Posts Tagged ‘emotions’

I haven’t posted since January 8, despite a vow to myself to post at least twice per week.

That’s because on January 9, my very beloved Dad very abruptly died.  I remind myself that he was spared the vicissitudes of old age, infirmity and a slow decline.  He was 89, but was planning to play golf the next day.  While at dinner with my dear stepmom and friends he had an allergic reaction and a few hours later he was dead.

He used to say to me “Diane, that’s why I get up every morning – because you never know what is going to happen.”  How true, how true!

Tomorrow is Easter and Christians celebrate Resurrection.   In fact, many religious traditions have holidays related to rebirth and renewal tied in with this vernal time of year.

Whatever ones beliefs it is comforting, when faced with the seeming starkness of death, to ponder rebirth, renewal.  Resurrection.

A few years ago, driving down my favorite road with both spring in  Chicago and a new love in my life suddenly appearing after a period of bleakness, a poem came to me.  Having then had a battened down heart, newly awakening, I now take comfort, that having had a death in the family, perhaps, like Lazarus in the poem, I’ll feel like kissing the face of the stars – ready, once more to leap into life.

My father was my north star, and, at the same time, the firmament on which I stood.  I must say I have felt inexorably lost in these three months since he so abruptly was spirited away by that trickster, Death.

So I don’t feel the same sense of awakening as I did in 2009, seeing the daffodils starting to wildly bloom on Country Club Road.

Looking out my window, I see my tattered prayer flags, gaunt and thin and dragging after the winter snows and ice and winds.  I’ve cleared the deluge of cones from around the Colorado blue spruce in my front yard and raked some leaves from the flower beds.

In this liminal time, winter indeed is visibly waning – old, tired, nearly gone.  The days grow longer now, and some days are even warm.

But despite what the Wheel of the Year tells us – that Spring Equinox has indeed arrived – I don’t think spring has really settled in.  At least not in Chicago.  At least not in my heart.

I’m truly not seeking sympathy.  Perhaps forbearance for my long absence here.  Death, like birth, is a part of life.  And all deaths leave gaps, holes, empty spaces (though I must say, I’d not quite known how much empty there can be).

I think the thing to remember, as the Christians remind us this time of year, is that the life force lives on.  That renewal and resurrection can be ours, not in the literal sense of the Gospel story, but in beginning anew.  In affirming life.  In saying yes.  In putting out NEW prayer flags, bright, colorful, ready to be imbued with prayers, hopes, wishes, summer sunshine and love.

And as for my Daddy ~ well, I’ll quote my generation’s poet laureate, Bob Dylan:

“I’ll see you in the sky above
in the tall grass
in the ones I love
You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go.”

He decided to ditch lunch and take us all to Dairy Queen

He decided to ditch lunch and take us all to Dairy Queen instead – the last time I saw my Dad



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Through a series of synchronicities I ended up having an “Angel reading” on Monday night.  Now as “out there” as I may seem to some, I am actually as left-brained as my current employment (IT consultant) would lead you to believe.  Okay, so I thought I was going to a numerology reading which may strike people as equally ‘out there’ – but to me there’s a STRUCTURE behind that.  Angel readings? Not so much.  But since I intuitively trusted the woman in front of whom I sat (Terrie Crowley), I forged ahead.

I’m glad I did. Because wherever the guidance she was giving me came from, it was very helpful.

It got me to thinking about the ‘genealogy’ of emotions.  Getting to the heart of the matter.

I’ve noticed a propensity of late on my part to tout the virtue of toughness – in myself, with my big honking Harley, and in others.


The parent of toughness is vulnerability

The twin sister of vulnerability is fear

The parent of vulnerability and fear is lack of trust


So, knowing that genealogy, rather than wave my sword about like Durga or Kali, I can first protect what feels threatened within me (protecting the vulnerable – which is what my namesake, Diana, is all about).

Seeing the vulnerability and fear I can then ask “why do I not trust God/the Universe/All That Is to have my highest good in mind?”

To that end, Terrie assigned me a task – assigned as though a one-time task, but, which I can see could continue to be helpful in times of trouble:

Write an “evidence journal.”

She said to step away from “my story” and just look at events in my life for all the proofs of how protected and loved I am.  Trauma by trauma, story by story, miracle by miracle – just record the facts that support the philosophy on a favored bumper sticker I once had:  “Expect a miracle.”

The first thing that sprang to mind truly does seem miraculous.  When I was not quite six years old my mother had a heart attack.  My sister was just 4 and our brother 3.  No other adults were home.  My mom sat on the floor, her lips turning blue, and told me to go get help.  We had just moved to Indianapolis a few weeks before and didn’t really know people.  And hey – I was not-quite-6-years-old!  But I walked out, found a lady bringing in her clothes from the clothesline as there was an uncharacteristic snowstorm in October – she had come home from work solely to do this task.

And – she was a cardiac nurse.

Yes, there are forces out there watching over us.  As it turns out, I have always believed in angels, and in saints and in forces beyond my left-brained knowing.  I love the quote from the Talmud:  “Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow! Grow!’”

So I’ll work on that Evidence Journal.  When I find myself wanting to chastise someone to ‘toughen up’ I’ll instead check out what feels scary to me.  (However, I’m fond of my toughness and won’t totally abandon it either!). 

How about you?  Have you done ‘genealogical research’ on your emotions or reactions to life?  What did you find?  And what about that trust thing?  How do you weigh in on Einstein’s famous quote:  “The most important question a person can ask is ‘Is the Universe a friendly place?’” – Well, is it? 

As always, I really want to know!

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It’s Memorial Day – and as I noted in this post, it’s not meant to be about barbecues (which is not to say we don’t have them), but rather remembering those who have died in service to our country (or state, city, neighborhood).  I make it my own little “Day of the Dead” remembering also those who have passed before me.

Yesterday I was (yep) at a barbecue/music jam party. I was so excited to be there ‘on my own steam.’  My dear recently departed friend Becky was a musician – as is her surviving partner – and through their great kindness I have been invited to a lot of music parties.  You see, I’m NOT a musician, but if I could come back again and had one wish that would likely be it – to come back as a great musician (preferably a fiddle player with long curly hair – that would work for me).

The people at the party are all incredible musicians.  They’re in my general age group – so we sing a lot of old folk/country/light rock songs from ‘back in the day’ and some songs from WAY back in the day, like “Hard Times Come Around No More” which I found out was written by Steven Foster (1860s).

I noticed as the evening went on how our merry little Motown songs and other silly stuff,  was getting more and more replaced by more reflective music.  Wistful music. About aging, loss and sorrow. Not mournful – just that sweet wisftulness – oh, if only…

After we did this great Kate Wolf song (here performed by Nanci Griffiths) “Across the Great Divide” one of our gang mentioned that was a signature song for our friend Kim who unexpectedly died a year ago December.  So we decided to do a song to commemorate our friend Becky, whom cancer robbed of us a year ago in February.  To my continual amusement, Becky loved the Bee Gees.  So of course, the first lyric that came up was from “New York Mining Disaster” – “in the event of something happening to me….” but then settled into “Massachusetts” instead.

Rich sang a song about aging which I didn’t recognize as a song, but sure as all get out recognize as a phenomenon.

Kent and Debbie’s elderly dog with dysplasia limped into the room.  He and Kent looked at one another so soulfully.

Rich’s song talked about the hands of the clock flying around.  About how you look in the mirror and wonder ‘whose is that face?’

My friend Jeanne’s son-in-law was no doubt as surprised as his wife and infant daughter when he abruptly died in a Marine helicopter training exercise last year.  My friend Myra was stunned when her husband Barry (with his co-pilot) was the first casualty of the first Iraq war.

As I do with the abrupt deaths of Becky and Kim, those who have lost dear ones in war or in service to their country must have moments of “what would life be like now if {loved one} were still alive.”

And sudden or not – we’re all on that train.  Mostly, we distract ourselves from that sure knowledge.  But there are times when it seeps into our souls.  The ephemeral nature of life and love. The importance of being fully present RIGHT NOW.  How precious human incarnation is.  The importance, above all else, of love.

When I was a kid, my mother would point out that on Good Friday from 12-3 (the hours at which Jesus was purportedly on the cross) it would always be gloomy weather outside.  I’ve long noticed a propensity for Memorial Day weekend to be cold and/or rainy (this weekend in Chicago definitely DOES not fit that trend).  Our songs last night took a turn towards Wistful.

Our walking around selves may try to trick us.  But the soul – and the deep heart’s core – remembers.

Be love today.  Honor all the fallen by doing something kind, good and true in their honor.  Make a difference.



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Just the other night I was chatting with a friend about happiness.  I told her that I had a vivid memory of a party – one of, oh, I’d say, a thousand parties (seemed like one per night) in my youth.  I was probably about 24 at the time.  I was standing in a kitchen – whose house? who knows? – with my foot up on the seat of a kitchen chair.  I was drinking Guinness out of a bottle, talking to Denny Lindsey, just laughing my ass off.  The house was filled with laughter, loud GOOD music and people I loved.  It was winter and I had on blue jeans, a flannel shirt and some hiking boots.  I was filled to overflowing with joy – pure joy.  And I thought “I’m gonna always remember how happy I am tonight.”

You know, close to four decades later, I still DO remember that.

And so what an interesting little bit of synchronicity that less than a week after recounting this story, I was on my goddaughter’s Facebook page and saw a post from her uncle – Denny Lindsey.  So I sent off a “friend request” and tonight we connected on Facebook.

Looking at the pictures of his family – I was close friends with his sister, my goddaughter’s mom, and with Denny and their brother Geoff – brought back a flood of memories.

And it got me thinking of the great, incomparable gift that old friends are in our lives.  Especially friendships that aren’t just longstanding – but the ones that began in our formative years.  People who knew us when we were significantly forging who we have eventually become.  Who, in fact, helped shape that becoming-ness.

So welcome back into my life, Denny Lindsey.  And thanks to all of the companions of my youth.

Though there can be a danger that friends from our past can’t see who we are now, blinded as they are by who we once were, the ones who DO see the changes, but also remember the changeling – those are rare and precious jewels and should be cherished appropriately.

How about you?  Are you blessed by people who knew you “back in the day”?  Is it fun to reminisce?  Do they see you as you are now?  Do you see THEM as they are now?

I’d really like to know!

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What do we do in the face of personal tragedy?  What do we say to the grieving?  How then, shall we act when we hear of a loss that takes our breath away?

I’m getting back-to-back-to-back opportunities in that regard.  Yesterday was the first anniversary of the death of my dear friend Becky, who tragically succumbed to cancer last year at the young age of 46.  Today is the anniversary of the suicide of someone in my inner circle.  And yesterday I found out about a car accident on Monday in which my friend Ann’s husband Tom was instantly killed, Ann seriously injured.  This last is made much worse because 14 years ago Ann had a serious stroke and Tom has been her caretaker.  We’re not sure (from reports) if the leg that got crushed in the accident is her working leg or the one the stroke left dangling.

What do you say?  What can any of us possibly do?  I have a close connection to the mother of the man who committed suicide.  He was her oldest child.  Her first husband died when she was 40, leaving her with 7 children to raise.  She got them all successfully raised and through college.  That must’ve seemed like the hard part – and then….

I don’t know if you’re like me.  But what I want to do when these hard, scary, heartbreaking things happen to my friends – well, my first impulse, at least – is to hide. It seems so hard. I don’t know what to say.  I am very aware that words are trivial in the face of such loss and anguish.  And I have no ‘wisdom’ to impart.

But what I am finding is that just acknowledging the loss and saying you care (and of course MEANING it) and standing by people helps a lot.

Yesterday I had to give myself a pep talk to call Becky’s mom.  I felt very guilty that at Becky’s funeral I had sworn to her mom that I’d keep in touch.  And I meant it when I said it. Except then I didn’t do it.  So I felt ashamed.  My inner dialogue had Becky’s mom thinking “oh yeah, call me NOW, a year later – where have you been this whole hard year?”

What I got instead was her delight that I called yesterday.  She told me that my many messages on the Facebook page we set up in memory of her daughter had been a year long comfort.  She said “I don’t write on Facebook – that’s just not me – but I read every word that has been written – often many times – and it has comforted me and Rachel.”

We had a good talk.  We laughed about Becky.  We both teared up.  It felt cathartic.

When my friend Deb called to tell me about Ann and Tom I said “wow, I’m a spiritual person but I’m having a very hard time conjuring up any way this could turn out well – it feels totally overwhelming.”

Deb said, “Well, today is the one year anniversary of Becky’s death.  Let me ask you something. Has anything at all good come out of this past year?”

Such a helpful reminder.  My mom used to always say “God works in mysterious ways” and I think that’s true.  I don’t know how things will turn out.  I have no magic words or deeds that will Poof! make everything better.  But I can be with people.  I can acknowledge their loss and suffering.  I can ensure that they are not alone (if that’s desired).  And I can pray.

In the end, I think, only love is real.  So I can be love.  And I am SO reminded on this day, of life’s fragility and preciousness.  Really truly, friends – be loving.  Tell the ones you love how much they mean to you.  Daily.  You never know which moment will have been your last.

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Last year, between Halloween and February 7, I lost 5 beings whom I loved (4 people and my beloved cat companion).  With the exception of my beloved Aunt Mickey, who had been ill for a long time (and was in her 70s) the deaths were total surprises.  The other four beings were “too young to die” (obviously that wasn’t true, but so it seemed).

The surprise element just made it all worse.

It had never occurred to me that just as surprise seems to exponentially accelerate grief, it can be an exponential healer, too.

Last night I went out to hear music.  I’ve had a flu all week and being sick never makes me (or anyone) cheerier.  I have been very aware that the one year anniversary of my friend Becky’s death is coming on February 7.  The music event I went to is one that I was introduced to by Becky and her partner Annie.  And while Annie was there last night, Becky, of course, was not.

Then some of my musician friends played a song my mom used to sing all the time (“After You’ve Gone”).  Debbie’s evocative singing just brought back my mom, singing that while doing dishes or in the car.

I left the music place feeling very sad indeed.

There’s a road I love that leads to Woodstock, IL (where I had gone to hear music) – Country Club Road.  I’ve written about it here before as it is one of my sources of comfort, delight and inspiration.  Usually when I’m just grumpy, a ride down Country Club Road will cheer me right up.

And since my 20s I have had a secret love affair with the winter night sky.  She’s been my secret delight for decades, a source of awe, wonder and delight.

Well, last night both Country Club Road and the winter night sky just made things WORSE.  Reminding me of the companions not on the journey, pointing out my very stark aloneness.

I listened to Jackson Browne in the car and that seemed to just add some underlining to SAD.

But then 3 surprising things happened that were as bold in their “cheering-up-ness” as the “out of the blue” deaths last year were in their “causing grief-ness”.

  • As I was pulling in to my garage, still listening to “Call it a Loan”, I remembered that the CD was a VERY unexpected gift last year from my eldest nephew.  One day, out of the blue, I got a package from Amazon.com with this Jackson Browne CD, followed a day or two later with another package from Amazon with Annie Dillard’s “Holy the Firm”.  Jonah had a simple gift note saying he hoped these gifts would cheer me.  I’m not a mom, so I don’t know how it is with kids of your own, but to have my adult nephew truly ‘get’ my pain and then unlike anyone else, DO something about it was exponentially helpful. And the gifts he chose both showed that he ‘got’ me – they were PERFECT.  It helped more than I can ever describe and it helped me again last night.  I felt seen, understood and not so alone.  Out of the blue.
  • When I walked in, about an hour after the time my 11 month old kittens are accustomed to getting their last meal of the day, their sweet expectant faces and wagging tails just filled me with love.  Yes, I know they were looking expectant as in “where’s my food, mama?” but their trust and sweetness just melted my heart and again, assuaged my sadness.
  • I read each night in the tub and before bed.  Right now I’m reading two books, but just one of them is part of the night-time ritual: David Byrne’s “Bicycle Diaries”.  I had heard about it on NPR and my friend Bill lent it to me.  It’s surprisingly engaging and delightful and I found that it cheered me in the way that I had thought Country Club Road would (and usually does) – by providing a connection outside myself, a new view, a widening circle.  Last night I traversed the neighborhoods of London with the guy I had heretofore thought of as only the front-man for the Talking Heads.  In the process I got some new insights into  “is the past real” and “what’s music for”.  An unexpected delight.

So when I get the wind taken out of my sails abruptly – as we all do – I will remind myself that just as unexpectedly a tail wind can come out of the blue and help me safely back to shore, to home, to shelter from the storm.

So thanks to Jonah Patrick Keegan, Liam and Maggie, Bill Wallenbecker and David Byrne for turning this ship around last night.

Have you experienced GOOD surprise in which the surprise element made all the difference?  Tell us about it!

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My best friend is flying in from Florida today to stay for two weeks.  We’ll celebrate Solstice, Christmas, New Year’s together AND I’m having some minor foot surgery on Thursday and she’ll be wondrously helpful as I gimp around a bit.  I can’t wait to see her and for all that great time with her!

I’m also eagerly awaiting the results of the foot surgery – my friend Mary had the same type of surgery and yesterday she wrote me that she NEVER has hip or knee pain (who knew a toe could have so many residual effects) and almost never has foot pain (twice in four years).  After decades of discomfort, I’m gleefully awaiting a new life of being pain-free and not so gimpy.

And then there’s all the winter holidays – Winter Solstice tomorrow, Christmas on Sunday, New Year’s the following Sunday.  I’ll miss being with my sister’s wonderful family in Pennsylvania and with my dear Dad and his wife this Christmas, but I still have Christmas spirit.  Mostly, I’m anticipating the fun of Sue and Bill – my best woman and guy friends, who are truly family to me – opening their stockings and gifts.  I had fun yesterday filling the stockings.

Anticipation of good things is such a delicious feeling (anticipation of bad things has its own name – dread).  Little children’s anticipation of Santa and the goodies they will get is perhaps the most evocative instance of this tingly, “I can’t wait!” feeling.

What are YOU anticipating today?  What has you saying “oh, goodie! I can’t wait til….”

Revel in the anticipation – it has its own joys, besides the wished-for event or thing.  And get your inner kid on as you say “Oh goodie!”

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