Seeing not seeing, hearing not hearing

heartTear jerker alert… those who have lost a loved one will most relate to tonight’s musing.  It is an intense writing I share, written through a veil of tears that flood down my face.  

Every time that I write it is a sharing out loud the depths of whatever emotion are arising within me at the time.  It’s as if the emotions start deep inside and as they bubble up to the surface they come flowing out of me with a voice desiring to live my life out loud.  I continue to be awed by deep, almost impossible to ignore desire to write.  It remains one of the few times that I am feel whole, capable and hopeful that I am healing.   All I know at those times of intense emotion or new insight is that I have to write to heal my heart.  Ignoring that muse leaves things festering in a very unhealthy way.

But tonight I experienced such a powerful punch to my heart that I found myself literally knocked to my knees. 

We were at The Falls in Columbia at a run through for the trivia night for Kateri’s pony club that is happening on Saturday night.  All seemed fairly stable until I turned to look at the group of guys gathered around the projector.  My breath was knocked out of me as I felt Russell’s presence so strongly it was if he was actually in the room; as he should have been. For years Russell has handled the power point and the projection of the questions.  He and John have worked so closely together at these trivia nights that as I saw John, for a moment I could see Russell standing right next to him.  It felt as if someone had punched me in the stomach.

 It was one of those rare experiences I have of seeing and yet not seeing Russell. Of hearing him and yet not hearing him. I saw him and I heard him in the place he should be and then remembered that I wasn’t really. I could barely breathe as tears started flowing down my cheeks.  I tried to simply focus on my breath and pull myself together.  But everywhere I looked I could see and hear him.  Somehow I made it out of the room before the shaking and sobbing started.    I closed myself into a bathroom stall and let myself collapse into the grief, just dove into allowing myself to feel it all.   I stayed there for quite awhile shaking and sobbing, then headed outside to breath as deeply of the cool night air as I could.  If it had been a little warmer I would have stayed out there. But the cold started to creep in and so back inside I went.  I settled myself into a chair in a quiet hallway to await the end of the meeting. I listened to the laughter, the music, the excited voices of everyone and knew there was no way I could walk back into that room tonight.   Nikki found me there and gently helped me find my way back to being able to speak again.   By the time Kateri was ready to go I was pretty stable, balanced and again able to function safely.

These times of seeing and yet not seeing, hearing yet not hearing are so very, very disconcerting. When I see and hear him like this there is a part of my mind that says “Ah, it really has just been a bad dream. Now, I can wake up and he will be here.”  But then, a few seconds later reality crashes back down and I realize that the dream is that I am seeing him and hearing him here with me.  Forever it will be real that he is not physically here even if I see him and hear him at times.   This leaves my heart hurting so hard it feels like it is pounding in my chest.  And I feel, at these times, that I may never fully heal which makes me even sadder.

Wow, it is a cuckoo luckoo thing to experience.  I do wonder if it will get at least a little easier in the second year.  I would imagine that part of the shock and these times of seeing not seeing, hearing not hearing come at attending events without him for the first time.  I know the rawness of it all is in part because of the radical newness of this whole journey.   My mind is trying to catch up with reality and understand everything through new lenses.

Of this I am sure, it is a cuckoo luckoo path I wonder. Honestly I think all grieving journeys are a bit cuckoo luckoo as we work to process our new reality.   My heart is raw and vulnerable and my balance is wobbly at best most days.  All I can do is keep walking my walk and living as real as I can.  I sure wish I could really see and hear Russell again.  And I am also grateful for the ways I do feel him still here with me.  Wow, just wow!

 

 

Coulda, woulda, shoulda

 

ifonlywand     The coulda, woulda, shouldas; the if onlys; the what ifs; these are the creepy, crawly monsters that worm their way into our hearts and minds.  These are the thoughts that slide into us, making their way into the dark places within, waiting for just the right moment to come creeping back out with whispers of guilt that threaten to strangle us with their words.  These are the things that keep us constantly questioning every decision we make or have ever made.

Creeping into my dreams, these messages twist my memories of what has happened in my life into crazy ass nightmares.  Dreams – both sleeping and awake ones – that can leave me so muddled I find it hard to just get through a day. Seriously it is challenging enough to simply walk through grieving into a more whole, healed place.  When shadowy messages with themes of coulda, woulda, shoulda; if only, and what if pop onto the scene that journey becomes more twisted and harder to disentangle truth from fiction.

“If only you had done _____________, he would still be alive.”  “You could have said this to the doctor and maybe things would be different.” “You should have done an autopsy so you would know why he ended up in the hospital.” “What if you had been more focused on you all eating healthy and exercising?”  “If only you had known more about reiki or other healing tools, maybe you could have saved him.”  And on, and on, and on the thoughts can twist and turn in my mind.

It becomes a daily task to set these thoughts aside along with the guilt that comes with them.  Refusing to allow these thoughts to take hold in my mind becomes a necessity.  When I don’t set them aside, I can quickly slide down into a rabbit hole of my own making.  In that rabbit hole I torture myself with feelings of  guilt, inadequacy, shame for having missed something, fear that I will miss other things of importance leading to more loss, and a whole slew of cuckoo luckoo land dark thoughts.  Getting out of this rabbit hole can become a monumental task with seemingly no end, ever.

Interestingly, these journeys into rabbit holes in coulda, woulda, shoulda land are a new thing for me.  I’ve only started these journeys in the last couple of months.  I don’t think I was having many of these slip slidy trips until recently, which I am most grateful for. Whether it’s the inching closer to the year anniversary that is doing it, or other intense events that keep popping up, I don’t know.  All I know is that they are wicked little trips my mind takes me on.  I find myself quite fearful, blocked, unable to speak out loud without sobbing, and stuck when I slip down into these holes.  Not feelings I want to experience for long periods of time.

I have no doubt these kind of thoughts are a very normal part of most grieving journeys. It’s so easy to begin to wonder what could have gone differently.  There is such a longing to have our loved one back that our minds can go into overdrive trying to figure out what happened.   These kinds of thoughts can also be part of our regular moving through life.  Most of us have fascinating inclinations to second guess, wish we had done things differently so the outcome would have been better, and believe that if we had only known we could have saved someone or something we have lost.

Maybe. Maybe not.

What I am trying to do now as these thoughts arise and try to twist around my heart, strangling it closed, is to focus on forgiving myself.  I am trying to allow the thoughts to flit through my mind and then to let them go.  I am trying to remind myself that in all I do in life I make efforts to do the best I can in any given moment.  I am trying to love myself enough to give myself a break. I am trying to remember that I do not have all of the answers, nor is everything completely within my control.  I am working to keep myself out of the rabbit holes that I create for myself.   If only I could do that,  be gentle and love and forgive myself, then I would be able to let go of all of the things I think I should do and instead live my life as best as I can.

What if I could do that?   What if you could do that?  Think of the peace and healing we would feel.  Ahhh, if only…

Wearing my red hat permanently

red hatSeveral years ago I came across a warning system for the community at Avalon to know when I needed a little bit of space.  I want to share that short writing here as a precursor to today’s musing.  I wrote this at the beginning of winter which has traditionally been a time of more challenges for me.  Most years, I warn all my friends and family that I may stop communicating with them much.  Becoming a hibernating bear is my greatest desire every winter.

     I have come up with an “early warning system” for those of you who come to Avalon during the colder, wintery months.   Watch for what color hat I am wearing!  
    Purple hat means go.  If I am wearing a purple hat know that I am “safe” to approach and converse with.  No hat or a green hat (can’t find one I like in green yet) is okay too.  Margo pointed out on Monday (a fairly grey, grouchy day for me) that I needed to put my purple hat on because purple is my play color. She was correct and it did help shift my mood.  Purple is play for me.  (I actually have lots of blue hats this year.)
     Red hat means STOP!  I love the color red.  It is one of my favorites.  I am also reserving my red hat as the way to warn people it is a challenging day for me.  And it would be best to approach at your own risk.  🙂  I am using the hat as a way to simply say I am feeling more vulnerable, edgy, tired, etc.  Might not be the best time to ask me about a new project.  Could be a great day to come up and just give me a hug! 
     I do my best to take joy in simple things and find the good in every moment/situation.   I live a life filled with abundant opportunities for joy and love. Yet sometimes I need a little more space than others.  I encourage all of us to find ways to let others know in gentle and clear ways what we need.  Colorful hats are just one way.
     This year, I think I should just be wearing a red hat every single day.  Actually, wearing all red might be an even better idea.  As winter progresses and we inch closer to the first day of spring, I’m not experiencing much of the hopeful feelings I usually do at this time.  And it’s been an amazingly good winter.   I am fully aware that this year it has nothing to do with external weather and all to do with my internal barometer.
     I’m spending my days trying to plan for the future – embracing new learnings, planning for lots of cool new things at Avalon, dreaming about the trips the kids and I want to take this year, desiring to deeply declutter our house.  I’m spending many hours reading healing books, having great conversations with folks, and trying to work at the farm.  All I want to do, I mean ALL I want to do is become a recluse and hide away from the world, coming out only to get food.  The way our house is set up in its own little valley I could easily go days upon days seeing only my kids. And that would be 100% okay with me.
     Looking forward to the first day of spring is now intrinsically intertwined with the day Russell died.  Yes, yes, yes I write and speak about dancing the center line between dark and light, grieving and healing.  But this one is kicking my ass a little bit, some days a lot.  One of my favorite days of the year, the Spring Equinox, is now also the exact date of Russell’s death.  In my very good moments I can find wisdom and peace in this.  But lately, there have been lots of not good moments that just leave me feeling like the wind is permanently knocked out of me.  I simply can’t believe it’s almost been a year, and yet it also feels just like yesterday.  It is a crazy, crazy journey to be on.
     I’m feeling angry, edgy, weepy, and really just don’t care about much of anything outside of my children.  I don’t want to see the good side of things as is my natural inclination to do.  I don’t want to cheerlead, encourage, plan, dream or scheme.  I just don’t.  I’m trying to go through the motions of running a large, healthy farm/business.  I’m trying to at least fake caring about events and activities coming up.  But it is all just going through the motions, there is little to no joy or desire in me for any of it.  Heck, my own horses could probably start talking out loud to me and I would just say “Hmm, that’s nice.”   Even getting the focus to figure out what color hat to put on each day is too much.
     Oh I know that I will shift again at some point and begin to seek the healing wisdom in my life. But I believe for this time, this moment I’m just going to settle into wearing my red hat for awhile.   Remember, it doesn’t mean I’m angry at any of you. It just means my insides are close to coming through to the surface and I am in need of more hugs.  The thread of sadness, missing Russell and the ending of my hopes and dreams for us, is wrapped tight around me.  Until I feel all that is for me and allow myself to do whatever I need to do for my own healing and my kids, the red hat will be staying on.
     Wow, do I hope and hope and hope that spring time brings a deep cleansing and healing and releasing as it usually does for me.  I’m tired, so very tired of feeling like this and talking about sad, heavy things..    I just want to feel like talking to people again and laughing and playing for hours on end.  I want to feel warm and capable and fun and clear again.  I want to wear only my blue or purple hats.
     In this time, in this moment…I wear red.

The Moment After

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This picture of Walter from his first stay at Mizzou after his colic surgery is one of my favorites. The play of light and shadow and the intensity of his eye strikes some powerful chord inside of me.  Perhaps because I am reminded of how much hope we’ve been pouring into this horse and his healing for over 5 months.  Perhaps because so much of my life this past year has been playing with seeing the center space between light and shadow.  And probably both of these and more.

Yesterday afternoon when Dr. Reed, Walter’s surgeon, spoke the words “He looks great. The hernia is healed.” it was as if someone had pulled a pin out of giant balloon in my chest I’ve been trying to keep inflated for a very long time.  Oh, I felt happy, so very happy for him and for Kateri, but those tears came flooding out of me in sobbing tears.  Pretty sure I freaked the vet students out a little bit.  Dr. Reed just asked if I was okay and when I replied yes said, “Okay, we will just ignore you for now then.”   That in itself was a great gift to me.  It was permission to be as I needed to be in that moment without a need for the world to stop moving forward.

As we waited for Walter to come out of his sedation I was struck by the numbness settling over me, while at the same time an awareness of great aching in my chest.  I wanted to feel giddy joy at our wonderful news. I wanted to dance and laugh and play.  But I could feel most strongly was this desire to cry and cry and cry.  The relief of finally, finally getting great news about Walter and his healing just wanted to flood out of me.

What came to me as we were driving home, my mind going 100 miles an hour trying to process everything, is that even wonderful news can leave us stunned and unable to speak much of the time.  When we’ve been walking a fine line between light and shadow for weeks and months on end there is a way we learn to hold ourselves in that center space to keep ourselves grounded and balanced.  And when we are also walking path of healing after the loss of a loved one, every path we find ourselves upon that is one of the unknown can leave us walking that center space as if upon a tight rope,  waiting for which one – light or shadow – is what will become most present along this path.

Upon our return to Avalon, I found myself listening and responding to folks as if through a heavy fog.  Other people’s joy for us and Walter would kind of send rays of light through the fog surrounding me.  I could hear myself saying to them”Yes, it’s wonderful.” as part of my mind was also saying “Huh? What? He’s really healed?”  I wanted to celebrate and float on the their rays of happy light. But it just couldn’t quite happen through the fog surrounding me.  Such a weird, weird experience.

Today, I find myself still not ready to really rejoice.  I am reflective and pondering and working to get myself rebalanced before entering the world again.  I am allowing myself to cry the tears I’d been keeping at bay that spoke of the fear I had been keeping locked away; the fear of Walter needing another surgery and months more of recovery; the fear of watching my strong daughter having to spend weeks and weeks trying to help her horse heal while she desperately wants to just enjoy them being together and happy again; the fear of being away from my sons for days on end again as we dealt with post surgery things.   I am allowing these tears and these fears to come out of my body in a gentle release of what could have been.

I also cry these tears in the peace and happiness that these are fears that I can truly let go as we move into a time of joyfully watching Walter be able to become a happy horse again.  We can watch him be able to play and jump and leap around as he so wants to do.  I can watch him and Kateri go for long walks again and eventually move back into riding.  I can watch the smiles of daughter reach deeper into her being as she begins to trust that all really is well with Walter again.   We can all, as a family, begin to imagine times of being together at home or on vacations without a constant fear of getting a call that something is wrong with Walter.  I look forward to being able to breathe deeply and clearly into trust and hope of the future.

There is great joy and blissful peace awaiting me.  As I release and let go of the tears and my fears I feel the joy and peace soaking into me like the rising of a summer sun.   I rejoice in allowing myself to step deeper into the light as I let out my breath in the deepest exhale I’ve taken in a very long time.

Say it now!

lovematters

“I love you.”  These were the final words that Russell and I said to each other exactly 11 months ago.  For this I will be eternally grateful!   To have our final verbalizations to one another be ones of heart felt love is a gift that continues to give me great peace, comfort, and joy.

As we edge closer to the 1 year anniversary of Russell’s hospitalization and death, I am experiencing such a myriad of emotions.  A renewed shock that this is actually real.  Deep longing for him to be here in the flesh again. Sadness for missed opportunities. Bewilderment and curiousity about the flashbacks I am having daily of what it was like at this time last year. Gratitude for the many gifts of this time – supportive friends and family, embracing communities, work that can feed my soul, children who are my life’s breath, financial freedom to have time to heal and be, projects and ideas that give me hope of a new future.  And threading through all of it, a continued profound love for all the people and opportunities in my life at this time, in this moment.

The past couple of weeks I have been spending a great deal of time pondering, processing and letting go of memories of what it was like for Russell and I at this time last year. For, you see, it was one of the darkest times of our life together.  January – March of 2015 he and I were in a time of great discernment about who we were as individuals and more importantly, what that meant for us as a couple.  We were in weekly counseling for those 3 months as we tried to figure out how to re-embrace the joyousness of others and let go of the build up of frustrations that can happen for so very many couples in long term relationships.

Those 2 1/2 months before he entered the hospital were ones of frustration, brutal honesty about what we were really feeling and experiencing, and fear about where we might be headed.  Those counseling sessions were hard ones as we pulled back the curtains of politeness to get to the real behind them.  We had moments of such rawness in expressing our true feelings that my breath can still catch remembering those times.

Those months were also ones of hope, remembering, weaving new threads of love, listening, and learning to trust in new ways.  They were weeks of taking risks to step into vulnerability with one another.  We took lots of baby steps forward to healing US, while also realizing the ways we needed to heal our own wounded selves.  We sought new ways to communicate with one another.  We focused more energy on appreciating one another for both little and big things.  We found new ways of connecting and simply enjoying each other’s company.

Now, as I look back on that time, I am grateful to the depths of my being that we were working diligently to heal US.  That our final months together were spent with our first and foremost priority each week being our scheduled counseling appointments has given me great relief these past 11 months.  Oh, I know we had a long, healing road ahead of us still. But we were doing it!  We were saying it!  We were choosing to work at healing our relationship! We weren’t just giving up and saying “It’s too hard. We can’t do this.”

I can with complete confidence believe that Russell knew at the end that I loved him and I was there for him.  I can rest assured in the fact that we were in a place of hope, love, and possibility with one another the day he entered the hospital.  Heck, just the day before we had been at a counseling session that ended with us realizing we were both feeling hopeful about us and our future.  What a gift!

So in this time, in this moment I encourage all of you SAY IT NOW! Love is all that matters and we need to say it those we love NOW!  If you have relationships that you know need healing, do it now!  If you care about someone, say it now!  I am witness that it can end as quickly as a blink of an eye.  To know that you have done and said all that you could to heal, love, and hope is a gift we all should have.

In this time, in this moment remember – LOVE IS ALL THAT MATTERS!

 

 

When the grieving and healing isn’t your own

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Healing one’s self is an arduous, often long journey.  Staying vulnerable, true to yourself, and honest as can be with others about what you need takes constant attention.  Trusting that all will someday to well and whole again is not always an easy task. There are dark parts of the path forward that seem to pop up out of nowhere.  Finding ways to light these dark places and finding the strength to keep stepping forward can cause one to tap into wells of courage and hope that were unknown before the journey began.

But the healing of one’s own self is a thousand times easier than attempting to help another heal their heart.  Helping someone else, especially one’s own child, can be a dark, twisty, unclear path.  There is no road map into another’s journey that can help make it clear what words and deeds could shed a little bit of light on their darkened path.   There is only the hope that one’s presence can in someway provide comfort to them as they chose their own way.

Trusting that all will be well for another, allowing them to travel their own journey in the time that is right for them is vastly more challenging than trusting it for ourselves. I know my own interior workings and am learning to listen deeply to my inner voice that tells me clearly what I need to heal my heart and my life.  I trust that I am on the right path for me. I trust that in this time and in this moment I am growing stronger, wiser, and more whole every single day.  I am also clearly aware that my way forward during this time isn’t the way that others need.  We each have such different needs that allowing each to have their own journey takes openness and trust, and a willingness to not always be the one with the answers.

Watching my kids and other family members travel their own paths of grieving and healing can sometimes tear my heart right out of my chest.  The tears that flow these days are much more often for one of them then for myself.  I often feel helpless and insecure as I walk beside all of them.  There never seem to be adequate enough words to share with them in times of sorrow.

Breathing deeply, holding a hand, listening to the words spoken and the ones unspoken, sharing moments of joy and hope with them, giving a hug, believing deeply in their strength and wisdom, speaking of that strength and wisdom, this is all that I can do most days.

And everyday I wish there was so much more that I could do to help them believe that one day their hearts and minds will heal and they will feel strong and ready for the world again.  I wish that I could infuse them with all of the love, pride, and belief I have in them.   If only they could see themselves the way I see them. Then, they would know that not only can they handle all that life brings to them.  They would know they ARE handling it all.  They would see the light, love, and healing I see shining around and through them.  They would be able to trust that the day will come that joy and happiness will sing throughout them once again.

So in this time, in this moment I cry my tears that are my strength.  I love them as fiercely and as gently as I can.  I allow them to walk their own journeys as I walk mine.  I trust that not only will all be well, but more deeply I trust that ALL IS WELL.  In this time, in this moment I breathe, I love, I hope, I believe.