The ball & the box

The ball and the box metaphor is a beautiful one that I stumbled onto today. Draw a box and inside it draw a large ball. On one wall of the box draw a button inside. This is your pain button. When grief is new, the ball that is inside the box is quite large. It takes up so much space, it almost feels like the box itself. Thus it is constantly rubbing against the button that brings up your pain.

This weekend, my pain button kept being tapped. Life naturally moves this box around, like a wooden labyrinth. So often, the pain button is just avoided. Other times, you keep slamming into that same darn spot.

This weekend that. A work experience where I wanted advice *pain button*  I wish I could ask Dad for help. Seeing my sweet friend’s 2-year-old sit with her “Papa” * pain button* “Dad, I wish you’d get this for yourself”. Driving home, thinking about Easter  *pain button* “I wish you both were here and we were having Easter dinner at the house”. Our house. Life *pain button* loss of parents stirred up. Over and over again.

I can go days, weeks even, without the pain button being touched. But man, did I make up for lost time it seemed.

And I’m ok. This is human. I can still feel, breathe, cry and an hour later, smack a tennis ball so hard, laugh with a cashier or honk at the drive that cuts me off.  Because life goes on, even if its hard. Even if I miss you more than I can express.

Oh, and pain button, you are welcome to take a vacation this week. You’ve been present enough. 🙂

 

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Kindness is always paid forward

Today, I was late to work. Late due to a doctor’s appointment and delays on the train. The main lobby of our building in midtown Manhattan could not be used. Someone lost their life last night in front of our doors. A brawl that left a bar, and left one man dead.

The day was filled with meetings, productivity, sighs, and laughs. But like many days, you become absorbed in the day to day, the monotony, you disconnect from the truth you seek to be.

 

As I hung around later into the evening, a co-worker and I quickly caught up. When I realize how difficult of a time he was having I asked “what can I do for you”? He was so shocked, tears glistened in his eyes as he said “thank you. No one has asked me that”. We chatted about a few ideas, nothing that could be solved in the moment but with promises to touch base again.

Fast forward to nearly 10:30 pm. I am home from the grocery store trying to prepare my car for a donation tomorrow. But I can’t seem to get the back license plate off. The screws are rusted and stripped. After efforts with multiple tools, I realize this will not happen tonight.

Without a question, as late as it is, I text my landlord, asking if I can borrow a wrench in the morning from his workbench. He immediately writes back that he will get up early in the morning to take the screws off for me.

Just as my coworker did when I shared some kindness, I cried at this kindness. I felt helpless, not sure how I could change this situation or get the aid I needed. It can be so hard to reach out and ask for a bit of help, but if we don’t, we may miss those moments to allow others to be givers.

So I wrote to my coworker. Thanking him for allowing me to be with him and share some kindness, as I truly believe it opened me up to asking out of my own need and then receiving such help as well.

Perhaps it truly is “in giving that we receive“.

What we cannot share

No one knows, I realize. This game of loss is just me &…. No. It’s just me. 

Tonight I watched the latest episode of “This is Us”. If you’ve not gotten hooked, beware. If you ever need a jolt into tears, this script will do it for ya.

Two siblings, as close as can be, start to remember their Dad’s death from years ago. The sister has processed it recently. The brother still hasn’t. Their father died while they were in high school and are about 35+ now.

What moved me was the the last scene, the brother admitting to his sis, yes I have a really hard time thinking about Dad and his death. But. But, but, but. It’s on the phone, they just made up from after a fight, there is distance. So while he starts to cry, he shuts the conversation down.

This is grief.

Yes, there are moments when you are in it with someone- a friend, relative, partner, sister. But more often that not, you are in this journey alone. No matter how deeply connected you might be to another, who is missing that same person, who lived through the same timeline, it is not the same experience. To each, their own.

This is human.

For all the times I have heard, “You are not alone”, the one phrase I want to retort is “Yes, but I am. We all are”.

Hear me out. I am quite a gregarious person, who loves connection and meeting others. But nothing feels more true than the wisdom of I walk in this world in my shoes, my mind, my heart alone. It does not mean I am not in community with another, it does not mean I am forever lonely or lost. We enter this world alone, as unique, individual selves. And we leave it, changed I am sure, but alone and unique as well.

I will not say the alone-ness is “all ok” and “fully beautiful”.

But when grief wells up within me, there is no one who knows the pain better than myself. While I can share with words, no one else can live inside me- know what I am thinking when I cannot express it, know what physical changes I feel within my body, and no one can truly know what it feels like within my soul.

In that truth, there is liberation. There is the freedom that stops me from seeking someone, or something, ‘get it’ or ‘take it away’.

So even a sister to a brother who seem to have experienced so much the same in their life, their grief, their journey, their process will never be the same.

This is us. Human. Alone. Liberated. And maybe somewhat ok.

Father’s (day) light

There are so many that I love today that I dearly miss. My dad and his. Mom and her two brothers- godfathers to my sister and I. My grandpa I never knew.

Dear friends with kids who I don’t see often enough- celebrating their first, third, or sixth Father’s day.

So many men I miss. Too many, perhaps, for this stage in my life.

And. (Not but, or yet, or however). And I am grateful. My heart is full with the sorrow of those who are no longer here and the buoyed by the memories of the sweet moments we had together.

And this. First, the annoyance, blinding me as sit and reflect on this day. On and off, on and off this light flickers. Is an animal tripping it on, or a person flipping a switch, not knowing what it does? While right in my eye, it is dozens of times before I really pay fuller attention to this visual cacophony with light.

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This light shines into the corner of my sight and illuminates all that is dark in the outer world. Light in this hot and stormy night. Light in this darkness. Light, again brought forth in the tough day.

For where there is darkness, let there be light.

Even if you only last for a brief moment.

Be still and know. 

Know, know forever there is light.

Choosing Happiness

I choose to be happy in this moment.
Breathing in, I crave light & peace.
Breathing out, I let go of all the negative, even for these minutes.

I choose to be happy in this moment.
I connect to my heart, my soul, my deeper self.
The self that can recognize this moment.
Bringing mindfulness to the here & now.

I choose to be happy in this moment.
To know that I am loved.
To know that I am held.
To know that my inner self is more than just my troubles.

For I am grateful for these minutes.
The ones that pull me back to my true self and remind me that this is all temporary.
And if in the small moments of the day, I can reconnect with my higher self, I can feel that peace.
Choosing mindfulness, I can choose peace.

 

 

 

© katesaysyes

 

 

A Christmas letter to the folks

I miss our house. I miss decorating our tree. I miss my childhood chore/love, vaccumming up pine needles and how the warmth of the machine would make the room smell even more intense.

 

I miss you. I miss your navy blue robe with white piping from years ago. I miss your sleepyhead look, yet joyful Christmas morning smiles. I miss you collecting all the gift wrapping to recycle.

 

I miss your pancakes. I miss your starting a fire by 9am in the morning, just this one time a year. I miss your only watching “A Christmas Story” on the 24 hour loop- never on VHS or DVD.

 

I miss Christmas. Our Christmas of the years past. With the flow of many friends and family into our home, our hearth, our safe place.

 

I need this Christmas to be merifcul. I need the ache to not be so intense. And yet, can I ask that of this day? Will  it listen?  With Advent, I anxiously await.

 

So then,  I need to be mericful. I need to allow the pain to be present, even if it is intense. I need to allow this Christmas to be this Christmas- even if all I want is one more with you both.

 

Merry Christmas- I miss you both.

 

the hit of loss

I miss you both so much. And I don’t know how to miss you.

What, you say? Keep reading.

This time last year, my life was radically different. Mom was still here, but slipping more away after we lost Dad.

 

Today, I see that I am still in my winter.

 

I can’t wrap my head around that our first Christmas with neither parents, immediately follows the one without Dad. I just want those old days back. Where family gathered in our living room- giftwrap, or comics as we all used, was flying! My older cousins would happily play with sis and I. Mom would pass out presents and greet each family member as she would make her way around the room, cleaning paper, and smiling the whole time. I remember warmth, love, some much happy noise.

Truly, I’d give so much to have those days back. Sure, maybe it would teach me that I have romatizced them a bit. But, one more holiday with you both?

 

I’d ask for that day to never end.

 

 

Is there a rhythm to grief? I do not know. It is too close, too sacred, too of the now to surmise that there is rationality to this pain. What I know- is it lingers. It creeps around my world and my life, begging for more space. And that is how I don’t know how to miss you.

One year later, another parental death later, and I still don’t know how to do this, grieve.

I know there is no right way. But there is also no familiar landscape, some comfort of how I did this before. These losses are so large, and yet different. Together, it’s often too much.

I miss you both so deeply, so intensely, and live my daily life. Somehow, they are not in contradiction to each other.

 

Related: Winter Sullen Wonder Days

 

Lessons from my Mom

Oct 14 2016

This is far from an exhaustive list, but these are moments that I smile and think of Mom. I tried to write them in her voice. 

For you Sunshine-K. 

***

Always write thank you notes. A well written, well-meaning note can go a long way. If someone took the time to get you a gift, bring food, you take the time to express thanks. Give gratitude.

This too shall pass.
Cliche but utterly true. Even if it is at its worst right now, it won’t always be this way.
When you are young, this can be hard to see, simply because you haven’t experienced this wisdom in its deep form. So I will tell you it’s true. Know that it will pass, and I will be here for you.

If I could take away pain for you I would do so. But I can’t. And I hate that. Yet, I also trust in God and you should too.

Dinner together as a family, time together, forges incredibly strong ties.

Tv is overrated. Grab a book.

Mary Higgins Clark books can only be read two in a row before you get frustrated at the obvious patterns. But I still love them.

Friends and family are incredibly important.

Make new traditions and hold on to the old ones that you can. Our family traditions were my parents could probably not appreciate- like Chinese takeout every Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Without fail! Strange, but they were our traditions.

There is always room for ice cream. And don’t ever remind me if I’ve had it twice in a day.

***

I love and miss you, Mom. Keep sending wisdom my way. 

 

I needed to feel alive.

It’s been 7 weeks since I jumped. And bounced. And threw myself willingly into a foam pit.

It’s also been 7 weeks since we brought my Mom to her final resting place.

Just 11 months and one day apart, we lost first Dad and then Mom. While Mom’s Alzheimer’s was a long journey, filled with constant big and little losses of her, the ultimate loss was quick. Too swift.

The whole ordeal felt unreal. Thus proving to me, no matter how much you expect the end, you cannot know how it will rattle you. Moments of those weeks after felt so disconnecting to this truth, the truth that Mom was gone. Maybe because it was so close to the loss of Dad. That we stood in the same room, both in the nursing home and in the funeral home, to welcome our family who has suffered three additional losses this year.

This is not what I could have ever imagined for my life. My world. My family. And here it was. In my face, but feeling so foreign.

I got through the two days of traditional goodbyes. They helped, the comfort of my faith and the rituals we perform. It gave me something to connect to when my world was rocked.

After the wake, after the mass, after the repass, I did not know what to do. I expected that I would want to curl up in a ball and hibernate.

But it was the opposite. I need to live. I needed to experience what it meant to be alive, in this moment, in the stark reality of death.

No, this was not a “let’s have a glass of wine” moment; it was “I need to feel myself breathe in life”.

And so we went trampolining. My boyfriend, our friend, and I. On the day we buried my Mom, I jumped for nearly an hour straight, to feel my heart pound, my breath race out of control, sweat drip from my face. I faced my fear of throwing my body against a wall and safely landing on my feet. I slam dunked at the hoops, and I kinda flipped into a foam pit. But best of all, I could feel a smile emerge from my face.

No, I could never envision this part of my life, or the action I took later that day in my moment of grief.

But it was truly me. Because I needed, deeply desired, to feel alive.

Sorry that I’m sorry

1/26/16

Know the phrase “sorry, not sorry”? That is so not my issue.

My problem is I say “sorry” way too often. I need a stand in adjective at this point!

I say it to my boyfriend all the time…I don’t even know why! I say it when not grabbing my stuff fast enough out a friend’s car- and then apologized for apologizing saying “gosh I say ‘sorry’ too often”. She heartily agreed!

But today I said it in rising anger. I was on the phone, for the umpteenth time with a new issue regarding my Dad’s passing. When the supervisor tried to placate me (but not provide any help) by saying “Ma’am, I’m sorry- I know how frustrated you must be”.

Roar. 

I went a little something like this: “No. No, you do NOT know how I feel right now. Myself and (third party) have called this organization multiple times and spent countless hours on various hiccups that you throw our way. Now, you are asking me to jump through yet another hoop? Why is this the first time we are hearing of this delay when we rightly request it? Why do none of my legal titles in this situation help, yet you had me file various documents, send fax upon fax, just to not resolve this? I am SORRY, but you do NOT know how I feel”.

So this time, it’s obvious that I’m not sorry. Having someone you love pass is hard enough without endless bureaucracy and circuitous policies. (True example: I am dealing with a government agency to get tax information for another government agency, but I must go to court to get said information. WHAT?) Plus, I KNOW I am not the first person who has had a loved one die and needs to filing taxes, forms, and other necessities. Insult to injury, my Dad was one of the most thorough and prepared people- and still this craziness occurs.

The best part was the validation of the calm third party on the phone who I called to speak with after (…ok, to say sorry I lost it a bit). He said “No, I didn’t want to stop you on the phone. You have every right to be frustrated with them. I have never heard needing to do what they are asking of you”.

Am I still angry? You betcha. Am I exhausted from months of fighting? Heck yes. Am I sorry? Hell to the No.

And maybe that is my lesson for today. #sorrynotsorry is my new stand-in.