Outlook and Resilience

Our outlook on life greatly determines our resilience. If you have no reason or purpose to bounce back from a situation, what is your motivation to get up? Being able to get through these past six months has nothing to do with being a good person or being strong. The strength has come from the people around me. The ability to get up every morning comes from purpose. That purpose is driven by the hope that each new day brings something wonderful. It is that outlook on life that has given me the resilience to live life. To learn to truly measure each day not by minutes or seconds, but by the memories made, the laughter heard, and those moments where a smile becomes contagious.

The Dance

Time and memories are funny things. At any given time the most random of memories can pop into your head. There was a massive rainstorm last night and I finally walked through my front door after two hours in traffic. I looked at the clock and thought of how exhausted I was. I looked at the living room and thought of the dance. Dance? Yes, The Dance.

Literally hours before Mark gained his eternal dancing wings, we danced in our living room. For as long as I can remember I can picture times Mark would just grab my hand and twirl me around wherever we were. He would joke that that he had no rhythm and wasn’t a great dancer but that I made him look good. I would laugh and say he was right. In those moments we would dance, we would laugh and always remember what brought us together, no matter what was going in our life.

Well, our final dance is one I will always remember. There was no music, no song, there was just us. As I stood up to get ready to go upstairs to bed, Mark stood up. He pulled me close and I rested my head on his chest. I listened to his heart beating and that was the most beautiful sound. He twirled me around and I rested my hands on his neck and looked into his eyes before resting my head back on his chest. I remember thinking how I wish that moment could stay frozen in time. Now I know it is.

Ever since then I have been thinking what a blessing it was to have that moment. To be able to find joy in the most unexpected of places and at the most unexpected times is also a blessing. It is as if last night Mark was sending me the gift of learning to dance again through that memory. I always think of the saying, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” I have found that rhythm again to dance in the rain and learning to live life as that rainbow starts to appear.

The Labyrinth

I know I’m on a journey. I was in a labyrinth this past Thursday, literally. A labyrinth by definition is a “complicated irregular network of passages or paths in which it is difficult to find one’s way.” You could say this journey that I’m on is in a labyrinth. We had an employee well being fair at work. I went to the fair to see what was being offered. There were long lines for facials, massages, mini make up sessions, but there was one item that had no line. There was no one waiting to go into the labyrinth.

Let me back up to the start of my day on Thursday. Those who know me, know I can be pretty superstitious. I was totally looking forward to the end of my week and Friday afternoon. Thinking about that while doing my makeup for work on Thursday, I noticed a small white moth that was fluttering around me. I thought for a moment it must be Mark. It didn’t really bother me but it kept flying around as if to tell me he was there. I finished getting ready and off to work I went. Fast forward to the well being fair.

As my friend Kim and I walked by the room with the labyrinth laid out inside, Chaplain Josh encouraged us to go in and walk it. We both said why not try it. So we sat in the chairs and listened as we were given instructions on what to do. First we had to find our focus of what we wanted to think about as we walked. I had absolutely no clue! I took off my shoes and as my feet hit the ground, heart came to mind. Why not? The center of the labyrinth seemed appropriate to focus on heart so I went with it.

As it took my first steps I knew I wasn’t alone. Kim was walking her own journey but I was walking mine with someone else next to me, Mark. I knew he was there guiding me through the twists and irregular turns that made me uncomfortable at times. I got to the center and asked in my head if he was the one who said heart and the answer was yes. My mind questioned why and once again I could feel Mark telling me to open my heart and move forward. I could hear his thoughts saying he brought me to this point but now my heart was to find its own way, without him. I could feel a tear roll down my cheek as I quickly wiped it away. I didn’t want Mark to go but I knew and he knew it was time. It was time for me to truly start on this next journey.

As I took my first step out of the center of the labyrinth and back on the maze to get back out, I was alone. Mark was no longer there to guide me. This journey and phase of life was one I was to discover on my own, in a way. I knew I had to keep my heart open to the possibilities and people life was about to bring my way and for the first time I knew I would not always be alone on that road.  There would be new journeys and people to share it with, journeys of the heart. Those irregular twists and turns on the way back were no longer uncomfortable, but a way to grow and a way discover new things about myself. It was to find happiness and excitement in the unknown, to be able to find the good in every thing.

The walk to my car after work that day showed me a new friend. There wasn’t a moth but instead a butterfly. Friday morning and afternoon too, another butterfly. The labyrinth was the beginning of a new phase and I took those butterflies as signs. Maybe, just maybe, my snow globe is starting to crack so I can venture out and continue to see what life has in store.

Life and Tetris

There are so many changes and variables in life that are constantly coming at us. We sometimes ask why? I’ve learned that’s a pointless question to ask. I’ve also learned that I do have some amount of control over where some of these pieces fall into place, kind of like Tetris.

As the pieces come at me I can try to choose where they go. Just like the game, sometimes I made good choices and they fit. Other times, well, we’ll call it learning. Yet even in the moments where the pieces don’t fit exactly how you’d like, you can arrange the other pieces around it to make the most of the situation. That’s life!

We can try to take control of our lives as much as possible but there are times we just need to make the most of a situation. Instead of playing the victim, take control of the other variables and become the victor. When we do that, we master the game. I’m no where near there yet but life is a game I’m learning to have fun with again.

Greatest Fear

Fears can be overcome. When Mark died there were so many fears that came into view. Slowly one by one I conquered and continue to conquer them. Fear of making sure I do right by the children and making sure they are taken care of, check. Fear of taking control of the entire household and the finances, check. Fear of reliving that day and being stuck in the past, check. Well mainly check on that last one. I’m not stuck in the past but that day still replays in my head at times, at least not with anxiety anymore. These fears I feel I could overcome because I was in control of them and I made the decisions. There is one fear I have left… the fear of never finding love again.

Yes, I said it and it is by far my greatest fear. I know Mark and I shared a love story that many had said was their “#couplesgoal” and I do feel blessed for that. We didn’t always have a fairy tale but we did have something pretty damn close. We went through our very rough times like every couple does. At the core was friendship, love, and mutual admiration we had for each other. We were truly perfectly imperfect for each other. Now at 39 years old, that person is gone. Could it be that I will never find that again? I hope not.

No one will ever be Mark and nor would I want them to be. Like I said we weren’t perfect and no one is. Love isn’t something you feel only for perfect things or perfect people. It is something that grows with time for someone you can be yourself around, someone who cares for you and can’t imagine a life without you in it, someone who shares with you those parts of them that aren’t so perfect and you still remain by their side. Someone that is your last thought at night and your first thought in the morning.

Then there is the whole thing about being a widow. What time frame is needed to grieve? There is no right or wrong answer for that. It is different for everyone, e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e. I feel you know when all the other pieces of your life have fallen into place and that is the last outstanding piece left. Some people choose to keep it blank and that’s okay. I thought I would be that person but realized sharing a life with someone and the companionship is a part of human nature. It is what I would’ve wanted for Mark and it is what he actually came into a dream to tell me. I admit I was taken back a little when I woke up after that dream but he must’ve known. I looked over on my king size bed and realized what a huge void was left. It was sort of a symbolic moment of having overcome so much and conquering my other fears except facing this particular one.

Will I ever feel those butterflies again or that feeling of my heart skipping a beat like I did every time he walked into the room? I pray so, that would be a blessing. Do I fear it may never happen? Yes. Do I fear having a broken heart? Of course but that is a part of the process too. Unlike the other fears I’ve been able to conquer, this is one that is out of my control. Let me tell you how much I can’t stand not being in control, especially with an aspect of life. Through this grief process, though, I have learned that we can’t control all things in life and I have had to learn to deal and be somewhat okay with that. When I started today’s entry with fears can be overcome, I admit the jury is still out on this one. This is one that is up to time and whatever high powers that be. This is one that I hope to one day overcome but until then, it is my greatest fear.

The Phoenix

Tragedy will happen to all of us in some form during our life. It can break us, weaken us, and sometimes destroy us. I can’t tell you to not let tragedy negatively affect you. We will each deal with tragedy in our own way. Many people have asked me how I am able to get through what many have described as a catastrophic loss with poise and grace.

I sincerely thank you for feeling that I am still maintaining poise and grace. Some days it feels like I able barely staying above water. There is no secret really. It is the belief that something wonderful is about to happen. I have to always hold on to that thought. If I feel that everything good is gone, what is the point of life?

Each day is a new beginning. Each moment brings a new possibility. Each person that comes into our life is there for some reason. Why not make it a good reason? Why not believe that behind every turn of life is the possibility of something wonderful? The phoenix can rise from ashes and so can we.

The Closet

One of the days I have been dreading has finally happened. This past weekend I was able to clean out Mark’s closet. I have walked past his dresser and his side of the closet everyday and chose to ignore the fact that all of his shirts, pants, ties, suits, shoes, etc, were all still there like the day he left for work. I know, I know, he’s not coming back to clean them but if he was here he wouldn’t have to.

There were so many emotions as I pushed back the door. All his collared shirts still in the dry cleaning bags he had picked them up in staring back at me. His tie tacks and collar smoothers still laid out ready to go. It was as if I had opened the door to a time machine. What felt strange was how it felt like it was all a lifetime ago now. A life where he would ask me if something matched, if he should roll up the sleeves or leave them long, a life where our friendship became a love story. A love story with its happily ever after cut short. Now I was faced with a closet full of those reminders.

There were shoes he’d never have a chance to wear. Suits ready to go for events that have come and gone since his passing. Banana Republic and Calvin Klein shirts for meetings for work that had to go on without him. Kind of like life. A life that now has to continue to find its way without him in it. I laughed as I looked at how many shirts the man had! Every color you could think of. There were aloha shirts, polo shirts, long and short sleeved shirts. I hadn’t even gotten to the pants or the suits. The kids helped me take each shirt off their hanger and place it into one of several piles.

The first pile was of clothes the kids couldn’t get rid off. A few friends have offered to create momentoes for the children out of his clothing. So shirts went into a pile to create a quilt and others for a pillow for each child. I could remember so many awesome moments attached to each piece of clothing. Laughs, dates, love, lots of love.

The next pile was going to find its way to someone starting their career. I know Mark will watch over them with the same guidance he would’ve given as if he was here. May each piece bring them the success he had in business and in just about every aspect of life.

The final pile was to go to the thrift shop. That was the hardest pile. Ironically, not much made it to that pile. It was like Mark knew I couldn’t just give all that away. In the end, the closet got done. It is empty with just his high school letterman jacket for football and track still hanging up where so much of his things used to be. The symbolism of what comes next. I have no idea. The partnership, relationship, and love Mark and I shared left me with the strength to look the future straight in the eye. Like the space in the closet, life can be filled with so much and everything will be with what I choose it to be, with what I know is best for me and the kids.  May it be a future filled with much laughter, successes, love, yes… lots of love.