grief, holidays, life, spirituality, TBTH, widow

the longest night

 

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“Yes, there are times when being present feels out of reach or too much to bear. There are times when false refuges can relieve stress, give us a breather, help lift our mood. But when we’re not connected to the clarity and kindness of presence, we’re all too likely to fall into more misunderstanding, more conflict, and more distance from others and our own heart.” ~ True Refuge

December 20 and 21 mark the Winter Solstice this year. Well, every year, actually.

The shortest day and longest night of the year

Many Christian Churches hold a service of grief and remembrance on this  night. They are called, alternately, Longest Night Services or Blue Christmas Services.

I do not attend church regularly but have attended one of these services, the year after Tom died. It was moving and hard, but I appreciated the fact that grief was acknowledged, and clearly I wasn’t the only person in pain that Christmas.  I was constantly looking for that connection with others as miserable as I was, and this was a good and safe place to start.  I haven’t attended a service since then, but the other day I happened to be at the church that Tom and I attended for years and I found myself asking if they were having a service. They were, this Sunday night.

I feel like I want to go; I’m not sure why this year. I think it may have something to do with the whole TBTH idea….because, as hard as I try, I have to acknowledge that I do get sad, I do feel grief, and since I no longer drink those feelings away, or shunt them to the side, the idea of acknowledging them in a safe environment with others seems enticing.

I picture myself in the service, in the same church where we got married, where he sang in the choir for years, where his memorial service took place. The place is  haunted for me, and forever will be, and I wonder again why I want to go.

The true work of TBTH is not to forget, or act as if nothing has happened. It is to find more and more ways to coexist with the dichotomy of the holiday season, one of joy and gifts and the senses and yet one where my heart is full of sorrow, closed. How do I open it this time, how do I allow the joy of the season to re-fill me? I’m actually doing it, I am having a very nice holiday season, but I am working at it.

The idea of attending a Longest Night service, of being present in my grief , of allowing that which will never go away to just be….it seems necessary to me, as necessary as the family coming over Xmas Eve, as the parties and the presents and the joy.

I wrote to my nephew the other day that I hoped his dad (Tom’s brother) could start to see his way to being grateful for what we had vs. so destroyed by what we don’t have. That shift is happening for me, and it is profound. I have invited that shift in and am so glad I did. But I also have to acknowledge the pain it took to get here and the people it took to show me the love that I want to reflect back into the world. The ability to be present and openhearted in both sorrow and gladness, in memory and hope does not come easily, but it does come.

I  think I will be attending that service on the 21st. I just got invited to a party the same night…what to do? Maybe a little party and the service, I haven’t decided yet. I know that some of you  will read this and identify, and so I wanted to write about this service. Wherever you are, in a service or not, I’d like to remind you  to honor your grief, make space for and allow it, even as you enjoy this merry season. The Solstice, the Longest Night, is symbolic of that grief and, as  such, a perfect night to indulge in, or ritualize your feelings.

Grief has a place in our lives. The people we grieve WERE, and ARE. But in learning to find the joy again, I believe we need to acknowledge and love the grief. I know, for me, it is a necessary step in my TBTH journey.

I’ll let you know how it was if I go. If anyone else attends  a service (they are all over the country, I checked) please let me know how it was for you.

 

and speaking of Blue Christmas…

 

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free, just for fun, life, meditation, open, practice, word of the year

Word Of The Year

Once again, it’s (almost!) that time of year.

I was telling someone about the idea of Word Of The Year and thought I might jump on here and issue a reminder to those of you who join me and to tell of the genesis for those of you who may not know about this.

In late 2010 I read a blog by someone (and it kills me that I have no recollection of who it was…of course, I was still drinking then, so it’s not a huge surprise!) who talked about how useless resolutions were for her and how she had, for years, chosen a single word as her, what? inspiration, focus, meditation? for the year. I really don’t remember much except “resolutions are useless” and “a word”. I certainly knew resolutions were useless by then, but the idea of a word for the year stuck. It intrigued me and I thought I’d maybe give it a spin.

Well, I thought and thought about my word. I thought a surprising amount about it because, as I stated above, I was still drinking. However, I read about the word after my horrendous Thanksgiving Day bottom and thus I had already set in motion whatever was set in motion that day.

I finally decided on the word YES! It was a big word, a HUGE word, but I felt so sad and desperate and I needed a big word, a big challenge, a big change.

So I chose YES and it chose me. I decided to say yes to everything, no matter how afraid I was, and I was scared of everything. By that point I barely left the house, so this was a big deal. In January I was asked about training to be a leader for the grief groups and I said YES. I just did it. And the year continued like that. I got sober, found work I loved to do and just changed so much.

The second year I chose ENOUGH. I had this notion that it was about being enough, good enough, smart enough, whatever enough. The interesting thing about the word of the year though is that, while we may have an idea in our heads about what the words mean, often times the words work us differently. The word enough came to be more about ENOUGH! I’ve had it vs. I am enough. It was a good lesson for me in allowing the word to work me, and it does. Choosing a word is a lot about trusting the process and allowing. It’s not for the faint-of-heart.

Year 3 I chose OPEN and, wow. It was an amazing year in terms of being open to all sorts of new thought. I went to yoga for the first time, and although it wasn’t until the end of the year I actually established a practice, the genesis was in the word. I also sold my house, my son moved out in his own,I moved to an apartment and changed so much about my life. I found the beginnings of spirituality, something I had been so closed off to for so long.  I started a daily gratitude practice and, um, gratitude? I had to be very open to that!  OPEN was  great word for me.

Last year I chose the word FREE. When I sat down to start this I thought I wouldn’t have much to say about that word, it seemed kind of a bust. But as I am writing I see that the start of that word working me was in September 2013 when I moved into my apartment, and that FREE was  perfect word for my first full year out on my own again. Unfettered, not tied down to anyone or anything.  No son, no dog….just me. Free to do all the yoga I wanted, to move into meditation, to say more yeses than ever because I was free to. I see now how that word was working me again, vs my working it.

Another part, for me, of the whole word of the year idea is that I don’t let go of the words.They stay with me, and I keep working with them. Just as I sat down tonite and suddenly saw how FREE I was….am this year, there are still a lot of OPEN and ENOUGH moments that pop in, as well as my alpha word YES, which is something I attempt to allow to inform everything I do.

I believe I have my word for 2015, but  I am hesitant. Honestly, it’s a big word and it scares me. Writing this has helped though, because I reminded myself that I don’t manipulate the word, it works me, and while I have some ideas of how to practice the word, ultimately I don’t have full control, and the things I am scared of are fantasies in my head, if that makes sense.

Anyway, I’m still assessing and will announce it after the New Year. Bu I wanted to put out this reminder and explanation. Reminding those of you who have been joining me to get thinking, and  inviting others to join in if  the practice resonants with you..  I dedicate a post to my word, as do many of you. I am looking forward to reading them all in the New Year.

And BTW….don’t worry about January 1st. That’s just any other day, right?  Whenever you come up with a word is good. No resolutions, no expectations.

Just hold on to your hats because it can be a wild and wonderful ride!

 

 

 

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gratitude, holidays, just for fun, music, sobriety, TBTH, tom, yoga

TBTH In Full Swing

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My sweet little tree.

All the lights on Thursday night. Friday my plan was to decorate, add all of my special ornaments. They are all laid out, ready to go.

SO…I went to yoga and  worked little bit there, came home, ate lunch checked emails and FB (as you do) and then plugged in the tree to get started.

 

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How is it that you can have a fully lit tree one night and a much less than fully lit one the next?

AARRGGHHHHH!

That’s it. That was the extent of my hissy fit. Because it’s not a problem when there is Target, right?

 

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And it’s now Sunday night and voila!

All the ornaments are still laid out and I will decorate tomorrow.

I’m just so grateful for the attitude adjustment.The changes show up  in such little ways that I miss them if I am not noticing, paying close attention.  And I am working really hard on noticing and  being aware of every positive change, attitudinal, psychological, physical…what-ever-ical.

There have been a lot lately, mostly in attitude. I am fully into TBTH mode and it’s going well. A couple hiccups, but when they happen I stop, am grateful for whatever it was that got me, and move on. I have quite a few things planned, but I also realized I need plenty of time for myself, not to wallow but to decompress, and I’m taking it.

This weekend was “office party” weekend, you know, for all those jobs I do for free.  Saturday night was the annual Holiday party at my yoga place.  I showed up and had a really good time. I knew just about everyone, maybe just by sight, but I felt like I really was part of a community. I remember last year. I had just joined the studio and got the invite. I was sitting in my apartment wrestling with myself….”should I go? but I don’t know anyone. I could meet people though…. “, no surprise that I didn’t go. I’m so glad that there was no question this year, I belong, I am going. I ate and laughed and got a little sarcastic with some funny people (but in a good way!). Best of all I split before I got roped into helping clean up . Admittedly I did get roped into setting up, so my duty was done.

The Our House volunteer luncheon was this after noon.  I’ve attended it every year, but I know so many more people now and each year it gets incrementally more fun to go. I spent quiet a while talking yoga with the development director there. I had the idea that yoga would be a great addition to the annual Camp Erin that they run for kids and teens, and I expressed it to her. Who knows what may come of that?  I’m noticing my willingness to attend these types of events and participate fully as positive change.

I’m noticing everything as positive change, to be frank. I’m not going backwards much, it’s just not happening. Forward motion is key and I’m grateful for all that I am doing.

I got an invite to a Xmas Eve open house that I responded to in the affirmative. I know the hosts well, but will know very few other people. It will be good, it will be an adventure. I am capable of chatting with people I don’t know and having a good time in social situations where before I would have had to front load, immediately grab a drink when I got there and then I would spend the evening NOT getting too drunk so I could safely drive home and then drink.

MY GOD! I am so happy those days are over! Not even on the radar. I just cannot find one positive reason for drinking anymore, and I continue to make that work for me every day.

I guess this was just a check in post, nothing much to say. I wanted to show you my tree, and I also want to post a xmas song for you. This was from a Xmas concert in 1999. Words written to a traditional German carol by my talented friend Steve, and performed by an quartet of lovely singers, including my sweet husband. Since it is a funny song, and Tom would do anything for a laugh, you can tell who he is pretty quickly: he comes in as second tenor, and then any of the most dramatic, silly song-stylings are him.

Enjoy!

 

 

(hint…there may be a few more of these sprinkled in the next few weeks….)

 

 

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free, holidays, life, meditation, music, sobriety, TBTH, writing

Ah….Ummm…..You See…… NO plans

MAN!

I wish I could take back my post from yesterday but I can’t, so….

The last few  days I have been manically preparing for this Xmas song extravaganza. Downloading songs and you tube videos, planning, plotting, figuring out the order of the songs. It has been time consuming and mentally consuming, obsessive, really.

Today I worked all day for someone else at the yoga studio and that occupied my mind in a different way, but even then, during classes “what song for the 1st? what about the 14th? Where will I put THIS song”…OY!

It started bothering me a little, well, maybe more than a little, this  afternoon between shifts (I worked two…8:30-2 and then back at 5-7:15). When I got home I made some food and sat right back down at the computer, planning, plotting, worrying, stressing and feeling like I had been here before. And the thing is, I HAVE been here before. My process was very much like the process we had when we made our Xmas gift CD’s.

When I went back to work I was stressed. I knew that once I shut down the studio I could go into my 11th Step Yoga class, which is held there Sunday nights. I could NOT wait, and when I got in there it all came up. ALL  the feelings, they bombarded me. By the time I got to Sevasana I was ready to allow the truth to fill me. The knowledge that a song a day, here or on FB, is not a good idea. Not this year, not yet. Maybe not EVER.

I think I wanted to prove to myself I could do it, turn the tradition on it’s head, make it something else. But it’s not. I want to TBTH, but not at my own expense. I don’t NEED to prove anything to myself…whatever for? Being so hell bent on NOT being depressed or retreating makes me want to go right into that hole. Makes me want to say “oh fuck it, things don’t change” and the FACT is that things DO change. Things are so much better it’s almost unbelievable to me.

But I walk a thin line sometimes, and that’s ok. I need to not over-extend myself, I need to not “prove” anything to myself or anyone else.

I’m not happy backing out of the…Fuck that! I AM happy backing out. I feel like a weight has been lifted, I feel great.

I just came off writing post a day a every day in November. I am tired. I don’t want or need another challenge.

I need to let it be, see where I go, allow myself to let go of expectations for myself and just be. That’s what yoga has been about, and meditation…letting go of the shoulds and have-tos, setting my priorities, being in the now. I need to concentrate on that this Holiday Season. THAT is going to make this season bright for me, THAT is going to allow me to TBTH…at least to the extent it is possible this year. I need to just BE….so far that has been working out really well. I have trusted myself and I am going to continue to do so.

So, no song a day. I’m sure there will be songs posted, or poems, or….maybe not.

No plans, especially any that bring me to a place of feeling depressed, of missing. I know the feelings will come, that’s ok. I don’t have to call them to me. I had been feeling great and then I wasn’t.

One day at a time, right? I’m back to taking this one day at a time.

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Facebook, gratitude, holidays, just for fun, life, music, stories, TBTH, tom, xmas countdown

November 30! Finally!

AH!

Finally, you no longer have to see a post a day from me! And I don’t have to struggle with writing one, although I actually enjoyed the process. But, DONE!

Happy? Grateful?

Delusional? (Uh-Oh)

I had an idea a few weeks ago to resurrect an old Christmas tradition.  My dead husband was insane for Xmas music (yes, and musicals..what a nerd!) He had so many CD’s it was astounding. Some wonderful, many truly awful (and I’d be hard pressed to say which he enjoyed more!)  In 1999 Tom and I started making  our own Xmas CD’s out of the millions of songs he had collected. Well, HE actually made it. I was “Consulting Producer” and as such had very little power over the finished product.  He picked a theme and we worked to find songs that fit in each years theme. Wonder Boy drew a picture for the cover, and Tom would even write liner notes for all the songs. It truly was a labor of love, and so much fun to do. Every year we gave them as gifts to all of our friends. This tradition ended with Christmas 2005, Tom was dead in January 2006.  However, I made one final CD the year he died, because we had a tradition of including one song on each CD that one of our friends sang. Seriously, we were able to do that, talented friends, lucky us.  For the Xmas 2006 CD I wanted to include some of him singing, and was able to put in 3 tracks.

It’s funny…each year I have to steel myself for the first time I play the CD, but then I just can’t get enough of it. I am cognizant of how very lucky I am to have his singing so available to me.  I can HEAR him! Grateful.  Anyway, the theme that year  seemed to be How Very Sad we were, but it still turned out well and I enjoyed (I’m not sure that’s the right word) making it.

SO,  this year, TBTH,  seemed a perfect time to do it again! I started looking through old music and thinking about a theme and asking what people’s favorite songs were and….

Well, I realized pretty quickly I wasn’t going to be able to do it. Maybe because it is so inextricably linked with my pre-life, you know? I can Take Back The Holidays , but I don’t think I get to take back that tradition. At least this year. And you know what, that’s ok. I’m ok with that.

HOWEVER…FB wasn’t around when Tom was alive (good thing, actually…he would have been the KING of it!). so I decided  that what would be doable  (and entertaining, perhaps just to me) would be to post a different Xmas song on FB every day leading up to Xmas. Maybe a less well known version of a classic song, sometimes a classic that I don’t want to mess with, maybe something silly and absurd for a laugh. I liked the idea when I thought of it and still do! So  I am inviting you all to meet me on FB for your daily Xmas…….

Uh-oh again.  Hmmm…. I’m an anonymous blogger.  No link to FB.

So, for MY amusement and  (hopefully) yours, if you enjoy the Xmas musical merriment, I will be posting a song a day here, just as I am doing on FB.

Frankly, as hard as it was to post each day, it kept my mind occupied and I liked it. So another 25 days won’t hurt. Well, it won’t hurt ME, but I’m doing it for my TBTH rehabilitation, and will be so happy if some of you enjoy it too.

Beginning tomorrow, a song a day to keep Christmas away..or, wait, to bring the Winter Solstice near, um,  for Channukah joy, or Kwanzaa…erg…..whtever. Enjoy as you will (or won’t). Think of this as your Advent calendar. No chocolate treat or toy, (or alcoholic beverage, man! Primrose wrote about that!) but a musical treat each day. I thought I might be limited by versions I could pull off you tube, however, I just figured out how to make sound cloud work (I know, everyone else has done it for years!), so if I can’t find a version I love on you tube, I can always pull one from my old CD’s.

And,as this is my blog, there may or may  not be a story attached with the song. We’ll see. There might also be two versions of the same song. I can do anything I want, I am heady with power!!

There WILL be a special surprise on Christmas Day however, an that’s a promise.

It’s a Countdown to Christmas! Join me…..

(What am I, the Hallmark Channel?)

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Ruminations

*sigh*

It’s late, I’m tired and I am so glad that November is almost over (although….well, that’s for another day).

I don’t have a post for tomorrow yet. This day got WAY away from me. It was all good in various ways, but I had no time to write.(I write these the day before publishing, so this is late Friday night)

SO, just for the sake of posting I am going to share a poem I have been ruminating on.

(I just made myself laugh by using the word ruminating, since the poem is by Rumi…get it? See what I did there? I will title this post that…ah, clever, clever me!)

ANYWAY...I have been thinking and writing and googling and talking and just obsessing about the big questions in this poem:

“What in your life is calling you,
when all the noise is silenced,
the meetings adjourned,
the lists laid aside,
and the wild Iris blooms
by itself
in the dark forest….
what still pulls on your soul?”

~ Rumi

I have written posts about it, but I have a ton of posts that never get published because they are not for publishing….they are for me. I use this as a journal as well as a blog.

I have published around the issues in this poem though. There are big questions in it and I am, and need to be , asking myself these questions.

What in my life IS calling me? What DOES still pull on my soul?

I have a number of answers, and I am grateful for that. Those answers speak to the fact that my life is full, that it has meaning and that I make a difference….all things I have certainly questioned over the years.

But life’s practicalities continue and I need to, what? Get crackin’ on them?

Yeah. I need to get crackin’.

Rumi writes beautifully of the ideas and questions, basic and true, that I am dwelling (obsessing?) on in my head.

I offer the poem to you as a jumping off place for your own “ruminations” (hah!), your own inner work. I hope that’s a good thing. For me it’s been a little confrontational. But I know these are the right questions to be asking myself at this point in my life; I’m certain of that.

 

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Thanksgiving Redux

Ahhhhh…

finishing up the day with gratitude.

This morning I got up and went to a 9am yoga class. The studio holds 50, but there were 75 of us there, scrunched together, sweating out our gratitude. The teacher, Joe, made a special gratitude playlist and it was awesome. I was VERY happy to be in a downward facing dog pose  when Sly and his family came on … “Thank You Falettinme, B Mice-elf Agin…” my toes were tapping ad my butt wiggling. Maybe not exactly the pose, but…

After class Joe led a short guided meditation for anyone who wanted to stay. I wanted to stay and did, sending gratitude out to blanket the world along with about 25 other yogis.

How grateful I am to be part of a yoga community that offers this type of worship, this type of church.

When I got home I ate (I know…not a lot but I was starving!) and checked emials. Showered and then curled up with a book. I didn’t say a GOOD book…it’s so predictable! But it’s fun to read. (NOT naming it, no controversy here!)

Then off to a 3:30 invitation at my friends. Such a lovely time, such good food and spectacular friends! And to-go bags!

Thanksgiving always reminds me of this story by Brian Andreas:

 

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So true…no matter what we do the real reason we are here is to connect. I had such a beautiful Thanksgiving Day, connecting. In person, through texts and emails… Oh so grateful.

Finally, home.  Settling in to  finish this and to write my daily gratitude list I clearly see why this day was so special. Because I do it every day, I am grateful every single day.  And it is a practice like any other, a muscle that needs flexing, a talent to hone. This day was another day to practice.

With a bonus of so much good food….can’t get any better than that.

 

And now, for your listening (or dancing if any of you can move at this point!) pleasure:

 

 

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