Suicide Aftershocks VOL V: Synchronicity and Windows of Opportunity, and How a Canine Helped Unpack my Heart and those of my 3 pups!

Early this year, about seven months post suicide; I was sitting at my computer aimlessly wandering through emails.  My late husband’s email address was still active and receiving as I had not yet dismantled his accounts.  He had an account with a site called NEXT DOOR.  It’s a website that allows you to connect within your neighborhood to promote community, communicate real time with neighbors and happenings and go local.  (www.nextdoor.com )

As I was scanning through the mail, a post on this site came up of a neighbor looking for a daily dog sitting situation for his very large and active Belgian Malinois.  I clicked the link and responded that I was interested and gave my phone number before I even realized I’d done it!  Once I clicked SEND, it hit me that I’d put myself out there. My mature, fear based response was to immediately delete my husband’s account and pretended it never happened!  I didn’t think I wanted any kind of commitment plus I had three dogs of my own.IMG_0595

A couple of days went by and the matter slipped my mind (or I blocked it out) until I received a phone call from the guy looking for dog sitting.  This was one of those synchronistic situations where I decided to roll with it even though my mind was screaming “DON’T”.  Coincidentally, he was immediately able to bring the dog by my place for a meet-and-greet to see if we would all be a good fit. My “normal” at that time was far from normal.  I was on edge, defensive and anxious a lot of the time, in relatively deep grief and quite scattered.

I have about ¾’s of an acre fenced on the water which is essentially my own dog park.  The owner and McLovin’ the dog arrived (names have been changed to protect the innocent!) and things went great.  We decided to give it a go which meant I would have McLovin’ daily for an hour.  I was weirdly excited and scared at the same time.  My heart recognized that this was a window of opportunity for me but my mind was telling me that it was a mistake to have a mid day commitment long term.

Our first day I thought—I LOVE this dog AND I’m remembering why I don’t want a puppy!  But my heart was singing!  This dog was a giant, pain-in-the-arse dose of presence! He’s smarter than me, curious and full of vitality which in dog speak equals trouble, opportunism and loads of adventure.  He needed eyes on him at all times.  This meant that my routine went out the window and I had to be fully alert and engaged while he was with us.  This shift of focus was powerfully transformative.  It allowed my mind to relax, my edges to soften and my heart to open again.IMG_0621

IMG_0504McLovin’ and my biggest dog, MacTavish, became best buddies instantly and my 2 little ones were equally captivated by him.  He clearly liked us too, and his very being-ness created an entirely new dynamic in my home. IMG_0631

This giant puppy engaged my dogs in a playful and experimental way, bringing out the inner puppy in them and effectively eradicating the grief and pain that they’d experienced in the loss of my husband, prolonged exposure to his depression, as well as my grief and diverted focus.

I kept him in general 2-3 hours daily simply because it was so much fun. He brought a joy and lightness I needed desperately in my environment—in my home.  This is so relevant because most of my friends were uncomfortable coming to my house as it’s ground zero for my husband’s suicide.  I nicknamed him “McLovin’” because he’s the definition of unconditional love on four legs.  He’s silly and affectionate in a full body, roll all over you and against you kind of way.

My mood never mattered to him—he was forever happy to see me and even more so to come to my house and play with the pack.  If I stopped and sat, he’d immediately be on me—literally!  He would sit or lay on me instinctively knowing what I needed to lay down my guard and navigate back to my heart.

Daily, when I left to get McLovin’, my dogs would wait at the window patiently for our return and then pine away for him when I took him back to his house.  On days I would leave and come home without him, my dogs would howl and cry—berating me for coming home alone!

This is the beauty of synchronicity and taking chances—the willingness to go beyond fear and just roll with it!  It obviously didn’t occur to my rational mind to bring in a new puppy pack mate as “healer” for my dogs, my home and my heart, and yet that is exactly what happened in the most unexpected, fun and joyous way.

In short—a situation I was scared to enter quickly became one of the most profoundly transformative opportunities in this very difficult year.   A window of opportunity that I allowed myself to open, for which I will forever be grateful.  And it came in the unexpected package of a very big puppy, who, to loosely quote the following song, “shone a light into my darkness”.

So here’s to leaping through windows of opportunity with reckless abandon!

Joyfully unpacking my heart,

Kim

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,

tribal-vector-element-with-eagle-head_MkjbCj8O_L

RISE!

Kim

Pure Presence

Me with Dogs

"Pooh and Piglet"
Present with friends!

“What day is it?” asked Pooh.   “It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.  “MY FAVORITE DAY.” said Pooh.

As I sit this early rainy morning in the home I love on Kauai, I am overwhelmed by my gratitude and contentment to be exactly where I AM, how I AM and who I AM.    I’ve been home for 3 weeks now after a long 6 months of being more gone than home, (physically and mentally) and I finally feel like I’m here—now. 

This feeling of pure presence is weighty and light all at once.  It’s comforting and familiar and foreign all at the same time.  I realize sitting here how much I’ve lived this presence and neglected allowing it over these last months.

Like so many of us, life kept happening at a break-neck pace and while I showed up, not all of my engagement was conscious or intentional.  Not all of my engagement was reflective of the woman I think/say I am or of the woman I am becoming.  Interesting, because I am becoming said woman in part because of my awareness of this lack of intention and presence. 

I was blessed and fortunate to be with my parents on the east coast for much of my mother’s dying process and to be her caretaker the last few weeks of her life.  Her process kept me focused on her and my birth family and the ever present needs of what was happening there.  I can see, now, how I neglected my Kauai life, family and friends, my work, goals, health and well-being. 

Today is my favorite day because of this feeling and this allowing of me to just sit—to simply be and to enjoy the sound of the rain and feel the contentment, grounding and peace of being here, now. 

The awareness and ability, in action, which I trust to more deeply cultivate is pure presence to whatever is happening in the moment, without gauging its presumed level of importance compared to other concurrent events.

So, may today be YOUR favorite day and if today happens to become tomorrow—may it be our favorite day, too!!

Joyfully and with warmest aloha,  Kim

Optimistic Glasses and Rainbows!

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Kalaheo Rainbow

Koloa Mill Rainbow

Living on Kauai we are surrounded by beauty as a feast for all the senses.  Beautiful things to see, flowers and mountain ranges, the ocean, whales, the contrast of red dirt against vibrant green–  beautiful things to smell in the air via the various fruiting and blooming plants, flowers and trees—amazing sounds to hear provided by the song birds, chickens and musicians on island, and the silky feeling of warm air, ocean water or hot sand on your skin!  Living here is truly a feast for the senses.

While I never grow tired or complacent of the beauty of this island, it’s the rainbows that keep me in awe of miracles on a daily basis.  We live on the edge of a rain-belt, so rainbows are practically a daily occurrence, and I’ve counted as many as 8 in a given day.  They can be seen in every weather condition, shape and level of brilliance here—when it’s bright and sunny or gray and dark, they can be arching high into the sky or lying flat, hugging the hills, or emerging from a cloud making a straight line into the ocean, and manifest as singles, doubles or triples!  So, when we’re out and about, it’s natural for my husband and me to point them out to each other as we notice them.

 I prefer to wear polarizing sunglasses as they block glare and colors seem to pop more, with more detail than with regular lenses.  The world seems enhanced with polarizing lenses.   My husband wears regular lenses. 

The other day we were off to the Hanapepe green waste dump when I spotted the beginnings of a huge double rainbow which apparently he couldn’t see.  Being the smarty-pants that he is, and all in good fun, he called me a nut-job and said he couldn’t see anything.  When I pointed out that my polarizing sunglasses must be what was allowing me to see it, his response was, “Yeah, your Optimistic Glasses—because there’s still nothing there!” 

This got me thinking about why some of us do view the world with optimistic glasses, some with pessimistic and others with neutral, kind-a-boring glasses.  Why do some of us literally see things that others don’t?  I see shooting stars most nights, rainbows daily, things I can’t explain in my garden (Fairies!!!)  and have wildlife experiences that are truly unexplainable (so I rarely try!).  Why do some of us live in the world of “Rational Thinking” and explanations and then there are those of us who don’t need explanations, but would rather live in the world of the unexplainable, the unseen and endless possibilities?

Well, nut-job or not, I like my optimistic glasses and the unexplainable–and it’s been my personal experience that while we nut-jobs might be challenging or even frustrating to be around, those who are rational/explanation seeking thinkers, tend to prefer the company of people like me than their own kind! 

So—today—this year– which glasses will you choose to wear?  Here’s to seeing the world, life and each other with fresh eyes!

Joyfully and with warmest aloha,

Kim

Waiting to Live

          

Being present with Pups barking at Barking Sands

      

Running at Barking Sands

      

Running at Barking Sands          

Aloha!          

It’s a mere 9 days until the second annual Kauai Marathon and half-marathon scheduled September 5th here on the beautiful Garden Isle.  I’ve entered the half-marathon–my first one!  I’ve entered with no particular training, and no illusions of winning.  I’m happy to finish and have fun, and I’m confident that I’ll finish somewhere in the middle of the pack for my age group–which, by the way, is female, somewhere in my middle 40’s!           

Apparently, you’re not supposed to enter a 13+ mile race without training.  Well, who knew?  I’ve been taken to school by family and friends about  my irresponsibility in entering.  After all, I could get hurt, I’m not ready and what if I don’t do well.   And I’ve been asked more than once how much the race t-shirt cost!  As if that must be my only motivation–a new t-shirt!          

This has spurred the question of motivation–“Why do I want to do this?”.  Why are some of us motivated by performance versus enjoyment?  I don’t think about getting hurt, I assume I am ready, and I don’t measure how well I do by comparing myself to others (mostly!)     

 So, I started asking everyone I could, “Do you try new things for the fun of it, whether you might be good at it or not?  I was surprised to find that more than half of those asked would not try new things unless they felt a certain level of skill at the onset.  It seems that fear of embarrassment cleverly disguised as perfectionism is most often the show-stopper for those who choose to wait to live.  Really, isn’t that what you’re doing when you don’t do something now because you might be better at it later?     

In the past, the excuses I’ve used to put off living in the moment sounded like, “I’ll do it when I lose 10 ponds”, or “Next year, when I have time to devote to it”, and the ever classic, I’ll do it when ____(fill in the name) decides to do it with me or change or do it first”!      

I’m not sure when I decided to stop waiting and start living.  Translated, I’m not sure when I decided that I’m responsible for my own happiness.  If I procrastinate and make excuses not to engage in life now, it’ s my own fault and my own life, time and opportunities that are wasted.      

So here’s to those of us who live now–do things for the fun of it, the experience or just the value of participating in life in the moment–maybe we lack the “embarrassment gene”, or the competitive spirit.  I just feel grateful that the older I get, the less I worry about what others think, who will judge me or how I look doing something for the first time.  I trust that if I’m having fun, and enjoying the process–that has to be as up-lifting for others as it is for me.        

Wish me swift feet and coordination in my first half-marathon! Jogging or walking over the finish line–I’m going to live now–Oh–and enjoy the process–in my new t-shirt!!!!          

Joyfully and with warmest aloha,          

Kim