Category Archives: time

Good Grief!

Standard

Thinking back over this past year there have been many lessons learned through the process of grieving. It is a strange thing, grief.  Most days I have not consciously felt that I was grieving, and then one day it reaches out to gently remind me that the heaviness is still there.  Or my massage therapist comments on how incredibly messed up my muscles are and then reminds me that we sometime store our grief in our bodies.   Am thankful that it seems to be less and less raw, less palpable, over time it has moved from being a smack upside the head to a somewhat gentle nudge that (still) stops me in my tracks.

There are now two distinct phases in life: The time when mom was with us, and the time after mom died.   I think we all try not to categorize life according to death but in our minds we inevitably, yet silently, think ‘oh right that was just after/before mom died…’.  From what I understand that frame of reference will stand forever.

I thought I would share a list of things that have surprised me about grief.

  1. How inexplicably tired you feel when grieving, particularly in the first few months. You try so hard not to think about the loss, but you somehow cannot stop. And then when you do stop you feel numb, and guilty for not thinking about it.
  1. How it pretty much takes up all available real estate in your mind.   Seriously.   In my experience I feel that I lost about two months of conscious thought – can’t remember much from the funeral onwards. After the two month mark the haze began to lift.
  1. The numbness.   It is a weird sensation – you know you should be feeling something at any given moment but you are just numb.   Child’s birthday party? Happy, right? Nope. Dance recital, happy times? Nope. You try really hard but it just does not register on the emotion meter.
  1. Exaggerated emotional experiences. Oi. Someone made the mistake of reminding me of the tumultuous end of a relationship. BIG mistake. Anger like I have never felt before – about two months worth. On the upside, it gave me something else to do beside be numb and sad. Was thankful that I was feeling something.
  1. People have very different reactions to your grief.   Some seem to assume that once the funeral is over and you have returned to ‘life’ that all is well, grieving is done. NOT.   And then there are those who have never experienced loss and just look at you with this pitiful look (and then my own reaction in my head, OMG I used to do that to people too..).   In that awkward moment you want to get mad at that person – but I think its important to remember that in a few months you will realize that they really did mean well, they just didn’t know what to say.
  1. It sneaks up on you. As time passes you begin to feel more and more normal, and then something/someone reminds you of the person you lost. And you implode. Perhaps a small implosion, perhaps large. For me the big implosions happen in places where mom made the biggest contributions, or with people who meant a lot to her. Mind you it also happens when I watch the Food Network – it was something we did together when she was in the nursing home and long-term care.   Depends on the day and the moment.
  1. Not everybody will know that you lost someone close to you and at some point they will ask you ‘How is your mom/loved one doing?’.   My estimation is that this will happen more than once over the years to come, and to most people who have experienced loss.   The first time it happens you are completely shocked, and the only thing you can say is ‘It’s ok, you didn’t know’ and mean it. Again, it is not on purpose or personal.
  1. At some point I realized that I compartmentalize it.   I live about four hours away from my parents home, so it is easy to separate myself from the grief. But, when I go home to visit there it is, awaiting my arrival with wide-open arms. Compartmentalizing isn’t always bad – it can actually be a good tool to cope with the grief and get on with living life.   I think the key is to remember where you put your grief so you can prepare yourself for it and face it, and to also revisit it once in awhile.
  1. Facing it is good. Hard, but good in the long run. Facing the loss and the pain is important – and perhaps it helps you to feel the parallel of the fullness and joy of life a little easier. Reaching out to friends or a counselor can facilitate the release of it all when needed – and sometimes when you least expect it. Letting loved ones in your life know that you are hurting – really important (and hard to do sometimes).
  1. The big lesson in grief (for me) sounds so trite. Live each day as if it were your last. Live with appreciation for the people who love you and whom you love. Have gratitude for all the good in life, in the world.   Will your life then have no pain, no sadness or struggle? No. But you will be better prepared to deal with it when it comes your way.

When grief gives me a nudge I will let it stop me in my tracks for a moment – because that moment probably is accompanied by a memory.

Remembering is healing.

Grief can be good.

Remembering is good.

 

Advertisements

“Is this a test?”

Standard

lilac-bushFor those who have followed this blog you have read various posts relating to many cherished family memories, as well as some challenging family moments.  On April 24, 2013, my mom passed away.  The writer in me has been struggling to find the words – and trying not to post my grief on Facebook (too much).   

They say that grief is a process.  It has stages.  I am sure that many have written books and journals on the process, analyzing it down to what may be believed to be a precise process.  What I know to be true is that grief does not form itself into a specific, set-in-stone pattern.  The loss of my mother has knocked me sideways, upside down, thrown me down, and  picked me back up, only to go through it all again.

For me, right now, the key is allowing the emotions to come to the surface.  Acknowledging the sadness, the loss, as well as the good memories that arise as you move through it all is an opportunity to let go of the pain.   Note:  ‘…to let go of the pain (not the person).’

So here we go…

Our childhood was steeped in the Lutheran community of our hometown in Minnesota.  We lived a half a block away from the church and both of our parents were involved in many aspects – from Sunday school to vacation bible school, pancake breakfasts to Lenten suppers, ushering at services to  bible studies and altar guild.  Like making a perfect pot of tea we were soaked in it like precious tea leaves.

Despite all of that – once I left home (and even before) religion seemed like a lot of pomp and circumstance and not much substance.   Admittedly, I leaned quite far away from my faith for many, many years.  Heck, I even married (& divorced) a ‘self-professed Atheist’ for heaven’s sake!

And then, after all mom had been through since the cardiac arrest – she was diagnosed with Stage IV Liver Cancer with approximately 4 months to live.  She received the news on Good Friday of all days.  Shortly thereafter mom began receiving a drug treatment to extend her life a bit longer, then Dad called to tell us she was in the hospital again.  Without asking, his voice was enough to urge us home.

Doctor G. told us that he didn’t recommend another treatment.

Pastors prayed with us.

And mom asked, “Is this a test?  Is God testing me?”

As I heard her ask the question I realized that this truly was not a test of her deep and abiding faith.  What I saw in action was that God was with her as she moved through this painful ending.

Life unfolds according to our choices, and God walks through all of it with us – if we let him.

In hindsight, it came together quite logically. Family and her dear friends gathered by her side.  The Nurses listened and worked to ease her pain.  The pastors from the church visited, prayed and offered support.   Her grandson arranged a Skype chat with her son who was overseas.   The son (J) who visited rarely called to say he was on the way.  We were all certain Mom’s eternal Hope would prevail.

And as much as mom always wrapped her children in absolute, unconditional love –  God did the same for her.

Mom and Dad had a great visit with J. when he arrived.  All of her children had visited in person or by Skype.  That evening God wrapped her in his love and took her home.

At the funeral  Pastor D quoted John 3:16, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.  That whomever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.’  It was the one scripture I memorized as a child, only now does its true meaning reveal itself.  I feel that if my parents had not instilled their Faith in us when we were children, that today my heart would be eternally broken.

Through this faith I know, and believe, that mom lives on enjoying gardens that she had never imagined would ever exist, and that the skies have one more bright, shining star watching over us.  Perhaps most importantly, I know that she is with me (& our family) everyday.

Grateful for my amazing mom.  Grateful for this life lesson.

…dusty summer days…

Standard

Yes, It’s True!   A new post!  What the?   If there is anyone out there that hasn’t given up on my ever posting on this blog again – I hope you enjoy today’s inspired post.  And thanks for sticking with me.

The temperatures are climbing’ today – fortunately the humidity is low so my little apartment with no A/C is bearable.  Though the cats might disagree.    I find inspiration in the strangest places sometimes – today I was making lunch and found myself enjoying some wonderful childhood memories…

As I picked apart a cold, roast chicken – trying to get every last tidbit of goodness before tossing the bird – the heat of the day came upon my little kitchen.  The sound of the fan in the window working diligently to keep the thickening air moving through my apartment, over my skin, and (hopefully) ruffling the fur of my cats.   Street noises wafting through the window, creating a soundtrack to the process of making a yummy sandwich.

I don’t know what it was – the heat, the sound, the garden fresh produce, or the frugality of how I picked apart that chicken…I began to remember the hot summer days of my childhood back in the upper midwest of the US.   Though I hesitate to admit it, this was a time before A/C was common in homes or cars.   The days when you had to hibernate in the coolness of the basement and could turn the sprinkler on in your front yard and every kid in the neighbourhood would suddenly come by for a visit and run through the sprinkler – and when lemonade stands were a common happening (and every adult in on the block was obliged to stop by – and did so happily).

Our mom grew up in a huge family and on a  prosperous seed farm in North Dakota. Though the family business had gone through many changes by the time I came around, the farmstead was still working — our aunt ‘Mousie’ and her family kept it alive as a dairy farm.  The main house was a big white house with a big front porch – now that I think about it for a family of 12 + all the workers on the farm — the kitchen was tiny!

In the summer there always seemed to be family get together at the farm.  I remember helping mom make her mother’s potato salad recipe in a massive quantity, with radishes from our garden sliced and placed on the top ‘just so’.  Dad would pack a cooler and then pile six of us into the car, making our way out to the farm down the interstate and onto the dusty, hilly county roads.  I don’t know exactly how many people would attend, but it always seemed like a huge number of people to my little eyes.  If memory serves correctly we’d set up lunch in a buffet style in the house – the usual fare –  hot dogs & burgers on the grill, corn on the cob, potato salad (of course), buns, baked beans, coleslaw, some sort of jello salad with mini marshmallows that slurped out of a Tupperware jello hold, and there would be a cooler of pop and a separate cooler of beer (for the adults).  Watermelon and vanilla ice cream (made with actual cream) were the standard dessert.   Mom’s family was a whopping 12 siblings!  All the girls learned how to cook, pluck and butcher a chicken (from the hen-house to the stove), shuck the corn, can the produce, keep a house, and the boys learned how to work the land. [oh, the irony..]

I remember all the adults getting together to play softball in the yard.  The yard was huge and green,  huge trees bordered the yard (over by the old chicken coop) and the far end by the dirt road.  To this day you could probably fit a full baseball diamond in the yard (minus the outfield).   It as hot hot hot and dusty.   Can’t remember who played on what teams, but I remember cheering them on and admiring the fact that they could hit and catch a ball (I still can’t do that to this day).   There was a lot of eating, catching up on life, and sharing memories of the farm and farm-life.   Though we were  exhausted by the end of the afternoon and fully ready to head home, we never really wanted to leave.  There was so much to explore and so many stories to hear.

Or maybe my memory is skewed by time.   Being the youngest in my family I probably didn’t have the patience to sit and hear ANOTHER story, but you couldn’t drag the adults away from those conversations! So, I was ‘forced’ to endure… : )

Things have changed now – aunt Mousie and her husband passed away many years ago, and the three remaining sisters all live in the city (though all in close proximity).  The farm is still standing – aunt Mousie’s youngest son and his wife maintain the farmstead, though farming itself has changed so much over the past ten years.  The land is now farmed by neighbouring farmers.

Am so thankful that I had the chance to listen to those stories and get to know some of the characters (relatives).   I remembering feeling that I never wanted for anything – though in reality I think that we had only what we needed.   It’s an important lesson I think.   There wasn’t any excess, people worked hard, and the presence of family was consistent.  To this day the three remaining sisters see each other weekly and whenever the kids and grandkids are home they make an event of it.

As kids we were always busy busy busy during our school year, but it’s those dusty summer days that are most prevalent in my mind today.  Good times.

Shakin’ it off…

Standard

Forgive my lack of posts in the past several, and I do mean several, months.    Life has shifted in a lot of positive ways and some difficult ways too – and as you know, change is always a challenge.

Throughout the past four years I’ve been a bit of a hermit – going to school and working full time doesn’t really allow for much time for ‘fun’.   Since graduating this past October I have been working to up the fun factor in my life.   When I hear that Prince was coming to Winnipeg I thought, oh wow!  His music is so the soundtrack to my high school years.   I remember buying the cassette tape of Purple Rain, and obsessively watching his videos on MTV.  So I purchased the least expensive tickets to the concert just to be there and hear his music.   I wouldn’t say that I was uber-ecstatic about going, but was excited to see him perform live.

The day finally arrived.  We got the concert and [unfortunately] Winnipeg had not sold out the entire arena, but the bonus was that our tickets got bumped up and we sat a level lower in the arena than originally planned (gotta like that!).  Winnipeggers seek the  quality things in life (as long as they are on sale), and are a discerning lot when it comes to our music.

From the moment Prince took the stage we knew it would be a different concert.  Almost the entire audience stood up.   Now, you have to understand, when we went to the Aerosmith concert last year – the majority of the audience remained seated.  What it came down to (for me) was his clear passion for music, and for being true to his art, his craft.  There was no selling out here – no excessive light shows and costume changes, no excessive performance factors.   It was pure music (with only 3 costume changes).

[The best part was an older couple seated to our right (probably in late 60’s) who immediately stood up and danced through the majority of the concert.  Such a huge demographic represented!]

Much of Prince’s music is not available on YouTube (he didn’t even allow the local press to photograph the concert), but a friend posted on the same concert and found a video from the concert on Facebook.    Here it is –  take a moment and shake off your day – and listen to the instruction ‘2 and 4!’.

Stand with Prince. (if this link doesn’t work you’ll have to look it up on facebook — Andy Alo/videos/Stand)

What Prince (and Art) has reminded me of is that sometimes you just gotta put on some music and shake it off!   Cause you know what?

Sometimes life is hard.

We all share that experience.

[Perhaps this is my naiveté speaking, but…]   At that concert it felt like ‘everyone’ that was there, in the moment, feelin’ the music right alongside Prince and the New Power Generation.  And for a few hours, life was a little more joyful, and little easier.

Thank you Live Nation for bringing Prince to Winnipeg.  And thank you Prince for being the true artist that you are.

Here are a couple of other posts on the concert…

Natalie Duhamel

Winnipeg Free Press

In the Quiet Stillness..

Standard

It.  Is.  Almost.  Here.

CHRISTMAS!!!!

This is my most favourite time of the year, EVER!  The snow, the lights, the music, the smells, friends and family gathering, the cooking (it’s the only time of the year I really enjoy doing this part), the decorations…

In our  family Christmas Eve meant attending a midnight church service, it was magical.  Families dressed up in their  Christmas best, and came together to the church.  The children attending were very excited about being able to stay up late and greetings of ‘Merry Christmas!’ resounded in the hallways of the church.  Traditional carols were sung from the words that were projected on the wall at the front of our church (yes, before we had Powerpoint), and the pastor spoke  from a spotlight in the pulpit about the birth of  christ.

And then, at the very end of the service and the church was engulfed in darkness, the choir processed from the balcony, each holding a candle and singing ‘Silent Night’.  Each congregant also had a candle and  the light was passed along from one to the next.  In the glow of the candlelight and the choir encircling the congregation and we sang together, in english and in german (it is Minnesota after all).  The last verse was always hummed (still is today).

In the moment following the final note there was a silence, a stillness, among the congregation.  As I reminisce I realize that in that silence, if we paid close attention, we found the greater meaning of Christmas… it truly is not about us or about finding that perfect gift, is it?

All in a moment of…

Quiet Stillness.

There is still a Christmas Eve service like this at the church, though its much earlier in the evening now and the congregation is about a quarter of the size it was then. It still brings me to tears, leaving me in awe of the gifts given to us.

In the midst of the rush to complete our Christmas shopping, the throngs stampeding the malls to find the gifts that are just right (and the most popular) for our loved ones, let’s take a moment to remember why we celebrate Christmas.  Find that moment of quiet stillness.

We hear this often around the holidays, remember those who do not have family to be with, or do not have homes in which to celebrate the holiday season within.  Let’s consider this not only  at the holidays, but year round.

(you knew a video was coming, didn’t you?)

Though this is not a recording of ‘Silent Night’, it is absolutely beautiful and elicits stillness.  I suggest lighting the tree and the holiday candles, turning off the iPod, computer games and cell phone, and having a mug of hot chocolate (or mulled wine) while watching this one.

Merry Christmas!

Remember that day?

Standard

9/11

As part of my usual morning routine I was having my breakfast while watching Good Morning America.  Diane Sawyer and her cohorts expressed their shock and utter dismay after that first plane.  Sitting on the couch, I watched as the second plane hit the second tower – and the live footage of people running from the collapsing building.  Was this seriously happening?

Eventually, I left for work.

Sitting in my office not able to do a thing, I found a radio and plugged it in to listen to the news.   Planes being re-routed to Canada.   I’ve never seen so many planes in the skies.

As we all know this was just the beginning of two more attacks and the horror of the days to follow.   It felt like the longest day of the year.

It was such a weird day, as if the rest of the world had stopped time as we watched over and over again the footage of the attacks, the wreckage, the firefighters and police digging and digging through the rubble.   Watching grown men crumble under the stress.   That feeling in the pit of our stomachs that ‘this is just the beginning’….then the military was sent over and it began to affect friends here at home, their families and their colleagues.   Sadly, it is still affecting our military friends and families to this day.

Do you remember that day?  Where were you?

…getting’ sweaty, breathin’ heavy… (part deux)

Standard

No, still not me...

Sweat…sweaty…sweatiness…bathed in sweat.

That pretty much sums up Hot Yoga for me…literally dripping with sweat within the first 15 minutes.   It – is – absolutely- fabulous.   One of the things I miss about ballet training is the feeling of complete, utter, physical exhaustion and being completely drenched in sweat.  Hot yoga completely fills that void.

Much has changed since the last entry on my yoga experience.   As of today I have attended 9 classes with varying instructors, each experience/practice becoming more challenging than the last.   The first class things felt a bit familiar but my body felt like a giant knot.  After the third class I felt strength increasing in my arms, shoulders and back.   The fourth class – felt like I got my yoga groove back!   In that past few years I’ve developed minor knee pains the creep in from time to time, so doing things like the elliptical trainer, running, and grande plié [like a deep knee bend – but balletically] really do not make my knees happy anymore.   After 9 classes – essentially no knee pain.  Whoo hoo!

Physically I have noticed that my skin has changed (they say that sweating out the toxins improves your skin).   After all those downward dogs (especially in the 90 min. classes) my upper back feels stronger and I am less slouchy in my posture overall (very bad habit of mine – too much computer work).  On the days I take class (and following night) I sleep like a baby and feel great the next morning.  For the past week I have had a bit of a cold and have kept going to classes, having a good sweat really helped to kick the fever out and is helping to keep the ‘muck’ moving (hence not settling into my chest or sinuses, yay!).

Am getting closer to this...the stillness and silence.

One of my challenges has been letting go of my ‘ballet brain’ and the expectation to do everything perfectly.  Competitiveness is part of that creature as well so there has also been the issue of doing poses better than the person/s next to me.   Only recently have I felt that I have been able to let these habits go and focus on what my body needs, to focus internally.  Finding that place I am able to sense where adjustments need to be made and an openness  to suggestions made by the instructors as well.   Plagued with body image issues (all that dancing in form-fitting clothes, criticism, exceedingly high expectations of others and myself, and then there is that damn inescapable wall of mirrors), it is hard to escape sometimes [I could go on, but I think that’s another post for another day], however over these past weeks I have noticed that my focus is turned more inwards with every class.   It seems like the newbies come to class in pairs (safety in numbers) and then chit-chat during class,  this can be frustrating for those of us next to them.   Perhaps its the first day jitters, but it seems that not everyone is comfortable with the silence and the stillness it brings to our bodies (and to the room…).   Me, I love the stillness and silence.

In a nutshell, I am completely addicted!  Moksha has these 30 day challenges where you pay a flat fee and then you can take as many classes as you like (or can) in that 30 days.   They throw in some fun events, t-shirts, etc. to up the value and build community(and to get you firmly addicted to their studio and classes).   The challenge begins this monday and I am completely pumped to be joining in!

Do I recommend this experience to anyone else?  Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes!   The only caveat is that if you haven’t taken yoga before it may take you a few classes to understand the poses and breathing.   But, if you stick with it and ask questions of your instructors you will no doubt see and feel results fairly quickly.  A good studio will take the time to walk you through things for the first few classes (Moksha Yoga studios are excellent!).

Wish me luck in my month-long challenge and stay tuned for more yoga inspired posts!

Read the rest of this entry