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Moving on to Peace

Hey! How ya doing? Good to see ya.  Glad to be here.  Sorry it’s been so long.  And let’s not forget, Happy Friday!  I know it’s been a long time.  And honestly, I really want to get better at being more consistent.  It’s been an interesting journey through life thus far.  I keep finding myself in these stages of growth and when that happens, I need to take steps back and process.  So that’s what I’ve been doing.  But I had to share this video because I got a lot of feedback (unexpected feedback at that) about something I said on Wednesday.  Wednesday was the 9th anniversary of the day my dad died and I said something about that day and people really seemed to resonate with it so I felt led to share this.  I hope it helps whoever needs to hear it.  Enjoy your day and your weekend!

I Am Me, Not My Story

I was looking through my journal from last year.  I’ve told you before that last year wasn’t a happy time for me, but seeing my words–reading my anguish and despair–made me feel something that I didn’t expect to feel, gratitude.  I was filled with gratitude, not necessarily for the events and reasons for my anguish, but for the growth that has taken place to bring me from those moments to where I am now.

There are many people who upon finding out who my dad is (I told y’all I still say is cause speaking of him in the past tense doesn’t feel right), throw many assumption upon me.  If I’m honest, I have relatives who throw those same assumptions–which I find strange as they know of the hurdles my immediate family went through to get to where my dad eventually led us.  The assumptions always contain the same theory–my life has been great, easy even.  Even today, my life must be great with no real struggles or difficulties.  The truth is that my life has been full of difficulties.  I will admit that there have been some great moments and times, but those moments don’t by any means negate the strife.  When I’ve shared my story with others, they are often left shocked and they usually say the same thing, “I would have never guessed.”  That only fuels my belief that there is no way to know a person’s life by looking at the surface.  It’s one of the very reasons I’m so fascinated by the other mere mortals and their stories.  We all have a story and I believe with everything that I have that we are meant to share those stories to help one another.

In saying that though, I recognize that there is a tendency to tell one’s story so much that one begins to identify with their story.  One begins to see themselves as nothing more than the details and events of his or her story.  I fell into that trap for a long while.  I think a lot of my journey through this last year was about me releasing my identity with my story.  I became so wrapped up in the tragic things that happened to me that I felt that that was all there was to me.  I repeatedly told the tragic events of my life to the point that they became my identity.  My answer to the question, Who are you? was This happened to me and that and this and this then that and some more.  I couldn’t see those things as simple external conditions that had no bearing on who I was.

I don’t know when things began to shift for me, but I know they did.  I realized recently that I was no longer identifying with my story when I posted a Throwback Thursday photo of my beloved deceased Maltese, Snowball.  A friend asked me if he’d died and I told her yes.  I then relayed the details of things–how he passed 2 years after my dad and my divorce and a year after the passing of my grandfather.  My cousin jokingly referenced the movie Life with me.  He referenced the scene where Eddie Murphy’s character Ray reads the letter from his fellow inmate, Pokerface.  His mother’s neighbor writes him detailing all of the tragic things that have happened since he became locked up.  The letter is full of tragedy.   His cousins, sister, parents and even his dog died. It was funny in the movie, but in real life, not so much?  Yet I laughed when my cousin went there–and not to mask my pain–but because I genuinely found it funny.  That’s when it hit me.  I no longer identify with those things.  Those things no longer define me.  I have moved past needing to anchor myself with those events.  To think, for a long time, I would tell people I was a bad country song.  I even found some honor in that.  I’m truly grateful to be beyond those days and that line of thinking.

I have been speaking at Sarcoidosis events for the past 7 years and last year was the first year that I didn’t enjoy myself. The event itself was lovely.  However, I didn’t enjoy myself because I’m required to share my father’s Sarcoidosis “story.”  I don’t enjoy telling it any longer because I feel like it doesn’t do my father any justice.  It’s not his story.  Yes, he had some experiences with the disease.  However, I no longer wish to reheat the same soup year after year.  His life was so much more than his illness, the hospitalizations, allergic reactions to medication and his ultimate death.  The short of it is that he’s not that story.  So I have to stop telling it.  I have to stop telling it for him and for myself.  It no longer serves.

If you’re not already in a space where you recognize that you are not your story, the sum of your parts of your life, I hope you are on your way. My wish for you is that you can see that whatever has happened is already behind you and does not necessarily dictate where you can go.  And it’s ok if you’re not.  I wasn’t for a long time. But I’m so thankful I am now.

Silencing My Inner Critic

A very warm and joyous Friday to you!  I am still riding my high from the weekend and I’ve decided to consciously choose to live on this high for the rest of my life.  I say that with the full understanding that life is going to happen and every moment won’t necessarily be a pleasant one.  However, I recognized that allowing myself to get overwhelmed to the point that I need a get away doesn’t serve me well.  I recognized a lot this weekend.  One of the things that became glaringly obvious to me was the way that I speak to myself.  I caught myself and I actually cringed.  I asked myself, Why do you speak this way to yourself? and I recognized that it was my inner critic speaking.  My inner critic was a harsh one.  But I had to have a sit down with her and I think it was the start of a beautiful ending of a relationship.

 

My Cup

I had such a wonderful weekend! I got to go to Texas to visit with one of my oldest and dearest friends. We went to a retreat dedicated to femininity and it was so rejuvenating and affirming. I laughed. I cried. I ate delicious food. I hung out with some lovely women. And I did it all in 80 and 70 degree weather! Now that may not seem like such a big deal to some of you. But for this Chicago born and raised girl, 70 and 80 degrees in February is like finding shelter after a raging storm. It’s sweet relief. So that was the whip cream and cherry (if I liked cherries) on an already decadent and rich, brownie, fudge and caramel sundae.

The friend I visited has been one of my dearest friends for about 20 years. We have been through so much together. There’s just something to be said for having friends like her. We haven’t seen one another in ages, but whenever we see one another we’re laughing and talking as if we have never missed a beat.  I love meeting new people and making connections, but there’s just something about the ones you have with those who know you best.  My friend took great care of me over the weekend.  She told me to just bring myself and not worry about a thing. I have no idea why she told me not to worry, considering how well she knows me.  Worry is what I do.  It’s what I know.  But I did my best to listen to her.  My friend treated me to some of the best meals I’ve had in a long time, a massage, and the joy of being a passenger while she drove us to our destinations.  When I tell you this was all like sweet manna!

However, as much as I enjoyed myself, I have to admit that it did bring up some issues for me.  I didn’t have to contribute anything this weekend but myself.  All I had to do was sit back and receive.  Yet, that was incredibly difficult for me.  I wanted to do something. I even felt guilty.  It allowed me to recognize that I don’t know how to receive.  I am so accustomed to giving to others, yet I am not as accustomed to being given to.  And that’s just one more thing I need to release.

When I began examining this phenomenon of mine, I realized that it’s behavior that I learned from my parents.  See, both of my parents are givers. Correction, they are over-givers.  They give to everyone–even when not asked.  They felt like it was their duty to take care of everyone. My dad was an especially generous over-giver.  He had a wonderful heart, yet he had a habit of inserting himself where he wasn’t necessarily needed, nor asked to be.  He would go out of his way to take care of others–which would result in his depleting himself and becoming resentful.  He would resent that he wasn’t appreciated and that others didn’t go out of their way for him the way he did for them.  I guess when it became too much, he created the idea that it was better to take care of yourself than to allow others to take care of you. Always have your own and always do for yourself. Don’t let anybody do anything for you.  He taught me that and I accepted it.  I believed as he taught me–it was a sign of strength to be self-sufficient and not allow anyone to do anything for  you.  I grew up watching that behavior and assumed it was healthy until I began to follow in his foot steps.  I created the one-sided relationships.  I began to experience the resentment.  I resented being the go-to person for everyone.  Yet, as much as I resented it, I didn’t stop my pattern.  I kept doing the same thing in different relationships–romantic, platonic, associate level–expecting different results. Well, that’s the very definition of insanity.

Refusing to accept love, support, and any other good thing isn’t really strong though. It’s just something wounded people do to mask their fear of rejection.  I learned this weekend that I am so accustomed to operating from a place of lack.  I deplete myself.  And then I seek ways to recharge myself.  Iyanla Vanzant says, “My cup runneth over.  What comes out of the cup is for y’all. What’s in the cup is mine.”  I haven’t been living that way. I’ve been pouring my cup all the way out and giving everything that’s in my cup so that there’s nothing left for me to sip when I thirst.

imagesWhat I didn’t realize until this weekend is that the reason        that my father and I were such over-givers and the reason we don’t allow our cup to runneth over is because deep down we didn’t believe we could have symbiotic relationships.  We didn’t believe we could have people look out for us, do for us, be there for us.  And why did we believe this, you ask? Well, let me answer.  It’s the thing that’s behind the answer to the question I was asked this weekend, which was What do you have to prove and who do you have to prove it to?  My answer was simple and I didn’t even have to think about it.  My answer was that I have to prove that I’m worthy to everyone. But the truth is, I don’t really need to prove it to everyone.  Everyone is my scape goat so that I don’t have to face that my real aggressor is the woman in the mirror.  So the truth is that I have to prove I’m worthy to myself.  Worthy of what, you ask?  Well, let me also answer that as well.  Worthy of good things.  Ahh . . . Now you see how all the dots connect!  My issue of worthiness blocks me from accepting and receiving good things.  No matter how much I want them, I will never have them or enjoy them until I understand one simple truth.  I am worthy.  I am worthy because I am.  I don’t have to do anything, say anything, or be anything to be worthy.  I also don’t have to prove it to myself.  I just need to accept it.

I can’t thank my friend enough for taking such great care of me.  She taught me a lot this weekend. She taught me how to sit my tail down and accept love, support, and a massage (can’t forget the massage). But she provided me with a wonderful lesson that if you allow, people will show up and love you.  Good things will come to you. But you have to let them in.  It’s now time for me to get on with the business of me pouring into my cup so that it can start running(eth) over.

Sensitivity is the New Strong

I love the way the Universe works.  Pay attention and you’re sure to get a message or confirmation of something that’s been making itself known to you.  That happened to me yesterday.  I wrote this post some days ago.  I’d been mulling it around for a while and finally got around to writing it.  But once I wrote it, I just left it sitting in the drafts.  I didn’t want to share it.   I was resisting it for some reason.  But I saw a post from my mentor, Namaste Moore, as I was scrolling through my Facebook timeline and it spoke exactly to what this post is about. So I took that as a loving nudge from The Universe to get out of my own way, and so here I am sharing it. Ok, on with the show.

I’ve been telling you since the beginning of the year how the past year has been all about me unpacking my past. I’m still in the process of unpacking. I’ve got a lot of stuff to purge. 30 plus years of issues. And because they’re so layered, once I purge one thing, I find another beneath it. As I’ve been unpacking a lot of my issues that I’ve tagged onto my dad, I recognized that I need to accept my sensitivity. I’ve always been an extremely sensitive person.  It was problematic for me because my father taught me that it was a problem. I wasn’t supposed to be sensitive. Sensitivity was weakness. Sensitivity meant I was a punk. And I needed to be tough because my father wasn’t raising any punks and the world wasn’t going to be kind to a punk. According to my father, the world was cold and unrelenting, full of people wanting to hurt me and if I didn’t get myself together it was going to chew me up and spit me out.  So I needed to be strong, independent, and able to take care of myself and others. Also according to my father, I wasn’t going to be able to do any of those things carrying my sensitivity around. So I had to get to getting with the business of toughening up.

silhouette-1564372_640          My sensitivity displayed itself in ways that seemed to get under my father’s skin. One of my worst offenses was that I cried. A lot. Actually I still do. I cried if I was happy. I cried if I was sad. Or mad. I even cried if I saw another in pain. But that was unacceptable for my father.  Crying was for punks and I needed to stop crying all of the time.  I remember one such episode when I was 9 years old.  A boy on my school bus punched me in the eye.  While my dad did defend me once he found out, he was also quite upset with me for not fighting the way he thought I should have.  He became incredibly upset when he asked me, What did you do after he punched you? only to hear me say in response, I cried. I thought it was a ridiculous question.  It hurt. Crying when hurt is a normal response, correct?  What was I supposed to do?  My father thought it a ridiculous response. Who in the hell cries when they get hurt?  Hell naw that ain’t normal!  I was supposed to kick the boy’s ass!  That’s what I was supposed to do.  So he told me that I needed to kick his ass the next day, otherwise he would kick mine. Now to some, this probably seems like a reasonable order from a parent.  It certainly was based on my dad’s own upbringing.  He was old school.  Old school wasn’t about being a punk.  Punks jumped up to get beat down, so you best not be a punk.  That meant you didn’t let anybody hurt you.  If you got hurt, it was your fault.  I didn’t know at the time, but for my father that applied to my emotional self as well as my physical self.  As far as he was concerned, he was doing it for my own good.  He would even lament about how hard it was to raise a daughter because he couldn’t be as hard on me as he wanted to be–certainly not as hard as he could be with a boy.  He hated how soft he had to be with me.  I, on the other hand, was perplexed as to how he could possibly think he was soft at all.

The thing about the way my father raised me was that it didn’t work for me.  As he lamented, I wasn’t a boy. I was, indeed a girl.  That meant that I was soft. But softness didn’t mean weakness.  It was just my make up. I was (and still am) sensitive.  I was compassionate. I didn’t physically fight. But I also wasn’t a pushover.  Actually, his harshness caused me to shrink more than my sensitivity ever did.  And the effects of his harshness lasted well into my adulthood.  I struggled with my sensitivity.  I hated myself for feeling all of my feelings–especially hurt.  I hated myself for crying.  I actually still hate to cry in front of people.  I felt like I was going against everything my father stood for whenever I would and even though I would never admit it to him, I desperately wanted his approval–and even to be just like him.  I put an extreme amount of pressure on myself to be all he wanted because I was his only child.  I hated myself whenever I didn’t do what I thought he would do–even if I didn’t agree with him! What I now know is that I was (and still am) a lot like my father–sensitivity and all.  When he was chastising me about my sensitivity, he was actually chastising himself.  He didn’t like that he was sensitive (and believe me, he was).  He saw it as weakness so he developed a bark so loud that no fool ever dare test him. While I, on the other hand, didn’t feel the need to bark. I was content being me. I felt like whomever didn’t like it would leave me alone and those who did would fall in line with me.  But because he didn’t know better, he taught me that I was wrong to feel that way.  And because I didn’t know better, I learned to believe him.  So I packed that gem and have been carrying it around with me ever since.  Until today.

What I know today is that my sensitivity (and my father’s for that matter) is not a weakness.  It’s actually a strength.  And the audacity to be as sensitive as I am without attempting to cover it–to allow myself to be vulnerable–is an even greater strength. I’m embracing my sensitivity and softness.  I’m embracing being vulnerable.  I also know that my father did the best he could with what he had so I don’t need to be angry with him for teaching me as he did.  I know that I also did the best I could, so I don’t need to be angry with myself for carrying the burden as long as I have.  I’m learning to be gentle with myself.  And while he didn’t necessarily directly do it, my father taught me that. And for that I’m grateful.  So as Forrest Gump said, that’s good, one less thing.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  I might have been awfully uncomfortable last year when having to face the contents of my baggage, but these days post unpacking have been quite enlightening.  I believe Erykah Badu said it best when she instructed in her song, Bag Lady to pack light. So that’s what I’m doing.  I’m packing light.  And I gotta say, I like it.  A lot.

An Open Letter to My Body

Dear Body of Mine,

I owe you a most sincere apology.  For just about your entire existence, I have not liked you.  I have spoken of and to you in most unkind ways.  I’ve called you horrible names like fat, awful, and ugly. I’ve compared you to others and found you to fail to measure up.  I’ve wished you were something you were not.  And each time I felt you failed me, I blamed you.  I actually felt like you were a curse to me.  In short, I have hated you.

You may wonder why I have hated you and abused you.  I could pontificate about all of the underlying psychological issues and social conditioning that I may have and have possibly been exposed to.  However, the simple truth is that I’ve never thought you were good enough.

Why did I think that?  Well, I’ll admit that I just never liked the way you looked.  In the beginning, you were just skinny. Too skinny. And remember, this wasn’t during the time that it was cool to be skinny. I felt that you subjected me to teasing and taunts from others. Laughter filled advice about eating sammiches were painfully abundant for me–despite the fact that I did, in fact, eat many sammiches and more.  Yet, you weren’t filling out any time soon.

It would be many years later when you would begin to fill out.  I would be about 24 years of age.  Yet the problem with that is that you didn’t fill out the way I wanted you to.  You didn’t give me the curves I wanted.  You didn’t fill out to create the hour-glass physique I so desperately coveted.  No, there would be no Tocarra Jones’ body for me.  Instad, you kept your athletic physique, complete with its  narrow hips and wide waistline.   But you didn’t even have the decency to give me Serena Williams athletic type.  You just gave me straight body with a tire around my waist.  And I hated you for that.  Each time I saw another woman with the coveted hour glass frame, I thought you to be an even greater failure.  Why can’t you look like her? I’d lament.  You never answered me either.  Instead, you just kept calling for me to love you as you were and I refused.

Then came what I felt was the ultimate betrayal.  Pregnancy.  After the birth of The Fizzle, you developed stretch marks in places I never wanted, never even realized one could develop there.  You began to bulge and droop in places that I didn’t think were meant to bulge and droop.  And let’s not even talk about what you did to my stomach!  I worked out throughout my entire pregnancy to combat such changes, yet they were all for naught. You still drooped and bulged and you didn’t even have the courtesy to return to your pre-pregnancy state, post pregnancy. Then you gave me the dreaded C-section pooch.   It was hard enough tolerating you before then.  Now how was I supposed to appreciate you?  I swore I would never forgive you.  And I didn’t.  Until now.

Now here we are, 10 years post pregnancy. I’ve since accepted that the pre-pregnancy body is NEVER returning.  And while I don’t like it (not one bit), I realize how cruel and superficial I have been. I have treated you as if you’re good for nothing more than an aesthetically pleasing accessory.  How wrong I have been!  You are so much more than that.  You have carried me through this world.  You even brought forth life!  How amazing is that?  And thanks to yoga, I now know you can do some amazing things I never even thought possible!  You are the vessel through which this soul of mine wanders through this Earth.  You lend your hands to help others up. And what’s more, you use your hands to pull yourself up when you fall down.  You love me so much that you will pad yourself to protect me when I am wounded.  I have finally realized that your worth doesn’t lie in what you look like.  Isn’t that ironic though? I’d have a fit if someone deemed me less than worthy based on my appearance, yet I meted that exact harsh judgment on my damn self. I have no excuses or any justifiable reasons for my ill behavior. All I can say is that I was ignorant and immature.  I didn’t know.  And I’m so sorry that I didn’t know and even more sorry for the way I have treated you.  But since I am not big on sorry’s or words, I’ll allow my actions to show you how much I have changed.  I’ll affirm you when I look at you instead of cursing you for everything I hated about you.  I’ll reframe your so-called flaws.  Where I once saw failure, I’ll see Life and splendor.  I won’t compare you to anyone.  I’ll appreciate you for who you are.  I’ll feed you well and move you so that you’re as fit and healthy as you can be.  As my Daddy used to say, I can show you better than I can tell you. And while I have never actually said this to you before, please allow me to close this simply by saying I love you.

Suffering and Silence

This week seems to have developed the unintentional theme of death.  Maybe it’s the death of our family friend, coupled with the anniversary of my dad’s death.  Maybe it’s just seeing so many people in bereavement.  Whatever it is, I feel compelled to continue on this roll I have stumbled upon.  One thing I know about myself is that I know what it feels like to lose, to hurt, to be counted out.  Don’t we all?  It’s always been my desire to aid others in the process.  There have been so many times where I have felt alone and broken. And while I am so thankful to be beyond those spaces, I remember when I wasn’t.  That’s one of the reasons why I share so much of myself.  I truly believe there is healing in sharing. I don’t think silence serves anyone.  As Jane Fonda says, “We are not meant to be perfect. We’re meant to be whole.” And as my father used to say, “We all have a ghetto story.”  We all have tales of how we were broken, hurt, lost, confused, etc. My story may not be your story, but in hearing yours, it may just help me get to the next chapter of my own; and vice versa.  So that’s where I’m coming from.

I said yesterday that death brings a lot of uncomfortable feelings–and not just for the bereaved.  It’s not just uncomfortable to be the one left in pain after a loss.  It can also be uncomfortable to witness someone in pain.  People tend to be action-oriented. We are all about doing. Witnessing someone’s pain motivates us to want to find the solution for them.  However, it can be so difficult that sometimes we want to find the solution for them long distance. What do I mean by this?  I mean that sometimes, we don’t actually want to help. We just want the person to feel better so that we can cease to be uncomfortable.  When death hits (and it doesn’t have to involve a physical death. It can be the death of a relationship, death of a job, etc.), the bereaved is now changed.  They are no longer who they once were prior to this death. We are ok with the initial impact.  I mean, it’s to be expected that you are different. That’s one of the reasons everyone gathers immediately after a death.  Everyone gathers the day of and leading up to the funeral. They’re calling. Sending flowers. Bringing food. Stopping by.  They show up without prompting.  It just makes sense.  But you know what happens?  The funeral comes. There may even be a repast. But it inevitably ends and everyone scatters back home to their normal lives while the bereaved are left to deal alone.  This is when the change really hits.  And let me just say something about change.  Change tends to occur successively, meaning that your change affects me.  I will have to adjust accordingly to your change; thereby creating a change in me. A lot of us are resistant to change. So we want you to do whatever you can to get through this so you can go back to being who you were before so that I can go back to being the way I was before.  But that’s not really how life works.  And deep down we know this.  So we want to help. We say we will help. But what happens a lot of time is that we don’t actually help.  And we actually put the onus on you to get our help.  What does this look like? Thanks for asking.  Allow me to paint the picture for you.  It goes something like this. “I’m so sorry.  If you need anything, and I do mean ANYTHING, don’t hesitate to call.” Do you see? That now puts the responsibility of the bereaved for supporters to actually support.

I heard this a few times when my dad passed away. I also heard it a lot at the funeral I attended over the weekend.  I have even said it myself.  But what I know today is that it’s such a callous thing to say.  You’re basically telling the bereaved that you don’t have any real plans to show up for them beyond this moment.  How do I know this? Because I’ve experienced it.  I have never felt more alone in my life than I did after my dad passed away.  All the people who were committed to being around enjoying benefits when my dad was alive were nowhere to be found for me when my father passed.  I’ve said this to a few and they actually implied that it’s my fault that they didn’t offer anything because I didn’t say anything.  As far as they are concerned, I seemed fine and if I wasn’t fine, then it was up to me to say so.  In another instance, I might actually agree. After all, closed mouths don’t get fed, do they?  But I have to disagree here because death is a different game.  You see, sometimes people are hurting so much that they don’t even know what they need.  They don’t even know to speak up to say Hey, I’m hurting.  Sometimes they hurt so much that they retreat, act out, or do their best to numb the pain.  Sometimes they don’t want to burden anyone.  Their inability to speak up regarding their pain is in no way an admission that it doesn’t exist.  It simply means they just are unable to speak up.  I think it’s actually unfair for those of us who are not in pain to blame the bereaved for being in pain.  We all have had our moment with pain. And if you haven’t, just wait. Your moment will come.  Some of us may behave in way that others of us cannot understand. It’s easy to say If it were me, I’d just speak up, when you are not in pain. The truth is, you don’t know what you would do.  You don’t know how you will feel.  And sometimes, neither does the bereaved.  Grief can be such a confusing process and we don’t really give those who are bereaved the time they need to go through it.  We expect sadness at the funeral. But we also expect them to dry their eyes and return to normal and that’s so unfair.  Stop telling people in bereavement to call you if they need anything. Stop leaving them hanging once the funeral ends.  Continue to check on them.  Continue to be there for them without prompting.  You don’t have to fix it for them because the truth is you can’t.  But you can show up. You can support.

After my father died, my cousin would randomly send me bible verses via text.  I would never know when they were coming, but they came faithfully for over a year.  He actually still sends them to this day.  I would cry as I read them.  Sometimes I still do.  After a while, I began to look forward to them.  He didn’t know it at the time, (hell neither did I!), but those text messages helped me so much.  That gesture said so much to me and I appreciated it in a way that my words didn’t allow me to say, until about a year ago.  Don’t interpret the silence of one in bereavement to mean they’re ok.  Don’t be in such a rush to be comfortable that you fail to support.  We will all need it at some point in our lives.

Just Don’t Say Nothing

I don’t like funerals.  I actually can’t stand them.  My people have been notified that there is to be no funeral in my honor when I leave this realm–lest they suffer through me haunting them all the days of their lives.  And I will too.  I just never liked the feeling they evoke.  I don’t know what your beliefs are, but I just feel like death is not sad for the departed.  It’s sad for those of us who remain.  Some have gotten the bright idea to call a funeral a home going service. Yet, that hasn’t seemed to change the feeling a funeral elicits for me.  I do my best to not attend funerals because I hate them so much. But when it calls I go.  A very close friend of my family recently passed away.  She was so close to our family that she actually felt more like family than some people I’m actually related to.  Her funeral was held over this past weekend and I did attend.  I attended to support those who remained and I was left with the same feeling I always have. I just don’t like funerals.

However, I’m not really talking about funerals today.  Today I want to talk about how many of us call ourselves comforting those who are bereaved.  I’ve been on the receiving end of it and I have to say, people you aren’t very good at consoling. And you know what? It’s ok.  There really is nothing that you can possibly say or do to ease the pain that death elicits.  So don’t try. Just offer a hug, a pat on the back. Food. Food is good.  But there are just some things that we need to stop saying to those who are bereaved.  I wrote a list and here it is.

  1. Be strong. What in the hell does this mean? What do you mean? Do you even know what you mean?  Why are you telling me this?  How exactly do you “Be strong” after a loved one dies any way?
  2. This too shall pass.  You don’t say? Isn’t that exactly why I’m sad, because my loved one passed away?
  3. Everything happens for a reason.  Is this really supposed to make me feel better?  I honestly don’t give two dead flies smashed as to what the reason is my loved one is now dead.  All I know is that they are dead and I don’t want them to be. Like Rick James with Charlie Murphy’s couch, Eff your reasons!
  4. Don’t cry.  Now this is one of the most asinine things I’ve ever heard.  I’m hurt. I’m in pain. What do you do when you’re hurting and in pain? You cry! Why are you telling me not to cry?  What do you suggest I do then?
  5. I know how you feel.  No you don’t. And it’s ok that you don’t.  You may be able to empathize with me and that is awesome.  While I’m hurting too much to grasp that right now, it is nice to know that. However, you don’t know how I feel.  You know how you felt when your loved one passed away.  That’s not the same.
  6. At least they’re not suffering anymore.  I get that this is an attempt to console and I actually understand it. But in the immediate moments after experiencing the death of a loved one, I don’t want to hear that.  At least they were STILL here to possibly get better.  Look here, death is a most rude visitor who doesn’t give two sh*ts about suffering or not. When it’s time to go, death is taking  you.  I don’t feel better right now hearing this.
  7. Think of all the good times you shared.  Yes, I have. And that’s exactly why I’m so sad right now.  There will be no more good times to share.
  8. Well think of *insert Momma, daughter, best friend, spouse,etc.*  They’re suffering more right now.  What the hell? This is by far the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.  You’re actually comparing the pain between all of us who are in bereavement?  For why?  There is no prize to be won in maxing out pain or suffering. We are all more than just the one role we fill in another’s life.  To quote R.E.M., “Everybody hurts.”
  9. They’re in a better place.  I really do understand why this would be a go-to. But at the moment, I don’t want to hear this.  All I know is that my preferred place for them would be right here and they are not here.
  10. And finally, the dreaded How are  you?    Why are you asking me this?  How in the hell do you think I am?  I’m sad, mad, stunned, numb, crazy, and a host of other emotions I can’t even put into words right now.

I don’t say any of this to be judgmental.  I do believe that people mean well when they say these things.  Death brings with it a lot of uncomfortable feelings.  And we don’t like being uncomfortable. The most logical thing to do when we feel discomfort is to find (or try to find) some way to ease the discomfort.  I get it.  But when it comes to death, there is no way around the discomfort.  You can only go through it.  Furthermore, as I’ve said earlier, there really is nothing that you can say or do to ease the pain one feels when they’re loved one has passed. They’re not looking for you to anyway.  So just offer a hug, “I’m sorry for your loss,” a prayer if they allow.  But don’t feel compelled to offer anything if you have nothing. Your presence alone is a gift.

This is just a brief list of things I remember hearing and things I witnessed being said at the funeral the other day. Can you think of anything that should be added to the list? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Seems Like A Mighty Long Time

Today marks eight years since you left this realm. It’s difficult to put my feelings into words. That’s because at any given moment, there seems to be a simultaneous exchange of starkly opposite sensations or experiences. It feels like it was just yesterday I was at the hospital with mom when we received the worst news ever–that you were gone. Yet, it feels as if I’ve been living without you for so long–too long if you want to really know the truth. I marvel at how far I’ve come, as far as grief is concerned. And just as soon as I pat myself on the back, waves of pain will come crashing down upon me. Like I’ve said, it’s difficult to put into words. I guess it’s best for me to start at the beginning and work my way up to today.

That initial moment after your passing stays with me. Hearing mom ask the doctor as she looked sadly upon us, “He’s gone, isn’t he?” and watching her face as the realization that you were indeed gone settled was heart wrenching. I remember screaming “No! No! No!” over and over again, thinking if I said it loud enough that I could reverse it and you wouldn’t be gone. I spent the next days of my life in a haze. One minute I could be seemingly fine, and broken down beyond repair the next. I settled into a grief-riddled depression after that. The pain was too intense. There was just no way I could go on without you. There was no way I could live another day without hearing you shout “What’s gwoings?” or “Hey Daughter!” It hurt too much to know that The Fizzle wouldn’t get to grow up with you. I didn’t want to go on. At least that’s what I thought back then. Today I know I just didn’t want to FEEL. The feelings were too intense. I wanted to die. Yes. That was the answer. That was the only way to stop this disrespectful attack of grief. So I wrestled with the idea of taking my own life. I concocted a few plans, but I could never seem to go through with any of them. Was that you stopping me? I’m not sure, but I’m glad that I didn’t go through with any of my plans.

So that left me with soldiering on. I just had to get up every day and keep living. I didn’t like it. Not one bit. But I did it anyway. I didn’t feel like I had any reason to keep going, save for The Fizzle. She became my reason for living. Gradually, I was able to find another reason to keep going–to be a living demonstration of your legacy. After all, I’m your only child. I’m all that’s left of you. It was up to me to keep your name going. I put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to keep your legacy going. I think I put more pressure on me than you did during my childhood. Who would think that’s possible? I stressed myself out. I heard your voice criticizing me every time I felt like I was failing. Then one day you came to me in a dream and told me to “Chillax.” You told me that I didn’t need to put this pressure on myself because you did your work and now it was up to me to do my own work. More than that, you let me know that your legacy isn’t your comedy, or your movies, or anything related to your fame. You told me that I’m your legacy. You told me that The Fizzle is your legacy and out of everything you’ve done, you were most proud to be my dad.

And that allowed me to let go. I had to let go of you. I didn’t want to because I thought letting go of you was me saying that I was forgetting about you. I thought it was disrespectful. But I realized that it wasn’t about letting go in a sense that I’m saying you are not an integral part of me. It was about letting go of the attachment that I had to the past. I couldn’t let go of the desire to hang on to what was. I wouldn’t be able to embrace anything new if I kept holding on to the past. I had to detach. After all, you had. You had transformed. You were no longer saddled with the baggage of the human costume. You were beyond it. I knew you were right. You did your work. And now it was time for me to do my own work. And I could do my work. I could do my work while walking upon the foundation that you so lovingly laid down for me. How blessed am I?

Daddy, I have been through so much since you left. There have been so many tears, so many doubts, so many regrets. But there have also been so much more. So many smiles, so many laughs, and so much love. And you have been a part of it all. It’s because of you I am. It’s because of you The Fizzle is. We talk about you at least once a day–not in an effort to not let go, but more so to make sure that we recognize that your death doesn’t negate your life. Thank you so much for all you did while you were here. And thank you so much for what you do from beyond.

I used to dread August 9th. I used to go through severe insomnia leading up to the day. I would become depressed. In an effort to combat it, I would try to do all kind of things that were in stark contrast to depression. I’ve gone skydiving. I’ve released balloons in your honor. I’ve danced. I don’t feel like I have to do that anymore. Now I feel like all of that was in a way celebrating your death. I had unknowingly created a shrine to the day. Your physical death took up so much space in my mental memory. Today, I acknowledge the day, but I don’t need to celebrate it. And therein lies the beauty of the birth, death, rebirth cycle. While it can seem like you are losing so much in death, you actually gain so much as well. Again, all I can say is thank you. Now I can’t lie. I miss you. I miss you a lot. But I can honestly admit that I love you more. As you used to say, my love for you is non-transferable and I love you from the top and the bottom of my heart.

Always,

Your Boops

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