Suicide Aftershocks Vol II: Intimacy and Grief and Are Massage Therapists Supposed to Cry???

I’ve found that most people who are not blood related or partners will only hug for about 4 seconds. This seems to be the socially acceptable and proper length of time for non-intimate hugs regardless of relationship.  I’m amazed how uncomfortable people become if expected to rise to the circumstantial need of another when it involves hugging, touch or physical comforting when the other is obviously in emotional pain.

Natural!

We all know how vulnerable it makes us to ask for help when we’ve been emotionally ambushed by life.  One person’s pain cannot be compared to another’s.  We’ve all experienced hurt, loss and pain.  While we feel these emotions along with loneliness and sadness over life’s circumstances, we don’t always feel grief.  Grief occurs generally when there’s a death, (or 7 as in my situation). It can also occur when blindsided by an ending of marriage or career.  All of our emotions require our attention and focus in order to integrate.

But grief requires more.  Grief is intimate and crushing and vast.  It requires thoughtful navigation through its depths to survive intact and eventually nurture the ability to access wholeness, light and joy.  Our culture is comfortable with sharing and bearing witness to accomplishments, successes and happy things, but seemingly has lost its ability to witness personal tragedy, grief and the sometimes ugly growing pains of being a human.

During the first months after my husband’s suicide, I asked a few of my married friends if they or their husbands would be willing to let me lie on the couch and be held by either one of them!  I just wanted to be held—to cry—to be witnessed in my grief or simply not be alone with it for an hour or so.   This request was ignored, brushed off with laughter or agreed to with no opportunity being created for it to happen.  I understand and yet I don’t.

Geese 2 047

Backyard Nurturing

Being the capable woman that I am, and unwilling to seek out “companionship” of the one-night-stand sort—

I booked a massage at a reputable establishment and showed up on time.  I informed the 20 something young woman that I was a bit fragile and might cry—that it had nothing to do with her and if I did cry, to please ignore it and move forward with the massage.  Within 20 minutes, I was wrapped in the sheet, sitting on the side of the massage table holding and comforting the therapist as she cried because she lacked the tools to separate her personal issues from mine and did not have the emotional maturity to hold space for my grief (A grief she knew nothing about as I had not shared details).  As I sat holding her, witnessing, comforting and allowing her to show up exactly how she was in that moment, I thought, “WTF?  Am I an idiot?  I’m paying for this?  This is supposed to be about me!  This is what I need from her!”  (MY humanity was showing!)

I realized in that moment that grief makes space.  It opens primal flood gates in our being-ness tearing down all mechanisms of compartmentalization.  It forces access to the deepest parts of ourselves and our shadows and thins the veil between how we are “expected” to behave and show up (shiny and bright) and how we wish we could (tattered and thread bare but real).  Sadly, as a society, we don’t want to see anything other than happy projections.

My grief opened a portal for this young woman to access something she’d turned away from at some point in her life.  Without analyzing it—without speaking or making meaning, we sat in grief together—not exactly how I wanted it, but in communion and authenticity and extremely intimate as we were strangers.(and I was naked wrapped in a sheet in a dark room!)  Our burdens were lighter afterward—although neither one of us would have chosen that scenario.

I realized that I was able to give what I wanted to receive.  There’s a healing power to that.  I did pay and tip this young woman.  I booked another massage at a different location and an almost identical scenario unfolded.  I behaved the same way, with love and allowance, although I paid somewhat begrudgingly this time!  After all, my needs matter just as much as everyone else’s!

While learning a lot about grief and myself through these 2 experiences, I still wanted a massage!  I asked a friend for a referral and was led to a male MT—retired military and specializing in sports massage.  It took me a month to commit.  I finally called and left him this message.  “Hey I’m Kim—I was referred by M.  Here’s the deal–I might cry—been through a lot—if you can’t handle it, don’t call me back.  Thanks.”

Within 30 minutes this therapist called me back laughing and said to come on in, he had daughters and he’d seen worse!  So I did, and I didn’t cry!

Now—a year later, I’m genuinely happy and joyful most of the time.

I’ve noticed that my friends are all comfortable hugging me again and I appreciate and enjoy it.  I’m grateful they’re allowing me to be my normal “touchy” self, without making it mean anything.  At the same time, I recognize that an important opportunity was missed in their inability to be available to and for my pain.

I make these observations without judgment or finger pointing.  They’re simply observations about our humanity.  I truly believe we all show up the best way we can in any given moment.  I can clearly see events in my past where I wish I had been able to show up more fully for my loved ones.  The question is, “do we grow and learn?”

Because of this great opportunity to lean into;  uncomfortable–unhappy–ugly–raw-painful and dark for 6 long years through so many deaths and leavings, I have cultivated the ability to hold multiple states and perspectives at once;

—to agree and disagree; To want and not receive; To receive and not want what is given; to love and despise; to be joyful and grieving; to reject while at the same time accepting; to be angry and forgiving; to have no clue and yet understand deeply.

Had the massage therapists been able to hold multiple states at once– my pain and the task at hand; empathy without sympathy; interconnection without engagement; what different form of healing might have occurred for us all?

Here’s to loving it all, allowing all aspects of our humanity and relentlessly asking for what we want whether we get it or not!

“Hugging is natural, organic, naturally sweet, free of pesticides, and preservatives. Hugging contains no artificial ingredients. It’s 100% wholesome. No calories, no caffeine, no nicotine.” (borrowed form http://www.poofcat.com)

This month’s challenge!  HUG—hug for more than 4 seconds—Go crazy and be one of THOSE people who hug uncomfortably long!  Hug heart to heart—Put your chin over the hug-ee’s left shoulder and breathe deeply!  Give the gift of connection through hugs—(I’m assuming you won’t hug inappropriately!)

With Warmest Aloha,

Kim

tribal-vector-element-with-eagle-head_MkjbCj8O_L

RISE!

SUICIDE AFTERSHOCKS; Beneficiant & What beauty will I create in the space provided? Vol. 1

In 2011, life happened—like life always does and choices were made by me and my husband resulting in our relocating 5000 miles back to Virginia from Kauai in 2013.  For 5 years those happenings in my world presented as family elders becoming ill, 4 deaths, daily care taking, and all the stressors complicit with up-rooting your entire life, careers,  relationships, and the constant daily logistics of dealing with the overlap of our “living” while navigating the dying, illness and the dismantling of lives that had ended.

Fast forward to June 20, 2016.  By 8:00 a.m. that Monday morning, my husband had taken his own life less than 30 feet from where I stood feeding our dogs.

This is the first time I’ve addressed this in a public format.  I am choosing to do so because I find myself, more than 9 months later, benefiting from exactly where I am because of the choices I made, or didn’t  and because of the choices made by my late husband.

The word beneficiary is defined as, “benefiting from; receiving favor; being granted a privilege, or having a gratuity bestowed upon you.

Most often, we equate being a beneficiary with receiving money, property etc., after another’s death.

Having dealt now with 5 deaths and the myriad of legal-ease, documentation and bureaucracy that is required to “officially” close the books on one’s life, I started to explore just how I truly am benefiting from the way my life has shown up, comfortable or not, through my choices or the choices of others.  Here’s what I’ve come up with so far….

I learned/ I am beneficiary of/ I choose;

  • I continue to choose raw authenticity when the waves of grief, sadness, regret and reality wash over me.
  • I chose to grieve well—to live the experience completely so I could process it completely and live fully present through it regardless of the pain as a means of self-love so when I arrive at “DONE” I can move forward in freedom.
  • I learned to ask for help, and allowed myself to receive it.
  • Grace—grace for those individuals, family and friends who simply couldn’t show up.
  • Allowance for those who couldn’t show up colored by the fundamental truth and knowing that their inability had absolutely nothing to do with me or their love for me.
  • Deep humility and gratitude for the people who came immediately and who stayed for the dirty work—the aftermath of my raw and seemingly inexhaustible grief, guilt, doubt, self-questioning, etc.. These same people who have stayed and held space for me to find my happiness again and are as equal to the task of allowing my joy as they were my pain.
  • The purge of situations, people and expectations from my life because I was/am no longer willing to show up in familiar roles for “them”. This was painful initially as from the outside looking in I had lost everything.
  • The rebirth of my “beingness” rather than filling a role of “wife, step-mother, friend, caretaker, daughter, sister”.
  • Reclaiming my integrity—self in relation to self. I am no longer willing to let anyone else’s well-being or opinions hold more importance than my own.
  • I continue to benefit from honoring myself—guilt free—for the choices I made knowingly during my marriage and with family members. This gives me the ability to learn from the dichotomy I chose to stay in without victimizing myself or creating drama.
  • I learned to be kind to myself and allowing when I was less than proud of my behavior or reaction in various situations.
  • I learned to “lean into the jib”, and get after creating something beautiful in this huge space that’s been provided.
  • While this may seem harsh or too pragmatic for some, an unnecessary distinction for others,–I fulfilled the terms of my contract—till death do us part—I’m ready for LIFE—and I’m grateful for this feeling of inspiration and excitement.

From one perspective, I “lost” many friendships as people could not hold the space for me to show up other than as the consistent, happy, solution-finding anchor most of my circle experienced me to be.   For others who left, they just couldn’t handle the gritty, ugly, authentic pain as it had the potential of forcing them to rub up against something equally uncomfortable in their own lives.

Beautiful spider web with water drops close-up

Perhaps entangled in all the leavings was an inability of those individuals to allow me the space and the grace of being weak, needy or vulnerable for just a moment in time.  For this I am grateful.  This experience has deepened in me the ability to see beyond a moment and hold space for any moment to morph into the next even more magical possibility.

In the grand scheme of things, that’s the simplicity of what has occurred for all of us these last 9 months.  Moments in time strung together and defined as an experience.

My moments were filled with the crushing weight of holding a loved one while his body released all life that was left as his soul withdrew—by his own powerful choice.  I am the beneficiary of having been imbued with the strength to respond with love and be with him through his death as I was with him through our life.  I was/am blessed with the gift of trust.   This trust allowed me to lean into that vast ocean of grace which was represented by LIFE showing up to support and love me immediately through the people, opportunities, beauty and magical moments that ensued and continue to unfold.

These next 9 months will be the same in that they will be a series of moments strung together which we will define as an experience.

So the questions I ask myself now include, “What beauty will I create in the space that’s been provided?  What intention will I imbue in the moments to come?”

How about you?

With warmest aloha and deep appreciation for all of life,

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RISE!

Kim

My Tooth, “Adult Onset Ignorance” & Choice

One person’s craziness is another person’s reality.”
Tim Burton

Tooth Fairy?

I was talking to my Dad after my last posting and he asked me how my tooth was doing.  I gave him the update and told him about various people’s reactions to my toothlessness.  His response was loving, affirming and perspective shifting.

“Well I’ve seen you with no teeth and I thought you were cute!” 

Of course he was referring to my childhood, but it got me thinking.   At what age does our humanity become a detriment rather than endearing?  How come when “life happens” to a child or young adult, trial and error learning is allowable and expected but after a certain age the expectation that we should “know” or “know better” seems firmly entrenched.

I can look at my own life and see countless examples of “adult-onset-ignorance” and “she should ‘a known better” moments.  Moments where my actions were far less than squeaky clean and many of which were shame and guilt inducing, and that’s just looking back a week or so!

“Self-Portrait”

Our humanity exists until we leave the body behind.  The human experience is the vehicle to our divinity making all that we go through relevant and enlightening, even our ignorant, ugly and ridiculous moments!  In learning to accept our own human moments, we will judge others less.

I am currently deep into my 4th decade on the planet and I’m still leaning through experience and sometimes not learning the first time!  Just like my Dad’s perspective on my toothless appearance, I can choose the perspective from which to view any experience.    

So what’s more empowering?  Viewing life  from the perspective of judgment and “should’a  known better”?, or through the gracious, allowing lens of,” Oh—another opportunity to learn here on earth!”.            

Crone or Maiden?

As for my current, toothless situation, I choose to think I’m cute, too!    Thanks Dad! 

Joyfully and with warmest aloha,

Kim

Purple Cauliflower and Assumptions!

Beautiful Cualiflower

We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be. And our attitudes and behaviors grow out of these assumptions.     Stephen Covey .

 

The other day I was shopping at Papaya’s Natural Food store on Kauai   (papayasnaturalfoods.com ) where I purchased a couple of heads of purple cauliflower.  To most vegetable enthusiasts, this would seem a non-event, but to me, it was a bit of a reach. Up until this, my 47th year, I had only partaken of white cauliflower.  I found out that day that I was, in fact, a colored-cauliflower bigot! Not intentionally, however, but merely as a product of my unexamined assumptions.

Upon first exposure to colored cauliflower a decade or so ago, I made the false assumption

Do trees grow out of Money?

 that such a vibrant and beautiful color in cauliflower couldn’t possibly be natural, so it must contain some unnecessary dye purely designed as a marketing ploy to get their kids to eat “fun” veggies!  I honestly don’t think I gave it that much conscious thought at the time; I simply never explored the purple globes further.

I was compelled to make the purchase of said colored crucifers because living on Kauai, good organic veggies don’t come cheap.  The white cauliflower were going for $9.99 a head and at half the size and double the cost of the colored.  I made the choice to go purple because I LOVE cauliflower and couldn’t pass up such a great buy (for Kauai!) colored or not.

Later that afternoon, I was out chatting with a neighbor and I mentioned the purple cauliflower.  To my immense amusement and lesser embarrassment, she asked me, “Well, haven’t you eaten purple sweet potatoes?” 

It was like my world opened up as I started mentally digging my way out of the pigeon-hole I had put myself in.  I was flooded by images of the hundreds of purple and blue potatoes I’ve eaten, the carrots of purple hue and the purple beans, beets and brussel sprouts.  How could I have gone so long and not extrapolated that information and applied it to the color of cauliflower?

My cruciferous assumptions kept me from enjoying my most beloved veggie for far too long.  After having a good laugh at myself, I started looking at other assumptions I’ve made and where and how they’ve limited my experiences.  

It opened my heart to remembering that people only know what they know, what they’ve been exposed to and chosen to explore further.  When we can laugh at ourselves and our own silly, seemingly foolish or unexamined beliefs and assumptions, we can look upon others with the eyes of grace when they might not know something we think they ought to. 

Mostly, it reminded me to ask-ask ask!  Ask questions externally and internally until a topic is exhausted.  So here’s to what we think we know but really don’t and the opportunity embarrassment provides to expand our knowledge!

The Holidays, Freedom and Choice

Today, my interaction with the world will be...____?

Ohhh--which to choose!

The holiday season has gotten me thinking about freedom and choice.  I love going out shopping and seeing the decorations and mostly smiling faces.  Feeling the energetic enthusiasm of crowds of people doing what they do for the  holidays.  Since moving to Kauai, I’ve edited and simplified much of my gifting.  This choice has created a freedom to enjoy the holidays with no self-imposed or society driven anxiety about doing it “right”!

Freedom distills down to the power of choice. We are choice making machines–what to wear, eat, think, say do. Where to go, how to feel, who to include, whether or not to keep our word, do our best or not do anything.

One of my favorite adages is, “If what you’re doing isn’t working, then do something else”. Einstein, among others, is credited with saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Most of us have grown up being exposed to this way of thinking, but so often fail to apply it in our day-to-day lives. Instead, we operate on auto-pilot, reacting the same old ways rather than giving thought to perhaps trying a different approach, or shifting our perspective.

Our ability to think for ourselves, to change our mind, to shift perspectives is directly linked to our sense of self-worth.  It is only when we decide that our good opinion of ourself is more important than the good opinion of anyone else, that we have the ability to start making thoughtful choices that serve us.

It’s interesting, as well, that when we make choices that serve us (i.e. healthy boundaries!) we actually create space for those around us to do the same.  It’s amazing how many of my friends feel grateful, or let-off-the-hook by me being the first to embrace and then enact the no-more-gifting policy.  This choice has also created the freedom to enjoy people simply for being.

I enjoy the holidays more and more as I get older and make the choices that allow them to be simple, easy and people-focused.  Feeling like just being and giving the best I have to offer energetically, in my thoughts, kind words and heartfelt actions is enough–that’s TRUE FREEDOM!–and it’s a choice.

Happy Holidays and warmest Aloha,

Kim

Hormonal Hell

Roll of the Dice
Who will she be today?

I write this not for the women going through perimenopause or menopause, but for the partners who love them—Primarily, MEN!

I find myself at 46 in this transitional period of my life and it’s like giving birth to a demon on a regular basis.  The worst part is knowing that I’m behaving badly during these out-of–body hormonal driven moments (or hours or days!) and being unable to stop myself.  Worse yet, is that there is always evidence that I’m “right” about whatever position I’m defending and fighting for with my barred teeth, crazed eyes and bloody nails.  When the hormonal-haze lifts and I’m blessed with a moment of mental and emotional clarity, it is evident by the shell-shocked and haggard looks on my loved ones faces that I’ve dragged them down into the pits of hormonal hell once again. 

It’s difficult to explain unless you’ve been through it, but everything feels so real during these hormonal fluctuations that it’s hard to tell which perspective on a charged issue is real and a choice, and which perspective is imagined and having all the negative aspects amplified by raging imbalanced hormones.

When I’m “balanced” hormonally, I understand that I’ve made choices about my past and history and that’s where it stays.  Under the driving influence of hormonal fluctuations, I use the past as a weapon of mass-destruction!  When this is happening, and I’m in the middle of one of these initially innocent discussions with my husband, it’s like I’m floating far above the incident, looking down with full, conscious awareness thinking—“Kim, that was harsh-Oh—No No No—you didn’t just say that!  Oh—don’t’ go there!”  and I’m powerless to stop once the ball gets rolling turning a normal conversation into WWIII. 

Living on Kauai, with close neighbors in an open window climate, I can only imagine what they think about me!

So this is a call for understanding and loving allowance for anyone who is dealing with a woman of a certain age who may not be responsible for her hormonally driven actions.  Please, understand, we are powerless in the moment to stop.  Allow us the grace to make amends in the moments of clarity we do experience, and if all else fails, keep handy a vial of Holy water and the number of a courageous priest should our heads start to spin around like Linda Blair’s in “The Exorcist”! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qG5V2iBvFs&feature=related

Joyfully and with warmest aloha,

Kim