The Climb- Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

It has been thirteen months since I lost my husband to the unfathomable darkness of depression. I know nobody would say thirteen months unless they were referring to a baby, they would just say a year but in this case the distinction seems important.

I grabbed a glass of wine after dinner tonight and came out to the deck to watch the colorful sky. It had been a hot day; there has been a heaviness to the heat the past couple of days, almost as if it was sitting on top of you. I had come home early to enjoy the sun in my backyard and almost immediately the sun vanished beneath a gray mass of clouds that seemed to appear out of nowhere. I put some shoes on and played catch with my youngest daughter until we decided to beat the rain inside as the sky hinted that there was an impending storm, possibly a good one.

We watched some TV till Morgan came home with her friend and I went upstairs to make dinner. I cannot believe I am saying this, but I made spaghetti tacos for the girls. Apparently, it was a thing on ICarly and Haley has been asking me to make them. Morgan was initially as freaked out as I was at the idea but seemed to enjoy them and Haley seemed beyond enamored by them. I opted for a stir-fry with this amazingly flavorful cauliflower rice. It just seemed like a normal day, almost an unfamiliar normal, one I truly haven’t seen in a lifetime. I did the dishes after supper, still peeking out the window occasionally to see if it had begun to rain. The rain was still holding off, and the sky beheld the same dismal color it had been earlier perhaps just a slight shade brighter. I decided to sit outside and enjoy a glass of wine and Morgan and her friend appeared and chatted a bit before going to meet another friend. At eighteen Morgan keeps busy with her crew, avoiding quiet times that make her think and feel too much on bottomless repeat. She is not ready to release the pain and sometimes I think we get so used to pain that we wrap ourselves in it like an old blanket and its Saturday night on the couch with your favorite Netflix series. It’s worn and not entirely cozy but there is a certainty to it at a time when everything feels uncertain. Tonight, she came out to the deck and we shared some laughs. She looked nice in her Halifornia Baseball Tee and I wondered for a second if it was mine because we have the same one. The sky had started to darken again just before they left but I found myself moments later staring up at it, a tiny bit confused. The sky had completely changed in a moment that I somehow missed; it was almost like a seamless day to night transition during live theatre. Somehow I blinked and missed it entirely. It was pretty in a weird sort of way, it was like the colors of the bags of cotton candy hanging on the side of the food trucks at the summer fair, the colors started to merge together, like the faces and the people that flock to the little food mobile all day to buy water and French fries. All of the sudden Haley burst out the door running into the lawn and standing on the fire pit, rambling about the sky and how she always used to stand on the fire pit in Grade 7 and take pictures of the sky. She just finished grade 8, probably one of toughest years in all her academic ones but she pulled through it and kicked its ass on the way through. I realized that I used to take a lot of the pictures of the sky as well and besides our recent vacation in the Okanagan where I dedicated time every day to stare up into the sky picking out the funny, dirty shapes in the clouds I had not been doing so. I stared at the moon and the stars at night and meditated fresh air every day of my holidays, yet it is July 30th and this is only the second time this summer that I have sat in my backyard. That feels important. It took thirteen months.

Haley and I continued to chat about the sky and take pictures of its rapidly changing color. It was not the most amazing sky I had ever seen, it wasn’t even close to being great, but it was beautiful in its unique normalness, changing quickly into moodier cotton candy colors. Almost immediately upon noticing the temperamental palette the curtain dropped abruptly leaving the evening sky draped in a deep navy velvet. I am listening to Ben Caplan crooning and sipping on a glass of red wine and kind of swaying in my seat and writing and figuring it out and sharing it with you almost simultaneously. After all we have been in this together, for a while, you and I. You have told me that sometimes my pain has been an escape from your own and that my healing makes yours seem hopeful and possible. You cry with me, remember with me, laugh with me and sit and hold space with me just as you would for your oldest, dearest friend. In most cases I am not your friend, most of you don’t even know me personally and even those of you that would say we were close if I won the lotto or became famous, you may not recognize me anymore. When I put my shattered pieces back together I had to put them back differently. I was forced too, everything was different, as am I, and sure as shitheels I am never going to be the same again.

Like I said, you are me and I am you. Our struggles are different but we both bare the scars of black nights and early mornings on no sleep. The memory fades but you remember how easily you can slip back into that hole. You are also starting to see how easily you can stop that manipulation, the lure of familiarity, and the decent into the darkness. You are starting to see that tomorrow is a new day; you get one every 24 hours. There are days that are easy and days that are hard, none of us are immune to those.

I walk on my lunch hour at work and I am lucky to live in a city with a large urban parks trail system surrounding our river valley. I have become a creature of habit and I take the same route 5 days a week finishing with a ladder. Every day I climb the ladder. When I first started I had to catch my breath several times and then I just stopped halfway through to suck in some air and then as time passed I made it closer to the top without a pause. Some days now I don’t stop at all and some days I stop out of habit. Some days are just hard, unexpectedly, as if I cannot get enough breath into my lungs and the air feels like a massive weight sitting on my chest. I have no explanation except for sometimes life is unexpectedly hard.

I realized that very day that I have been climbing for what seems like forever and it seems like I start over at the beginning every single day. The beauty in that is that I do, I start over every day. Nothing is permanent, no feeling of despair or hopelessness or heaviness that threatens to suck you in. Joy is not permanent either; it weaves in and out of our lives, knitting our memories into stunning tapestries. The magic happens when we realize that we choose how we feel in every single moment and we can chase the bleak shadows deeper and deeper into a pit of desolation or we can follow the wonder, the pleasure and delight as it unites our memories with the sunrise and launches our hopes into the sky to land on the brightest star. Our inner world is married to our outer world and what we give our attention to sets our intention. If our intention is to seek and create a life filled with joy and to meet the highest version of ourselves, if we continue to make that choice in every moment, commit to that climb, the universe will feed on that energy like a hungry traveler and lead us and guide us and move obstacles out of our way.

We are not alone. We are never alone. Just as you and I share in our most difficult struggles and laugh together during times of joy, the universe; the birds, bees, mountains, ocean and trees move simultaneously in a hypnotic dance to produce love, joy, creativity and gratitude in our lives. When that awareness is present I believe anything is possible.

There are times in the last year that I believed life was merciless, torturing me and feeding on my agony like a vulture but a very wise man told me that Kirk would heal through my healing and that one thing has been everything really. My husband spent a great deal of his life in pain, unable to achieve the peace he desired. If I chose to sit in the blackness would I keep him there with me?

Acceptance is vital. There are so many things in our lives that can be changed that we nonchalantly accept but we fight so damn hard against the mountains that are impossible to move. We use all of our strength fighting battles that cannot be won while laying our swords down during the most important of all crusades, the fight for our lives.

I realized one day that Kirk was not going to join me in that pit of despair but his spirit along with so many loving and kind people was offering me a hand to pull me out, I just had to grab unto it every single time I started to fall. The hand was always there, it would always be extended. I choose to fall or climb, that realization has been profound.

In those early days I believed that if I allowed my self to heal that I wouldn’t feel Kirk with me anymore, that he would sense that I no longer needed him and his presence would quickly fade away. I sought some guidance and I depended a great deal on faith and trust and what I learned was that as I continue to heal not only are my memories more vivid but my awareness of his existence in my life is unmistakable. Our souls are eternal and I am confident that he will encourage me always. I know he will be with me no matter what but when I find myself in a dreary place I imagine him sitting there with me saying “C’mon pissy pants, snap out of it!” he much preferred fun Michelle, who doesn’t?

It is those times when I feel happy and free that I feel him the most. I was at a concert last week and I had so much fun and danced non stop. I felt surrounded by his love and approval and I feel like, without earthly limbs I dance for him. When I love and laugh and dance, he does the same, just as when I cry and sit around in my jammies eating endless carbs and feeling like crap, so does he. There is an amazing amount of freedom in knowing that I am guided and supported, always, I just need to continue to climb.

I finally realized that it is not about the view from the top.

Grief is an unimaginable journey, but it is not something to get to the top of. I don’t think you ever stop grieving someone you love but I do believe it changes shape, it cloaks you in a weighty and gloomy sadness but over time instead of wearing it like armor you gracefully drape it over you like an elegant shawl made of courage.

The top just seems final, like a place where you stop learning and I feel like I have a lifetime of learning to do. Death has taught so much about love and living but it feels like there would never be an end to what I could learn about my purpose here in this astonishingly big but enigmatically small world.

Every day, all day, it is a journey, it is a climb.

I feel like slowly, grace and healing is making its way through my house and the last couple of days it has planted itself in my backyard. I can’t even believe how absently I was ready to accept that there would no longer be laughter back there, no welcoming the sun or bathing in moonlight. It is amazing the things that we will accept when we have the power to change them.

How ironic that it was a perfectly normal day that seemed so extraordinary in my heart.

Our journeys are unique to us but often they intersect at the crossroads and we lean on and learn from each other. Shared wisdom and vulnerability is significant and valuable to healing and growth.

Sometimes the first step is the most important part of the journey.

“There’s no glory in climbing a mountain if all you want to do is get to the top. It’s experiencing the climb itself- in all its moments of revelation, heartbreak and fatigue-that has to be the goal.”

~Karyn Kusama

Here comes the sun- Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

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Halifax, Nova Scotia /Photo Credit Morgan DeBay

“don’t fear getting broken

don’t fear rock bottom

that’s where it all really begins”

~ Humble The Poet

I can’t imagine a time when I will want to get out of this bed again, except to pee I suppose.

My body feels heavy, like my limbs are made of lead. I can barely lift them and I imagine myself sinking further and further into the mattress until I completely disappear.

All last week I kept thinking about the moment where I would get to crawl in bed again and feel the silky softness of the slate gray bamboo sheets I had put on my bed.
This has nothing to do with that at all.

There is no joy in laying here. No sleek luxury.

I just can’t face the world outside these four walls.
A world where for the past two days I have felt insignificant and small in.
A world that is difficult for me. A world I have no real sense of belonging to and I don’t really want to. I want this bed to swallow me whole, so I don’t have to feel horribly weak for just laying here.

I tried to overcome the beast today and I almost succeeded. I got up and tidied up, I made brunch and then my daughter came upstairs and piled all her teenage angst on me and every single word she spoke sat on me like it was a 200-pound man. I felt like I was being buried alive and I had already been barely breathing. I was desperate to fill my lungs with air. Her problems are significant to her and in retrospect I know that she is feeling lost and afraid as well but even as I puttered around the kitchen I felt very much like I was stepping over a wounded woman curled up on the floor in the fetal position sobbing. It sometimes feels impossible to keep moving and stepping over her, ignoring her. She just comes and plants herself there unexpectantly and I need to scream. I need to scream but how do I do that? Who do I scream at? Do I just fucking scream till I lose my voice?

I can’t be there for anyone today. I am struggling to find even a hint of myself today among the wreckage. I can’t even support me.

The house smells like maple bacon, a familiar smell. The memory of many a sunday brunch with my husband lingers just below the surface and I cannot quite grasp it. My memories are often colorful, decorated with genuine smiles and unadulterated laughter but today the color has drained out of them and I cannot hold them. I barely remember if I had eaten before coming back to bed.

Just four days ago I had my arms wide open ready to embrace all that the world had to offer and today I just want to hide from it.

Grief

It doesn’t sweep over you gently, like a cozy blanket on a crisp night. It strikes out of nowhere like a ferocious beast, stealing your breath and smashing the lights off the poles leaving you terrified, in obscurity. Sometimes its subtler, it attacks slowly like a stealth leopard in the Sahara Desert and though it waits patiently for the right moment to assault you, you have the sense that you are being stalked and it very gradually thieves your joy, minute by minute.

The sun is illuminating my bedroom, bursting through the window and chasing away the mid afternoon shadows. I want to feel it, I want to be warmed by it, charmed by it, bathed in it. It is right here but yet it feels a world away. It doesn’t feel like it is mine to enjoy.

Step 1. Is knowing that I hate feeling like this

Step 2. Is knowing that sometimes I must.

Step 3. Breath

Step 4. Begin the climb.

Grief is the price of love, the currency we pay for taking the risk and trusting our heart to truly care for someone else. Even amid the misery I can feel the exquisiteness that remains. I see it with my eyes, I feel it with my heart, it lives in my children and memories and visions of the furture.

Just not today.

I remember a quote by Anne Lamont where she said grief is like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly, that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.

I am going to dance. I am going to dance like there is fire under my feet.

Just not today.

Sometimes I feel the power of the blood coursing through my veins; like thunder chasing the wind, it reminds me that I am alive.

Just not today.

It’s a heartache- Wise Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

My late husband Kirk was my cheerleader. He literally thought that I was capable of anything and he encouraged me to be all that I could be. I never really believed in myself the way he did sadly, and he never believed in himself the way that I believed in him.

It is probably one of life’s greatest tragedies, that people discover much too late their passions and purpose in life; yet they say there are gifts in grief and for me nestled in among the heartache and sadness I have discovered my self-worth, my resiliency, my fierce need to be my authentic self, profound acceptance and a deep appreciation for kindness and empathy.

I opened up my email today and I receive Daily Spark emails from Heatherash amara who wrote one of my favorite books; Warrior Goddess Training. The emails always include a very inspiring quote and then her thoughts on the attached quote. Below is today’s email.

Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom. ~ Rumi

 

Wisdom does not come without the scouring of pain to deepen your soul. But grief can either harden our hearts or polish us smooth so we shine with an inner sun. Pain can be a beautiful spade to break up the soil and allow the water of compassion to penetrate deep into our bones. Today, let the poignancy of life – the grief, the pain, the loss  – be allies rather than an enemies. Hold hands with these companions and let them sing you the song of wisdom from the heart of experience. ~Heatherash amara

 

This literally sang to my heart today. It is no secret that that mindfulness has been so helpful to me in moving through grief, I am human, and I have good days and horrible days and that may never change. I am continually working hard to move forward in my life and be a role model for our children, to let them know that loss is not something we will ever stop feeling but we do not have to be afraid to live a big, colorful life.

There are a lot of questions and assumptions when you lose someone so tragically to suicide. In fact, just this morning I got a message from someone that said, I keep looking through your pictures and you and Kirk seemed so damn happy. That was all real, Kirk and I share, and always will share a great love but his depression and anxiety was also very real too, and as many people that suffer know all too well, sometimes it is in the dark hours that you spend alone that you are plagued with doubt, fear, uncertainty, racing thoughts and sometimes an overwhelming nothingness. I am choosing, every second of every day to focus on everything I gained by loving Kirk and not just on what we lost. I have a deep understanding of love, compassion, pleasure, joy and happiness. If anything, loving Kirk and losing Kirk validated how very tangible those things are, and how important they will continue to be in our lives.

I have spent many mornings in the last several months very afraid that I was losing myself in grief. I can only imagine that depression creates a very similar fear. I never imagined finding myself in this spot, but it is where I am and I need to meet myself where I am, not where I imagined I would be.

I am working with a personal coach to help me realize the most important things in my life, set goals and be accountable. I have also been using some mindful strategies to deal with trauma and loss and encourage healing for me and my family. A lot of you ask how I do it. Truthfully a lot of it is faith and deep breaths but below are some things that have been valuable to me:

 

1.     Don’t be afraid to reach out and/or accept help and support. It may come from unlikely places. Your circle will inevitably change but your energy will attract the people that you need in your life right now. We often wonder out loud why those suffering with depression do not reach out for help but truthfully, we know how hard it can be to take that step. Friends, spiritual leaders, support groups and professionals can all ensure that you do not deal with trauma alone.
2.     Tap into your internal strength. Remind yourself that you have made it through all the terrible things life has thrown at you so far and this is no different. You are a warrior. Pain has a memory but so does courage.

 

3.     Keep yourself centered through the agonizing feelings of grief. When the tides of heartbreak and helplessness wash over you don’t have be afraid to feel all the emotions; tears are sacred and cleansing, but don’t forget to breath, take deep breaths and allow them to guide you back to the present.

 

4.      Picture what a future will look like for yourself. Even amid immeasurable pain and loss it is OK to imagine what your future might look like and take baby steps to move forward.

 

5.     Practice Mindfulness: While doing grounding practices such as meditation, yoga, or even walking in nature remember that grief is not linear. There is no way over or around grief and there are no shortcuts. You will have good days and bad days, in no order. I liken grief to seasons and during the bitterly frigid winter I remind myself that inside of me is an indomitable summer.

 

6.     C.S. Lewis said, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear” Part of our journey through grief is realizing that our fears hold us captive. We fear that moving forward is moving on from our loved ones, we fear that their memories will fade as we heal and that if we let go of the pain that grips us that we will be letting go of our loved ones forever. Pain during the grieving process is inevitable but fear can create unnecessary suffering. Our love is immortal, but our suffering need not be.

Remember that every single journey begins with a single step.

 

 

xoxo

Michelle

 

 

 

Let it go- WISE Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

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The gift of our lives should be greater than pain and larger than fear, but when we are in the grip of grief, trauma, depression, heartache, loss or betrayal; fear can be immobilizing.

Pain can be a great teacher

Pain can be a great teacher if we are open to the lessons it brings, if we meet it with curiosity instead of alarm it will teach us and allow us to move through it with grace. One way or the other pain demands to be felt.

There is no promise of a pain free life, pain is inevitable, but if we resist, ignore or fear pain we initiate suffering. Suffering is not necessary.

I knew that the feeling of being enveloped in a dense dark fog was not going to lift overnight

I am not afraid of pain; I held the door wide open and welcomed it in. When my husband passed away in June, pain and plenty of it was more than expected.  I knew there would be an abundance of tears and endless heartbreak and longing. I knew that in my pain that I would find strength I never knew I had and wisdom I never knew I needed. I knew that the feeling of being enveloped in a dense dark fog was not going to lift overnight.

The thing I didn’t count on was how much I would come to depend on the pain. It is my receipt of love after all and I would spend nights wrapped up in it like a blanket. In a previous post I talked about the luxury of hope and embracing and holding onto those moments, but as they started to emerge for me I caught myself chasing them away and holding onto my dark blanket of despair. I had found a new person in my grief and as much as I thought I longed to have the old Michelle back I found myself identifying with the new familiar one and holding space for her and keeping the light out. I found myself wondering who I was in the world without my husband and who would he be if I wasn’t here in this world holding vigil for him. The grief and the unimaginable pain was the proof that his life and his story mattered and I became afraid of letting any bit of it go. I lived in fear that if I softened to the pain and moved through it and allowed the light to shine on me that his memory would fade, the love we shared wouldn’t matter and his spirit that I felt so close to me, guiding me, would diminish bit by bit until it disappeared.

Or so I thought…

I told all our loved ones that we needed to honor him by being well and being happy, but somehow, even knowing what he would truly want, I was honoring him by holding tightly to my pain as that was the manifestation of the love we shared and the connection between my physical life with him and our lives now. Or so I thought…

So here I am with all of this love in my heart that I want to give him and I think I can’t so as a consolation I close off my heart and I sit in my misery somehow thinking I am honoring the person who meant the world to me, who wanted nothing more for me to feel happiness and love always. When I put it in black and white it seems incredibly strange that I would think that way. I certainly know better, I think we all do. We know that at the deepest level of our soul we are always safe, loved, grounded and connected. Fear may protect us temporarily but it is not a place to live.

Fear should not define us; everything we long for is on the other side of fear

Fear should not define us; everything we long for is on the other side of fear. I want desperately to continue to feel the love that my husband and I shared with each other and with our children; I will not achieve that if I keep draping myself in the agony. In fact, in some conversations with some very wise and inspiring people I have come to believe that as I continue to move through the pain and the grief and as I allow moments of light to energize me, and the cloak of despair to decline, my memories will be stronger and more beautiful than they are now, swathed in a dismal haze.

It is amazing how gratitude can elevate to our highest vibration possible

I was walking through the park the other day with my dog and all of the colorful flowers are still in the bloom but the air is changing, even the copious sunshine couldn’t mask the hint of autumn that blew through the trees. Periodically the wind would come up and swiftly blow through the trees, showering the earth with leaves that had already dried out and curled up. It was absolutely beautiful. It is amazing how gratitude can elevate us to our highest vibration possible and I have plenty to be grateful for. Though my life right now is not one I would have chosen for myself, I got to experience the depth of true love and the lessons I learned by loving and being loved by Kirk, during the good times and the bad, I will hold in my heart forever. For just a moment I let myself feel those winds of change and not be afraid, and in that moment I felt Kirk clearer than I had in weeks, cheering me on.

I have been so afraid of what is on the other side of my fear so I really had to decide what I wanted for me and my children. I want the winds of change to blow me in the direction of emotional freedom, gratitude, joy, health and love. I want to multiply that love Kirk and I shared as a couple and as a family and put it back into the world. This world could sure use a little more love and kindness.

My response to this fear that restrains me is to summon all of the courage I have to not jump over, resist or hold the pain, but to move through it keeping my heart open to the unique gifts of the universe.

Are you holding unto fear? What is it trying to tell you? What is on the other side of your fear.

Let it go-see what remains.

Every single day is a new opportunity, for you and for me. Today lets decide what it is we want to see in the world and lets project that.

xoxo-michelle1

Total eclipse of the heart-Wise Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday 

We are all guilty of telling ourselves the same tired stories from our childhood and we so often dismiss how important the dialogue we share with ourselves and others is to our lives and our well-being.

There is a common theme we use surrounding suffering and struggle. We uses words like ‘cope’ and ‘survive’ and phrases such as ‘get by’

As well intentioned as we may be I believe that this dialogue has been exhausted and it doesn’t feel relevant to my rapidly changing situation.

In June I lost my husband, my best friend and the father of my children to a long battle with mental illness. Surviving and coping with his illness was an every day burden for him.  The very first day in the world without him was one of the hardest things I will ever have to face, along with the realization that our family, our children and myself will need to face all of the days to come. Loss makes you realize how precious life is and for me I now believe we should direct our energy into leading the best lives possible. To thriving.

Grief has more ups and downs then the my elementary school teeter totter during recess, but it sure makes you appreciate the value of moments.

On the weekend I was dizzy with grief, feeling one minute like I was floating on a calm ocean at sunset and the next a Tsunami hit. It was overwhelming but not unexpected and I have embraced tear stained as my new make-up trend.

I found myself in a fleeting moment of hope and anticipation and began to contemplate some of the things that my children and I have on the go in the foreseeable future and I realized that those worn out words and phrases do not have to continue to be a part of our story.

A word popped into my head that I was so excited about. I even convinced myself that I had made up the word until google confirmed that another wise person had beat me to it. The word and the concept is THRIVIVAL! The idea that instead of merely existing in the face of adversity that we can instead learn to live vigorously, cherishing each moment of our lives. Instead of just surviving, we can thrive.

Should our goals be set on coping, on surviving this relentless emotional storm, or should we focus on the strength in the inevitable change and commit to living our lives with purpose and intent, choosing a life rooted in love and doing well and being well?

I think the answer is clear. I believe our route is thrivival and though we may stumble occasionally on this hilly path the journey will be worth it.

Kirk would not be content to see us just get by. Nothing short of a life well lived would be sufficient; and with him as our guide we will navigate this new world with intensity.

If you are reading this I hope you will join us; take a look at your own life and make the choice to not only do what you love, be a person you love and put that love out into the world and make it a better place. You are the univere. Brace for THRIVIVAL

xo Michelle

 

Amazing Grace -Wise Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

Life is a beautiful disaster

Life is a beautiful disaster at the best of times and it is during our darkest times that we are challenged to find some sort of meaning in the midst of chaos. Never is this truer than when we experience tragedy, especially when it is the death of someone we love. So much of our identity, our hopes and dreams and plans for the future are wrapped up, in and around the special people in our lives and when one of them is suddenly taken away from us, looking forward can be a bleak venture.

This weekend was especially hard for me, there is really no rhyme or reason to grief, no magical step by step manual that you can pinpoint where you are and where you need to be. I think for me the best I can do is take things moment to moment, which was how I was trying to live my life way before my husband left this world so tragically.

At the moment, even tomorrow seems uncertain, so it is best for me to honor the feelings that come up as they arise. This weekend everything was wrapped in a blanket of deep sadness. In that regard I would describe grief as being  like the Cha-cha, taking a step backwards after taking a step forwards. Some may classify that as failure or being stuck, but it is movement and I have to believe that any sort of movement is a step in the right direction.

It seems like such a short time ago that I was waking up with happy anticipation and that has sadly been replaced by a blanket of dread. I dread even a day without Kirk so the thought of facing my life without him is overwhelming. I remind myself that moving through the day moment to moment is the best that can be expected of me and at the end of the day I celebrate the small victory that I made it through yet another one. Amidst the bleak despair if I am lucky enough to be gifted moments of light I try my best to hold unto them as long as possible, as it is in those moments that I am able to look towards the future with a tiny bit of hope.

This weekend I had made multiple plans and I was quite excited at the prospect of getting to that point in my journey that I could actually be excited about leaving the house for not one or two but three days in a row. Friday night after work I met a friend and we went raspberry picking, we had dinner and shared some stories over a glass of wine. I was in bed that night exhausted by 10 p.m. I had been having a good time and then all of the sudden I became literally overcome at the thought of never having dinner with Kirk again, never driving in a vehicle with Kirk again, never listening to Kirk bitch when his smoothie had raspberries in it because he despised how the seeds got stuck in his teeth. I woke early on Saturday but I wasn’t able to leave my room. I feel close to Kirk there and the thought of facing anything outside my room made me feel choked.  I was lucky to be given weekend passes to the Edmonton Folk Festival but tried desperately to pawn them off on my teenage daughter. In a reversal of sorts my daughter temporarily took over the role of voice of reason and told me that I wasn’t going to sit around, I was going to kick the ass out of that day and if that was too much to ask for, I could be just as sad at the folk festival as I could at home cleaning the house; only it was less lame. She was entirely right of course and as we weaved our way through Edmonton on city transit I was reminded that Kirk would have told me the exact same thing.

There is nothing lame about the Edmonton Folk festival. It is such a mish mosh of people and personalities that I was immediately reminded of the beauty and the fragile-ness of life.

Life is glorious sunsets, panoramic mountain vistas, ocean spray, sunrises, laughter, dancing, hot sand, cool drinks, loud music,  acne, gas, bills, mortgages, jobs, stress, heartache, birth, death and taxes. Life is all or nothing. There is no promise of a pain free life and unfortunately we need to experience all of it.

Music has always brought people together and we are always aware of how lucky we are to get to experience music live, it is such a connecting experience.

My daughter and I found a spot on the grass to lay our blanket, surrounded by babies, teenagers, parents, grandparents and people at a time in their lives that they can’t recall their age but their toes can still tap out the rhythm of the music. That alone was beautiful and I allowed myself to see and feel that. Music has always brought people together and we are always keenly aware of how lucky we are to get to experience music live. It is such a connecting experience, bringing together people from all walks of life to celebrate stories brought to life through music and melodies.

Irish Mythen is an Irish born-Canadian Contemporary Folk singer and songwriter with the wonderful gift of comfortably uniting people through her stories and her strong and fantastic voice. In her intro to Sweet Necessity she talked about being a singer-songwriter on the road and discovering the things that were the most important things in life, the things you long to come home too. These sweet necessities are the things that money cannot buy. She followed with a powerful song called 55 years that she had written after meeting an elderly man at a festival that had just lost his wife. They had been married for 55 years and had never spent a night apart and after he wandered off into the night she wondered about how that must have felt for him, the first time crawling into his bed without his true love. Tears were spraying out of my eyes even before the first strum of the guitar and as my daughter held my hand I was once again reminded of how lucky I was to get that kind of love, and that grief is love’s souvenir. I cannot rush my way through it, I need to carry it with me as I move through my days and honor all of the feelings as they come my way. I cried for that beautiful old man that lost his wife, I cried for Kirk, I cried for me and my children and our families and friends and I cried for people that I didn’t even know that would one day be faced with the same heartache. Pain is not selective. It is what we do with our pain that matters.

I looked at her with envy thinking that that was supposed to be me someday.

That night I was once again exhausted and I faced the same difficult morning; not wanting or ready to face my own reality. My daughter once again reminded me that we had plans for the last day of Folk Festival and that I could be just as sad there as I could be anywhere. The travel through the city was worse on Sunday, I remembered how funny it was traveling with Kirk on City transit and was reminded how we would never do that again. As we laid in the hot sun on our blanket listening to 78 year old Blues legend William Bell I thought of how much Kirk would have appreciated this and how connected he was to music. He communicated with me a lot through music, often sending me songs and always insisting that I listen to the lyrics because they were everything he wanted to say. My eyes leaked all day and it felt terrible. It felt like having annoying eye allergy and your eyes feel constantly wet and crusty in the corners. Tears were imminent.

My daughter nudged me to look at this elderly woman who was wildly dancing to the rock and roll/swamp/blues stylings of Canadian band MonkeyJunk. I looked at her through teary eyes, and my heart did a funny thing, perhaps a pang.  She had white hair, and she was wearing a white short sleeved sweater with brightly colored embroidered flowers, fuchsia shorts and matching sunglasses. If you googled images of smile or sunshine you might find a picture of her. I looked at her with envy thinking that that was supposed to be me someday. I was supposed to be that happy older lady in the brightly colored clothing, dancing like nobody was watching and shining as bright as the sun. I contemplated that for several minutes, turning my attention back to the crooning guitar and the beat of the drum to drown out the breaking of my heart, over and over again. I looked over at the woman again, still dancing as if freedom was her middle name. I estimated her to be in her seventies and I am pretty certain that heartache hadn’t passed over her. In 70 years I am sure she has experienced her fair share of pain, yet she danced as if her heart had never been broken, free from the shackles of emotional torment.

I know if I want to dance with freedom at 70 plus years old I have some work to do, I need to heal my heart and reconnect with my soul. I need to seek and find some grace.

I heard a word last week that is not a dictionary word but Deepak Chopra used it “SynchroDestiny”, alluding to the fact that events and encounters are more than meaningful coincidences; they are actually choices we make that are leading us towards our destiny.

“When we’re aware of our essential nature and the possibilities that are always unfolding around us, we enter a state I call SynchroDestiny. We awaken to the field of infinite possibilities, and are able to apply our intentions and attention to manifest the spontaneous fulfillment of our dreams and desires. “ –Deepak Chopra

I have felt pretty strongly in the last several months that people I meet and the experiences that I have are somehow all connected and leading me towards my purpose. I was meant to be at the Folk Festival and see that woman, dancing like she was eighteen at Woodstock. She was meant to be a part of my journey. I know if I want to dance with freedom at 70 plus years old I have some work to do, I need to heal my heart and reconnect with my soul. I need to seek and find some grace.

Author Anne Lamont presented a Ted Talk where she talked about grace and I searched for it and as I listened a meaning was revealed that I had not embraced on my previous listen.

Anne Lamott says:

Grace.

Grace is spiritual WD-40, or water wings. The mystery of grace is that God loves Henry Kissinger and Vladimir Putin and me exactly as much as He or She loves your new grandchild. Go figure. The movement of grace is what changes us, heals us and heals our world.

To summon grace, say, “Help,” and then buckle up. Grace finds you exactly where you are, but it doesn’t leave you where it found you. And grace won’t look like Casper the Friendly Ghost, regrettably. But the phone will ring or the mail will come and then against all odds, you’ll get your sense of humor about yourself back. Laughter really is carbonated holiness. It helps us breathe again and again and gives us back to ourselves, and this gives us faith in life and each other. And remember — grace always bats last.

 

So I am buckling up and asking for help and I am also taking measures to discover who it is I am meant to be in the world right now and in the future. I am taking an online Self Discovery course by the Chopra Center facilitated by Deepak Chopra.

Speaking of SynchroDestiny; I met Deepak in the winter when I attended his talk on the future of well-being. I also bought his book “You are the Universe.” I was immediately fascinated with the book but it was a slow read for me as I was underlining and using sticky notes and highlighters and then reading and discussing parts of the book with Kirk so that he could help me understand. Kirk had a brilliant mind and could grasp a concept much quicker than I could, I always put things through the filter of my heart and maybe that complicates things.

Our natural state is that of joy, creativity and abundance but throughout our lives we are reminded of our limitations and live within those constricted beliefs.

Through this course I am learning to honor my feelings but to let go of old hurt and anger that traps me in old experiences. Our natural state is that of joy, creativity and abundance but throughout our lives we are reminded of our limitations and live within those constricted beliefs. As a young child our lives and the opportunities available to us seem boundless but as we were educated about our limitations our possibilities became narrow and confined. Stored emotional pain can also significantly limit our potential to create and seek unlimited joy. For instance holding unto anger traps us in the past and clouds our perception of unison and doesn’t allow us to see the signs that the universe is offering us.

I know that dealing with the pain and trauma of this loss now is the the very best thing I can do for myself, my children and my emotional and spiritual well being. Otherwise I run the risk that the pain will resurface as aggravated poison at an equally inopportune time-showing up as hostility, anger, anxiety or fear. My goal is to deal with the feelings now as they come and begin to slowly take those hard steps towards emotional freedom. If I allow myself to let my mind take over I very quickly find myself trapped in a Karmic prison, a prison with no walls or locks but the trappings of my own terrified mind.

I am also taking a 3 day Meditation course at Lifestyle Meditation, to learn to fully integrate meditation into my lifestyle. Meditation has been a go to for me for awhile now, saving me from myself on several occasions; but I would like to fully immerse myself in the experience of meditation and mindfulness and connect to the science and philosophy in a solid way so that I can not only continue to evolve in my own personal practice but I can confidently influence others that can benefit from incorporating meditation and mindfulness techniques in their own lives and wellness.

Often what we are searching for is searching for us as well and I believe that grace is seeking me and I am indeed seeking grace.

Be Wise friends xo

Michelle

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Seasons in the Sun-W.I.S.E. Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

I have a thousand things that I want to do today but my mind is incapable of sifting through them and putting them in any sort of order. I got up today and showered, I put clothes on, I fed the dogs, I diffused some essential oils, put in a load of laundry, washed dishes, swept the family room, read one page of a book several times and listened to Brené Brown’s Rising Strong as a spiritual practice on audible, I also opened my computer. It is noon on Sunday. It may not seem like much and it is certainly not all that I had planned to do when I was driving home from work on Friday. For some reason in those moments when I was driving down the road I had a sense that I could spend the weekend doing all sorts of productive things that when I woke up on Saturday felt impossible. On Saturday, I felt immobilized in my grief. Being in the world without Kirk feels incredibly scary and even knowing that we can and will move on and that we will be ok, right now I am existing in fear and I feel powerless to leap over it. I feel like every day if I inch my toes forward just a tiny bit, I am making steps towards making steps. The steps feel scary, though they should feel like a step in the right direction they also feel like a step away from Kirk. I know that my daughters are feeling the same way, they catch themselves in a moment of lightness and they immediately feel sad because we sense Kirk all around us and we feel like the minute he thinks we are OK we won’t feel him anymore.

I have been struggling with a tweaked back all week. It is nothing major, it is from a tumble down my basement stairs and it re-occurs periodically during times of stress. My chiropractor is great and would fix me up in seconds but I have been reluctant to get rid of it, almost as if it is a comfort to feel pain physically, instead of just mentally. It lets me know that my pain is real and when my mind is struggling to overcome the mental pain I know that my body has stepped up to take on some of that burden. It then occurred to me how difficult it must be for people who suffer from depression and disorders of the brain and how that pain over time can manifest physically and make everything hard.

“Depression is such a cruel punishment. There are no fever, no rashes, no blood tests to send people scurrying in concern, just the slow erosion of self, as insidious as cancer and like cancer, it is essentially a solitary experience, a room in hell with only your name on the door.”

~ Martha Manning, Undercurrents

 

Kirk and I were together for 19 years, we struggled through those hard years when you don’t really know yourself so it is hard to truly know each other. I spent a great deal of my life learning to love myself so that I was able to love Kirk without crowding him out with my insecurities and worries. I had to process the importance of vulnerability in relationships and embrace the reality that to love another person fully you couldn’t protect your heart, you had to be all in, and love and life doesn’t come with any guarantees. The beauty of putting the hard work into loving and accepting yourself and embracing vulnerability over pride in your relationships is that you can love someone exactly as they are. You eliminate that overwhelming need to change your partner, because you realize that you are only responsible for changing yourself. When you love someone for who they truly are you get to see and be loved by the best version of them. When you love someone as they are they feel invested in, and a person that feels appreciated will always do more than expected. I always loved Kirk and I know that he always loved me, but it was really in the last several years that we learned to love each other well. We were still far from perfect; I don’t think a relationship exists that is perfect, relationships are just imperfect people that refuse to give up on each other even when things are tough.  We had many tough times but we also had many good times and through it all Kirk was more than just my husband; he was my lover and best friend.

Several days after Kirk left the world I was in our bedroom and a binder fell off the shelf and landed on my toe. I recall that some strange things had been happening and after yelling an obscenity I looked up, threw my hands in the air and yelled “what are you doing to me?” I knelt and picked up the binder and about six papers folded over, had fallen out of the binder and onto the floor. I started to shove them back in the binder but for some reason I opened them. A couple of months before Kirk and I were laying in bed and we each did this survey that asked us key questions about what we thought each others’ strengths and weaknesses were as well as our own and some questions about our relationship. There was a question that asked, “what would you change about your relationship?” Kirk had answered “nothing”. There was a question that asked what you liked best about your relationship and Kirk answered, “We don’t hate on each other anymore, we just love.” If that binder hadn’t fallen on my toe I am not sure when and if I would have ever come across those papers. It was such a powerful memory for me and the thought that it may have never been recovered, either physically or in my mind, was sad. I remember how grateful we were feeling that night because once again we felt like we had outwitted the demons of depression that tried to pull us a part. I can remember feeling so close to Kirk as I was curled up to him that night that I felt like I could crawl inside him. That may sound absurd but I am not sure how else to describe it. Depression robbed us of a lot of time and joy, so we loved really hard during what I called “the in be tweens”.  Knowing that depression for Kirk really never went away, if anything it just became more manageable or he got better at hiding it, of that I cannot be sure. I cannot say with certainty how he was feeling, but I can say that according to what he wrote and how he made me feel, he was in a good place at that time. Kirk also had high functioning anxiety and he counteracted feelings of shame and inadequacy by working as hard as a person could possibly work. He was a machine and although physically he was often spent, he did derive a great deal of satisfaction from the hard work he put in to every task he took on. It is impossible to say what goes on in another persons head but I recall him telling me one time what it felt like to have depression and anxiety, he said it felt like someone ripped your heart out of your chest, filled it with hornets and put it back in, it was one moment feeling absolutely nothing and the next feeling everything all at once, it was feeling alone and overwhelmingly lonely in a room full of people, it was 1000 thoughts running through your brain at 100 miles per hour, it was feeling like you are not good enough for the people you love no matter how hard you try and being exhausted but not able to sleep. Too me it sounded tremendously crushing and I honestly wonder, even now; how he was able to be so much to so many people and work so hard with that overpowering burden. He did though, because he was so much more than depression and anxiety and the demons that haunted him in dark times. He was a father, a son, a friend, a confidente, a co-worker and my partner. He was laughter and love and joy and fearlessness.

My favorite song growing up was Seasons in the sun, Kirk never liked it but he would play it for me periodically because he knew it reminded me of simpler times. He had a his own lyrical version of course that included the unforgettable line “fingers in our bums” and of course I would pretend it infuriated me when he sang it that way. Seasons in the sun always represented to me the easy carefree days of childhood but it popped in my head today and it is actually a song about dying which I guess I always knew but today the lyrics hit me harder than ever. Kirk and I often talked about how hard times really made us appreciate the good times. Would we really appreciate the sunny days the way we do if it wasn’t grey now and then. Lately the days seem to be dimmer and they just fade to black and start over again. Maybe grief is like a season, and sort of like a brutally cold winter where we bring out our mittens and wool socks; only in grief we unpack the memories of our good times and we wrap ourselves in them until the spring comes.

Goodbye Michelle my little one
You gave me love and helped me find the sun
And every time that I was down
You would always come around
And get my feet back on the ground
Goodbye Michelle it’s hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky
Now that the spring is in the air
With the flowers everywhere
I wish that we could both be there

~Terry Jacks, Seasons in the Sun