Summer series: Grief

I’ve thought about, studied and experienced grief for a long time. Here are some seemingly simple universal truths I’ve learned. 

Grief never looks the same from person to person.

Grief does not follow a logical path. 

Grief can come and go.

Grief happens not only when someone dies, but when we experience the loss of a dream, a relationship, an expectation. 

Denial of grief doesn’t always feel like denial and can last a long time. 

Our western society and the people in it do not do the best job of supporting those grieving.

Trauma and grief often go hand in hand.

Grief is a chapter in every human story.

I was introduced to filmmaking duo Lexi and Zach Read of Rhyme & Reason this year through my congenital heart disease community. Their films are breathtaking. I wanted to share this one with you today.

Get back up.

The past week has been re-learning about rejection and resilience. If you follow me on Instagram, you've had a seat in the front row. It felt at the same time important and insignificant, new and old. I suppose that's how lessons begin to feel when they keep popping up in your life. This re-learning felt important enough to share with you, so I'm taking a bit of a meander from our summer series to share this with you. 

Halfway through 2018, I've sent out 11 pitches. This includes pitches to be a guest on a podcast, to host a workshop, to submit my personal essays or a guest blog, to speak in front of an audience. Out of these, I've had success with five, so a little less than 50%. This is the first time I'm looking at these numbers and that's better odds than I realized. But still six rejections, six no's, six opportunities for me to question what I'm doing, to doubt myself, to wonder who the hell I think I am trying to make it as a writer and business owner.

Last week I decided to work on an essay that had previously been rejected from a print publication. I felt so much resistance simply opening up the document to take a look and see how it could be improved. I distracted myself with email, coffee, calendar, weather and Facebook before I forced myself to sit in the chair and read the darn thing. Maybe it wasn't as spectacular as I recalled but it still rung true. Oh, and also, I had written it in2016. Two years ago and this great piece of my heart was idly sitting here on my laptop. 

It was the date that fueled me - I made a promise to myself to send out another pitch within two days. Then, I closed my laptop and spent the summer day with my kids. 

The next time I checked my email guess what I found? Another rejection. This time for a speaking engagement. I realized I had been holding my breath to some degree waiting for this response. It was a no, but at least I could breathe. Maybe it was the conversation I had with myself the day before - I was able to feel the no for a quick minute and then move on. Gotta get that next pitch out, I told myself. It's all part of the process. 

There are a lot of stories of rejection out there. Harry Potter got rejected 12 times for goodness sake. Sometimes those stories bolster me, other times not. I'm finding that the process, living through it, is my best teacher of rejection and resilience. The more I put myself out there, the more I get rejected. The more I get rejected, the more resilience I build. I can write this to you. I can teach this to you. In order for you to learn it and re-learn it, you may need to go through it yourself. 

Friday morning, the morning of my 39th birthday, I submitted another pitch. I don't know what the outcome will be, but I do know that simply trying again has a power all it's own.

If you have told yourself it's time to try something new but fear has been holding you back, I hope you find some encouragement here. If you need a little more, hit reply and I'll gladly cheerlead for you. 

Doors are closing soon for Rewrite Your Story!

If you're still considering signing up for Rewrite Your Story I hope these words encourage you to fill out the application today. It's the last call!

Love is Openness

We can't know how our actions will affect the people and the world around us, but I'm seeing real evidence that happens it all the time. The ripple effect is alive and present. I made a commitment to myself this year to write about my personal stories that I've held tight, not wanting to shed light on them. My reason for not sharing has been that I don't want to hurt people I love - because all stories are told in relationship. But I think that's been more of an excuse than a reason, so here I am trying today. This story describes why it's so important to me that I do. 

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Six years ago I became friends with a stately man in middle age with a bald head, glasses and a bow tie. And a lovely singing voice. I was drawn to this man because of the way he spoke about his young adult son, J, who was facing the most serious struggles with life. The kind that push a person to the edge of their existence. The kind that come with phone calls in the middle of the night. His father talked openly and I didn't sense the shame that so often surrounds these conversations.

But, oh the pain. The pain expressed by this man was so raw and so embedded in every fiber of his being. I recognized that pain almost instantly. And I connected to it.

I had a three year old and a one year old that year. I knew that my three year daughter was not thriving in the way all my friends' three year olds were thriving. Life seemed too much for my girl to bear and so she was in a constant battle with it. Which meant she was in constant battle with me, her mother. I couldn't fix it. I had been trying and trying for three years. I wanted to fix it so badly and I was so ashamed and wracked with a sense of lack that I couldn't. If she needed help that meant that I needed help too. In my mind that was equivalent to failing as a mother.

J's story was woven into my heart the first day I heard it. His father helped me to accept that getting help was not a choice. It was a need, a necessity. I don't know many details of J's life but I don't need to. His father gave me an enormous gift of showing me how to live as a parent of a child who is in pain. I don't think I could see my daughter's challenging behaviors as her own pain back then, but my eyes were opened to the idea of figuring out an alternative way to do parenthood. J's father showed me that it's possible to be grieving, to be joyful, and to be loving all at the same time.

It may seem odd to have made this strong connection between our experiences. He was parenting a 20 year old and I a three year old. This the beauty of love and kindness. We don't need to understand it. We only need to be open to receive it. And we need to be willing to give it of ourselves. 

I'm still learning how to parent my child who continues to experience the world differently than her peers. I still want to solve it and put it behind us, but I'm starting to understand that is not how this works. I have enlisted many helpers and healers in the past six years. A desire is growing stronger within me to live joyfully in this own life of mine and not let the weight of this keep me under the surface. 

Earlier this month, just as 2018 was waking up and stretching its limbs, J released himself from this life. He was 26 years old. I know this is not the end of J's story. He will continue to touch me and the many others that survive him. His story will ripple. 

I've seen his father since that day. I see him in deep, deep grief and joy and love. 

Keep Going.

The number one reason why I write is for myself. To get in touch with my thoughts, to process my emotions or sometimes to simply get something out of my head. Because I also want to share my writing and build my business, getting published is important to me. 

We hear stories of rejection, we know rejection is part of the writing process. My kids and I went to see prolific children's author Dan Gutman who told the story of his popular My Weird School series getting rejected 10 times! 

When rejection comes knocking on my door (and it does, often) it feels awful. I question myself and my writing. I wonder if I'll ever get established as a writer, if people will take me seriously. In many cases the publication to which I'm submitting doesn't even send a rejection letter. Simply nothing in response to that piece I poured my heart into for 20 hours over the last three weeks. 

Alas, there is a silver lining if you pull up your bootstraps and keep writing. An email actually arrives in my inbox! Better yet, they've said yes! This feels so good. And it happened this week! 

Go check out my article, There is Always a Choice, on the beautiful site Kind of Matter. I started writing this article on October 16, 2015! Wow, that is a long time for a story to percolate. I'm proud of myself for not kicking it to the curb and allowing it to exist in purgatory for so long. Patience is key in writing, and if patience is a daily practice for you (like me) this is not an easy task.

So to all of us out there with writing dreams in our hearts - to you and me both - keep going.