Wednesday, December 31, 2014

It’s Not Time For Good-Bye, No Matter How Much It Hurts

Many of you reading this likely know what a crazy year 2014 has been for me, particularly the last few months.  Let’s tally just a few of the hits, shall we?
  • We lost my grandfather’s cousin, who was like an aunt to my mother and almost like another grandmother for me.
  • We lost my husband’s grandmother.
  • I started a new job, which while in itself has been a wonderful experience, it was so difficult to say good-bye to my former coworkers and not to be able to work hand-in-hand every day with the amazing people at my (now former) client.
  • I caught the flu early in the season, in October.
  • I am now fighting another flu strain, because of course I am.
  • I unexpectedly wasn’t able to spend Thanksgiving – the holiday closest to my heart – with my kids.
  • Traveling to my in-laws’ for Christmas was a true, longer-than-24-hour trains, planes and automobiles experience.
  • My younger sister passed away just before Thanksgiving.

And, of course, we all – in this country and in many cases throughout the world – have had to experience and try to get our heads around the events and tragedies of this past year: too many police-related tragedies and too much unrest to enumerate, Snowmageddon, three tragic and almost surreal airplane disasters, unrest with North Korea and Russia, the Ebola outbreak, and the loss of several beloved icons who had a positive impact on our world, just to name a few. It’s been a rough year all around.

Several people have made the comment that I must be ready to say good-bye and good riddance to 2014. But you know what? I’m not. 

Yes, 2014 was rough, and I wouldn’t dream of hoping that 2015 will mirror this past year.

Still, we have a choice in what we do with the difficult events that life throws our way. We can hate the moments that hurt us, or we can learn from them. We can regret them, or we can bear in mind that even as we go through the worst experience, the fact of the matter is that we are here to experience it, and that alone is something to be grateful for.

When my kids were little, my husband asked if we could teach them to say a prayer before bedtime. I agreed, but with the request back that I could write the prayer, since I’m not religious. Here is what our kids learned and memorized and will say at bedtime (when they remember to):

Dear God,
Thank you for today, and thank you for tomorrow.
Thank you for our joy and even for our sorrow.
Thank you for what’s been and all there is to be.
And mostly, God, I thank you for always loving me.

That “thank you… even for our sorrow” bit was very important for me. We forget to be grateful for our moments of challenge and sadness. (Apparently I’m intended to be incredibly grateful for the year 2014!) But those trying and difficult moments mold us and speak to our hearts and help us realize even more keenly how fortunate we are in our moments of joy or even those times of simple peace and calm.

Here’s the thing: I am grateful for 2014. While I hope 2015 will be different and happier and more steady year, sort of a more committed-to-happy type of year, I refuse to just say good-bye to 2014. No, I’m not willing to do that. Instead, I’ll just say “thank you.”

Happy New Year, friends. Welcome to 2015.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Dear Airport Baskin Robbins Kenny Rogers

Hey you. Yes, you, Kenny Rogers. I’m looking at you.

Well, yes, of course I know that you’re not really Kenny Rogers. Still, you’ve done a great job of turning yourself into a shrine to the Gambler himself:  well-groomed salt-and-pepper beard and mustache, collared shirt and pressed blue jeans, artfully sculpted grey-and-white feathers of hair so neatly parted down the center of your scalp.

Here’s the thing, Kenny: even if you were Mister Rogers himself (the singer, not he-of-the-beloved-cardigan), you shouldn’t hold up the line like you’re doing, chatting up the lovely ice cream maven behind the counter. We are, after all, standing in line at a Baskin Robbins within the concourse of an airport. In other words, those of us in line with you likely need to board flights pretty soon. Very soon. Please-let-us-order-our-ice-cream-and-get-our-ice-cream-and-eat-our-ice-cream-before-we-are-ordered-to-board-an-airplane soon.

Pensive Kenny. Must be thinking about what flavors to include in his double scoop.
Photo courtesy of
We haven’t got tonight, Kenny. We have a few minutes. We’re not islands in the stream, either. We’re hungry – or even hangry – passengers looking for some sweet, frozen goodness to boost our moods and our blood sugar.

Keep up this behavior, and no, we won’t always love you. We won’t even risk falling in love with you, whether or not you’re a dreamer. Darlin’, you’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, you’ve got to know when to fold ‘em, and you’ve got to know when to pay ‘em and move out of the way of the rest of us.

Oh, see?… my flight’s boarding now, and I haven’t even had the opportunity to order. I’ll remember this, Kenny. I’ll remember it through the years. Just you wait.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Missing “Hey, Meg!”

A week ago was my fmphtphepyidu-rd birthday.

Typically, I love my birthday. I’m not the woman who shies away from getting older. Quite the contrary. Every year is exciting to me, from the experiences – both new and routine – to the wrinkles and the white hairs to the memories and everything in between. Aches and pains, while not exactly pleasant, are still something new and therefore something to grab my interest. Having to hold my iPhone a little further away in order to read the typeface… it’s new. All of these things are part of life. They’re going to happen, so might as well embrace them and find a way to enjoy them. And that includes the celebration of each year completed on this earth. Hurray! (It’s also a lovely excuse to eat cake. Nothing can be all that bad that includes your favorite cake.)

This year, though, was different. Markedly so. This year, today, I had to work hard to make it through the day.

My little sister passed away exactly three weeks before my birthday. It wasn’t expected, but it wasn’t entirely unexpected either. No matter the circumstances, it happened, and it really sucks.

I’m not the kind of person who gets mired in sadness. No matter how hard something hits me, I have to focus on living, on joy, on the future, on doing something that will have a positive impact on someone else. As far as we know, this is the one life we live, so why waste it being self-serving or wallowing or worrying or becoming stuck.

During the week after my sister’s death, I didn’t allow myself the time or luxury to feel anything. I didn’t feel mired or depressed, but I also didn’t feel joy, or worry, or confusion, or devotion, or much of anything. And now… now I think I might be stuck.

It occurred to me a couple of days ago that I haven’t really cried. Not really. Not fully. And I definitely haven’t cried – truly allowed my heart to grieve openly – among the people I love most. In that first moment of shock and devastation, I howled tears of desperation with my husband. But since then… no. It’s as if when the people I love are around me, I put on a “me” costume, a defective one that was created without tear ducts.

Don’t get me wrong. Tears have been shed during this past several weeks. There were a few at the funeral, and during a business trip airplane ride, I found a continuous, unstoppable stream of tears silently pouring out of my eyes. Still, the real grieving hasn’t happened.

On my birthday, there were moments when it all hit, the reality that I’m now the oldest of four sisters, not five, at least on this earth right now. In those moments, I keenly felt the hole in the universe, the emptiness that was created when my sister passed from here to the next place. And I felt my heart start to rip open, ready to let the sadness pour out. But then, each time, this strange sound exited my throat each time, completely unbidden, like no sound I’ve ever heard before, and in my surprise I found myself closing my heart up again. I found that I wasn’t ready to feel yet. Not yet.

The problem, though, is that I don’t know that I’m able to feel much of anything right now. Keeping my feelings about my sister inside, keeping them from manifesting fully, has meant that I’ve had to hold everything in. There’s this wall I’ve built between myself and my heart, and there’s another I’ve built between my heart and the world. And the world feels flat, and so do I. Flat and grey and an echo of myself.

I don’t know how this all ends. I don’t know how to get back to me. I know it needs to involve a catharsis of some kind, a ranting, a real and honest release, and an acknowledgement all the way down to my soul – past these barriers I’ve erected – that my little sister is gone. I have to accept, fully and completely accept, that I’m never again going to hear her husky alto voice say, “Hey, Meg!” I know I have to do this, not just because it’s reality but because until I do so, I won’t be able to get back to me.

I just… I don’t know how yet. What I do know is that I have to get out of this “me” costume. Because it’s too tight, and it’s defective. Who ever heard of making a “me” costume without tear ducts?
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