How Discomfort can be our Launchpad

The mistake we make is thinking our lives should always be comfortable.

When my grandfather came to New Mexico for my mother’s funeral, I asked if he’d be more comfortable staying at my father’s house or my stepfather’s. He said, “I’m not comfortable with any of this.”

His words were a declaration from a man who’d buried his wife of 56 years, and the lady friend who followed, after being an amazing caretaker to both.

My granddad had triple bypass surgery and came out of it to take up walking five miles a day. He’d spent his entire career working his way up in Mountain Bell Telephone Company—way before cell phones.

When this man said he wasn’t comfortable, it wasn’t a complaint so much as a clarification that life is often uncomfortable.

Comfortableness is a luxury of our modern society. Yet, it’s been in my least comfortable situations—such as loved ones dying and me divorcing men I once vowed to stay with until death—I dedicated myself to higher values.

I don’t believe growth only comes from life bitch-slapping us. Those are just the occasions our character is clearly called into play.  

Although I used to live by the motto, “What doesn’t destroy me makes me strong,” I learned pain isn’t something to invite and it doesn’t always ignite the positive.

Some people succumb to living a life of agony because they become accustomed to it. Change, even for the better, can be uncomfortable.

When I was flat broke living in a motel that kept me on high alert and distressed all night, I proved thinking and acting clearly in a state of fear can be a challenge.

My friend Sam convinced me to get out of there, not because she worried for my safety, but because she heard me telling myself it was okay.

I was becoming comfortable living in a space where I didn’t belong, where drug dealers argued in the hallways.

I even tried to convince Sam the situation was fine.

She said, “No, this isn’t something to become comfortable with. Don’t start thinking you deserve this and allowing it to become your identity. You get out of there or I’ll get you out, but you’re not staying.” Now, that’s a friend.

Like my other friend who responded when I set aside my ego and asked for his help to get into a safer place.

In a way, I put myself in that disturbing situation because I became comfortable in a job (retail) where I wasn’t growing and a marriage that was dying.

The comfort kept me from planning for a better future. After all, I made good money and my husband loved me.

I loved him too, but I how can we love ourselves if we stifle our truth on a daily basis?

The truth was even though my life was secure in so many ways, I wanted more.

I wanted more out of a relationship and as much as my husband wanted to be my hero, he wasn’t able to engage in the depth, intimacy and passion I desired.

Sometimes our longing for more is our soul showing us the way.

At work, although I was a top producer, I found myself bored and unfulfilled.

While many of my coworkers loved what they were doing, I craved a career with more meaning, even when I didn’t know what that might look like.

While living a life that looks good from the outside, it can be challenging to admit we want more.

With courage, we can invite the comfort we have to be our launch pad into growth.

We must be willing to stretch for more, to dive into the discomfort.

It wasn’t easy to go back to school at age 37 when I’d never been a good student.

It was difficult to sign up for my Masters in Technical Communication when I believed myself to be the least technical person I knew.

Then, uneasiness riddled me as I feared the adult college students I taught were smarter and worldlier than I was.

By stepping into the discomfort, I found my way to a life doing what I love.

Now, here I am, years later—comfortable. Once again, I must recognize where I’m unsettled—in order to rise.

See, I wrote my first book and although it was work, I enjoyed the process.

Now, it’s time for the hard work—marketing myself and my writing and seeking an agent to represent the most important project of my life.

At this stage, I acknowledge why I held back. I resisted the discomfort of potential rejection or failure. Don’t we all resist at times?

No more. I’m stepping into it so I can grow into the professional published writer I’m on the path to becoming. It’s a winding path and not without its pitfalls.

The mistake we make is thinking our lives should always be comfortable.

When my boyfriend died in March of 2016, grief became the uncomfortable, foreign, painful world I existed in.

Until I started to make peace with my grief.

Now, I’ve lost enough loved ones to know grief isn’t something we can take off like a winter coat just because it’s heavy.

Sometimes grief is the only thing that keeps us warm when it feels like our hearts are freezing.

In another chapter that began with “not being comfortable with any of this,” I’ve become accustomed to my grief.

This is the stage from where I move on and stretch once again into the uncomfortable, where I walk in the world without him and date men who won’t compare to the one I lost.

This is where I lean into laughter and joy, in spite of them feeling uncomfortable.

Because if we refuse to reach for more and better, if we remain where all is comfortable, we live in stagnation.

What was once appropriate transforms into an opportunity to expand, to live more fully.

Growth isn’t always comfortable. In fact, it often hurts like hell.

Know this: it’s worth the discomfort, the challenge and the ache. If we’re willing to become uncomfortable, we can grow forward through the discomfort of life into our better selves.

As for me, I refuse to die a slow death in yesterday’s comfort. 

 

 

How I Learned to See Through the Lens of Sacred Love

I’ve experienced an impossible reality; my dead boyfriend lives in me and shows me what he sees.

It happens still—not often, but there are days when I look in the mirror and see myself through my beloved’s eyes.

I gasp at my beauty and light up at the sight of me.

It’s not ego trying to gain on my good looks, or my slightly insecure self desperate to deny my faults.

No, it’s him. I see myself as he sees me.

Feminine. Bright. Easy and extraordinary.

Not flawless, but perfect with the scar on my lip—lips that call for kissing. Eyes that invite gaze. Body worthy of touch.

Seeing myself through his eyes, I feel love—intentional, chosen, yet gifted.

I’ve looked in the mirror for five decades, but not until my beloved’s death did I have this vision, this new way of seeing myself. It’s a subtle shift beyond my confident acceptance (which I worked damn hard to earn) and even praise (which served as affirming armor).

No, this way I see myself is how I saw him since the fateful few days when we slipped from friendship into the fire of love.

I looked at this man for years before I ever saw the treasure before me.

Overnight, I came to relish the sight of him—his eyes, moustache and stature that was all man.

I enjoyed looking at and touching his skin, face and long legs.

I took in the way he sat in his kitchen and office, smoked cigars and made coffee. And damn, did his smile light me up!

Now, all of that joy is mine again—from a glimpse in the mirror.

I see myself the way he saw me, the way I saw him, through the lens of sacred love.

My prayer is that I may learn to see the world with such eyes.

 

The Dangerous Game of If

The only thing I know about death is it comes when it does. We’re not in control and only in the rarest of cases responsible for it.

Recently, two women I know lost their sisters. I ache for them, knowing they’ve just been thrown down a cliff.

One saw it coming; one didn’t. Does it make a difference?

We can’t really prepare for the pain of loss when we’re busy begging death to keep its distance.

We can’t save people, even from themselves.

When my mother was diagnosed with…well actually, the doctors didn’t know what the hell they were diagnosing her with, but the soon-to-be-ditched doctor who delivered her first diagnosis said, “You just want to take her to a better doctor or a better hospital, but you need to face it. She’ll be dead in two weeks.”

Yes, we took her to a better doctor and a better hospital. Still, she only lived four more months.

Can you imagine what I thought while my mom sat silently as that doctor’s words seeped into her soul? Surprisingly, I didn’t slap him.

Now, with decades of hindsight, I imagine the doctor’s crassness was him trying to prepare me for what I couldn’t control. I was in my late 20s.

I had to learn through experience. Death came and there’s no one to blame.

Yet, people do. Not too long ago, I learned my brother’s friend blames himself for Bill’s death. Oh, that breaks my heart!

He wasn’t the person who was driving the car or bought the beer or sold it. It’s someone who wasn’t even there.

Yet, he’s concluded it’s his fault because maybe if…if…if.

That’s a dangerous game to play. If I’d convinced my now deceased boyfriend Kevin not to take the medication that I believe killed him… If I’d been more panicked over what may have been warning signs, but at the time seemed simple symptoms of life… If I would’ve been with him…

Anyone can jump in on the guilt game—even someone completely removed from the situation at the time of death. Or, we can play the blame game.

For me, I wanted to blame the doctor who prescribed the medicine and the pharmaceutical company that put it on the market.

In fact, I indulged in that for a bit—maybe so I could feel the anger of my grief. Guilt is anger turned inward.

But, I’m not guilty. I’m not angry.

I’m sad. I’m sad that people, especially the ones I love, die.

Yet, it’s the inevitable part of life we like to pretend away.

Isn’t thinking it’s our fault or we could’ve controlled death a way of denying it?

Maybe the what-ifs are a part of grief, but I choose to let them go, knowing they don’t serve, but only harm.

What-ifs invite guilt and anger. Both could kill me—slowly, but surely.

So, I let go in honor of love—for myself and those who died.

For now, it’s my job to live and love the one my beloved loved with a fire that refuses to die. No what-ifs about it.

Triggers, Letters & Love

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How many layers of grief? How many levels and triggers—everywhere, like gunfire only I can hear?

Or, more like the sound, sight, and magic of watching fireworks while holding my man’s hand—then silence, darkness, and dread.

It happens repeatedly, like I’m a ball tied to a paddle.

I’m feathered with memories: songs, the smell of cigars, the seat where he sat smiling at me…

Like one match ignites the shower of Fire! crackers! Bam. Beautiful. Then dark.

Like seeing someone you love and immediately being horse kicked. So fast.

Memories sneak up on me. I have this silly notion I could get through them all and be done. Impossible.

I was just looking for a pen in my bedside stand. Sure, I felt a twinge as I opened the drawer that holds the love letters from Kevin. That’s a drawer I’ve opened many times since Kevin died. It’s a drawer I’ve lived in. I wasn’t afraid of those letters.

But, for the first time, from a new angle—on my knees rather than in my bed—I remembered I copied the letters I’d written him.

They seemed to call out for attention. I picked one up. Why did I make copies of these? I thank God I made copies. I think. What did I say?

The first one I picked up was the first letter I wrote to Kevin: May 30, 2014. He’d written me several letters by then. My response was the best of me—feminine, bold, soft, honest, clear.

My letter mirrored his in authenticity and excitement. Remember that rush when you’re about to leap into love’s arms?

I wrote: “I’m in! I’m into you! In spite of my fears.”

Finding my response to Kevin when we stood on the brink of wonderful reminds me the gift isn’t only in being loved. It’s in the loving.

I leaped and he let me love him. It seems simple, but many people don’t know how to welcome love when it arrives at their door. They examine, question, and challenge love. They say they want love, yet resist it.

Not Kevin. Just like he said—he wasn’t like those other guys. When I showed up as love, Kevin said, “Come on in. Let’s party.”

There’s glory in risking for love, especially after decades and scars have multiplied.

When a man welcomes a woman to love him, dances in the light of her love, and drinks her like water, she blossoms.

To give love and have someone gladly receive it while recognizing the value of that gift (rather than dismissing, denying, or competing with) is medicine for the soul. We drank our medicine.

I was blessed to be loved by Kevin. It was my fortunate joy to love him.

House of Joy

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Grief arrives uninvited, bringing sadness as his plus one. The energy of the party shifts. You can’t even hear the music. Grief and his loud mouthed friends stir up memories and what ifs. You’re pulled into an emotional battle, a mental game without rules where strategy fails, not to mention your body is sick with sorrow.

You’re an outsider at a frat party. Grief is the big man on campus. You resent him and all his damn attention. He pours it out for you, as you turn your back. Guys like that always hurt girls like me.

You hide in the bathroom to compose yourself. Grief greets you outside. How are you doing? Remember that time…? You look so sad. Can I get you something to drink? Do you want to dance?

Oh, how you want to dance! Grief leads you to the floor. He holds you surprisingly soft, even comforting, though you resist. He whispers in your ear—something that makes you laugh. Grief steps back, looks you in the eye, and promises to believe any lie you want to tell.

You tell the truth. Grief listens. Grief knows. Grief gets you. He holds you. He isn’t trying to control or corral you, but what’s a guy to do? You keep falling into his arms.

Each time you swear you’re walking away. Grief explains he’s never leaving you—like a promise to be blood brothers. You cry and let him carry you in his strong arms.

“It wasn’t supposed to be like this!” You say, “I wasn’t supposed to end up here!”

Grief says, “I know, baby. I know. There’s another party across the street. If you want to go, I’ll escort you.”

A part of you wants to stay at this party. How weird—because you don’t belong.

Grief holds out his hand. “Let me take you someplace new. It’s at the House of Joy.”

“I don’t know,” you say. “It sounds wonderful, but am I ready for it?”

“Hell!” Grief laughs. “You weren’t ready for the last party! What makes you think you’ll ever be ready? You weren’t ready for me to come into your life, but I’m here. You’re standing. Do you want to walk over?”

Still, you hesitate. You take a step forward with grief by your side. You hear music. More important, you feel the music.

You make it to the other side. You want to run back. Maybe you forgot something.

Grief assures you: you have everything you need and you can come back any time you want.

“Sometimes,” he says, “it’s best to just watch the House of Joy before you go in, before you let yourself in.”

You observe people smiling, kids playing, plants blooming, and animals doing their thing. You remember what you forgot back there—resentment toward other people’s happiness. You didn’t bring the anger, either. Nor did you realize how heavy it was until you were free of it.

In the House of Joy, you witness lovers kissing. You see art and invention and oh my, is that an angel?! You spot your old friend Funny hanging with Miss Curiosity. And you worried you’d be alone!

You turn, “Grief, are you leaving me? You can. I’ve got friends here.”

Grief smiles like a big brother.  “I’m your friend,” he says. “But, you go enjoy. This party is for you as much as anyone. It’s your time. Go ahead. I’ll see you around. Oh, hey baby, when you get in there, look for a guy called Adventure. I think you’ll like him.”

 

 

 

 

 

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.