Hibiscus Affair Part 3 – The Rule of Thirds

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.
Anaïs Nin

Photography is the story I fail to put into words.
~ Destin Sparks

The rule of thirds is notably one of the first rules a photographer puts to active use in their craft to establish well-balanced and appealing images.  Aligning a subject at the guidelines and intersecting points, a horizon on a top or bottom line, or allow linear features to free flow from section to section make the photograph artistically captivating.  The same can be said about life.

Embarking on my artistic photographic endeavors, I apply the rule in daily practice and experimentation.  It has been especially useful in weaving together my affair with the hibiscus flower, photography and the healing process of love and loss.  Hubbard has become my muse.  Settling in to his new role in his new home, our new home.   I step outside, camera in hand and photograph him.  We play and practice together.  I shoot various stages of his flowering lifecyle —  growth through death.  I’ve captured his blooms mildly wilted from a drenching rain, eavesdropped on a pair of ants rendezvousing on a firm, unopened bud, and attempted a film noir style visual in black and white incorporating a single color element.   Hubbard is the perfect model: stoic, obedient, and never needs a smoking break.

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Reviewing images I’d collected with these new skills and new camera a fresh idea was sparked for that trio frame of the Kona, Hawaii hibiscuses now hanging in a guest bathroom.   Update the photos.   The idea was as clear as Hubbard’s uproot was.  The plan:  Hubbard will provide all the content; I will provide visual perspective and creative story.   Together we will apply the rule of thirds:  One plant, three flowers, three varying stages, three different exposures.  We’ll create a new story together.  A story of rejuvenation in the aftermath of loss and heartbreak.  A legacy story, how the gift of love keeps on giving and living happily after.  Together, we’ll illustrate how to revitalize the memory of your loved one, their influence on you and how to artistically integrate that memory into the life you now have without them.   A reality story, now matter how hard you may try to prevent it, doing your absolute best, life is impermanent and you are simply powerless over that fact.

Shortly after the framing revamp was finished, the rainy season that is Florida summer began earlier than usual.  Afternoon showers were long and the downpours intense.  Hubbard struggled to keep up with draining the water out of his pot.  He couldn’t, and went into saturation shock.  I was finding standing water in his pot after every rain.  More and more of his bright green leaves were turning yellow, some trimmed in brown.  I was doing everything I knew how to do to help him.  The leaves kept turning yellow and falling from his branches.  It was out of control.  Hubbard was drowning, in severe shock and at high risk of dying.  Each day, I was taking another preemptive step to nurse him through the trauma.  On July 23rd, the 20th anniversary of my first date with Boomer, I was with Hubbard.  I got him out of the pot, dumped the remaining sulfur-stenched soil and gave him a deep root cut, losing a branch in the process.  My heart raced in urgency to do the next right thing for him.  While he basked in the sun, I dug a hole in the ground the very spot where his pot had rested and set him directly into the earth where he began.   I blended the natural soil with fresh potting mix, rubbed his now naked branches and asked to him to hang on.

The next day, struck by the number 17 sweeping across my mind, I emotionally fell apart.  Boomer died 17 months after we moved.  Hubbard had been living in the clay pot for 17 months and was now close to dying too.  Without knowing it, a p.t.s.d. fashback had symbolically tripped and was I reliving the end of Boomer’s life.  Drowning.  Boomer drowned; drowned in his disease, metastasized by his internal bleeding that couldn’t be stopped.  For a time, I too was drowning — in love and in helplessness —  for Boomer and now Hubbard.  Terrified I can’t do anything else to save either one of them.   I spent the day working my healing practices to move through these emotions as smoothly, swiftly and lovingly as possible.  I was feeling better within a half a day.

Hubbard is holding steady.  I am hopeful while still afraid he may die.  Hibiscus shrubs thrive best in the ground.  He’d been out of the ground too long.  I understand and accept the truth that one day Hubbard will go.  This is the circle of life.  I’m just not ready yet; we’re still enjoying new memories together.  It was the same way with Boomer — I wasn’t ready for him to die either.  I don’t get a say.  I just have to accept it and be, as a friend recently wrote in an email, “…just grateful for another day on the planet.”   That I am.

Boomer, Hubbard, and Me:  The hibiscus affair.  The circle of life, through the rule of thirds.

All truth passes through three stages.
First, it is ridiculed.  Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
 ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

I walk, I look, I see, I stop, I photograph.
~Leon Levinstein

 

Ref:  Part 1, Part 2

The Hibiscus Affair Part 2: Hubbard

You hold on and I don’t know how. And I wish I did.
Maybe you were born committed…
I can’t get negative enough.
I can’t get angry enough.
And I can’t get positive enough.

~  Hubbell Gardiner, The Way We Were

 

Hubbard entered my life that summer of 2011 a few months after our arrival in Florida. Boomer brought him home.  An optimistic, loving gesture in an attempt to shift our collective moods.   Life in Florida wasn’t going well;  Boomer’s drinking was getting worse along with the emotional and physical distance between us.   He use to make frequent gestures of thoughtfulness, tenderness, and surprise — his way of trying to suture our shared despair and disappointment at the sliding decline of our lives and our relationship.   “Hey SMO, come outside, I brought you a present,” he said.  Stepping outside the backdoor, there on the driveway next to the house in a ten-inch black plastic garden center bucket stood Hubbard, a three-foot tall hybrid hibiscus shrub.  He had no flowers, but he did have his tag describing the two color blossoms, solid white and solid red, he would grow for us if we cared for him.

Hubbard got his name from Boomer.  Boomer intended to name the shrub after Robert Redford’s character in the movie The Way We Were — Hubbell.  He got close, Hubbard stuck.   Boomer spoke in symbolic reference how the movie and its emotionally distraught main characters in familiar ways reminded him of us and the way we were — then and now and our shared enjoyment of the hibiscus.

We planted Hubbard in the ground the same day and watched him quickly acclimate to his new environment, displaying those dynamic white and red flowers his tag promised.   In the years following Boomer’s passing, Hubbard continued to be a source of joy, inspiration, comfort, and hope to me.  In the winters he went dormant, got a good pruning and I eagerly awaited his spring resurgence.   This reliability for me acted as a surrogate of Boomer’s spirit-centered loving devotion.

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I’m the first to admit the strong emotional attachment I have to this hibiscus shrub.  I concede Hubbard is my pet; my pet shrub.  I love this plant more than is probably reasonable to.  One morning, while sitting on the front veranda I heard a whisper…dig him up, get him in a pot so he can adjust was the specific instruction.  You’re taking him with you and he needs time in the pot in order to survive the move, the directive finished with, do it now, do it today.   So I did.  Hubbard was one of two plants I uprooted from the yard of Sunset Place.  I asked a friend to foster-parent Hubbard and his companion plant through the move.  They camped out on Lisa’s front porch for two weeks during the transition from old house to new house at the other end of town.  When we reunited, Hubbard got a new home along the pavers of the front walk. It suits him.  He gets bright sun all day, which is his favorite and his pot sits next to a sprinkler head so he’s never thirsty.

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Some memories last forever was a tagline for the motion picture The Way We Were.  Moving to a new home in the wake of losing a spouse aroused confusion for me.  I didn’t know how Boomer, my memory of him, and our time together integrates in this space and the new emerging chapter of life.  It’s more uncharted terrain. I think that’s why Hubbard is still with me, to keep drawing in Boomer’s sunshine through his beautiful blossoms.

Lately I’m discovering a balanced center where Hubbard is playing a staring role, but I see myself scrambling to capture and protect all that I can for posterity…

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
~ Marcel Proust

 

Ref:  Part 1, Part 3

 

 

The Hibiscus Affair – part 1

One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do
Two can be as bad as one
It’s the loneliest number since the number one
Three Dog Night,  One (written by Harry Nillson)

 

One thing I can tell you, if you’re in a relationship with an active alcoholic, you are living a lonely life.   Your significant-someone is fixated on the bottle first.  You and your relationship, if you’re lucky, are number two.   I was lucky number two, in my relationship with Boomer;  the drink was always first.  I didn’t realize just how lonely a relationship I was in until we spent a week in Kona, Hawaii, for our honeymoon, when we traveled — on day two — to the Kohala Forest Reserve in Waimea where I embarked on a Pololu Valley hike toward the breathtaking black sand beaches by myself.  Boomer opted instead to sit in the rental car at the lookout point, he was passed-out in the front seat when I returned.

Later, as we looked through photographs taken during the trip, the evidence was undeniable that he hadn’t been a part of most of the sightseeing.  He spent the majority of the time hunkered down in the condo, drinking, watching football and making calls to his cronies on the mainland.   The irony is from that time forward, until he died, he revered our Hawaiian honeymoon as one of his most positively memorable trips.  This baffled me because it was a sad contrasting memory for me –my honeymoon, alone, without my husband.

Still, one distinct pleasure we mutually shared from that trip was the splendor of the hibiscus flower, you don’t see a lot of them in the Midwest.  The vibrant array of blossom colors from shrubs and trees were everywhere greeting you with a giant fragrantless smile amid the lush tropical landscaping of the condo complex where we stayed.  Since the yellow hibiscus is Hawaii’s state flower, naturally the big bloom with its darting appendage of pollen is everywhere at every turn on everything from being tucked behind a woman’s ear to printed t-shirts and body tattoos.  A visual feast.

The evening before we left Kona to return home, Boomer asked me to go around the development and take some pictures.  He specifically mentioned the hibiscuses, a tiki statue that caught his eye, as well as the sunset over the Pacific Ocean at the edge of  the community.  I obliged.  Alone.  He stayed inside and drank.   I amassed over 60 images that evening with an Olympus 8.0 megapixel digital pocket camera Boomer gave me for my birthday earlier that year.  Most of photos were total crap.  That camera and I never played very well together, yet I salvaged about a dozen images of what he expressed keepsake interest in.  What I’ve learned since that time, through my own recovery process, his request as an active alcoholic was a manipulative tactic to create a diversion to satisfy the ulterior motive to continue drinking uninterruptedly.  He cleverly leveraged  what he knew would be a guaranteed positive reaction from me without question, hassle, or forethought.  He manipulated me into going out alone to take the pictures because he knew he’d get my agreement.  I like taking pictures…check.  We both like hibiscus flowers…check.  It’s our last night…check.   How could I say no?  Hibiscus trio entre

A year later, our lives were on rapid decline, and in an effort to lift his spirits I assembled a ‘floating’ trio collage frame as a Christmas gift of three hibiscus flower photos I had taken (‘floating’ means a photograph is pressed between two pieces of glass with no other support to hold it in place).  Memory of a time and place he held fondness for even if I didn’t.  From me, to him, for us.  He loved it.

When we moved to southwest Florida in 2011 the hibiscus collage made its home hanging on a narrow kitchen wall adjacent to the bedroom and dining area, a primary pass through of the little 1920s Spanish-style bungalow then our home.  Before long, the orange-colored hibiscus went rogue, slipped out of place igniting my affair with the flower.

Boomer was the first to spot the slip and the week before our third wedding anniversary began having extra fun at my fastidious tendencies toward home decor perfection.  It started with him simply saying he noticed something.  Every day he mentioned it with accompanied laughter as I scampered around trying to figure out what the something was.  He offered no clues for a week, finally surrendering to the old ‘hot and cold’ clue game leading me to the discovery I’d walked by hundreds of times without noticing.   The hibiscus gave us moments of levity during the increasingly dark time when our life together was running short of joy, laughter, and time.  While an orange hibiscus in particular, collaborated with Boomer to teach me to embrace the gift of imperfection.   I’ve kept its displacement in tact.

Enter Hubbard, my paramour…

 

 

 

 

A Ghostly Starry Night

Put your ear close to the whispering branch and you may catch what it is saying.
~ Guy Murchie

By all standard conceptual accounts she is a stranger.  We met online after I read her article about the stupid, insensitive things people say and do when you’re grieving.  I wrote about it myself, then reached out to her to express gratitude and consensus how her piece resonated with me.  There was a familiar spark with Aimee in our written exchange, we were like-minded in life matters and like-experienced with premature widowdom.  She was further along than I in the healing process and the assemblance of a new life, and I was hope-filled and inspired connecting with her.   We are by no means besties, though we have stayed in touch.  There is an automatic kinship that occurs among people who have lost someone they love, a relationship that naturally sustains itself when each individual continues in similar ways.

Fast forward to last month, Aimee dropped a private message my way through Facebook.   It’s always an unexpected and welcome surprise for me when a real social media connection escalates to engage personally one-on-one:  “Hey Shannon, Thought of you today while I was at the eye doctor. After taking out my contacts and waiting for the doctor, a magazine rack was in front of me, one with the biggest letters spelling out BOOMER. How cool is that? Think someone wants to say ‘hi’ to you.”   Now if I hadn’t already developed an acquaintanceship with Aimee, I probably would have ignored her, and silently rejected her message as some trolling phish preying on emotions, a premise supported by the number of random male ‘friend requests’ I’ve received from bogus profiles classified as a ‘widower’.  Not in this case.

Recalling the numerous postmortem communications I’d encountered with Boomer since he died — through his wedding ring, those middle of the night wake-up whispers, and other various signals and symbols — letting me know he’s around and watching over me,  this latest run-in, especially now having moved out of our house, was both new, captivating and yes, pretty damn cool.    Contact coming direct from a ‘stranger’, someone Boomer certainly  didn’t know, yet embodied special credibility as a fellow widow, a heart-centered person whom I admire and respect.  I’ve heard supernatural stories of loved ones who from beyond the grave leveraged another living spirit to communicate a message. Aimee explained this has happened more than once for her, the spirit souls of those who have passed use her to send messages to their loved ones.  It was the second time ‘Boomer’ showed up with her;  she was compelled to reach out.  It sounds so bizarre.  Like something right out of the 1990 movie Ghost.  It was.  As if Aimee were a personal Oda Mae Brown.  Still, I was intrigued, curious and simultaneously comforted as I followed up with her offer to continue a deeper exploration sending her a picture of Boomer to meditate on.  “Let’s see what comes up,” she said.

The next day, Aimee had more to share.  She was clear in her suggestion to take what resonates with me and leave the rest.    Much of what she initially messaged me were short, incomplete abstract statements that didn’t make any direct sense, it was like trying to translate jibberish.  As she said,  “Some starry night was another phrase that came through,” I froze.  Reading the words again — some starry night —  it seemed Hitchcockian in nature as I slowly took my eyes off my tablet screen to gaze at the framed print hanging on the upper right corner of the wall in front of the desk in my study… Van Gogh’s Starry Night.20170316_165431

Boomer hated this print.  It hung on my side of our shared office when we lived it Evanston.  He often remarked how much he disliked it –without cause or reason, he just did.  I laughed as I cried at how much this new experience was hitting me.  Each remark Aimee shared following starry night was spot-on; nothing she would have known or had read from me and I was rattled by it. He’s baaaaack.

The timing was serendipitous itself; on the cusp of upcoming calendar dates, Boomer’s birthday and St. Patrick’s Day, what would have been the 10th anniversary of our engagement. Again, nothing Aimee herself would have any first-hand awareness of.  You explain it.  I can’t.  I naively thought that when my address changed and the pictures and memorabilia trinkets were safely tucked away in storage Boomer would cease to continue within my life.  Not so.  A deeper lesson emerged; spirit does not die, nor does end. It is the human form, its temporary occupant, that goes away.  Teilhard de Chardin gave explanation to such a phenomena, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.  We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”  Even my all-time favorite music group, The Police, understood, “We are spirits in the material world.”  In my humanness I clumsily operate as though Boomer no longer is.  Through Aimee, he taught me otherwise.  He is and forever will be a spirit within my life, I am tasked to expand how I see him, where I see him, when I see him.  My human heart is acclimating to the news, of which Aimee was already aware, referring to him in both present and past tense, “He has a beautiful spirit and it feels like you picked each other before this lifetime,” she concluded, “He was one of your great teachers.”    Yes, he was.   All evidence points that he still is and always will be.   I love knowing this.

The world needs your strength right now.
Go get ’em.

~ Boomer to SMO, through Aimee DuFresne*, February 23, 2017

*Feel free to contact Aimee DuFresne through the link, if you’re interested to connect with your spirited loved one.  It’s quite cool. 

Impermanence

Each time the losses and deceptions of life teach us about impermanence,
they bring us closer to the truth. When you fall from a great height,
there is only one possible place to land: on the ground-the ground of truth.
And if you have the understanding that comes from spiritual practice,
then falling is in no way a disaster, but the discovery of an inner refuge.
~ Sogyal Rinpoche

‘Twas Christmas night, and the 2nd night of Hanukkah when my phone started blowing up with multiple ping-a-rings of incoming text messages.   Resisting temptation, I left the phone alone – until 5 a.m. the next morning.   Nooooo!!  Musical artist, George Michael died.   People I knew well, who knew I was a career-long admirer reached out; sharing the news, expressing their own shock, perhaps seeking solace among a fellow fan.  I spent the day mourning the loss through continual play of his music, watching videos and interviews.  I fully immersed; reminiscing with many songs:  where I was, what happened, who I was with, etc.   Keenly aware another life — there have been stunningly many lives this year, 2016 — has transitioned and something has ended — again. impermanence-2

“All humans must cope with the death of their loved ones…”
Unknown, From Survival to Recovery

George Michael is a stranger, yet also a loved one.   I did not know him personally, I only knew his musical talent – – and I love it —  the gift he was given that he gave to me and others like me who enjoyed his music, who grew-up with his music:   Hypnotic, seductive, rebellious, soulful, elegant, sophisticated, kitchy.  George Michael is one year older than me.   Perhaps we grew-up together and how as his career evolved and his life unfolded, I remained loyal.    As he was changing, so was I and it still fit.

A day later, barely catching my breath, another loss…Carrie Fisher.  Sure, she’s Princess Leia for thousands, that’s how I met her too, in 1977, but that’s not who I loved.  I loved the broad who came from a dysfunctional family, struggled with addiction, mental illness and rose from the ashes of her own privileged chaos of a life to become a writer, author, and comically outspoken empress of story telling.

And now the very next day, her mother, the great Debbie Reynolds died too.  I can’t keep up, though it’s not about me, it’s about acceptance of the time-limiting fragility of life.  Journalist Dan Rather, following the announcement of Ms. Reynolds’ passing poignantly wrote, “Life is fickle and death all of our eventual destination.  We must to do our part to take the moments given to us and cherish the love of those we hold close.”

While the news of all these life passings are both a shock and emotionally draining, I’m in a better place of acceptance than I was… 8 months ago, last April,  when I learned Prince died.

The surprise announcement of The Artist, Prince Rogers Nelson’s, death, hit me in a way I didn’t understand.  I didn’t know Prince either.  Yet, when I learned the devastating news, while standing in a Bed, Bath and Beyond store, I began to sob as though I’d just lost a dear friend.  I wept for days every time I heard his music, watched the movie Purple Rain, and reminisced.  I couldn’t put my head around it, let alone my heart.  All I knew (and didn’t) of Prince nothing made sense.  Prince was an icon, an innovator, a creative force that penetrated more than his own individual performances.  Charismatic, tough, private, mysterious, sexy, flamboyant, generous and most of all –his own person, on his own terms.    For this, I always admired him, I wanted to be like him, fearless and devout to his own individuality, his ideals and beliefs.

These talented humans are my generation.  I’m confronted with the reality of mortality, also known as impermanence.  It’s part of my pain in their passing.  I’ve felt sadness of the news of many people who have passed this year, yet, those closest to my age or who’s talents I love and chose to infuse into aspects of my life hit me the hardest.   I resist admission of impermanence, believing somehow I am immune, exempt from the experience.  Quite greedy of me, isn’t it?

In Buddhism, the term “impermanence” is part of doctrine describing the three marks of existence. The doctrine asserts that all of conditioned existence, without exception, is:  transient, evanescent, inconstant.

Death is inevitable.  Truth.  For many, denial of that reality, acceptance of truth, an end of life,  is where pain and suffering exists.  For others, myself included, we aren’t afraid of death;  what we’re afraid of is when and/or how the death will come.  How often we hear someone say, “Gone too soon.” Really?  Says who?  You?  Greedy you. You don’t get a say.  Neither do I.  Deal with it, because life is indeed fickle and death is all our eventual destination.  This is impermanence.

What I welcome is how death forces me into gratitude.  I look at the legacy that I was impacted by, affected by, embraced by, loved by and loved.  How it will always be with me, even if the human no longer is, there is a permanent impermanent force.

“Death is a natural part of life.
Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force.
 Mourn them do not.
Miss them do not.
Attachment leads to jealously.
The shadow of greed, that is.”
~ Yoda

Healing Paradigms Through Politics

I learned long ago that in order to heal my wounds
I must have the courage to face up to them.
~ Paulo Coelho

The heart has its reasons which reason knows not of.
~ Pascal

Step back.  Step away.  Breathe.  Reflect.  Feel.  Release.  Rejoice.  Let go.  Carry on.

I’d never seen the photo before — an image of me, laying in bed on my back with the vintage orange, yellow, and brown chevron stripped afgan covering me from neck to toe like a mummy.  My eyes were closed.   Boomer had taken the picture in 2012.  Whether or not I was actually sleeping is speculative.  I stared at the digital image for while then hit the delete key and emptied the recycle bin of the old computer.  Gone.

That photo I’d found was taken on Election Day, November 6, 2012 and Boomer died eight days later.   Are you f***ing kidding me?   A presidential election is another grief trigger?   Apparently it is, has been, for me.   Naive me.  Here I thought I’d long since gone through the heavy lifting of “firsts” in my grief recovery experience only to confront a first presidential election, post Boomer.     But wait, there’s more.

You see, I didn’t vote in 2012.  Sadly, I remember it vividly, because I’ve felt guilty about it for the last 4 years.  I was too sick to get out of bed that day.  The crisis and chaos of living with an active alcoholic had taken such an emotional and physical toll on me personally, I literally could not pull myself out of bed.  Mostly I was curled up in a ball overwhelmed with despair, struggling with ulcer-level stomach cramps, tendinitis, chronic migraines and lower back problems.  Desperate for my life to be different than it was, the man I love so lost himself, and we as a couple were no where near where we were four years earlier, in 2008, when we voted together, watched the returns together and welcomed our first black President in that history-making election.  We were now distant, lost, lonesome and sad, and one of us was dying, drinking himself to death.

That isn’t all I’ve had to confront and revisit — thanks in-part to the last few months of this 2016 Presidential Campaign; history-making in its own right.  This political cycle of our country’s democracy has surfaced some very specific incidents and episodes in the life of SMO, spanning 4 decades, that required paradigm shifts of healing:

  • In my teens, it was the wall-pressed choke-hold I experienced by the hands of an estrangeboyfriend at a party who didn’t approve of my behavior.  Though he was no longer my boyfriend, having dumped me several weeks earlier after learning I was pregnant and knowing he was the father, he believed he had some influential power over me.
  • In my twenties, it was a first-date, only-date, with the guy who attempted to force himself on me in his car at the end of night.
  • Then in my thirties, it was the co-worker of a higher corporate authority position who inappropriately grabbed me at a business function.
  • In my forties, it was my own husband, who told me about the “code” among “men”; how they talk to each other about their sexual exploits unless she’s a woman of “significance” in their lives.  It went as far as even my overhearing parts of those types of conversations when we lived together.

I began having a recurring series of vivid flashbacks, of every single sexual aggression, attempted assault, sexual objectification, and gender nullification I’ve personally and directly encountered, endured and witnessed in my 52 years as a woman.  The political cycle was traumatizing me — again — in ways that forced me to honestly confront and heal from what — unbenounced to me at the time — was wrong, inappropriate and violating.   Doubled-down by my silent guilt of not having had the strength to vote in 2012 — I hadn’t missed voting since I turned 18.

I discovered during this process that though I had long forgiven those you had forced themselves upon me, I still secretly held myself responsible.  That was my pain.   Was there something I might have done or could have done differently to prevent what happened?  Something, anything that would have deterred such arrogant, abuse-of-power attitudes or behaviors.   Questioning myself was at the root of what surfaced for me to work through and the feelings within them.  I felt:  shame, guilt, embarrassment, belittlement, disgust, disappointment — all with myself.

I am not responsible for the behaviors, attitudes, or actions of someone else.  I did not invite, entice, instruct, or condone what was done or said.  Yet my feminineness has been conditioned to take on that emotional responsibility.   The 2016 Presidential Campaign was my personal healing platform to release and let go of those self-defeating, limiting beliefs  — once and for all.

At the same time, I have been emotionally conflicted to openly admit, acknowledge and rejoice, that my life is indeed better than it was four years ago, eight year ago, thus debunking the flood of loud, obnoxious political rhetoric that mercilessly wanted me to believe otherwise.  I chose to withdraw from social media activity to get and sustain my bearings as I worked through my healing process.   You see, I am not a victim in this life.  Yes, stuff has happened, but I can’t afford to relentlessly point blame outward, and forever wear a cloak of fear and martyred victim.  I can’t do it.  I won’t do it.   There’s alot in life I don’t like, but I always do my best, and keep my focus on what’s ahead.  Part of that natural process of living is to let go and free myself from the past.

In all this mumbo jumbo, I saw light coming through the tunnel of all I was working through — early voting.   This was my gateway, the right of passage to my healing paradigm brought on by politics and my civic duty as a US citizen.  October 24th was the start of early voting in Florida.   I had it on my calendar, I set my alarm to be sure I was mentally prepared and ready to go. That same day I was also honoring the 1st anniversary of my Grandmother’s passing, so I chose to walk to the election center — just over a mile.  Gram never drove, so we would walk, just about everywhere.  As I walked I could hear her encouraging me to walk faster like she use to when I was a little girl learning how to keep up.  The walk to vote was also an homage to the last election Boomer and I voted in together, we walked to the voting site.  The air was brisk, the sun was shining and I could feel the momentum of personal freedom and the lifting of regression paradigms building inside me.  On the other side rapture awaited.  Spiritual freedom.  Emotional healing.  History making.

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Thank you, candidates.  You certainly put me through my spiritual, healing paces.  Life is messy, politics is really messy and whatever is going to happen at the end of tonight, one way or another we as a nation will regroup, rebound and continue to progress forward.   That’s the only option.  That is democracy.    What this grief trigger reinforced for me is that I can do nothing about the misgivings of the past, but I can lay the foundation for a better, healthier future. Let it begin with me.   That is what I’ve done for myself out of the many wrong doings, traumas, tragedies and crises that have occurred in my life.  It is exactly what I will continue to do — carry on.  Peace.

  Wisdom is a living stream, not an icon preserved in a museum.
 Only when we find the spring of wisdom in our own life
can it flow to future generations.
~  Thich Nhat Hanh

Three to Five

“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…”
~ Terry Pratchett

What’s happening here? I asked him. He replied, “A key broke loose and I’m gluing it back in place.” Ha, well that’s certainly a creative way, I retorted speculating on the curiously odd way he was going about it. The late model laptop was laying on the living room floor next to his chair with a large brass dolphin figurine resting across the keyboard, it’s nose strategically placed on a function key was the silliest looking thing I’d seen in a while — so much so I had to take a picture.  This will come in handy one day I told him.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was a gift, that blue model sail boat. A gift from me to Boomer, in 1999, the second summer I spent with him in Saugatuck, Michigan. I’d spotted it in a tourist gift shop. He loved sailing and his favorite color was blue. The purchase was a no-brainer for me and probably the easiest gift I’d given him in all our years together. He loved it. The boat was one of his favorite things and always made its home in a prominent place of stately presence in the three residences that followed. It was all the sentimental history surrounding the boat why I kept it.

I never imagined a time when it wouldn’t be in my home or moreover, the home I shared with Boomer. Yet there I was, taking pictures of it and placing it on Craigs List to sell — three years after he died — as I began clearing out and packing up the house, preparing to move. It was time. He was the sailor, not me. I’d been selectively assessing what I’d take with me into a new home. The new home without him. What items were special to me, my tastes or my likes that also meshed with fond, loving memories of Boomer or our history together. The blue sail boat was no longer such an item.

A woman in a neighboring town called late-morning that Wednesday with interest in the boat for the nautical-themed redecorating of her guest room. She could be there in 30-minutes. I walked into my own guest room to retrieve the boat from the top shelf of an increasingly empty bookcase. I stood there looking at it, remembering its life with us, its life with Boomer and said a private goodbye when I spotted a small piece of dust in a corner of the bow.  As I blew on it, something moved and I leaped out of my skin in startlement.  What on earth is that?  A peculiar, misplaced, square piece of black plastic.  I picked it up, turned it over for examination… BAM!  I am stunned by what I am holding… the function key. 20151014_124916

That boat had been moved, adjusted, repositioned and dusted countless times in the last three years.  The laptop had been discarded and recycled over two years ago.  A deluge of questions dominated my bewilderment: What the?  How the?  Where the?   Then the grief hit; a trouncing blast of paralyzing mourning shock and awe of Boomer’s passing, my love, my sorrow and loss, and a spiritual affirmation of his presence right there with me in the moment; all so intense I could barely breathe or stand, and had instantly usurped the surprising discovery of the laptop key so much that I was now terrified over my inability to contain my emotions — and the woman was arriving in 15 minutes to buy the boat.  Pull it together, pull it together.  I chant to myself over and over, when I recall Amber’s counseling words: It’s a three to five year process. The full emotional healing process of bereavement, mourning, and loss can take three to five years. Welcome to year three, SMO; you’ve arrived.

I desperately wanted to rebuff Amber’s trained, educated insights each time I heard them during the 22-months of my grief recovery therapy with her.  Three to five.   Sounds more like a distorted criminal judicial sentencing.  I thought she was crazy.  Yeah, crazy like a fox.  And so is grief.  As the time passes and you move through life, making the adjustments, while the subtle natural emotional healing of time passages occur, surprises will beset you. Bet on it, and yet you can’t. That’s the irony of grief and also what’s so damn frustrating.  You are blind-sided — every time.

The sound of a car door coming from the driveway, jolted me back into an assemblance of coherent composure.  We did the transaction — taking all of five-minutes — as the blue sail boat was placed in the trunk onward to its new home, new owners, new memory making excursions. I walked back into the house, picking up where I left off, and uncontrollably dropped to the ground, landing in the very spot where the laptop and dolphin gluing project had been staged.  For a few moments, I felt like he had just died — again. I surrendered to the second microburst of tears, pain and anguish and let them run their course as I sat there on the living room floor.  A phone call to a nearby friend, spawned a in-person visit and talking through the experience with her, I regained my strength and felt better within a few hours.  This is grief…the later years.

Grief need not be a life sentence.  But the healing unequivocally does take time.  Expect the unexpected.  Take comfort in knowing that that is what is guaranteed — the absolute unexpectedness of emotional triggers.  Yes, I know…it’s always easier said than done. Do it anyway, for your love of you, your loved one and your healing.  The moments may hit hard,  but they don’t last quite as long, so long as you give yourself permission to unfold with it when they do.

I can’t help but wonder, what will be next?

Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it. 
~ Haruki Murakami