Life Can Horse Kick

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It’s easy to get down. We have a right to our pain. When you fall on your ass, it hurts. When people die, it changes everything. Sometimes, you’ve got to sit on the sidelines and take care of yourself.

Recently, I’ve advocated for owning the pain as strongly as I took on positive thinking in the 80s. I came to conclude all that optimism had me skating on thin ice.

The Ice (my deceased boyfriend’s nickname for me) broke. What shattered was my illusion the pain had no value.

The juice of a coconut is found inside that hard shell, under the meat of it. That’s where the juice of life hides, behind our hard, human shell of self-protection. I drink the juice of life and I’m restored.

However, beyond all my metaphorical bullshit is a tipping point, transformation, even metamorphosis. The point of sitting with our pain is so we can learn the lessons it offers. Grief can bring wisdom and growth.

Or, we can get stuck in the pain and end up being a victim. That’s where we stop believing. It doesn’t matter if before our fall our faith was in God or our badass ability to make shit happen.

When our foundation falls out, our faith waivers and we yearn for the hope that once shown from our own eyes.

So, we’ve got to stir it up, call it up, demand it from the depths of our soul—something, anything! I must remind myself of my strength.

Like a muscle gone flabby, hope needs to be worked. So do our imaginations.

Until faith takes shape again, we can imagine things will get better. We try taking little bites of truth about how others had it hard, too and overcame.

Oh, we think no one has had it as bad as us?! If only that were true, we could pick up our victim license and drive in the poor-me lane for life. We seem to like it, but we don’t.

I know I’m being harsh. This is the challenge to myself as life holds a giant mirror before me and shows me all that’s going on around me.

Flexing our compassion muscles rather than repeating victim chants can do wonders.

Are you still with me? If you’re early in your grief, please disregard my loud words. There’s a time for everything. The first chapter is fetal position.

If you’re there, I send you love and the healing comfort of angels.

But, I’m on that place in my path that’s calling me to decide my philosophy of life. For me, it’s time to choose.

Yeah, I got dealt a bad hand, a raw deal, and it’s unfair that my beloved died just as we began soaring in our relationship.

We’ve all heard it: life’s not fair. Nobody should have to lose a kid or a husband or have cancer or PTSD after serving or get hit by a car and die crossing the street on the way to work at 6 a.m.

Life’s not fair. Women shouldn’t be raped. Nobody should be robbed at gunpoint for her cellphone. Life sucks and people die.

Or, sometimes they don’t. They live in comas or come out as different people or have strokes, left with the only words, “Tee. Tah. Toe.”

Babies die before they’re born or they’re born… beautiful, often.

Isn’t a new baby a beautiful reminder of innocence and hope? Let’s find hope. In a child’s eyes. Or a lover’s. And when we have none, can we wrap our arms around ourselves and enjoy a moment? Just one?

Let’s not punish ourselves by becoming victims. How long can we sing our sad songs? There’s beauty in it, sure. But, there are a thousand songs to sing. Can you remember a happy one? (I ask myself.)

It’s easy to get down and there are plenty of majorly fucked up difficult challenges to overcome.

But, the saddest thing I’ve ever seen is a woman who was once a warrior wearing a name tag that reads “Poor me” holding hands with a man whose brow announces, “No options.”

Victims like that make me want to get back to the 80s. I’m not saying it’s easy and affirming “I’m happy” when you’re heartbroken is ridiculous.

Pain is real. Life can horse kick. When we’re down, we’ve got to decide that somehow, some way, we’re going to get up. I’m rooting for us, you and me.

There are more chapters in life. This may be the worst one.

Let’s fight to find our faith again. I’m believing in others who are in the midst of their struggle, like all the lovely beings—human and beyond—have done for me. Let’s not give up now.

Flowers the Size of my Fist

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I found a card for flowers from my now deceased boyfriend Kevin. It was used as a bookmark in Jesus, Entrepreneur, which grabbed my attention from a shelf yesterday. I even moved the card as I read a couple chapters, but I was looking at the blank side. Today, I turned it, not knowing I’d see:

Hey Ice Baby,

I hope these are half as beautiful as you are.

Wish I was there to deliver them in person.

The card came with the first flowers Kevin gave me. A dozen red roses, so classic I would’ve considered it cliché from anyone else. There’s no date. It doesn’t matter. Time took on a different tone with Kevin.

It’s all surreal now. In our chapter together, we experienced the love that clicked after all those years struggling in other relationships.

Back then, watching other couples, it seemed so easy, right and smooth. They assured me they worked hard on their relationships and I tried harder in ones that wouldn’t fulfill.

It wasn’t until I was with Kevin that what I suspected was proven true.

When you’re with the right person, everything is easier.

I knew it! Being with that special someone that fits you like your favorite pair of jeans makes even the tough times more comfortable.

See, I’ve had a lot of men and I’ve been given a lot of flowers, but none as striking as the ones Kevin gave me.

My sister and I marveled about their strong, sweet aroma. Those roses blossomed to the size of my fist and stayed fresh for weeks.

That particular bouquet came from Pro Flowers, but all the flowers Kevin gave me, even from the grocery store, carried more scent, lasted longer, and captured extraordinary beauty—like true representatives of his love.

The guy was something—not just to me. To his numerous friends and family, Kevin acted as an example of living full, giving freely and saying it all. He didn’t hold back.

We came together in divine timing after knowing each other for decades. He was my treasure after all the digging I’d done.

Our relationship felt like home for both of us. We wanted to live there.

Unfortunately, unexpectedly, he died—in his sleep. Had Kevin been awake, he would’ve tried to fight death off. Now, he’s gone.

So, I’m moving forward, with him by my side from the other side. In life, he gave me flowers. Now, it’s hearts in clouds.

And occasionally, I find flower cards as bookmarks. I let myself smile and feel how delighted I felt the day I received those roses, as happy he wants me to be now.

 

The Dance

 

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I spent all those years—what since age five?—convincing myself of the value of independence. It was the one thing I could always fall back on: the beauty of being on my own.

Sure, I had multiple chapters of happy with men, but when things ended I knew how to bounce and become better.

After my first divorce, my stepmom said, “A lot of people say they’ll never marry again, but with you, I’m starting to believe it.” I did, too. I meant it. I didn’t need anyone and I was good at walking away.

Still, it was tiring. I wanted to learn to stay. I did, with my second husband, for over a decade. For much of it, I was dying inside.

I got the value of a relationship. I just never got the kind I wanted, the kind I wrote about, and believed in like a dream that comes true for some. I was okay with that—in a way that I have a tendency to affirm I’m fine when what I long to be is fantastic.

Little did I know, my friend Kevin had the same dream—that someday he’d find the kind of gal and relationship his mother wished for him. I had no idea the depth of Kevin’s longing because when we got together, he talked about his crazy ex-wife he hated and his not-so-great girlfriends who came before. The one previous to me was good, but that’s a long way from the grand love this man dreamed of.

Somehow in 2014, our walls fell from our friendship into something deep. With Kevin’s confidence, coaxing, and congruent actions, we both dove into the crazy, sexy, cool relationship that became us: Fire & Ice.

Our paths to that place became worthwhile. Early on, Kevin said, “Why didn’t we do this 20 years ago?”

Because we couldn’t; we had lessons to learn. I needed to be prepared to let go, to totally trust and tell my truth and be open to his in the ways I’d only talked a good game before.

Back when Kevin and I were just friends, I said, “Relationships are about compromise.” Kevin said, matter of factly: “No, they’re not.”

My god! How many times had I compromised myself, my voice, or my values in an effort to make a relationship work? No wonder my independence after a break-up felt like a vacation.

With Kevin, it all felt like a vacation from everything I’d known before. And yet, it was everything my heart and soul had pushed me towards all those years.

I wanted all or nothing: the communication, openness, honesty, passion, and fun. Kevin wanted it all and gave it all. He said, “I’m all in, Icey.”

Then, he gave me something I could lean into with my feminine authentic self, not some version I thought I should be. I lost my need to appear perfect. He loved me through my anger and fear. Trust me, those don’t always show up as pretty.

I loved Kevin through his rants. I even spoke up and cut him short. I didn’t judge him for smoking cigars or all the drugs he’d done years prior.

I understood him and that made all the difference. In his presence, my compassion muscle strengthened.

I saw his worst (when he lied) and his best (the way he showed up). Kevin knew my failures and insecurities. He didn’t let that define how he saw me.

That was the kind of relationship I craved. We were both in it for the long haul and in no hurry to do anything but enjoy our time together. I thank God we did.

I thank God for it all—except how Kevin’s life was cut short. We didn’t know he’d die completely unexpectedly of a heart attack in his sleep on March 4, 2016.

In the face of this loss, I don’t grab up my independence as protection for the pain. Nor do I think I can replace him. Some things are impossible, like what we had.

Maybe it had to be everything it was, not only the lessons we each needed to learn going in, but the lack of warning for his going out of this world.

I resisted enough in the beginning. Had I known the pain awaiting would be harsher than any break-up, I might’ve taken a pass. As Garth Brooks sings, “I could’ve missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.”

Not that dance. No way. It was my favorite.

Things Will Never Be the Same

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I expected my boyfriend Kevin at my house around noon. It was now going on 6 pm. My sister cancelled the dinner reservations.

We were going to The Melting Pot because Kevin said he’d never been. This was the night he’d meet my sister’s boyfriend. My nephew and his wife were at the house. We invited TJ because he and Kevin hit it off. Also, Kevin needed help with his car. He was bringing TJ cigars.

I needed a distraction and I wanted my bed moved. It’s a king-sized in a too small room, pushed up against the wall. Whenever Kevin visited, I was sidelined to the inside, so he could have his fan blowing on him. He liked to get all snuggled up under the blankets and imagine he was camping with the wind blowing and fire glowing.

He was my Fire and I didn’t mind making way for him.

I asked my nephew and my sister’s boyfriend to move the bed and dresser so Kevin and I both had room to get in and out. The bed was heavy. That’s why I hadn’t moved it before and why, as it turns out, my sister’s boyfriend hurt his shoulder. Anyhow, the guys finagled the angles and toyed with the ideal location.

Then it was done. I immediately felt happy with the way my bedroom looked—bigger, brighter and more inviting. Everyone agreed.

Just then, a thought ran through my head: And now nothing will ever be the same. The thought was bigger than the room. Like the wind. Like a whisper I refused to hear.

I tried to brush it away with positivity. “Kevin’s going to get here and see this and be happy we did it. He’s going to have some crazy story.”

Jayne’s boyfriend said, “Everything’s going to be ok.” I tried to tone down my glare, but my gut reaction was, “What do you know?” Still, I clung to hope.

Then, the police called back. And, nothing will ever be the same.

 

 

 

The Cloud

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I say to my widow sister,

“Are you alright?”

She says, “I’m alright.

Are you alright?”

A little too quick

With a slight cut

As if I’m a fool

Forgetting the cloud

That hangs like a noose

Around her heart

Every time she

Swings or sways

It tightens around

Her eyes and neck,

Weighs on her

Shoulders heavily

Invisible to outsiders.

“I know” is what

I want to say

But the only thing

I know is how

Much it hurts

To watch her

Hurt so much.

Butterfly

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Every time grief washes over my sister’s face, I feel it like a slap. I want to fix it—the way she’s fixed me up and put me back on my feet.

My sister doesn’t yet see her reflection as the butterfly she’s becoming. It’s still sticky where she lives, in a cocoon of grief. But, the sunshine is bursting in and someday soon she’ll realize she has wings.

Right now, she’s remembering all that went wrong and why can’t it just be yesterday? From the sidelines, it’s almost too much to endure, like watching a teenager attacked by hormones screaming hatred and then melting into a hug like only the innocent and broken can do. But a grown woman does it all with poise.

My sister was broken when I arrived to live with her. Now, she’s spiraling up in life. She’s loosened her grip. Sure, occasionally she trips. And no, she’s not there yet. And yes, grief’s shadow haunts her every step.

Still, sometimes I stand a few steps below. The vision of my sister is radiant. She turns to look at me, always looking out for me. She sees me beaming back at her and gives me undue credit. She can’t see all the light shining from behind or the team of angels assuring, “We got her.”

My sister can’t see her ocean-blue eyes are alive again. She stands oblivious to the formation of her wings. Perched at the edge, just a little bend and the right whiff in her direction, this gal’s going to fly.

Powering Through

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My stepmom says she’s reading on my blog that I’m just “powering through” my grief. I resist screaming, what the fuck are you talking about?! Do you mean crawling on my hands and knees, reaching for God with every stretch, breathing, just breathing?

Yes, I’m powering through by praying and wailing and landing on the floor in child’s pose. I’m walking in the woods and howling excruciating sounds like all the grief in the world has been born in my belly and released like a battle cry on behalf of all women who’ve loved. In the woods, I’m a wailing widow at an Italian funeral.

No, I’m not “powering through.” I’m being led. I’m being carried. There’s a team of angels.

Then, there’s yoga. The last time I was with Kevin we had an exciting talk about my yoga plans. Now, my plan is to get my ass to yoga as often as I can. I know this grief could destroy my body and give my mental powers over to Sissy the Cynic. My spirit is dying to be born into this moment.

Mostly, I go to yoga so I can be with people without talking to them. Even more, I go because someone tells me what to do. Normally, I despise being told what to do—and react by doing the opposite.

Normal’s in the rearview mirror, along with the most extraordinary man I ever had. Yeah, I had him and he had me. We got each other. I never enjoyed anyone’s touch, style, words, or company as much as I did this man. Spending 24/7 with Kevin was easy.

He’d tell you I don’t like a lot of people. I try to be big and spiritual, but I’ve also read Many Lives, Many Masters, so sometimes I assume if I don’t like someone, it’s probably a past life issue.

Anyhow, I liked Kevin. I liked him in the way you like your best friend in elementary school. I liked him in the way a woman likes the presence of a man because he can make her feel safe, loved and on Fire! We enjoyed hanging out, traveling, talking, and making love. He knew how to love me. He didn’t give me a break on my bullshit, but he didn’t try to destroy me over my weaknesses. We came so far in such a short time.

Now, for an hour each day, someone tells me what to do and I try. I’m in the fight. I’m still living life. I’m breathing. I’m powering through.