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To Dad, 10 Years Later

February 20, 2019

The abundance you gave

My whole life through

Of love, friendship, pride

Joy, respect, and laughter

In the sudden stark silence of your heartbeat

Flipped itself inside out and became

A vacuum

Pulling me in and holding me

Breathless under its dark gravity

Lost and disoriented

Not knowing where I was

or how or why it all happened

But just that you were gone

And there was no bottom to the grief.

Until.

Slowly, the basement was revealed.

Bricks of shared humanity

Came into view

In flags that hung lightly in a cool breeze

Decorated with love and hope

In songs that promised sunshine, again

In the feeling of shared grief, lightened

By the power of a big collective prayer

Until finally I could stand

And feel my weight supported again.

Not better, but not lost.

Nothing had changed really, except everything.

And then the days knitted into months

And the months became a year

And all the holidays and moments

That used to be light

were heavy

In the weight of your absence.

Standing at the bottom of a deep well

of loss

Feeling nothing but pain,

One day

The light just flipped on

And I saw

The way out.

And so I gathered up my memories

And looked again

With new eyes

Ready to see differently.

The abundance you had given to me

(To us)

was so much more

Than just the hole it left behind.

That abundance was still Real.

And Tangible.

And Mine to claim.

It had been a gift that need not stop

Simply because the giver was gone.

All the gifts had stayed behind

alive and active, here.

I just had to find them

Where they’d always been.

It was like hitchhiking on a rocket.

Grief transformed

To golden gratitude

And with it, the dark clouds of your not being here now

Parted

And joy shone through – at last.

Teary joy that you had ever been here, and mine,

In the first place:

Holding me up with your twinkling eyes

And your steady hands

And your unwavering trust in all I could be and do.

Nothing was lost.

Just different.

Sadder, harder, dimmer.

But Not Lost.

And then

This prison of despair cracked open

Love flooded in

And I floated away

To live.

for Court

July 26, 2012

when joy lifts me
when wonder awes me
when adventure beckons
and I say yes
when I sense the expansiveness of this world
and yet the intimacy of it
when I inhabit most fully my place in this life,
and this world,
and this universe,
I remember there is no coincidence to any of this;
I am exactly where I am
in this fleeting moment
in this precise space
inhaling this breath
with these particular people
On Purpose.

and I am present for it.

when life gathers itself around me
and fills me up
in this peculiar,
delightful,
and perfect way,
I see your face
I feel your spirit
I hear your name
whispered in my mind’s ear,
and I remember you:

Court.

my timeless friend
who walks with me
when I am in the light.

in the flow

July 24, 2012

When I was a kid, a new water park opened about an hour and a half from my house. And when I say “new,” I mean that water parks, in general, hadn’t existed up to this point in history. At least, they hadn’t in central Ohio. So… that would make it totally, 100%, brand-y new in every way a thing can possibly be totally, 100%, brand-y new: New idea, new execution, new employees, new towels, new everything. It was called The Beach. I suppose it was meant to entice your imagination into believing that being cooled off by various small chlorinated pools of water was very closely related to being cooled off by soft ocean breezes, icy piña coladas, and gentle salt-water waves lapping at your buried-in-the-white-sand toes… you know, like being at The (Real) Beach. Well, it wasn’t. And it isn’t. Which is probably why it went out of business earlier this year. A bright blue plastic jungle of slides, manufactured waterfalls, and wave pools that alternatively give you massive wedgies or desperately bloodshot eyes does not a “beach experience” make. Quite the opposite, I’d venture.

Except for one thing, which is somehow better than being at the beach. That’s right: I said better. Wait for it…

The Lazy River.

Oh, yes. They got this one so right. Here’s the deal: You rent an inner tube big enough to comfortably lounge across. You stick said inner tube in a fake “river”—a 15-(or-so-)feet-wide swimming pool with a one-way manufactured current that, in one long and luxuriously circuitous lane, makes wide curves around the perimeter of the park. And then you just lay yourself down on that inner tube, sit back, and enjoy the ride. In a perfect world (ie, on a not-that-busy day), you can enjoy it for as long as your little heart desires. In a perfect world, you have that icy piña colada in your hand, too.

The real selling point of the lazy river is found in the flow of the pool: The constant, steady, um… constant-ness of the current. The way it carries you ever forward without your giving the slightest thought about where you are actually headed. The slight rocking motion that comes from that tiny bit of turbulence caused by the water sloshing up against the side of the pool, the side of the raft. It takes you away in less time than it takes to recall the word “Calgon.” You lose yourself in it entirely, and instantly. And you trust it implicitly, because it seems so self-assured. As if, when you placed your tube in the pool and lay down upon it, in that very first moment, it whispered to you calmly, quietly, but with every bit of swagger it could muster (being an inanimate object and all): “Hey. I got this.” It’s so easy to surrender to the power of this flow. It beckons to you: “Hey there, friend, I can see you need a rest. Stop working so hard; take a load off. Life needn’t be only wedgies and red eyes. Come. Relax. I got this.” And just like that, the flow envelops you. It sweeps you away, into the safety of its predictability. It knows where you need to be next, and it delivers you there with ease. You started here. But you will ride this current, and you will be delivered safely, soundly, to the place you are meant to arrive next. It’s just that easy. Come and join the flow.

If you’ll pardon the inordinately long prelude to get us here, I’d like now to arrive at my point:

It is in this magical, mystical, mythical flow that I find myself now. I have no idea how I got here (happy karmic pay back for a rough time earlier this year?), but I’m not going to question it. I’m just here to be in it, to go where it takes me, and to believe that I will be delivered safely and soundly, with fruity tropical drink intact.

Stay with me, okay? It’s not that I’m literally in the Lazy River. If you were paying attention, you know The Beach is closed, Lazy River and all. Plus, come on, I’m never that literal. What I mean to say is that lately I feel like I have tapped into something kind of amazing, something that feels the way I imagine the flow of the universe to feel—how it puts everything precisely where it should be, precisely when it should be there, without effort, pause, or worry. And the experience of this flow is making me gape, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, at its power.

The power of simply saying out loud what you want, coming up with a thoughtful path to get there, turning slightly toward action, and then letting it all unfold, with ease, grace, and absolute, unbridled, thrilling momentum.

It seems that, in this moment in time, everything I do, see, touch, and experience is happening at exactly the right time, and with astonishing precision in its purpose. It seems that everything in my life is aligning easily (and shockingly—did I mention I’m shocked?) with the plan I have only recently hatched for myself, for the next chapter of my life. The details of the macro- and the micro-plans are coming together to form not only the body of the plan itself and the steps to get from here to there, but the perfect cherry on top, which is both carefully and whimsically (can those two things exist as one?) placed. Answers to questions I hadn’t yet conceived of have been delivered to me on silver platters, without even the faintest disguise. “I want to be this” I have said, plainly and out loud, to the universe. And the universe is responding, almost immediately, with a blunt and resounding “YES.” And it’s coming to me, personalized. It’s not a simple “yes,” but rather it seems to be saying, “Yes, Tracy. Yes. We’ve been waiting for you. We’re so happy you’re finally here.”

And so I have approached this flow with bold abandon. I am feeling the strength of its pull, of its unabashed self-assuredness. I am understanding that I don’t have to work so hard for the things that are supposed to happen. It knows where I need to be next. I only have to dip my toe in the pool. It’s got this.

7 lessons at 37

July 17, 2012

In honor of 7/17 and my 37th birthday, I’d like to share the 7 big lessons that I learned in my 37th year.  It’s one of those things.  Some birthdays come and go and all they leave in their wake is a mild hangover and a shaking head while you mutter, “I’m how old, again?”  And then there are other birthdays, the ones that seem to mark the end of a long journey that began who-knows-when and, as you look back and reflect, you realize that you’ve really covered a lot of ground since last year.  I think this is one of those birthdays for me.  Thirty-seven isn’t really a birthday that people wave sparklers over and send you big, elaborate balloon bouquets to celebrate.  But somehow, maybe it’s the alliteration of all the 7s, it feels like something more to me.  And so, without further ado, here’s what I have to show for my most recently completed orbit around the sun.

1.  If you know in your gut that something is not quite right, you are the only person in the world who can take Step One toward setting things on their course to being corrected.  You are your own best advocate and, while Step Two all the way through Step One Thousand might end up being completely out of your hands, Step One belongs only to you.  Every time.  (This lesson came to me courtesy of my thyroid condition, which I could have practically diagnosed for myself, even without the blood work, but I still suffered silently with it for months before seeing my doctor.)

2.  Being kind to others is important, but it is most important, first and foremost, to be kind to yourself.  This means keeping the promises you make to yourself.  However!  It also means that, should you break a certain promise to yourself on a certain day, you will forgive yourself and simply try to do better the next day.  (The thing I beat myself up about the most, every single day of my life, is my lack of interest in exercise.  And then I beat myself up for having beaten myself up.  And on, and on, and on.  I suppose this is one of those things that goes in the category of “knowing is half the battle.”  One hopes.)

3.  If you keep breaking the same promise to yourself again and again, then you might revisit the promise itself—its purpose, its meaning, its potential—and, if possible, consider revising it to better fit into your life, your heart, or, more to the point, your priority list.  (Again, the exercise.  I needed to find another place, another space, another approach to make it possible for me to insert exercise [movement of any kind, really!] into my life.  It’s still a work in progress for me; I’m still searching to find an internal well-spring of motivation for this part of my life.)

4.  Like it or not, becoming a mother changes you.  It changes your heart, your body, your dreams, your fears, your priorities, your budget, your relationships, your laundry habits, and your ability to sleep in.  But it is only total destruction followed by entirely new construction if you choose it to be.  There is no rule that you have to elevate “mother” to be your single-most-important defining characteristic.  And if you hold fast to all the other things you’ve got going on, all the things you loved most within yourself before motherhood, all of that will be there for you when the dust settles, and it will be even shinier for having weathered the storm.  (I was a wreck about this in the first few months after my son joined us here on this planet.  Things have since found their equilibrium.  I think more than anything, I just needed to take a deep breath and be patient for everything to shake out and land where it would.  But I’m not so good with the patience thing.)

5.  It’s one thing to have hope—to sit quietly and believe there’s something greater out there in the world for you.  It’s quite another to have the courage to go out into the world and actively search for the “something greater” that you believe awaits.  (For me this year, this was primarily about searching for a new organization through which I could comfortably express my faith.  Said another way, this was about finally admitting, out loud, to myself and others that I’m no longer truly Catholic and that I want to find something else to help me define my belief system.)

6.  You have to trust the people you love to accept you for who you are, even (especially) when you think who you are is the opposite of who you think they want you to be.  They will often surprise you.  They may even inspire you.  (This was about telling my mom about my departure from Catholicism and my search for a new religion, and being flabbergasted at her Amazingly Cool reaction.)

And last, but not least…

7.  Doing just about anything with a baby is about a million times easier than doing that same thing with a toddler.  Babies can’t walk; toddlers can.  Babies can’t speak; toddlers can.  Babies don’t have opinions or expectations; toddlers do.  And toddlers have no compunction against applying any of these new-found skills in the least convenient manner, at the least convenient time, and in the least convenient place.   (This lesson came through most loudly & clearly with regard to air travel, but I think it also applies to …well, everything.)

So I guess in my 37th year, in a nutshell, I learned that it is important to be kind, patient, and brave.  Or, more accurately, I’ve learned that I need to try my best to be as kind, patient, and brave as I can manage on any given day, and that sometimes I just need to take a deep breath and believe—with all my heart—that, quite simply, everything is going to be just fine.  It almost always is.

happy new year!

July 17, 2012

I found myself still awake somehow at 11:50pm last night, and realized it was a rare opportunity to have a formal count down and toast to a brand new year.  My 38th year on this planet, to be exact, of which, today is Day 1.  But about a millisecond later, I realized that I was extremely tired from a very long, very full day, and, as always, 6:30am comes around fast… so rather than wrap myself up in all that nonsense, I chose instead to wrap myself up in my pajamas, brush my teeth, and go to bed immediately.

And that, my friends, is the difference between turning 37 and turning 27.

But before I drifted off (which in all honesty, probably happened before the clock struck midnight), I looked back.  In that brief moment after I had lain down but before sleep could claim me, I thanked 36 for treating me so well, and sent a quick prayer up to 37 to do the same.  I’m so grateful to have the privilege of getting older, when so many others won’t.  I’m so grateful to have this particular life, lived in the company of these particular people, who bring depth and richness to my days.  I’m so grateful to have adventures still on my horizon, to anticipate and imagine and actively create.  I’m so grateful to be here, in this moment, in this hour, in this day and week and year, watching each moment build upon the next to create an ordinary life that, to me, feels quite extraordinary.

So maybe it’s not midnight anymore, and the time for reflection has passed.  But it’s still morning here in my corner of the world, and it’s the morning of a day that I love, because it marks the beginning of the next little chapter in this volume of my life.  I hope to write it well.

turning to amber

July 7, 2012

As of this moment, it’s been 3 years, 4 months, 16 days, and a little over 11 hours since my dad passed away.  Now, I know it’s expected of me to follow that sentence with “…and I still miss him terribly, every single day.”  But do I really?  Terribly?  Every single day?  Given how deeply I loved and still love my dad, I have to say, if the answer to either of these questions is somehow “no,” then it’s an awfully difficult thing to face up to, and even more difficult to explain.

The torrent of pain that followed his loss defies easy explanation, and the right words only seem to come in the moments when I’m actually “in it” — when I’m right back in that space and time, feeling everything acutely, all over again.  But if I’m honest, I have to admit that I rarely experience those moments anymore.  Those moments of raw, blinding, unspeakable grief that used to explode out of nowhere in my chest and take over my entire heart, mind, and day — they just don’t seem to come along as often now.  But I can’t say that their infrequency is something I feel truly thankful for.  In many ways, I feel like less of a loving daughter because my experience of grief is so much less visceral than it used to be; but in other ways, I know that it’s normal over time to lose the visceral connection to the loss, and to experience it less as an active cutting out of my heart, and more as a simple feeling of frank sadness.  It’s no longer the brick wall that speeds at me at 100 mph and obliterates me.  Instead, it’s taken on the feeling of a (now-very-familiar) wave that rushes over me — entirely, and yet somehow sort of gently — and insists to me once again, as if I didn’t already know, that everything would be so much better and feel so much more “right,” if only he were still here with us.  When it comes, I let the wave wash over me, I feel the things I need to feel at its behest, I say, “Hi Dad, I miss you so…” and then I put it all away and go on with the moment, the day, and the living of life.  Because, really, what else is there to do?

So, I suppose it’s time to admit that I don’t necessarily miss him terribly anymore, or, at least, that I don’t miss him terribly every single day.  But with nearly three and a half long, full years passing between us, filling the space between now and our last moment together, I don’t think it’s so unusual for things to have softened.  In fact, I think he would be relieved to know that the edges aren’t quite so sharp and jagged anymore, that the suffering isn’t quite so all-consuming.

So, having (finally) forgiven myself for not experiencing my grief quite so acutely, I have begun to re-imagine the way I hold him in my life, now that these years have passed, holding us so very firmly and permanently apart.  My husband, when waxing nostalgic, often describes old memories as “fading to amber” — the way old photos take on a brownish hue after languishing for decades in that shoebox in the closet, or the way ancient artifacts of insects or plants are frozen forever in time by hardened amber from the Baltic Sea.  I suppose my experience of time transforming my relationship with my dad feels similar to those fossilized bugs and leaves, trapped in amber, and perfectly preserved for all who care to see them.  To me, it feels as if his death opened the door to a steady, constant flow of liquid amber, which crept slowly into me and encapsulated all my Dad-memories, all my Dad-stories, all of my mind’s-eye snapshots of things he did, things he said, and things we experienced together.  It did so rather silently (and without explicit permission, I might add), but the sticky gold resin got even stickier with time, and heroically saved many of my memories from the ragged edge of oblivion, from almost being forgotten forever, and brought them into the mix, just in the nick of time.  And now, I finally see, it has all hardened into something beautifully permanent.  Things are no longer dynamic between my dad and me; how could they be, when he can’t participate in the relationship anymore?  So, it is both fitting and extraordinarily comforting to find that, after these hard years of settling into a new life without him, his presence in my life is now fixed.  It almost feels like a real thing, this amber charm of mine — like I could actually pick it up and hold it in my hand, that I might feel the cool smoothness of the fossilized stone of my memories, feel its weight in my pocket as I carry it with me everywhere I go, or place it gently for a time on a high protected shelf, and, when I need to, I can look deep into its center, through the thick but clear resin of his life, now carefully and completely preserved, and easily see all the things I cherish most.

we lost trac

July 5, 2012

It’s been a long time, friends.  Too long!  Indeed, I did get a little lost.  But alas, I am found.  Mostly, anyway.

Quite a few things have happened during this (very long) interlude, which I suppose bear mentioning:

First, my baby turned into a toddler.  Once my crawler turned into a walker, I think 1 heartbeat happened and then he was a runner.  The kid has 1 switch, and it is labeled on one side with “Asleep” and on the other with “Maniac.”  I’m sure I’ll write more on this topic, but suffice to say:  Todderhood makes me Profoundly Tired.

Second, work got crazy.  When you write for a living and work is intense for a period of many months on end, the last thing you want to do with your spare time is to write more.

Third, I was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid gland.  Stupid underactive thyroid gland, making me all tired(-er) and lame all the time!  I’m now happily popping a couple of prescription thyroid supplements each day and being monitored regularly by my doctor, and things seem to have steadily come back around to normal.  But man, there were many weeks there in the winter when you could’ve put explosives under my bed and it still wouldn’t have moved me.  Seriously, right before the diagnosis, I barely even recognized myself anymore.  No energy, no motivation, no liveliness, no nothing.  Just blah, blah, and more blah, all day and night.  I don’t recommend this way of living.

Lastly, I folded under the pressure of having a blog.  I felt like I needed to be funny or interesting or silly with everything, when in reality, the stuff I really needed to get off my chest was kinda dark or deep or, to my critical eyes, maybe just a little bit too centered on my kid, and as such, might have been kinda boring to some.  In short, I lost sight of what this is supposed to be, which is just (unapologetically) about me, for better or worse.

So, all that stuff happened.  And, in truth, a lot of it is still happening.  I don’t think toddlerhood technically ends until pre-school, so I’ve got another few years of this insanity.  And while 2 work projects finally have wrapped up, there is another very big one looming in the near future.  The medical issues seem to be resolving and I’m feeling much more like myself.  But in terms of the 4th one, it’s hard for me to be totally unapologetic about anything.  And I’m a perfectionist when it comes to writing.  So, we’ll just call that a work in progress and see how it goes.  I know for sure that it sucked royally to be lost and languishing for so long.  So, if this blog post is just one tiny step toward being found, then it’s a step I’m happy to take, to get back on trac(k) again.