Grief: The Third Rail

If social security is the third rail of politics, grief is the third rail of life. Few want to talk about it and no one wins this battle in the end. It dims, changes, and morphs, but never leaves. I will not pretend to have the corner market on grief, because every person has their own story. Whether you have lost a parent, a child, a sister, a dog, a friend; grief changes you. It scrapes away the facade,  and what is left is often startling and raw.

This is a picture of my son being held by his Grandpa. Shortly after this picture was taken, he lost the last vestiges of memory. He forgot where he lived and who we were. Every loss is unique, debilitating and, usually, devastating. Death is death. This is not a contest. Who wants to scoop up on the prize of greatest loss? Um, yeah, no one, that’s who.

Bridget Larson Lindner's photo.
I was once at a dinner where Rudy Giuliani spoke. I remember little of what he discussed other than the number of funerals he attended around the clock after 9/11. The one quote that stuck with me is this, “Weddings are optional, but showing up in times of grief? Absolutely necessary.” So true. It’s incredibly easy to be a part of the events where joy abounds: a wedding, a baptism, a graduation. To show up at a funeral, and embrace the awkward silences and tears? Those are the people you remember. “Grief forces you see: who matters, who never did, who won’t anymore, and who always will.”
I think grief is the 3rd rail because even though it’s always there, it’s something that we tend to want to smooth over quickly, to move past as fast as possible. I’ve decided recently though that there is something really beautiful in taking time to talk to someone, to listen, to see their eyes fill with tears, while tears well up in your own. It’s real, it’s raw, and it resonates.
Embracing someone in their sadness is often a forced pursuit. It doesn’t come naturally to most, and it’s actively avoided by many. In one of my first jobs I was placed in situations to sit at the bedside of others that were dying and didn’t have anyone to be with them. This remains, to this day, some of the most heartbreaking memories of mine. To be at the end of your life and have a stranger placed at your bedside to hold your hand? I’ve worked hard to establish and maintain relationships to avoid this very scenario, not dying, that will come for all of us, but to die alone or with a paid stranger? Please, no, no, no. If you want a reality check on the life you’re living, take a moment now to imagine yourself in your final moments. Who is there and who isn’t? If you need to get to work on some things, here’s your nudge of encouragement.
It’s been a sad week for some lovely people for a myriad of reasons. Perhaps you fall into this mix. You know the difference between the rushing “how are you” and “no, really, pause, pause, pause, eye contact, how are you?”. It such a gift to be listened to, isn’t it? I just don’t think there’s a replacement for it. So here’s my challenge for all of you, dear readers, grieve and let others be grieve with you. To allow someone in, really in, when you’re broken to down to basics and rubbed raw, is a gift, and such a compliment. That they would share this honest moment with you? Yes.
Be real and allow others be real, too. Be charitable when grief gets ugly, because sometimes it can be very, very ugly and angry. Look people in the eye and share their sadness. Grief is awkward, halting, consuming, and distancing. Cards are nice, e-mails are thoughtful, but showing up is priceless. Show up for the hard stuff. Even with your awkward silence, side hugs, and sweaty hands, show up for the hard stuff. 

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Keep sharing moxie.

Plan C, D, & E

Going with Plan A is easy peasy. Rolling with Plan B?  Most can. It’s the person that can rock Plan C, D & E that I want in my bomb shelter and on my speed dial.

This brings to mind my Aunt Mary, a coffee can filled with pee, and a messed up pan of rice krispie bars.

My Aunt Mary rocked plan C, D, & E often in her life with panache. Quick to laugh at herself, she was able to carry off many things that would leave others crying in their coffee grounds. Family legend says Aunt Mary once brought  a pan of bars that had 5 different kinds of cereal, but really it was only 3. Families can have long memories about a little slip-up, right? 😉  As I recall, the bars started out as Rice Krispies, but running out of those, she added Lucky Charms and Fruity Pebbles. Those were some fine looking multi-colored squares of sugar, clearly illustrating making do with what you have. (This week I had my own Mary Moment resulting in a quick and dirty batch of no-bake cookies. These were made when plan A, B, & C were utter failures).

I’ve never been painted in a corner, but I have been painted upstairs. Honestly. I was playing with my cousin, visiting Aunt Mary, and she painted the stairs in a somewhat Amelia Bedelia move, with us on a upper level. Ever the problem solver, she pitched food up the stairs till we could come down without messing up the paint. Truly one of my favorite memories at her home.

Everyone has a Griswold family vacation story or two in their back pocket. Ours was a multi-family caravan road trip to Wyoming. Before cell phones, you’ll recall it was somewhat tricky to communicate between vehicles, not for us. We proudly flew a red sock out our window if we needed to pull over. After my younger cousin figured out that he got a break to check out a gas station whenever he had to go to the bathroom, why that red sock was flying ALL. THE. TIME. And then, he was given a can to piss in by his mother, you guessed it, Aunt Mary.

Aunt Mary had some big issues go down in her life as well, but she dealt with them, owned them, and made them a part of her history, not her future. I’d like to think I learned some things about living from her.

“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”, “the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry”, “roll with the punches”… I could go on and on. You get my point. Life is messy. If you’re sitting here reading this and living exactly the life you imagined and dreamt of as a child, yay you!!! Actually, wait. Seriously, who are you? If you have the keys to the kingdom…it’s only nice to share. MOST people have to move along to plan C, D, & E at some point. For me, it’s how you do it that says more about you than having to roll along to your 5th plan. You can go kicking and screaming, yelling, kicking the dog, or you can suck it up, straighten your shoulders, and do it. If you’re really talented, like Aunt Mary, you can just laugh.

It’s no easy task to laugh at yourself, to take ownership, and move on. I’d rather have one Aunt Mary than a 100 powerful people that would throw me under the bus at the first given opportunity. So this week, my sage sharing moxie advice for all of you, my dear readers, is this– be a Mary, not a Jackwagon. 

Keep Sharing Moxie!

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Graduating from adult camp…

dreamrocks

Today I graduated from adult camp. Not kidding. After spending a week at a leadership camp retreat, I crossed over the rainbow bridge to adulthood, to leadership. And because you’re all my peeps, or you soon will be, I’m going to share some of this wisdom for free. Get ready, friends, I am going to save you thousands of dollars that you can spend on whatever makes your soul sing and heart beat faster.

    1. First day of adult camp is like the first day of school. Everybody is flashing their finest clothes and seeing where they are going to fall in the pecking order. Remember clothes are armor and in new and intimidating situations one must suit up. By the end of the week jeans prevailed. If I had stayed one more day I would’ve shown up in yoga pants. You have got to get down to the jeans and yoga pants level if you’re going to be real.
    2. Listening is important. Not kidding. I don’t listen the way I should, chances are that you don’t either. There is a significant difference between listening to get the gist of something and being really intentional about listening for understanding. A good listener is hearing what is being said and sensing what is unsaid. Being really listened to feels incredibly good. Try it.
    3. Invite new people to your lunch table. To your board room. To your classroom. To your life. I’m an abstract person. I see a haunted spooky forest where concrete thinkers see approximately 20 trees. You need both at your table.
    4. Trust people that know more than you. I found myself on the first day of camp looking around smirking as the seasoned instructors said that by the end of the week we would reflect on this time spent as one of the most incredible experiences of our lives. I was wrong. They were right.
    5. Adult camp food is WAYYYYY better than summer camp. Shrimp, scallops, steak, salmon? And you can drink legally, as opposed to sneaking in a stolen wine cooler from the garage fridge.
    6. I probably don’t speak the same language as you and certainly not the same language as my husband. He gets hopped up about a new calculation in a P & L. I look at him like a deer in the headlights. I tell him that the color of my daughter’s nursery doesn’t feel right and makes me so incredibly sad I want to cry. He looks at me like I have lost my mind. Find out what language you speak and those that you love. It will save time and hurt. We all have filters. I say green. You say grass. I say leprechaun. Make sure you’re on the same page or at least in the same damn book.
    7. Compliments, really thoughtful positive assessments, feel better than sex. Well, mostly. Take the time to write down five things you love and appreciate about someone. You’ll be amazed watching their entire face light up.
    8. Every community needs leaders. You are probably one already. Stop standing on the sidelines. Dig in. The world needs you. Your community needs you. Yes, you. 

Keep sharing moxie.

Really!! Share it! Pin it! Email it! I love seeing how sharing moxie is spreading.

Thanks, readers. You’re the best!

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