Tag Archives: happiness

the loosening and the rebirth

This brilliant blogger wrote today:

“Resolve” originates in the Latin resolvere: “to loosen, undo, settle,” a seemingly paradoxical combination of the intensive prefix re and solvere (to loosen)… I wonder how the same word can mean both becoming settled and becoming undone.. Isn’t that also what the process of grief is?  I have become undone by it, but it also has settled into me, not necessarily always for the worse.   It has given me the resolve to do what I feel I must to honor Jim in this new life without him.

Yes. Grief has loosened me, settled me, created me into something new. I gaze with wonder at what grew in the wake of that fiery blaze, the green tendrils of life that appear among the smoldering ashes, reaching towards the sun.

I’m only human; I flinch away from pain and seek out pleasure. But if I look beyond simplistic judgement of suffering=bad and pleasure=good, I can embrace the new beginnings, the wisdom, the joy that sprung forth from the losses in my life.  I still want my mother with me, but the pain of losing has birthed (and is still birthing) something totally new into existence in my heart. This new way of being is still developing and I’m only beginning to understand how I have changed. I probably don’t seem that much different on the outside, but there is a shift in my core.  I linger longer when admiring a soaring bird or blooming rose, I laugh deeper, I am happier being me. Her death taught me how to live, and today I can it better- with more gratitude, more hope, more joy.

Like our mother’s suffered in bringing us forward into the world, our grief can unravel that which no longer serves us, burn the barriers we have built around our hearts down to a grey, crumbling ash, and allow us to be born into a new life. I have resolve- to both let go and to settle, to be rooted in my self and trust that on the wings of my suffering I can fly, in the charred remains of what was I can bloom again.

the gift of the new year

Its a new year. 2013. In light of my recent loss I thought this holiday would be more bitter than sweet, full of remorse, grief, the sensation of happiness slipping through my fingers and sliding away.

But here’s the miracle in all of this: I felt joy. My heart was full with hope and gratitude.  I’m ready for a new beginning, for what this year and beyond has tucked beneath her wings. I know that I am stronger, my relationship is stronger. I am ready to reap rewards after the long slog of 2012, to let the old fall to the floor like a chiffon dress and step into the light.  And you know what? Because of my experiences over the last few years, I can find the beauty in anything.  Even sadness.  Even heartbreak.  So no matter what is in store for me in 2013, I have the confidence that I will be okay.  I can soar through any storm and come out on the other side with flapping wings shining gossamer in the sunshine.

Thanks to all the kind souls who have given me support on the written (typed?) page this year, who have reached out in a spirit of compassion and understanding.  From connecting me with my mother’s high school boyfriend to discovering kindred spirits with similar life experiences scattered across the globe, I appreciate the power of this little blog to bring me joy, wisdom, and the sense of being part of a greater web of understanding.  I’ve learned and am learning from all of you. Thank you for reading, for commenting, and for broadening my world.  I couldn’t do this without you.

For those of you perusing blogs on your holiday from work, here are my most popular blog posts from 2012. Enjoy, and thanks to the statisticians at WordPress.

1. appreciate the present moment

2. a mother’s love


4. the return

5. my mother’s autopsy

So, Happy New Year! Stay safe, stay grateful, and (if you will) keep reading. 🙂



Roper Lake. May, 2012.

We are going camping!

I don’t know how two people who hate/hated camping gave birth to me, a person who is hard pressed to think of anything she loves more than waking up in a tent. But it happened. I am not my mother nor my father’s daughter in this regard.

I didn’t really go camping until I was 16. Sometimes is terrifies me to think I could have continued on that path, never knowing these things about myself:

I need to breathe air cleansed by the wild. I need to feel the warmth of the fire, and of my sleeping bag. I need the quiet.

I am grateful to those that brought me outside and showed me the door to discovering who I am. I hope I would have figured it out eventually. But you never know.

Have a great weekend, dear readers. May you find a slice of your own heaven, whatever that looks like for you.

Breakfast Club

On Sunday mornings, I miss Breakfast Club.  This gathering of my mother, stepfather, and their best friends occurred at a greasy-spoon breakfast joint every Sunday morning. While Mom loved going out for breakfast her entire life, the regularity of this ritual started around the time I was finishing up high school.   While the core group consisted of the three middle-aged couples, I often attended, as did my best friend, our significant others, and any other random smattering of friends who happened to be around on a Sunday morning and were interested in breakfast.

As options for smoking indoors were dwindling by the late 1990’s and smokers were an essential minority in our group, Breakfast Club could occur in only several locations around Minneapolis.  The type of place where tattooed waiters hustled coffee and bacon, you had to talk over the crowd, and there weren’t such things as reservations, or many tables that could seat 8+. So, we needed to meet at a time that could seem painfully early to me – 8:30. This was before my status as a morning-person was fully established. But even if I was out cavorting till the early morning hours, I still tried to drag my ass to breakfast, because it was that fun.  I’m sure I had more than one boyfriend think I was nuts for pulling myself out of bed and inviting him to come along to breakfast with family and friends at the ridiculous hour of 8:00AM.  But I often did.

It was particularly hard to get up during the wintertime.  My body felt heavy, and I longed to singer in sleep a little while longer, but the promise of great food and even better company called to me, and I pushed myself from the cocoon of my comforter.  I remember driving down icy streets, which were Sunday-quiet.  The sun was up, but shined a dim, bluish light on everything.

But I’d soon arrive at breakfast.  I would walk through the door and be assaulted with the smell of eggs and bacon, the sound of silverware clanking.  A brave heater vigorously pumped out the heat, further warmed by numerous bodies.   I chased down some coffee and felt the fatigue melt away, and happiness set in.  We would sit around a table, laugh about our week, complain about politicians or our jobs.  Mom and her girlfriends would tease me about my longing for a particular waiter, a rather-Emo man named James who would patiently flirt with me.  It provided such entertainment my parents would request that he be our server every Sunday.

Breakfast with those you love is always enjoyable, but my mom provided the glue to this gathering.  I think it was her joyful spirit that laid the foundation for such a diverse, dynamic group.  She somehow made it all possible, for years.

Of course, nothing lasts forever.  Friends quit smoking, and much to my chagrin Breakfast Club started often meeting in more-refined, non-smoking suburban locations.  What had been once a week became once a month or so. I became a nurse and suddenly lost half of my Sunday mornings to working at Hennepin County Medical Center.  My best friend moved to DC.  I moved to Tucson. My parents and one of the core couples of breakfast club needed to step away from their friendship.  All things go.

It was wonderful to have the space of Breakfast Club for 5+ years.  It provided community and connection for all of us.  I’d like to recreate it somehow.

A more modern version of Breakfast Club. Sedona, May 2008

sacred machine

My car, Jaqueé Noir, died while I was at work this week.  We have decided to donate her to charity and are in the market for a new vehicle. As wonderful as my small sedan has treated me, we would prefer a larger vehicle to facilitate camping adventure throughout our beautiful Southwest, with sloppy dog in tow.

the girl in all her glory

My car is a ’99 Toyota Corolla.  I purchased her nearly 6 years ago from my mom’s cousin Ivan, who has a dealership in Minnesota. At the time, I was living outside of Tucson, and was extremely dependent on a Volkswagen Golf with frequent mechanical problems. I was financially strapped but found a way to finance a used car that would be reliable. My best girlfriend took me up on the offer of a whirlwind roadtrip (what a friend!), and our travels to and from the Midwest to trade in the Volkswagen for my Corolla was one of the best times in my life. She helped me name the car (christened after a stripper her philandering exboyfriend had slept with), and by the time we rolled into Arizona, with a backseat littered with fast food wrappers and Tori Amos crooning through the speakers, Jaqueé was fully mine. With a few cigarette burns in the apoustery and a couple minor scratches, the car wasn’t pristine when she came into my life, but was in excellent condition overall.

With a 30 mile work commute, we spent a lot of time together in the first years of our relationship.  She showed great tenacity driving on flooded roads during the monsoon, and carried me down dirt paths designed for 4WD vehicles to camping destinations.  From Phoenix to Flagstaff, from Naco to the North Rim, she has faithfully wherever I needed to go. I used to pray that Jaqueé would last until I completed my master’s degree.  She has done that and more.  In the last few months, she started to have more mechanical issues, but still reliably brought me, time and time again, to the side of my dying mother.

She is 13 years old and is showing her age. Parked on the streets of Tucson, she has been vandalized on several occasions– she no longer has a hubcaps or a radio. The power windows no longer reliably function. On a hot day, you can smell the Pine Sol I spilled in the trunk on the day I moved in with the man who is now my husband.

Life has changed a lot since the late night I returned home to Arizona with my new car.  I now hardly drive, as I live in town and prefer to bike for my transportation.  When I do drive to work, parking my dilapitated college-girl car next to the BMWs and Porsches of my colleagues always makes me smile.

Its difficult to let go of my past, but there are wonderful things to look forward to in the future.

joy on the dashboard

ADDENDUM: we bought a silver Subaru Outback today.  Cheers to new beginnings!

our new baby!


a mother’s love

Mom wasn’t very sentimental. After her death, I collected my baby pictures, which were shuffled together with hundreds of other photos loose in a plastic storage box. Her best friend Catherine has also sent me copies of photos my mom sent her after my birth, and everytime I see a new snapshot it feels like hitting the goldmine.  These images have been such a gift to me.

I don’t know that Mom ever looked as radiant and happy as in these photographs– all wide smiles with a brand new baby in her arms.  The joy is palpable.  Sleep deprivation must have really agreed with her.

at least one of us was happy!


These pictures are so precious because they are authentic. Of course, I don’t remember life as an infant, but from my first moments of awareness, I felt surrounded by her love. She had such a big heart, and adored me completely, without expectation or ridicule.  I was always enough, just as I was. Of course, she had ambitions for her only child, but her love was pure, encompassing, constant. And from the first days to the last, we always felt the greatest happiness when we were together. Twin stars, shining brightest in each others presence.

I am so fortunate that from the very beginning I was fully embraced and appreciated.  I pray that every child on Earth could know this kind of love.

reclaiming my life

I feel good. Really good.  In a way I haven’t felt for months. Maybe years.

Something shifted about a week ago.  The clouds started to break apart Its more than the elation of feeling physically normal after a viral illness, although that is always a nice reward for being sick.   I am motivated and energetic and driven to make my life meaningful. 

Too much of 2011 was spent wrestling with what could not and can not be controlled. The present moment felt unbearable and I was lost to any sense of hope for the future, because I knew it wouldn’t have Mom in it.

Now, it is 2012. The new year has infused me with clarity and focus. There are some less-than-thrilling parts of my life that I neglected during my mother’s illness (for one, my car has set a new record for filth), but other important aspects stand ready and waiting for me to jump back in.  These simple things feel wonderful–planning my oncology certification review. Purchasing a pass to a state park.  Submitting and having my abstract accepted at a nursing conference.

If I were to go back one year, I’m not sure I would do anything different.  Maybe be nicer or more patient with myself.  Watching your loved one die is a slow heartbreak, and I did the best that I could do.  

Mom wants me to be happy.  It may cliché, but I feel her desire for my wellbeing so deeply, as if its part of my cellular makeup. She was selfless to a fault, and despite being grateful for the time we spent together  she was uncomfortable with the degree in which my life was put on hold while she was fighting cancer.  I feel her nudging me forward, into the future and whatever awaits me there.  I owe it to her, and to myself, to make my life as meaningful and joyful as possible.

I felt from the moment I heard of Mom’s diagnosis that this was It: the point in which my entire life had been preparing me for and leading up to. Well, she is gone, and at times I have floundered with the “now, what?” But the process continues.  Grief is transformative.  I’m 31 years old, healthy, blessed with a life and a future.  I’m going to make it the best and brightest one possible. 




looking back, way back

There are only a few hours left in 2011.  December has felt unmercifully long, and yet I also feel hesitant to plunge into the first month, the first year without my mom.

New Years Eve, 2004
December 30th was the anniversary of my first marriage, which was brief and came to a painful demise.  Out of respect to husbands past and present, I will say little about the relationship, but my recent experience with grief has moved me to a deeper understanding in what happened with my ex husband.  See, he lost his father, who was nearly the same age as my mother, while we were still married.  Both died in December– my father-in-law suddenly, on a sidewalk, while out running on an unusually warm day in Minnesota; my mother slowly and peacefully, in her own bed, on a cool, rainy day in Arizona.    
One of the often-repeated arguments at the end of the marriage involved my ex-husband accusing me of not understanding his grief– “I just lost my father!” I had a full repertoire of responses, some of which were far from compassionate.  I think once I actually snarled “I don’t give a shit!”   To be fair, he was making choices that were incredibly hurtful and destructive to both of us.  But in the end, he was right about one thing– I didn’t understand. I knew he was hurting, but also thought he was using grief as an excuse for his behavior. Maybe he was partially.  But not entirely.  
Well, I get it now. Even if I had understood back then how it felt to lose a parent, it wouldn’t have changed the course of events that brought us to where we are today– not married to each other.  But maybe I would have been a bit nicer to him.  And that would have been, well, nice. 
I feel Mom is helping me go deeper in my healing from that old loss.  This understanding doesn’t change the past, but looking at it from a perspective of more clarity and compassion dispels whatever old angers might be lurking there, so I can be more happy, more content, more trusting, and move forward in life with lightness and hope.

needle magic

Talking about stress levels quickly causes me to feel whiny and self-absorbed.  As if I have a virtual latte in one hand, a Blackberry in another, sighing while rolling my eyes to some poor, distracted patron waiting in line at Starbucks-  “Ugh!  I’m so stressed out!”  Yuck.  I mean, there are hundreds of thousands of acres of forest burning, children being abused, politico-husbands exposing themselves on Twitter and I’M complaining about being stressed?

So, forgive me, but yes, I’ve been stressed.  This year has been unbelievably challenging, but to tell you the truth, I’ve been experiencing significant stress for about five years now. Its been (more or less) one thing after another since 2006. Some good stuff, some downright awful, but lots of associated stress. I don’t seem that bad off, or pathetic– I come to work every day to a great job.  I maintain a healthy weight.  I’m usually pleasant and cheerful and acceptably groomed.  But things were shifting in subtle ways.  I have been struggling with more feelings of depression.  Historically a champion sleeper, I was starting to lie awake in the early morning hours.  I often felt stretched thin


My mother in law gave me 10 sessions of acupuncture for my birthday, and it really could not have come at a better time.  After only one session, I felt so much better! My mood lifted, I felt relaxed and easy. More like my old self. It was enlightening– I didn’t really realize how poorly I felt, until I started to feel better.

Its hard to take care of yourself when you are stressed out and busy, but of course, that’s the most important time to do it.  Acupuncture might not be the cure-all for everyone (although I’m telling all my patients to go!), but be it time with a friend, the overdue haircut, a massage or a walk– do it!  You’ll be glad you did.


Third night of sleeping badly this week.  There should be a law against this!  Instead of laying there in warm silence, I’m making better use of my time at the moment.  Seems like the only benefit of insomnia is the ability to have more waking hours, but then again, more is not always better.  Especially when it makes you damn tired during the day.   

When I was able to sleep this week, I had a few nightmares.  Perhaps the most disturbing involved a friend whom I haven’t communicated with in quite some time.  Despite my frequent neglect at keeping in touch, its difficult for me to let go of relationships.  I celebrate when friendships evolve to greater closeness, deeper connection, but I have a hard time accepting when things go the other direction.  Maybe its an only-child thing.  Yes, some people are not meant to be in my life for long, but who says I have to like it?

My mom is a purebred social animal, so naturally, she always has had many friends.  People are attracted to her– she is beautiful, charming, and best of all, that radiance tends to rub off.  Just to be around her gives anyone a glow.  I’ve always had more introverted tendencies than she, but I value what I learned from her about friendship.  She guided me through relationship snags, helped me be a sympathetic and thoughtful companion, modeled supportive and loving behavior.  I have made plenty of mistakes along the way, but today, I too have many friends.  These relationships have provided the soil for lifechanging experiences, soul-searching conundrums.  And happiness. 

My reward for seeing tons of patients this week on way less sleep than I normally require is of the very best kind.  My best friend since Jr. High and her husband, who has been my friend for nearly as long as she, are coming to visit.  My life would have been very different without this particular individual in it; we have one of those relationships that grew so closely for so many years, you couldn’t untangle the branches even if you wanted to.  I’m not sure what our weekend will turn out like, but I’m sure we will have deep belly laughs while reliving embarrassing moments from high school.  I can’t wait!