Sunday, October 16, 2016

So Long Aunt Helen

These are my Facebook posts from the last two weeks. 
Ten days ago:

My mother and I are preparing to do a very hard thing today.
We will be awaiting the arrival of her older sister, my Aunt Helen. She will arrive by ambulance and be transferred to a hospital bed in my mother's living room. Then we will wait for hospice to arrive and tell us what the next steps are.

Aunt Helen is 82. She took a nasty fall in the bathtub last week which led to several days in a chair where she was unable to get up or call for help. This breaks our hearts more than any words can say. On Thursday night she was taken by ambulance to the hospital where it was discovered that she has cancer in her liver, lungs, kidneys and bones. There are no available beds in hospice right now so she will stay with my mother until that changes. She is in good spirits and morphine is controlling her physical pain. She eats pudding for breakfast and ice cream for lunch because...in her words....WHY THE HELL NOT?

Yesterday I found myself alone with her and we chatted about regular stuff for awhile. The conversation went a little deeper and I was able to tell her how proud I was to have her as my Aunt. How much I love to tell people about my brave Aunt Helen who moved to New York City as a single woman in the 1950's. She has always been a role model for me. Some of my favorite childhood memories are the ones of visiting her in Manhattan. I was so in awe of her city life and I remember just standing at her apartment window on West 55th and counting taxi cabs as they hurried by. After a long day in the city we would come back to her place and drink ginger ale and eat pretzels before changing and going out to dinner. I felt so fancy staying someplace with a doorman but I must confess I was totally infatuated with the incinerator and loved to take the garbage 'out'. It doesn't take much to impress this country girl, huh? She taught me how to walk and talk and be a 'city girl'. Don't look down, don't go too slow, look strong and determined, NEVER act like you don't know where you are...just keep walking. Pretty good advice for life too now that I think about it. She always encouraged my dreams and sent me interior design articles and brochures from colleges in the city. I wanted to be just like her and move to the city after I graduated. I wanted to be an interior designer and go to school at FIT. I was accepted there and so excited about how my life might intertwine with Aunt Helen's in the big city but life had other plans for me but that's another story for another day. Aunt Helen is tough as nails and she tells it how it is whether we like it or not. She doesn't fool us though...under her tough exterior is a very tender heart who truly loves us all through her sometimes difficult and gruff ways. I told her that even as she faces her own death she is teaching me so much. We held hands and I said "I'm really going to miss you." She said she was really going to miss me too. Then we cried....just a little. I told her how much I admire her and what a brave adventure her life has been. She responded by saying that she was about to go to another world and have a brand new adventure. She is one of the most stoic people I know but she admitted that she really needed a good cry. This is one of my wishes for her now...that she allow herself to have a really good cry. She has earned it. This conversation was.....Tender. Raw. Vulnerable. Real. Surreal. Almost like watching a scene from a really good movie. Except it was our own beautiful and precious life.

Is this too much to share here? I don't think so. I decided that as a writer I want to share this story of how healing and love can shine through some of our hardest days. I heal and process through writing. That has always been my way and now is no different. I am deeply grateful for this chance to have a proper goodbye with my Aunt and tell her all those things that would have weighed so heavily on my heart if I had never been able to share them with her. We don't always get that chance. Maybe if you are reading this you might think of someone you love and just tell them whatever it is you need to tell them. 

Right now. Don't wait.

I also decided to share so that those of you who feel inclined can hold us in your thoughts and if you are the praying kind that would be good too. But first a word about prayer....PLEASE don't pray for healing....she is ready to transition from this world to the next. She is onto her to next brave adventure. Please pray for her dying to be peaceful, as pain free as possible and surrounded by those that love her. I believe in sharing our sadness and our times of loss because none of us can do this alone. This is holy ground where we grieve together and allow our heartache to be witnessed. Having her for an Aunt was like winning the Aunt lotto. Lucky me.
Thank you for 'listening'.
I love this photo of my mother and her siblings.
From left to right: The baby is my mom being held by her sister Nelda, brother Tom and their big sister Helen. 1943ish



Eight days ago:

Aunt Helen. Here she is....this is for all of you who have taken the time to comment or react to a post, called, sent a private message, texted or sent kind thoughts or prayers. We appreciate you and we have leaned on you more than you may realize.

She is declining more with each passing hour and we are thankful for these days we have spent telling stories, laughing and sharing our hearts. She is preparing for her final rest and we strive to make this transition as pain freeand as safe for her as possible. She is surrounded by people who love her. She is aware and grateful that we are there. She's not opening her eyes very often now but she hears every word we say and lets us know that by randomly shouting out answers to our questions or comments on things we are discussing. We can't help but laugh and be grateful that some parts of her are still so intact and reminding us of her fortitude and grace. I am so glad my sister is here now and I love overhearing them talk about their shared memories. We each have our own unique and special relationship with this force to be reckoned with otherwise known as our Aunt Helen.

These times are sad but sacred. We are ready to say our goodbyes and pray that her end is near. My mother let her know this morning that she can let go and we will be there to send her off.

A little story to go with the photo:
She wears the sun glasses to keep light from hurting her eyes and my mother gave her that black shawl the other day to keep her shoulders warm. When I saw the shawl combined with the glasses I had to take this photo because this is the very essence of Aunt Helen. She will go out as she lived....in style. As my soul sister Lisa told her.... 'Helen!!! You look like you just stepped off Park Avenue!!!!' She laughed and smiled at this comment and I believe she even sat up a bit taller. This is when I captured the picture.

The moment I saw her like this I was transported back in time to a day in Manhattan when she was holding my hand and hailing a taxi with her other hand. She was wearing a long coat with a wide belt tied off to one side and black leather boots. She had similar sunglasses on and I just remember looking up at her with my wide eyed little girl eyes and being in such awe of my fancy city Aunt. I asked her if she remembered and she smiled and said she certainly did. She remembered the boots, the coat and the day.

You can take Aunt Helen out of Manhattan but you'll never take the Manhattan out of her.



Two days ago:

Aunt Helen hailed her final taxi just before 2am this morning.

She was always one to take care of business and keep her affairs in order. They gave her 3 - 6 months to live on September 30. Instead she went from diagnosis to death in just two weeks. This is not surprising as she was a dot your i's and cross your t's kind of person. At her bedside in the hospital two weeks ago today my mother and I heard the details of her very advanced cancer. Aunt Helen looked at me and said "If you have anything to say Kimberly, say it now." She was honest, direct, abrupt and had no tolerance for drama. I aspire to be more like her. My final conversation with her was around noon yesterday when she asked "Why would someone have to die like this and could we just get the job done?" I took her hand and kissed her forehead and said "Let's do it today Aunt Helen" to which she quietly whispered okay. She wasn't afraid, just determined and an inspiration to all of us right up until the very end.

As long as I can remember Aunt Helen has always used the term 'So long' when saying goodbye to us in person or on the phone. I've always liked it and wondered about it's meaning. There are various theories on its exact origin but the one I like the most is that it comes from New York City where Irish, Italian, Jewish and Arab immigrants lived together in the 1800's. It is common for the Jewish people to greet and say goodbye to each other by saying Shalom and the Arabic version is Salaam. Over time this was adopted by the Irish and Italians and became Solong. This makes sense as our family originally came from Ireland into New York City.

I also discovered this from Walt Whitman which was his last poem in Leaves of Grass.

So Long

An unknown sphere, more real than I dream'd, more direct, darts awakening rays about me...So long!
Remember my words -- I may again return,
I love you -- I depart from materials;
I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead.

I find this poem to be a fitting tribute this morning.

The general meaning of Solong is:
'Farewell, until we meet again.'

In that spirit we say 'So Long Aunt Helen'

Helen Marie Lynch
May 2, 1934 - October 14, 2016




Wednesday, October 12, 2016

My Apologies

AN APOLOGY TO ALL THE WOMEN AND MEN STILL SUPPORTING AND DEFENDING DONALD TRUMP:
I'm so sorry you don't have better quality men in your lives.
This is NOT locker room talk. This is NOT 'boys being boys'. This is NOT how all men talk. I promise you this is true.
Young teen boys may try out this sort of thing but as they mature into manhood many men hold themselves to a much higher standard. They honor the women in their lives. They know how you treat one woman is how you treat all women. They know that young girl is somebody's daughter, that woman is somebody's mother or somebody's wife. They understand that how men treat the women in their family is a legacy that lives on and teaches all the young boys born into that family for generations to come.
I'm so very sorry you do not know these men and I'm terrified if you are raising your sons to think this is acceptable behavior.
If you are a man reading this and still supporting and/or defending Donald Trump then I sincerely apologize that you have not had better role models in your life. They are out there and I hope you search high and low for a mentor and get schooled in what it means to be a true gentlemen. Your sons and all other young men in your life are watching and your mothers/grandmothers/aunts/sisters/ daughters/granddaughters are either reaping the benefits of your honorable words and actions or paying the price for your lack of understanding of what it means to be a real man. This 'boys club' is not cool or funny or just the way that men are. Set a higher standard for yourself and live up to it. Be part of an elite club called GROWN ASS MEN.
One more thing...if you are a Christian who preaches family values I won't be able to trust your words anymore as this behavior does not support that belief.
I love you and I will not unfriend you on Facebook or stop speaking to you. I respect your choices but please promise me you'll give this some thought and deep reflection.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

My Grandmother


*Remember in that last post when I said I wasn't a poet? That I needed more words? Well, here come the words. That short poem about my grandmother just wasn't enough to say who she was and what she taught me in my early life. Some of my best childhood memories are the times I spent with her. I wrote this many years ago and decided it was worthy of some quick edits and then sharing with you. Fix a cup of coffee and take a walk back in time with me. I hope it stirs some good memories for you too.

Wanda Elizabeth Dickinson Lynch

She was born in 1906. That would make her 110 if she were still alive today. I like to imagine that she could be. I gave my oldest daughter the name Heidi Elizabeth to honor her. 

Life at my Grandmother's house was easy and peaceful. The first thing you did after opening the door into the kitchen was go straight to the fry cake jar. Fry cakes are donuts but better. What I wouldn't give for just one more of those delicious wonders. She always put extra cinnamon on mine. 

Grandma never wore pants. She had house dresses and good dresses. Good dresses were mostly for church or the occasional wedding or party. She never drove a car and did not own a TV until one of daughters bought her one in 1957. My mother tells me that before they had the TV they would go to a neighbor's house to watch the Arthur Godfrey show. Try to imagine neighbors sharing a TV today. If it was ok for my mom and her siblings to come up the hill to watch TV they would hang a sheet on the line. That was the green light to come on up. Isn't that the loveliest image in your mind? 

My Grandmother was part of the Ladies Aid (they made quilts I think), the Rebekkah Lodge (I have no idea what they did), she taught piano lessons out of her home, she was the choir director and the organ player at her church. She had a multitude of friends. So many, in fact that the State Police had to direct traffic at her funeral. 

Every Easter the men from the church would haul the church piano up onto the back of a pick up truck and drive it to the cemetery. We would be there before sunrise, waking and driving while it was still dark and then huddle up together in the cold morning air to watch the sun come up. My grandmother use to get right up on the back of that pickup, play the piano and sing "The Old Rugged Cross". I can still hear it now. What a voice she had. It was a voice for the opera and I imagine in a different time and place that she could have had some pretty big opportunities. I wonder if she ever wondered about that. My guess is no. She seemed to make the very most of the life that she had been given. You might say she bloomed where she was planted. As far as I could tell then, and now looking back, I would say she was one of the most content people I have ever known. 

Sometimes when I think of these memories my head spins at how different life is today. I can feel an ache and a longing for those sweet and simple days spent with my grandmother. Neighbors stopping by for a chat, clothes hanging on the line, eating Neopolitan ice cream, watching her can vegetables from the garden, resting on the couch with a cool washcloth on our foreheads on hot summer days. 

When I was little my Grandmother would sometimes reach into her pocketbook, take out her change purse and give a dime each to my cousin and I. This was a lot of money for her to part with. She never had much and yet she seemed like one of the richest people in the world. She had a warm and cozy home, good food, wonderful friends, God, flowers growing all around her house, books to read, songs to sing, a piano to play and a grateful heart. We would walk with our shiny dimes down to the corner store, the floors were wooden and the storekeeper knew us by name. There was a glass front case with penny candy and a small chest freezer with popsicles and fudgesicles. A dime allowed us to get a frozen treat and FIVE different pieces of candy. We were so happy walking back to our Grandma's house waving to the neighbors as we went. Hello Myrtle. Hello Marilyn. Hello Virginia. So content without a care in the world. 

I use to sit for hours and play canasta with my Grandmother. This game could go on for days and it often did. We would set the game up on the dining room table and then eat in different places. "Where would you like to eat today dear?"
On the TV trays, on the front porch, the side porch or the little kitchen table? I loved all of these choices and each spot had it's own special magic. I took these decisions very seriously. The side porch was often where we would eat our lunch, the front porch was for afternoon snack and a rest. Grandma would say "come on dear, let's sit a spell." So we did. We smelled the peonies that lined the front walk, we watched the neighbor Virginia work in her garden, the neighbor boys being boys and the occasional car go by. We were in no hurry to get anywhere, there was nowhere to go. We were present to the moment and we didn't have to meditate or read a book to know how to do this. We would shuck peas and drink lemonade. The TV was not on and we didn't have the radio on either. We just listened to the sounds of life. Sometimes for a treat we would use the TV trays to eat our dinner and watch TV. Trapper John, MD was a big favorite. We never wondered if this was bad for us or if we weren't connecting as a family. We just thought it was fun. 

Popcorn was the standard evening snack. If I was there she would holler from the kitchen "dear, I will put butter on it since you are here, I normally don't". I always had my doubts about this and still do. I am pretty sure melted butter on the popcorn was a regular thing at Wanda's even if she was all alone. We would always put the leftover popcorn in the gas oven and the pilot light kept it fresh for the next day's snack. After playing cards or watching a little TV we would go to bed. She always prayed on her knees. She had two twin beds in her room and I would kneel with her next to her bed. She prayed aloud with just a little light coming from the bedside. Her version of a night light was a hankie over a lamp. A fire hazard I suppose but we never thought about that. The soft glow that was cast around the room from whatever color hankie she would choose was so beautiful to me. I can see that room in my mind instantly and just the memory of it comforts me. Chenille bedspread, windows that looked onto the front porch, a bible and a jewelry box on the dresser. Simple, organized, cozy and most importantly, safe.

 She never called pajamas by that name, they were night clothes. She wore an apron as part of her outfit and only removed it if we went somewhere. Sometimes she even forgot and would wear it to the store under her coat. Going somewhere meant getting a ride because my Grandmother lived almost twenty years beyond her husband and she still managed to have a beautiful and full life without driving or owning a car. Her common phrase for children was "Bless their heart." I didn't think anyone said that but my grandmother until I spent a year living in the South. Even though that phrase can be used sarcastically I think it is a pretty good idea to go around blessing hearts. 

The last time I spent the night with my grandmother was about eight weeks before she died. It was 1986. I was a junior in high school. It was January and I just felt like having a good old-fashioned sleepover with my grandmother even though I had my own car, a job, a boyfriend and lots of social commitments. I called her and asked if I could visit. She said "come on over, dear, I'll be here". That was the last time I would ever hear those words. We had fry cakes and played canasta. I drove her to the store myself. We had dinner on TV trays. We watched a little TV and popped some corn. She never said "do you want some popcorn", she would just get up from her rocking chair and say "I think it is time to pop some corn." And of course, we had butter on it. We drank Faygo soda and ate the popcorn out of the blue melmac bowls one last time. When it was time to put on our nightclothes and pray, she said "come sit beside me on the bed dear, my knees are aching me tonight." This was the first time I ever saw her not pray on her knees at bedtime. So we sat side by side on her chenille bedspread with our handkerchief nightlight. And we prayed. The next morning came and we got ready for church. She let me wear a special pair of earrings from her jewelry box and she told me to keep them. She had never done this before out of the countless times I had sorted her jewelry box and played dress up with my cousin. I was happy she gave them to me but something inside me knew. I drove her to church where we sang and prayed some more. We came back to her house, had a snack and then it was time for me to go. We hugged goodbye and I told her that I loved her. She said, "I love you too dear." A month later she was diagnosed with cancer and the month after that she died. 

I still miss her like crazy sometimes. There are moments I smell her or the smell of her home and I wonder if I am being paid a little visit. Her apron hangs on a hook in my kitchen. She missed my graduation from high school and college, my wedding, my children, my entire adult life. She would have added such richness to the lives of my children. They don't even know what they have missed. I hope somehow that there is at least a small part of me that reflects her and they can feel the strength and grace and wisdom of a woman they never knew. 

Many years ago while looking out the screen door at my family celebrating my mother's birthday my Aunt took me aside. She said she had never seen this before but she had to do a double take when looking at me. She saw me standing at the door and for a moment she saw her mother. She looked again and still she saw it. She came inside to take a closer look and once more she saw the face of her mother. 

And so it goes.




Tuesday, March 1, 2016

I'm NOT a Poet, but.....

I am not a poet but I sure do admire the ability to use less words yet still communicate so much. Me? I need more words. That's just how it is. However, I do believe in pushing myself to try new things and discovering my growth edges in the process. I often choose familiar and safe because growing is hard. I might embarrass myself. Someone might laugh at me. I might fail. In the end I want to choose growth as much as I can and move past my self imposed limits about what I can do. I want to live fully and try new things and know that I said YES to new and uncomfortable things both big and small. I want to be at the end of my life knowing that I tasted as much of this life as I possibly could. So here is just a teeny, tiny way that I pushed myself to try writing a poem. Several years ago I took part in a creativity project to help us daily to create something and challenge our own ideas of what we are capable of. Of course when I saw that one of the days was writing a poem I wanted to skip that part. 
Why? 
Because. 
I am not a poet. 
I can't do it. 
I don't know how. 
I will look stupid. 
People will laugh. 
Blah. Blah. Blah. 
I think I have reached a place of just being bored with my fear and with my own excuses for not being all that I can be. I am more fearful now of reaching the end of my life not having done all that I wanted to do. That's what will look really stupid.
Do you feel like that too? 
Over the weekend I found the poem I had written in the creativity project. I wrote it about my grandmother who has been gone 30 years and who I loved so very much. Instead of thinking...'this is stupid' or 'I'm not a poet'....I just thought what a very honest and sweet tribute to my grandmother. I hope you feel inspired to push past your safety zone today too. You really have nothing to lose. We all have a one way ticket on this earth and a day that will be our last day. Let's not waste these precious days that we do have. I don't believe in being fearless. I believe in being scared to fucking death and doing it anyway. Take one tiny step towards that thing you think you can't do. 

It's one thing for me to write a poem, it's another thing completely to share it with all of you. Here I go....

Daisy

We ate fried cakes in the kitchen
She put extra cinnamon on mine
We shucked peas on the front porch
Her in her house dress and apron
Me still in my nightie
She swept the floor
Hung clothes on the pulley line
And played hymns on the piano
We knelt to pray each night
The smell of peonies wafting thru the window
Popcorn parties on TV trays
Watching Trapper John MD
Her name was Wanda
Some called her Daisy
We played canasta games that lasted three days
We ate fried chicken and radishes
When she lay dying
She wanted root beer
And I brought it to her

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Please Don't Give Tissues to a Crying Person

 If you are grieving or someone you love is experiencing grief, please do not underestimate the power of your presence. I often quote Iyanla Vanzant who says: "A wound needs a witness." Some of my most healing moments have come when I had a loving and compassionate witness for my tears. People who did not try to fix me but simply let me get it out. Sadness can be uncomfortable for many and their urge is to cheer the sad person up. What sadness really needs is validation and a safe outlet. Tears need to flow. I shudder when I hear parents say: "Stop your crying. There is no reason to be crying right now." If your child is crying they are crying for a reason that is very, very real for them in their emotional world. This is true for all of us. There is always a reason for our tears. We don't need to fix it with the mind or the intellect. No matter their age, just let a crying person cry. 

Many years ago I learned the theory behind not offering tissues to a crying person and that was reinforced in my grief training. It is important that I make tissues available for clients but I never offer them when they are crying. 

Here's why:

Tears serve a holy purpose and are a part of our grand design as humans. When scientists have studied tears they have found that tears of sadness have a different chemical makeup than tears of joy. When someone is ugly crying they are in a process. It is healthy. It is good. Although it can seem like a kind gesture to offer a tissue it actually stops the grieving person's process. You are essentially saying, "mop up your tears" or "stop crying". They feel obligated to take the tissue and start wiping away their tears. This stops the release of the pain they were in the middle of purging. We have all done this and it has been done to us. Please don't feel bad about that. When we know better we do better. It is a cultural norm to hand a tissue to a crying person.   

What's often true is that huge displays of grief can cause discomfort for those nearby. It makes us feel helpless. We want to fix it and it can also trigger our own grief. A person knows when they need a tissue and they will reach for one. Let them cry and snot into their sleeve and fall on their knees if that's what they need to do. Just practice being a safe container for another human to let it all out. When we get scared off by another's pain it only makes them feel more alone. There was a time when I thought I might, but as far as I know nobody has actually ever cried their eyes out. 

Our tears are liquid grief and we need to treat them as such. Whenever you are crying or witnessing someone who is crying, you are standing on sacred ground. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Thank you

Thank you.

A million times, thank you.

Releasing anything into the world can be scary. 
The vulnerability required is daunting.
But then....once you do it, it really isn't that hard.
It is actually harder to expend energy hiding parts of our real selves. 
The phone calls, private messages and texts that I received in the past two days since sharing my blog in a more public way has been the best kind of overwhelming. I actually had a joy headache Monday night from all of the love, encouragement and the brave people sharing their stories with me. What an honor. I never could have imagined the kind of response that I would receive. I love connecting with all of you so please feel free to reach out to me anytime. 

 I named my blog Sparkle and Grit because I know that you can't have one without the other. My gritty times have taught me so much and made me a better person. They have given me an even greater appreciation for all that is good in this life. My broken heart has opened me up to even greater levels of love and compassion for myself and others. The depths of my despair have allowed me to feel an even greater joy. We cannot escape grief and loss, they will be a part of each of our lives at many points. We can only let them do their work inside of us. Allow the pain. Give it airtime. Find your safe people. Cry. Know that every single one of your feelings matter. There are specific tools to help you through the pain attached to a loss of any kind and I will write more in depth about that in a later blog.

But for today... I will keep it short and sweet and filled with overflowing gratitude for all of you and for this amazing, sparkly and gritty life. I'm glad we're in this thing together.


Thank you again from the depths of my heart.



Saturday, February 20, 2016

Down to My Last Two Percent

Everyone who terrifies you is sixty-five percent water.
And everyone you love is made of stardust 
and I know sometimes you cannot even breathe deeply,
 and the night sky is no home, 
and you have cried yourself to sleep enough times that
 you are down to your last two percent, 
but nothing is infinite, 
not even the loss. 
You are made of the sea and the stars, 
and one day you are going 
to find yourself again.
                                         - Finn Butler

If I could tell you just one thing today, it would be this:
If you are struggling and feeling lost,
you will find yourself again.
You may not feel that at all.
Your circumstances may not indicate that is even possible.
The landscape of your life may feel like foreign soil.
I know this place very well.
I spent so much time last year wondering how I would ever recover from my losses. It had been a series of blows over several years. I wasn't sure who I was anymore. I wasn't suicidal but I did lay in bed at night and think that death would be a welcomed relief. I would look at my precious sleeping daughter. I would think about the life she would have if I died and that gave me a teeny, tiny glimmer of hope and a desire to keep going. I had a baby idea that maybe I would eventually find my way out of the darkness.
I clung to that idea.
I tried to believe what my friends were saying.
I relied on their love and support as if my life depended on it.
Because it did.

I lived out of a suitcase for 11 months.
For the sake of a good story, let's just round that up to a year. 

Several trusted friends kept telling me how brave I was but I can assure you that I did not feel brave in any way. I felt completely and utterly broken. I would say, "Maybe one day I will look back and see that I was brave but right now I don't even know who I am." I have never cried so many tears in my life. I thought  maybe they were going to name a new river after me. I had never felt so scared and so vulnerable. 

Nothing looked the same.
Everything that I thought made me...me, was gone.
The people, places and things that were part of my identity,
 the very fiber of my being.....gone.
I went from living in a town with less than 1000 people and the nearest city having a population of 30,000 to living in a  city of more than half a million. I went from living on a dirt road to dealing with multiple interstates to go anywhere. I cried when I realized I didn't even know where the grocery store was. I had to use a GPS to find  food. I had no idea where I was, literally and figuratively. I went from a 3000 square foot dream house to all of my belongings fitting in a  10x12 storage unit. I had a 7 year old daughter, $1400, a suitcase full of clothes, a box of books, my car and wonderful friends who so lovingly said...... 
"come stay with me for awhile."

I believe that life will show you on the outside what needs changing. When the players in your game of life stop playing fair or being kind, it isn't about them. It is about you and what you need to change. It can be very hard to look inside and see what's wrong, that is why we often need an outside circumstance to show us exactly what we need to see. And trust me...it will show itself multiple times in different ways. You have many chances to get the lesson. Eventually it will be too painful to ignore. I will tell you that story another day but trust me...there was a defining moment where I knew my life was going to change in a huge way. It took a good long while before I was actually putting my things into storage and driving away from the life that I had known. It was not an an easy decision and it was not an overnight decision. It was a full year of soul searching. Including four months where I only got out of bed to take my daughter to school. For real. 

Somebody recently told me that I was a runner. 
In their opinion I had run away from my problems creating even more problems for myself and others. I entertained this idea for less than 60 seconds. Someone who stays in a marriage for 25 years is not a runner. Someone who lives 5 miles from their hometown is not a runner. Someone who has emotionally and physically cared for their aging father is not a runner. Someone who has raised 4 children as a stay at home mother is not a runner. I felt the urge to say all of these things in order to defend myself and that probably lasted less than 60 seconds too. I felt attacked and of course my initial reaction was to defend myself. But why? What good would that do? I have become very guarded about how I choose to spend my precious energy. Defending myself is no longer important to me. I am more than happy to carry on with MY life and let you think whatever you want to think. 
In fact, what you think is really none of my business. I have a million better things to do than convince anyone of anything.

Did it matter what this person thought about MY life?
And what if I was a runner?
So what.
What I do know as my deepest truth is the only running 
I was doing was running towards myself. 

For the very first time in my life.

I knew my children were watching me and that they might someday need to search back in their memory bank for what to do when it came time to protect the women and children. Who was going to be their example if it wasn't me?

The funny part is that I have less problems now. 
I have less sadness and way more joy. WAY more.
I have more peace and contentment than I have ever known.
I have more self-respect, more self-love.
I have more compassion for myself and everyone else.
 I did not in any way relate to what this person was saying. 
It was his reality, NOT mine.

*I feel it is important to mention here that you may be wondering who this person is, and although I want to keep that private, I will say that it is NOT the father of my children. I have a fierce desire to protect him and all that we have shared over our many years together.*

I have gotten more and more comfortable over the past year with being misunderstood. I am confident that I understand my life better than anyone else does. I have learned to trust both my feelings and my desires. I have learned that my gut feeling is the most reliable indicator I have of what is true for ME. I have learned that some of the voices in my 
head are not actually mine. Imagine that.

I KNOW that I am not a runner. 
I KNOW that I gave all that I had to give.
And then some.
And I also KNOW that when it was time to leave the party I stayed even longer just to be sure. I KNOW that my desire for the dream of my life to work out as my younger self had planned and envisioned was greater than my ability to see 
what the truth actually was. I KNOW that circumstances beyond my control forced me to make an impossible decision. I KNOW that nobody but me knows the layers and layers of heartbreak and decision making that went into what they were so easily judging as running. It was not a decision that was made lightly and it was many years in the making.  

I got down to my last two percent.
I had nothing left to give.
Nothing. 
Remember calling 'Uncle' when we were kids? 
If we were arm wrestling or some other physical challenge and we were about to give up we would call Uncle. 
Meaning: I give up. 
I can't do it anymore. 
I have no more strength left in me. Uncle.
So, no.
 I did not run. 
I called Uncle. 
I finally found the courage to act on the truth.
Life created a situation that forced me into seeing what I had not wanted to see. I had known certain things to be true and secretly knew that if push ever came to shove it would be impossible to deny what the truth was. And then of course, because life is like that....push DID come to shove.
  
The status quo was no longer acceptable. 
If it wasn't going to change then I had to go. 
I know this caused confusion and hurt for others. 
I know judging me became an easy thing to do.
People that I wanted to be there for me virtually disappeared.
I felt despair, confusion, anger, sadness and loneliness.

Then, slowly but surely I started to feel joy again. 
I started to imagine new possibilities for my future.
I started to understand that peoples judgement of 
me was not about me. It was about them.
Most importantly, I stopped judging myself.
I surrounded myself with people who loved me without agenda. I found my safe place.
People who loved the authentic Kimberly,
 not just the one that worked for them. 
I began to trust the trajectory of my own life.
Somehow, all that had seemed so wrong 
started to seem all right. My tiny, baby idea that 
I would make it through started to grow.

I marked my progress by noticing that I was crying less each day. Then I noticed I would go a whole afternoon or evening without crying. Many months passed. Seasons changed.
Then it happened. 
I went an entire day with no tears. Then several days and then an entire week. Please don't get me wrong...I think crying is a miracle and I cannot imagine what the state of my physical, mental or spiritual health would be right now if I had not let the river flow through me.

 I don't feel alone or scared now.
My vulnerability became my strength.
I don't cry everyday anymore. 
I don't think death would be a relief. 
Instead of calling 'Uncle' I am calling:
 "Olly, Olly Oxen Free."
Do you remember that too? 
It is what we would call in a game of hide and seek, kick the can or capture the flag when something had changed in the game and we could come out into the open without
 fear of losing the game.

Olly, Olly Oxen Free.

I am out in the open.
I am not afraid of losing the game.
I know that I can't lose.
I know that there are no mistakes.
Only lessons.
I am not curled up in the fetal position licking my wounds 
or reiterating my sad story to anyone who will listen.
It's a Saturday morning, the sun is shining, the icicles are melting, I can smell the coffee brewing, the birds are singing and while I may not have totally found myself yet,
 I am certainly on my way.
And you know what else?
I'm feeling pretty damn brave.



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