Loop-de-Loop

Two weeks ago, I fell while running. Since the only broken skin was on my hand, and the only bruise a purple pin-prick on my chin, I thought I would be fine.

I took a day off, mostly because Guy asked me to. That led to three days off, because ouch my body hurt. Since then, I’ve walked the dogs on average four miles most days. I haven’t run yet.

I didn’t expect to be so sore, that my muscles would seize up first on my left side, where I landed, and then migrate to my right side.

I didn’t expect my heart and soul would hurt, too.

It took me a few days to figure it out: that when I took a literal fall on my face, I metaphorically hit the ground as well. The trauma in my body reignited the grief I have been working through for a while.

I will be fine. I am fine. Some days, however, I don’t feel fine. I’ve had to remind myself: grief isn’t linear.

The well-accepted stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance—are all part of the process, but they don’t line up one after another. David Kessler, who worked with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, writes that, rather than acting as yield signs, the stages help us understand grief’s landscape; grief itself is unique to each individual.

Years ago, I attended a seminar in which a woman talked about helping kids deal with grief. She and her daughters witnessed their husband and father’s death. They’d bought him a hot air balloon ride for a big birthday celebration. His best friends joined him. Their families were following along on the ground when the balloon hit a power line and exploded. Everyone on board died.

I’ve sat through thousands of hours of instruction, and this lesson stuck more than others. She drew a messy squiggle on the board and said: “We think grief should be linear, that we move through stages and that’s that. No. Grief isn’t even a roller coaster, with twists and turns that come to an end. It’s this mess, and while sometimes it mellows, it never really ends.”

Recently, Shauna Niequist (@sniequist) posted to Instagram:

A reminder about grief: it isn’t linear, doesn’t honor the calendar or the clock or the weather, doesn’t obey the laws of logic or effort. It’s unpredictable. And sneaky. And it lives right alongside joy & hope & good work, & sometimes it’s so quiet you think it’s gone, & then out of nowhere it knocks the wind out of you on a Sunday morning or a Thursday afternoon. And sometimes it feels tender, like sadness, but other times it feels enormous & powerful, like rage or fire. I have walked through some soul-altering losses in the last several years, and I’ve been very intentional about walking through them privately—wise voices in my life have reminded me over and over that our private real-time, real-life wounds are not supposed to be bared in public, but rather tended to with honesty & love & truth-telling in private. That’s what one whole part of my life has been focused on these last couple years: allowing wise people who love me to tend to my broken heart in private. This part of my life & healing will remain private, but I do want to offer this to any of you who are also grieving something right now, maybe as a handful of comfort or hope: some days a very tiny, brave corner of your heart will burn with the faith that it is, someday, going to be okay…& then other days your chest feels like it’s been blown open by explosives, a ragged open wound. I have absolutely felt both, and quite recently. You’re not alone. Keep going.

Shauna’s last two words are the title of the post I wrote about falling.

I can’t go on. I’ll go on. Let’s keep going.

 

Cover image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Life Well Lived

How do I measure my life?

I saw a documentary a few weeks ago at the California Independent Film Festival called Lives Well Lived. The filmmaker, Sky Bergman, was inspired by her 99-year-old grandmother lifting weights at the gym. As she shot some video footage, she spontaneously asked Grandma to share words of wisdom; later, editing her short video to share with family, she realized she had a project. Bergman set off on a five-year quest to collect the wisdom of 40 people between ages 75 and 100. This film is the result.

I felt awed by their lived history: the Japanese internment camps, Krystal Nacht, the KinderPassage train, extreme poverty, losing parents and spouses. They worked hard, kept their spirits up, followed their passions, made their lives successful.

What struck me most was how positive, happy, they were despite the unbelievable hardships they had faced. They didn’t let circumstances level them; they showed no symptoms of trauma; they had grit and kept going.

They talked about staying in the present, living fully, expecting something wonderful to happen every day—holding on in faith that, though sometimes the wonderful is delayed, it will happen. A few mentioned 50 as a turning point, and never growing too old to try something new. That age is an irrelevant number. They encouraged younger people to stop worrying: the past is over and the future is coming no matter what, so enjoy right now. One said, “Work a little less, spend a little less. Enjoy life a little more!”

Recently I came across this article by Darius Foroux about how to measure success. So many people measure success by their bank accounts and investments, their houses and cars, their exotic vacations. From his extensive reading by foremost experts in business, management, personal development, and health, Foroux found something surprising: the most successful people measure success by their energy, work, and relationships.

Okay, so maybe that doesn’t sound so surprising. If you have sufficient energy, you work harder and have more to invest in relationships. Yes, and that’s not all.

Energy: how do I feel? If I want to feel better, the equation is pretty simple: eat healthy and exercise. Do this most days, if not every day.

Work: what else can I learn? It’s not about a paycheck as much as engagement and curiosity. Since I am in a work transition period, this one particularly resonates with me.

Relationships: how am I giving to the most important people in my life? I can’t control how others do or don’t regard me, but I can control how much I invest in my people.

Control is a key word. For the most part, I control how I feel in my body, mind and soul; what I will do about those things that pique my curiosity; and how I choose to offer myself in relationship. Hopefully some of that will also pay off in a paycheck, but there’s more to life than money.

And still, gentleness, grace, and gratitude in all things. As SARK reminds us, healing and growth often happen not in forward motion but in spirals, in layers. Sometimes we loop back a time or three before we develop the strength to conquer the next hurdle.

And that’s just fine. I’d like to imagine I’ll still be hitting the gym when I’m 99, but for now I’ll remember: the past is over, the future is coming, so I’ll enjoy this moment.

 

Image by Bruno Glätsch from Pixabay

Lessons Tween Learned on Vacation

Shortcuts aren’t necessarily shorter.
Our 500-mile drive from San Francisco to San Diego comes in two parts: the long, fast leg between home and the Grapevine; and the shorter-by-distance long-by-traffic leg through Los Angeles. With no traffic on Leg 1, Tween and I stopped for a quick bite almost an hour ahead of schedule. So imagine my dismay when Google Maps reported that Leg 2 was going to take us, not two to three hours, but almost five. If you’ve driven through LA traffic, you understand this particular version of hell.

I called Guy who, checking his computer, confirmed that 5 South was a parking lot all the way down the coast and that the inland route was clear. I wish I had sucked it up and trudged ahead through the gross reality of traffic-induced time loss. Because I had to anyway as our shortcut became a long-cut: the inland route developed its own congestion by the time we got there and added an hour to the already-too-long trip. Typically it takes us seven to nine hours door-to-door; this time it took eleven. And we missed the coastal scenery.

Be earlier than you think you need to be.
Guy and Teen missed the long drive because Teen took the ACT that morning. They also missed their flight to San Diego. Guy got the time wrong in his head. BART ran late, and then they missed the shuttle bus connecting train station to airport. They dashed through security and ran through the airport to arrive as the airline shut the doors.

They got on the standby list for the next flight. After all passengers—including my guys—had boarded, a mechanical problem was detected with the plane and everyone had to disembark. There was some debate about whether they would shuttle passengers to another airport, but somehow the airline ‘found’ a plane and the flight was rescheduled only somewhat delayed from its original departure time.

They might have made their original flight if they had planned to arrive at the airport earlier. Or if they had planned more time for home-to-airport transportation. They arrived eventually, but too late to attend the party.TwMexBeach

Respect the elements.
In pairs of two, we raced to San Diego to celebrate our Nephew’s high school graduation. As a graduation gift, we rented a beach house in Mexico for a couple of days and took Nephew and Grandma on a short vacation—hence the need to have our van with sufficient seating plus room for luggage, food-stuffed cooler, drinking water, wet suits, and towels.

Just over an hour from Grandma’s house to beach house, we hit the beach mere minutes after unloading the car. The three boys sprinted ahead, stripping off shoes and socks as they ran along the sand.

Tween’s flip-flops took their own journey, presumably on the tide. He didn’t say anything as he walked barefoot back to the house; it’s just his style to keep quiet. When he and Guy went back later they faced the fact that, in not carefully placing them out of the way on some rocks, he hadn’t just misplaced them but given them as a gift to the ocean.

Be prepared.
Freshly bathed and in PJs after his ocean romp, Tween decided to light a fire in the gas fireplace. He turned on the gas and then turned around to get the lighter. He should have reversed that process, as he had turned the gas on much too high and allowed too much time. As he pulled the lighter’s trigger, a fireball exploded from the fireplace and momentarily engulfed him in flames. Thankfully Guy was close by and turned off the gas as Tween jumped backward and out of harm. Another shower revealed that Thank God the damage wasn’t worse: one singed eyebrow and his long blonde hair got an unanticipated trim.

Celebrate.
Though the initial drive was maddeningly long, Tween and I made the best of it as we deemed it “an adventure,” something to talk about for years to come. We celebrated with Nephew, family, and friends at his party. The next day we celebrated with his church. We celebrated in Mexico, giving the gift of experience that will last in memories rather than more stuff. We relaxed at the beach, we chuckled at the donkey and dogs who temporarily escaped their home to cavort on the sand, and we savored traditional food and drink. We played games and made conversation. We laughed.

Vacation may not always be easy. Tween remarked, “I’m sure learning a lot considering school is out.” He learned lessons on this trip better to learn at 12 than 40+. But time together, even bored in a car on I-5, is worth it. And what a way to kick off summer!