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: I’ve Learned…

Preface: This was written just over a year ago. I have always liked this piece. For me, it is simple and to the point. When we grieve, we go back and forth between emotions (stages) and we get sort of lost and stuck. We have to take a little time to remember how to redirect ourselves. This is the way I stayed on the right path–this was my roadmap of sorts.
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I was 25 years old, thought I had my life figured out. I had dreamed of these days since I was young and now, after some hard times and a lot of growing pains, my dreams were coming true. Randy and I had the family we always wanted, his new job provided more than we had hoped for, and to top it all off, we were happy. Couldn’t ask for more than that. We knew there would always be challenges in life. Challenges that we couldn’t predict, but that was okay, because we always had each other. We never dreamed either of us would have to face life alone. 

I was thrust into a new life. This new chapter, unlike the first, came with no one to guide me. Growing up, I always had my parents guidance, this time, I was the leader. While sifting through the ashes of the life I once knew, I learned many things.

Life Doesn’t Knock
I learned very quickly that life doesn’t knock. This uninvited guest walks right in and makes itself at home. Sometimes, life brings wonderful surprises that we never could have imagined. Other times, it brings our worst nightmares to life. This time was worse than any nightmare.

Losing him in a car wreck ripped my future from my grasp. Every dream I had ever dreamed, gone in a flash. Everything I thought to be true was now under a microscope. How I felt about God, my future, and even my past scrutinized every single day. Nothing made sense anymore. I quite literally had to accept my past and redesign my future.

At first, I took life step by step. Often it felt like I was walking on tiny stones across a  wide angry river, hoping to get from one shore to another. One mistake and I’d drown. Over time, with help, the stones became larger and closer together as the angry river quietly receded. I made it to the other side. I built a different life, never forgetting the old.

 “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

Life is Undetermined
There is no way to know when our uninvited guest will show up again. All we can do is live the best we know how with whatever surprises have been thrown our way. There is no shame in falling and no absolution for standing up again. There is a time and season for everything.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, And a time to die;
A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, And a time to heal;
A time to break down, And a time to build up;
A time to weep, And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain, And a time to lose;
A time to keep, And a time to throw away;
A time to tear, And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
A time to love, And a time to hate;
A time of war, And a time of peace.

Life is Best Lived With an Open Heart
When life is full of happiness and rainbows, we let the world in. We live life outloud. We want everyone to share in our light. Maybe we even want to make sure they know our light is as bright as theirs. Living in the best of times is easy.

When life gets us down, we close ourselves off, sometimes we give up. We place blame and get angry. We shut down. No one likes to feel vulnerable and no one likes to be looking up to see someone elses light shining bright while their own barely flickers. Those gloomy, dark times are when we should open up. Open ourselves to possibilities and blessings.

When my grandparents started slipping mentally and physically, it was hard to reach out and ask for help. We wanted to close ourselves up, hide, and handle it the best we could. It came to a point where we felt like we were going to drowned if we didn’t get help. We hired a home helper. A friend of a friend. Recently, I learned that she was in a bad place before stepping in to help my grandparents. She was losing weight, had no money, and was slipping into a serious depression. We knew hiring her would help us. We knew she was in need of a job and it would help her. What we did not know was the depth our help would reach. She smiles now, she has gained some weight back, and she has found love. All of that might have happened without us. It seems from this viewpoint that both of our lights were flickering and when we combined them, it gave us both strength and our lights were shining brighter. To be honest, she would never have been my first choice, but we opened up and gave her a chance. Who knew the good that would come from that decision?

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. –Maya Angelou

Life Continues
Our lives cannot stop because we have lost someone or something. We can’t quit going forward because we hurt or because it is difficult. We have to keep living. We have to face our fears, stare them in the eyes, and walk right past them without flinching. Once you have faced that fear and conquered it, what is there that can hold you down?

           You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really step to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

We need to keep living for the things we have lost and living for the people and things yet to come. Life is meant to be lived moving forward.  I don’t mean to make that sound easy, because it isn’t. It is something that is possible and things that are possible deserve a chance. There are amazing and wonderful adventures and wonderful endings for those who take a chance. 

“The great courageous act we must all do, is to have the courage to step out of our history and past so that we can live our dreams.” –Oprah Winfrey

So, take that step, keep moving. Day by day things will get easier, dreams closer. Life is definitely different now, but it doesn’t have to be over. Live life, heal your wounds, and reach your dreams. 

Day 50: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

“Anyone can give up, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.”
–Unknown Author

People will ask you, for years to come, “How did you get through that?”

 

You will tell them you didn’t have a choice, you just did it.

They will follow it up with, “I don’t know if I could have done it.”

You will tell them that they could have because in life, you just do what you have to do.

It really is exactly it. Life doesn’t ask if you are ready. It doesn’t knock gently and wait for you to answer the door. Life barges in, knocks you down, and raids your fridge.  And just like any intruder, you would be mad, sad, feel out of control and then you would dig deep, find your strength and pick up the pieces

People may not understand how to help you or how you manage to get up every morning–and that is okay. The important part is you do.

**one more thing to note: you will have days when you fall apart and you can’t find the strength to get out of the house, or even out of bed. That’s okay–it happens. Take that time to reflect and muster your strength for the next day.

 

 

Day 33: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

“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.

Day 29: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”  — George Eliot

Having a baby at 17 changed my path. Suddenly college wasn’t on the radar and being a mom was. Everyone told me I’d never finish high school and that college would NEVER be an option for me.

We, as a family, went through hard times, there is no doubt about that. Our relationship took a major hit. We were so broke we often couldn’t pay utilities. We had rises and falls. The road was bumpy at times, but day by day we were improving.

Just as we thought we had it together, Randy was killed. Time for a new game plan. I found myself in between homes (we were in the middle of moving) with three children, no job, and no formal college education. Those were some incredible odds to overcome while grieving. And I felt the pressure.

All those words from so long ago were ringing in my soul and I knew I had to do something. I was 25 and alone, but I had to find away to make a life for my kids in the absence of my husband.

I harvested my dreams and all the gumption I could muster, and enrolled in school. Turns out my experiences with the death of my husband influenced who I was and my passion. During college professors encouraged my writing. They told me I had a talent for touching hearts and I should consider writing. I also discovered that I had a passion for people and helping others. This love I had for motherhood was carrying over into the lives of others and it felt good–no, it felt great.

Not only had I reached a goal that many thought I would never–or could never–reach, but I had found dreams to keep reaching for. I found confidence in skills I never knew I had. Together, it created a fire inside of me that has slowly grown over the last few years. I discovered a feeling of wanting to do more; I feel like I am not done yet–there is something more.

I have not only found the life I was destined for, but even more. Don’t be afraid to accept the experience for what it is–be willing to take the pain, the sorrow, and the growth. Be who you were always meant to be.

Day 24: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

“When you can’t change the direction of the winds—adjust your sails.”
–H. Jackson Brown Jr.

During a time when you are struggling to get out of bed and take a shower all in the same day, this might be hard to hear. Or maybe you can do that, but are unable to face the outside world. Where ever you are on your journey, please take this to heart, in the spirit it was intended.

Sometimes we create our own destiny, and sometimes we are a product of someone else creating their destiny. Other times still, there is just no rhyme or reason for bad things happening. The truth is, it doesn’t matter why it happened. What matters is 1) once it happens there is no way to go back for a re-do and 2) the only thing to do is to find a way to be okay. You have to find a way to be okay. You can’t change what life dropped at your door, the only thing–the absolute only thing–you can change is how you handle it and how you use it to shape the rest of your life.

 

Day 21: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

“To keep our faces toward chance and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.” — Helen Keller

I can think of few people who had a harder life than Helen Keller–or at least few who had to try so hard to learn how to live life. Helen Keller was deaf and blind (and mute) after an illness when she was just a toddler. Suddenly, she was cut off from the world she used to be so in tune with.  Her senses blocked by her physical limitations. Isn’t that how you feel sometimes?

Even though she was cut off from the world, she adapted. It took the right teacher to reconnect her to the world. The illness may have stolen her senses, at least momentarily, but it could not steal her fight–beyond that, she didn’t let it steal her life. Her teacher taught her finger spelling. Her language and recovery progressed, Helen began determined to attend college. She entered school and learned to speak well enough for people to understand her and after 25 years, her determination paid off and she entered Cambridge Preparatory for Young Ladies. Helen mastered several types of language over the years and became a celebrity as well as a lecturer.  She advocated for the rights of blind people and the handicapped.

Helen Keller lived to be nearly 88 years old and remains a mentor to all who find themselves living through a nightmare. She remains a sterling example of how hard work and tenacity can bring you through the storm. You can live an amazing, albeit different from what you had planned, life full of rewards.

Day 9: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

“Moving on is a simple thing, what it leaves behind is the hard part.” –Dave Mustaine

It is easy for others to tell you what you should do. It is so easy for them to say you should move on, that it’s time. It is not easy to actually do it. Moving on comes with fear. You wonder what life will be like without your spouse. Those firsts hurt, every single one. The biggest fear is moving on and leaving your spouse. The fear of losing the memories. Worrying about forgetting his/her face, their smell, the sound of their voice, and even their dreams.

I usually don’t use the term ‘moving on’ because I don’t like what it infers. It infers that you are going forward alone and leave your spouse in the past. I like to say we ‘move forward’. I use that term because if I am being honest, I have never, and won’t ever forget my husband. I think I owe that to him and my children. I had to accept he was dead. I had to redefine how he fit in my life, but he is with me. I feel it. He is watching over the kids. I know it. He is my history and his death the reason I am who I am doing what I am doing today. We talk about him when something reminds us of him, or when my current husband has a question, or for no reason at all.

You do have to leave behind your life together, the life you had planned, but you do not have to leave behind your spouse. That doesn’t make it easy, nothing will make it easy. It will still be one of the hardest things you have ever done. You can do it, you can find the balance.

I’ve Learned…

I was 25 years old, thought I had my life figured out. I had dreamed of these days since I was young and now, after some hard times and a lot of growing pains, my dreams were coming true. Randy and I had the family we always wanted, his new job provided more than we had hoped for, and to top it all off, we were happy. Couldn’t ask for more than that. We knew there would always be challenges in life. Challenges that we couldn’t predict, but that was okay, because we always had each other. We never dreamed either of us would have to face life alone. 

I was thrust into a new life. This new chapter, unlike the first, came with no one to guide me. Growing up, I always had my parents guidance, this time, I was the leader. While sifting through the ashes of the life I once knew, I learned many things.

Life Doesn’t Knock
I learned very quickly that life doesn’t knock. This uninvited guest walks right in and makes itself at home. Sometimes, life brings wonderful surprises that we never could have imagined. Other times, it brings our worst nightmares to life. This time was worse than any nightmare.

Losing him in a car wreck ripped my future from my grasp. Every dream I had ever dreamed, gone in a flash. Everything I thought to be true was now under a microscope. How I felt about God, my future, and even my past scrutinized every single day. Nothing made sense anymore. I quite literally had to accept my past and redesign my future.

At first, I took life step by step. Often it felt like I was walking on tiny stones across a  wide angry river, hoping to get from one shore to another. One mistake and I’d drown. Over time, with help, the stones became larger and closer together as the angry river quietly receded. I made it to the other side. I built a different life, never forgetting the old.

 “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

Life is Undetermined
There is no way to know when our uninvited guest will show up again. All we can do is live the best we know how with whatever surprises have been thrown our way. There is no shame in falling and no absolution for standing up again. There is a time and season for everything.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, And a time to die;
A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, And a time to heal;
A time to break down, And a time to build up;
A time to weep, And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain, And a time to lose;
A time to keep, And a time to throw away;
A time to tear, And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
A time to love, And a time to hate;
A time of war, And a time of peace.

Life is Best Lived With an Open Heart
When life is full of happiness and rainbows, we let the world in. We live life outloud. We want everyone to share in our light. Maybe we even want to make sure they know our light is as bright as theirs. Living in the best of times is easy.

When life gets us down, we close ourselves off, sometimes we give up. We place blame and get angry. We shut down. No one likes to feel vulnerable and no one likes to be looking up to see someone elses light shining bright while their own barely flickers. Those gloomy, dark times are when we should open up. Open ourselves to possibilities and blessings.

When my grandparents started slipping mentally and physically, it was hard to reach out and ask for help. We wanted to close ourselves up, hide, and handle it the best we could. It came to a point where we felt like we were going to drowned if we didn’t get help. We hired a home helper. A friend of a friend. Recently, I learned that she was in a bad place before stepping in to help my grandparents. She was losing weight, had no money, and was slipping into a serious depression. We knew hiring her would help us. We knew she was in need of a job and it would help her. What we did not know was the depth our help would reach. She smiles now, she has gained some weight back, and she has found love. All of that might have happened without us. It seems from this viewpoint that both of our lights were flickering and when we combined them, it gave us both strength and our lights were shining brighter. To be honest, she would never have been my first choice, but we opened up and gave her a chance. Who knew the good that would come from that decision?

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. –Maya Angelou

Life Continues
Our lives cannot stop because we have lost someone or something. We can’t quit going forward because we hurt or because it is difficult. We have to keep living. We have to face our fears, stare them in the eyes, and walk right past them without flinching. Once you have faced that fear and conquered it, what is there that can hold you down?

           You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really step to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

We need to keep living for the things we have lost and living for the people and things yet to come. Life is meant to be lived moving forward.  I don’t mean to make that sound easy, because it isn’t. It is something that is possible and things that are possible deserve a chance. There are amazing and wonderful adventures and wonderful endings for those who take a chance. 

“The great courageous act we must all do, is to have the courage to step out of our history and past so that we can live our dreams.” –Oprah Winfrey

So, take that step, keep moving. Day by day things will get easier, dreams closer. Life is definitely different now, but it doesn’t have to be over. Live life, heal your wounds, and reach your dreams. 

Tears of Men

Life is a series of moments. Moments shape our lives. Some moments more than others. Randy’s death unleashed moment after moment after defining moment. As hard as death is, there is a certain inevitable grace and beauty that comes in the process of healing.

If you would have told me that in those first days or months after Randy’s death, I never would have believed you.  It’s hard, unbearable at times, to walk the path of a widow, or to walk through any storm. Moments created in grief, uplifted my soul and carried me through to a time when I could stand on my own to feet.

Some of those moments are unexpected. When I arrived at the funeral home for Randy’s visitation, I was broken. The anticipation of walking through those doors was torture. The thought of seeing him and the final goodbyes were more than I could comprehend. Every step closer to the doors made the tears fall faster. By the time I arrived at the casket, I was almost inconsolable. Then something happened that I had never imagined.

By 4:00pm, the scheduled time for the viewing to begin, the room was full. Not only was the chapel full, but  I was getting reports from people in the line that it was wound down the hall, back up the other side, through the other chapel, outside to the steps, through the parking lot, and down the sidewalk for more than a block. The chapel was full of flowers. In fact, the flowers, gifts, and statues also overflowed our chapel into the next.  A response I could never have expected. I heard the wait time to see me was about an hour and a half.

Person after person entered that room, made their way patiently to the front of the chapel to greet me. Each one played a special role in his life, my life, or a family members life. The longer I stood there and the more people I met seemed to push my tears further and further away. It wasn’t that I was happy or even relieved. I was astonished. I felt loved. I felt supported. And more than anything, I was completely amazed at the number of people who wanted to be a part of this day.

I stood at the front of that room, without moving, and greeted people for close to five hours! I could look down the line of people and see the constant wiping of tears and dabbing of noses. The room filled with the muffled sound of soft conversations and quiet sniffling. I looked up to greet the next person, and instead I saw an empty space. I saw a church friend partially bent over, holding onto a chair. He was sobbing. The rest of the room fell rather silent. People were trying to act as if they weren’t watching, but they couldn’t help it. His chest heaving and tears streaming from his eyes, he fell to his knees. Randy’s dad leaned on one knee to console him. Together they stood. I watched, speechless. Tears silently fell down my cheek. The pair gradually made it to me. Our friend could barely speak through his tears. I hugged him as he wept. I wanted to help him. I rubbed his shoulder and softly said, “You don’t have to say anything; I know its hard. I’m just glad you are here.”

He was the first person to just weep. He was the first man I had ever seen cry like that. He was the first of many men I saw weep just as deeply that evening. And with each one, I cried. I didn’t cry because I felt their grief, although I did feel it. I cried because it touched me. It touched me in a way that nothing else could have. The honesty shared through the tears of men was beautiful. That instant, that moment in time, shaped my healing process. It carved my path. I believe God was showing me what I needed to see to move forward with life.

We get caught up in ‘me, myself, and I’. Where I want to work. How much money I want to make. How big my house is. My car is better than your car. My husband works harder. My kids are smarter. What you can do for me. It’s all garbage and all of that garbage, in time, fades away.

Sometimes, we forget about other people. We forget that maybe money, houses, and cars aren’t the real blessings in life. We forget that we all set out to do the best we can, and some of us might need help learning how to achieve it. Everyone’s husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, friends, and children mean just as much to them as yours do to you–even when they aren’t perfect. Maybe, we should focus on what I can do for you and not what you can do for me. That is where the blessing is.

None of us will be here forever. And, as life with Randy showed me, some of us are gone way too soon. The things people remembered about Randy wasn’t our pitiful house, or the fact we did things backwards by getting pregnant and then married. They remembered he was young, smart, and dedicated. He was a good father and worked hard to support his young, ever-growing family. He loved Jesus, his family, sleep, hunting, and sports (in that order). He followed the rules and expected others to do the same. He helped and protected people and animals alike. He was a friend to everyone and an enemy of none.

Seeing tears of men shaped my life.

I walked into that building feeling broken and defeated. I left that building knowing that life is important and amazing. I went home knowing that everyone’s life is connected and affects others on a scale impossible to fathom. That night proved to me that life really is about something bigger than me. The instant our friend fell to his knees, helped me put away the ‘why is this happening to me?’ question and start asking, ‘why should it have happened to someone else? Why do I think someone else should suffer instead of me?’ Had I not experienced that night, those little moments, I’m not sure I would have healed, ever. That instant made me realize how much of an impact I have on others, especially my children.

I think about that night fairly often. I’m not stuck in that moment, but it still means so much to me. Sometimes, when life is pulling me down and I’m not sure how I am going to climb back out, that night comes back to me. It reminds me what really matters in life.