A Happy and Thankful Life

Perspective and Joy

Facebook has this lovely feature when you can see what you posted in the past on that day. I say lovely even though I spent quite a long time avoiding it. I remembered enough dates from 5-8 years ago that I didn’t want to relive. 
That changed at some point last year and I started clicking on that button. Yesterday, I had a moment where I saw a post about J’s lack of clarity and remembered all that helplessness. To that version of me, I knew what would happen in a few days and just 3.5 weeks later. If I could warn or prepare her in some way, I would. But the past can’t be changed. 
What I focused on were the other posts on June 1st. They included happy memories of our oldest nieces graduating and of spending time with those three amazing girls, amongst others.  Thinking back, many of my “on this day” includes those harsh reminders but many more happy or silly reminders. 
The “on this day” posts have made me realize that somewhere along the way, I found my joy again. There was a time in the year after J died that I felt as though I would never find joy again. Everything was so dark. Even though I had smarter people than myself talking with me during the grief support group and I was reading blogs of widows that have “been there, done that”, I couldn’t see an end to the rawness of my pain. But as I continue reading the “one this day” those happy and silly posts are woven amongst the few heartbreaking posts. Those posts serve as a gentle reminder not just of how fragile life is but of how much I’ve survived. I made it through. That experience is a huge part of who I am but that isn’t the only thing I am. 
Time and life both have a way of fixing that. Yes, I miss him. But…I’m alive. I will never be the same girl I was 5-8 years ago. This experience changed me. My joy is different…my goals and priorities are different. I am finding the ability to redefine my happiness as I go. Being reminded of my journey, reminds me of how much joy is out there and inside me. I’m grateful for that clarity and for finding joy again. 


Slow and Steady

Today at the Y, I was thinking of how things have changed. Gyms and being “athletic” scared me. Now, I’ve made being active part of my (almost) daily routine. I oddly like the weight machines. I enjoy the feel of my muscles straining to lift the weight. I may leave Zumba completely drenched but I feel energized. I recognize enough dances that I’m not stumbling all over my feet but can focus on engaging my muscles.

I feel strong. 

At the beginning of February, I decided to dedicate myself to making my health a priority. I’m 35 now. My mom was 45 when she had her first heart attack and 49 when she had her last. All my numbers are currently great, other than my weight. Also, if you ignore the bad eyes, weird food allergies, migraines, and achy knees, I’m healthy. 

But that may not continue if I don’t do something now. And that scares me. Life is short and I don’t want my actions to make it shorter. I have too much left to explore and too many people I love. 

So…I returned to the Y and have found a balance of weight machines, cardio and classes that I enjoy. I’ve drastically decreased the fast food and pop. I count my calories and track my exercise. I’m not on a crazy diet; just very careful about portion sizes and limiting food out. I don’t feel limited or restricted. 

The scale moves slowly. But it moves in the right direction. I’m trying hard to count success in being able to lift more weight, in having more energy, in how my clothes fit, and in traveling for work or vacation and NOT gaining weight. As of today, I’ve officially lost 15 lbs since the beginning of February – slow but steady and healthy. 
There is more to go but in the end, my health is the priority. 

Anne Shirley

The Google Doodle today reminded me of one of my favorite book series as a young girl, Anne of Green Gables. There are three animations and one included Anne walking across a bridge by herself, followed by an older Anne running with Diana, and ended with Gilbert and Anne rowing across the pond.

I can’t quite remember what it was that I clicked with as a 5th or 6th grader. My Grandma bought me the books. I spent hours reading and rereading them. Maybe it was Anne’s love of adventure and Diana’s voice of reason.

I pulled up quotes on Goodreads and as I read through them, they connected with me…not through the lens of a child remembering the books but as an adult having lived through life changes, everlasting friendships, love, and loss.

These are taken from Goodreads:
– “There is no use in loving things if you have to be torn from them, is there? And it’s so hard to keep from loving things, isn’t it?”
– “It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”
– “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
– “Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive–it’s such an interesting world”
– “I went looking for my dreams outside of myself and discovered, it’s not what the world holds for you, it’s what you bring to it.”
– “I’m not a bit changed–not really. I’m only just pruned down and branched out. The real ME–back here–is just the same.”
– “Anne always remembered the silvery, peaceful beauty and fragrant calm of that night. It was the last night before sorrow touched her life; and no life is ever quite the same again when once that cold, sanctifying touch has been laid upon it.”
– “When I left Queen’s my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe that the best does.”

Oh, I can go on and on. I think I shall pull my books out and read them again. It will be like reuniting with an old kindred spirit.


Curious Cat

My cat is a special one. I’m sure there were be far more stories shared about her. Last night I bought her a new toy, a fuzzy thing with feathers on a stick. I left it in the bag of groceries in the kitchen last night. Today, I came home from work and discovered that she had pulled the toy out of the bag and dragged it into the bedroom. I couldn’t help but laugh.

Today I’m thankful for a cat that keeps me on my toes…at least in a good way for this one day.

Found item

The earring has been found!

I had to write that. I didn’t want to bury the lead, but it was an interesting way to the discovery.

A gentleman came out in the afternoon and tried to use my other earring to get a base reading on his metal detector. It wouldn’t read. While my earring is 14k white gold, it is apparently small enough that the machines won’t pick it up. He tried to adjust the settings to no avail. My boss and other coworkers come out offering to search as they were leaving for the day. So many people offering to find something of no significance to them. With the earring not being able to be detected, I had even resigned myself to not finding it…as well as was going to Shop Vac the area. Extreme measures, I know.

I showed another coworker where I was standing when I lost it and as they were heading out, they did a quick search. The headlights of a car leaving the lot hit the post at just the right angle that they were able to find the earring. What wonderful happenstance is that?!

I can’t fully express the feeling of the weight being lifted off my shoulders. However, I do feel as though he is laughing at me and would say something about science and technology not able to solve all…but that I had to rely on accepting help from others. It’s a good thing to keep in mind.

So for tonight, I continue to be grateful for the kindness of others as well as having both earrings in my possession. It’s a good night.

Returning to the written word

I’ve been debating about whether or not to return to writing. The past few months have been challenging. I’ve lost my focus and need to recenter myself, place myself as a priority instead of an afterthought. I’ve decided to get my thoughts out of my head and write. Focusing on things to be grateful for each day. What a weekend to jump back in to this.

It’s been a rough one for me. Two days ago, I lost an earring. It couldn’t be the silly dinosaur earrings I wore for my event. No, it was one of the earrings that I was given by the man I loved on the day we were married…six years and one day ago. My heart aches. I know it is just an earring. But it’s one of four pieces of jewelry that he gave me that remind me that I was loved. They make me happy. My heart aches that it is lost. Many tears have been shed. Again, just an earring but it means so much more.

I’ve spent hours searching. Kind friends and coworkers have spent their own time searching. It hasn’t been found. I’ve reached out to a group that searches for such things with metal detectors.  In just a few hours, I received three emails from strangers that are willing to help me. I don’t know if this will find my earring. But this is my last chance to find it.

This not so ideal situation is a gentle reminder that people want to help. I’m stubborn and refuse to ask for help. I don’t want to bother others, especially when there are always more important things happening.  I’m thankful for my friends and strangers that are willing to help me find this earring. It is very humbling.

Do you believe in signs?

I’m not superstitious. I don’t seek out signs to direct me in my choices. But I do wonder if those coincidences or signs mean something. And sometimes I decide to believe that they are meant to bring comfort.

Today should have been my fourth wedding anniversary. I have my new routines on these special days. It helps me get through the day. For our anniversary, it is to see a movie. The first movie preview was very out of place as it was for an animated movie about a squirrel. For some reason, he had a thing about squirrels. They made him smile and now, when I see them, they make me smile as it reminds me of his smile. I said a silent thank you to him. Logically, I know that it is just another movie preview, but as something that makes me smile in memory of John, I’ll take it.

There are other things, most recently during my vacation in October. The shuttle driver to the LA rental car company was from Akron. I got a mustang convertible when I requested an economy car. The guest on the live show taping I attended is on one of his favorite shows. Squirrels in particular places at particular times. A certain song playing at a certain time. The Titanic exhibition.

Yes, I get that these are coincidences and happenstances. But will it hurt anything or anyone if I take comfort in these things? They remind me of John and I feel, for a small moment, that he is still with me. That’s okay for me.

What do you think of signs?

Hard. Our closets. Signs.

There has been a powerful TEDx talk shared online this past week. It is about realizing that everyone has something in the closet that needs to come out, that needs to be said. It is hard. Everyone’s hard is different but it’s still hard. If you haven’t seen it yet, please take 10 minutes to watch it now. I’ll wait.

This hits home for me and maybe for you as well. Why do we compare what we are going through with what others are going through? It’s not going to end well. I remember sitting in a holiday grief program and I was starting to compare my pain with others. I had to stop myself – I didn’t know their story and they didn’t know mine. What we were all going through is hard. But we were doing our best to get out of the closet and seek help and support.

That leads to an article that someone had shared in my blog reader. The article is about reading signs. What if we wore signs that identified our battles, our struggles? How would that change our perception and attitude with someone? Would we be more patient, more understanding? Why must we know their sign in order to be kind to others?

One thing that carries on in me is being told by our group grief to be gentle with ourselves. More than once, she had said it to me. It is something I struggle with as I hold myself up to these ridiculous high standards. When I relax, give myself a break, and am gentle – I know that I handle things better in the long run. But her article was about being gentle with others as well.

We don’t know the whole story for those that we work with, live near, and even those we call friends and family. We may never know. Now, I will be the first to admit that when you are going through something so hard that you can’t see the light around the closet door, you might not be able to support those around you. However, we can still be kind and gentle when we see someone is struggling. We can assume that the person has positive intent…and sometimes that choice is because they feel desperate and don’t see another choice. We can be there for one another.

Look back and make yourself a priority

I’m thankful that the company I work for values professional development. Often, that professional development has a positive impact on personal development as well.

During the past year, a few of the PD sessions I’ve attended have encouraged me to make myself a priority. If I’m not at my best, if

I’m not taking care of myself, how can I take care of others? After years of putting others first, which was a choice I willingly made, it’s not selfish to start taking care of myself. I’m slowly working on that. It is hard to break years of habit! I’m taking small steps and after the PD session today, I’m encouraged to get back on that track.

At the end of today’s session, there was a quote regarding rushing through life. There is always in the heart of man the temptation to accelerate the march of destiny – Ravi Zacharias
My intereptation is that we are always looking forward to the next thing. We sometimes miss living in the moment and of truly appreciating the journey. If we look back at where we were, we can better appreciate how far we’ve come.

This is something I struggle with…I sometimes focus on where I wanted to be, or where society thinks I should be in my life. I think that I should meet societies expectations that I get over my grief already. But I remind myself of how far I have come. I’m self-sufficent, independent (often to a fault), and I have a job that I love. I’m not like the person I was terrified I would be like or have her life. I’ve made different choices. My closest friends are loving, patient and kind – and far more than I deserve.

As for my grief, I have come a long way in the last year and a half. The pain is different – it’s no longer a 100% heart-wrenching, breathe stealing ride. By focusing on just trying to get through it, I’m missing how far I’ve come. I’ve learned more about myself  and so much about the grief process. It may seem morbid but I want to encourage more discussion about grief – it is far healthier to talk about it than to sweep it under the rug. If I can provide support, information or resources for others that lost a loved one, there has been some value to this entire horrible situation.

Today, I was reminded and encouraged. It is okay to take care of myself. Have goals but appreciate the journey. Take time to pause and live in the moment. Acknowledge how far I’ve come. I am worth it. You are worth it.

The written word

I just finished reading The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani. It is a beautiful story and many parts spoke to me. The following passage connected with me for many different reasons but I wanted to share it.

“On this deathbed, Ciro realized he’d chosen Enza because she was strong alone; she didn’t need him, she wanted him. Enza had chosen Ciro, foresaking her own sense of security, which, he had come to know, was the need that drove her. Everything his wife did, and every decision she made, was about holding life together, and creating safety in a word where there was little.”

With that shared, I’m thankful for finding comfort again in the written word.