Clawing my way back to joy

standard September 13, 2015 1 response

Last week I went through this past year’s blog archives to find a post or two that I could to enter in the Type A Parent “We Still Blog” contest. As I perused what I’ve written a few thoughts occurred to me.

I’m proud of what I’ve written. Proud of the way my voice sings on the screen. Proud of the fact that I can let my vulnerability shine.

But I’m sad at how sad pretty much everything I’ve written in the last 12 months has turned out.

It was a grim read-through.

I’ve been deluding myself somewhat, telling myself that I’m fine, I’m coping, I’m getting through the days. And, for the most part, it’s very true. The days flow by, the work gets done, the kids are thriving, the house is cared for, and most days, there’s even some laughter.

But reading through my blog was like having the cold hard truth stare me in the face.

The last 6 months have been hard, really, really hard. Instead of seeing everything surrounded by a silver lining of hope and potential, it feels like everything has been surrounded by a dark lining of sadness.

No matter what I do, a part of my heart feels sad.

Please, trust me, I know this is normal. I know this is grief. I know this will fade in time until I’m almost sad it’s gone.

But I’m still ready to take back my joy.

A couple weeks ago, when the school year was just starting, I realized that one of the things that I most missed from the time before my father’s death, the time before all the sad, was my knitting.

Knitting has always been a source of comfort and calm for me. It helps center me and make me feel whole and connected. I always turn to my knitting when I’m facing challenges, when I need peace. I knit on every plane ride taking me to see my father, I knit whenever I was at his bedside, and I knit as he lay dying.

During his last months I worked on a gorgeous scarf made of luxurious yarn that brought me solace whenever I simply touched it. I finished the scarf a few days after I returned home after his death, draped it around my shoulders and felt comforted by this thing I had created as he breathed his last breaths.

And then I put my knitting needles down and walked away.

I told myself that it was too hot, that I was too distracted to focus on the challenging pattern I had chosen for my next project, that the yarn just wasn’t soft enough. I lied.

The simple act of looking at knitting needles made me uncomfortable. The act of picking them up made me downright nauseous.

A problem since I was desperate for something soothing to do in the evening.

Now, I don’t just knit when I’m sad or anxious. I also knit during most school volunteer meetings. It keeps me from getting distracted or doing something rude like playing with my phone while someone is talking. The mere thought of heading into the school year without this crutch to help me get through the countless meetings I attend every month was enough to make me hyperventilate in pure panic.

And that’s when I realized that it was time to take back what was mine.

It’s enough that I lost my father. I wasn’t about to also lose something so essential to my well-being.

I found a super simple project and unearthed some of my favorite yarn. I knit a coffee cup cozy, and another, and another. I started playing around with the design, taught myself a new technique, made another two. (If you’d like one, let me know. I, ahem, have a couple extra.) Then I started a new, slightly harder project.

Now, when I pick up my needles, it once again feels like coming home. I’ll always feel myself sitting at my father’s bedside, but it’s turning into a tender memory, not a panic inducing one.

Taking back my knitting feels like the first step towards taking back my joy.

It’s not going to be an easy process. It definitely feels more like I’m clawing my way back to my joyful life, rather than just sauntering there. But it feels like I’m finally on my way.

I’m spending more time with friends. I’m searching out opportunities to be with people rather than holed up alone at home. I’m looking for rainbows and reasons to smile. I’m cooking again, running again, reading again. Taking things back, one by one. Doing them because they bring me joy rather than because they stave off the panic and the sad.

The sad will still be there, I know that, but I’m going to try to keep it from overshadowing everything. At the very least, it’s not what my full-of-life, passionate father would have wanted. For that reason alone, it’s worth the effort.

Leg warmers

The slightly harder project. Legwarmers for Little L.

Life is fragile… and absurd

standard May 4, 2015 1 response

On Saturday morning I woke to the news that Sheryl Sandberg’s husband Dave Goldberg had passed away unexpectedly while on vacation. Now, to most of the world, this is a sad news tidbit people learned about over their morning coffee and forgot long before the day had grown warm, but to our corner of the country, where he was well known and loved, the news threw everyone for a loop.

Successful, healthy men aren’t supposed to die at 47.

To me, the news was particularly poignant, as is all news about dead parents these days. It doesn’t take much to bring tears to my eyes or make me relapse into my grief funk.

I rallied as best as I could. Took the little and a friend to a skate boarding lesson and rallied as best as I could.

And then, while meandering around downtown, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while and discovered that she was battling bone cancer.

I felt panicky for the rest of the day. Short of breath. Shaky. Terrified. Life felt just too fragile to bear.

Most of the time, we live in happy denial of all the things that can tear our friends and family away from us. We don’t know about most of the illnesses that can claim or radically alter lives. We conveniently forget about how dangerous it is to even walk down the street or up the stairs.

And then, sometimes, you get hit in the face with one reminder or three. And BAM, the mere thought of how fragile life is, of how easy it is to lose someone, brings you to your knees and steals the breath from your lungs.

I’d love to say that this temporary epiphany made me more loving to my family, made me want to hug everyone close, but really, all it did was make me want to hide under the covers and lose myself in a book. Even when fictional characters die, they’re never really gone. Just flip a few pages back, and presto, they’re back.

I’m sure that in the not so distant future my denial will be securely back in place and I’ll be, once again, able to get on with my life without gasping for breath every time I glimpse what life would be like if it were missing more of my people.

In the meantime I feel about as fragile as life really is.

Life is Fragile

I’m not ready for it to be true

standard April 22, 2015 6 responses

This morning, as I lay in bed listening to the sounds of the kids having breakfast, it occurred to me that, even though I logged over 65 hours at my computer last week and wrote about a million words, I hadn’t written a single one for myself.

I haven’t even wanted to pick up a notebook to journal.

Well, wanted is a big word. Let’s be honest here, if I gave myself the time, I’d probably want to, but I’m so damn scared to let myself think even for a moment, that I’ve buried myself in work to the point of falling into bed, brain dead, every night, without a spare thought or feeling.

It’s just so much easier to write ad copy about heavy duty motor oil or the latest innovations in cyber security than it is to try to wrap my brain around a world where my dad isn’t safely tucked into his life in Toronto, battling for the opportunity to eventually come visit, to travel, to reclaim his life.

He’s never going to come visit.

He’s never going to meet my dog.

He never even saw my house.

He barely knew my kids.

And all because we were waiting for him to get better so he could finally do all that.

It is so much easier to just pretend that March never happened than to face the fact that he’s just… gone.

So I write. I brainstorm. I conceptualize. I edit. I rewrite. I brainstorm some more. I write endless copy for emails no one will read. I think up banner ads that will never see the light of day. I craft perfect Facebook posts that Facebook will never serve to our fans. I think up witty tweets a handful of people will notice as they stream by.

I don’t work on my novel.

I don’t journal.

And most importantly I try really hard not to think.

But the thoughts slip in anyway at truly unexpected moments.

On Malibu Beach in Los Angeles, where the sight of a lifeguard station threw me back onto our old flowery couch where my dad and I used to watch endless Baywatch reruns together.

When a small motorcycle passes me on the road and I remember him trying to teach me to drive his and I drove it up the garage wall, leaving tire marks the next tenants must have wondered about for years.

When I hesitate before cleaning my new cast iron pan and hear his voice reminding me that I really do need to season it properly.

When I watch Dottie’s puppies squirm around try to think of names for them. He was so damn good at naming dogs.

Then I fight back tears. I take deep breaths. I try to slow down my heart rate. I stop the rising panic. I force the thoughts away.

Because I hate crying.

And I’m just not ready for it to be true.

2015 Your Word is: Cry

standard February 9, 2015 Leave a response

January slipped by in a haze of carefully crafted headlines, subheaders, body copy, and million little or big edits to those same carefully crafted words.

I wrote little else last month. Advertising is fun, but it’s definitely eating up huge chunks of my days and even bigger chunks of my head space.

Instead of wandering around my days imagining smart, insightful blog posts or pondering deep thoughts about worldly issues, heh, instead I wander around noticing all the banners and headlines around me.

Some impress me. Others, not so much.

And so, a whole month slipped by without me really giving any thought to what my word of the year should be.

I thought for a bit that I’d just skip that this year. I fell flat last year. I haven’t embraced a thing. Instead, I think I spent a large part of the year doing the exact opposite. I feel like I’ve been fighting my way through my days, through the choices I’ve had to make, though the situations thrust upon me.

And I’m tired. Really, really tired of fighting.

Exactly the same way I was last year, only more so.

I sat down last week, in the middle of a tiny lull, and pulled out my Leonie Dawson workbook. It’s hoakie, and pretty, and cheesy, and everything I love. The goal of the book is to help you close out the previous year and prepare for the following one. The business aspects don’t 100% apply to me because I don’t have a product to sell, other than my words and my expertise, but the personal life stuff? It’s spot on.

I didn’t over think it. I didn’t analyze my answers before committing them to paper. I let myself be vulnerable and honest, secure in the knowledge that no one would ever read what I wrote.

And when the workbook asked me what I wanted to open myself to in 2015, even without realizing it, I wrote

“I want to allow myself to feel all my feels.”

I am the queen of masking my feelings, of denying them, of walling them up, burying them deep, and turning my back on them before they can cause a chink in my armor.

As one friend has recently pointed out. I have mastered the art of grinning and bearing.

I am strong. I endure. I get on with my life.

Feelings just get in the way of that.

I think part of the reason I’m so tired, so drained, is that I’m losing the battle with the feelings. There are just too many. Too many demanding to be felt.

I think it might be time to start taking down the wall, time to acknowledge the feelings behind it.

I cannot think of anything more terrifying than that. I worry that the ocean of tears that lies inside me will drown me if I let it. I worry that all those denied feels will each extract their pound of flesh as they make themselves felt.

And yet, I’m more worried about what will happen if I keep denying myself the luxury of wallowing in my hard earned emotions.

In the past I’ve strongly adhered to the notion that it simply takes less energy to not fall apart than to fall apart and then have to rebuild yourself.

But in the past I didn’t have the support I have today.

I have a husband who keeps proving to me over and over that he’s there to help me. That he wants to help.

I have amazing friends who not only watch me cry without judging, but who have come to my rescue when I’ve been at my lowest, feeding me exactly what I need to feel strong enough, supported enough to be vulnerable.

I have family who is always there, loving me for who I am, proud of who I have become, silently and not so silently supporting me in every way, and reading between the lines of what I write to see what I really need.

In the past I always worried I’d have to rebuild on my own, and I always knew I wouldn’t have the strength required to do it.

Today I know I’m not alone. I know I’ll have help.

So, my word for 2015 will be Cry. Which I know sounds really sad, but is really a strength. I will feel the feels. I will embrace the emotions. I will let myself be vulnerable.

It won’t be easy, and it sure won’t be pretty. And I know that I’ll be scared to let it happen. But I think it’s necessary. Because maybe the reason I failed at embracing everything last year is because you can’t embrace what hasn’t been felt , what hasn’t been named.

But scared is just another emotion to embrace, right?