The pursuit of joy.

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Do you remember what it was like to play or be silly? When was the last time you laughed so hard your cheeks hurt? Do you remember the feeling of reckless abandon…driving with your head out the window or skipping along a path or falling hopelessly in love with someone?

Somewhere along the way, somehow, I feel like we have collectively lost our sense of joy.

Maybe it’s the heaviness of the news right now. Or maybe it’s adulthood pulling at you to responsibly face everything…the laundry, the bills, the carpooling, the work, the shopping, the taxes. Or maybe we have been spending so much time in our heads, we have forgotten how to connect with how we feel in our bodies.

After so many years of being corrected, punished, and told how to act right, the world gives us no time for pleasure (no wonder drug use, prescription medicine and alcoholism are at an all time high.) We grow up being told to stand in line, take your turn, smile petty for the photo. We are told to suffer through it all or suffer the consequences. We are put into tiny boxes, expectations swirling around us like vultures ready to feast on the dying carcass of joy trailing behind us. After all, you can’t pay the bills having fun.

Or can you?

Could you – just for a moment – decide that life (and even work) was meant to be fun? Could you assume that there is joy within it all? Wouldn’t success come more readily while we are finding things we enjoy?

Pleasure, or joy, can come in many ways…going for a nourishing walk through the woods, finding an amazing concert of your favorite band, road tripping to a fun, new town with your favorite friends, or even in your daily work.

When I am photographing a family, or food, or whatever I am doing, I feel joy. But I can get caught up in the seriousness of it all with things like “Am I good enough at my job?” or “When are they going to pay me for this?” can get in the way of WHY I am doing this. It puts joy in a choke hold and suffocates it. If those questions creep in, I always see it in my work.

Finding the fun in the everyday isn’t only a recommendation anymore, it’s a requirement - like breath and water. We need joy, but it seems like we have lost it inside of adulting. When the heaviness creeps in and gets in the way of all that we are doing, it zaps energy and steals the joy we have. When I approach life with the “What am I gonna get out of this” mentality or “what is the (so-called) cost of this,” joy always takes a back seat. It’s an immediate buzz kill. If I worried about the price of the tickets to the concert we went to this week, I would never have been able to lean into the experience. I would never have felt that deep joy.

Much like anything, joy takes practice. It’s a shedding of layers of guilt and years of unraveling what messages we got around being happy - if we deserve it, if we are worthy enough for it’s company. But like everything, you have to keep trying.

But your happiness - your pursuit of of joy - has ripple effects. Your joy affects everyone you come in touch with and everyone around you. And, my friend, that little practice has the power to change the our whole world.

So buy that ticket. Invite those friends over. Pursue that new career. Jump off the diving board into the deep end and swim around in that joy. You’ll be so happy you did.

The Not-So-Starving Artist

La Gloria

Recently, I was on the phone with a good friend talking about the daily struggles of life. I told her I was tired, run down and sick of struggling…sick of worrying about my finances.

“You are the one that chose to be the starving artist,” she said.

Her response cut me in half.

Truth be told, I never imagined myself here. I never imagined the starving part…artist, yes! But starving? Not even close.

In my wildest dreams, I always imagined myself to be wildly successful - not for the fame or the legend of it all, but because I wanted to be that good. I knew I could be that good. I knew I had it in me.

But sometimes, life takes over and my story had a mind of it’s own - weaving it’s own vine-twisting, kudzu-suffocating plot twists in where I hadn’t even considered it. Single motherhood. Sick parents. And a relentless economy in the middle of it all. So my dreams took a temporary side step to get out of the way of reality. Temporary.

You see, I am a creative soul - a photographer, an artist, a chef, a writer. I have this need to make things…it’s a draw I can’t ignore, a calling I must answer with every fiber of my soul. I would die sitting behind a desk 10 hours a day, staring at spreadsheets and decimal points. I couldn’t do it. It may mean that I would be able to pay my mortgage, buy a sofa, and plan a trip all in the same month, but in truth that isn’t what drives me. That isn’t my truth. And I would be starving on the inside.

For creative people, there is no other way except To Make. It’s the work that nourishes us and gives back what we need to live. That doesn’t mean we can’t be successful or wealthy. It doesn’t mean we suck at creating either. It just means the rest will come in it’s due time. The rest falls into place when we are ready. So I just keep making, not stopping until I reach the end.

I won’t lie…there are months that are hard. This month, I have to forgo some sweet concert tickets to one of my favorite artists coming through town because I have more pressing needs that need to be met. And that is a bummer…today.

But when I walk out on my back porch to take a business call, azaleas bursting with color around my yard, bees and birds flying overhead, fresh air to breathe during my meeting, I smile. Because a life like this feels like anything but starving to me.

Tiny Changes

These little flowers changed my day in a big way today.

These little flowers changed my day in a big way today.

This morning I sat waiting for a client in a sweet, local cafe. It’s raining and the temperature has dropped a good 20 degrees over the past 24-hours. It’s gloomy, grey and wet… a mirror of my heavy heart these days. Between saying goodbye to our family dog a few short weeks ago and dealing with the rest of regular life like taxes, prom planning, bills and laundry, I just feel like I am moored to Life.

As I sat there, I looked down at the clean, marbled table and paused to notice this tiny vase and these little perfect flowers curling and weaving around each other. I was baffled at their delicate strength. I was consumed by their simplicity for a moment. I became curious about their unassuming gentleness and forgiving nature. They made me stop my train of though for a brief a minute…to pause, to breathe. To remember to forget and to let go.

Life can be altered in these little moments. They are the moments that encourage us to lean in. They are the moments that encourage us to breath, pause, remember or forget. They can be transitional and transformative. But mostly, they are when we can learn to tolerate ourselves, our stories, our lives, and all the things that wait for us beyond their delicate and perfect features.

Changes usually come to us when we are ready. But sometimes, I think the biggest changes can come to us in the tiniest moments, bravely weaving and curling their way gently into our tender, aching hearts.

Loss

charleston harbor

I’ve been looking for that sliver of blue sky lately - the tiny slice of hope that keeps us going through the dark and stormy times - wondering if the sun was going to ever shine back down on my heavy heart again.

I am in a stage of loss right now – something all too familiar to me. I have experienced loss before… Parents. A sister. Aunts and uncles. Friends. Pets. To be honest, loss never gets easier. And it doesn’t diminish at any stage. The overall feeling is still the same.

Loss comes in many forms. And so does the grieving. It doesn’t have to be traditional - like a death. It can happen when a friend leaves your life or you have a relationship-altering disagreement with a family member. The loss of a loved one can have a ripple effect, too. Breaking up with a boyfriend or divorcing a spouse can lead to losing extended family that you thought you would be with forever.

A few years ago, I had some friends move back home to Europe. I remember the grief I felt when they were gone. It was a loss in it’s own way. I also remember having to hide it - stuff it down like it didn’t exist. They were, after all, not gone…or so everyone kept trying to remind me. But with kids in schools, different schedules, different time zones and expensive plane rides, the likelihood of us seeing one another often seemed like a fleeting hope as I watched them drive away that last time, my battered heart trailing behind them in the dust. I felt heart broken. I felt loss.

I feel it each time I drive by their street. I feel it on Saturday afternoons when we would be making plans for the an evening of dinner and conversations together that lasted late into the evening. I feel it when the weather warms up and we head to the beach, picnic in tow, empty chairs beside us. The pangs of loss can linger for a while.

But, as I sit there on the beach on these cloudy days with my picnic in tow, I just look for that sliver of blue over head. Because it’s always there… peeking through just to remind us that above all, this, too, shall pass and that that big, bright, beautiful, warming sun is always shining above those heavy clouds.

Finding Grace.

sauna

This week was hard.

In the midst of all the missed deadlines, forgotten appointments, back to school schedules, financial disarray and angry clients, I had a brief personal training session (brief because I was late because I had the wrong time written down…I told you, not my best week). I was down… and my young, and too-wise-for-her-own-good trainer knew it. We worked hard for 20 minutes, and then she looked at me and said this: “I want you to go into the sauna for 5 minutes and close your eyes and just… be.”

It was a pass. A free ticket. A permission slip.

It was permission to be – to be still, to be quiet, to be imperfect. It was a pass to slip away from my life for a moment in time. It was my ticket back to me. It was permission.

I feel like we all need something like this…someone to occasionally, out-of-the-blue, step in and say “I GIVE YOU PERMISSION…” on those days when we maybe forget to have the grace ourselves to give us a much needed break. We are not supposed to go hard all the time - and it’s particularly difficult to be mindful of this during the time of year where everyone looks like they are cramming for life’s finals with resolutions and magical words of empowerment. January can be hard when you feel like you aren’t on top of your game. Social media makes it look like I am surrounded by people that are literally conquering mountains. (You know who you are.)

So I went in the sauna. I fidgeted. I looked at my phone. I fought and wrestled with the stillness until I gave. I knew it needed to come. It always needs to come. When I finally closed my eyes and leaned into everything, there it was…Tears. Sweat…. Release. Every glorious moment of being in that space was exactly what I needed to momentarily let go my imperfections and move on. Every second I spent in there with the discomfort of sweating and crying and being present with my emotions was a direct deposit into my soul. Building that account to be stronger so I can face the tolls of life on the rocky road ahead.

Sometimes we find grace in the strangest places. Sometimes it comes from unexpected people. But the times I am most surprised by grace is when I have found it fumbling around in my everyday life…all by myself.

After the Storm...

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And after the storm,
I run and run as the rains come
And I look up,
I look up,
on my knees and out of luck,
I look up.

After The Storm, by Mumford + Sons

* I have posted the lyrics to this song before. It’s one of my most favorite ballads of all times by one of my most favorite bands ever. I listened to this music during a very hard time for me and remember feeling like it was a life jacket that some threw me in a wild, stormy sea. It still brings me to my knees when I hear it.

'Tis The Season

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The holidays are here again. The picture-perfect life of candy canes and Christmas lights adorning every available surface are streaming through social media feeds and magazine covers. Happy faces anticipating romantic nights by the fire, cozied up with steaming cups of goodness and a mostly TV-less existence – except for a brief encounter with Elf or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Only that’s not totally true, is it?

Maybe this is true in moments. Or for a day here and there. But when you really boil it down, it’s about all of us working, folding laundry on partially decorated dining room tables and anxiously checking bank accounts to make sure there is going to be enough to see us through the season of spending. We are still living our lives…just with more to do now.

The truth is, the holidays can be hard. Being around family for days on end can be stressful. Cooking freaks a lot of people out. Gift giving can create a lot of anxiety. And lots of people are lonely or dealing with loss, change or pain.

But there is a happy medium…a place where fantasy and reality collide if only for a moment. Not every day is going to look festive and light. Some days are going to be regular… even hard. But it’s leaning into those sweet spots and silent nights where we can find some true holiday spirit and joy.

When I talked to my son on the way to school the other day, I asked him what he was most looking forward to this holiday. He said, without a beat, “decorating the tree with you and drinking eggnog.” In my mind, this activity is always a disaster. Broken lights. Trips to Walmart. Wrestling with the tree stand. It never feels perfect to me. But for him, it’s his favorite time. His memories are of the good parts. The parts that bring him complete joy and gratitude…a representation of the season at it’s best. He’s not focused on gifts or jobs or wrapping - just a nice moment with me, creating memories that will last longer than I am here on this planet.

So this year, I am going to lean in to those simple moments that he remembers forever. I am going to stop worrying if my food is good enough or the gifts were perfect or the house was decorated like a movie set. I am going to spend time making the magic in the best way I know how – together.

Ebb and flow

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If there is one thing I have learned about life, it’s that cycles are always prevalent. The tides ebb and flow. The sun rises and sets. The seasons change and progress. We don’t doubt these things. We count on them to dictate the rhythm of our days.

Yet somehow, I forget that these cycles happen in my personal life as well. I forget that work comes and goes, or that relationships wax and wane. I forget the gentle push and pull of everything and wrestle with the notion that rhythm of my life SHOULD be good, abundant, happy, joyful and full all the time.

But what would I know of life without the dry spells? What would life be in only fullness? Would I recognize the tide if it only kept pouring in? Wouldn’t that mean I would be under water. Wouldn’t that mean I would never know solid ground or the sand beneath my toes.

As I watched the tide roll in the other day, I was confident in what would come next. Just as it flooded the lowcountry, soon, as it always does, it would flow out again, leaving behind treasures and findings and room for the little fiddler crabs to breathe again. I never doubt this. I only know with all my heart. I know it will because I have seen it before. Time and time again.

It made me realize that life flows the same way. Life flows. Things come and go. Its a never ending cycle. Practice and trust. Trust and forgiveness. Forgiveness and grace. Grace and practice. It just keeps on going. Always there. Always flowing. Always ebbing.

Silver linings

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I would have missed this sunset if life had been normal.

I would have been in my house, AC cranking, cooking dinner alone in the kitchen. I would have probably been listening to a podcast or book on tape or even watching some sit-com rerun for the umpeenth time, my son in the other room doing homework or playing guitar or a video game.

Instead, my life had been turned around in a first world kind of problem sort of way. We’ve been without AC for weeks. And I am on a cooking strike. So I piled my son and myself into the car and headed to get some form of take out. On the way, we saw this incredible sunset. We stopped in awe of mother nature, the universe and the power of serendipity.

Sometimes, life happen for us. Sometimes situations present themselves. Last night, as we sat around the table at the restaurant, we marveled at the fact that had it not been for the awful week we had, we would all be spearated ,living our own individual moments in front of one screen or another. Instead, we have explored forests, new restaurants, new cities, and even glorious sunsets with views for days right down the street from where we live.

So maybe the past few weeks weren’t really a crisis after all. Maybe it was the just the opposite - maybe past few weeks was the universe trying to break up our regular, safe, ordinary days with new adventures and some much needed fresh perspective.

If it comes with a silver lining like this, I’ll take it.

Weathering the Storms.

Before the storm

I have spent an unmeasured amount of my life running away from the approaching devastation of storms. Afraid of the turmoil and unknown elements they would bring, I tended to protect myself from what might be instead of just standing inside of what is.

Over the years, I have found the things we worry about happening rarely – if ever – come to fruition. In other words, I have spent a lot of time fussing about nothing. I attribute this to not listening to myself or trusting my gut and paying far too much attention to what others opinions are.

As I get older, I seem to get more sturdy with trusting my inner voice. It often whispers quietly and gently, and can be drowned out by the many other opinons, thoughts, and voices that surround me. But if I listen, it’s clear, persistent and confident in it’s conviction. I just have to listen and be still enough to hear it.

This ship – MY SHIP – is the one I have to steer through the stormy seas. So I do what’s best for me with each decision I make. I have to trust myself and know that, even if I am wrong, it’s all going to pass over eventually. Each “wrong” decision is just another opportunity to learn. Each storm I stand through, another lesson. And each time I listen to myself, another chance to build that relationship of trust with myself all over again.

Dear Little Girl.

Little girl

Dear Little Girl.

You. Are. Beautiful. You are braver than you think, kinder than you know, and smarter than you give yourself credit for. You have gifts inside that are just waiting to be uncovered and unearthed. But it's up to you to do it.  

I know you. And I know you are scared. I know you somehow took on the notion that you weren't good enough, smart enough, pretty enough... I understand that you don't feel right in your skin. Too big, too loud, too different than the others that seem to float together like a school of silvery little fish, floating in a rhythm that seems to sync up perfectly while you float alone, trapped in netting you are just too tired to try to escape from.

My whole life, I have been watching you...your strength and your whole-heartedness are unmatched. I have seen you do the impossible. Given these circumstances, who could possibly survive? Yet... still, I have seen you bravely carve the most unique life path - not knowing what's next, not knowing where it's leading. I have watched as this world stripped you shamefully bare and expected unrealistic things of you. And through your tenacity and utter heart, I have watched as you delivered every last one. 

It's not you who is failing. It's the world who has failed you. It has destroyed hope in all the places you were supposed to feel safe. But still, here you are. On the eve of your birthday, still smiling, still full of heart, still courageously standing in the storms of life.

You are mine. And I am yours. And I am here to guide you through the rest of this journey, full of love and void of fear. I am here to show you how to navigate the rest of this twisting, unchartered path of life. So take my hand. Don't be afraid. We have got this...together.

Love,
Me

 

Sixteen

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Here we are...sweet sixteen.

I'm not sure it feels as sweet from this end.  No longer my snuggly little boy. Not yet a full independent man. But you are well on your way. It's inevitable. The clock just ticks along...and with each passing day, change is eminent.

You tower over me now. At 6'1", you are man-sized. But its your spirit that remains so sweet. It's still got the innocence of you when you were a toddler waking up from a nap – bleary-eyed and drunk with thoughts of dreams that made you full of wonder and curiosity. Sometimes, it makes it hard for me to see you as the man you are becoming.

This past year was hard. It was a year of growth. A year of hurdles. You gave up a little, and then you gave it all you had. You learned such big lessons about life. You know when to ask for help and where to look for it. You know what struggle looks like and how it feels to be hopeless. More importantly, you know how it feels to be empowered. Strong. Capable. And in control. You know how to change the story with mindset, grit and grace.

The year ahead will be something you remember forever. I often reflect on my 16 year-old self and what she did. The mistakes she made and the trails she faced. So this is my advice to you: Make good choices.  You are ready for the year ahead, but the world will test you - pushing back like a the bully it can be. That's how it works. Stand resilient in it's face. Just keep remembering who you are.

You are good.

You are kind.

You are strong.

You are smart.

You are talented beyond your years.

You are gracious.

And yes, you are beautiful. Full of heart. Full of soul. And full of wonder.

 

You are wonder-full.

I love you, sweet Graham. Happy Birthday.

 

The Island

island

I have been isolating myself like a little island drifting slowly form the coast for years now. Once attached and part of the world, trauma, insecurities, and the wear of the daily grind has brought me to my knees, making me withdraw from so many things. After a while, it's hard to see the shoreline. It's hard to feel attached.

Each time I experience something big that I can't explain or solve, I tend to withdraw. I am not sure why, but I usually make a deep dive inward to search for solutions - swimming around in muck and mire of it until it settles and I can see a little more clearly.

Talking things out when I am struggling is painful for me because it brings up the thing I am perhaps trying my hardest to avoid - answering the questions I don't yet have answers to. So I drift...away from the things that ground and attach me until I come out of it on the other side with all the right answers.  In the process, I become an island in a storm - sea pummeling my shores, wind wreaking havoc on my flora.

The thing I have come to find is that nobody has all the right answers. Ever. And you know what? That's okay. I am learning that daily. And practicing it even more frequently.

And until I perfect it, I will be here, building bridges back to that coastline.

Dad

Dad

I miss you, Dad.

I miss your big, strong hands that held mine tightly when I needed to be safe and loved.

I miss your tenacity and your insanely positive outlook on everything.

I miss watching you love the kids and the pets in our family. I miss seeing you chatting with Graham, both of you snuggly tucked into his bed having conversations about trains and jet fighters and weapons and boats and all the delightfully simple and sweet things toddlers talk about.

I miss the comfort of our simple conversations. I miss the quietness they held. I miss the simplicity of their tone. I miss the complexity of their quietness.

I miss having someone that believed endlessly and faithfully in all my powers, dreams and hopes.

Mostly, I just miss you being here, quietly guiding me, gently supporting me, endlessly loving us all where we were...as we were.

Thanks for being there, Dad.

XO

Lib

Blood, sweat and tears

National Air + Space Museum, Udvar-Hazy Annex

National Air + Space Museum, Udvar-Hazy Annex

I recently took a short trip to Washington, D.C. to kick off the summer. Our trip was a real contrast to last summer where I basically hid away in the mountains in a cabin and slept off what felt like a very long year...or few years. I was coming out of some mild depression from – well...life I guess – and hiding away in the woods was really just what I needed at the time.

This year, feeling a little more adventurous and energetic, we took flight and headed to D.C. for some culture and stimulation.  Since I was traveling with boys, there were lots of adventures planned – airplanes, sporting events, spies, and news were all on our agenda. I was happy to go along for the ride, even though the art galleries are more my jam. But on trips like this, you never know where inspiration will lurk or what new things you'll see.

As we walked through the museums and giant structures with massive planes suspended precariously from the ceilings, my mind wandered - not to the history or the information behind each one - but to their stories. I wonder: how many times did those inventors and scientists have to fail to reach their goals? How many times did they screw up or go back to the drawing board?  How many times were they SURE of something only to be proven wrong, yet again?  The Wright Brothers failed miserably before achieving their goals. But they kept going. They had bigger plans, and an even bigger belief in themselves and their ideas.

The things that strikes me most is that they didn't give up. Each person had a belief that they worked tirelessly for. They paired themselves with like-minded friends and collegues to help them achieve their wildest dreams...all while failing over and over again.

Failure was eminent in those walls of the Air and Space museums, but that's not at all what we see. What we see is an evolution of flight, a tireless display of dedication and the grit to never ever ever give up - no matter how crazy your thoughts may seem. What we see is the success, the achievements, the trophy...the end result. What you don't see is failure. You don't see frustration. You don't see the tears and long hours it takes to get a rocket ship off the ground and into orbit. 

Sometimes, life can feel like that sometimes - like a massive plane grounded by gravity and the weight of it's heavy armor to protect it from the elements. And then other times, life can feel weightless and free like you are floating gently through space, unencumbered by the gravity of it all. Just remember on the days it feels heavy that it takes a lot of blood, sweat, tears, failure, and a whole lot of fire power to launch yourself into the future.

You just have to keep trying. It's as simple and complicated as that.

 

My Best Life

Shooting on farm with sunflowers and toddlers...this is my best life.

Shooting on farm with sunflowers and toddlers...this is my best life.

Right now, I am living my best life.

Wait...I take that back.

I am living my 95% life.

The reason for the 95%...because I always hope there is room for improvement. I hope there is always space in my life for the phrase, "I can do better." If I think about it, that IS my best life. Always striving for something greater. Otherwise we become complacent, right? We become comfortable. And that is where we stop growing.

I have had an amazing year this past year. I have worked in situations I only thought would exist in my dreams. I have worked with clients who share my vision and style. I have worked with missions that I truly and whole-heartedly believe in. I have photographed things I only fantasized over. I have told stories and taken photos of people, places, and things that make me pinch myself in hopes that I really won't wake up from this incredible dream.

I never thought the possibility was real for me to live my best life. Somewhere along the line, I stopped believing. I believed I wasn't enough - good enough, strong enough, thoughtful enough, skinny enough, pretty enough. But somewhere deep in my soul, I believed there was more waiting for me. There was a little ember of hope burning on my belly, not put out by the wet blanket of self criticism. I believed those dreams could actually happen. I stopped hearing the voice that said "give up...you can't do this." I leaned in to trust. I leaned into the fear. I pushed through. I gave it one more try.

Every day I wake up and am happy to do what I do. Don't get me wrong, this is still a job. It has it's moments. And it has come with it's own set of massive sacrifices (ohhhhh...the sacrifices). But I am happy...at least 95% happy.

It has taken a long time to get here. I have made mistakes. I have lived with crippling anxiety and depression. I have failed miserably...wow, have I failed. But all of that has brought me to this place where I can appreciate the complexity of what makes life feel good.

Will I screw up again? Most definitely. Will I be afraid and paralyzed? Absolutely! Will I know how to get up and dust myself off again? You can count on it!

Today, I am opening myself up to possibility. The possibility of hope, failure, success, despair, highs, lows. All of it. Because without all of that, I am not growing or challenging myself. I am not changing. I am not moving forward, knocking off that last 5%.

But if I have to be honest, I will be happy to settle in where I am... Always pushing. Always dreaming. Never settling.

 

 

Messy rooms.

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Some days, I wake up and look at my son's room and sigh. It's always a mess. Carpet tiles askew. Bed never made. Clothes strewn about the room. I turn the other way as much as I can. But honestly, some days it gets to me. The mess feels chaotic - like loud music with a lot of dischord.

Lately, though I have been leaning into the mess. I walk by the room and smile a little. Nothing has changed except, perhaps, for my outlook on it. He's growing up. In 2 years he will be gone, walking across the stage in a cap and gown, a sea of opportunity in front of him. After that, his little room that he has know since he was 2 will be tidy, quiet, and organized. But it won't have him in it.

So today, I sat in here for a few minute. I admired the spots and stains on his white carpet tiles from the juice he spilled when he was sick. I traced the tiny, dirty hand prints on the wall that he outgrew so quickly. I picked up a little matchbox car he has on his bedside table and remember all of it... flood of memories I can't quite contain before they come spilling out around me, messy and chaotic...just like his room.

I guess the moral of the story is that life is messy when we have more in it. Soon enough, his sheets will be tucked in, dresser dusted, and life will be tidied up. For now though, I will hang on to the mess. It reminds me of how much I have to hold on to.

Good Grief

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Grief is a curious and sneaky emotion. It lurks around those dark corners, waiting to pounce on you when you least expect it. Sometimes it stands out there - front and center - challenging you to try to avoid it's clutches. But it's smarter than you. It knows your escape routes. It knows the places you hide. So it always finds you, weak and tired from all the running and avoiding.

I have lived with Grief for a while. I had brushes with it in the past through lost relationships and the general passage of time. But I didn't really get to know Grief until my Mom got sick and died. I knew it was coming. We all did, really. But honestly, there is no way to face it until you come face-to-face with it.

Grief washed over us this day 11 years ago when my Mom took her last breath. We all stood, side-by-side, hand-in-hand, watching helplessly as she slipped away to a dimension I don't quite yet understand. And then Grief stepped in to overshadow it all and run the show for a while. It cozied up to us when my father died one year later. Then, I got real familiar with Grief when my sister died a few years ago. We are well acquainted now.

I used to try to avoid Grief, like the close talker with bad breath at a cocktail party. I had ways of slipping away - or so I thought. But it always knew where to find me again. Lurking in corners, in empty spaces, just waiting for me everywhere.

I live with Grief now. We understand one another. Once I stopped running from it, our relationship became something I understood. I am not afraid now. I know when it comes around, I just need to be with it...sort of lean into my time with it. This isn't something I ever understood until we played the game and I always kept losing. Grief always found me. So I decided to let it in.

I miss my mom. But I have learned to live with this life without her and with Grief standing in her place. I have no other option but to lean into that. I spent so much time exhausting myself by running away from it all the time. But I can't anymore. I am too tired and it knows all my tricks.

So now I lean into the tears, the hurt, and the memories. And suddenly and swiftly, Grief slips away so we can get on with our days once again, living in the present.