Posts Tagged ‘friends’

The Value of Brokenness

It has been a month. A month since my husband passed. A month since the broken stayed permanently broken. I held faith, up to the very end, that the pieces would eventually come back together and restoration and repair would be found. Instead the brokenness has settled. The reality that it can’t be fixed, that life is forever broken, is here.

A friend sent me a poem on grief which reflected the dichotomy of it all. The pull in one direction, the memory that slings you back into another. The smiles that come with reminders, the tears that come with those reminders too. The pensive nature of it and the immobility of it too. One line in particular struck a chord with me and it was in reference to life being forever broken: “Grief is picking up the pieces, and understanding it will never be unbroken again.”

The brokenness of not having my children’s father, my kids’ lives forever being broken. The brokenness of losing my husband, my life will have a hole where his charm, intelligence, and nurturing essence once were. My list could go on, but that is not the point. Brokenness is not necessarily bad. It is sad, but not inherently bad. Brokenness does bring out qualities in you that are refreshing. Brokenness allows you to reflect and be still and this always leads to something of value. Brokenness forces you to depend on others, to show your weakness, and to learn or to grow gratitude.

After Jim’s passing, many people from far and wide began arriving for the funeral. The consistent comments were “Your friends are so wonderful” and “Your neighbors are so kind” and “It is amazing how much support you have around you.” It was hard not to see the acts of genuine sympathy. I too was overwhelmed by the many, many acts of love. For example, after arriving home from the funeral with all sorts of surreal thoughts swirling in my head, I opened the door to three of my lovely neighbors standing in my kitchen waiting to serve everyone food. They, and many other neighbors, had put together a wonderful meal for us all in honor of Jim. It was a beautiful act of kindness.

After the initial weeks of my new life wound down, I knew I should take up some friends’ offer to go out to dinner with them. Another act of kindness. Four of us went to a new restaurant; we laughed, ate good food, reminisced about Jim, and it did feel good to be doing something again. They presented me with an envelope where many people had donated money so the kids and I could go on a vacation, something we hadn’t done for years.  I held back the tears.  I was overwhelmed again by the generosity and kindness of people.  Then we laughed again, I was able to switch back alright to the present and try to enjoy it for what it was: a nice evening out with friends.  But, then the desert menu came. It set me off as it reminded me so much of Jim.  There were the cheeses he used to love eating after a meal, the desert drinks he would savor, and the crème brulee, one of his ultimate favorite deserts.   I found myself having a tough time containing the tears so I quickly got up from the table, rushed to the restroom, had a cry, returning several minutes to the table with red eyes. My friends knew I was crying, asked if I was alright, and then as good friends do, didn’t make me feel strange or bad. We just rolled with it and moved along. I am sure if I wanted to talk about it, they would have been all ears. But I didn’t and they knew not to push. The dichotomy of it.

So the brokenness remains, there is nothing I can do about that; but the kindness pokes through those cracks and the friends and love hold those broken pieces together to make something that works, something unique and something of value.

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When Mean Girls become Mean Women

You remember that movie Mean Girls with Lindsay Lohan about how awful high school girls can be to one another? Well, I never really thought much about what happens to such girls as they age; however, I was reminded about this phenomenon the other week and got to experience a mean girl now as a mean woman.

She wore a green dress. She was accessorized by a male who had his arm around her waist the entire night. She was also accessorized by a glare that seems to say “back off – I’m important.” My date that evening was one of my friends who decided I needed a night out on the town. My husband is now under Hospice care and she knew I could use a night to just be a “normal” person. It would be good to get out for a few hours, laugh, have some good food and drink. My night prior to meeting up with the mean woman in green was just that: relaxing, nice, fun.

Several other friends came to the foundation fundraiser. There were many sweet couples out on a date that night. I was sad that my night was without husband. It has been for years now, but recently it has been different. I feel more and more sad as his health decreases more and more. In the past, my husband would have been with me at such a function. He would have been full of life himself, but now he lie in the bed unable to communicate, move or breathe on his own.

And so as with life in general over these past many years, I smile through the pain, I concentrate on the positive and I am grateful for all that I have. I do have so much.

The mean woman in an ironic twist reminded me again what I have. After a period of mingling, speeches began. There was talking in the back of the room. I sat between the talkers and the mean woman in green. She glanced back often, throwing daggers with her eyes if you were paying attention. The accessory man pulled her close, trying to gain her attention. There were more speakers. There was more chatting in the crowd. I could see the mean woman growing more and more agitated. I was soaking it all in, my study on human behavior. I was quiet, but then I made a mistake. I looked at my cell phone and laughed at a photo that was sent to me.   Apparently I laughed too loudly and apparently I was close enough to the mean woman in green to get a direct hit. I honestly don’t remember what she said (other than “Do you mind?!!??”), but I remember her tone, ugliness, and was struck by the outrageous “right” she seemed to have given herself to rank above everyone else in the room. I was shocked by her rudeness, to the point that I didn’t know what to say. My friends, flanking me on my right and left side, stared in amazement too. If I could have looked at their faces, I am sure their eyes would have been bulging just as much as mine. How do women act like that? Part of the answer lies in the fact that I am sure she has always acted like that and gotten away with it. The mean girl became the mean woman.

I felt myself shrink just as a child would when scolded. But, this feeling was soon replaced with gratitude. My friends were outraged for me. They all agreed that this woman’s speech was so inappropriate and rude. In a strange way, I was reminded that friends are so important. My next thought centered on the seemingly random attack on me. Of all the people in the room, why did the mean woman in green breathe fire on me when there were plenty of other rule-breakers to the “keep absolutely quiet” rule set by Ms. Queen Bee.

Right at this time, my cell phone buzzed in my purse. Looking down I noticed it was from my 7 year old son and so I excused myself and walked to the corner of the building. After talking to the babysitter, I needed to just “be.” I was still processing the mean woman’s comments. I checked my text messages, answered several of them, checked on my husband and fought back the tears. I tried to make sense of it all, but when the chef walked up to me and asked if everything was alright, I knew it was time to return to the scene of the crime.

And so I did. The mean woman was still there. I considered for a minute if I should say something to her, but decided that was not the point. I didn’t know what the point was so what would I say to her. Ideas like “Are you really that miserable in life?” or “If you had any idea of what some people were experiencing in life you might think otherwise about acting so hastily and mean” didn’t seem like really good ideas. Again, I didn’t know what my point was and if someone can’t answer that basic question, she has no business acting. And so I just “was” again.

And then another friend flagged me over and started bad-mouthing the mean woman in green. She saw it too. She too thought it was outrageous. It made me feel good, but embarrassed at the same time. Again, why did the mean woman in green pick me? As with much in life these days, I don’t know. There are so many things I wish I knew, wish I understood, even just a little. There are so many events, people, comments, that don’t make sense. Things that I don’t understand. I never probably will but as long as I focus on the good in life, I can move forward.   The mean women of the world in green dresses and their counterparts may make me pause, but if they ultimately help flag something of value, like the importance of friends, then I can take the verbal assaults any day.

Two of the Most Important Questions to Ask Yourself

Flickr friends

Flickr friends (Photo credit: Meer)

When life gets really overwhelming, I have found a small hideout and reprieve with writing.  So, here I am today feeling incredibly sad, scared and overwhelmed stemmed in part by the latest missile thrown at me and my family.  That event is not so significant to this post, but when I caught my breathe this morning and had a moment to pause, I decided to start typing.  There is joy in doing something you want and have control over, however small.  What is yours?  What can you do, even if just for 15 minutes, when you are overwhelmed that will help?  Continue reading

The Benefit of “Hanging Out”

English: Map of Lake Michigan. Category:Michig...

English: Map of Lake Michigan. Category:Michigan maps (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A vacation of any sort is good for the soul, but of course, there are many types of vacations, some full of activity and others with some built-in relaxation time.  The recent trip I had with my two small children to Michigan to visit my family there was a nice break, and it definitely had a little of both: lots of activity, but still low-key with enough down time to be helpful.  My kids had a fantastic time with their cousins and I was able to “hang out” and do very normal things, something that I miss on a regular basis.  Because my husband is so ill, my days are usually filled with helping to care for my husband, tending to his needs and the needs of our family, and there is usually very little time left for “hanging out”.  So, while in Michigan, I tried to savor these experiences.  One afternoon, we all went to Lake Michigan.  I watched with such joy as my kids buried each other in the sand, threw balls on the shores, and froze their toes off going into the cold water.  That night, we had a campfire, drank wine, and talked about all kinds of things.  Another afternoon we watched a niece participate in an Irish dance competition and then visited my alma mater, Michigan State University.  We walked by the river, had lunch in a restaurant, and drove around campus.  Other days we visited the zoo, fished and went tubing in the lake, and in general, just “hung out.”  It felt so good to be in this relaxed environment, woes temporarily on the back burner.

One evening, one of my high school buddies came over for a visit.  It had been several years since we saw one another and that last time was at a high school reunion, where talk is often minimized as people are so excited to see as many old friends as possible in the few short hours of the actual reunion itself.  It was so nice to talk with my friend this past vacation trip, just hanging out in my sister’s backyard, drinking a beer and laughing.  It was as if we spoke on a regular basis, without much time passing since the last time.  I was reminded of my friend’s genuineness, her infectious smile, and her overall kindness.  It occurred to me, upon reflection of the night that I am most fortunate in so many ways.  Here was this person, after so many years, still so lovely.  I know that if I needed her, I could call.  I know she would be willing to help.  I know that she cares about me and my family.  What a gift that is.

So what role does “hanging out” play?  Connecting with another person can remind you that there is goodness in the world is an obvious benefit.  Having some down time to laugh is good for the spirit.  Having those moments when you can reflect, even if it is just for a moment, on the small miracles in front of you is important.  In my case, to observe my children in action: how they behave, how they interact with others, how much they have physically grown – all these were all neat to digest.  Hanging out can also give you the extra encouragement or burst of energy you need to make it through the next emotionally-charged and draining time.

When times are so troubled, it may seem very counter-intuitive, but taking a bit of time to “hang out” with friends can be just what you need – medicine for your psyche.

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