Tag Archives: love

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

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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)

 

We are Magic

We think, sometimes (or, in my case, most of the time), that we are not enough. We listen to the EIC, the voice who tells us that we are not thin/smart/pretty/rich enough to do what we want to do. And so we wait, wishing and hoping for the day that we will be ____ enough to pursue our dreams. We tell ourselves that we have plenty of time, that when we lose those last 5 pounds, when we are better rested, when the kids are older, we will begin. And so we find ourselves wasting our days, dreaming of the day when we’re ready. We find ourselves at the end (or middle) of our lives, wondering how time slipped away, filled with memories of decent lives (there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a “nice” life) yet wondering what would have happened “if only”.
We live from our head, instead of our heart. Our heart whispers of possibilities, of another life, a life where our dreams come true. Our heart tells us to believe in ourselves, to believe that we are enough. To take the gifts we’ve been given and use them for the greatest good.
Stop thinking and start believing. You’re not dust, you’re magic. ❤

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.