”  –Joseph Campbell

Whether your dream was the picket fence and 2 kids with the mini van and the handsome husband or the urban dream of living in Manhattan with  your lawyer wife or even living off the land after marrying a cowboy–this was never part of your dream.

Husbands and wives are supposed to raise children  and grow old together until old age silently steals one away from the other. This reality is far from that dream. It isn’t what you planned, but it doesn’t have to mean a life wasted.

This life is different, and probably harder than you had ever imagined a life could be. This life might be more of a challenge than you feel you can handle. Humans are resilient–able to meet intense challenges through dedication and hard work. Using their experiences, especially the difficult ones, to come back better, stronger, and more amazing than they knew possible.

This is where you are now: You can hold on to the life you had planned–the perfect life. Or, perhaps, you can accept that life is different, and allow yourself to see the new life that is waiting just beyond the fog.

Friday Favorite: Day 23 of 365 Days of Motivation

“God never intended you to go through something and get nothing out of it. He intended that every time you go through a test, for you to come out of it with something else on your boat that you never had before, so that when you run into your next test, you will say, ‘If God did that…'”   –T.D. Jakes

Every moment, good and bad, are meant to give us some tools–tools we didn’t have before. You might not learn these tools on purpose. You might not seek out these tools. Or you might do both of those things. Either way, you will learn. You might learn compassion or strength. It might increase your faith, break it, or both, respectively and then bring you back once more. You might gain wisdom and see the world in the different light. Even if you learn nothing else other than you can make it through something you once thought impossible– you have learned something impressive.

Now, like T.D. said,  if God can help you though this–if he can bring you out the other side of this–imagine what else He can do. If you can get through this, alive and happy once again–imagine what else YOU can do.

Friday Favorite: Day 12 of 365 Days of Motivation

“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.”

–Thomas Merton

 

When something terrible happens, we want to know why.  That question occupies your days and your nights. It’s hard to have a thought without that question taking over.

It’s hard to understand why things happen. Why bad things happen to good people and why good things happen to seemingly bad people. It is a question that is beyond the scope of our understanding. Life is a series of event and memories– many storms and celebrations. One event does not, tell the whole picture. One event could never tell the whole story.

The fact is, some things will never make sense. Chances are, you will never understand why this happened. Instead, focus on doing the best you can with this particular storm. As devastating as this is, these single events are meant to shape our lives. This event might be the event that confirms your beliefs, ignites your passion, or solidifies your strength.

Losing your loved one is not the total of who you are; losing your loved one is not your legacy.  It is another piece in the puzzle of life. Let it plant something on your soul.


Friday Favorite: Day 16

“Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.” — Bern Williams

Life can’t be lived in reverse; we can’t change history. All we can do is the best we know how with what we have been handed. It may feel like you are completely broken and you don’t know how to fix it. Though you may feel broken, you are not. You are wounded, so deeply wounded–the wounds will heal.

This is a process, a journey. Give yourself time to go through the process fully. Life will never be the same, but it will get better. One day, when you look back at the day your life was shattered, you will see how far  you have come. There will come a day when life will be good again.

Day 55: 365 Days of Motivation

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”
                                –Richard Bach

I have said this before, and I will say it again, this isn’t the end of you. It is the end of this chapter. This may be the end of the life you were living. It probably will be the end of you that existed before this event, but this is not the end of you.

Just like the caterpillar, chances are you have locked yourself away in your own cocoon. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think we all need that time. We need time to weep uncontrollably to the depths our lungs will allow. We need to lay still, nearly lifeless–feeling nothing but the pounding in our head. Lets be honest, we are no good to anyone in that moment anyway. Like the caterpillar, there will come a time when we need to emerge.

We need to be ready to grab our new station in life and figure out our place in the world. It’s a difficult and bitter moment that we leave the safety of our broken heart to face the new world we were thrust into. It’s easy to be angry, unsteady, and even unwilling. I can’t imagine it being anything other way than challenging–a challenge we never asked for–and certainly never agreed to take, yet here it is, staring us down.

When caterpillars emerge from their cramped cocoon, it takes them a little while, but they spread their wings and fly. Decide to take that challenge right now. Take a step out of that dark space and when you feel the fresh air, spread those wings and look at the colors you bring to the world. They’re there, I promise.

It is true this is different and something you never wanted–it isn’t going to be easy. People will look at you differently than before. Living alone is harder than you ever imagined. Not being able to share those day-to-day moments with your best friend will be one of the hardest things you will ever do–do it anyway. If you are open to living again, and committed to the process of rediscovery, you will have made the full transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. Possibilities are endless when you have learned to soar.

Good Grief

We, as people, have this driving need to make everything okay. When things are okay (normal routine of life) we are comfortable. However, when something goes upside down and inside out, we feel it, and we struggle. We want to make it better. The only thing harder than pushing through our own tragedies is watching someone we care about face their own challenges.

Getting to the other side isn’t easy. It hurts like hell. We feel alone. We feel lost, unable to choose a direction that might lead us on the correct path. Some of us pray. Some of us keep a brave face and hide our grief, going about our daily lives as if not much has changed. Some of us growl. Some of us go silent–us silent ones, we cause the most gossip and schemes to ‘fix’ us.

When we pray, our supporters feel better because we are reaching out to a higher power. We we go about our normal days, we seem good to the outside world. We look like we are on the right track– even though inside we are tied in knots. When we growl, people might take a step back, yet there is comfort in knowing we have some fight left in us. But those that go silent worry our family and friends the most.

Depression. That’s what swirls around the minds of those looking in. We must have depression. Sometimes, they are absolutely correct and it is important to know the signs of depression (www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-adjustment-disorder). Other times, we just need space. I tend to be one of the silent.

Here is the truth about me (and many others like me):

I am a talker by nature. I love words (just ask my husband). Usually my words are day-to-day stuff or concern for others. I want to know about you and how you are. I want to hear all the funny things your toddler did and how impossible work was this week. When I am struggling or working through an issue I am often silent.

For people who love me, this sets off the alarms. In part, panic ensues because I am the rock for many and when my foundation shakes, it rattles those who depend on me to hold them up. Those same people care what happen to me and it concerns them when I change so suddenly. Rest assured, I am okay. I won’t crumble anytime soon–this rock may roll a bit, but at the end of the day, it is steady. I don’t walk around asking for help–believe me, when I say, I know when I need help and am not afraid to ask for it when I need to.

My silence is necessary–for me. Know that I may not return your call. I might ‘forget’ a lunch date or I might genuinely forget an appointment. I probably won’t cook and clean like I should–and I might not make it to the store to buy groceries so someone else can do it. I probably will miss paying a bill. I’ll nap more than I should and I will end nearly every night with time alone in a hot bath. For me, that isn’t depression, it’s coping.

In times of trouble, I don’t have room in my head to worry about your day–I’m doing good to get through my own. My head gets so full of stuff that dentist appointments and due dates might go unnoticed. You should call before you come over because I might need to make a path through my cluttered house. No one in this family has ever been starving, so someone else can find the store and everyone needs to learn that leftovers are fabulous–get used to them. While I am in bed, chances are I am doing plenty of sleeping, but I am also running through scenarios, memories, and praying–sometimes doing those things exhausts me so much I need another nap. In the bath I read and I think and I think about what I read (I love receiving words as much as I like giving them away). I probably will growl–probably more than I should ever admit–because sometimes my sadness comes through as anger. This is grieving, not depression.

I can also tell you what I won’t do. I will not feel guilty. We all will be better off if that is clear up front. I know I am doing what I need to so that I will be healthy and whole again. When you struggle, I will allow you to growl a bit too. I have enough guilt about other things, I can’t carry guilt for this too. I won’t be the person who is pretends struggles don’t affect me; I know myself too well to be that foolish. I will not apologize for not being myself. When I go through earth-shattering changes, I am not myself for a long time and I will never be the me I was before the experience. I will be different and hopefully for the better. That is the journey.

Fortunately, most of those who care about me know these things about me. Everyone has been wonderful through the loss of my grandparents (honestly). Losing them brought grief back into my life and made me more sensitive to the things people say and do when grieving, but also how it might be perceived by those who are trying to support them through this difficult journey. I watch people on TV and on social media platforms and sometimes comments are cringe-worthy for me. As much as we want to help, many times we aren’t sure what to do.

So for those of you who are struggling, whether it be custody battles, medical crisis, divorce,  someone’s death, or loss of employment, please know that however you feel it is okay. There is a difference between being sad and being depressed. Don’t let well-intentioned people looking in convince you of your path. At the same time, if you are feeling hopeless, or if you are trapped by sadness to the point where you can’t function, or if you feel like you need to get off the couch but just can’t–seek help. There is absolutely no shame in knowing you don’t have the answers to see the way out. Start with your family physician and if you feel comfortable, seek counseling–it can be more help than you can imagine (I have done both of these things in the past).

If you want to help someone grieve, here are some things to consider. First things first, you cannot get your friend or loved one through this strugge. It is their struggle. Doing it for them or keeping them from the task at hand can do more damage than good. Be a leaning post, carry tissues with you when you see them, and listen when they want to share. As much as we want to have the right words and come up with some quick fix, often that just isn’t feasable. You are not responsible for making them whole again. You are a supporter.

With that said, look for serious signs of depression. Sometimes a depressed person cannot see how deep their struggle is. In that case, sometimes an outsider can share their concern and what they are seeing. Be their mirror.

Please understand, just because they seem sad and sleep a lot does not mean they are depressed. Silence does not equate depression either.  Chances are, as they heal they will open up–when they are ready. It might be different than when you were grieving and it might be uncomfortable for you to watch. If you were in the car with someone who managed to get lost, you wouldn’t rip the wheel from their hands. That wouldn’t be good for anyone. This is their journey–you are there for entertainment and to read the map–let them drive.

 

 

 

Be a Tree

Now that I have your attention, let me explain.

When my two oldest kids were still mini-people they were great kids (still are, just bigger now). They were generally kind and usually good listeners. It never failed when I needed them  quiet the most, they would go crazy. Rather than yell and scream or try to talk over them I’d say, “Be a tree”. That meant stand still and silent. Generally, they complied because it was a game. Don’t let life make you kick and scream. Sometimes even as an adult it is beneficial to stand still and silent; take a second to breathe. Life has a tendency to be complicated and messy, but if we can force ourselves to take a step back we can see a bigger piece of the puzzle. Be a tree.

While trees do stand tall and still, there is much more to a tree. Think about a tree for a minute. The roots steady the tree and collect nutrients so the tree might grow tall and mighty. It’s trunk wide and ever-growing. The trunk gives way to thick branches that ease into delicate boughs reaching for the sky; tender extensions that sway with the ebb and flow of the wind. For a tree to meet its potential, its roots must be planted firmly in the soil. If the roots are loosely planted the tree will lean and give way to turbulence. A tree needs sunlight; if it remains solely in the shade, it will never grow to its expected height. Does the tree just stay in shade, satisfied in its state? No, the tree will lean and even grow crooked to find the sun it needs to thrive. Don’t be afraid to lean in and find what you need, even if it means changing your intended path. Be a tree.

Trees don’t just wither and die when seasons change; they adapt to their new situation. In the summer, trees have bright green leaves that rustle in the summer breeze. As the season fades into fall and the temperature begins to drop, the chlorophyll production slows. Leaves turn colors and let go; the tree sheds its dead and weak branches. A tree lies dormant in the winter, no growth nor blooms. Eventually, the tree will see a renewal as spring pushes winter aside and the tree will once again grow and flourish. It’s okay to stray from the plan if it means you will be whole. A tree branches in many directions as it grows. Be a tree.

Even strong trees with flexible limbs experience storms or disease that leaves them broken and wounded. There are two possible outcomes: if a tree is not strong enough, it will die; if a tree is strong enough, it will heal. Sometimes trees do succumb to damage, but more often than not, the tree is strong enough to make it through. The interesting thing about a tree is how it heals. No matter how hard a tree tries, it will never be exactly the same. It forever wears visible scars. The scars fade over time, but if you look close you can see the old wound. The tree does not quit trying though. It doesn’t shrivel up because it wears scars–it still stands tall, it still continues to grow, and it still blooms. Sometimes that tree will even sprout new growths right in the middle of an old wound. Those scars are part of the trees history. They tell a story of a long life that was worth living, even through the pain. Those scars are not what we notice when we see a tree. When we think of trees, we think of its long branches, beautiful leaves and fruit, and its majestic stature. You do not have to wear the badge of pain. You are much more than this one awful event. This loss is part of you; it is part of your history and story. What you do with this terrible experience, how you grow from this, and who you choose to become is what will amaze people. Don’t be afraid to keep going; don’t be afraid to heal and flourish. Be a tree.

Day 52: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

Thanksgiving Table
Thanksgiving Table (Photo credit: CodeFin)

Expect problems and eat them for breakfast.  –Alfred A. Montapert

Today will be hard. It will be hard if it happened yesterday. It will be almost just as bad if it was five years ago. It gets better, but holidays will always feel different from this point on.

If it happened recently, the wound hasn’t healed. It is swollen, red, and painful. If it happened years or a decade ago, chances are your wounds have healed; those wounds, even when healed properly, leave scars. Where ever you are, it is okay just to be there.

Don’t feel pressured to be someone you aren’t today. Don’t feel pressure to be who you were before this life altering event. I urge you to find some company because it helps. If you don’t want to stay long, don’t. If you feel like you would like to talk, but sitting at the table for a formal dinner is too much, skip dinner and go for the conversation. If the normal routine was to sing songs or play games after dinner, hit them up for some good food and then head on home–content with your progress. Everyone will understand. If someone doesn’t understand, forgive them and then forget it–they truly just don’t know.

Whatever happens, wake up and know today will not be as it once was. It won’t be the same tradition and happiness you have felt in years past. Wake up and know today might suck, and then do today anyway. Do it your way, but do it. And when it’s over, know that you won.

 

Day 42: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

“A jug fills drop by drop.”   – Buddha

This is a process. It will not happen by itself and it will not happen overnight. No one can do it for you nor against your will. Before you can redefine your life–before you can heal–you have to take the first step. The more steps you move through, the fuller your ‘jar’ becomes. Before you know it, you will be a whole person once again.

Through this process, you will make great strides. Be warned: you might take a step or two backward. Please don’t be discouraged. This is a winding, bumpy journey. Take comfort in good moments and let those moments carry you through the tough ones. If ever you start to doubt your path, take a moment and look behind you. Think about where you started and see where you are now. Your strength and growth will amaze you.

Day 34: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows34

From The Holy Bible:

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

Isaiah 41:10

When I have nothing to hold onto, I hold on to this. The great thing about scripture is that sometimes you read it and it will mean something different. The words don’t change, but how it affects your heart is what changes. This one remains something solid–something to lean on.

To me, this verse means that I am never alone. I have nothing to fear, no problems to bear because I always have someone there to pick me up.