Tag Archives: loss

On Love, Loss, and Laughter

images71V16YFPI know what you’re thinking – “Where the hell has Tracey been and what kind of writer doesn’t write?” (or, as my EIC would say, “If a writer isn’t writing, doesn’t that mean they’re not a writer?”)

In Hell. Literally (Ok, maybe not literally). A stuck writer. That’s what kind.

Grief has eaten my brain, and stolen my creativity.

I lost someone a month ago who was incredibly important to me. Well, I didn’t’ “lose” him. It’s not like he was a set of car keys, or a sock that disappeared from the dryer, or my mind.

Sorry for that. I have a habit of trying to compensate for emotional issues with sarcasm and lame attempts at humor. Let me try again.

My friend died a month ago.

Wow. There it is, in black and white. The phrase I’ve avoided. I know it’s hard to read, but trust me, it’s harder to write and practically impossible to believe. Timothy Leary was right when he said “Death is the last taboo.”  Nobody dies. They “pass on” or “leave us”, “slip away” or “go to a better place”.

I call bullshit.

My friend died.

Three words. So simple and so misleading. Here’s how dictionary.com breaks down the sentence:

My – belonging to or associated with the speaker.

Friend – a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual of family relations

Died – to cease to live; undergo the complete and permanent cessation of all vital functions

The thing is, Mario wasn’t just “my” friend. He was EVERYONE’S friend. Yeah, he was THAT guy. He was charming and funny, smart and kind. No matter where he went, he always ended up surrounded by a group of people who were jostling for position and vying for his attention. Mario, like my mother, seemed to believe that there is no such thing as a stranger. Strangers are simply friends you haven’t yet met.

He was my friend, but he was more than that. There are friends, and then there are people who are so much more than simply friends – we call these people our “family of heart”. We might not be related by blood, but we are joined by a love that is even stronger than family ties. Mario was my friend, my mentor, my brother of heart.

I met Mario when we were young and foolish, hopeful and fearless. He was dating the woman who ran the booth I worked for – the woman who would become one of my very best friends. In a blink of an eye, they were married, and raising 3 kids.

Mario and Virginia were playing house and being Responsible Adults while I was still trying to decide how to style my hair. It took me longer to grow up, but eventually I got married and had a kid of my own. I am incredibly lucky to have had their help in raising my daughter. Mario was a perfect example of a father for my spouse to emulate, and Virginia was the same for me. Their three kids are amazing people, despite the fact that their parents have a twisted sense of humor (It gave me hope that our daughter wouldn’t be Permanently Damaged). The fact that they were still wildly in love with each other even after 35 years together was inspiring – a testimony to the power of True Love.

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Mario’s kids asked us to write down things that we learned from him, to list our favorite sayings or quotes. I couldn’t think of anything at the time. I’m sure people remember a lot of “Mario-isms”, but I can’t remember anything other than him saying “OUTSTANDING!” when things would go less than perfectly, or when someone would do something that was extraordinarily stupid. But here are things that I learned from him:

Be kind. Mario was nice to everyone – no matter what they believed, what they looked like, how they dressed, how much money they made (or didn’t make). He was one of the popular kids, but he wasn’t one of the mean girls (which is not to say that he didn’t enjoy a little CCC* when warranted). He went out of his way to be kind to people who were often overlooked or ignored. He was even nice to the weird kid in the corner (What? No, that wasn’t me, why would you think that?).

Be polite We disagreed about many things (politics, religion, and whether the Three Stooges were funny). As strong minded (or, in my case, hard headed) individuals, we agreed to disagree. Having friends with opinions which differ from one’s own makes life more interesting.

but don’t be a pushover. (does this one really need explaining?)

Keep learning. Mario was always reading, always trying to better himself. As Albert Einstein said “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”

Make people smile Mario would do almost anything to get a laugh (that’s not exactly true. There was no “almost” about it).

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by embracing your inner weirdo – In a world where everyone worries about what others think/we struggle to fit in, to be normal (please note, “normal” is just a setting on the washing machine), Mario stood out as someone who just didn’t give a flying f…

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Don’t whine. (Aka “Suck it up, Buttercup”) The past few years were incredibly hard physically and psychologically, and yet, Mario was always smiling (or maybe it was a grimace). His outlook could best be described this way:

Be strong… Mario was in a lot of pain, but he never let it stop him from doing the things that he needed or wanted to do. Long days at work which required hours of driving? Every day. Trips to Yosemite, to hockey games, to shows and soccer games and even a longa** Christmas parade? NP. The thing that stands out most is the fact that, whenever I came to visit, no matter how much pain he was in, Mario always stood up to say hello.

but don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it (TBH I never heard Mario ask for help for himself. He was always asking for help for someone else).

and always offer help to those who need it. In a world where people rise above the masses by putting others down, Mario lifted people up.

Those are the things I’ve learned from Mario’s life. What did I learn from his death?

That “Only the good die young” is not a meaningless phrase. Neither is “Life’s a Bitch, and then you die.” That we need to find make time for those we love. When I was a kid, I thought nothing of knocking on my friend’s door, and asking if they could come out and play. We lose that ability when we grow up – we get busy with life – with school, with work. We worry that our houses are too messy for guests, or that our friends are too busy for us. We SCHEDULE our lives and our visits, instead of just “popping in to say hello”. We text and skype and send messages via snapchat or twitter. We brag about the fact that Facebook has allowed us to “reconnect” with old friends and family members, but we don’t take make the time to see each other “IRL”. WE NEED TO STOP THAT, RIGHT NOW.

What did I learn from my friend’s death? Life is short, and none of us is guaranteed tomorrow. Mario’s younger daughter got married in November. At the reception, he asked me told me to stop by after work for a “beer and bitch” session, but I assumed it was the whisky talking, and that we would have a chance to catch up “soon”. Please believe me when I say that “SOON” DOESN’T COME SOON ENOUGH.

I know this was a long post, so, in the immortal words of Inygo Montoya “let me sum up”. What did I learn from Mario?

Live fearlessly, love fiercely and laugh at all that life throws your way.

And, oh yeah, always pet the puppies.

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*Catty Corner Commentary

The Problem With Aging

th1KQI53BFI’ve decided that the worst part of getting old isn’t the life lines near my eyes, or the laugh lines that bracket my mouth. It isn’t the little white hairs that pepper my hair (or would that be salt my hair?). It’s not even the fact that the snap crackle and pop I hear in the morning aren’t just sounds from my cereal bowl…it’s the fact that I’ve developed Sometimers Syndrome.

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I have a theory – I believe our brains are hard drives, and that by the time we reach “a certain age” they are full. We can’t defrag our brains to free up extra space, and we can’t download old memories/useless facts to an external hard drive, so new memories aren’t stored to a permanent file. What we really need is Professor Dumbledor’s pensieve. Although Dumbledore uses his to find patterns and habbits, I think it would be an excellent tool for freeing up space when our brains are full, or removing a painful memory

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Sometimes I forget little things, like why I came into the kitchen, my husband’s cell phone#, or where I put my car keys.*

Sometimes I forget bigger things, which is why I’m happy for the little voice in my head which reminds me of Important Things. She’s pretty good at reminding me that I have a doctor’s appointment, or that I need to pick up my daughter after school. Yesterday she reminded me that I needed to call my mother, so I picked up the phone, and then remembered that my mother is dead.

I mean, I didn’t forget she’s dead, exactly.

Ok, I did.

It’s odd. I mean, it’s not as if she JUST died. It will be 21 years this June. Which is surreal. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long ago. Then again, 16 of the past 21 years have been spent raising a kid, and, as Camille at Crunchy Parenting says, parenting time FLIES.

My mom was an amazing woman. She was funny, and smart, and had a huge heart. I’m not saying it just because I’m her daughter – I’ve had other people tell me the same thing. She volunteered with AYSO for years, kept a great house, called (and wrote to) her friends and family on a regular basis and was the first one to jump in to help when someone was in trouble. She was a true southern woman – meaning that she had strong shoulders and a soft heart; it also means that she ate weird foods, like okra and fried green tomatoes.

Maybe that’s why she was on my mind. I was hoping that 2016 was going to be a better year, but I have too many friends and family members who are struggling with loss. I may claim that I’m not a people person, but I’m a liar. I grieve with them for their losses – loss of employment, loss of health, loss of life. I may not keep a great house, or write or call as often as my mom did, but I’m proud to say that I have her soft heart.

I miss her. I am sad that she missed meeting Lauren and the rest of her grandchildren, but I’m still heartbroken that she’s more than a phone call away.

I would pay the surcharges, no matter how high, if only I could make that long distance call.

 

*special shout-out to my spouse, who bought me a key locator for Christmas. You push the remote, and your keys chirp like a car alarm…now if only I could find the remote…..

 

I Don’t Want to Talk About It

th[9]I spent Saturday morning at a memorial service – my second in less than a month. If you ask me, that’s two too many. I realize that nobody asked me, but it’s my blog, and I’m talking about it anyway (which is HUGE. In many circles, Death is a bigger taboo than sex).

People have different ideas about why we’re here. Some say we come out of dust, and to dust we return. Some say we are spiritual beings having a physical experience. I believe that we are here to learn something. It could be patience, it could be love, or it could be statistics and probabilities (ugh!). Once we’ve learned our lesson, it’s time for us to move on.

I refuse to learn, which means I’ll live forever.*

Here’s what I’ve learned about death and other losses:

Life may be a bitch, but Loss is a nasty, low down, evil snake in the grass (no disrespect to snakes. I like them – they’re like legless lizards). She fights dirty.

Sometimes she carries a sledgehammer – and she will beat you with it until you are nothing but a quivering mass of jelly. The good news is that broken bones heal, scar tissue is stronger than unscarred tissue, and laying around on the ground gives you a good excuse to rest. Plus you can spend the “downtime” observing the cosmos and figuring out why you’re here (see above).

Sometimes she morphs into a pack of howling, snarling fears which chase you through the darkness, snapping at your heels, and nipping your fingers and toes. The good news is that feardogs, like nightmares and vampires, disappear at first light.

Sometimes she whispers to you through the grey haze of despair, leading you gently to the precipice and then poking at you with the sharp pointy stick of self-doubt until you jump. The good news is that it gets better. Tired and cliché, but true. Trust me. I’ve been there. I went through a series of losses (one after another) that left me sobbing on the floor of my car, certain that things would be better if I just gave up and quit.

As strange as it sounds, I owe Loss a debt of gratitude. It’s taken a long time, but I’ve learned from Loss. I’ve learned:

  • to spend more time with loved ones, doing things that I want to do, rather than things that Need Doing. Life is too short to spend your time dusting.
  • to ask for (and accept) help. Asking for help does not mean that you are weak. It means you are smart enough to know that you can’t do it all yourself, all the time, every day.
  • the value of Mother’s Little Helpers. I’m not a huge fan of western medicine, but sometimes they get it right.
  • that talking to a professional can help. No, not just any professional. I don’t think telling the bank teller about your dead mother is very helpful. Talking to a professional therapist is like taking a pill. They don’t help everyone, and they may not help right away, but there are good ones out there.
  • that loss is a part of life, and that healing from any loss (whether the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a job) comes in stages
  • that it gets better, even when it seems like it won’t. Trust me.

Or don’t. Trust these people instead:

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

*JK – I’ve managed to learn a few things (including what “jk” means – yes, I have a teen).

P.S. You people need to stop dying. I know that Neil Gaiman makes Death look like a seductive little goth girl Death_(DC_Comics)[1]

 

 

 

and that Brad Pitt’s Joe Black  made death look tempting (hey, I’d die for him), but all these losses are making me cranky, and it’s all about me.

And for those of you who saw my blog title and were hoping to see a youtube video, here you go:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Loss and roses

Broken_heart.svg[1]I lost a coworker today. Well, I didn’t lose her. It’s not like she’s an extra sock or a misplaced set of housekeys, a little tchotchke that will show up when I least expect it (although she may come visit – we already have at least one ghost in the office). She was my coworker, but, more importantly, she was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

Ugh. my lame attempts at humor are irritating me today (note to defensive mechanism – take a break). I was going to write on life and loss and grief and hope, but the words won’t come. Instead I will leave you with The Rose Beyond the Wall, by A.L. Frink. It gave me hope when my mother died. Hope that I’ll see her again, on the other side of the wall.

The Rose Beyond The Wall

The Rose Beyond The Wall – A. L. Frink

Near a shady wall a rose once grew,
Budded and blossomed in God’s free light,
Watered and fed by the morning dew,
Shedding it’s sweetness day and night.

As it grew and blossomed fair and tall,
Slowly rising to loftier height,
It came to a crevice in the wall
Through which there shone a beam of light.

Onward it crept with added strength
With never a thought of fear or pride,
It followed the light through the crevice’s length
And unfolded itself on the other side.

The light, the dew, the broadening view
Were found the same as they were before,
And it lost itself in beauties new,
Breathing it’s fragrance more and more.

Shall claim of death cause us to grieve
And make our courage faint and fall?
Nay! Let us faith and hope receive–
The rose still grows beyond the wall,

Scattering fragrance far and wide
Just as it did in days of yore,
Just as it did on the other side,
Just as it will forever-more.

A. L. Frink

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On Loss

images71V16YFP2015 was a rough year. Loss came to live at my house last year. She was an unwelcome and unpleasant houseguest, and not just because she brought along her friends Grief and Despair (is there anything worse than unwanted houseguests?). The unpleasant guests didn’t kill me, but they did kill my creative spirit. As much as I love writing and performing, it’s hard to be funny when you’re living in the pit of despair.

2015 ended well. Grief and Despair moved out when Hope moved in (they can’t stand her glimmery goodness).  I spent New Year’s eve surrounded by family of heart, and woke up feeling cautiously optimistic. I decided that, since 2015 didn’t kill me, 2016 was going to be my phoenix year.

My New Year’s resolutions were to return to writing and stand-up, and (perhaps) to try my hand at other creative endeavors.

It started out well.

I posted several pieces, and journeyed far outside by comfort zone by learning to paint (or trying to, at least) at Gamut’s “Shelter Art” event at our local animal shelter.

2016 felt like a bright shiny new year….and then cancer stole Lucifer*. For the first time ever, I was completely derailed by a celebrity death. I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of David Bowie’s music. I was, however, completely enthralled by him as an artist. He was the man who taught me to be myself, no matter what. He showed me that it was possible to reinvent yourself, at all ages and stages. He was an amazing person and performer, and, as Mark Ruffolo tweeted, he was the “father to all us freaks”. I may look like a suburban soccer mom, but my soul has always been more Ziggy Stardust than average white chick.

Then cancer took Alan Rickman. I loved him Truly, Madly, Deeply from day one. Not only was he a versatile, amazing performer/writer/director, he was an amazing human being. He was a feminist and an activist, and he did so while remaining a gentleman. In a world where celebrities strive for publicity, his charitable donations remained low key and oft overlooked. I just learned about this video for OneClickGiving, which he did as a favor for student charity filmmakers after they contacted him about a campaign to help refugees.

And today cancer claimed one of my childhood heroes, “Grizzly Adams” star Dan Haggerty. I remember watching the show, and getting the feeling that this gentle bear of a man was just as kind as the character he portrayed.

They say that things happen for a reason. I still don’t know who “they” are, or come up with a reason that we still haven’t found a cure for cancer. I have, however, found a reason for loss, thanks to the amazing gentlemen who moved on this week. Thanks to David Bowie’s last picture and Alan Rickman’s adventures with helium, I have learned  that Loss may travel with Despair, but she also travels with Joy. I have learned that Loss is an important part of life – she reminds us that life is fragile, and too short to be taken so seriously. I have learned a new definition for LOSS.

 

Love

Our

Silly

Side

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*Neil Gaiman’s Lucifer in his Sandman series is supposedly based on David Bowie. I’m not sure about that, but I know for a fact that he inspired The Return of the Thin White Duke

 

 

 

 

15 Shades of Grey* **

*Please note, there’s no sex in this post, just mild profanity. If you’re offended by profanity, you’ve come to the wrong blog (I swear like a sailor. In fact, sometimes I swear like a ship full of sailors). If you’re looking for graphic sex, you should look for the other Grey book…or the adult bookshop.

** This post was prompted by Robin’s Williams birthday. He would have been 64.

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 “Well, here we are, halfway through July, more than halfway through the year, and what do you have to show for it? You’re a little older, a little fatter and your house is still a mess…..”

And there you have it, the EIC is in fine form this morning. I’ve talked about him, more than once, but I don’t think I’ve talked about his girlfriend – she’s a soggy, wet, warm, mildew-y wool blanket. She’s heavy and smelly and ruins everything she touches. She’s also a self-centered diva, demanding all your attention, then tsk-tsking sadly and insinuating that your best effort is not quite good enough, but suggesting that closing the blinds might help. I call her BFC, but she’s known by many names, including The Blues and Depression.

The two of them rarely travel alone, preferring the company of their friends Anxiety Disorder and Self-Hatred. These asshats are the founding members of The Sneaky Bastards. I have battled TSB for years, with varying degrees of success. I recently came across some letters from my mother which showed me that she fought the same battle. I had long suspected that she self-medicated for depression. The letters are my proof. The letters made me sad – not because they were depressing (they weren’t. In fact, they were funny, and provided me with a lovely trip down memory lane), but because she thought she was alone. She wasn’t. Our family tree has an entire branch of women who were self-medicators.

My personal battles have been mostly victories. I have the blues, usually powered by hormones, but nothing that some chocolate and a glass of wine couldn’t fix (yay for self-medication!). I suppose I was due for a loss.

A series of losses, including health (my own and others), employment (not my own), and life (again, not my own) knocked me down. I struggled to get up, but a car crash threw me to the bottom of the deepest, darkest well. Figuratively, that is. My car got a dent. The other car got a flat tire. Nobody was hurt. Not physically, at least. We managed to drive away, but I was crushed beyond repair, and found myself sobbing uncontrollably on the floor of my car.

The good news is that hitting bottom (or close to it) gave me the incentive I needed to look for help. More importantly, it gave me the incentive to ASK for help. MOST importantly, I learned to accept help when it was offered, whether or not I’d asked for it. Now I responded to the offer with a “Yes, thank you” instead of a fake smile and a “Gosh, thanks, I’m FINE***, but thanks again for offering.”

I knew that I was not the only one battling the EIC and BFC and all their friends, but I used to think that it was a battle which needed to be fought alone, in silence, with the tools I had on hand. Now I know that I was wr…wr….mistaken (yeah, I have a hard time admitting to being incorrect. I’ll deal with that issue…soon).

This is not a personal battle. 1 in 8 women are affected by depression, and anxiety and depression affects twice as many women as men, but it is not a “Woman’s issue” either. I am tired of seeing The Sneaky Bastards win. They tell us that we are alone, that we deserve to stay in the dark. They lie.

The first step is asking for help. Yes, it’s a four letter word, but it’s a good one. Then again, so is hope.

OnceYouChooseHope[1]***FINE (Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional)

 

Who do I think I am, Anyway?

Good Morning!

I have enrolled in WordPress’ Blogging 101 in the hopes that my mostly melted brain will re-format, if not completely, then at least enough that I can return to writing. I’m not sure who Anyway is, but I’m hoping that she’s someone who can help me.

I love writing. I love reading. I love almost everything about reading and writing and the English language – other than the fact that many of the rules which apply to the English language make little to no since cents sense ;-D

I started writing in an attempt to find fuel for my stand-up routine, and discovered that writing helped to clear my mind. It seemed to act as a de-frag tool, helping to make more room for new thoughts and ideas. Yes, it helped with my stand up, but I found that I enjoyed blogging by and for itself. As a suburban soccer mom (happened despite my best efforts) I have a small circle of friends. I enjoy the sense of community and the fact that I have “met” people from all over the world.

Last year, overwhelemd by stressors and loss,  my internal hard drive crashed and burned, and my creative drive was destroyed. I am recovering, albeit slowly.

I have thought about returning to writing for a while, but FEAR (False Expectations Appearing Real) has held me hostage, and the EIC (Evil Inner Critic) kept telling me that my earlier writing success was a fluke.

So now I stand on the ledge, ready to jump back in.

Eyes closed, fingers crossed, breath held, afraid that I will crash and burn, but hoping against hope that this time I will fly. Welcome to my world. Welcome to my voices.

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Hope, Lost and Found

OnceYouChooseHope[1]“Whoever said life is fair?”

That was my mother’s favored response whenever I whined “…but it’s not fair!” As a mother to a teenaged girl, I’ve said it more than once myself. My daughter responds the same way I did at her age – with an eye roll, a huff of exasperation and stomping feet. I understand her frustration, both with my response and the situation.

I’ve been reminded that life isn’t always fair several times in the past couple of months (more than several times, to be honest). Evidently I have a life lesson that I am Just Not Learning. I have reached a point in my life where loss is a constant. Loss of material goods (and yes, I know that stuff is just stuff, and that I can’t take it with me), loss of health (not my own, say I, as I cross my fingers, knock wood and spit for luck), loss of life (again, not my own), loss of hope. The last one is my own. My husband lost his job several months ago, and it’s been….a blessing, I suppose.

We are learning that time is just as valuable a commodity as money. We are spending less AND more. We spend less time doing things that cost money: less time watching television, less time surfing on the computer, less time eating in restaurants and shopping at the mall. We spend more time doing things that matter: more time talking, more time laughing, and more time playing.

My husband and I are returning to the early days of our courtship, when time was all we had. I am rediscovering things about my husband that (after twenty-six years) I’ve long forgotten or taken for granted. He makes me laugh. After all these years together, he can still take my breath away with a look, and he gives me hope. So I guess I haven’t lost it after all.