“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. ” – Anatole France
I lost last week. Well, I lost my productivity last week. By choice mind you, but still as I sit here at my cluttered desk in the early gray morning, the furnace still clicking on even though it is early April, I am feeling that slight tug in my belly that says, you suck, you didn’t get all your shit done, you are behind now. I know this voice, it is my habitual taskmaster that keeps me tethered to feeling not good enough. It is the seeds of constant anxiety I battle with everyday to not grow into full on panic. Panic that can paralyze me and render me obsolete on the couch for days at a time.
My choice last week was to choose love. Instead of filling my life space with doing, or as Brene Brown says, performing, perfecting, pleasing, I turned my back on my habitual taskmaster and my never ending quest to prove I am good enough. I put everything I could on hold to be present with my dying cat, Lupe. On Monday, I finally had to call pet hospice to have them come and put Lupe down. I knew this time was coming. Lupe was 18 years old and declining rapidly. She had, what we think was a brain tumor, that finally was too much for her little body to handle.
So I did things differently than I normally do. I stopped and spent every free moment I could last week sitting with her on the couch, gently petting her, bringing her treats and water. I let go of my task list so I could let go of this cat who has been with 14 years. I picked up her frail body and held her close and tight, not wanting to let go but knowing the time was coming. Knowing the kind thing for Lupe was to let her go. On Thursday Lupe died peacefully curled up in her favorite blanket on the couch. It was a good death to a good life.
I adopted Lupe in 2002 from our local shelter. When I went to the shelter I specifically was looking for a cat no one else wanted and was least likely to be adopted. Lupe was 4 years old at the time and was surrendered because her owners had moved. She was a tiny light gray cat with whispers of orange tabby. She was unresponsive sitting in the cold steel cage, a water bowl and some food next to her. In the get acquainted room, she sat on my lap unfazed and unimpressed by my hand gently petting her tiny body. She didn’t seem to care about a single thing. When I brought her home she hide under the bed and in the back reaches of the closet for about 6 months before she started to come out and trust me. I don’t know what happened to Lupe before she came to live with me, but I am so glad I got to make a difference in her life. I was able to give her a warm, loving home in which she thrived. For Lupe, I was always enough.
I woke early this morning startled from a dream. In my dream, I was in a co-worker’s apartment in Brooklyn after a work event. I was hiding in the bathroom because the meeting I was suppose to lead flopped and everyone else took over. I failed at my duties. I was not good enough. As I stood at the sink looking in the mirror, Lupe my cat, jumped up on the vanity and pushed her tiny gray head against my hand for a pet. In the dream I knew Lupe was dead. Just three days before I knew I had carried her limp, still warm, body to the back room so my other cat Riggins could smell her body and know she was dead.
But there in my dream, Lupe was vital, warm and living. I remember all I wanted was to hold her tight to my chest one more time and whisper I love you over and over. I wanted to feel her purring body that was soft as bunny clinging on to mine just one more time. As I picked Lupe up and held her I woke from the dream confused and sad—shrouded in grief.
The dream felt so real, I wanted to linger in that dream space and yet, I also felt betrayed. I had already said good bye. I had already done so much of the hard work of letting go of a loved one. I had buried her in corner of the backyard under the young maple tree. I had wrapped her tiny frail body in a white cotton pillowcase with petite pink flowers, laid her gently in a shoe box and tied it with twine.
I had done some much hard work. I laid in the darkness thinking I didn’t want to have to do it again. I couldn’t do it again. The hardest part of being a loving pet owner is giving them the best gift we can, a good death. If we are lucky enough to have a long life with our furry loved ones, most of us will come to the moment where we will have to give this most selfless gift. We will have to let them go in love and dignity, peacefully to reduce their suffering. It is a honor and privilege—and it is hard.
So no I didn’t get my Open Heart Letter out to my email list, I didn’t answer all of my emails, I didn’t participate in the painting class I am taking. Instead I choose to give myself time to be with my cat in her final days. I choose to love. It is what made last week more than good enough. This is the stuff that really matters and I am thankful I am wise enough to know it.
Here is this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart
8 Ways You Can Survive and Thrive in Midlife by Barbara Bradley Hagerty- So last month I officially enter mid-life, or can we say early mid-life. I find so many things shifting inside about what next and reevaluating every aspect of my life. I love this list of ways to thrive in midlife. It is about slowing down but staying engage. It is about owning limitations and embracing the vitality of life. It is about saying no to striving for more to make room for what I want.
True Story: I’m a Cat by Sarah Von Bargen- Holy crap this is just what I needed to read this week. I was laughing so hard. For anyone who has a cat, you must read this.
Meditation on Loving Kindness by Jack Kornfield- Here are the basic instructions for practicing Metta or loving kindness meditation. This is the first form of meditation I practiced before moving into a vipassana practice and I can say it changed my life. Still is.
Zen Calligraphy: the Creativity of Non-doing by Alok Hsu Kwang-han- A beautiful meditation on creating and non-doing.
Love Obsessive Organization? So Does Austin Radcliffe– Love these photographs. I, on the other hand, am not obsessive about organization but I appreciate it.
And finally, Lap of Love Pet Hospice Service– I can not thank the folks at Lap of Love enough of helping us through this difficult time. Dr. Courtney Brookens Graham, DV came to our home so Lupe was not stressed out by traveling to the vet. Thank you Lap of Love.
P.S. You might also like The Treadmill of Not Good Enough, Accept the Goodness, and Dreams of Good Enough
“Do not wait for the healing to arrive. It will never come. The holes will never leave or be filled with anything at all. But holes are interesting things.” ― Augusten Burroughs
I am sitting still looking out the window at yet another flat grey day that is reflecting how I feel inside. Fat red belly robbins bounce across the dead grass in the dim morning light. Thick frost covers the roof tops and car windows as the sky turns light grey on this first day of spring. Only spring here in Detroit is slow coming. It unfolds in fits and starts as if it is not quite sure it is ready to leave the hibernation of winter. I too am unsure I am ready for longer days, sunshine and more activity.
My fingertips are cold as they wander over the keyboard typing and deleting, a never ending cycle as I try to pull threads of what I want to say, what I need to say out of the hidden places inside. I have been quiet, too quiet, these last few months. It feels as if something is shifting deep inside and rearranging things. I feel purposeless, not sure what or why I am doing things. Perhaps something is growing inside, taking all my energy to make something new. Maybe all these seeds I’ve planted over the last few years about being good enough are finally taking root. Or maybe it is more simple than that? Maybe it is a simple case of SAD, Seasonal Effective Disorder, that has robbed me of my normal enthusiasm.
Or maybe it is grief, once again holding me underwater, making it hard to breathe. After all the first day of spring is the anniversary of D’s death from lung cancer. I know better than to disrespect grief, even when I tell myself it’s been four years now and I should be fine. The reality is while it is not white searing hot pain like the first few years, it still hurts. The loss was huge. I still think about him everyday. Tears still trickled down my face every morning last week as sat on my meditation cushion each morning.
Last night I sat on the floor in the corner of the living room, wedged between the end of the couch and an old cabinet I painted red about 20 years ago, looking through old pictures for picture of my son Max, D and myself. I wanted to find the one of the three us standing in front of a train in Berlin. We were exhausted from over 24 hours of travel on our way to Poland for more physical therapy for Max.
Stashed away in this cabinet in the corner of my living was my life story told in hundreds of snapshots haphazardly stacked and stored in boxes, envelopes and even an old crumpled brown paper bag. I sat there flipping through pictures of my son Max 5 days old coming home from the hospital, a turquoise binky plugged in his mouth, 1-year-old Max sitting on my lap while I read him Dr. Seuss’s ABC’s, 21-year-old me living in Kentucky, tan and tone from working in the tobacco fields, or 30-year-old me in art school, hair dark and curly, looking exhausted but content.
Woven into the very fabric of my story, was D. There he was with 25-year-old me when Max got his first wheelchair. D was the strong one when it came to Max’s Cerebral Palsy. I wanted to wait longer to get the first wheelchair. I wanted to hide the fact my son needed a wheelchair, I didn’t want it to be true. D, said he needs to get around by himself, this is going to be his life. Then there was the one of the two us looking down and laughing on a bright sunny day at Max’s 5th birthday party. A party filled with other kids with disabilities we had met from traveling to a physical therapy clinic in Poland. Poland gave us hope and we looked forward to the future. Or one of my favorites, where we are both standing in his backyard looking down into a hole filled with my ceramics for my first authentic pit fire. He is holding a red gasoline can and a cigarette is hanging out of his mouth. I am holding a fish head I will throw into the fire to flash minerals on to surface of my pots. (He did mind that I dug a six-foot hole in his backyard without asking but he loved helping me make a fire that would burn for days.) He was there at every holiday, significant moment and everyday dinners too even though we had divorced when Max was only one and half years old. D was, no is, part of my life story.
I tend to want to know the why of what I am feeling, so I can do something about it. Especially if I am feeling flat, blue and unenthused as I have been. You know take care of it, make it go away. One thing I have learned from losing D is that somethings are not meant to get over or go away. There is no fixing this. You don’t heal from loss like this. I have a huge hole in my life. The man who I loved and was part of my life for well over 25 years is gone. As Augusten Burroughs says, I am learning to live with my holes and trying to understand how they are interesting.
The missing lives in my bones now. This is my new normal. I am not sure you stop missing what was once so much a part of you.
Here is this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart
Some Things Just Hurt by Sharon Salzberg- This says it all. It is about learning to feel the hurt. There is no magic or anything. We are human. We are going to hurt.
He Rescued a Dog, Then the Dog Rescued Him– This is a great story and makes me want to get a dog. Well, I think I am happy with my cats for now but animals add so much to our lives.
A Basic Skill We Should Have Learned As Kids via Raptitude- Naming and understanding our basic emotions. It wasn’t until I started a daily journal practice in earnest when I was 25 was I able to start naming my emotions.
Know Your Why by Kate Courageous- Just the simple question of, has your life turned into a personal growth project, stopped me in my tracks. Read this awesome post.
Three Things Grief Taught Me by Anna Oginsky – Anna is one of the most warm-hearted and genuinely kind person I have ever met. I love her description of grief and how it never goes away but we do gain so much from it, if we let it. I know for myself the loss of D has opened my heart in ways I never thought possible and it lead me to this amazing community online.
P.S. You Might Also Like Grief is Hard Work, Reflections on Grief, and Thank You Loss for Teaching Me to Grow
“Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.”
― Leo Tolstoy
Riggins is sitting on the left corner of the desk looking out the window waiting for a bird to fly by. Now that spring has taken hold, despite a few mornings of a light frost covering the car windows the past week, she sits at the window, watches and waits. Her black fluffy tail sweeps across the open notebook scrawled with my scribbles of thoughts in front of me. What sounds like hundreds of birds—warblers, robins, cardinals, little delicate yellow and white finches, an occasional blue jay—fill the morning air.
Life feels soft and open today. I woke rested from two consecutive nights of over 9 hours of sleep. My heart is brimming with gratitude for the quiet of Sunday morning filled with song birds. For the warm quilt and soft bed I woke up in. The morning light—a golden glow, filling the kitchen as I waited for the kettle to boil water for coffee.
I am grateful too for the stiffness in my back today. I had 4 yards of mulch and a yard of planting soil delivered on Friday. Yesterday my partner Jay and I worked out in the yard re-mulching the front beds. Ever since D died three years ago I have let my gardens go to seed. I have neglected the weeds taking over my Shasta Daisies, Black Eyed Susans and Daylilies. The Hollyhock, and Purple Cone buried in a tangle of invasive weeds. The perennial garden surrounding the back patio will have to all come out eventually and I am letting it go for now. Today I will clean up the front yard.
When I look out the back windows I think this is what grief looks like, a wild tangle of unwanted plants taking over what I had so carefully planted and tried to control.
I also feel my heart swell a bit looking out the window because I don’t beat up myself for letting the gardens go to seed. I know I had to let stuff go when D died. The grief took almost everything I had inside of me. What I had left over I choose to create connection with other people and my heart instead of spending hours alone in my garden or taking care of my house.
My front garden beds survived better over the last three years. The Scotch and Blue Spruce Pine provided enough cover to keep the weeds at bay. Plus D and I had spread over 3 yards of mulch in 2010 on a hot sticky day in June. Yesterday Jay and I plucked the weeds that found a spot of sunlight to grow and spread wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of mulch.
It felt good to out under the pine trees on my hands and knees spreading mulch. I sat there watching the late evening sun flicker through the pine boughs and dance on the side of the house. Of course I looked at the house and thought, “Holy crap I need to power wash the house, it is so dirty and look at those windows.” One thing at a time, I don’t have to do everything all at once.
I feel like I am waking up from long deep sleep. I am waking up and seeing all the things I have not done for the last three years. I know I have to continue to be kind to myself and give myself the space to soften my exceptions, feel sadness and joy when it arises.
One of the gifts grieving has taught me is how to let go of expectations, at least some of them. I have learned how to give myself space to rest, to feel what I am feeling, to prioritize connection with those I love rather than doing things I think I should do. I have learned I have more choices in life than I think. I have learned that I will get things done but it just might take longer than what my inner critic wants. I learned there is no getting around it—grief is hard work.
I also have to remind myself no one was hurt or injured because I didn’t attended to my gardens for three years. My neighbors never came over to yell at me for my wild yard. I can look back at the last three years and know I was cultivating my heart, tilling the soil and pulling the weeds inside so I didn’t shut down to the joy life offers us each day. To me, that was work more important. It was work well done if you ask me.
Here is this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart
Make Your Heart a Bigger Container by Meg Worden- I love the story Meg shares about grief and suffering. Better yet, I love the practical, doable—not deprive yourself—pointers about how to expand your heart’s capacity so you don’t drown in the inevitable grief and suffering of life.
Treats- The Secret to a Happy Life by Jacki Hayes- I firmly believe in sprinkling my life with little treats of goodness to keep me humming. I get a massage once a month, on days I have to work longer than normal I go out to lunch, I keep a tin of my favorite mint tea even though it cost triple the amount of other mint teas. Here is a good outline of how and why to give yourself treats. We deserve to have goodness.
How to Let Go of Attachments and Find More Ease by Sandra Pawula- Impermanence became visceral when D died over three years ago. I remember sitting in hospital room, his empty body still in the bed, bright morning sunlight filling the room, when his brother gave me D’s bag of personal belongings. There I was holding his eyeglasses, his wallet, his kindle. Intimate belongings devoid of the meaning they had when he was alive. They sat there in my hands and were just a wallet, eyeglasses and and kindle. It was the strangest sensation and it made me deeply aware of how all of our “things” are just “things” not the meaning we place on them. Once we are gone the meaning goes with it. Needless to say, it has been easier to let go of things.
Martha Armitage- Making Takes Time– This is a lovely profile of an woman who creates handmade wallpaper. Scroll down and make sure you watch the video near the end. Worth it.
This Fun Creative Exercise Will Change Your Life by Joe Bunting- I can get lost in the idea writing has to be important, perfect and stunning for it to matter. I can forget that writing is a way to access my joy and to expand my heart. I can forget that writing can be play, as a matter of fact my best writing occurs when I play and forget about being serious (this is the same with any creative work I do). I like how practical and doable this exercise is. Will it change your life? I think that is a stretch but it will get you moving in a different direction.
May you find space to cultivate your heart this week. ~ Kira
“Fear of being a flawed person lay at the root of my trance, and I had sacrificed many moments over the years in trying to prove my worth. Like the tiger Mohini, I inhabited a self-made prison that stopped me from living fully.”
― Tara Brach
The last two mornings I have stood looking out the window above my kitchen sink listening to the tea kettle rumble. I stood watching the eastern sky light up with streaks of bright pink and orange. I rarely see the sunrise anymore. Most mornings I wake in the darkness of pre-morning, or at least I try to rouse myself out of bed at that hour. I have to admit I am not as disciplined as I used to be about getting up. Or maybe I should say my discipline has shifted, I am now more disciplined about getting enough sleep.
For years I woke up at 4:30 am everyday—even on the weekends— so I could fit in self-care time. I woke early to write my morning pages, meditate, work out on the elliptical before I had to get my son up and to the bus and myself ready and to work by 8:30 am. I was never late, I had each moment of my morning scheduled and efficient. The rest of my days reflected this compact intense schedule of time. There was no room for deviation. From 4:30 am to 11:00 pm I was busy.
I was a single mother going to school full-time, working part-time, commuting three hours a day and taking care of my son with special needs. After I graduated from college and I got a full-time “real job” I thought I was going to have time to rest, work on my art, have some fun, but my internal lack of self-worth propelled me to work 60 plus hours a week to justify having my job. Sure I excelled at my job but I also was exhausted, tense and disconnected from myself. We won’t even mention the quality of my almost non-existent relationships.
It was not until my son’s father passed away of lung cancer at the age of 48 years old did this “efficient schedule” breakdown. From the time D. was diagnosis to when he passed away three months later, the external structures I had built my self-worth on were dismantled.
I collapsed not only from the crushing grief but also from pure exhaustion of over extending myself for 15 years. I stopped setting the alarm clock to wake me up at 4:30 am and started allowing my body to wake when it needed to. My self-care routine shifted to sleeping, crying when I needed, doing nothing. I did less—a lot less.
Now three years later I have more balance in my life. Sleep is my priority in taking care of myself. I know if I am exhausted doing other self-care habits will only deplete me. I will set my alarm clock but not if I have not been sleeping well or on the weekends. I strive to journal and sit on my meditation cushion 5 days a week. I move my body most days but not every day like I used to. I now work 40 hours a week at my day job. I pursue my creative work that feeds my soul in the time I used to work. I now have deeper relationships with friends and loved ones.
The key to my balance is sleep. So if I come from work and I need a nap but I was planning on going for a walk, I take the nap. I might feel like going for a walk after, maybe not, but the nap is key to my priority. If I am awake in the middle of the night, as I often am, I will turn off my alarm so I can sleep in and for go working out or meditating in the morning. I try to go to bed at 8 pm most nights. Sleep must come first.
I do less but I have to admit I struggle with the nagging thoughts that tell me I am not doing enough. I know the dangers of over schedule, pushing my body beyond it capacity but still I think I am being lazy, or I should be able to keep the same schedule I did for years. When I try to figure out how on earth I maintained the frenzy of activity for years, I realize I was disconnected from my body. I had no connection to what I was feeling or how exhausted I was day in and day out.
Today I am more gentle with myself. I allow myself to feel what is happening moment by moment in my body and because I know how awesome sleep is, I am not able to maintain a scheduled like I used to. No, living that way is no longer an option. I value feeling rested and connected to myself too much. ( I didn’t mention how my relationships improved too, but that is another post.)
So somedays I get to wake up and watch the sunrise as I make coffee. Somedays I wake up late and go to work late. Other days, I wake up in the darkness to write and meditate before my day starts. Either way, I allow my body to tell me when to wake. For the most part this works because I am rested.
Here is this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart.
The Cult of Work You Never Meant to Join by Jason Lengstorf- Ok, if you are stuck in the cult of overworking you need to read this now. While I have made some great strides to leave overworking behind I am not there 100%. Please note that Jason mentions making sleep a priority. As I like to say, sleep is the nectar of the gods.
Are You Ever Hard on Yourself by SARK- Love Love Love this. I first read one of SARK’s books back in the early 90s and it helped me start to play in my life. She also talked a lot about the value of naps but I could never let myself nap too much back then. I think I have a whole gaggle of inner mean girls.
Letting Go by Gil Fronsdal- (Audio talk) I love Gil’s gentle voice and teachings. This is an invitation to explore instead of definite shoulds you need to do. I so appreciate this, it helps create an openness to try new ideas or practices out.
Marie’s Dictionary– An amazing video about one woman’s efforts to save her native language.
What I want to say: How writing in a journal helps a writer get there by Pat Schneider- OK, I am a huge fan of Pat Schneider but for good reason, she is honest, real and gives me permission to be a writer. I love this peek into her journal. I know I have many days like this—I am struggling with the reality of my present—internal and external—and it is only on the page can I sort it all out.
“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” ― Barbara Kingsolver
Today is cold, but sunny. It is early morning. I am sitting with my coffee and Lupe, my elderly cat (she’s 19 years old). This morning she is relentless in her quest to have me pet her. She is sitting almost on top of the keyboard and keeps nudging her wet nose on my hands as I try to type. Crows are calling out to each other in the maples that finally have small red buds at the tips of each branch. If I listen carefully, I can hear tender tweets from small song birds too.
We have turned towards spring. Another year has passed. Almost all of the snow has melted (some piles still survive in the shade). The seeds, not only in the cold damp soil outside but in my heart, that germinated deep in the winter can begin to sprout in the warming days. Growth is a matter of priority now, it can not be stopped.
As I wrote about last week, my son’s father, D., passed away on the first day of spring three years ago now. This time of year will always be tangled with the memory of him laying in hospital bed, his body becoming an empty yellow bag of bones as his spirit left us. Spring is difficult now. It is getting easier but I still need extra self kindness and compassion. I am getting better at this.
While watching my best friend die was one of the hardest things I have had to go through, I did gain many gifts to help me grow from the experience. I learned how not to hide my pain. I spent those final days in the hospital crying hard with nowhere to hide. My grief, fear and complete bewilderment evident on my blotchy red tear-stained face. There were no private rooms for me to run to and be alone.
I cried walking down the hallway, riding the elevator, standing in line for a cup of coffee. Everyone saw my pain—my family, my son, the nurses and doctors, strangers and even people out in the community. My heart soften, I let my pain be seen and I didn’t break. As a matter of fact I grew stronger. Today when I feel like hiding when I am in pain, I remember the power of being seen when I am mess and I let myself be as I am. This is not always easy but always empowering.
Another way I grew from losing D is I became acutely aware of my own time here on earth. I can not take it for granted anymore. D. was close to my age and I had known him since I was 18 years old. I am not going to live forever. This awareness has given me courage to open my heart and share my writing, at least begin to do so. It has given me the courage to finally take action on allowing myself to embrace being a writer and to share my passion for writing as tool to help others open their hearts. This is no longer a dream or idea I will get to one day when I am ready. D’s death gave me to courage to leap even if I don’t feel ready. Most days I don’t feel ready but I leap anyways.
So today I am going to let the seeds planted a long time ago sprout and grow this year. I am going to finish putting the final details together for my How to Develop an Open Hearted Writing Practice course (I only have 5 spots left). I am going to draft a list a places I want to submit my writing for publication.
I am going to write and allow others to see me. Thank you loss for teaching me to grow.
Here is this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart.
Can’t Meditate? Here’s Why You Should Try Art By Maia Gambis- Many times in my life it was creating art that saved my life for all the reasons described in the this post. When D. died, I found it almost impossible to sit on my meditation cushion. It was taking photographs and writing that gave me a way out of myself and back into the world.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and the Sunny Side of Surviving by Lenika Curz – Not sure if you have watched the new Netflix original, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, yet. If you haven’t I highly suggest you do and if you have, I would love to hear what your thoughts. I loved it myself. I needed the lightheartedness but more than that something transfixed about this show. Each night after an episode, I felt lighter and hopeful. This article helps me understand why. Yes we can survive trauma and not roll up in a ball.
Moments of Being by Dani Shapiro- I need lessons on energy management. A great post about knowing our own minds. I so grapple with this issue.
Meaning Changes as Life Unfolds by Parker Palmer- This is a beautiful post about how our perceptions of the past, including all those difficult times and so called mistakes. For those times when we did not show up fully as we wanted or even could, here is a thought, like a simple drop of water, to turn it around, to offer hope for the future and the past.
Thoughts on the Meditative Essay by Robert Vivian- Robert Vivian is a brilliant writer. His words are fluid, lyrical. He captures moments with such precision. Read his work and you will be amazed.
10 Personal Writing Ideas via New York Times- Looking to start writing personal essays or are you stuck with what to write for your next blog post? Here is a list of ten ideas to get you started.
May you have moments to notice to the unfolding spring. ~ Kira Elliott
“Grief is a most peculiar thing; we’re so helpless in the face of it. It’s like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it.” ― Arthur Golden
For the first time in months I heard a couple Canadian geese calling out to each other late in the evening as the sun began set. Yesterday I saw the two little girls who live across the street playing out in the muddy yard for the first time in months. I actually had wondered if they moved away because the front yard has been frozen still for so long.
The ice pack has finally melted and a gaggle of young boys down the street are once again playing street hockey. I came home from the work the other day and heard music from my neighbors garage where I am sure he was tinkering with a car. These are the sights and sounds I have missed the last three months while huddled in my house staving off the bitter cold and lonely winter.
Awakening, opening, renewal is happening everywhere I turn and yet I am reserved. My heart is heavy with grief. The third anniversary of the death of my son’s father is coming up. He died on the first day of spring of lung cancer at the age of 48. It all happened too soon and too fast.
It is still hard to process how he is not here to witness the opening of spring after such a long hard winter. How he is missing his son becoming a man. How he is missing our dinners, our laughter at jokes only M. and I still get but his father always got too.
I am not preparing as I have the last few years for this week. I know I am going to be ok. The last few years I was barely able to function and I scheduled the week off. This year I am taking only the first day of spring off. This year I hope to celebrate and not just mourn. We will see, I am trying.
I lost my best friend the day my son’s father died. I miss him so much and it is getting easier. My days are not paralyzed with grief or anxiety about how it is only me left to care for our son. I am doing it, I am showing up each day and doing my best. I still cry but not as much. I find I am able to remember and not feel the tight constriction of grief take my breath away—well as much as it use to.
Still, as my son says, March is just hard—and it will be for many years to come.
I offer the following links for inspiration to open your heart as we turn towards spring.
Give Yourself Permission by Allison Williams- Every writer needs to read this blog post everyday until it sinks in that doing your work makes you a writer, not having the book published or the essay accepted. Yes, those are great but as Ms. Williams says, writing is a process rather than a destination. Remember, read it everyday.
Community Adventures: A Mix of Inspiration and Culture Germs by Kimberley McGill- Again, Kimberley wrote a stunning essay about her adventures in the community. I love her insights of the nuances of the toxic aspects of our culture. Her courage inspires me to get out and start my own community adventures.
Anne Hamilton on Art21 (VIDEO)- Anne Hamilton is a powerful artist whose work resonates deeply with me. Here also is an interview with Anne with Krista Tippit on OnBeing
Before I Go: A Stanford neurosurgeon’s parting wisdom about life and time by Paul Kalanithi- Gripping thoughts about time from a man dying of lung cancer. I made the mistake of reading this right before my last creative writing workshop on Saturday. I could not help but write about the last days of D’s life. I didn’t want to cry but I did.
Interview with Poet Jane Hirshfield– I adore Jane Hirshfield. Not much more to add to here. Her writing makes me swoon. Her poems succeed in moving my soul and opening my heart. She has two new books out on Knopf this month: “The Beauty: Poems” (107 pages; $26) and “Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World” (310 pages; $24.95). I know what is next on my reading list.
Finally, I hope you will join me for How to Develop an Open Hearted Writing Practice. This is a free one hour live interactive video event where I will share with you what an open hearted writing practice is and how I sustain one. You will leave with resources and ideas for implementing your own open hearted writing practice. Please do share this opportunity with your friends and loved ones who are looking to start or strengthen an open hearted writing practice.
May you find space to celebrate all the glorious loveliness life has to offer this coming week. ~ Kira