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Archive for the ‘Loss’ Category

I write today in memory of a truly good human being named Brian. I write today in memory of a quiet and thoughtful young man – I think he only ever spoke about 100 words to me in the 6 years I knew him – but that beautiful brain of his was always working. I write today in 00f1941db3c9c3a5f36a38418b9b6a25_20170427memory of a talented ceramics artist – his works were an amazing mix of abstract and whimsy, color and form  – just like the artist himself. I write today in memory of a ukulele prodigy – he could randomly strum out tunes with a natural ear that made mediocre musicians like me jealous. I write today in memory of this strong young man with a quirky and unique sense of self – from his cheerful skull-and-crossbones jammy pants to his big charming smile, he embraced being different and special. I write today in memory of an avid outdoorsman, whose love of camping and scouting made him strong and independent, perfectly content in the silence of the woods or the beach.

One year ago today, we lost this special young man as he passed into paradise. After surviving one serious car accident two years prior (thanks to the staff of Shock Trauma and his own amazing will to recover) this beautiful human being spent 2 years trying to recover his memory, his happiness, his mental and physical health, and his newly-graduated-just-heading-out-into-the-real-world life. He struggled so hard to get back to himself and he was on a good path. And then the Lord called him home. I watched his family and friends shatter as they tried to make sense of the loss. And yet I was so comforted in knowing that he is in Heaven, watching over us and just shaking his head in that way that he had.

Today, I want to remember this wonderful young man for what he was – a truly good human being. Throughout the struggle of his last 2 years, he tried so hard to be strong and happy. He didn’t want his demons and his pain to beat him. His legacy, I hope, won’t be one of pain or anger. I hope that we all can remember his sweet smile, his artistic soul, his boundless love, his individuality, his strength. And so I pen this small tribute to a really good kid…

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Nineteen years ago today, I was in college when the tragic events of Columbine High School unfolded with the eyes of the world watching. I know it wasn’t the first horrific act of terrorism in the world – but it was among the first that my generation had ever witnessed. I remember watching in horror the footage of high school kids, themselves columbine_window_escapejust a few years younger than me, jumping out of windows and running from their school covered in blood and mute in terror. Our tears flowed as security footage showed teachers throwing themselves in front of students to shield them from bullets. Shocked, we watched news footage of law enforcement teams struggling to respond to what was then unplanned-for and unheard-of attacks against children. We organized vigils on campus to raise awareness of the violence that had befallen our generation. We sold ribbons [one of which to this day adorns my work bag], to raise money to send to the fund organized to pay for funerals for the fallen students and teacher. We tried in vain to wrap our young minds around the senseless violence, the hate, the anger, the bloodshed.

Almost twenty years later, we now sit in the aftermath of the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. And the same feelings pour out – fear for our children, sadness that our world has devolved even further. I shudder to think of what kids must feel when they go to school now, wondering if one day one of their classmates is going to go off the deep end and bring an assault rifle in his tuba case. These children are now organizing walkouts of the classroom to raise awareness for their fear and their desire to be safe – further, and to my mind much more aggressive, steps down the pathway that I started down all those years ago on my college campus. From candlelight vigils to protest walkouts, young people are the ones who are begging adults to take note of their fear, their sadness, their desire for a better world. I just hope that those same kids that are walking out are now also making pledges to be kinder, more giving, more loving human beings. I hope cyber-bullying and “Mean Girls” will become distant memories. Just as we should have done after Columbine, we have to teach our children how to be loving, functioning adults who don’t need guns to solve their problems.

Unfortunately, from Columbine to Parkland, there have been hundreds of mass shootings in between. All perpetrated by people who are seriously mentally ill, monumentally angry, and completely lacking in conscience and moral guidance. We, as a society, now see these shootings on such a regular basis that I’m afraid we are becoming complacent to them. I fear they no longer strike the fear and horror in our hearts like Columbine did. How can we accept these acts of hate as everyday events?

I recently went through a training with our town police representatives on active shooter responses. In our world today, after September 11th and all of these domestic terrorist attacks, I no longer train just for everyday house fires or car accidents – now we have to drill on active assailants and mass acts of terror. Hearing some of the unedited 9-1-1 calls and radio transmissions from Columbine, I was physically ill with the sounds of the abject terror and bewildered shock in those kids’ voices. And those same scenes are just replaying and rerunning at every one of those mass shooting incidents. And now to think that teachers are having to be trained in defense techniques and combat skills to protect kindergarteners from lunatics with rifles! What is wrong with our world? How can we fix this? The same questions that ran through our minds 19 years ago after Columbine are still begging for answers now.

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When a person, male or female, goes through a divorce, I am convinced that they go through The Slut Phase of their lives. Now this is my own personal theory and based only on anecdotal evidence observed by me as I have watched countless friends and relations go through the breakdowns of their marriages – and I myself lived it. So there is no real science to this theory, only personal observations. I’m not particularly proud of this portion of my life – as I would guess most people aren’t in hindsight – but it happens and if you’re living it, you’re not alone.

When you are newly-separated and/or newly-divorced, you will flirt with, bat your eyelashes at, and ultimately sleep with pretty much anybody that crosses your path that takes an interest. That other person may be plug ugly or stupid or mean or crazy or have a prison record or be juggling 15 other girlfriends. But if they want to talk to you, you will jump at that chance for attention and affection.

I think it has to do with self esteem. And self worth, And self confidence. All of which take major bloody blows in the process of a divorce. Especially, god forbid, if you are not the one initiating the process. You feel hopeless and worthless, like you have lost any appealing qualities that you might have once had. You doubt your attractiveness, your brains, your ability to ever catch the eye of a decent person ever again. In short, you take what you can get and you take a lot of it.

But, rest assured, that phase passes. You wear yourself out, you get bored with the shallowness of it all, 41Ghi3tagLLyou open your eyes to the crazies and the losers. You discover there’s still a lot of yourself left after all – and you want more out of your life. And, unless you harbored a Sense of Slut prior to being in the initial relationship (which, as we all know, some people do), you step out of the Slut Phase and move onto the next chapter.

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I was a teenager in the 1990s, an experience that I cannot describe to you – you have to have lived it to truly understand it – but that’s a subject for another day. Where I was going with this thought is that as a teenager, you’re looking for guidance, for a way to frame and structure your world that makes sense to you. Thank God that I was a country kid and that my generation had a poet, a sage, a wise soul named Garth Brooks to give us that much-needed guidance. As one of those terribly awkward, nerdy, bookish teenagers, Garth-Brooks1I needed to figure out how to keep an open heart and a strong soul in the face of shallow high school concerns. Enter Mr. Brooks and his three chords and the truth. Words of wisdom indeed….

♦ The Change – As long long as one heart still holds on / Then hope is never really gone” and “But it’s not the world that I am changing / I do this so, this world will know that it will not change me.”

♦ Unanswered Prayers – Just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care / Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

♦ We Shall Be Free – When the last thing we notice is the color of skin /And the first thing we look for is the beauty within” and “When we’re free to love anyone we choose / When this world’s big enough for all different views / When we all can worship from our own kind of pew / Then we shall be free.”

♦ If Tomorrow Never Comes –Tell that someone that you love / Just what you’re thinking of/ If tomorrow never comes.”

♦ Do What You Gotta Do – There ain’t nobody in this world / That’s gonna do it for you / Do what you gotta do.”

♦ To Make You Feel My Love – The storms are raging on the rollin’ sea / Down on the highway of regret / The winds of change are blowing wild and free / But you ain’t seen nothing like me yet.”

♦ The River – oh hell, just the entire song…listen here

 

And now that I am an adult and have actually lived and experienced some of the difficult situations that Mr. Brooks was crooning about, his words still guide me and reassure me that I’m not the only one who has suffered a heartbreak and a rebuilding….

♦ Every Now and Then – “I love my life and I’ve never trade / Between what you and me had and the life I’ve made” 

♦ I Don’t Have to Wonder Anymore – “And I still don’t know / Why things happened like they did / But I parked that old pickup / On that lonesome river bridge / I took your ring from my pocket / And I held it one last time / Watched that diamond sparkle /I drew back and I let her fly / And in less time than it takes to tear to fall / Oh that old ring went under / Lord, and now it’s gone for sure / And I don’t have to wonder anymore.”

♦ She’s Gonna Make It – “And you know it’s not like she’s forgot about him / She’s just dealing with the pain.”

♦ Beaches of Cheyenne – “He promised her he’d turn out / Well it turned out that he lied /And their dreams that they’d been livin’ / In the California sand / Died right there beside him in Cheyenne.”

♦ Cowboy Song – “He’s just chasin’ what he really loves / And what’s burnin’ in his soul / Wishin’ to God that he’d been born a hundred years ago.”

♦ In Another’s Eyes – “Oh in another’s eyes / Staring back at me / I see a sinking soul, trying desperately/ To turn the tide, before it dies.”

♦ Ask Me How I Know – You make all the rules, you’re set in your ways / You gotta have your freedom, you gotta have your space.”

♦ Learning to Live Again – I’m gonna smile my best smile and I’m gonna laugh like it’s going out of style.”

♦ How You Ever Gonna Know – “You know failure isn’t failure / If a lesson from it’s learned / I guess love would not be love / Without a risk of being burned.”

♦ The Dance – Our lives are better left to chance / I could have missed the pain / But I’d have had to miss the dance.”

 

So no matter your age or what stage of life you’re in, if you’re feeling lost or in need of some guidance, find the Garth Brooks station on Amazon or (for a truly 90s hair entertaining experience), search him on YouTube and watch the old videos. Let some good old country music wisdom guide you…

 

[on a random side note, the exception to his brilliant writing rule is “Cowboy Cadillac” – it’s a catchy tune but damn those lyrics are dumb, is he writing about his woman or his truck?]

[a second random side note, I admit that I have had to overcome some disillusion and disappointment about Mr. Brooks as a human being and a husband as his first marriage ended and his relationship with Trisha Yearwood has unfolded.  It’s always hard to watch your icons reveal their flawed humanity – and in light of my own personal feelings about infidelity – it was a difficult pill to swallow.]

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At the annual banquet for my volunteer fire department last week, I was both honored and amazed to receive my 15-year service stripe. 2017 marked 15 years of volunteerism and endless learning about fire, rescue and EMS operations for me – but those years have also taught me lessons in brotherhood, loss, service, upheaval, fear, bravery, disenchantment, persistence, change, frustration, giving, and surviving.

Here is what I *thought* fire service would be: 9474973637_cb6f92dcc0_b

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what I *hoped* fire service would be:  firefighters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what the fire service really *is*: moe-larry-curly-fire-pole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And in the immortal words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that. But, seriously, to the men and women that I have had the honor of serving with for the last 15 years, thank you for all that you do. And thank you for letting me serve beside you.

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Any good baker will tell you that a truly great dessert recipe has an element of salt in the recipe to balance the sweet. A chocolate souffle, a good pie crust, a rich custard, a chocolate-covered pretzel, a salted caramel – they all have the salt to bring out the richness of flavor in the sweet.

I have chosen to view my ex-husband as the salt in my life. No, I’m not saying he was crusty or salty (although he is but that’s not my problem anymore). I’m choosing to view him as the salt in the recipe of salted-caramel-1.jpgmy life. He was brought into my personal history to balance the richness that I have found since my divorce. He is the flavor that overwhelmed me while I was with him but now that I have added many more ingredients to my recipe – like independence, self-worth, strength, adventure, kindness – he balances out the good things. The flavor of his memory makes me appreciate the sweetness of the new life I’ve found even more.

Life is about balance, or so I’ve been told. And life is about really good desserts.

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Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play

And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues strong
It’s always darkest before the dawn

And I’ve been a fool and I’ve been blind
I can never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I’m always dragging that horse around

Our love is pastured such a mournful sound
Tonight I’m gonna bury that horse in the ground
So I like to keep my issues strong
But it’s always darkest before the dawn
Shake it out, shake it out

annyalice.deviantart.com

artwork by AnnyAlice

Shake it out, shake it out,
And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off.

 

‘Cause I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart
‘Cause I like to keep my issues strong
It’s always darkest before the dawn.

Shake it out, shake it out
Shake it out, shake it out,
And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off.

I tried to dance with the devil on my back
And given half the chance would I take any of it back
It’s a final mess but it’s left me so empty
It’s always darkest before the dawn.

And I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t
So here’s to drinks in the dark at the end of my road
And I’m ready to suffer and I’m ready to hope
It’s a shot in the dark and right at my throat
‘Cause looking for heaven, found the devil in me
Looking for heaven, for the devil in me
Well what the hell I let it happen to me

Shake it out, shake it out
Shake it out, shake it out,
And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off.

“Shake It Out” by Florence and the Machine

Written by Paul Epworth, Tom Hull, Florence Welch • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

 

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