Posted in Life As I Know It, Soapbox

Because a Paper Cut Hurts, Too

This pandemic is an evolution in many things—plans, treatments, predictions, messaging—but I see one consistent byproduct: the conflicted feelings of comparative suffering. All of us have lost something, but there are those who have lost everything…and that can make us feel guilty about mourning our own losses.*

My dad died shortly after I turned 21, and within a year or so, one of my mom’s friends lost her husband, too. My mom invited the friend over to offer some support and their conversation left a lasting mark on me. It was where I learned how “at least” is rarely the start of a helpful comment when it comes to support or empathy.

My mom was attempting to connect with the woman by telling her that she knew some of what she was going through because of her own loss. “But at least you had a chance to say goodbye…” was the friend’s response. You see, my dad had died after a struggle with cancer. The friend’s husband had died in a tragic crash. My mom was taken aback by the comment and tried to “defend” her own loss, “Yes, but I also got to see him suffer for months…”

It was the strangest damn thing. An effort to comfort and support became a grief ranking. Frustrating…but very human. Turns out we humans are a very frustrating bunch.

But being aware of this tendency helps us to tame the comparative suffering beast a bit. Recognizing it and then reminding ourselves that both “sides” are true allows us to both feel for ourselves and others. Everyone’s pain is their own.

When the reality of school closings and events canceled started to take shape, as a parent, my heart immediately started breaking. The death toll from the coronavirus felt very distant at that point, but my son’s losses were right in front of me. He is an involved school kid, and he lost a lot: concerts, competitions, a play that he was the lead in, and a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Iceland with his buddies. In fact, I started a list of “Covid castaways” to chronicle all the “misses.” The list grows every week.

When I first talked to him about these things, I started to choke up. “Aw, Mom—you don’t get to be more upset than I am…don’t worry, I’m all right,” he comforted. But I think his seeing my acknowledgment of the pain helped him. It is a sad thing, and he (and we) are not being selfish to feel badly about it.

It is our immediate instinct to downplay the loss because we know others have it so much worse. Death. Illness. Job loss. A missed school play seems so trivial in the light of these losses…but it still hurts, and the hurt is valid.

Everyone’s experience is differently the same… we are home and isolated doing what is helpful but doesn’t feel helpful at all. Not when there are others who are doing so much more and suffering so much more. Whether we are worried about our financial futures or are mourning the loss of a loved one, the spectrum of anxiety, loss, and hurt is vast. Yet we are indeed all in this together.

It is only when those of us on the “loss spectrum” don’t honor or acknowledge those further down the spectrum that the embracing of our own feelings can really turn into a negative. Our pain may be all that we feel firsthand, but it doesn’t mean that it is the only pain that exists or matters.

It really boils down to two things:

  1. No matter what degree of pain you are going through, it matters, and you should acknowledge it and feel it while at the same time validating those who are dealing with what we understand as more pain and honoring that but also understanding that that doesn’t mean your own pain isn’t painful nor is anyone else’s because all pain is painful.
  2. #1 applies to everyone.

Simple, right?

This pandemic has been a huge exercise in learning that feeling for the losses of others does not mean we have to deny our own losses. Nor does feeling our own pain take away from our capacity to be empathetic and supportive. The more we strive to understand it all, the better we will come through it.

And wouldn’t it be great to come through it having learned to be kinder and more caring to one another?

A girl can dream.

*Please know that the above rambling does not constitute my thinking I am an authority on any matter. If you are interested in reading more on this subject from actual experts, Brené Brown and David Kessler are great resources.

Posted in Life As I Know It

Feeling More FraGEElay

This Christmas will be different for us. Partly because of life’s twists and turns, and partly by design. Life has brought us the first Christmas without my mom. It has also brought us a much smaller gathering around our table. This will most definitely result in a quieter day, and I’ve chosen to embrace these changes as a new way to experience Christmas rather than focusing on the differences as purely loss.

I’ve never had a Christmas where I wasn’t entertaining a group, and so I will cherish the opportunity to stay in my PJs longer and not rush to get things ready. Instead of trying to be the “hostess with the mostess,” I will strive to be less stressed and more relaxed. It’s all in the perspective, right?

And that perspective is also mindful of the fragility of life.

It’s true my mom is gone. But at 92, she had “the opportunity of a lifetime” and many years to experience—and now she is at peace. It is still a loss, but there is a sense of “normalcy” to her passing.

And then there are times when the fragility of life sneaks up on you in an instant and nothing will ever be the same again. Recently a beloved member of our church died at the age of 45…leaving behind her husband, two young boys, and many others who loved her dearly. In the span of less than two weeks, she went from not knowing she was ill to…dying. Just like that, she’s gone.

It may be cliché to say that our days are numbered on this earth, but the reality is that some of us, like my mom, have a number around 36,000…and others have less than one single day…or maybe more near 17,000, as our church friend had. And that may seem like a big number…until you run out of them.

We don’t know our number. At least I don’t know mine. But our days on the earthly side of this life are finite.

Life is fragile. We are fragile.

And so with our days numbered, we ought to be gentler to one another…and ourselves.

We need to choose kindness, grace, and service over hatred, ineptitude, and selfishness.

We need to forge a way, especially in these painfully divisive times, for love to win.

How we choose to use our days is all we have to work with in this fragile life.

My “fraGEElay” run began six years ago with this post. And while I have let this blog slip through the cracks of life, I am moved to once again wish you Christmas blessings…And if life, as it so frequently does, is not treating you gently, I pray you have people in your life who love you and stand alongside you…helping you pick up the pieces and create your own Kintsugi.

Merry Christmas, friends.

ALL PHOTOS ARE USED WITH PERMISSION.

Posted in Life As I Know It

Yo, Joy…Please Pull Up a Chair and Make Yourself at Home

For the last five years, a thematic word to help guide the year has pretty much magically appeared in front of me anxiously raising its hand like Arnold Horshack crying, “Pick me! Pick me!”

Each year it has made complete sense to me as to why this word this year, and…this year is no different.  Continue reading “Yo, Joy…Please Pull Up a Chair and Make Yourself at Home”

Posted in Life As I Know It

Fra GEE Lay 6.0

Wow. Six years ago was the first time I wrote a Christmas Eve remembrance to be gentle with one another. Hard to believe so many years of this tradition have passed already.

And in this surreal year of 2017, it certainly bears repeating that…we need to treat one another with kindness and love. Continue reading “Fra GEE Lay 6.0”

Posted in Life As I Know It

10 Things I’m Thankful for Every Day 3.0

Last year, I didn’t write a “10 Things I’m Thankful for” post. I think I was too overwhelmed from other occurrences in that dark month. But gratitude should remain even in the darkest of times.  Continue reading “10 Things I’m Thankful for Every Day 3.0”

Posted in Life As I Know It, Soapbox

A Quick Remark’s Staying Power

26 letters of the alphabet results in hundreds of thousands of words–at least according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Those words can be strung together to say any number of things…like gazillions, probably. See, I’m not the greatest at math. Read my latest piece to run in The Huffington Post to know why.