Lunar Reflections | catacosmosis

I often stare at the moon, reflecting on the things that are in progress in my life. I’ve always done this, even as a child. It’s as though she understands.

“The moon is a loyal companion.

It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human.

Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.”

—Tahereh Mafi

As a child and young teenager I felt like the most unwanted, unloved, motherless human being on the planet. This morning I am reminded that I have had more mothers than I prayed for in those days (and probably more than I deserved), and that blooming takes time but it’s beauty is worth continuing on to experience, to behold within, and perhaps someday express or offer to someone else.

This morning I am reminded that the universe has ALWAYS surrounded me with strong, courageous, positive, mothering and loving women who have given me the lessons and the benefits of their strength and even sometimes their weakness, their hope, their courage, their experience and their love – even when they haven’t realized it, even though they weren’t my birth or adoptive mothers.

This morning I am grateful – grateful for who they were and are, and grateful for who I was, have become, and will be because of the many lights they have shone in my life. I am reminded of my personal belief that we do not become who we are and we don’t bloom into our whole selves because we do it all alone – there are always those lights in our lives to outshine our darkest moments and feed our souls like sunshine. Sometimes the sources of that light are people (and animals) – whether strangers in the market line or at the post office, strangers online who make us smile or even become true friends and inspirations, or people in our daily lives who become our friends, whether they remain in our lives for long or a short time…whether they still live or they pass away.

This morning I am…very simply put…overwhelmingly grateful – for the lights that have shone on me in th past and the ones that continue to do so – the glints and gleams that illuminate and encourage my spirit, that help me to grow and ever evolve into a better me than I was each day that’s come before.

Finally, this morning I am reminded of a very important thing for my soul self: Motherly love is not a label or a static characteristic – it’s a state of being…and it can come from just about anywhere, if you’re open to receive it. I am. ❤️

Vision: iPhone 6, Olloclip

Tools: Mextures (formula SRPVZKE)

11 years ago today, where we used to live in Coosa County. Actually this was taken in 2004 but I edited it and posted it 11 years ago today.

A lot of days I miss it. Not today, but a lot of days. I’m also very grateful for where we are now in many ways. Especially with depression, but maybe for everyone, peace comes and goes.

I see people strive so hard to attain peace when the reality is that it just comes and goes. Sometimes, it’s even harder to attain when you’re working so hard to find it. Sometimes, most of the time, if it’s to be had it’s just right there within. That’s been my experience.

We are human. It’s hard to be at peace in a world where you see so much that is wrong – abused children and elderly and animals and women and even men, hell, people in general. Wars. TRUMP. Capitalism. Most everyone getting the short end of a very fucked up stick… Yes – if you have any compassion or heart at all, if you care anything at all about others, it’s very hard to live in this world and have a constant feeling of peace.

But, we can speak kindly, offer a hand, take responsibility and apologize when we have not behaved our best, and do our best not to be a part of the problem. Of course we always will be because for most of us there is no way not to be a consumer. But you get what I’m saying, right? Peace comes and goes. Good times and bad times fluctuate – just like weight and the economy and lots of other things.

The only certain thing for me is that one day I’ll be dead and a few generations after that I’ll be forgotten and cease to matter. I intend to make it count while I’m here – and that’s what we did back then. I’m grateful to be where I am today. I wouldn’t trade a thing for my child. But the days back when this was taken? Not even gonna lie. Best days of my life.

Nothing can beat the freedom of that life. The people I had around me. The beauty and seclusion of where I lived. The lack of worry and responsibility for another human being…. Easy times. And we knew it. And we lived it to the fullest. And I’m grateful for every memory and experience. ❤️❤️

I hope that you have a lovely day today…

All the love,

C.

My friend Dawn shared a video that touches on something that I have been considering and trying to figure out how to express for a long time. Thank you so much for sharing this, Dawn. I have had SUCH turmoil in my spirit for SO long about the things shared in this video – and now, that’s just gone.

Before 2015, and even for a short time after my father died – while I was still in denial – I was who and what Dawn expresses throughout this video. I believed. I didn’t believe in religion – I had already fought my battles with that and overcome and undone the hold religion had had on me as a child and teenager, because of the way it was so misused and so abusive and manipulative. I had not (and still have not) completely overcome the trauma of that abuse, but I am much farther down the road of recovery. I didn’t believe in “that” God – but in the Source. A higher power. An energy. And I believed in signs.

I believed in our ability as humans to connect with higher spiritual energies and forces and to receive guidance and to guide others. I knew that I had a gift and that I always had – I was able to understand that part of the reason I was so strongly opposed to religion was that I had always been more connected to that source than to buildings and books and that the source was found in the natural world that I had adored and revered throughout my life. I believed in the power of nature to heal, to guide, to teach, and to comfort. I believed in life, and not death.

I had faith – so much faith. I was positive and more happy and at peace with life and with myself than I had ever been, and all just felt right. Real. And yes, peaceful, even in times of pain and struggle. Even though I was at this place and knew I had been awakened and was living with my eyes and my heart open, I struggled with the physical complication of depression and anxiety – not because I didn’t believe in good or higher power or whatever you want to label it but because my body didn’t manage its chemicals very well.

When my best friend was diagnosed with cancer, and I was going through a loss of a different kind along with that terrifying and excruciating experience with my best friend, I held fast to my faith despite the creeping depression. My father died unexpectedly one week after the one year anniversary of her diagnosis with terminal cancer, and I continued to hold fast, knowing that he had been prepared and ready for his own death for some time. He had struggled and suffered for many years, and though his death was unexpected (diabetic coma leading to stroke and then to the sepsis which eventually shut down his body one organ at a time over the course of five days), he was at rest. At peace.

For another 8 months my best friend fought and struggled and suffered, and I was there. I was there until she pushed me away and asked me not to be. She did this with many, to be fair – she was afraid, she lost her ability to cope, and instead of realizing t was a brain tumor and fear speaking for her I believed it was what she really wanted and thought I was respecting her wishes. Weeks went by and during this time my faith began to waiver and my grip began to loosen on that rope that had always held me through those difficult times. She passed away 8 months to the day that we buried my father, and in that moment, part of my soul quite literally died along with her.

Since then I have struggled. I slipped so far down that taking my own life was an option and something I planned out and would have followed through with and completed had something inside me not spoken up and cried out to my husband for help. I don’t know why that happened, aside from my fear of leaving my son without a mother and destroying him, but it did happen and because of his help, and my willingness to fight a really fucked up system, I was able to finally get the help and the medication that I desperately needed. I still struggle. I still rarely leave my home. But in so many ways, I AM better.

In the spiritual areas, though? I have continued to struggle the hardest there. To founder. To nearly drown only to be held afloat by the tiniest life preserver with the thinnest thread attaching it to me. That life preserver has been comprised of my son, of music, of art and photography, and my unwillingness to just pretend like I’ve been ok. I found more strength in vulnerability and allowing myself to share my reality than in “faking it.” Only through doing that was I able to cross paths with some of the most healing people I’ve had touch my life in the past year. People who have encouraged me to continue to share and to have faith and hope, if not in healing, and the possibility of mending and growing and learning to live with the ache of grief, loss, and the “not understanding” or not having the answers or the closure I thought I needed.

Dawn has always been one of those people, and I am so grateful. Even though Dawn and I may be on slightly different paths in career and life in general in many ways, we also share things in common that connect us in very special ways – cancer, loss, grief, “the struggle,” seeking the way (whatever that may be for each of us) – and, what she expresses here about “giving it all away” is so accurate and in tune with where I am…

And that is the other issue that’s been weighing on me: the issue of why I give away (or dump out, as someone once said to me, and I can’t help but laugh at that because it’s so close to true so much of the time) so much stuff – just give it away with no real concern about marketing it or branding it or selling it. “Why do you just give all this creativity and energy away for free? You don’t even try to gain followers or build your brand.”

Because…I don’t want to. I create for the same reason that I breathe. I don’t WANT to make money from it. Making money from it takes away the spiritual connection and soul that I want to express. I LIKE giving myself away, as it were. I LIKE sharing myself and my creative stuff.

I used to like working on computers and tinkering and writing weird programs and so on, and then when I let people convince me to turn it into a career the heart got lost. It became stress. The same thing happened with my photography. I let people convince me to “work harder” and to get into shows and to build a site to sell it and so on, and it became stress instead of joy.

I don’t need to sell these things and I don’t want to sell them. I don’t feel like they can be valued by a price tag and that if they are then it somehow takes away from the true value of what is there. You can’t put a price tag on peace – your own or anyone else’s. It is PRICELESS. And if anything I have to offer can bring that to me or to anyone who shares in my creative endeavors, it’s absolutely worth the “freedom” – at many levels.

Ultimately, as Dawn shares, it’s healing for me to “give it away” because it’s healing for me to create – it’s my PURPOSE to create. I’m going to create regardless and if I feel that giving it away and even just possibly being of help to someone else, even if inadvertently, can be a part of that process…well, why shouldn’t that be free? A lack of monetary value doesn’t make that worth nothing. At least, not in my soul…

Sharing is priceless. It helps me to believe – and it helps me to believe even more when other people cross paths with me via my creative sharing and say, “hey, I believe, too!” or better yet, “hey, I know the struggle so well but I’m hanging on, too. Let’s hang on together. Let’s learn together. Let’s share. Let’s grow together.” Those people exist. Many of you who are regular readers of my blogs, or listeners of my music, or followers of my photography, have shared with me that you are those people.

While I love that others find success in selling their creativity and I even often purchase it from them, it’s just not something I want to do with the things I share creatively online. I need that connection – at least right now, that connection is worth far more to me than money ever will be. I want to be better. I am, at this time, extremely blessed to be able to survive and work on becoming better and not worry whether there will be food in our mouths or clothes on our backs or a roof over our heads without me having to sell my soul to cover it. I am so thankful for that – for my family.

I’m SO grateful that Dawn’s shared this and that it’s available for me to share with you. This has been on my heart for so long and I’ve not been able to figure it out until now. Thank you again, Dawn. So much!!

I encourage you to watch Dawn’s video and listen to her story, which you can do by clicking here. In many ways – especially the spiritual things she speaks about – it mirrors who I was and who I am re-becoming. It inspires me to continue to seek my own heart and hear it, as well as that of whatever this higher power has to offer me.

I hope that you will find some inspiration or encouragement in it, as well…

All the love,

C.

Oh dear. The things you come across thanks to digital technology and usb drives.

Disclaimer #1: I HOPE that this is the worst sound quality I will EVER upload. There is no way I could ever recreate the horrific-ness that is this recording.

Disclaimer #2: My guitar playing does not sound this bad in real life.

Believe

Guitar recorded into GarageBand, percussion and synth added in GarageBand

Image courtesy of Google

The Backstory

This is the first song I ever (tried) to record. I had no idea what I was doing with GarageBand. I no longer have access to the original GarageBand file for this. I deleted it and have never shared this because it was SUCH CRAP quality. I have a reason for sharing it now, though.

I have since learned many things, not the least of which is to invest in a midi controller or a quality recording mic if you want to record your guitar playing and not to use the built in mic on your computer. You work with what you’ve got, though, and that’s what I had (and still have if I want to record my own guitar).

I also learned that using the pedal I used with this was a no-no for raw recording. It sounds like a dying cat in this file. Baha! 😂

So, anyway, back to the story. I was trying to learn to use GarageBand and so I tried to mimic some of the sounds I was hearing in some of the GarageBand instrument loops and managed to (sort of) play by ear this guitar track and record it into the app. I then added percussion and synth loops with the guitar bits to create a full song.

Let’s be honest: it’s not all that good. It kinda…well…sucks. But THAT’S OK! That’s the whole point of sharing this.

I came across this video I made of the song and laughed so hard at myself. I decided that I wanted to share this as an example of how you never stop learning, and how practice will never make perfect because we are human but it DOES make you better.

I thought I’d deleted every single attempt I had made to make this recording work – I even tried a noise reduction software and it was so noisy that there was hardly any sound left when it was finished converting.

Listening to it now? The song itself was not bad. It was just that I had no idea what I was doing with the tools I had to work with and I gave up trying with this song because I didn’t believe in myself, and now I don’t even remember how the song goes.

I tend to create stuff on the fly with guitar. I never write down chords or score anything, I just fool around and play what sounds nice and try to create something out of it.

Lesson number three from this for me was to always make notes of what you’re doing because two years down the road you will NOT remember how you did it or what you did unless you write it down. Dorie always used to say, when we were working on servers or computers, “WRITE IT DOWN. You’re gonna regret it if you don’t write it down, I guarantee you.”

Well. That applies to lots of things in life, and making music is one of them.

Ultimately, the point is this: if you wanna make music, make music. Just start. Don’t be afraid of it sounding bad – you will only learn from what you do wrong and the more you screw up the better you will be (and the more comfortable you will be with it).

That, too, is true regarding lots of things in life – if not life itself. Don’t be afraid. Just do it. Believe in yourself.

I know. “You hardly leave the house, what are you talking about – don’t be afraid and just do it?” That’s what you’re saying to yourself if you know me or follow my blog. Truth is, yes, I’m still working on that in general. It’s still not progressing very far; nonetheless, I’m working on it.

But, I believe it’s worth using your own flaws to try to help someone else while you’re trying to help yourself. I do that with my kid all the time. I have an 8 year old who thinks he is 17. The internet no longer scares or intimidates me. Heh… 😉

Now then, I’m gonna eat my 10PM yogurt and take my night pills and leave you with this: it will not hurt my feelings if you’re sitting there laughing, or cringing as (if) you listen to/read this. I know you are. I see you cringing. Cringe on. We all gotta start somewhere. 😂✌️👌

**it really will sound less cringe-y if you use headphones.

Hair. Oh, the hair. I’ve been having some issues with mine lately due to my physical health – things like having it falling out in record amounts and even getting patchy underneath. It’s not as visible to anyone who doesn’t know me well but it’s annoying to me. Recently I cut nearly a foot of my hair. Nay, CHOPPED it off – myself, in my bathroom, with the man’s scissors. Hair that once sat just near my lower back now sits just above my shoulders. It was a test, more than anything. And I am left with the same thoughts as before.

For a very long time I have thought about shaving my head. For a time only the slightest bit less than the amount of time I’ve thought about it, I have wanted to shave my head. I’m talking buzz cut, not slick. But either way – bald is the name of the game. I go back and forth about actually doing it, but I WANT to do it. I’ve come to a time where I’ve really begun to think more seriously about it – to the point that I presented the idea to both the man and the child and they have no opinion at all other than that they want to be involved in the process.

Many years ago I got my hair cut really short. It was buzzed on the back/neck and left a bit longer on the top/sides. I HATED IT. Even though I THOUGHT that I didn’t care what other people thought, I subconsciously did. I hated it because other people told me that it didn’t suit my face, it didn’t fit my jawline, it wasn’t pretty on me…many negative things. I got to a point where I believed that my hair was my only good trait – my hair was my beauty and without it I was nothing if not disgusting. I reached a point where I hated my face. I was SO INSECURE.

At the time, I was 21. I was newly married. I was still in college, driving an hour and a half one way to classes four days a week, spending the other three either studying or trying to figure out how to be a wife and live with someone else (which I hadn’t done for nearly two years before I was married) and struggling to get through the semester with my brain still intact. It was around/during midterms. It was one of the supreme eras of stress in my life (there were a lot of things going on I won’t mention here, for length/time’s sake).

Long story short? I got the haircut for the wrong reasons entirely – only one, really – I did it because I hated my hair. My hair was being difficult on a daily basis, it was not working with me, it was SO THICK back then, and BIG, almost just like the stereotypical (but beautiful) southern female hair you see in Steel Magnolias and other “southern” movies and tv shows. Getting that haircut was one of those throw-your-hands-in-the-air moments in life where you do what feels like the only thing you can do, and in that case what I thought was the only option ended up being a HUGE MISTAKE.

I didn’t want to do it in my heart – I just wanted to get rid of my hair. Others ridiculed me for it, and that hurt, yes – but it wouldn’t have hurt if I was doing it for the right reasons. Well, I suppose it will always hurt for those close to you to judge you but I don’t believe it would have bothered me so much or made such an impact on how I saw myself if I had done it in and with confidence in the first place. The truth is, I didn’t know what I was doing.

Today I am 38 (39 in two weeks) years old and I am a very different person. I have, for all my life, had a good relationship with my hair (aside from the time I just mentioned). I have always loved my long, thick hair. I have always seen it as my best feature – even before the mistake haircut, to be honest… But, I have grown to a place where I have a LONG list of reasons that I have been and continue to think about and want to COMPLETELY shave my head.

The only real reason is this: I WANT TO SHAVE MY HEAD. Ultimately, I want to do it because I want to do it. I am anxious about it because I know the risk – I know the risk because I know what I went through with only a “near shave” all those years ago.I know there are going to be cons. I know that sweat is going to get in my eyes if I don’t wear a hat or something else when I exercise or mow or do things that make you sweat, like just walking outside in the south in the summer is prone to do. I know that it is going to be cold during the winter.

I know that it is going to be a problem for certain religious folk down here where I live in the a-woman’s-hair-is-her-glory Bible Belt. I know it is going to offend certain people who have lost their hair because of sickness rather than choice. I know this because one of those people has already made me well aware of how disrespectful it is for women to shave their heads by choice when other women would give anything to have their hair back and didn’t have a choice in the matter (which I think is completely ridiculous but at the same time I can see where she is coming from).

Those two things I know more than anything. People are GOING to judge me – especially when it’s summertime and my tattoos are visible. People are going to assume things about me, like that I must be sick or have something wrong with me or that I am gay (um, well…). I know that people who already know me are going to just think I’m having a Britney Spears meltdown/mental health moment.

People are going to look at me more than they already do when I go out in public and that DOES NOT appeal to me at all (social anxiety already makes going out almost impossible). The last thing I want to do is draw attention to myself and I know the worst possible thing I can do to cause that to happen is to shave my head. That thought absolutely terrifies me.

But then there’s the thought of dying without doing something I really want to do – something that isn’t really that big of a deal, except the big deal society turns it into. There’s the thought of how I don’t want to be the mom who talks about doing something I really want to do all the time but never doing it and leaving my son thinking that it’s OK to let the fear of what other people might do (stare at you in public, shudder) keep you from doing it.

There’s the thought of how much money and time I will save by not having to buy hair products or dry my hair or straighten my hair. There’s the thought of the bliss of not having my heavy hair on migraine days, or of not having it in my face no matter the fact that I’ve pulled it up or back while I’m exercising or cleaning or doing ANYTHING at all. There’s the thought of wanting to do it with Dorie when she lost her hair and shaved hers during chemo, and her not “allowing it” – something I really wanted to do with and for my friend, as much as for myself…

But now I realize something very real and very important – she did not stand in my way because she didn’t want me to do it. She stood in my way because she knew that I was still not doing it for the right reasons. She knew that afterward I would say, “I did it with and for my friend,” rather than, “I did it just because I wanted to do it. I did it for myself. Got a problem with that?” That almost hurts my heart now. I would have done anything for her, and in my heart I did want to do it for her – and that was her whole problem with it. She knew I was not doing it all for myself, and she wouldn’t allow me to do something that I was not sure was 100% true to me.

But ultimately, there’s the thought of my remaining insecurities and how I want to and am being encouraged by many people to step outside of my comfort zone. To face my fears. To live for ME. To overcome certain anxieties in order to eventually overcome other anxieties and on and on. There’s the thought of  looking at myself in the mirror without my “glory” and going, “hey, there you are. Let’s get to know each other – let’s learn to truly love each other.” That is what I want to have happen, and despite the risks and despite the fears (I can’t help but doubt that anybody who says they’re 100% secure the first time they shave their head is telling the truth) I am beyond ready to have that happen within myself.

But am I ready to embrace my own power and do something so drastic with my hair when I can’t seem to embrace my power and drive or go places alone or get beyond certain other issues in my life? I don’t know… Perhaps it could be a start. But will I be brave enough to do what I want to do? I guess we will find out soon enough.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever considered anything like this for yourself? Have you ever done anything that would be considered drastic by society – or at least the society you live in locally? What were your reasons? How did you cope? Let’s chat about it…

I was challenged on Facebook to share “just me” in images and not just words. I suppose that’s a REAL challenge for me because I really despise sharing photos of myself, as most of you know. I’d much rather share the intimate details in words than to let you see my physical self. Who knows why – that’s so backward, right? I mean…that’s true nakedness.

Anyway, I didn’t copy and paste what the full challenge is but I did write my own thing because that’s kind of the space I’m in right now. The point of this challenge is to share just you, and lift yourself up, and by doing so encourage others to do the same. So…

This is just me. No filters, no makeup, sweating from hiking, in my element in nature. 

This is just me. No pretentions or expectations, a bit of a grimace coming through my attempt to smile because of the pain I was feeling in my body. 

This is just me. Christy. Leigh. Whoever I am by name, wherever I came from. 

This is just me. The nearly 39 year old mom of one who is struggling through grief, and who has so many diagnosed mental and physical illnesses I won’t even bore you by listing them again. 

This is just me. A woman you may not know anymore because I’ve changed so much or may have never really and truly known but who has been through hell just like so many others and is still here, somehow. Still has goals. Still has dreams. Still has a self inside. Still has a light somewhere inside all this inner darkness of depression and still fights on and walks through a lot more than what can be seen or expressed in words. 

This is just me. Yep, the fighter, the pusher-through. The trying-to-remain-an-optimist. The hoper. The lover. The never-giver-upper. The warrior. The mama bear mama-ing and trying to be the best example of surviving and thriving she can possibly be for her son, despite what she shares with the grown ups in her weakest moments. 

Here are the photos I chose – no makeup, no filters, just as I am about 99.9% of the time. This is JUST ME. I am beautiful as I am, I am strong despite my weaknesses, and I am enough.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” -John Muir

Tuesday, March 21, 2017, 2:52PM. Only 22 hours away from Dorie’s deathiversary. How weird…. Today is one of those days when it feels like she is still here, just hiding away somewhere where she can’t be seen but still be felt. Maybe she is here today – I don’t know what I believe about any of that anymore…

I’m having a few hours of time to myself. No child, no mother, no company, no people. I LOVE IT, surprisingly enough. I didn’t really want to be alone today and I REALLY didn’t want my son to go to his grandma’s for a sleepover but now that I’m here, sitting on the deck with my laptop and my words, listening to the birds and watching roses start to bloom and tulips already beginning to fall away, I’m…peaceful. I’m happy in the solitude.

I know this – I want to go riding. But I’m so, so tired… So anxious. So afraid… And my stomach is uneasy. Hmmm… What to do?

Tomorrow a friend is coming to spend the day with me, so maybe we will do that then. I have barely eaten today – I’ve had a banana, some coffee, and a lot of water. Maybe I should just focus on eating some food and resting this evening and tonight… Celiac is a bitch.

………………………………………..

It’s several hours later – nearly 8PM now. I sat for a while on the deck earlier, and I talked to Dorie’s ghost. Of course I don’t believe there was really a “ghost” there, but I talked to her anyway. About halfway through my conversation with her, her husband texted me a photo of her crocuses blooming. It was eerie, in a way, but it made me very happy. He called and we talked for about a half hour, and that was nice.

When I went back to the deck I finished reading this little book called “Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments,” by Kent M. Keith. It’s tagline is, “finding personal meaning in a crazy world.” It’s a book Dorie gave to me nearly 12 years ago, and for whatever reason there it was, laying on the shelf. I happened to notice it today – I’m sure I walked past it a hundred times since it was last touched, and probably laid it there myself the last time I read it.

That was probably a few weeks after she died – it seems like that was the last time I read through the entire book… Stacks of books all over my house, but I left that one laying flat on a shelf, where I could see it, all this time. Anyway, I picked it up to read it again. It just seemed like the thing to do with my time this afternoon. I’m so glad I did…

I must’ve read this book a hundred times in the years that I have had it. I’ve quoted from it many times, and it’s truly become the core of who I am, not only because of the book’s message but also because it’s how my father raised me all my life, long before the book was ever written. In fact, it reminds me very much of my father, and different parts of the book bring back vivid memories of experiences and situations I found myself in with my father when he taught me many of the lessons I have learned from him throughout my life, both as a child and as an adult.

For many reasons I adore this book, but earlier today when I picked it up again, I mostly adored it because she gave it to me. That is, until I started rereading it. Now, I love this book for that reason and for one other very important one: because I DO find myself in this book, twelve years after receiving it from her.

I see myself now, today, as she always did: capable. That’s why she bought the book for me in the first place. She gave me the book during a very hard time in my life in 2005. I was going through my initial split from the church and I was having a very difficult time with my adoptive mother. I was also going through the beginning of a pretty difficult breakup with a friend (that would end up taking more than a year) and I felt so incomplete, afraid, and vulnerable. I used the word vulnerable in conversations with Dorie I don’t know HOW many times during that period of my life. And that’s why she bought the book when she saw it.

One of the commandments is, “Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.” I remember her telling me that she had read through parts of it in the bookstore and that that particular line had reminded her so much of me. She said something to the effect of, “you might feel lost, confused and broken, but you’re much stronger than you believe you are and if your heart is guiding you then you’re in the right place. Maybe this book will remind you of who I know you are, and of who you already know you are…maybe now, maybe many times in the future.”

My word, how it has…especially today.

These last few years I have found myself in need of these reminders many times. Especially in the last year, since she died, I have felt more lost and heart broken than I ever have. Pain on top of pain on top of pain and loss after loss after loss does something to numb you from so much of life. You just reach a point where you really just feel “there.” It’s not depression, necessarily, or even grief.

It’s exhaustion (as I’ve written about earlier today and yesterday). It’s just being so tired at every level. It’s being…well, drained. When that happens I tend to forget how to ground myself and how to regenerate…especially now, with chronic illness in the picture, it’s extremely difficult to find rest.

As I read through the commandments today, I found myself thinking, “yes! That’s who I am. That’s who I’ve been for as long as I can remember, now…” My two favorite commandments are the first two.

“People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.”

“If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.”

Well, now. Isn’t that the story of my life as I’ve struggled and stumbled through the last few years. Not that I’ve been a saint myself – goodness knows I’ve had my moments of being rash, illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. And, I’ve made no excuses for those moments. When I have been conscious of it, I’ve tried to offer my sincerest apologies and learn from those moments. But I’ve also dealt with these two things more times than I can count (and by the same couple of people) over and over again throughout the last several years. And the truth is, I STILL love them anyway, and I still do good anyway.

I am still the same person I always was. How can I not be? It’s who I am, and I’m proud of that. I am GRATEFUL for that. There’s always room for improvement but I’m a damn good person and woman, and I believe that about myself.

Do you ever tell yourself similar things? You should, because I’m 99.9% sure they’re true. Be kinder to yourself. Even on your worst days, pat yourself on the back and say, “I love you!” to yourself. Then give yourself a treat of some sort, even if it’s just five minutes of sitting in silence on a busy day when you really “shouldn’t” waste those five minutes. Trust me – waste those five minutes, because if that’s what you spend them doing then it’s no waste at all.

The only way forward is not to just affirm things, per all the self-help gurus, but to TAKE ACTION. Actively love yourself. Walk your talk…don’t just speak it. Otherwise? It’s useless.

In spending some quiet time in true solitude today, I’ve really been supporting myself, and “myself” likes it a lot. We’ve been through half a box of Kleenex between allergies and memories, but hey – at least we thought to have Kleenex on hand.

The point of my “big cry” is this: not everybody is going to love you, no matter how lovable you might be, and not everybody who loves you is always going to be there, even if it’s only because they’re dead and they just can’t be. Learn to love and support yourself – it’s so important. I can give a lot of credit to a couple of people in my life for being there for me, to listen and to offer a hand, during the last year, but mostly, since my dad died? I’ve chosen to face my struggle alone.

I knew when my dad died that I needed to do that – because I knew that I COULD do that. I needed to step up and take care of myself in that way during that time. And, as far as the grief with my dad, I DID do that. I did cope and get through it mostly by myself (and with the help of an amazing bunch of animals who are just about the only living creatures I cried in front of, by choice), and I’m grateful for the people who care for me who allowed me to do that without question, without pressure, and without judgment.

When Dorie died, I decided to write my journey through that grief. It was so completely different than the loss of my Dad for many reasons. It was far more painful and confusing, and I had so much new growth that needed to be fertilized before it died. I had so much to say then, so much pain and so much confusion and so much loss… Writing has always been my most useful and trusted coping mechanism.

So, mostly via instablogs on Instagram, and this year via this blog, I have publicly shared that journey and I have become all the better for doing so. Admittedly, there have been some pretty raw and ugly moments, but there have also been some truly beautiful ones. I have met some wonderful people, given and received so much support, and made some really good friends in the process. I am SO grateful for that, and I want to continue doing that… But there’s something I have to tell you.

That journey…it’s over. Timing unexpected, and perhaps a bit ironic or even serendipitous, I know… But this thing happened today as I sat alone, after I finished rereading the book I mentioned.

I sat on the bench in the therapy garden, finishing my conversation with Dorie, and I began to sing… I sang to her, like I sometimes did when she was sick and we’d sit on the front porch for some air. A lot of times she wouldn’t feel like talking, and we’d listen to music. I’d start singing along to a song, and she’d stop the music and say, “no, you keep singing. I like for you to sing.” Well. Sing, I would…

This afternoon I was singing to her this song called, “Sanctuary.” It’s a song that is from the show “Nashville,” and it reminds me a lot of our time together when she was diagnosed and throughout her cancer. I wish I had known it during those years with her, but instead I sang it to her “ghost.” You do what you have to do, I suppose.

I’ll link the video below, but for now what’s important for me to share are just two lines:

“I will share this weight you carry… Let me be your sanctuary.”

As I finished singing the song, with those last few lines, I could feel her in my spirit telling me, “I don’t have a weight anymore that you need to share, you can put it down. You don’t have to carry it any longer, Christy…” It’s as though she invited me to lay it down, and I accepted.

With that, just as swiftly as a cardinal flew from the feeder when the dog barked, that part of my journey through that grief was over. Does that mean that my grief is finished? No, of course not. It never will be. But today…that part of it felt like it came to a very gentle but real finale.

Here’s the really interesting part of this story:

For the last few months, especially the last two days, up until this afternoon, I have felt myself reaching a limit. You know the one – the one where you throw your hands up and throw everything away. I’ve wanted to toss away my phone, my cameras, my computer… I’ve wanted to delete my Instagram accounts and my blogs, burn my journals and shut myself off from the world. I felt like I was right there at the very edge, to the point of lashing out, openly sobbing and giving up – right there at this very tumultuous, very messy, very hasty end of all things sharing, all things real.

But, I didn’t do that… No, I offered myself patience, and I continued to follow my ever expanding heart instead of my hasty, very limited and fear-filled mind.

Instead, I’ve sat in my back yard this afternoon, finally meeting with silence and true solitude again after so long of not having a break from being mom and daughter and everything in between, having this conversation with Dorie’s “ghost.” It’s funny to me that it happened the way it did, really. I find it heartwarming (?) that she wouldn’t let me do those things when she was alive (give up, throw it all away), and she won’t let me do them now. Or, rather, I won’t let myself do them now.

I won’t give in to what’s easy and just run and hide. That’s not who I am in my heart, and my heart is what I always choose to follow, no matter how irrational or painful my mind might think it is. That’s because in my time in this body and on this planet, short as it may seem even to me, I learned (a long time ago, really) that my heart is always right.

So is yours. Remember that…

Dorie and I had some hard times. We fought sometimes. She’d make me madder than a wet hen sometimes, and sometimes she’d want to literally shake some sense into me. But you know what? We never gave up on each other, and we never let each other give up on ourselves, because true friends never do.

At the end of this day, I can reflect on that and I can say at least one thing with the fullest of confidence and pride: she was my best friend, and she was the closest thing to a mother I ever had. Losing her when I did was the most difficult experience of my life, and I miss her desperately, still. It is still difficult. But here I still am, despite that. Here I still am, sharing my feelings and working through, anyway.

I don’t know how the deathiversary will play out, exactly. I do have a sort of plan, per my fairy god therapist’s orders, as I mentioned earlier today. But, here I am tonight, at a new sort of threshold regarding grieving her death. I love her, but I love me, too. I love me enough to lay down a weight that she laid down when she died: cancer, and the pain and the guilt it brings, even in death to the loved ones left behind. That’s the thing I’ve chosen to do on this day, 364 days after her death, and I am determined to leave it there…

To close this post, I just want to ask you, whoever you are reading this, to keep sharing anyway if sharing is what your heart leads you to do. Keep being you anyway. Keep living anyway. Keep grieving, in your own way and as you need to grieve, no matter what it is you’ve lost. We’ll keep trying, and keep going, together.

All my love,

C.