My heart in Texas

Shattered heart. Broken woman. Lost in darkness. Grief stricken. Tired. Strong. Weak. No hope. No dreams. No trust.

These are all the things that I have felt and been this last year. Yet, here I stand. Finding a new way of being. Here I stand looking for a new tomorrow. Here I am living in the moment. There is pain. I will not say otherwise. There is doubt. I would be lying if I said otherwise. Sometimes seeing that hope and feeling it is the scariest thing on earth. If you have no hope you can’t be hurt. If you have no hope you can just get through and not have to worry about anyone or anything. If you have no hope you are existing, not living.

My heart has been broken so many times over the last 30 years that there are times I wonder how it can feel anything. There is always pain. There is always hurt. Finding happiness and joy is something I generally don’t expect, yet, I strive for it. I yearn for it. I pray for it. When it shows up I celebrate it. It isn’t often and when I feel it I revel in it. I bask in it’s light. My life has been filled with grief for so long that I wouldn’t know how to exist without it. I would really like to find out but I have a feeling that it is here to stay. I have had to befriend it just to breathe. The beauty of grief is that it is a great teacher. It teaches you to appreciate every moment. It teaches you that nothing is permanent, everything changes, in a blink of an eye. It teaches you that life is short and you are here for only a short time so you better make the most of the life you have.

A year ago my heart was shattered. I had no hope. I could no longer dream. I was buried in darkness and couldn’t find a way out of it. Grief became my best friend. Grief almost destroyed me. I felt as though I couldn’t take one more loss. You see over the last 30 years I have grieved, non stop. First it was the loss of my sons, having to start life over, losing that start and going home only to have my grandmother die, another start, then the death of my daughter and loss of my marriage, another beginning to face, so many friends that I can give you their names by the order that they died, another start, the loss of my dad, father in law, my “other” dad and my husband, 14 deaths in the last 6 years. Another start. To be honest I am tired.

I needed a change. I needed to find a connection. I needed to rejuvenate and find my place in this world. I planned my journey. Obstacle after obstacle appeared. They are still showing up. Then I felt the need to be the friend I wish I had, had this last year and I came to Texas. For the first time in years I felt joy. Along with that joy there has been a lot of pain. A lot of letting go. A lot of doubt. A lot of being unsure of myself. A lot of life.

The land here has spoken so deeply that each day I am amazed at the beauty in the sky, the earth beating beneath my feet, the life that pulses through even among the concrete. I find myself dazed many times. Just standing in amazement at the beauty of this place. I have yet to find words to describe it, yet, it fills my heart fully. The thought of leaving brings tears to my eyes, a crack to my voice and feeling of extreme loss.

The people here, the people of Texas. They are open, kind, warm. They have welcomed me as one of their own and I feel very much at home with them. I have made some beautiful friendships that I know will last the rest of my days on this earth.

In the short time I have been here I have found love, not the all engulfing, can’t live without you love of a partner, but rather a love that fills my being with hope. I gave up on hope a long time ago. I quit dreaming. Now, well now I have glimpses of hope, it isn’t long lasting, something always makes me dash it because to hope means I have to believe in another and I have a hard time with that. I just can’t put my heart in the hands of another because doing so means that I have to trust them and trust does not come easy for me. If I trust you enough to share my world with you then you have to be someone very special and there are very few that I feel that way about. Yet, there are glimpses of hope. There are moments of dreaming.

For me, the hope and dreaming means that I am healing. I may back up and step away. I may walk away and throw that hope and that dream away, I have done so many times since being here. Each time a piece of my heart is ripped open again, but for me, it is a sign that I am healing. It is a sign that someday I will no longer have a shattered heart and I will be able to hope and dream without feeling the acute pain of loss. That day isn’t here. The pain I feel in this moment, in the last 3 weeks has been great. Someday. Believing someday it will be, means that there is a sliver of hope telling me that there is healing happening. It is a beautiful way of being. Hope is here, healing is happening, and fear is fading.

This place, these people, they have opened my heart, it will be hurt, that I have no doubt about, it already has been, but the gift they have brought to my life is the true heart of healing. Love, they have given me love and in the process they have offered me hope. The journey to self is long and arduous, finding healing is a gift that is greater than any pain. Here I have found the beginning of that healing. Here I have felt joy. Here I have felt acute pain and I didn’t go to that deep darkness, instead I just kept holding on and I found solace in the land and sky. Here the sky brings comfort and the land reminds me that I am still alive and I need to live the time I have left with all of my being. Here I have found gratitude for the life that I have been given, pain and all. Here I am finding life over death again. Here I am blessed. Thank you Texas – both land and people you have helped me find a piece of me I had forgotten about. Thank you for the love!

 

 

New Normal

It has been 5 years now since my dad died. I cannot begin to tell you how hard his death was. I was devastated when he died. He was my hero. Since his death I have lost my father in law, aunt, cousin and ultimately my best friend my husband Mike.

One of the most important things I learned when my dad died was that waiting for “normal” to return was futile. I kept waiting for things to get back on an even keel. For life to show me some sort of resemblance to what it had been. Then one morning I was blessed to actually hear the words “this is your new normal.” It was life changing.

When we have life changing events happen, a death of a loved one, a divorce, an accident, it doesn’t matter what the event is, it changes our lives. We often wait for our lives to get back to normal. What we don’t see at the time is that our lives are now presenting us with our “new normal.” We never get to go back to the way things were before the event. It is a hard pill to swallow most of the time. It is heart breaking. We crave the normal that we knew. As humans we are not good with change. We are creatures of comfort.

I was very fortunate that I learned this lesson when my dad died. I am not sure I would have been as prepared as I was when Mike passed without this lesson. You see there are many things that shift and change when your spouse dies. It is different than any other death you have been through. All of a sudden your life as you knew it is no longer. You no longer have that person to talk to, to turn to when you are happy, sad, angry or any other emotion you can think of. When you crawl in bed at night there is an emptiness that is indescribable. You are use to having your person there and all of a sudden there is no snoring, no breathing noises to lull you to sleep. The world is different. You adjust, no doubt, but knowing that this is your new normal helps alleviate some of the waiting for things to return to what they were.

We don’t necessarily have to like the new normal that we find ourselves in. Embracing it gives us the opportunity to move forward. It isn’t always easy and there are days when it seems impossible. You take one step forward and three steps back but the next day is a new day and you awaken and try again.

We move forward whether we want to or not. Life continues to go on. The birds still sing. The sun still rises and sets. We still continue to breathe and we live. The alternative is not an option so embracing the life we have and finding a new comfort zone is what we strive for. As we do so we create our new normal and somewhere in that normal we find laughter, love, yearning and life again. There is always sadness but we befriend our grief and live again.

Finding your new normal does not mean you ever forget. You never forget what came before, you just accept that your life has changed and what was is no longer. You have changed, your life has changed and the future you once dreamed of has changed. It is alright, you will dream a new future. You will live your life and move on, you just won’t forget what was.

Have you found your new normal? It is this journey we call life and at some point we will all face finding it. May your “new normal” bring you solace and happiness.

In Her Service,

Sage

Dreaming Again

When hope dies.  When your dreams are destroyed.  What do you do?

A year ago today I saw all of my hopes and dreams die a painful death in a matter of moments.  “No, you are not strong enough to continue chemo.  There is no other treatment.”

Those simple words set me on a journey that literally changed my life.  They weren’t spoken to me, although I was in the room when they were spoken, ultimately they turned my world upside down.

There were dreams to travel.  There were dreams to grow old together.  There were hopes of healing.  The fight was not so long but it felt like an eternity.

The future was no longer “together.”  There would be no future.  We were now living for “moments.”  We were no longer planning for next week, month or year. Instead we were living and dying in each moment of now.

Over the years I have become very familiar with death.  In an up close and personal way.  So many of my friends have left this earth way to soon.  Joey, Grant, John, Reggie, Tony, all to young to die, all gone.  Then there is family, Marvin, Lonnie, Doris, Jesse, Rick, my Dad.  All gone in just a few years.  Death came and they were gone, forever.

All of them hold a special place in my heart.  All of them touched my life in a beautiful, positive way.  Whether they were a part of my life for a short time or years on end, they made a difference by being here.

This time though it was up close and very personal.  This was affecting every little detail of my life.

I thought the world would end when my dad, my hero, died.  The closest I can come to describing the devastation I felt was to compare it to losing my only daughter.  Both of these deaths changed me.  Both tore my heart into pieces that would take years to pick up and heal.  Honestly, I am not sure all of the pieces have been picked up and healed yet.

This time was different.  This time I was losing my best friend, my love, the father to my son, my everything.  I found strength in places I never expected but there were moments when I was not sure I would survive this.

Not only was I losing the man I loved I was losing my way of life.  Nothing would ever be the same.  The hopes and dreams we had together were gone forever.

It is said that everyone grieves differently.  Maybe because the death of someone we love affects us all in different ways.  It is, many times, dependent on who that person was to you and how deeply they touched your life.

My belief is that when you are dealing with a long term illness you begin grieving when the diagnosis is given.  I know I did.  Every day from that moment to the very end, I grieved.

At first we held hope that surgery could be done.  That hope was lost quickly. Then we hoped that chemo would heal – all while it killed – that hope was lost after 2 months.  Then we hoped that alternative treatments would help.  They did in many ways, but unless you are willing to cut the ugliness out of your life there is only so much that can be healed.  He wasn’t willing and ultimately it cost him his life.

At first it was a matter of grieving the things we could no longer do.  We couldn’t just pick up and go anymore.  No more little day trips to our favorite places that we loved so much.  He was to weak and just didn’t have the energy to just go.

Then it was a matter of grieving the man I loved changing.  The man who sighed and rolled his eyes when something annoyed him.  The man who was quick witted and always had a smart ass retort to just about everything.  The man who laughed and smiled at the little, silly things in life.  The man who joked.  The man who loved music and sang.  That man was gone.  Oh, he had his moments until the very end but every day became more of a struggle and every day these attributes slipped away further and further into the ethers.

Towards the end it was a matter of grieving the things he was losing.  His ability to do things for himself.  His ability to have clear thoughts.  His ability to fight for his life.

Watching someone who prided themselves on the way they were able to help others need 24/7 help is difficult.  You can see them die inside every time you have to do the simple things for them.  They are no longer the helper but rather one receiving help and it is a role they have no time to adjust to.  It is humbling.

I grieved for all of the things he was going through. Dying robs you of any pride or dignity you might have while fully living.  Dying with grace is a feat many do not accomplish during a long term illness.  He did.  Each day he would lose the ability to do something else yet he handled it with grace.  That is not to say there was no frustration, there was, but ultimately, he would just let it go.  What beauty it is to watch surrender in motion.  It is a life lesson I intend to never forget.

Grieving is a long, tedious process.  In my world it began over a year ago.  Much has been healed and there is still much to heal.

Dancing with Death so up close and personal is yet another story to tell at a later date.

So what happens when all of your hopes and dreams are destroyed?  You keep breathing. You take time to heal. You trust your God/Goddess/Spirit, whatever you choose to call what you believe in, to lay a new path in front of you.  You do everything within your power to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  You keep your heart open. You learn. You hurt. You let go of the old and embrace the new. You love.  Before you realize it new hopes and dreams begin to come forward. You embrace them. You follow them. You live.

In Her Service,

Sage