Monthly Archives: October 2014

My Father’s Ashes

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me and dad

 

As I sat in my 29-year-old administrative assistant's funeral this past weekend and read the poem below in italics, I was reminded of how precious life is. And how little time we get – or choose – to spend with our loved ones.

 

 

 

UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN

by Unknown


Each morning when we awake
we know that you are gone.
And no one knows the heartache
As we try to carry on.

 

Wednesday marks the 5th anniversary of my father's death (the picture above was taken a year before he died). I don’t think of my father everyday – but often. Holidays, his birthday, the anniversary of his death, when random things or people remind me of him. And I miss him.

 

Our hearts still ache with sadness
and many tears still flow.
What it meant to lose you,

No one will ever know.

 

They say there is no pain greater than that of a parent who has lost a child. I get that – the loss of a life not fully lived. One could argue that at 62 – the age my father was when he passed – he had lived a full life and thus, I shouldn’t be as sad. That, like other platitudes we say to the grieving (He’s in heaven; at least he’s not in pain anymore), are not as helpful as they are meant to be. Losing a loved one – parent, child, sibling, spouse – sucks. No ifs ands or buts about it. Telling me to be grateful he lived a full life and that he’s not in pain anymore, while true, aren’t necessarily what I need to hear in my grief.

 

Our thoughts are always with you,
your place no one can fill.
In life we loved you dearly,
In death we love you still.

 

Love. Such a powerful emotion. Yes, my father had his faults – we all do – but I love him. I always will. Nothing can damper that – not even death.


There will always be a heartache,
and often a silent tear,
But always a precious memory
Of the days when you were here.

 

It does get easier with time. My heart no longer feels like it’s breaking as it did in the first few weeks after he died. Yet, it only takes a moment to be back there, for the grief to feel raw and fresh and new. Will that get better? Only time will tell.

 

If tears could make a staircase,
And heartaches make a lane,
We'd walk the path to heaven
And bring you home again.

 

I’ve certainly cried enough tears to make several staircases! Yet, I don’t want to bring him back. His time on this Earth was done. It’s not for me to say whether his life was cut short or not. I don’t get to decide when it’s been “time enough.” Instead, I cherish knowing he’s got my back – albeit from a different realm.

 

We hold you close within our hearts,
And there you will remain,
To walk with us throughout our lives
Until we meet again.

 

I know that some people believe that when you die, you die. End of story. I hold out hope that somewhere out there my father still keeps track of me and knows what I’m up to. And maybe, just maybe, as the veil thins as we approach All Hallow’s Eve, I might feel his presence.


Our family chain is broken now,
And nothing will be the same,
But as God calls us one by one,
The chain will link again.

 

Life is but a chain of events – a series of chains being crossed and cut, crossed and cut. Sometimes we choose to cut the chains and sometimes Universe does it for us. Although we may not always choose to cut the chains, we do get to choose how we react to that chain being cut.

 

When my father died, we did nothing to denote the cutting of the chain. After the cremation, his ashes sat in my mother’s house for nearly 5 years. But after attending my boyfriend's father's funeral last July, I decided that I needed to do something to mark my father’s passing – to commemorate the cutting of the chain. I needed closure. Attending my administrative assistant’s funeral this past weekend only reinforced that for me.

 

There are many reasons why we didn't do anything to commemorate his death when he died, but they matter little now. What matters is that I miss him and I need to do something – not for him, but for me. For death is really never about the one who died, but about the ones they left behind. While I don’t plan on hosting a memorial service 5 years later, I do need to hold some sort of ceremony – even if I am the only one in attendance.

 

It’s time to pause and reflect, to scatter my father’s ashes. To say my prayers and my goodbyes. To say my thank yous and I will always love yous.

 

I haven’t quite decided the when, where, and how of this ceremony yet. The original plan was to scatter his ashes in the Sawtooth Mountains and I may still do that; it's what he wanted. Although my life has changed tremendously since he died, the location we'd selected is still a beautiful and quite appropriate place. Whatever I do, I know it will be from the heart and just right for me and for him. That’s really all that matters.

 

What do you do to commemorate a loved one’s passing? How do you mark the anniversary of their death?

 

My Mother, My Mirror

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Woman Cleaning MirrorI had lunch with my mother on Saturday to celebrate her birthday and I found myself scared to go. You see, on our last lunch occasion – to celebrate my birthday – I found myself being criticized and judged for my lifestyle choices. I was blamed for bringing perimenopause upon myself as well as my water line break and troubles with my homeowners association.

 

I know my mother meant well. That in her way, she was expressing concern over what was happening in my life. But as my counselor said, her delivery sucked. Is it any wonder I dreaded this month's lunch?

 

Yet, gone was the criticism this time around. Instead, she talked about the fact that her brother had just died and her sister blamed her for it. That she hadn't had a day off in months and was putting in 10-hour days every day, trying to replenish her savings account and get back in her feet financially.

 

The parallels between her life and mine did not go unnoticed. Her sister blames her for things that aren't her fault just as she blames me for things that are not mine. She is just beginning to pay me back for a loan I gave her last Fall, as I am still paying off my credit card bills for my recent water line break repair.

 

But it's more than that. Last week, I worked with my peer coach and best friend Kami to discover that in the past, I've defined my worth by what I do rather than who I am because: 1) what I do makes me feel significant, and 2) do-ing allows me to escape from any uncomfortable emotions I might feel while be-ing and helps me avoid conflict and confrontation over my feelings. Yet, that's no way to live life.

 

What I finally realized today is that I inherited these tendencies from my parents. My mother is my mirror. And as much as I may wish to clean off the reflective surface and not see her looking back at me, I have some work to do. Because right now, it could have been me having a conversation with my daughter when I'm 68 talking about my 10-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week job. It could have been me blaming someone for something she did not do – or, even worse, blaming myself.

 

And that frightened me. Because I don't want to be suppressing my feelings, placing blame where it does not belong, and working as a coping mechanism when I'm 68. I don't even want to be doing those things at 41. Yet, here I am.

 

The difference is that I see these tendencies in myself, I know where they came from, and I am armed with the skills and knowledge to break old patterns and move forward with my life.

 

So what am I going to do about these lessons?

  • Dive back into self-love, self-care, and self-appreciation. I am so much more than what I can do for people. Sometimes I need a reminder – healer heal thyself and all that. J
  • Dive into my emotions – even, and most especially, the uncomfortable ones. I plan to start with daily emotional check-ins and nightly journaling about what went on that day that brought up an emotion. Our departmental administrative assistant died over the weekend. She was in her 20s. This saddens me and brings up other thoughts about death and dying as I am nearing the 5th anniversary of my father’s death. You can be sure I will be diving into my sadness and grief tonight. I don’t want to keep carrying it around with me; yet, I know I will if I don’t face it head on. That being said, I don’t plan to get swept away by my grief. I know I have the ability and skill set to pull back into third-party/psychologist mode if I find myself entering pity party land!

 

What lessons have you learned from your mother? How have these lessons made a positive impact on your life? What changes will you make so that you don’t repeat her old patterns?

Breaking Old Patterns

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breakingIf you’ve been following the blog, you know that my money and infertility issues have been rearing their ugly heads this Fall. I knew in my heart that they were connected, but until last week, I didn’t understand why.

In my Friday “therapy session” with my peer coach and best friend, we were discussing how these old patterns of behavior sometimes aren’t even ours – they’re patterns we learned from family or friends that seemed to “work” so they stuck.

As we discussed her struggle with wanting to be a stay-at-home mom v. a career-focused woman of the millennium, it dawned on me that I too had some interesting notions of what be-ing a woman actually meant.

Like many women in my generation, I grew up in a traditional household: mom stayed at home, dad made the money and was rarely home. Translation: women are in charge of bearing and raising the children and men are in charge of providing financially for the family. Combine that with my generation’s focus on women being career-minded, and you’ve got an interesting conundrum – for both of us.

On the one hand, women are supposed to stay home and raise the kids; but on the other, women are supposed to be career- minded and pursue their dreams in the boardroom. No wonder so many of us fall victim to the Superwoman Syndrome! So when you find that you can’t (or don’t want to) do it all – be a corporate superhero in my friend's case or be a mom in my case – you feel less than.

The really interesting (translate: warped and twisted!) thing is what our brains do with this information. Upon learning I was infertile, my subconscious decided that if I couldn’t bear children, I had to prove my worth by working (do-ing) more and provide financially for my then-husband. Every time I faced another failure in our efforts to have a child, I worked harder and longer to earn more money to “prove” my worth as a woman. At the same time I resented the fact that my ex didn’t work because that was a “man’s job!”

Of course the real issue is the fact that I feel I have to “do” something to prove my worth to begin with; that I am not a person of worth in and of myself. Once again, I chalk that up to socialization. During my childhood, I was praised for my good grades and other things that I “did.” I know this was an effort on my parent’s part to instill a good work ethic in me. (Mission accomplished.) But like many Superwomen/People Pleasers, I began to believe that my worth came solely from my ability to “do.” Be-ing wasn’t enough because be-ing implied you weren’t do-ing anything. That was lazy. And I certainly didn’t want to be called lazy.

So how does one break old patterns?

  • Realize they exist – my ‘aha’ moment on Friday was very enlightening. I finally understood where my old patterns and beliefs came from – and, for me, that is half the battle.
  • Question that old belief – is it true? If not, was it ever true? Does it still play a role in your life? Or do you wish it simply wasn’t there anymore?
  • Decide what you’d like to have instead – you can’t replace an old pattern with a new one if you don’t have the new one figured out yet. Since my old patterns stemmed from the notion that I wasn’t a person of worth unless I was do-ing, my new pattern/belief needs to focus on my be-ing enough. Just as I am. Period.
  • Begin working from this new pattern – have I completely gotten rid of the old belief that you’re nothing if you’re not do-ing? Of course not. But I’m much further along with questioning that old belief when it comes up. After all, practice makes perfect.
  • Start over – for the past few days, I keep uncovering more and more old patterns and beliefs – most of which are no longer true – if they ever were. I have a feeling this exercise will have a “rinse and repeat” feel to it for while I come to grips with the old beliefs and began to replace them with new ones.

What old beliefs will you get rid of today?

 

Rolling in the Deep: Taking Inventory of Your Life

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OceanAs I sit in my backyard enjoying the sunshine and 70 degree weather, I realize that Fall is here. I harvested most of my garden this past weekend as the colder nighttime temps were beginning to have a negative effect on my veggies. Today I find myself in a reflective mood, as though it is time for me to harvest my emotions in preparation for the coming Winter.

So I’ve decided to take stock of my life. My 2014.

I vowed in late January that 2014 was going to be the Year of Me. I did a good job keeping my vow for the first 6 months. Then I met Rio and found myself falling back on old patterns of putting my man before me. Taking care of his needs before mine.

And I’ve paid the price. I met with my hormone doctor last week. He confirmed that I was in early perimenopause, but said that it was my own doing. When you burn the candle at both ends for too long, your hormones shut down. He gave me a month to get my butt in gear; three months to get my menstrual cycles back to normal.

That was a wake-up call for me. I know how powerful stress can be and what it can do to your body if you let it. But, once again, I failed to take my own advice. I promised myself I would take care of me when “things settled down;” of course, they never did. The past few months have been a whirlwind of personal crises. And I did what I do best in the midst of crisis: hunker down and get it done.

What I didn’t get “done” was taking care of me.

I decided to treat my self-induced perimenopause like an illness. If I had a condition, like mono or the flu, what would I be doing (or what wouldn’t I be doing)?

  • I stopped lifting weights and stopped running – no use wasting what little energy I have right now on exercise. This is temporary – a two-week moratorium. I am still taking my daily walks with the canine kiddos, but those aren’t exactly heart rate elevating.
  • I started meditating again – 10 min at night last week. I am upping it to 15 minutes at night and 5-10 min in the morning this week.
  • I restarted my daily check-ins – I am asking myself where I am physically and emotionally when I wake up each morning and then checking in with what I need to fill up those energy tanks throughout the day. For example, I got home this morning a little after 10am from an appointment and my intuition told me to take a bath and do some journaling, so I did.
  • I’m diving deep – Fall is the perfect time for reflection, for going within. I’ve been spending some time each day journaling about everything that’s happened thus far in 2014 – where I am compared to where I want to be. This is hard for me to do as it involves dealing with some painful things head on, but by not dealing with them, I am only prolonging my suffering. So I might as well get it out of the way now so I can truly prepare for a restful and fun Winter.
  • I’m calling on Kali, Goddess of Empowerment, to help me through this process – I typically draw one of Doreen Virtue’s Goddess Oracle cards each morning and I drew Kali this morning. I thought She was an appropriate Goddess to be calling on right now. Kali is the Goddess of Interpersonal Strength, Self-Awareness, and Inner Knowing. She encourages us to let go of what no longer serves so that we can begin again.

What are you doing to prepare for Fall and Winter? What do you still need to process and perhaps let go of between now and the start of the New Year?