Recently my life has been like a specific scene in many of the great suspense/thriller movies. The camera pans into the living room as the homeowners are unlocking the door only to be greeted with the visual of their life turned upside down. The camera sweeps slowly across the overturned furniture, smashed family photos, and strewn about chotchkies. Their intimately crafted life has just been violated; their sense of familiarity is all but gone. Oh, but wait!! Pray tell, what is this? It’s the local police detective coming in to tell them that while their life has been completely dismantled, it was for a good reason, “you see, we got word that there was a bomb in your house that was about to explode, so we rushed in here as fast as we could. We’re sorry about grandma’s ashes on the floor but that urn looked highly suspect.” The good folks at the police station did you a favor! While you are grateful, looking around at the mess, and the sense of deep violation in your safe haven certainly does not feel like a favor.
Here is the place in this “metaphor” of a story that I say something like, “Sometimes one cannot see the forest for the trees” or some other nonsense but this isn’t a general story, but the current narrative of my life. You see at the beginning of 2013 I made a deal with myself. I started January 1st with a 5 by 7 note card in my pocket that simply read, “Be your authentic self.” That was my goal for not only the year but for the rest of my life. I had spent the last several years in therapy along with reading copious amounts of self help, and inspirational books so I felt that I was ready to leave the nest. I had a tool box chocked full of learning, and skills. At the dawn of the New Year I was a full time small business owner, and a part-time writer. I was reaching the homestretch of my third book. It was a biography I wrote for a friend of mine, Nob, and his health was quickly declining. I was steadily beginning to loathe going into work. It seemed without my knowledge or consent, my life was reaching a crossroads. My business was a private music instruction facility, I myself am a musician, and my business was causing me to hate playing. I couldn’t stand another second of dealing with any level of music after I left work for the day. I knew I needed change, but I wasn’t sure that my pride, or moreover, my ego could take such a hit. How could I have been so wrong about starting a business?
I quickly realized that I couldn’t focus on the question, but needed to put all my energy into the next steps, or the solution. After seeking advice from a few close friends, I made the (at the time) painful decision to close by the end of summer. It was mid June at the time. I kept thinking of the advice people often give on how to remove an adhesive bandage, and the response is always, “quickly rip it right off.” While that is a more humorous way of seeing the situation, it really was the best way. I swallowed my pride, and on Monday morning began telling all of my staff, along with our clients, that I will be closing. Our closing was met with a variety of responses ranging from indifference to genuine sadness. I was pretty crushed until the day I closed. That day I was overcome by an emotion I couldn’t foresee, relief.
I had about a week to explore free time, and unpack some head space, when I received a phone call informing me that Nob was going to be entering hospice. I shifted my focus from myself to him, and his family.
While it was difficult, and exhausting to watch someone you love struggle, it was rewarding beyond measure. He was in skilled/hospice care for roughly a month. All but the last week he was in great spirits, eating like a horse, and fully coherent. He laughed, and joked with all of those who visited him. He was sharp, engaged, and never missed a Detroit Tigers game. His health took a sudden decline, and he died a few days later. I began to grieve intensely for having so much loss in my life as of late. I grappled with helping to plan the funeral, wake, and continue to consolidate my business. The day after the funeral I woke up to, well, nothing. I was alone in my house without a thing to do, no appointments, deadlines, work to go to, or things to check off the list. Moreover, I was sad, but I was going to fight it. I should be happy, right? I no longer have to go into a business that sucked the life out of me, there was no one to take care of except for myself, and I wasn’t in dire need for a job. It may be worth mentioning that during this time frame my husband also started a new job. Literally nothing in my life looked the same. My life had indeed been ransacked! I thought to myself, “How did I get here?!?!” I was thunderstruck.
For the next month or so I walked around consumed with sadness. To my wounded heart and mind, this wasn’t acceptable. I need to move on, and quickly. There were so many things I wanted to do, and now was my chance. My life was a circle of questions with seemingly no answer. I was stuck. This feeling resonated in many different ways; I gained 7 pounds, had severe insomnia, and couldn’t write or play music to save my life. This was becoming very real, and in my mind, very serious until I spoke with a friend. She didn’t offer advice, but merely said the following, “I have never seen a more appropriate response to all of the loss you’ve experienced. Grief seems about right, and you can’t rush the time frame. It will leave you when it’s good and ready.” A light bulb went off in my head! Throughout the entire day that same line replayed over and over. I finally realized the problem; I hadn’t allowed myself to grieve. As if all of these life changing events would happen and I would be unscathed. That I would be above the fray, living in some exalted realm of reality. I would be remised if I didn’t share that in my pray life the message I kept receiving was, “with great vulnerability, there will be great freedom.” God was teaching me to trust, and to be patient. Not bitterly patient or complaining, and patient, but to be ok with life, exactly the way that it is in that moment.
The very next morning I awoke to peace. Suddenly, I was renewed, born again! Everything was unblocked. I could write, play music, and sleep, not to mention, I was 100 percent ok with being sad. With giving myself permission to grieve I was able to unlock so many other things that were bottled up. It was like all of the ugliness of the year just melted away. This was a lesson that I spent 42 years trying to learn, how to allow myself to be human, and grieve.
So here I am, it is 2014, and I have been offered several wonderful opportunities. My personal, professional, and spiritual life is falling into place. For the first time ever, regardless of life’s circumstances, I feel like everything will be alright.
I wish the same for all of you…..