Friday

It’s Friday morning. The only weekday morning I don’t have my children. This usually means I can wake up to the sunlight peeking through the shades, rather than the sound of fighting over whose bowl of cereal is more full or the nails on chalkboard sound of cartoon characters blaring through the TV. Don’t get me wrong, I love those little monsters with every fiber in my body. But the silence and ease of Friday mornings remains idyllic.

As I listen to music and get ready for my day, I look to the coming weekend with anticipation. I have a few things planned, but for the most part, I’m free (which doesn’t happen often enough). I decide to head to my favorite coffee shop in town. It’s downtown and completely out of my way to work, but I love the place. The inside is too small for the amount of patrons they see on a daily basis; especially on Saturday mornings when people are out enjoying the farmer’s market. What it lacks in size, however, it makes up for in charm. The establishment is a reminder of the small town that this rapidly growing commuter location once was. The young employees are always eager and cheery and dare I say, actually seem to enjoy their job. Their Chai lattes (my drink of choice) taste earthy and robust, unlike the over processed/syrupy concoction Starbucks has to offer. Their bagels are always so fresh and toasted to perfection. It’s just one of those things in life that make me happy, albeit small and seemingly insignificant.

Upon walking in, I see familiar faces. A group of old retired men that sit there every morning chatting about sports and politics. I wonder how many of them consider that the highlight of their day. I’m reminded that no matter our age, we never lose that need to belong, to be in the company of peers. I also see a Grandma sitting with her little Granddaughter, enjoying a drink and something sweet. The smile on both of their faces is so bright that I can’t help but smile myself. They are unsuccessfully taking a “selfie”, so I offer to take their picture for them. The Grandma gladly relinquishes the phone to me and tells me they are having a special “Grandma/Granddaughter Day”. Growing up, I never had Grandparents I was close to and in that quick moment, I was happy to have captured the memory they were making together. How beautiful that life offers us so many different types of relationships to nourish and enjoy.

As I wait for my order, I sit at an empty table next to a middle aged woman. She was probably in her mid to late forties, sitting in yoga pants, reading the newspaper and sipping her perfectly foamed cappuccino. I envied her for a second, sitting there enjoying her morning, with no apparent rush. Suddenly she looks over at me with an endearing smile and says: “I love your outfit; your skirt with those cute sandals….very pretty. I saw you walk in and wanted to tell you.” Those are the best compliments, the random ones….with no ulterior motive, no hesitations. I thanked her and headed off to work.

On my drive I thought about those few minutes in the coffee shop. How many people we come across on a daily basis and how we have the power to impact one another with a smile, a kind word, or gesture. How we are all in different stages of our lives and yet we are all in pursuit of the same basic things. I wondered, too, where I’d be when I was that woman’s age, the one that offered the compliment. Approaching my 30th birthday now, feeling the pressure of having life more “together” than I do at this moment, although not really knowing what that entails. Wondering how I will let the events in my life shape me in the next 15-20 years. Will I let them make me bitter or better?  Will I continue to look for the good in people and in the situations that I am faced with?

On this particular Friday morning, however, I am a young, single, working Mother of two. Like the loving Grandma, the relaxed middle aged woman, and the retired comrade’s, I have something to offer to those around me. With drink in hand and head held high, I’m ready to take on the day; and the world for that matter.

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“Wake up early. Drink coffee. Be ambitious, keep your priorities straight, your mind right, and your head up. Do well, live well, and dress really well. Do what you love, love what you do. It is time to start living.” ~ Anonymous

Friendship

It’s only April, but it feels more like a balmy California summer night….the ones I grew up relishing. All four of our children are in the house playing, dare I say, peacefully. As I sit next to the fire pit in my best friends backyard, sipping some particularly fruity wine, the two of us singing along to the best of 90’s country music (yet another thing we have in common); I feel comfortable. Not just comfortable in the physical sense. Comfortable with the company whose presence I’m in; with where my life is at in this particular moment; and in the sense that I no longer fear the future, even though I have no idea what’s in store. Much of that comfort stems from this friendship.

I suppose it sounds a bit adolescent to refer to someone as your “best friend” when you’re this close to 30. But anything less just won’t suffice. Ever since that first Saturday morning we met for coffee almost 2 years ago, our lives have never stopped merging paths. Perhaps it’s because we were at the same complicated crossroad in our lives. Fresh off of divorce; trying to find the balance between being super (single) mom, and becoming our own person once again. I wouldn’t be able to paint you an accurate picture of my life without mentioning Amber. We are the friends that make no sense but perfect sense all in one. A random adventure, car karaoke, belly laugh, inside joke, human diary, closer than most family, once in a lifetime type of friendship.

In essence, this unexpected friendship has allowed us both to recapture some of those young, careless years we missed when we were thrown into a grown-up world far too soon. We have thrived off of the moments that let us briefly forget the decisions we have made, and those that were made for us that led us here. Two tired, young moms trying to be self-sufficient; trying to manage guilt of varying magnitudes; trying to rebuild our happily ever after. Whether we are picking up each other’s kids because we are in a bind; talking through another broken heart; walking along the streets of San Francisco at 4 AM to get pizza; admiring the fireworks from a beach in Hawaii on the Fourth of July; or freezing our butts off on a late night ferry from Seattle to catch the skyline view from the water……we have learned and we have proven that true friendship makes life worth living. It makes the hard times a little less hard and the good times, amazing.

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“Close Friends are truly life’s treasures. Sometimes they know us better than we know ourselves. With gentle honesty, they are there to guide and support us, to share our laughter and our tears. Their presence reminds us that we are never really alone.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

For true friendship, I am eternally grateful. For the few people that come along in life exactly when we need them to, and they never leave our side. The ones that help heal our wounds and readjust our thoughts when we’re ready to throw the towel in on life. Here’s to old memories, and those yet to be made with the people that make our days a little brighter, our transitions a little smoother, and our hearts a little fuller.

Grief

There are moments in life when something affects us so deeply, we almost forget how to breathe. The lump in our throat is too massive to swallow and the sinking in our heart drowns our ability to think past that very moment. That is how I felt on that Saturday afternoon, standing in a stale room of a ghostly hospital that reminded me more of a prison. There was no color there, nor warmth or hope of any kind. Walking through those hallways, I could almost see the tears and hear the cries of people who had suffered loss there in times past. The smell still haunts me to this day. In that room, I was surrounded by family and close friends. We all awaited the doctors prognosis, news we’d all been dreading to hear for the past 4 1/2 grueling weeks. We were told there was no hope for my father’s recovery. He would have to be moved to a long-term care facility, where he would not be able to speak or eat. Rather, he’d be held captive in his own body, being kept alive by a machine. Little did I know a month before that day that I would be in this moment, preparing my mind and heart to say goodbye far too soon.

It was 11:30 on a Monday night. I was sleeping at the time I got the call. The last peaceful sleep I would have for a while. The sound of the phone woke me, but not in time to answer. As I sat half asleep listening to the voicemail, I felt nervous and confused. My cousin, who lived across the street from my father at the time, was telling me there had been an accident at my fathers house, but everything was OK. I got dressed as quickly as possible and drove straight to the hospital, calling both of my sisters on the way. The wait in the ER felt like forever, and never have I been so happy to see my sister and hug her. At this point, we knew very little about my father’s condition, only that there had been a fire at the house and because of his pre-existing lung problems, he was taken to the hospital.

When I was finally allowed to see my father, the gravity of the situation hit me like a brick. The man I could call anytime I was sad or scared and find comfort in; the man whose arms I used to hang on as a little girl, thinking of how strong he was….was laying there surrounded by a web of tubes. Motionless and virtually helpless, he was at the mercy of his body. A body that we learned in the coming weeks was too tired to fight.

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The next five weeks can only be described as an emotional roller coaster. My sisters and I were faced with many tough decisions from day one. We asked a lot of questions and tried hard to make sure my father was as comfortable as someone could be who couldn’t eat, drink, move, or communicate. I researched every moment that I could, so I could ask the right questions and understand the process that was about to unfold. Unfortunately, no amount of questions or crossing of fingers could change the reality of the situation. Without getting too technical or detailed, weaning someone with compromised lungs from a ventilator is no easy feat. Every time his breathing assistance was decreased  to try and retrain his lungs to function on their own, his body would panic. His heart rate and blood pressure would skyrocket. In an effort to avoid a massive heart attack, his breathing assistance would again have to be increased. The process would then start over the next day. It seemed every time there was a spark of hope, it was extinguished by a flood of disappointment.

A pivotal moment in this journey was when our family decided that we needed to somehow explain the situation to my father and give him the choice (indicated by the nod or shake of his head) to continue fighting or not. Mind you, he had for the most part been in a medically induced coma for two weeks. When the medicine would wear off and he became somewhat aware of his state and surroundings, his anxiety would become debilitating. One day, he was very slowly weaned off of the medicine. My sisters and I made the decision to have a nurse try to understand his wishes. We believed that had one of us presented the information to him, the situation would be unbearably emotional for him and us both. Surely he would see the pleading in our eyes, wanting him to fight, and this would sway him from giving an honest answer.

The family sat for sometime in the waiting room, holding our breath. Trying to prepare ourselves emotionally for whatever the answer was. In that moment that the nurse entered the room and told us my father had chosen to continue fighting, the first joyful tears fell. The battle had not been won, nor was it any less daunting than it was prior to his decision. But someone wanting to live, despite the odds being stacked against them, is a beautiful thing.

However, after two surgeries and a transfer to another facility, the situation was bleak. There was no improvement. Watching someone you love die is an image you never forget. It is even more difficult when you know that in that person’s mind they want to live, but they are being betrayed by their own body.

Too early in our lives do we realize the inevitability of death. The “ideal” situation, if you can call it that, would be for us or our loved ones to pass peacefully in sleep at an old age. Rarely does life hand us those cards. Upon receiving the news from the doctor, my sisters and I had to make the toughest decision anyone could ever make on someone’s behalf. We knew in our hearts, without a doubt, it was what my father would have desired, given the quality of life he was being offered from that point on. My father would be removed from life-support the following Tuesday morning.

I have always felt that most of life’s occurrences are due to circumstance, even coincidence at times, rather than predestination or outside forces. But on a Monday night, around the same time I received that first haunting call five weeks to the day, my phone rang once again. My father passed away on his own that night. His heart stopped 12 hours before we were to remove him from life-support. I would like to think that subconsciously my father let go in order to spare us the wonder and the pain associated with his passing in that way. For this, I am truly grateful. The relief almost surpassed the devastation at that moment.

“Grief only exists where love lived first” ~ Franchesca Cox.

The grief was overwhelming because the love between us was undeniable. I will never forget how it felt to hold my father’s hand for the final time. To lay my head on his chest that had lost all of its warmth, knowing at the very least, he was at peace. It was up to me now, to pick up the pieces and find my own peace.

“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in” ~ Haruki Murakami

 

 

Perspective

When I initially thought about sharing my writing, my first thought was one of self-doubt. Who would really care to read the things I have to say? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been a people person, I have no problem holding interesting conversations. In general, I feel I have a lot to offer others, on an intellectual level, as well as an emotional and empathetic level. However, by most standards, I’ve done nothing spectacular in my life. I have not traveled the world (though I’d love to), I have not endured anything especially horrific or had to overcome any monumental obstacles. I do, however, possess something invaluable. That is my outlook on life, my perception and perspective that are unique because they are all my own.

It is a beautiful thing to know that we wake up every day with the ability to make it a positive one. We choose what we focus our thoughts on, how we interact with others, and how we handle the situations we are faced with. It’s been said “Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.” The moment I began to focus on this fact, is the moment I began to feel at peace. Too many nights in my relatively young life have been spent regretting the things I did not accomplish that day, even though I was going to bed mentally and physically drained. Until one day when everything seemed much more simplistic in my head. Did I smile and laugh today? Did I speak to someone I loved today? Did I eat good food, drink clean water and wake up in a comfortable bed? Are my children happy and well cared for?  The answer to all of those questions was of course, yes, every day. Our perspective is a powerful force in our life.

In the words of the intriguing author, Oscar Wilde: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” I’ve chosen to look at the stars, and it is an amazing view.

Happiness

I knew I could never write fiction because honestly I’ve never been much of a dreamer. Wild heart; need for change; craving for adventure; spontaneous; yes, but not a dreamer. What I mean by that is ever since I was a child my expectations for life were fairly realistic. I wasn’t the girl with the box of cut outs envisioning my elaborate wedding day or the mansion I would live in by the ocean. All I really remember wanting was to be happy. Which I’ve realized is a concept so relative, so fluctuating, that the mansion may be more attainable for some people. I don’t say this from a pessimistic point of view. Really, I’d say I’ve always had more of an optimistic disposition. But as I approach my 30th birthday, which is scary and fascinating all in one, I realize that being happy isn’t necessarily a goal as it is a way of life. If our happiness can be defined by fulfillment of specific goals (i.e. buying our dream house; retiring; getting married and starting a family) then really, it’s fleeting. A house can be lost to Mother Nature or because of economic circumstances. Retiring could get old and perhaps boring. Marriages break up often and starting a family comes with challenges all its own. If we, however, find ways to be happy in our everyday life, then really, we’ve won.

 

And here’s where most get stumped. Because you see, it’s much easier said than done. To be happy every day, when there are surmounting pressures of life and we experience little disappointments with ourselves and others often. However applicable, one of my favorite quotes is this one by Augusten Burroughs: “So we can be filled with holes, and loss and wide expanses of unhealed geography – and we can also be excited by life, and in love and content at the exact same moment.” What does that mean to you? To me, it means that we don’t have to have things together (mentally, emotionally, physically, materially, etc.) in order to be happy and fulfilled. Happiness doesn’t have to be merely a passing emotion. It can be a permanent state of being, no matter the circumstances.

 

My hope in creating this blog is that I can reflect on a regular basis on the things that I, and most of us, can find happiness in. I hope others can relate, and possibly find through my posts, some gratitude of their own. Not that everything I intend to post will be altogether cheery. But I’ve learned that there is always beauty behind the madness. Struggle, dysfunction, grief, heart ache…..they all give us a chance to appreciate when things are good and give us a broader view of life.