This is Where I Hold You

I walked into the spa that day in August, with the intent of purchasing a gift certificate for my roommate but leaving with more. You asked where I would be spending my vacation and as the topic of Michigan came up, I felt something wasn’t right. You barely knew me so crying in front of a stranger seemed impossible and yet you did. Would I judge you? Would I find the situation uncomfortable? The words kept bubbling out and between the subject change and tone of voice, I saw it unraveling. You had recently lost your dad and were visiting back home to attend his funeral or wrap up loose ends, the details too difficult to discuss.

As we went through the motions, I wanted to tell you more than I did and I’m sorry if my approach showed uncertainity. As I turned to leave I said, “I’m so sorry about your dad. I lost my mom to cancer a couple years ago. I know how hard it is, especially during the initial part of it all.” And in that sharing of grief, I was unsure. Everyone manages it uniquely and I wasn’t wanting to push too far. You walked out from behind the counter and….you hugged me. In your hurt you gave more, telling me I was a sweetheart and thanking me for stopping in. I felt the depth of your beautiful soul in that instance.

It wasn’t the right time but through all of this I wanted to let you know that it came full circle. You see, I was in the airport when I found out my mom had passed away while on the way to the hospital. I could hardly collect myself to purchase tissues from the airport store, with what felt like puddles of tears forming beneath me as I hurried away from the cashier asking me what was wrong. I didn’t want to talk. Or think. Or breathe. Or feel. The rug had been ripped from underneath me and how dare anyone try to make sense of that. And as I was standing in line to board the plane back home, she came over to me, with an intent so pure that I could only be kind. She asked if I needed a hug and in her simple inquiry as to why I was hurting, I poured out my story. About losing my mom and the cancer.

Did you know that she knew? That Anna Rose read the tears blending into the freckles as someone who needed a crutch, however briefly? For all the onlookers and strangers hurrying by, this one high-school aged girl traveling back to Washington gave me just enough strength for the plane ride home. It was March when I lost my mom and Anna had only lost her 13-year old sister to a car crash that December. She hugged me. She prayed for me and my family during the flight. And she waited for me when we deplaned, just to make sure I was alright. For every loss there is a lifting, someone who was placed in our lives as the tiniest glimmer of light in unending darkness.

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Age, sex, gender, religion – None of that matters when it comes to pain. We share those burdens, those that we wish we’d never been chosen to carry.

This is where I hold you. Where I carry your hurt inside of mine, reminding you that even though it isn’t going anywhere soon, time and kindness will assist in tucking it away. It will be secure and ever-present, the explanations to strangers becoming easier and perhaps, one day, you will walk someone else through a hurt of their own.

 

Yoga Practice & Lessons in Grace

If you have glanced through my blog at all, you’ve probably noticed yoga plays a large part in my life. If not, well now ya know. I started attending a hot yoga studio (And also can I get an amen for those of us who can’t dish out $1,200 a year to be able to attend unlimited monthly sessions? Props if you can but this girl is on a budget. One day perhaps but until then I’ll buy my class pass when I can afford it and attend twice a week.) here in Spokane back in December and I’ve found that when paired with my home practice, it all starts to click. In a home practice, we can only go so far when we don’t have somebody to guide us in our form when going through the poses. And the same with a home practice. If we are not disciplining ourselves and bringing those concepts we’ve learned to our mat at home, then we fail to grow.

Lately, I’ve seen the parallels between my yoga practice and personal life. As you may have read previously, my relationship of over a year ended about two months ago. In the past, I would move towards unhealthy habits and decisions in order to deal with the pain. But now, I am finally able to see how far this rollercoaster of life has brought me. Every past heartbreak and pain. Every iota of hurt and self-doubt has pushed me to question, seek and discover that which has been inside me all along. I am worth more than I ever dreamed. I am stronger now than I’ve ever been.

But, the truth is, I did falter. I briefly yearned for and sought those whom have hurt me in the past. And then, a little voice inside of me said….”No.” The woman who triumphed in that period of darkness. Who lit the match on the house and almost walked away to watch it all burn, she was roaring. Because, she didn’t walk away when she wanted to the most. She fought and she thrashed and she gave it more than her all. Though the house had some damage, she was ready to rebuild. That is precisely what she did. Two years ago last month I lost my mom to cancer. At that very same time, I was badly burned by my first and most turbulent love. So yes, that woman inside me does not back down without a fight. Not without the struggle of reminding me of the goodness I deserve and how I am incredibly loved.

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My financial guru but even more so, friend

Similar to my yoga practice, I knew I was close to where I wanted to be but my form was not quite correct. I needed a push. I needed to ask for help. You know when you mess up and you really don’t want to tell anybody because the fear of disappointment feels so heavy? That was how I felt when I reached out to my friends. To my church. To the only people I knew could truly guide me in this time. But, I did it anyways. I walked in, head bowed, ready to battle for my heart, soul and self-worth. And the greatest gifts they gave me? When I was fully prepared to apologize and to bow my head in shame, the only feelings they offered up…..were those of love and grace. Two of the most powerful, life-changing words in human existence, if you ask me.

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It wasn’t necessary for me to carry all of this alone, not when so many others were willing to jump in. Who were ready to take some of the burden, to help me cut out the negativity and growth-hindering parts, and who were willing to love on me. Right now, I can see I have a rock solid foundation. I can look back and realize that stumbling doesn’t mean I have not grown, but rather that we sometimes need re-directing on our path. A little light or a friend to walk with us for awhile. Strength can lie in recognizing we are lost, asking for help, and taking corrective action to do better next time. Life is made up of small steps and occasionally, big leaps. It can happen all at once or day by day. Our growth is not measured by whether or not we falter but how we react after the fall. Will you stand back up, armor in hand, roaring and willing to battle for YOU?

I don’t know where you’re walking or how that looks. Where life has brought you or the obstacles that have been placed during your walk. What I can tell though is without a doubt the truth. It is true as of yesterday, today and tomorrow. You are worthy of two, beautiful gifts…..grace and love.

Happy Sunday friends. Make it a beautiful one.

Blessed by Your Love: What I Found in Losing My Mom

I have put off writing this. All day I have wrestled internally with keeping it together so nobody knows the immense hurt that is bubbling to the surface inside. I have wanted to put off this “feelings” part altogether because the pain is unreal. Contrary to the hours, days and weeks we account for, grief is one aspect that cannot be measured. The loss of your presence in my life strikes abruptly. Tiny  moments and increments that sneak into my life. At a wedding when a mom looks at her daughter with more love than she could ever hope to convey. When I find something that reminds me of you. A holiday, birthday or anniversary.

I didn’t know the world would keep spinning. That time would creep on, ever so slowly, keeping us all in its steady rhythm. That my tears would flow less often but my heart would still bear a fault line, your name forever etched in. How certain memories might make me burst into a smile with thoughts of you, yet others would cause me to pause in the moment as I realize I can no longer reminisce with you. How different of a world this is than the one I had envisioned, the one where you were there.

A friend once told me that my mom isn’t really gone, that I can simply start talking wherever I am, out in nature or during my day. That she’s right there with me. I’d like to note that, even as a woman of faith, just how badly I wanted to call bull on that. How I have still spent these past two years hurting, harboring anger at times, and navigating the ways in which I can lighten this burden. But then, I thought, what if she’s right? What if this is part of the healing process? This hurting heart is searching for peace and despite how stubborn I can be, I’m willing to try.

Dear Mom,

I feel I never thanked you as much as I should have. That I am still mad at how life played out and a couple of years during college were wasted in anger. I am simply amazed by all I still learn from you, how much more sure I am of myself now and that I know you would be so proud of me. Your strength was remarkable and your unending love was displayed in your willingness to always put your children first. I’m the luckiest for being able to call you mom!

I found fun in everyday moments. I found courage to stand up for what is right and true. I found that family doesn’t always mean blood but as long as the love is strong and welcoming, none of that matters. We were able to mesh that which was familiar and that which was new to create something lasting. Families are NOT picture perfect and I am so sorry I felt they needed to be. You will forever be an incredible woman and mother to me. 

 

I found somebody who believed in me. Someone who watched me play the clarinet at festivals and concerts, supporting my love of music. My biggest fan at my school plays, laughing in all the right places. You gave so much of yourself that I often wonder if there was any room left over for you? I will never understand how you did it all. Working late hours each day, dinners often prepared for us ahead of time, and still attending our events. You held us up and you held us together. The hardest working woman I knew, hands down.

I’m just now beginning to see how extensively you shaped me. How your love is still reaching me even after you’re gone. And no matter how many times others may have said that to me in the past, it is only now starting to feel that way. So yes, maybe I did need to get out of my own way. Quit overthinking and drop my uncertainty. (I’m also learning that there are no rules in grief, more of a feeling things out as you go along.)

In reflecting over all that you were, you helped me to discover who I am. I am capable and gifted. I am strong and loving. I am able to give because you continually gave all. I am forever held up by you and that can never be taken away from me. The pieces of you that reside within me are cherished and shared with the world.

Instead of wishing for more time, I’m going to be praying for more grace and keep filling my life with as much love as I can. Undoubtedly, your love was the best gift of all. The one which allowed me to reach the pinnacle in order to view myself and our relationship with more clarity. Sweet, sweet love that keeps finding a way to open my heart a little more each day. 

I love you Mom.

 

 

 

When I Found Home & Healing

Surprise turn of events in more than one way. This seems to have happened within 2 weeks time and I did not foresee my life heading this way right now but that’s what happens when you give up the reins. I was approached by one of my dear friends from church about a residential mentor position. So, after applying that evening, getting a follow-up call that same week, interviewing the following week and then receiving the position 3 days after the interview, I will be jumping into this new experience. To add to this transition, my relationship of a year and a half has come to an end and while I am heartbroken, I’m trying to focus on this new course in the pursuit of growth.

This apartment….whew. When I moved here in the summer of 2015, I was not ready for such significant change and the depths to which I would experience growth here. This was my first apartment with a female roommate and not a boyfriend.

My bedroom floor? That’s where I would often find myself in a crying stupor, distraught over the loss of my mom and also terribly hurt by my coinciding breakup. I filled this room with my first bedroom set and new mattress. The mint green sheets I picked out from Target and couldn’t stop obsessing over. This room is where I hung the picture I painted on what would have been my mom’s birthday, the month she passed away. Finally, it was where I would fall to my knees in prayer, sadness, and depression at times. Crying out for peace, strength, and any other feeling except hurt. Did that happen? Eventually, yes. Did I wish it happened much quicker? Absolutely. Yet….if we rose so quickly after struggles, what would be the glory in rising after falling? That moment would just become another moment in a week in another series of days. So no, that part of the hurt and suffering is non-negotiable and I will never sugarcoat that pain. It was an awfully scary time but my people are good people so I owe a large part of my heart mending to them.

Let’s move on to the living room. It has some of my most favorite things. A short but sturdy bookshelf that weighs probably more than me, overflowing with books that I’m still searching to find room for or constantly sharing with others. The Papasan chair that I picked up just down the street from me. The couch where not only personal possessions have gotten lost (glad I found my iPod!), but people too. It was where I consoled my crying roommate as she told her break-up story that nearly mirrored mine and as she, like myself and my previous roommate, struggled to make our hearts whole again. Yes, this apartment has been a haven for those of us who were looking for a do-over, a new beginning after the tangled relationship web that was woven, and a reminder that we were not defined by those who broke us. It became a place to make those discoveries that had been lying within us. The lava needing the perfect temperature and circumstances before it could break through the cracks of the surface, destroying everything, including our old selves, in its wake. I had no intention of this place becoming the center of my healing. I thought it was simply a temporary stop before I landed elsewhere. I had no desire for anything resembling permanence, or semi-permanence for that matter because the idea of something lasting was nearly laughable. I had lost love and goodness from two figures I felt were going to be around forever. One left this world too soon and the other had no intention of building a life with me as promised. Permanence didn’t sound like what I wanted at all.

The kitchen is…..tiny. But tiny vessels can hold great memories too. Like when myself and two other young women moved my new-to-me dining room set consisting of 4 chairs, a large wooden base, and an equally large glass table top…..all by ourselves. It made it safely back from a 45-minute roundtrip excursion and I was so proud. That other time when our stove busted, followed by our dishwasher and then our stove once more (though not as badly but I am sensing a theme here). Or, not long ago, when I learned you can’t boil milk in a tea kettle on high because it will shoot right out of the spout, make a smelly disgusting mess, and leave you and your friends in fits of laughter. I’ve fed my friends here (and also been fed!), told stories over bottles of wine, and oh the dancing. The dancing has been one of my most favorite things to do in this apartment.

So yes, my apartment became more than I thought I would allow it to be. I feel I only knew the definition of home when I lived with my family and had yet to discover what that looked like on my own. Since moving out here, I have felt somewhat restless. Clearly, it was because some deep changes needed to take place in my life, such as letting go of that which was no longer bringing me happiness. And now, I can truly feel what a home can be. It can be permanent or not. Transient or ever-lasting. An apartment, trailer, or house. Small, large, or in between. A home allows for mistakes and messes. It lets you be your barest self in your search for grace. It doesn’t make you feel imperfect or unworthy but rather, it is a jumping point for something bigger. Maybe you glance down at the water below for a long, long time, debating if it’s right for you. Each time you discover something more about yourself, you step a little bit closer to the ledge. Then, finally, you close your eyes and jump. This is me, jumping off the ledge, with no certainty of where I’ll land but knowing I’ll be completely held in the process.

Allowing Space for Creativity

I hadn’t posted anything since the beginning of February. It had been an entire month and I was letting it get to me. I expressed my frustration to my boyfriend, saying how I really needed to get something written. His honest and innocent response of, “Why?” really threw me for a loop.

Why did I need to get something out there? Aside from the fact that I: a) was of course wanting to grow my blog and b) really needed to put in that writing time; was I really doing this for me? I have always been a big supporter of approaching tasks, goals, and dreams when the timing is right. You have to put in the work along the way, but by no means should you feel bad about where you’re at right now. And then I realized, that’s precisely what it was. I have been feeling stuck, lost and frazzled, simply moving from one task to the next. I was placing so much emphasis on my job title that I felt as if I wasn’t contributing according to some so-called standards. When in all honesty, I’m calling bull on that one because I know in my heart that I am doing great things every day, even if I can’t see it. I am a nanny to 2 amazing boys, whom I adore and care for with my whole heart. I am a server at a family-owned restaurant, where I have met some of the sweetest guests and co-workers. I am a mentor to a remarkable young lady. I am a volunteer in my community and church. I am also a writer.

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I’ve also been healing this year, taking the time to come back from the loss of my mother, as well as other cards I’ve been dealt in this hand. I take it day by day. Through this I found that for every tide that has washed away pieces of me or my story, it simply has been rewritten and I have gained tenfold during the course of it. My faith has strengthened, I’ve regained my confidence, new and wonderful people have appeared in my life, and though the loss of my mom will always hurt in some way, I have found thankfulness for the time we had and peace in knowing her suffering came to an end.

For the creative type, this all matters. We can be people-pleasing perfectionists (say that 3 times), always wanting to put out something great. But, what if we’re just doing it to go through the motions, instead of when it’s the right time? Can we really create greatness in those moments? When you’ve pushed yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally to the brink of exhaustion, how can you want to create?

I came up with a mantra to remind myself of this:

MAKE SPACE FOR CREATIVITY.

I don’t mean an actual space consisting of the perfect desk and chair.  Rather, the space inside of you. Allow for failures and mistakes. Call security on that inner critic when he gets too rowdy. Make sure you are in a healthy mindset, as well as physically nurturing yourself. You wouldn’t go to work in rough shape, so why insist on settling when your creative work is just as important?

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Photo Credit: catkinswillow via Compfight cc

If we, the creators, are so striving to make something of lasting value, then we owe it to ourselves to nurture that part of us. We can still create in those moments of extreme emotion such as anger, sadness, or guilt. In fact, those times where we are just putting it all out there are often jumping points for future great works. But, don’t sell yourself short in terms of creativity. You are a beacon of light in what can sometimes be a seemingly endless, dark horizon. The sun beam that comes through your window just right. The first firefly, beckoning the beginning of summer.

You owe it to yourself to bring something of lasting value into this magnificent world. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or even the next, but I promise you that it will happen, perhaps when you are least expecting it to. Don’t box yourself in and most importantly, do not rush the process. I know that can often go against what is instilled in us but creativity should be about slowing down, not speeding forward. Make that space. Be that light. And always, always keep creating.

 

 

A Year in Your Light: Life Without My Mom

March 8th marked a year since my mom passed away from ovarian cancer. (You can read more about it here.)  

I’ve loved you fiercely. I’ve wished for more time. I’ve had breakdowns in places I would never have imagined and been brought to my knees in grief. One of the hardest parts was not knowing what would trigger it or when it would happen. Whether I was reading a book or in the middle of the grocery store, emotions of this intensity don’t allow for any sort of logic.

My memories of you in your final moments have yet to escape me. There’s something about seeing those whom we would do anything for, especially you with your limitless strength, in such a fragile state. You were a wisp, so thin and so frail. I don’t know if that goes away. I just keep holding on, day by day.

I know now how hard it must have been for you to have me see you like that. You were so stubborn while raising us and you held on to that stubbornness, even while you were sick. I loved that fight in you because looking back on my childhood as an adult, I am thankful for all you gave. How badly I wanted to take away your pain when you were sick paralleled how strongly you had loved us our whole lives. No distance was too great and no battle too difficult. You were our rock. The keeper of our secrets from dad. The glue that held our family together. The woman who could do it all and then some. You amazed the hell out of me.

I wanted you to be old and gray with dad. To meet the newest addition we welcomed to the family 2 months ago, who would have been your first grandchild. To share in the memories we continue to make together. I wished and wanted and then….nothing happened. I came to the realization that all the wishing and wanting in the world could not bring you back. You were gone.

This has been, by far, the toughest loss I have had to come back from. I almost feel OK again, finding your strength in me when it seems unbearable. I could have turned away. I could have settled in the darkness and made myself content. I could have lost my faith and blamed it on God. For awhile, I did all of that. Yet, for every loss there is something to be found again, whether that is in ourselves or in the acceptance of both the fragility and beauty of life.

The process of grieving is unlike any other, looking different for each of us, yet still so the same. That’s why we can recognize it in others. Until you have walked through that isolated hopelessness and found peace somehow, even your closest friends and family can seem incredibly far away. I counted the tiniest milestones such as surviving the holidays, your birthday and not completely losing myself on the 8th of every month. The first 6 months were the most painful and while it didn’t seem like I was making any sort of progress, in some way I did. The darkest days, weeks, and months have allowed me to appreciate what time I did have with you. You physically left us, but my love for you continues to thrive.

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There is no way anybody is ever prepared for loss, even those that are imminent. If I could offer up anything in this, it’s that there is no quick-fix for the pain. No manual for how to heal. No words of encouragement, no matter how uplifting or inspirational, will make it right. And finally, time doesn’t make it better. It only lessens it, until the next holiday/photograph/pretty much anything brings memories flooding back. As I shaped my life around how I could best carry on, the loss became a part of me.

But, what also became a part of me was every good and wonderful feature you brought to this life. Every laugh. Every car ride where we listened to Elton John. Every moment you fought for us. Every single sacrifice. Life after loss relies not upon residing in that space of sadness, but in living out what you gave me. The greatest way I can honor you is by living my very best life. I will hope I do right by you in loving deeply and being kind. You will forever be one of the most important women in my life and I am eternally grateful for your unbounded love.