Category Archives: friends

The End of 2012…Thank God.

This year has been a tough one.  A really tough one.

I could sit here and rehash it all, but I am not going to.  There’s been a lot of loss this year, both in the physical and emotional sense.  It’s been a tough one, I’m not going to lie.  It seems to happen every other year or so, which still makes me more fortunate than most, but definitely not as good as others.

But yes, this was a hard one.  I could barely catch my breath from one tragedy before there was another.  It just seemed to run, non stop, in waves.  My stress and frustration levels were at all time highs for most of this year, especially the latter portion, from July forward til now.

Things aren’t perfect.  They never will be, nor do I expect them to be.  I just want it to slow down some. Allow me to breathe a bit.  Throw the curve balls a bit more slowly this year.  Give me a chance to recover from one thing before you hit me with the next.  I am only human and while my shoulders are broad and my back is strong, there is only so much pain one person can take at a time. 

Yet, I always feel that the new year should not necessarily be a time to reflect back. I am a firm believe that old acquaintance SHOULD be forgotten and never brought to mind.  It’s the past.  There’s nothing you can do about it save to learn from it and move forward.  I am not the same woman I was five years ago, five months ago or even five minutes ago.  We are all works in progress, constantly evolving, growing and changing. 

I was trying to think of what my key word for 2013 would be; the word that I would think to when trying to plan my life course for this year.  Last year, it was “promise”.  I made some promises to myself and for the most part, I kept them.  These are not the same as resolutions, which I feel are silly contracts we make with ourselves and usually, they are preordained to fail.  My key word is just a reminder to hold certain things dear to me.  The promise of happiness.  The promise of extracting the negativity from my life path.  The promise to remember that tomorrow is another day and all the disasters of one day don’t necessarily carry over into the next. 

This years word is “transform”.  There are a few things that I would like to transform about myself, but I would not be so bold as to make myself promises I don’t intend to keep in the form of those horrible resolutions.  The root word of resolution is resolve and let’s face it, sometimes the resolve just isn’t there.  We are stronger some days than others.  It is widely believed that if you make a resolution and then, fall prey to the opposite of whatever it is you resolved to do, you have failed.

I, for one, am not about to set myself up for failure. 

So, transform for me, will be a slow process of change.  Changing the things that I CAN change while knowing that certain things will always be out of my control.  I can transform how I choose to react to things and not feel as though I have failed if my transformation does not immediately become a learned behavior.  I am going to take it easier on myself this year.  I am not going to cause myself hurt, pain or anxiety.  I have had quite enough of those self destructive passages in previous years.  I have extracted most of the people who cause my mind agony from my life.  While a few still litter the wall of my Facebook page, they are not there in copious amounts any longer…and the “delete” button remains a close few inches away from my fingertips should I need it.

What I won’t transform, however, are the things that others may perceive as my flaws. I will NOT transform my personality.  I am brash, crude, sometimes obnoxious, definitely crass…but it walks hand in hand with something else that I am and that is well intentioned.  I don’t mean harm.  And, when I cause it, I am also versed in the art of apology.  I have discovered long ago that a weak person does not apologize.  An even weaker person will not accept them.  This is not to mean that if I accept your apology, that I still choose to associate with you or keep you in my life.  I have only chosen to forgive your transgression.  Be grateful.

In the days of old, most transgressions of others would have landed you with a five knuckled greeting to your jawbone.  I have “evolved”, which I believe was my word of 2008 or so.  Maybe 2009.

In closing, new year, but not necessarily new me.  Just some “transforming” to do.  A little housecleaning in the spiritual sense.   Some adjustments to make as I get closer and closer to the person that I want to be.  Baby steps have gotten me through the first 46 years of my life, so I don’t suppose I will be making any giant leaps any time soon.  Change should come slowly…not like a huge 20 foot wave crashing in on you, but rather, a little trickling of water through the rocks and stones of a constantly running stream.  It should come slowly, gently, softly.  Resolutions, to me, are those 20 foot crashing waves.  Some survive them.  Some don’t. 

I’m not willing to find out the hard way.

Happy New Year to all of you.  May lucky number 2013 bring you all the joy and peace that you could possibly handle…and then some.

And, in keeping with tradition of blog posts gone by, I leave you with this:

Tradition started the first year I blogged, December 2005.  Why stop now?

Peace.

Getting through…

My friend, Robin, pointed out that I wrote a comment  on a blog post regarding the death of my friend, Derek.   The comment was “Why do people come into our lives if it is only their intention to leave?” She said that comment shredded her, as she often feels the same way.  I tried to back my thoughts up to five years ago, in reflection of why I might have said that.   It was a comment made in the midst of grief, but it is a question for the ages.  Why do people come in, allow us to get attached to them and then, suddenly, they are erased from our lives?  Death, estrangement or just a simple case of growing in different directions.  People that you love just sometimes…go away.

I told her, people come into our lives to teach you lessons.  Lessons that are either great or small.  Everyone has an expiration date in the lives of others.  Whether it is due to physical loss or emotional detachment, we all run our course.  There are friends I needed long ago that I just don’t need any longer.  They were there for their reason at the time.  To support me, to love me, to be by my side while I went through something or for me to be there for them.  People I thought would be in my life forever suddenly vanished.  But, when I look back on it…it was a moment in time that bonded us.  Something we shared.  Something that we related to and we needed each other to figure out the equation.  Once the problem was solved…it was time to move on, for both of us…or just one of us.

But when one is not ready for that sudden absentia, it leaves pain in its wake.

And questions.  Lots and lots of questions.

I am no stranger to loss.  I have lost a great number of people in my life from death.  I have lost a parent.  I have lost a child.  I have lost friends who I thought I could never survive without.  I have lost pets who were like children to me and I grieved them more ferociously and vehemently than I have some actual human family members. 

It’s never an easy process.   Ever.

I have become nearly superstitious when it comes to death.  I won’t let any one leave my house without saying “I love you” before they go.  We could be in the middle of a heated fight…and if they leave my home without a hug or a kind word, my stomach always knots up.  I think, I am going to lose them now.  Now that we parted harshly, those words will be the last words we ever speak to each other.  I think this is because my last words to my friend Derek were “I’ll see you tomorrow…” when he asked me to please come out and hang out with him, and then, tomorrow never came for him.  Or, perhaps because the last words I ever said to my father were “I hate your fucking guts.  I never want to speak to you again.”

Guess what?  I didn’t ever get to speak to him again.  He died a week later.

So, it has become a life mission of mine to make sure that I never part harshly with any one.  I don’t think my heart could take another memory of someone leaving this world with the last thing having been said between us being something cold or hateful.  It’s a huge burden to live with and a bigger one to die with.  I find myself apologizing and justifying constantly to people who no longer walk this earth. 

“You know I didn’t mean that, right, Daddy?”

“I should have come out to see you, Derek.  I should have found a baby sitter.  Maybe you would still be here, if I had.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t kiss you goodbye, Snoop.  I’m sorry I was too busy to kiss you goodbye.”

I keep hoping for validation in a situation where I know I will never get any closure.

Of course my Dad knows I didn’t mean that.  I was a teenager.  19 years old.  I was angry with him because I needed help with something and, in form with the lousy father he was, he didn’t come through for me.  I think now…who really owes whom the apology?  Why aren’t YOU sorry that you didn’t do what I needed you to do for me?  Why was I constantly put in the position of begging you to be my father?  Why am I making myself feel perpetually guilty for saying such a terrible thing to you before you died.  I didn’t kill you.  YOU killed you.  YOU chose to get into a car, loaded up on drugs and alcohol, careening into an oncoming truck, potentially robbing the driver of that car of being a good dad to HIS four children.  He was probably a great dad, just out for the day, driving to or from his job so he could get home to his wife and kids that he valued.  YOU, Dad, were the bad guy in this scenario…so why am I feeling guilty?

Because words spoken cannot be unspoken.  Simply put, you can’t un-ring a bell.

And of course, Derek has forgiven me a million times for not having a baby sitter to go out on other nights.  So why is this one eating me up…getting the best of me?  Because this particular night…he killed himself.  How could I have possibly known that your request for my time was to be spent talking you out of ending your life?  You were a drug addict.  You put those drugs in your body.  You chose to take more than your body could handle.  You died.   I have to continue living knowing that if something would have changed that night, it could have altered the course of your life.  You might still be here. 

Then again, you might not.  And, as I always said, you were dying since the day you were born.

Only this time, you took my heart with you.

Why am I angry with myself, when you chose to make me walk in the pain of losing you over what I will only ever believe could have been “fixed” had I just been there.  Why shouldn’t I be mad at you, Derek, for causing me this never ending grief and turmoil over those last moments?

Why?  Because you’re not here.  I am.  And you can’t blame something that no longer exists.

So, how do you get through the guilt?  You don’t.  No matter how many times people say, “don’t blame yourself”, it’s hard not to.  It’s hard to gloss over the obvious…that the last things you said to these people are what you are going to have to live with.  It’s strange.  Most of us don’t even recall on a day to day basis what the last thing someone said to you was.  But, let that person die…and suddenly, you have no recollection of anything else but that.  I can scarcely remember any other words uttered between Derek and I, or my father and I, save for those last words.

Why do I only dwell on the fact that the day my precious dog, Snoop, passed away, I was too busy with work to give him a little pat on the head before he went to the kennel?  We were leaving for vacation that afternoon…and I was so busy playing catch up, I just yelled out, “Bye Snoops!”   I never got up from my desk to give him a hug and a kiss. 

And now, he’s gone too.

I can flip the switch on this, you know.  I can remember my best friend Norman dying.  I held his hand.  I kissed his lips, dry and cracked as they were, as he lay in a hospital bed while the leukemia ravaged his already small, frail body. He knew I loved him desperately and he said to me, “I’m not afraid, you know.”  I said, “I am.”  He said, “Don’t be.  It will be grand.  Gay pride day in Heaven, can you imagine?”  The vision he conjured in my mind of angels in rainbow wings and gold lame loin cloths made me laugh out loud.  He laughed too, and that laughter is what I remember.  That, and my husband leaning in to kiss him goodbye.  I will always remember those moments when I think of Norman. 

Then, there’s my grandmother.  I can remember stroking my grandmothers hair just a mere few months ago, her telling her that she loved me so much and patting my cheek.  I knew at that moment, I would likely never see her again.  She was so sick.  The dementia and the Alzheimers were eating her mind and body away slowly.   But I was there.  I held her.  She knew she was loved…and she was able to let go.  She usually asks me when I leave, “are you coming back soon?” to which I always reply, “Of course I am, silly.  I love you!”  But this time, she didn’t ask me.  She just smiled at me and went back to sleep.  Maybe she knew she was leaving…maybe I did.  I pulled a flower hair clip from my own hair, and put it in hers. 

Maybe that was our goodbye. I don’t know. 

The mind chooses to remember what it chooses to remember.  Sometimes it is terribly cruel.  Other times, it is graciously merciful. It shames me to say, I barely remember my son, those last moments before I had to hand him away.  I barely remember his face.  I don’t remember the smell of his hair or the feel of his fingers wrapped around mine.  There was no time to remember.  No time to ingrain that moment into my memory.  And, ironically, I find that to be both cruel and merciful. 

So, how do you get through the anniversaries of the deaths of those we love?  How do we stop the self fulfilling prophecy of relegating yourself to a life of wallowing in guilt and anguish for the things we did or did not do while that person was still alive? 

The truth is, we don’t. 

We make mountains out of molehills in our minds.  And, on the opposite end of that, we make molehills out of mountains…just so we can cope.  We have to force ourselves to cope in the best ways we know how.  For some, it helps to allow yourself a day of grief.  It almost feels contrived.  I felt great yesterday.  I will feel great again tomorrow.  But, right now?  Right now all I feel is pain, devastation, anxiety and the ever looming fear that I will add something else I said to that list of regretful final words. 

It’s truly a source of anxiety for me.

The other night, on Facebook, my son wrote a status:

“I don’t think I can deal with this.  Please tell me this isn’t happening again.”

I read it at 3 am and immediately, I flew into panic mode.  To hear your teenager say, “I don’t think I can deal with this…” conjures up every news article we have ever read as parents of teens taking their lives over things that would scarcely disrupt the life of an adult.  I knew from that statement, something had happened between him and his girlfriend.  Did she break up with him?  Did she cheat on him?  Hurt him in some way?  Is he REALLY not able to deal with it?  Am I going to go to bed tonight and wake up in the morning to a phone call that he was found hanging in his closet, a note to his girlfriend on his bed and his Facebook page open to a status that says, “goodbye”?  Sleep was done for me at that point.  It wasn’t going to happen.  I was FAR too afraid that if I go to bed, when I wake up in the morning, I will hear those words that no mother ever, ever, EVER wants to hear.

I’ve already heard them once before.  I couldn’t live through it a second time.

Admittedly, I panicked hard.  I called his fathers house, where he was staying, at 3 am and crying into the phone, begged my ex husband to please, go check on him.  Make sure he’s asleep. Please watch him.  Please keep an eye on him. 

Because in my heart, the terror of “last words” looms large.

It is terrible to be a slave to what if’s and what could be’s.  Yet, I still find myself scared to death of those last words before someone leaves the house, hangs up the phone or walks away from me.  It is my own cross to bear, my own personal problem that I have made into a much bigger monster than it honestly is.  But, when you are living a life that includes a lot of loss, you can’t help but feel that way sometimes.  Especially after a fight with someone. 

So, ridiculous as it may be…I make sure that I tell everyone how much I love them.  It’s really something we should practice any way, the fine art of letting the people in your life know how much they mean to you.  It should not take estrangement or death for those words to finally find their way to your mouth.  It should not take fear.  Instead, it should be part of living.  Nothing is more important in this world than the love we take and the love we make.  Nothing.  Mistakes become regrets very quickly and while I know I can’t walk around 24/7 telling everyone what they mean to me, I can make sure that the people who are in my life daily know how well loved they are…so that if their time should come, or mine…we all can remember that our last words were “I love you”.

They say that there are some things that should just go to the grave with you.

“I love you” should always be one of those things.

song inspiration
“it’s only love. it’s only pain.  it’s only fear that runs through my veins…
it‘s all the things you can’t explain, that make us human.

RIP Derek Wollen, the inspiration for this post…and the pain that accompanies it.
August 25, 1980 – November 15, 2007  i miss you so much.  so, so much.

And to Debra Wollen, who left to find her son on November 24th, 2007. 
A mothers love leads to a mothers death.  i pray you both found each other…and peace.

Focus 52: "Yellow"

This weeks Focus 52 post is brought to you by the color “yellow”.  Actually, that is what the prompt is.  And what a good time for this prompt to show up.  The above flower was from a bouquet I received from the wonderful girls that comprise a group of ladies I now affectionately call “Team Melia”.  These girls have been a constant mode of support for one another since our dear friend Melia lost her daughter in an accident at the end of this past February.  Six beautiful, wonderful women who would make this flower blush with embarrassment for thinking it could remotely compete with them, who all rallied together at a time of crisis for the seventh member of Team Melia; Melia herself.  Seven women.  Seven women bound in the wake of tragedy who have since brought so much laughter and love into my life that I can scarcely find the words to describe it.  Seven women, one for each color of the rainbow, who have brought so much color into my world.  And, how appropriate that this yellow flower was the star of the bouquet, for yellow is the color of loyalty and friendship.  Yellow is bright and full of promise and hope.  Yellow is warm as the sun in the sky and the warmth in my heart when any of these girls leave me random love notes on my Facebook wall.  We, the members of Team Melia, are a force to be reckoned with.  We have conquered every subject from bad backs to bad marriages.  Good sex to good food.  We laugh at one another and with one another.  We cry just as readily.  We have brought tears of joy and tears of pain to each others eyes, but never once was there someone not readily available to dry those tears with a soft word or a sweet gesture.

And while we have all known one another for various rates of time, it matters not, because we are seven women for whom time stood still, stopped and then, started once more.  Anything that happened prior to that fateful day in February does not matter.  What matters is here, now, under the watchful eyes of our “Rainbow Girl”, Destiny.  Could our angel be any more aptly named, for if not for her departing our lives so soon would we have made this “rainbow connection”; the lovers, the dreamers…and me.

This post is dedicated to my girls, my world.  I love you all. 

Focus 52: "Connect"

So I am mulling over the word “connect” and thinking. Connect. Connections. The way we keep ourselves together with the people we love. The connections we make, even briefly, over a cup of coffee. The shake of a random hand. The connection of a smile. How we all connect in tragedy, like the way we all connected over the shootings in Arizona…

I have a million ideas throbbing around in my skull for what I would like to photograph and write about.

But, always one for new ideas, I turn to the Hotband. “Honey, when I say the word, ‘connect’, what’s the FIRST thing to pop into your head.”

He says….”dots?”

Men.  So simple minded. So sweet.  So…so…boring.

Admittedly, I was at a loss this week.  I started thinking about connection in its most simple, base terms.  I thought about puzzle pieces and how they connect.  I started trying to think modern and considered snapping a photograph of the tangled web of wires just below my desk…the ones that keep me connected to all of you, here, on the internet.  I struggled with this concept as I was walking across the bridge at my college taking me from one side of the campus to the other, where I continue on my path of higher learning.

And then it dawns on me.  Connect.  Bridges connect.  This bridge that I cross every day that takes me from the parking lot, where I stood with trepidation…not exactly sure that I was ready to go back to school, across to the buildings where lessons will be taught.  I thought about the bridges I have built and, naturally, the ones I have burned.

Bridges connect.

I stepped off the bridge, down into the grassy area that runs along the beautiful lake at my college, defying the “Keep Off The Grass” sign.  I stood among the palm trees and the lushly landscaped butterfly gardens that decorate the campus.  I edged closer to the water despite the warning signs that let me know an alligator might be lurking nearby, waiting to take a nice healthy chomp out of my leg.  I waited for the sun to creep a bit below the trees and bathe the bridge in its natural, warm glow.

The sun on my face felt good.   The moment felt right and the sun setting reminded me that I only had a mere five minutes to get to my classroom, to begin the learning process once more.  Back in school once again and on my desired path, despite my detour into forbidden territory.

Bridges connect…and this time, it is taking me where I need to be.  This…is home.

Overcome…

This week has been incredibly overwhelming for me.  Personally, professionally and emotionally.  I am drained.  I am tired.  I am exasperated.  And more than anything…

I am overcome.

After many years, a friendship was ended…mutually, after nearly 40 years.  We didn’t decide to just release one another but rather, it ended in an incredibly ugly fashion with sarcasm, bitter words, name calling and scathing accusations.  She wasn’t listening to me.  I wasn’t listening to her.  We both struggled to be heard, but the louder the words became,  the more they fell on deaf ears.  This person was gone to me for a very long time.  From the time I was 14 years old actually.  We reunited back in 2002.  For six years, it was wonderful.  We shared each others homes, hearts and secrets.  She entered my life during a very volatile time with my husband (yes, once upon a time, things were not all hearts and flowers between the Princess and the Hotband.)  She got me through a lot of rough years.  I will always be appreciative of that.  Then, Facebook comes along.  Old friends enter the picture.  Worse yet, new friends enter the picture and slowly the chasm grows.  We start realizing how different we are.  Subtle changes at first give way to more blatant, outward changes.  Statements that would once be taken in jest were no longer amusing.  The differences become more noticeable, not only to us, but to our mutual friends.  Bickering begins.  Nit-picky small things at first slowly give way to all out lunges at each others throats.  Diplomacy is suddenly lost on both of us.  She is asking me to change who I am.  I am telling her accept me as I am.  She calls me a liar.  I call her varying degrees of the word “bitch”.  She tells me she is blocking me from her feed.  I eventually block her from my “friends list”.  Sarcastic nasty notes are exchanged and suddenly, it is 1980.  We are two teenage girls, snarling at one another in the school yard, throwing down our books as the crowd forms a circle around us.  Sides are chosen.  Friendships are irretrievably broken. Alliances are formed.

Only this time, there is no teacher to step in, to intervene.  We are left to our own devices, both of us too afraid to have this discussion by phone…so we are relegated to nasty Facebook messages saying things that we more than likely wouldn’t dare to say to each other if we were face to face.

It was exhausting.  And now, it is over.

I have opted not to discuss this with our mutual friends.  She, however, has been talking about this non-stop.  The chitter chatter of the spies still running back and forth between us, like little electrical synapses firing off, one after the other.  I just want to be free of it already.  I wanted this year to start differently rather than more of the same.

And while there is a part of me that is always going to mourn the loss of that friendship, I am trying to remember that there was a reason she walked into my life when she did after a 25 year separation.  I am grateful for the little girl I grew up with as much as I am grateful for the woman who held me in her arms as I sobbed over the pain my husband had caused me.  I would have loved to have shared another 40 years with her…but we grew up differently, our lives shaped by different events.  I am not who she remembers, nor who she wants me to be.  She is not who I remembered, nor who I wanted her to be.

But, for a short moment in time, we were everything to each other.  She held my hand in kindergarten sometimes.  She was always the braver and bolder one.  She had a silly laugh that carried over into her adult years, a giggle that would make you look into the eyes of this 40 year old woman and see the 6 year old within.  We couldn’t stop talking to one another and were placed on opposite sides of a classroom more times than I can count.  We crushed on the same boys.  She always won their hearts and I suppose I always envied that about her.  It always came so naturally for her.  I had to work so much harder to impress people.  Thus begun my extremely extroverted personality.  The outrageous things I would say and do.  She would always shake her curly head and laugh at me.  And I would smile, knowing my best friend approved of who I was, accepted me and loved me…even when I wasn’t in performance mode.  To everyone else, I was that crazy girl…but to her, I was just “CP”.  Or, as she put it, even in our 40’s, she would refer to me as…”my CP”.

And I was hers.  Unconditionally…and probably would have been for life had we not allowed the little things to pyramid to grandiose proportions and spin violently out of control.

In my heart, in my mind and in my soul…I will always remember the moment when we were 14 years old and hugging goodbye as my parents moved me out of the city and into the suburbs.  I never saw her again after that.  I will always remember her big brown eyes, her long curly hair and her lips, quivering from trying to hold back the tears of seeing a best friend disappear from her life.  That vision will help me handle what has happened between us, remove the ugliness that transpired on both our behalves and allow me to move forward into the new year without regrets or pain.

She will always be my very first best friend.  No amount of ugly will ever change that.

I’m willing to keep her there, in my heart, exactly that way.