Picking up the Pieces

I have a friend whose life has fallen apart (no my friend is not me, although I am trying to be a better friend to myself).

Like many of those who have suffered a loss, she’s struggling to find a way to move forward, to find an answer to the Why/why me/why now question we throw to the universe when life doesn’t go smoothly the way we want it to.

Fran Simone wrote an article for Psychology Today on Coming to Terms with “Why Me?” and why it’s such a waste of time: “However it’s asked, the question is self-defeating. This way of thinking fuels resentment, envy, and self-pity. Toxic emotions demean and diminish us. How do we defeat them? When I find myself heading toward a pity-party, I recall the first line of the Serenity Prayer. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

I am not a therapist, nor do I play one on tv, but (thanks to my rollercoaster life) I have some suggestions that may (or may not) prove helpful.  As with everything else, take what works/resonates and ignore the rest.

In her Bustle article Carolyn Steber reminds us that “dealing with loss is painful, and that it takes forever to heal. But, with a little effort, it is possible to move forward with your life” and offers 7 Tips for Moving On. Her tips include my favorite:

Take Care of Yourself, No Matter What“Make sure you eat, get plenty of rest, and do things that are soothing and comforting.” Self care is vital, even when you’re not dealing with loss. I’m not sure that eating pints of Ben and Jerry’s and Sizzler’s cheese toast count as “food”, but they ARE soothing and comforting. For me, at least.

More importantly:

Don’t Let Anyone Tell You How to Feel“Everyone deals with loss differently, so there’s no “right” way to feel when faced with a heaping pile of grief.” Believe me when I saw that EVERYONE (including strangers in line at the grocery store) will have an opinion on how/how long you should grieve.

Full disclosure – I came home from school one day, to find my mother sitting in the living room, glass of Pink Chablis in one hand, cigarette in the other, Rod McKuen’s Listen to the Warm playing on the stereo. She was staring morosely out the window, crying and looking at…nothing.

Teen Me: “What are you looking at?”

Mom: “Nothing.”

Teen Me: “What’s wrong?”

Mom: (sighing heavily) “Nothing.”

Teen Me: “OMG are you crying about your father? He’s been dead for EIGHT YEARS – you should be done (grieving) by now.” (stomps out of room in disgust)

Teenagers are assholes. Also, Rod McKuen can make anyone cry, even if you have a heart of stone. Have you heard “A Cat Named Sloopy”?

It seems trite, but I’ve found that counting my blessings helps me when I can feel the pity party starting.Some days they are easy to find, some days they’re not, but I never stop looking. Forcing myself to look for the good in my life keeps me from obsessing about my problems.

Asking for help is hard, but help is not a four letter word. I mean, obviously it’s a four letter word (I can count), but it’s not a swear word. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be “No.” If you can’t/don’t want to ask a friend or family for member, reach out to a support group/church member/stranger in line at the grocery store. More importantly, if things are horribly bleak reach out to a professional.

Some days are harder than others, but I keep trying to move forward. TBH, I just keep trying to move (which is getting difficult, now that I’m not 18 any more). Some days it’s two steps forward and three steps back. That’s ok – it reminds me that life’s a dance.

But I think my most important lesson on how to move forward (or at least the most recent) came from Frozen 2. I just try to do the next right thing.

So what do I do when my life falls apart? I pick up the pieces and put them back together again. The pieces may not fit together the way they originally did – pieces tear, pieces disappear (into a ring around Saturn with all my missing socks), and sometimes I have pieces from a completely different puzzle. That doesn’t mean the new image is less beautiful, than the original – it’s just…different.

And for those of you who haven’t heard/read it, I’m posting A Cat Named Sloopy. Don’t forget the tissues.

A Cat Named Sloopy
Rod McKuen

For a while
the only earth that Sloopy knew
was in her sandbox.
Two rooms on Fifty-fifth Street
were her domain.
Every night she’d sit in the window
among the avocado plants
waiting for me to come home
(my arms full of canned liver and love).
We’d talk into the night then
but missing something,
She the earth she never knew
me the hills I ran
while growing bent.
Sloopy should have been a cowboy’s cat
with prairies to run
not linoleum
and real-live catnip mice.
No one to depend on but herself.
I never told her
but in my mind
I was a midnight cowboy even then.
Riding my imaginary horse
down Forty-second Street,
going off with strangers
to live an hour-long cowboy’s life,
but always coming home to Sloopy,
who loved me best.
A dozen summers
we lived against the world.
An island on an island.
She’d comfort me with purring
I’d fatten her with smiles.
We grew rich on trust
needing not the beach or butterflies
I had a friend named Ben
Who painted buildings like Roualt men.
He went away.
My laughter tired Lillian
after a time
she found a man who only smiled.
Only Sloopy stay and stayed.
Nineteen fifty-nine.
Old men walk their dogs.
Some are walked so often
that their feet leave
little pink tracks
in the soft gray snow.
Women fur on fur
elegant and easy
only slightly pure
hailing cabs to take them
round the block and back.
Who is not a love seeker
when December comes?
even children pray to Santa Claus.
I had my own love safe at home
and yet I stayed out all one night
the next day too.
They must have thought me crazy
as the snow came falling
down around me.
I was a madman
to have stayed away
one minute more
than the appointed hour.
I’d like to think a golden cowboy
snatched her from the window sill,
and safely saddlebagged
she rode to Arizona.
She’s stalking lizards
in the cactus now perhaps
bitter but free.
I’m bitter too
and not a free man any more.
Once was a time,
in New York’s jungle in a tree,
before I went into the world
in search of other kinds of love
nobody owned me but a cat named Sloopy.
Looking back
perhaps she’s been
the only human thing
that ever gave back love to me.






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