A Knock-Off Ted Talk, A Blow Out Bar, The Real Me….And Pass The Chocolate Pudding

So I am, in fact, doing what I’m lovingly calling a “knock-off” Ted Talk sometime in February and again in early March.  On grief.

So – I have to come clean – in a moment of ridiculous desperation, I spent one evening this fall dyeing my hair black and then, in what can only be described as a moment of total and unparalleled craziness, I let one of my sons cut my hair.  To be fair to him, it’s not the worst haircut I’ve ever had – I learned in high school not to let my friends cut my hair.  But this fall, between the crying and the trying to get my act together and not owning any clothes that are weather appropriate for where I now live, I had a moment of  “ah…..who the heck REALLY even cares what I look like?” (I’ve probably had more than one moment like that…my summer really “yucked my yum” for the rest of 2016.)  And I let my son cut my hair.  With no professional training.  (Don’t try this at home.)

So today, the  one of the ladies whose group I’m doing one of the (not really) “TED” talks for watched a professional video that “Faith and Grief” had done for me – again – about a year ago and – after watching the video- said she couldn’t wait to meet me.  Because – in some alternate universe, I look ever so slightly like the girl on the video.  (They took me to a “blow out bar” where someone who knows how to do hair actually did my hair for me)

I posted a video of myself on here yesterday – which is about 88 percent more of the “real me” than the professional video.  I’m wearing pigtails and jeans (at work) and – at least with the pigtails – it’s hard to tell both how dark my hair is and how it’s not exactly even in a few places.

Maybe early next week I’ll do another video with my hair down so you all can see that when I was explaining to this nice lady on the phone that the girl in the video only slightly resembles me – I really wasn’t lying.  In an attempt to make the best of what can only be described as a horrific tragedy of a summer, I basically turned myself into Wednesday Addams.

I just try never to wear black lipstick, (or braid my hair – okay, i do sometimes braid my hair) because the last thing my kids need is a mother who can be described as “emo.”  So – long story short – I’m not sure who the girl in the Faith and Grief video is.  I’m not sure I know her anymore.  Don’t get me wrong….I’m trying to hang onto at least the good parts of her….but – for the most part – I think I fall much more in this category right now.  (Thank the LORD for Broadway musicals…)

and…thank you for the amazingly talented Krysta Rodriguez…..

I Gave Away My Only Double-Signed Copy Of My Own Book…And Pass The Chocolate Pudding

It’s been a hard day today.  Some days are just like that.  (Even in Australia – a “shout out” to those who care about children’s literature…)

Maybe it’s been a hard day because I’m back to working out and my abs feel like part of me has been steamrolled.  (Not to be confused with “Rickrolled”)  – (You’re welcome…..this one is my favorite….and who doesn’t like that hair of his?  Come ON people.  It was “all the rage.”  And, yes…I am doing the MC Hammer AND the Roger Rabbit in my basement while I’m listening to this (you’re welcome for the visual)  Nothing says “today was ROUGH” quite like doing the MC Hammer in pigtails and jammies to Rick Astley’s Greatest Hits.

(*Writer’s Waiver Clause – okay, so it’s not REALLY Rick-Rolling because I picked my favorite Astley song, which isn’t “Never Gonna Give You Up” and I warned you, so if you don’t want to watch the song, you don’t have to.  Also, it’s not REALLY Rubio-Rolling, because I posted a video at the end of this blog, but – again – it’s not a trick.  In the case of the other video, you should just straight up watch it so it goes viral.  That other guy is better than Astley, only with less 80’s hair…in a good way.)

Mostly – it’s been a hard day, because – yeah….I was asked to speak twice today – in two different places in the next month – and to sign books.  And both places asked me if my “co-author would be joining me.”  One of the organizations asked me if I could tell them about him (my co-author) (when I speak to them) and there’s a certain cruel irony in the fact that I no longer cry when someone says my Dad’s name in front of me (it only took the better part of five years for THAT to happen – and my Dad’s name was “John” – care to hazard a guess how many THOUSANDS of people are named John?  Answer:  A bloomin’ lot.)…But now I cry whenever anyone says my co-author’s name in front of me.  I’d say that I’m luckier this time around, because my co-author doesn’t have the same name as every third person you meet in the street, except that I now regularly get to see people who have not ONLY his first name but ALSO his middle name (which also isn’t that common in Iowa, for the record.)

Someone who knows me pretty darn well was standing in my office today when I accepted the offer to come and do a “Ted” talk (it’s a knock off Ted talk) about grief, the book and to talk about my co-author.  (Because…and I quote…”the group would like to hear his story and know more about him.”)  After I got off the phone this person asked me – “Are you going to do that?  Are you going to talk about him?  What are you going to say?”

…..This is a blog that is “to be continued.”  Other than tears and melting down because one year ago I had this really good friend who decided he just really doesn’t like me anymore – the only actions I had left were these two –

  1.  We went to work out.  Pigtails and 40 minutes on the HELLliptical can cure a hangover, a cruddy day at work, having to discipline your kids, having 84 cents in your bank account AND really, REALLY wanting to sit in the co-pilot seat of a plane and all-out yell at someone.
  2.  I asked the person in my office to hand me the copy of my book that I keep in my office, which is the only copy I own that was genuinely signed by my co-author.  Sometimes I open the front page and trace his signature when people ask about him (which happens SO much more than people would think – I so seriously underestimated how much people love a “man in uniform” – apparently whether he’s wearing his uniform on the book cover or not)  But I trace his signature sometimes while I’m trying to figure out what to say about him – or – more accurately – what he’d like me to say about him.  And when the book was handed to me – I realized that – because the last few months have been so full of grief for people around me (and I’ve given away a few books) – that I gave.away.the.only.copy.I.had.with.his.signature.in.it.

Awesome.

It makes you think.  When something as small as someone’s signature (or not having that signature) gives you the baby sighs from crying, you know grief has really, really done a number on you.

Grief teaches us that each one of us has a limited number of heartbeats left and we get to choose how we spend those heartbeats, or what we are trading those heartbeats for.  I still strongly believe that lots of people are super messed up when it comes to figuring out those heartbeats (including me) – I like to believe that our hearts beat largely for other people.

 And that there are people whose heartbeats are tangled up in ours.

That there are people who we are meant to stand with, and there are people that we’re meant to be with.  Almost five years ago my own heartbeats almost completely lost the ability to fight back.  My own heartbeats also lost the capacity for jealousy, and -even with my hot headed stubbornness, I lost my will/ability to hold a grudge for more than 3 seconds.  The night my dad died, and every day since, I’ve only had one recurring thought and that is – how can I be wasting my heartbeats if I’m using them to love someone?  But I do get the chance – pretty much every day – to witness people wasting their heartbeats on dumb stuff.  And I don’t want to do that.  I don’t want to waste my heartbeats on dumb stuff.  On petty stuff.  On anything except love.  And I’m not confused about my heartbeats and who I give them away to –

I’m not the least bit confused about the difference between the people I was meant to stand with and the people I was meant to be with.

And – somewhere in that last sentence – is the answer to the question “what will you say about your co-author?”

 I was always meant to stand with him.  And I still stand with him.

Rick-Rolled and Rubio-Rolled….all in the same blog.  Again, fair readers…you’re welcome.  (You really ARE welcome for this one.  This guy can sing.  Go like his video, so he can go viral.)

The Worst of All Grief…..And Pass The Chocolate Pudding

I started tonight’s blog with “the worst of all grief” because, let’s be honest here – everyone thinks their own grief is “the worst” and – because I have a tendency to try to make things funny (even things that are funny to nobody except me) so  I have to say – I still play the “you win” grief game.

Have you ever played the “you win” game?  It goes something like this….you’re busy telling someone a story, sometimes even about grief and they end up telling you something so horrifying or tragic or awful that no matter what you feel about whatever it is you were trying to tell THEM about, you just stop in your tracks because clearly “they’ve won.”

The sad truth is that… – in the scheme of real life – they haven’t won at all.

In fact, someone whose tragedy “trumps” your tragedy hasn’t won anything, except an opportunity for you to shut up and listen to their pain because yours pales in comparison.  I hate grief (for a whole lot of reasons) especially because it often presents opportunities for someone’s grief to be “more awful” than yours – sometimes because of the depth of the loss, sometimes because of the cause of the loss, and sometimes because of the recent nature of the loss.

But -in a more realistic sense – I want to say that “all grief is created equal” – even when I know that isn’t really true.   There’s no equality in loss, except that – for the griever – loss levels the playing field.  (It also doesn’t really level the playing field, it pretty much digs up the playing field with a backhoe and then hits you in the head with a bunch of shovels and then expects you to go on like nothing has happened.)  But – in some fashion – it makes people believe that you have something in common if you’ve lost someone, and they have too.

Except for suicide.  Suicide (and loss of a child) are the two parts of grief that stand alone and are thought of differently for almost every person who has ever grieved.

So – this week – suicide and loss of a child  both happened.  Together.  Not to me.  But to someone I know.

And – in that moment – time seems to stop.  Someone called to tell me that they are glad I got a chance to talk to the family because I’m (and I quote) “good at grief.”

Nobody is that good at grief.  Nobody.

But I really felt called to write this blog because I think what I imagined it was like to grieve before I wrote a book about it, and what I think it looks like now are very different entities.

And certainly – thanks to my super awesome summer (dripping sarcasm), my journey through grief at the “rules table” (that reference is for Stu Rubio, if he’s out there somewhere) and a cocktail of pharmaceuticals that are supposed to stave off the depression that takes you over when your friends leave you, your dad dies, and you aren’t sure how life will ever be the same again – my opinions on suicide have really, really been altered.  (Not in a “I think this is a stellar idea” kind of way, but definitely in a “I’ve been that low and I can see what someone who either contemplates taking or actually takes his/her own life is thinking.”)

And all I could think about this week is how much my views (especially on suicide) have changed over the years.  I know I have to be a little careful here, because there are people out there somewhere who believe that suicide is “a sin” and so, without being completely disrespectful to “those people” (did I just use the phrase “those people” right on my blog?  Yes, Yes I did.  I should probably be ashamed of myself.)  I need to qualify this whole blog by saying – I don’t personally believe that suicide is a sin.  I believe it’s a tragedy of gigantic proportions that has the capacity to destroy (not figuratively….literally) everyone around  you.  But I don’t believe it’s a sin.

And here’s where the small little lesson on my faith comes in…I can’t possibly believe that suicide is a sin because I can’t possibly believe that anyone who either attempts or commits suicide is doing something that they feel is against God.   You commit suicide because you are so unhappy and you don’t know what else to do.  You commit suicide because – in some really telling moment – you either don’t or can’t think that the future will ever get better.  You think you’re stuck where you are and that no one cares and that no one will even care if you dare to show up dead.  You commit suicide because you think that God and life and everyone around you has let you down and you just want the pain to GO AWAY.  I can’t believe that all of those feelings, and the actions that stem from those feelings are a sin.  I think if you were TRULY giving God the “f you” or giving the people around you the “f you” – then maybe somebody could make me a case for why I should believe that’s a sin….but the truth is – I know a little something about being that unhappy, and – in those moments – the only thing you can think about is how to end the pain of brutal, unfair unhappiness.

And here’s how my views have been altered the most…..

When I was a kid, if I knew anyone that took their own life, you’d sometimes hear people say something like “they seemed so happy.”  And this is where things have changed DRASTICALLY from the time I was a kid – social media has fed some myth that if your pictures are pretty enough on facebook, or if your tweets and your snapchats and your facebook statuses are clever enough, or funny enough, or jovial enough…..or just…….enough – that must mean that you are living some magical version of “happily ever after” where you ride around on a unicorn all day, with your luscious locks of hair blowing in the wind, and your boyfriend, who probably looks like Fabio.

But the truth is – just because someone looks like they’re happy on social media, doesn’t mean they are somehow exempt from a world where suicide seems like a good option.  Social media has taken Ringling Brothers/Barnum and Bailey Circus’ title and now – instead of a three ring circus with elephants and tightrope walkers being the “greatest show on earth” – social media has filled that spot.  Those pictures where your kids are all smiling, and everyone’s clothes are ironed, and the kids are in their prom dresses and you’re wearing a cocktail dress and standing next to a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force?  They’re NOT REAL.  They’re the greatest show on earth.  The only thing that remains to be seen here is if you are one of the people that can see a girl in a cocktail dress and a guy who looks like Captain America and see them for the big dorks they REALLY are…..or if you so want to believe that things are exactly as they seem that you’ll buy into someone else’s fiction.

I suggest you not be fooled by delusions:  people who commit suicide often DO look like they’re “just so happy.”  Maybe because they desperately need you to buy into their delusions.  Maybe because they don’t want to disappoint you by letting you know how truly unhappy they really are.

But maybe because you’re just.not.paying.close.enough.attention.  Or you don’t care.  Or both.

That last sentence is in NO way shape or form for the family or close loved ones of anyone who has ever either contemplated or actually committed suicide – the people in the “inner circle” generally know something is wrong (or lots of things are wrong) but don’t know how bad it is, or what to do about it.  And, frankly, when you lose someone to suicide and you are in that “inner circle” you have the worst possible form of grief, and guilt, and self-blame to deal with.

But I think the part of me that has changed the most is my perspective for those not directly in the “inner circle” of someone who is suicidal.  Yes…it’s true….it’s easier to write about things you know a little something about.  I have been on three sides of suicide – really mad at someone who continually attempted suicide, really crushed and grief and blame stricken over someone who has committed suicide and on the wrong meds enough (and with the wrong friends enough) to think that suicide sounded like a good option (for about 7 1/2 seconds).  More than once.   I have had three go-rounds where I thought not participating in life seemed like a good idea.

For one of these go-rounds, I owe my life to a weird Canadian who gets cake from everyone he knows and who is well-liked on a scale that most of us can only imagine.  (And talented on a scale that most of us can only imagine.)  But what I can tell you is this – I had a genuinely cruddy 2016 and I had to learn in the most HUMILIATING fashion who my friends weren’t.  But I had one weird Canadian who didn’t let me die when I really, really wanted to – thanks to all the wrong pharmaceuticals that are supposed to help when you’re feeling suicidal.  (Note to others:  one side effect of certain anti-depressants is DEPRESSION and SUICIDAL THOUGHTS.  Does anyone ELSE find that more than a little disconcerting?  If you are dealing with depression, should you REALLY be ingesting a drug that makes you DEPRESSED?  Am I the only one who thinks that’s not okay? …..Maybe it’s just me….)

But here’s what I’ve learned in the wake of depression and suicidal thoughts – you can look like the happiest, most well-adjusted person in the world on social media and everyone can think you are positively skipping through fields of daisies and riding unicorns all day long and wearing a tiara to vacuum your living room when the truth is – you can be unhappy enough to be thinking about suicide.  (Lest I get fired for blogging the truth, let me say – just because I’ve been there, doesn’t mean that’s where I am today.)

But as I’ve watched another family lose a loved one to suicide this week, and as I’ve watched people come out of the woodwork talking about how much they loved this person and asking what they can do to help and talk about how they wish they could “go back” and say the right thing to that person  – I have two things to say here…..

Number one – I’m not sure I believe that if someone really makes up their mind to do something that you saying one right thing would necessarily change their mind.  If you’re already that unhappy, it takes some incredible moment of either someone talking you down, or some moment of clarity of exactly what you are about to do to stop the wheels that are probably already in motion.

But Number two – if you ARE a true believer in people helping other people, then GET THE HECK off facebook and twitter and snapchat and the googles and the interwebs and either get on your phone or drive to their house.  CALL people on their birthday.  SEND CARDS to people for no reason.  TELL people you love them.  REACH OUT to people who you think “look so happy” on the internet, but who you haven’t talked to or seen for awhile and REALLY listen to them.  DON’T be so self-absorbed that you forget that EVERYONE needs someone to love them.  DON’T send your friends “Dear John” letters (and yes, if you can read this, and it pertains to you, you’ll be getting called out on this until which time a mushy gushy letter of apology shows up at my door, or you appear in person to TAKE THAT SH#$ back)  STOP watching whole seasons of your favorite show and randomly call someone you haven’t talked to in a while.  STOP texting and start telling someone you love them.  Not just your inner circle – but your outer circle.

Because I guarantee you – every one of us has someone in that circle who is dying inside but is trying to look perfect on the outside.

Prove to someone TODAY that their life is worth living because someone cares enough to notice their alive.  Don’t just notice when someone is NO LONGER alive.  Notice that they’re alive and do something before it’s too late.

“Everyone dies, but not everyone truly lives.”  – William Wallace

Life is full of fairy tales…….but how many of them are real?

The fairy tales live in places like these songs…..

 

 

 

 

Fighting Your Way Through Life….And Love….And Pass The Chocolate Pudding

So this week a very young (20 something) daughter of a member of our congregation committed suicide – which is a really stormy blog I’m working up to (maybe tomorrow) about why no one listens before it’s too late, or how you can find yourself in a situation where you think no one cares….or what that kind of grief that even I can’t imagine – looks like.  It’s been a long week of watching and listening, and wanting to write a blog that somehow ties all of this together – so – again – maybe tomorrow.

But having to be the narrator of a story – not always my own – has brought me to a place where – this week – I’ve cracked out some of my favorite rom coms – the ones with the lines that hit you the hardest because you realize that not ALL of movie writing is fiction (and not all of blogging or writing in general is fiction) and you know – the lines that hit you the hardest are often the most true.

So – two parts today – a really bad clip from one of my favorite rom coms with one of those lines in it….and a song that pertains to tomorrow’s blog.  For me – both so very hard to watch and/or listen to.

Finding my voice…and Pass the Chocolate Pudding

Someone suggested recently that if I want the singing to come back (or to find my voice again) that I should focus on singing some songs that I love, that invoke such good feelings and that don’t stretch my voice in ways it can’t go right now.  (I still have gaps in my voice)….and so tonight, I’m singing along with this one….love this song!

….And Pass The Chocolate Pudding….

Waiver Clause:   I only let myself listen to this song three times a year.  Which might not seem like progress – but – for someone who doesn’t forgive themselves for anything – only listening to it for 3 days a year, versus 365 days is huge progress.   So I listen to it on the anniversary of my Dad’s death, and on father’s day (which sometimes falls on my wedding anniversary – THAT’s always a day-maker….that was sarcasm.. you don’t even have to be the judge on that one)…and today….on my Dad’s birthday.

And – I already know – if I have regrets about life, that’s my own fault.   If I have regrets, it’s because of something I did or didn’t do.

And….so……this……

 

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up….And Pass The Chocolate Pudding

There’s no easy way to say this…..when you’re trying to forget something,  it’s everywhere…when you’re trying to forget someone (whether they still exist on this planet or not)…they’re everywhere.  And – thus the heading…you can’t make this stuff up.  …And…..scene.

Backstory:   I’m an eclectic mess when it comes to listening to music, but I’ve always been a “Broadway and Cabaret” girl.  Not in a “come to the Cabaret, old pal” kind of way (if you had to look that up, you might like someone else’s blog better…)  but in a “I listen to 80’s hairbands and metal and Peter Cetera and Madonna, and the teeny bopper groups my kids like (‘NSync, anyone?) (The Beebs?) but – if I had my wish – I’d not only get to listen to, but actually get to sing Broadway and Cabaret-ish songs all day long.

And, as such – I know some people who are composers, who are acting on Broadway, who sing in Cabaret shows or in clubs in NYC, Chicago, LA and London….people who are probably living some part of a dream that I gave up on a long time ago (that’s a story for another time). And – lucky for me – some of these ridiculously talented people know what kind of music I really like and – every once in a while – one of them will message me and say

“hey…if you liked that thing I wrote, or that thing I sang at that club, you’d love this song by this composer, or this song someone sang at this thing I was at, or “hey, I saw that thing you posted by Scott Alan or Jonathan Reid Gealt (shameless plug:  love them both! buy their stuff on itunes!)…and you might really like…this one.

These aren’t (necessarily) people in my “close friends” group (a few are) but tonight…..

And tonight – (well, I guess it’s this morning, because it’s officially after midnight) – on December 30th, 2016 – is one of those times.  Because if I’ve learned anything about 2016 and about fate, or God, or karma….or grief….they all seem like they need the last word with me right now.

And tonight is one of those times.  Grief demands to be seen.  Or heard.  Or felt.  Or all three.  The grief bully isn’t done with me.  Not by a long shot.  And so tonight( – because – in the last week, I’ve posted some Scott Alan, some Natalie Weiss and some Sutton Foster…..)I got a message from a friend about a song I’d probably really like, with a you-tube video attached.

The message read, “I don’t know this guy, but it’s one of the best versions of this song I’ve heard and I thought you’d really like this song.”

And….(where’s Shakespeare when you need him?)….”there-in lies the rub” (Hamlet)…because the person who sent this to me knows so little about all that has transpired in my life in the last few years….it isn’t someone who has read “Faith, Grief and Pass the Chocolate Pudding”, (as far as I know) or who knows the “players” who were involved in the book project.  But this person does know I lost my Dad (I think everyone who knows me knows that) – and…so they added to the message – “I know you lost your Dad…but I still think you’ll love the song.”

This person wasn’t wrong.  Not at all.  This person knew I would absolutely love the gut-wrenching song they were sending me.  And – for the record – I would have cried listening to the song, regardless of the circumstances under which I received it.  I would have cried.  Because the song is that good.  And that fitting.  So….I would have cried.

But maybe not sobbed.

It’s a beautiful song.  It really is.  I just watched/listened to it on youtube about 100 times and it will definitely be on my playlist on overkill.

The lyrics are:

“lost in the waves…..salt water burns, the tide always turns, when you’re lost in the waves…now I’m the one sinking, there’s no solid ground, and I can’t help thinking – I am the one who has drowned…now knee deep in the water, I feel my father’s touch and though fully grown, I’ve still never known…how to love someone that much.”  – (Lost in the Waves – by: Kooman and Dimond)

Gosh this is an amazing song.  Not even kidding.  But every part of my body is screaming in pain right now.  Because, clearly – based on the date stamped on the video – someone (anyone) could have sent this to me ONE YEAR AGO (or more) and it would have been an amazing-albeit-painful-for-me-song-sung-by-some-amazing-singer-that-happened-to-be-related-to-someone-I-knew.  Not a song that’s about loss after loss.  Not a song that would break my heart again and again (Yes, it’s that good.  Listen to it. And “my source” wasn’t wrong about this song…because I DID just surf the googles and the interwebs (you tube) for different versions of this song…and this one is hands down the best.  Don’t take my word for it…watch it yourself.)

But – for whatever reason….this happened tonight.  Tonight is the night it was sent to me. On this night.  This version of this song on you tube has been out there for a year and a half and it comes my way on New Year’s Eve Eve during the second hardest year of my life.

A beautiful song.  Not all on its’ own.  A beautiful song being sung by Jamie’s brother.  Jamie’s other brother, who I’ve never met.  (If you don’t know who Jamie is, please click on my “order the book” page and actually order the book.  So this blog will make sense.  And because everyone should know Jamie’s name, and some things about him…and what people loved about him)

I have been praying for weeks to hear from/feel the presence of my Dad.  For a sign from God. For something to make the grief go away.  For something to keep it at bay. For some sign that everything is going to be okay.  For the grief to let go.

I’m starting to feel like “praying for a sign” is a little like “praying for patience”; people say if you “pray for patience”, God will give you opportunities to learn to BE patient.  (It’s a nice way of saying if you pray for patience, your life will likely become unrecognizable to you and perhaps a horrible experience that calls for you to be patient through something will befall you.  It’s a “be careful what you wish for” kind of warning. )

Because tonight – things are already difficult.   I am already dealing with the grief bully and – tonight especially -I’m three days from what would have been my Dad’s  birthday – and I’m not sure I’m “winning the war on grief.”  And – because timing is everything – and clearly I’m in control of almost no part of grief and how and when it strikes…someone sent me this very beautiful version, of this very beautiful song….sung by Jamie’s brother.  Jamie’s other brother.

Ladies and Gentlemen,  “Lost in the Waves” by Kooman and Dimond, sung by the incomparable David Rubio….