Grief

What’s with the Glitter?

 

My co-worker asked me today, “Katie, what’s with the glitter on your face?”

Glitter?

Ha – I guess my eyeshadow smudged. I often forget when I’m wearing eye makeup and it smears all over my face as I vigorously rub my eyes.

“Mondays call for a little magic,” I said. Co-worker laughed.

All days call for a little magic. The magic found in tasty, hot apple crisp coming out of the oven and sharing Sunday dinner with family. Magic in the comfort a puppy gives as she rests her paw on your arm as she sleeps. Magic in the ability to drive home safely, pick out and pay for fresh food, drink fresh water that comes out of my own sink.

Magic in the glinting ache of waking up on Saturday and wishing so badly I could eat breakfast with my dad. I entertained the idea of going by myself, to that diner, and sitting at the food counter. Magic in watching the grumpy men turn bread to toast on a conveyor belt.

I couldn’t do it.

Not strong enough – too afraid I’d dissolve into tears spinning on that swiveling stool. I can’t go have breakfast with dad – without dad.

You know what I mean?

I’ve got this vision that someday, when I’m a famous writer, I’ll sit on a swivel stool, sipping coffee in diners across the country and write to him, recording our stories or capturing new versions of me in ink. The crabby waitress will ask if I’m expecting someone because you know, the stool next to me is empty – with perhaps a jean jacket saving his spot – and I’ll have two mugs of coffee. One for me, one for him.

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‘Nope’, I’ll say, ‘I’m just having breakfast with my dad.’

The waitress won’t get it.

Unless she’s lost someone too. Then maybe, just maybe, she’ll fill up the cup and smile. Glitter mixing in with her bright blue eye shadow, like I used to wear in junior high.

Someday.

I couldn’t do it. So I invited my mom to breakfast, and we went to the diner – stalking other eaters like vultures so they would give up their spots at the counters. We sat on wooden stools, sipped coffee in those heavy, ceramic diner mugs, and swallowed down the  glinting aches of memory and longing with an orange juice chaser.

As I drove home, missing him, Here Comes the Sun came on the radio. Our song. Hi Daddy – I say, whenever I hear that song on the radio.

Sunlight dancing on my windshield. Glitter.

The beautiful thing about art – sometimes others speak exactly what you are thinking in their own medium. This song below captures all my questions I have about grief  – talking to those gone – where do we put our love?

 

Feeling connected through another artists’ thoughts, songs, aches.

Magic.

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To-Do or Ta-Da

Do you ever schedule time on your calendar to watch your favorite t.v. show? As of 1:16 pm on Saturday (now people, that’s right now) I’m two weeks behind on This is Us, a week behind on Grey’s Anatomy, and APPARENTLY a full season behind on Stranger Things.

I want to sit down and catch up on t.v. but then I think, well that’s lazy isn’t it when you’ve got a to-do list a mile long.

But what if watching This is Us is on my to-do list? Then I’m not lazy. Then I’m productive. So ha.

I saw on LinkedIn the other day that Gretchen Rubin was encouraging us to write “Ta-Da Lists” rather than “To-Do Lists.” Here’s her podcast. Well this is a fun idea, isn’t it? Let’s write down all the things we have accomplished. In all honestly, listening to the full podcast is on my “To-Do List” because podcasts are 40 minutes long. I like the shift in language though. I’d love to scream Ta-Da! I’ve gotten all of these things done.

For now, here is my to-do list:

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I’m sure you all have similar things on your lists, because they are reflections of lives being lived.  I know mindfulness is positive, but our culture tells us it is not sexy to have a piece of lined paper that just says “Be.” Being – that’s all I’m doing. Being. I can stay in that space for approximately three minutes before the urge to do kicks back in.

All that to say my brain feels full and the pursuit of beauty feels a little squelched by my pretty lined notebook paper with pencil notes in cascading order.

Maybe there is beauty in making lists, in sitting at a computer, in getting caught up.

Maybe there is beauty in adding fun, rest, and indulgence to the list.

Maybe there is beauty in watching This is Us.

Damn. It’s the best show on t.v. right now.

Maybe there is beauty in laughing at my own neurotic tendencies to push and push to get things done.

I watched a webinar at work this week for a new product they are pushing called Getting Things Done. A bajillion dollar industry to help people stay focused and organized. In it, the presenter told me that most people have a capacity to remember 7 (+ or – 2) things they have to accomplish at any one time. Any more than that threshold, and our brains dump it to the back.

That’s why I write things down. I’m sure though, since my list is longer than seven items, that I’m probably forgetting something.

In other news, I’m beginning to think about a creative project with grief. I’d like to connect with delightful illustrators who would be willing to help me bring my little grief gremlin idea to life. If you know of someone who is taking on new work, I’d like to chat with you! Bonus points if the artist, too, has experienced significant loss.

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No, that sounds bad – I just think an artist will understand my spark a bit more if they’ve had grief gnaw at their heart too. Please send me an email at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com and I can explain my hope and vision for the project.

Now. Back to my list.

 

 

 

 

Loss(t)

I told you I had good news.

Or hard news.

Or sad news.

I don’t know, I have lots of emotions today.

It’s good news. It’s good news.

For the last few months, I’ve been working on another version of my story. One that involves support groups, Jafar, and french fries. I think my dad would be proud of the end result as it went live today on Hello Humans.

I’m thankful for the absolutely beautiful opportunity to share my story. They don’t tell you how odd it is to see your dreams in print, your heart on the web, your past aches laid out for strangers to read. I’m into it, just emotional.

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Sam Lamott is a dream to work with. This platform that encourages real, honest, funny, gut-wrenching portrayals of real human life is so refreshing in a world that masks it all.

So take a glance, click here to read, and please share with anyone you know who may be grieving. Thanks for patting me on the back with reminders that bravery pulls off.

xo

So I…

This week was a heavy one. I’ve been thinking  about grief, and loss, and recovery, as these things seem to be themes in my life right now. I feel I make progress, then wham, terror on the national news breaks and I can’t help but think hundreds of others have now been pushed under the deep waves of grief. I’m enjoying community in my small group when a young teacher shares that her student lost her mom to suicide this week. I get pushed back under. I can’t watch CNN anymore, and I’m kinda nervous about my access to birth control, let alone how we would afford to have a baby on our perpetual IN 5 YEARS plan. GAH! Things can seem bleak. So I write.

Every single time I click the blue Publish button on WordPress my stomach lurches. Will people judge this process I’ve chosen to be so public about? Will people care? Do I turn others off because I should just be done already?

I dwell in that black space for a minute or two, and then I say screw it. I’ve got things to say, and I think there are people to read and hear those thoughts on this imperfect, beautiful mess we live in called life.

So I keep going.

I came across this image yesterday from Brian Andreas. I didn’t know he had a story called Beautiful Things. Just like me.

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The small print brought me to tears, right there in the tiny art gallery. “This is my purpose”, a little heart voice whispered, “and it may never be my 9-5 job, or make me very much money, but it matters, this pursuit of beautiful things.”

This is how worlds change.

So I whisper into the internet. I share my voice. Although, I’m starting to yell a bit more too.

Here are a few of my recent guest posts that kind, caring, hopeful people have chosen to allow me to share.

Cara Meredith’s Author Tuesday Post

www.52beautifulthings.com

This Glorious Life The Photo I’m Thankful For

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These beautiful things matter more now than they did a week ago, a month, or even five years.

So I wait. And connect with other people who think things could possibly, maybe get better, are better if we look for the good.

I also watch these videos, and listen, and find healing things to laugh about. I make pumpkin bread from a box, and I hug my husband tight.

What do you do?

 

 

ps. I have a VERY exciting announcement that goes live on Tuesday. Stay tuned.

Light a Candle

Horrific. The only way to describe what happened in Las Vegas last night.

People will say there are no words.

Wrong.

There are lots of words.

Words of Anger. Of Sadness. Of Loss. Of Grief.

Words of magnitudes.

Yet, we feel helpless. So we say “there are no words.”

Wrong.

There are words of hope. And of comfort. And of light.

Of a saying “hi” to our neighbor, or “Hey, let’s go give blood.”

Or “Here, have a sandwich,” or make a call to a senator to say “How dare you stay silent on gun control again and again.”

These acts CAN NOT be silenced.

Yes. If you feel grief, take time, stay quiet, ponder with loved ones and protect yourself.

But, please, oh please, stop saying there are no words. Try this list if you’re stuck.

Take a moment.

Light a candle instead.

Whisper, sing, shout or wail a prayer.

For the mothers and daughters, sons, and brothers and fathers who are hurting and have lost ones most dear. For the co-workers who won’t have a project mate, the child now parentless, the countless kids across the country afraid to go to school, or the movies, or the football stadium.

Light a candle for all the conversations this incident should spark.

Light a candle for you. A person with words, who can use them for good.

Light a candle for hope and for healing.

Spread the light.

 

I do not want to take away from the heaviness of tragedies aftermath. Yet, I do believe dwelling in good brings peace. Share in the comments a few things you found to be beautiful in the slurry of mixed emotions following today.

That’s Going to Be Fun for You?

I read fast. My eyes scan pages and absorb words quickly, inviting me into worlds not my own. Don’t ask me for details about story or memoir, though, because once I’ve finished a title I seem to forget. My reading comprehension sucks. The pleasure is in the journey, not the destination.

On our most recent road trip I read four books. Four. Last week I spent 38 hours in the backseat of a Subaru and there is not much to see from Wyoming to East Oregon. Enter books. Thank goodness I don’t get car sick.

Before the trip I sat down at our kitchen table and opened up a new browser to search for books to download to my Kindle. Picking out books to read is what I live for! I selected five titles and tucked my little e-reader in my travel bag.

Our trip was an amazing break from the day to day grind. When I told some of my friends that I was driving 38 hours across the country, they looked at me like I was crazy. When I told them we were driving with my in-laws, their mouths dropped a little more, and eyes got bigger seeming to ask, ‘That’s going to be fun for you?’

Yes! Fun for me. I am incredibly lucky in that I like my in-laws! My father-in-law drove the whole time. My mother-in-law packed delicious snacks and navigated our route, picking our hotels, restaurants and day trip itineraries. While Dylan and I are both grown people, these two parents continue to extend their love for us as we dozed in the backseat. After a hard year of taking care of hurting, searching people –  ie. myself, my husband, my mom – riding along in the backseat where all my needs were met was just the heart medicine I needed. It is nice to be cared for and out of your routine.

A list of beautiful things from our time in Oregon:

  • New breweries: these people like to drink beer as much as we do in Northern Colorado. I now know how tourists must feel when they come to our town. Another brewery on that corner! No time to fit in all those delicious pints of craft beer.
  • Kite Surfing on the River: no, no, I didn’t try, but we did watch hundreds of colorful kites kiss the sky as surfers handled the wind on the Columbia River. We stuck our toes in the water and laughed as the ripples lapped at our legs.
  • Salt and Straw & good friends: One of my oldest friends Jenny now lives in Portland. She took us to her neighborhood food trucks (THAT’S A THING PEOPLE!) and out to the trendiest ice cream store I’ve ever been to. Apparently Oprah endorses their Arbequina Olive Oil flavor. I couldn’t mentally stomach spooning olive oil into my mouth over and over, but the creamy concoction was delicious on a small metal tea spoon. Instead I turned to the beautiful combination of Carrot Cake Batter with Hazelnut Praline. For those easily overwhelmed types like my husband, they also have vanilla.
  • Canon Beach: We went to the ocean. Nothing like having your feet in the sand with cold water running over your toes. Wind in the hair, sand pushing back against the arches of your feet, reminding you that you wear shoes all too often. Cloud cover and waves crashed together in a soothing blanket of gray. The ocean is big. It makes me feel connected to the edge of something. I loved walking on the sand and exploring that quaint little town.
  • A family wedding: Dylan’s cousin got married and I was honored to be a part of the celebration. As we walked up to the rehearsal dinner which was held in a neighborhood park, huge trees sheltered us from intense sun. Who knew it could be 105 degrees in the Northwest. Rays of sunshine trickled through the leaves. We approached from about fifty yards away watching the bride practice going down the aisle with her dad. I stopped and stood still, catching my breath at the beautiful scene unfolding in front of me. Other members of the family kept walking ahead. One breath. Two. I swatted at a tear starting to trickle down my cheek, escaping my from my sunglasses of protection. I missed my dad as a flood of memories from my own experience down the aisle came back. More though, I was overwhelmed with the truth that I am living in the light again. Grief still exists, yes, but that’s not all. I sent up a silent whisper of thanks in realizing I am returning to living in joy. The choices to be taken care of, to explore, to love and feel loved, those are all beautiful, beautiful things.

 

Here is a list of books I read on the trip:

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

Vinegar Girl: A Novel

Someday, Someday, Maybe: A Novel

The Here and Now

Blue

I’ve been listening to podcasts. This is a new development, as I have a hard time sitting down and focusing on audio for more than ten minutes at a time. I guess I’m more of a visual learner. A few weeks ago my mom sent me this one on grief. Counselor and Author Patrick O’Malley shares patterns found in his work counseling grieving people. His biggest take away – people don’t want to forever move away from grief, but rather they want people who are safe to talk to. Safe to process with. Safe to listen to their story.

I want people to listen to my story. I know, as they all have been damn well telling me, this is going to affect me for the rest of my life.

Mr. O’Malley also says that our culture gets grief wrong because we attach negative or positive labels to the process. If a person is grieving and they are having trouble getting out of bed, can’t go to work, or continues to be sad, this is bad. Negative emotions = negative experiences of grief.

If the opposite is true, and a person is functioning well – working, going out with friends, remaining connected – we equate that with a successful handling of loss. Congrats, snap your hands, you’ve moved on. The reality of living with grief lies somewhere in the middle.

Over the last year and a half I DID function. I went to work, spent time with friends, and the grief gremlin still lived within. I can still be really sad, foggy, and confused. On the outside, I was living in the positive. On the inside, I was struggling, yet because I wasn’t visibly falling apart or unable to function it seemed like things were moving along just fine. This spectrum of grief as bad and healing as good is damaging to those who are working their way through it.

Today, I listened to this new podcast “The Other F Word – Conversations About Failure.”  The title drew me in immediately, as any opportunity to reference the REAL F word makes me curious. But no, here they are talking about the other one – failure.

Sam Lamott’s Episode hones in on how harmful our projections of perfect can be. How when we hold in our stories we miss out on honest, authentic living. His approach suggests that, as humans, we are all going to flow through positive and negative. We need to be more honest in our responses to the question ‘How are you today?’

He says, and I’m paraphrasing here, that it can be freeing to answer with ‘I’m feeling a little blue today.’

“BLUE IS BEAUTIFUL,” he said, “the sky is blue, and the ocean, and many beautiful things.”

My eyes filled with tears and I nodded along. Blue is beautiful too.

Mountains. Clouds. Rain drops. Flowers. Plums. Peacocks. Ice. Sharks. Payphones. Jazz. Blueberries. Birds. Emotions.

All blue.

I’m trying to give myself grace and combine Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Lamott’s wisdom. Because today, I feel a little blue. This does not mean I am bad. An important distinction. It is ok to feel shitty, to not be living in bliss. Grief and experiences of emotion are not negative.

My mom is back where we spread my Dad’s ashes and I didn’t go this year. I ache for family vacations that will never be the same. I miss that mountain valley. I wish I was there and I could read Dad a poem or two. Thursdays I work out of the office and my heart usually feels a bit heavier when I’m working alone. Every time I turn on the news something ridiculous is happening in our country. People are hurting. This makes me sad as well.

I will get up after I click publish, and I’ll go sit outside to watch a softball game. Life will continue and my emotions will pass. I’m learning though, that there is beauty in the bravery it takes to say ‘Today, I’m just a little bit blue.”

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Learn more about Patrick O’Malley’s new book Getting Grief Right by clicking below.