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Posts Tagged ‘life’

This is one of those posts… I hesitate, I pause, I take a breath.

What should I say?

What can I possibly say?

Why should I say it?

Two years have passed since my mother died from cancer. Two years that I looked at her bedroom and bathroom daily, knowing she would never walk those floors again. Two years since I started sifting through her belongings, deciding what to keep and what to toss and what to give away. Two years filled with new adventures and broken hearts and losses and finds and blogs and poems and learning to feel and learning to pause and learning… two years of learning. And still… here I am, lost in the depths of my own thoughts. Numb. Disengaged. Trying to breathe.

Last year, I seemed to be able to write exactly what I wanted to write about the anniversary. This year, I’m not sure about my words.

There is no time limit for grief, that’s a well established fact.

I sat down to write about my grandmother and how she talked with tears in her eyes about her father until she passed away at the age of 87, seems she grieved his death until her death made it impossible to grieve any longer.

I sat down to write about how my best friend and I can reminisce about our friend who died 23 years ago and we still get tears in our eyes thinking of her laugh and how she sang so off-key it hurt.

I sat down to write about the three dogs I have loved at various points in my life and who have died and how the absence of each leaves me wishing to hear their bark one more time.

I sat down to write about my father and how he was this gentle and kind man whose illness and death left us all drained and has surely still affected those of us who loved him.

I sat down to write about my mother whose battle with cancer was swift and fierce and untimely — her death was too soon.

There is no time limit for grief.

I sat down to write about how I’ve been left in an emotional well — digging and clawing my way, with my hand stretched out as far as I can manage, always reaching for the light that seems to be trickling in over the sides of the darkness.

But I don’t know what to write.

I have no words to describe loss.

I have no words to describe cancer.

I have no words to describe empty.

How do you describe empty?

How do you describe numb?

I have no words to describe a feeling that I’m not sure even exists — do I liken it to a color? If so, what color describes messy? What adjective describes vacant?

Two years since my mother passed away.

Two years of reaching out and pulling back and being stuck and moving on and begging and hating and loving and forgiving and wishing and mending… two years of learning to put all the pieces together. Two years of hoping I had all the pieces I need.

It’s been two years since my mother died. Three years since my father died. Fourteen years since my grandmother died. Six months since I acted completely irrationally…

One minute since I hugged my youngest daughter. Ten minutes since I laughed with my son. Five minutes since my oldest daughter asked me for fashion advice. One day since I read an amazing book. A few hours since I contemplated booking the vacation I’ve dreamt of for years. Two days since I emailed my best friend — one second since I smiled.

Maybe I am learning. Maybe I do have all the pieces. Maybe sadness and mourning and grief are just pieces to this puzzle. Maybe they are just a part of what makes me whole. Maybe denying their existence is like denying a piece of the puzzle that is me. Maybe.

It’s been a while since I gave you a visual — I love visuals.

I am completely in love with everything Jen Lemen has to offer. Check out her etsy shop and her amazing web page.

My son walked into my room and put one of his ear buds in my ear and had one in his ear, he said “mom, you have to listen to this song.”  I think sharing ear buds is a perfect way to be present in a moment with someone. Let’s pretend we’re sharing ear buds… you have to listen to this song.

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It’s been one of those weeks… you know what I mean. A week when you can’t bear to watch the news anymore but you must — you must. A week when you want to talk to every person you’ve ever befriended and tell them how great they are. A week when you want to assume the fetal position in the depths of your new bed and pull the sheets tight around your head. You know what I mean… one of those weeks. The sorrow of tragedy that has us reaching out to each other in a desperate attempt to plead, “I’m here. I care. Let’s be friends.”

I’ve been spending the last several days building bookcases and hanging curtains and assessing the needs of my yard and positioning and re-positioning pictures and artwork and knick knacks. I’ve been having a great time, getting things just so, making it all mine — this home that I bought. I’m down to the last few decorating needs — a runner for the hallway, an area rug for my wine drinking/book reading/thinking/conversing area, something to put on the wall in the dining room although what that is I have no idea — it will come to me eventually. I’ve been feeling rather at peace. The weather finally changed with the time. The sun has been warming the ground and my heart, geese have been frolicking in the pond across the street, birds are singing and children are playing… and then there’s this:

I needed to go to <insert large retail store name here that many people are boycotting but I can’t bring myself to boycott because I love all their stuff too much> to purchase a couple of bookcases that I’ve had my eye on for weeks and just needed to convince myself to spend the money. The morning started out great. I took all my kids to get their hair cut — they’re so freaking adorable. The day was warm and sunny and filled with fun things to come (mainly because I was returning them to their father’s house so I had the WHOLE day to myself — really, they’re freaking adorable). After the hair cuts I drove through a fast food chain to load them up on sugary drinks before I said my goodbye’s for the day — then I dropped them off and I was free.

My first though was, of course, “I need coffee”. But, I need to confess, when I say I drink coffee, what I really mean is I drink soy mocha hazelnut coffee — no whip. The soy part fools my mind into thinking it’s a healthier option (please, no spoilers). I pulled through my favorite local coffee-house and ordered the biggest size “coffee” they had. The nice girl making it and I shared laughs through the window as she stirred and mixed my concoction. She passed my super size coffee to me as we giggled some more and, then, during the hand-off, one of us erred (I think you can all guess who), the lid popped off and the entire super sized gooey mess of coffee heaven was on me, my steering wheel, my console, my phone, my GPS, my ass… everywhere. My hands immediately stuck to the steering wheel and I was overcome with the aroma of the coffee that my lips would never know. I drove off slowly, my mouth fixed in an awkward open position.

I drove home, in shock, to change clothes. I convinced myself that it was merely a minor setback to the day — I will overcome. I wiped enough off the steering wheel to avoid my hands being plastered there indefinitely and figured I would clean the rest later… I wanted my bookcases. Before I left my house, my neighbor called me over for a chat about grass and shrubs and all those things neighbors talk about. I ended the conversation and got in my car, heading to the unnamed store once again. I was still overcome with the smell of the soy mocha hazelnut coffee… no whip, but now it had clearly turned to a smell rather than a pleasant aroma. I had the sunroof open and the windows to breathe in the fresh air. I remarked to myself how similar the coffee smell was to dog doo — then I realized, yes, I had at some point in my pleasant conversation with the neighbor planted my foot an inch deep in a sticky gooey mess of another kind. And now I was driving down the road, making feeble attempts at not putting my foot down on the gas pedal or the brake pedal or the carpet — I drove all the way to said retail store using nothing but the tip of my shoe. I found a patch of grass in the parking lot and proceeded to, nonchalantly of course, scrape my shoe all around — I wanted my bookcases.

The purchase was made and I only saw a few noses raise in perplexed silence as I walked by… homeward bound — I had my bookcases. I began my drive home, with my head hanging out the window, feeling like I had almost conquered the day, I had almost won. I looked up at the four-way stop to the car directly across from me and saw a pleasant-looking older man — with a parrot on his shoulder. A live parrot. I could actually see the man and the parrot talking to one another — driving down the road. I waited for the music to Twilight Zone to start playing — I might have felt better if it had. When I got home I realized that my bookcases were really big… and heavy. The young man who loaded them in the car assured me they weren’t that heavy. I’m assuming he couldn’t foresee the steps I needed to climb.

Once I had wrangled the boxes up the steps and placed them carefully on the floor to be built, I decided I needed that cup of coffee now. I did my best to re-create the mocha hazelnut masterpiece and sat down to enjoy — I carefully brought the piping hot liquid to my lips and proceeded, somehow, to spill the entire cup all over me… and the chair and the carpet and the laptop. I let out a little scream and a few perfectly placed curse words and walked away as my dogs licked up my gooey mess.

I had escaped the news of the world’s tragedy briefly and my life continued to revolve and evolve. I imagine that’s the way this is all suppose to work. Tragic events unfold a world away, we reach out to those we need, we scream to be heard. The day was only half complete — two spilled cups of coffee, one accurate placement of my foot in the dog doo, a strained back, a talking parrot riding in a car… on a mans shoulder, and two bookcases that needed to be assembled… and oh yeah — my dogs need therapy.

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While I was sleeping, my life passed by.

It slipped through the crack under the door while I pretended to close my eyes.

It crept in and stole my heart from me while I looked the other way.

While I was sleeping, the world kept spinning.

I yelled at it from my bed to, “Stop! Just stop!”

I covered my head and closed my eyes and begged it to leave me alone.

While I was sleeping, people continued to breathe.

My lungs couldn’t take in enough air but everyone else had plenty.

I gasped for help only to be turned away with a smile.

While I was sleeping, I wished for more.

While I was sleeping, I looked around.

While I was sleeping, I opened my eyes.

While I was sleeping, I begged to be heard.

I screamed to be heard!

I listened… while I was sleeping.

While I was sleeping, I shook myself awake and opened my eyes.

I turned on the light and squinted at my future.

I let my lungs expand and I cursed through the pain.

While I was sleeping, my life kept moving.

While I was sleeping, I decided to wake up.

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When my father died, he was buried in a double grave. The grave would be the final resting spot for he and my mother. Being that it was a double grave, the marker would be a double marker as well. When my father died, we really didn’t need to think too many things through, except what would be inscribed on the marker. It takes several weeks for grave markers to be engraved so in the interim, they put up a nice picture of your loved one with their name displayed — that’s it, just a picture with their name on it. When you go there to visit you have a smiling picture to remind you that someone is missing — the person who is looking at you through that photograph is buried in the grave you’re standing on.

It took a little longer than usual for my fathers marker to be engraved because, being that it was for my mother as well — who was still alive, we had to come up with the words to mark her final resting spot too. The words for my father’s side of the marker were easy enough — father, husband, son, kind. To be honest, I don’t know what it says… I’ve never been able to look at it long enough to read it and when my mother and I were deliberating what it should say I remember giving many “uh-huhs” desperately trying not to hear the actual words she was saying. If I heard the words it meant I had to succumb to the realization that my father was dead.

Our angst at finding the perfect words for his marker was magnified by the fact that we also had to find the perfect words for my mothers marker, who, as I said, was still alive at this time. When we first began contemplating the marker, we were unaware of the cancer that was coursing through my mother’s blood stream. It was the cancer that was making it impossible for her to walk and eat and sleep and get dressed and care for herself. We thought she was overly tired from taking care of my father as he battled lung cancer. A short six weeks after my fathers funeral, my mothers diagnosis was complete — Multiple Myeloma. The saying on the marker became too much for us to contemplate once we learned that cancer was again infiltrating our world, a little too real, so my mother finally choose a saying without too much fanfare — mother, daughter, wonder woman. Again, I really have no idea what it says, I “uh-huh’d” when I thought she sounded sure of whatever she decided to put there.

I’ve never been able to look at it long enough to read it — ever. Three years after my father’s death and a year and a half after my mother’s death… I’ve never let my eyes rest on that marker long enough to read the words.

I can remember when I was young. I had a cousin who died — hit by a car. She was older than me, beautiful, smart, funny… my own superhero. A tragedy that has possibly affected and shaped my interactions to this day but that is another post for another day. I was 9 or 10. I went to her funeral. I saw her in the casket. She and I had played together a few days earlier. I cried. I shook. I couldn’t stop. A harsh reality that I was unable to avoid — as long as I was at my grandparents house anyway. When the summer ended, I went back home as I did every summer and I continued. My cousin and I lived in different states, we only saw each other during the summer so when I was at my home it was so easy to pretend everything was completely the same because at my house, it was. I didn’t have to face the reality until the next summer when I visited my grandparents and I would be repeatedly punched in the gut with her absence on a daily basis. But, then, at my home — I was free from the pain of loss. I didn’t have to see it.

It’s the same premise of not looking at that damn marker. If I never look at it, if I never read their names on it, I can pretend a little longer. I can pretend they’re at their house waiting for me to arrive with my kids. I can pretend we are all going to go on a hayride or to the movies or to the mountains. But once I look at that marker, it’s over. The fantasy ends. The reality begins. One look at that marker and I have to finally concede that they’re gone.

A concession I’ve been unwilling to make… until now. Seems my life has led me down a path of letting go, of making new connections, of relying on a community of friends and strangers to guide me in the lessons of this life. Seems an easy task, really. Holding your gaze on a few words. Reading the letters that form the words that signify the time to move is now. Reality is an awesome place. We can shape it and bend it and coddle it because we are the reason it is real. The reality is, it’s time for me to open my eyes and see where I’m going. The reality is, it’s time for me to see what that marker says. The reality is, it’s time for me to embrace reality. What about you? Any realities you need help to see?

The reverb10 prompt today was community… this post is just where I ended up.

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Death was easy compared to this.

I bought a new dress for Death.

I bought new shoes for Death.

I took a shower and fixed my hair and put on make-up and I looked so pretty…

for Death.

I stood there greeting Death with a smile and a handshake.

I brought you all in to my home and sat you down and we talked to Death like he was our old friend.

Death stayed for a while,

Then I told him to leave.

It was time to let go of Death.

… and he was gone.

But this,

There is no death here.

There is no reason here.

There is no answer here.

Death was easy compared to this.

Denial.

Anger.

Bargaining.

Depression.

Acceptance.

Those are so easy when it’s death,

But life makes it hard.

When life is the reason.

When life leaves us.

When nothing fits.

You don’t buy a new dress for loss.

You don’t buy new shoes for loss.

You don’t take a shower and put on make-up and look pretty for loss.

You stay hidden away,

Hoping.

Wishing.

Bargaining.

Death was easy compared to this.

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Sitting there,

Surrounded by stares,

Surrounded by wondering,

Surrounded by those who want it to boil over.

The watched pot.

Stop staring, please.

Stop turning up the fire, please.

Stop secretly hoping I boil over, please.

The watched pot sits there serving it’s purpose,

Collecting everything it can…

Holding it all in.

Sturdy.

Dependable.

Unshakeable.

Your stares only make it worse.

Your secret wishing that it’s all too much,

You’re constantly pushing the heat up…

Slightly, so no one really notices.

But me… I notice.

It’s like the watched pot that we desperately want to boil,

You desperately need me to boil,

Too prove you were right.

I’m sitting here,

Surrounded by your stares.

Surrounded by your wondering.

Surrounded by your desire to see me.

I’m here.

Learning.

Leaping.

Loving.

I’m here.

Breathing.

Evolving.

Growing.

I’m here,

Being me.

For me.

I’m the pot you’re watching.

Don’t watch me for the wrong reasons.

Don’t watch me hoping to see the aftermath of the events that life is stirring up inside of me.

Don’t watch me.

I’m here,

Not knowing what the outcome will be.

I’m here,

Continuing on this path.

I’m here,

Making strides.

I’m here,

The watched pot.

Watch me evolve.

Watch me grow.

Watch me learn.

Watch me boil over with awareness.

Watch me be complicated.

Watch me be messy.

Watch me for the right reasons.

I AM complicated,

We all are.

I AM gathering all the ingredients,

We all are.

I AM a work in progress,

We all are.

I AM the watched pot,

We all are.

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Everyone Dreams

I attended my youngest daughter’s kindergarten graduation recently. It was lovely and emotional and sweet and funny. It was the perfect ending to, what I believe is, the most crucial educational year for children. Imagine the enormous amount of knowledge that children acquire between birth and the end of kindergarten. It’s mind-blowing really — they learn to sit and crawl and walk and talk and play. They learn to use the bathroom by themselves and to recognize letters and numbers. They learn to read and write and talk more… they learn major life skills in the first six years. And at the end of those six years, at the end of kindergarten… our dreams as parents come true when we see them shed their cocoons and emerge as butterflies. That’s my reality, as the parent of children who aren’t affected by autism. But, reality can look different for others… dreams can look different for the parents of children with autism.

When I first started teaching my preschool class for children with special needs, I never hesitated to start the tradition of having an end of the year “graduation” program. It just made sense, all the preschools did it — why wouldn’t I? After all, I, at 22, was sure I was “the miracle worker”. I thought of the end of the year graduation program as a place to showcase all I had accomplished that year — me, “the miracle worker”.

I taught my students a variety of songs about the weather and letters and days of the week and months of the year. I taught them to sing (sort of) “Hero” by Mariah Carey. I beamed as the parents and grandparents and family friends struggled to contain their tears. I guess it didn’t take long, even for a 22 year-old, to realize something else entirely different was happening during that graduation ceremony. Normalcy was happening. Dreams were happening.

Over the next several years, as I realized I wasn’t “the miracle worker”, I began to hear what the parents of my student’s were actually saying. I began to listen to the dreams they had, the dreams they didn’t want to let go of, the dreams that were often faltering under the weight of the reality of autism. Dreams of attending kindergarten like everyone else, dreams of playing baseball like everyone else, dreams of graduating high school like everyone else. Dreams that shouldn’t be tossed aside.

Around the second or third year I taught, a beautiful brown-haired, blue-eyed boy with autism showed up to enroll. Looking at him was glorious because he was physically perfect for a four-year old. He had perfect little muscles in his arms and legs, he had perfect rose-colored lips, he had a perfect smile. Everyone who saw him immediately remarked on his looks. He had autism. He didn’t speak. He often cried. He slapped the back of his neck so hard he would leave bruises.

His mother told me of her dreams for him — the ones she had when he was born, and the ones she had then, as he was a four-year old diagnosed with autism. She had given up a few dreams for him, already. She convinced herself that giving up her dream of hearing his name announced over a loud-speaker as he scored the winning touchdown and replacing it with the dream that he would one day say, “I love you mom” was perfectly reasonable and she didn’t need to dwell. She convinced herself that the new dreams were just as important, just as meaningful, just as attainable. I spent a large portion of that first year he was in my class trying to get this beautiful little boy to show me some sign that he was in there, to show me he understood — to show me I was doing something viable. I think sometimes as an educator of children with special needs — that’s what we need — just to know we are viable.

By the end of his second year in my class, I was discouraged to say the least. I didn’t know what avenue to take with him — he was five and I had all but given up. I expressed my frustration to his mother quite often. She would encourage me to keep trying, just keep trying. I, in all my wisdom as a 22 year-old teacher, thought my angst about teaching him was greater than any that others could possibly be feeling — even his mother.

One day, at the beginning of his third year in my class, his mother told me she needed to hear him say, “Mom.” I explained that I didn’t think I could help him…I didn’t think I had anything new to try. She, again, encouraged me to keep trying, just keep trying. She brought a tape for me to watch that day. I reluctantly put it in the recorder and pushed play. It was him, just a few months before he had started my class — but it was surreal. The beautiful boy on the tape was calm and inquisitive and talking — he was talking. He said, “look at big bird momma.” Those words, those five words. I broke down in tears. I knew his mother’s heart broke everyday that passed by without hearing those words — everyday that her old dreams faded into the walls of her memory and slowly became replaced with new dreams, very different dreams.

Working with children with autism is a balancing act — there are attempts that don’t work, there are successes. We keep trying. We want so desperately to be a catalyst for our students to achieve those well planned out dreams. We read all the professional books. We study all the research. That’s what we do as educators of children with autism — we learn, we try, we start over.

We have graduation programs where we teach our kids to sing Hero by Mariah Carey and I Believe I Can Fly by R Kelly. We give out diplomas and we take pictures dressed in caps and gowns. Because for one night, anyway, we want the dream to be achieved, we want for there to be a small amount of normalcy… we want to give the parents and the children a night where the old dreams don’t need to be replaced.


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I Think Too Much

I guess thinking shouldn’t be a bad thing — but it can be.

I think too much.

I think about what I’m going to say to the point that sometimes I say nothing for fear that my words will make me sound too happy or too sarcastic or too sappy or too anything.

I think about what I have already said to the point that sometimes I avoid the person I said it to for fear that my words made me sound too happy or too sarcastic or too sappy or too anything.

I think about what I’m going to write too much to. Mainly with emails or notes or texts to friends — what if they read it on the other end and interpret what I say as too anything?

I think too much.

I think about events that haven’t even taken place yet. Places I want to visit. People I want to see. What will I wear? What will I say? How should I fix my hair? I think about how they will react if I wear jeans or khakis. I think about how they will react if I greet them with a hug or a weep. I think about events that could possibly never take place.

I think about events that already happened. I think about what I said or what I did or what I was wearing. I think about how it would have been different if I chose different words or even a different hair style.

I think too much.

Sometimes thinking can get in the way of doing and being and living. It’s impossible to plan everything that takes place — every word, every gesture, every outfit. Maybe I think to try to plan it all out. Maybe it’s my attempt to make sure it happens the way I want it to happen. Thinking can lead to positive outcomes when you don’t do it too much — when you don’t forget to act because you’re too caught up in your thoughts.

So, I think too much — sometimes.

But hopefully the thinking will give way to action, to events, to life. Hopefully the thinking stops in time for life to move forward — hopefully.

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