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: 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. 

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.

Friday Favorite: Mantra, War Cry…Same Thing

Most who know me, and many of you who read this blog, have noticed I find, create and live by different words, poems, or quotes. I don’t go around looking for words to live by. Instead, they seem to find me. They find me when I am unsure how to make the rain stop or the wind subside. They jump out of movies and books. Sometimes a friend’s story or blog makes me think in a way I never thought before. Those are words to live by.

I have my favorites. Typically, it is what ever got me through the most recent storm. There are storms so deeply personal or intense that no one else’s words seem to fit. In those moments, one has to look deep inside and muster some sort of reason or logic to survive. See, in times of trouble, I often do a lot of thinking and analyzing. I run through scenarios and possible answers to my problems. It’s in those times, I create my own mantra. It’s my war cry.

It’s the words that say, “You will get through this.” It’s the words that remind me this crisis will not last forever. There will be an after. Bad things don’t only happen to bad people. Good people see plenty of trouble, sometimes more than their share. And, often, when good people suffer, there is no logic or reason to the suffering. No way to explain it away or change the outcome. It’s those times that I know I couldn’t make it without my mantra, my war cry.

Until recently, I have always kept my mantras quiet, my war cry more of a whisper.  I protected myself because I was afraid. Afraid people would view me as stupid, simple, or naïve. I am not afraid anymore.

I realized long ago, I am average. If something has benefited me, chances are it will also benefit someone else.  No one gets through this world unscathed. No one can effectively navigate the rough seas alone. People need other people to survive. People need their own ideas to fill in the gaps where logic and reason fail to explain devastation. Everyone needs a mantra. When life leaves us feeling like wounded soldiers, we need a war cry.

Be listening for those unexpected words. Often, they are as much as one knows how to give. Allow them to seep into your heart. Let them be the mortar, holding the pieces together until you can heal. Find your mantra, your war cry.

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.

 

 

 

Day 53: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.  

–Anais Nin
American Author

English: A Magnolia tree blossom. Français : F...
Blossom.

Not many would equate healing as a widow with beginning to blossom and I certainly don’t think this quote was written with that in mind. I can’t think of a better way to describe what happens. It doesn’t happen immediately. There is no exactly timeline that it follows. The only thing that is for sure is you will know it when you feel it.

This healing is hard and it hurts every day. It hurts so bad that it leaves us in a sort of frozen state: can’t move forward and life won’t let us go backward. As we heal, we change and develop until the point comes when you cannot grow anymore without leaving that frozen state.

Stepping out into the world again is terribly scary. The world was scary enough with a partner. You have lost the partner and life has shown you exactly how ruthless it is, so moving forward with life isn’t all that appealing–for now.

The day will come, when it will be too painful to remain inside this box and you will take the risk–when  you need to take the risk. When you do, it might feel awkward and confusing, but if you keep moving you will feel the sun on your face again. Don’t be afraid to  step into the light and blossom; the most beautiful things come after darkness.

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.