Nellie, Nancy and Ned

A personal pet peeve is feeling like a “negative Nellie”….or Nancy or Ned. However, these last few weeks, hell these last few months have been intense beyond words. One problem or crisis ends and a new one begins. And while I feel like I’m weathering this storm to the best of my ability, I’m starting to operate on a loss.

Yes, there are moments of light and laughter; a dear friend’s wedding, an evening of improv in my own backyard under the stars, a two hour get-away to the shore with my boyfriend. I am grateful….and I want more.

Writing a quick email update to close friends about my parent’s health, I hit a wall. How honest do I go? I wondered. Do I say I’m fully in “survival-only” mode?  There are no concerns about sharing the frankness of the illness in my family, but of my own, I just don’t know.

My fingers fly over the page, opening a new portal. I type the only words currently weighing on my soul ” Stake me to the ground”. I want to express my desire for life and love during grief and pain. I want to feel rooted to this world, even with chaos all around. Hold me, let me cling. Let me grasp the ground.

And the first page that opens provides the beautiful wisdom below:

 

ROMEO
Give me a torch. I am not for this ambling.
Being but heavy, I will bear the light.
MERCUTIO
Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance.
ROMEO
Not I, believe me. You have dancing shoes
With nimble soles. I have a soul of lead
So stakes me to the ground I cannot move.
……
I cannot bound a pitch above dull woe.
Under love’s heavy burden do I sink.

Happy Mother’s Day, to me

I was not looking forward to this day. It was the midst of finals season at school, with every last paper to write, groups to meet, and exams to be taken. In addition, home was chaotic. While I wanted to be there, it felt as if every aspect of life was pulling me in a bad way.

Yet, two beautiful and simple moments turned a day I slowly began to dread to one of silent bliss.

I had no idea what to get Mom this year. My Christmas gifts had fallen a bit flat, and there wasn’t an easy ‘need’ to fill. I decided on some lovely two- toned tulips. When I arrived at the house, Mom was watching TV with A, our aide. Starting to fall asleep, Mom wasn’t really phased by the holiday. Yet, A kept saying “How nice. Look K, look how nice. She brought you flowers, say thank you”. Mom’s “thank you” struck me as I thought “well I’ll be….that’s like a Happy Mother’s day to me!”

 

Later in the day we went to Mom’s friends for dinner. There our family friend was asking about my summer plans, when she turned and said to my mom “Look at Katie, hanging out with all these movers and shakers”. My Mom leaned and said, “who”? As our friend pointed to me, Mom turned to look at me with the broadest smile, one I hadn’t seen in ages. Again, a happy Mother’s day for me.

After dinner and before the favorite dessert of ice cream, we ladies went for a walk. I held back at first to catch my breath, and then captured this:

Sweet mother's day

Sweet mother’s day

There were 5 of us on a walk. Just part of the journey and a sliver of a reminder…it takes a village, not only to raise a child but to raise up each and every one of us. I know that my Mom has done that for me, my sister, and countless others. I just hope we can do the same for her.

To all the mothers and the motherly in this world- may you feel the love of community not just on your day, but everyday. Thank you. 

Grabbing hold and letting go

Lately, I have noticed that I am hoarding. A picture. A locket. An item of clothing once mine, then hers, and back to mine.  Pieces of Mom to have close. To be present and simultaneously live in the past.

She stuffs things in her pockets. We constantly laugh as we pull out pens, elastics, tissues, scraps of paper, rosaries, and other items. It’s a bit like Mary Poppins’ purse…you can’t believe all of what can fit in there!

***

But tomorrow we start a new step of this journey. It’s a bit more of the letting go and so of course I want to hold on tight. I want to hold on and not let go. Of time. Of the past. Of my Mom and who she is to me. And so we breathe through it. Sit with the urges to clench the present and avoid change. And sit with those moments of wishing we were three steps already ahead. Settled. Secured. Safe.

I don’t have any easy answers. But I know this process. I know it’s a flow. A struggle. A birthing of new life, even when it seems so contradictory.

For this beautiful poem by Ellen aligns with this idea: when it’s over, we may want it all back.

Just a day

Awaken. Lovely morning, and a mist the busy-ness of getting out the door, recognize how grateful I am to be in school. To take a moment to really appreciate this gift to self- taking a ‘time-out’ to learn, to excel (or fail), to challenge myself. The thought goes: “I really love that I’m in grad school right now“.

Moments later I am fighting with a banking institution over their egregious error. Frustration that could last the day is contained just to an hour (or any other time I brought it up ;) ).

A sweet friends brings individual bags of home-made cookies to class. Just because. I swoon and happily munch away them money woes.

A few of us skip out on a review, instead choosing to enjoy one of the first, true days of spring. Warmth on our faces, plenty of people watching, and another “oh yah, I am loving this [grad] life” moment.

A few hours later, I’m ready to pull my hair out over a powerpoint for a final group project. Yes, I’m being overly concerned, yes I am the only one stressed out, but it still manages to eat at me.

Arrive home to a seasonably warm apartment, and find a long lost show to rewind with.

A call comes in, Mom fell (second time this week) and I quickly leave to help out.

Thankfully Mom seemed to be ok, and after being checked out by professionals was allowed to stay home tonight. Both on the ride to and from my parents I notice the clarity of my thinking. Yet, noticing how silly it seemed to be so annoyed at a bank or powerpoint, when hours later, the ‘more’ hit.

This is just a day. I thought to myself. Not even “one of those days”, this is just a day that fits my norm right now. Glee, gratitude, grace, love, laughter, concern, worry, frustration, stress, appreciation, exhaustion. They exist independently and concurrently.

And yet, there is no desire to fight this. No pressure to find another way. Because it’s just a day. Just one of the types of my day.

Fall into bed. And sleep.

And beginning again.

For the love I have received

One of my dear friends gifted this beautiful note, a giving key and message. Her thoughts on hope, grace, and strength were so impactful.

Truth be told, this dear friend is one of my mentors. A work colleague I so admire that when leaving my position and people asked what I wanted to do with my Master degree, I said “Be Nadira”. Yes, yes I cannot ‘be’ another person, but that is how much I appreciate this woman.

So to receive a note of hope and love and a reminder to be Fearless, was just deeply touching.

 

Fearless

Fearless

I immediately put on the reminder of fearlessness, knowing this will hang from my neck for quite some time as a reminder of who I was a few months ago, who I am know, and who I will grow to be. And a reminder to do it all not in fear, but in love.

To live without fear…what a sharing of love that I have received.

Grounded in faith

Some moments in life make you rely on your faith, whatever that may be.

One such recent moment was learning  that my FrancisCorps Dad was entering hospice. This man is just one of the best. My heart swells when I think about him and his wife. What a beautiful, kind, and welcoming couple.

While in FrancisCorps, we each were given a “FrancisCorps Family”, a sponsor who also got to serve as mentors and supporters to us. My 4 room-mates more than once, commented on how I had the best one!

I remember multiple occasions when I called M&D, be it when everyone else was away for the wkend, and I was alone in the house; or just needed a refuge from the wonderful intensity of the service year. Every time I saw D, he’d call me “Daughter”, something that was so sweet when you are away from family. M also helped me with my resume and think about what career path I wanted to take. On the Fourth of July, I went with them to their small hometown upstate for a parade and family picnic, just like “one of the family”.

While D and I have at times exchanged emails over the years, it has been a good while now since we corresponded. After receiving word of his condition, the last stages of cancer that he had fought off since before I met him 7 years ago, I picked up the phone to get the word out.

There is no missing the irony here that an incredible man may be called home during the Easter season. He truly is one of the best. Nor does it escape my mind of the parallels going on with my own father. I spoke so highly of D to my Dad and vice versa. There were so many similarities, which is probably part of the reason that I loved spending time with him: he was so much like my own Dad. I know these two men would have been good friends if distance was not the obstacle.

For the past few Easter’s, I have reflected on Resurrection and what it means to me. Yet, again, I am not sure where in my life I need reviving. Maybe it is a movement from seeing death as the end, to part of a beginning. Maybe it is just accepting, despite all the terrible sadness in the current situations, that I have the power to do this- reflect on the amazing moments and witness grace. Maybe it’s stepping fearlessly into the future, even less sure than ever what it holds.

Regardless, I go forth with the memories I have of these great men, and am reminded how lucky I am for knowing them.

 

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

To cry

As long as you can still cry…

A mentor uttered these words recently, reflecting on my current family status of two ill parents. (As many of my readers are dear friends, you know of Dad’s brain tumor and Mom’s long battle with Alzheimer’s). This point on crying struck me. Because, sometimes it felt as if I couldn’t.

Days would come and go- some bad, some good. But between the planning, the urgent needs, the everyday life, the work, and the need for sleep…processing through tears just wasn’t happening.

 

But tonight, the dam broke down. It wasn’t a gut wrenching sob, rather as if a hole punctured a wall. And although we so little think of tears as light, they were. They lifted a burden, even if momentarily, and rays of brightness poked on through.

The cause of this moment… the arrival of multiple cards from friends. Ones of support and love, and reminding me of my inner strength.

Moments later, a cool breeze blew, and wind chimes rang out. A sign of what, I do not know, but a reminder of newness, of cool refreshing moments while in the darkness of night. Springing life after a desolate winter, darkness giving way to dawn.

And in these holy days, a reminder of finding safety and resurrection from depths of despair.

So tonight, finding tears… I gratefully accepted. And love- love that I wish to gratefully share.

 

*** Thank you for all the letters of love and support- how blessed I am.***

This is faith.

March 27th, 2014

Tonight, I had PROMISED myself I would get to bed earlier. It is 2 hours past that time :)

But amazing things happened and I had to write.

 

1. I went to a movie documentary viewing with friends at my young adult group. It was on forgiveness. I left early, but ended up talking to my friend Steve for almost 40 minutes. We shared some of our struggles, some similar hospital stories and moments of sad empathy. But it was so heartening…I needed that convo more than I knew.

2. I received a note from my dear friend from my time in FrancisCorps. Despite how long it has been since we have seen each other (almost 2 years), his letter was so rich, so heartfelt. After living with some in community for a year, sharing interests and losses, dreams for the future, and struggle over the food budget, you are just connected in a deep and meaningful way. N’s compassion is a deep as anyone’s I have ever met. Hence his lifting my family up in prayer is so peace giving.

3. I received a mass card from Catholic Relief Services, an organization I idolize and where I am lucky enough to have a mentor. It blew me away to receive such a beautiful card and heartfelt note to pass on to my Dad. He is going to love this…and be blown away that the organization he has sponsored for years, remembers him at their headquarters!

 

So what are all these things? Evidence of faith. Faith in community, faith in each other, faith in sharing our burdens so as to walk this road together. For me, this is a core tenant in having faith…to go to the depths one has not gone before, but know deeply that you are not alone.

 

Thank you P, S, N, and M!

Private writing

Hi all,

Tomorrow marks a month of great change. Hence my more noticeable absence from this corner and also why I am tending to write more privately.

My thoughts are disjointed and I need to process. While I love sharing, this stuff is just not ready.

So thank you for your patience as I split my writing of words between here and worn journals. I hope to come back to you as an even better writer.

With love, and thanks, and hopefully some grace,

Kate

What it means to fail.

November 2013

 

I don’t fail. Snotty, stuck up… but 100% true. I’m decently risk adverse, I do try new things. …. but full on failure, I don’t let it happen. For whatever reason, it feels like its not me. And I want to change that.

My cousin and I had plans to go rock climbing. We hadn’t been in months, and I hadn’t slipped on a harness since my amazing time in Maine. But when we got to the gym, the crowds disausded us.

So maybe we failed at rock climbing that night, but we succeeded in growing even closer. We chatted about failure, and how it offers wonderful lessons. How no life should be void of this….and what I would do to make sure I was failing.

By the time we left, we had a great list of “things to attempt, and maybe fail at” so that I can learn that failing is not the end of the world. Rather the beginning of a new lesson.

First one on the list….karoke.

And just like that, I booked my birthday at a karaoke bar.