angels 2We shall find peace. We shall hear angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.  — Anton Chekhov 
Last night I could not fall asleep.   Earlier in the evening I was watching the original Superman movie with my son and I fell asleep on the couch.  I awoke 2 hours later and was screwed.  I knew, now 10pm, that I was destined for a long night.  I decided to catch up on this season of Homeland and, two hours later, when that was done, I was still wide awake and I searched for something new to watch.  I stumbled upon a series on Showtime called Time of Death.  It is a documentary series following people at the end of their lives.  All of the folks are suffering from terminal illnesses and are within a year of their death.  The show documents their final months, weeks, and then days, and, in some cases, captures their actual death.  It seemed really morbid to me at first but then, an admitted reality TV junkie, I found myself mesmerized and sucked in because I was so intrigued by the characters and their stories.  Some of the patients continue from one episode to the next and you get to know them and their families.  Like Maria.  A 47-year-old woman with Stage 4 breast cancer, two teenage kids and an adult daughter.  She and her family are struggling with accepting her fate and, even though you know where Maria’s story ends, you are rooting for her to find a miracle treatment or a radical change of course.  And, naturally, this does not happen.

Watching these people confront the most terrifying yet most certain reality of their lives was, hands down, one of the most powerful things I have ever seen.  I am both fascinated and disturbed by the end of life.  The older I get, naturally, death becomes more of a reality.  As someone who has certainly reached middle age, I spend more time than I would care to admit thinking about my own terminus.  I wonder and worry.  I think about my children and husband and how they would be impacted by my departure.  I feel grateful that I love my life and have no desire to end it any time soon.  I use this thinking as a way to be more present and to live with gratitude.  But, I’d be lying if I did not admit that I am fearful.  And, every day it gets scarier.  As my life takes on more dimension, I get less and less comfortable with the idea of it ever ending.  And then I start thinking about the people I love.  That’s where I have to stop.  I simply cannot imagine losing anyone.

Both of my parents died within the last two years – six months apart from each other.  And, as I have shared many times, I had no contact with either of them for many years prior to their deaths.  With my father, I learned he was nearing death less than a week before he passed and I knew there was nothing I could do but pray for his soul.  With my mother, I found out just two weeks after my father died that she was terminally ill.  After smoking for nearly 70 years she had lung cancer.  My sister, with whom I had also been estranged, contacted me to let me know of her diagnosis and, after careful consideration and a lot of soul-searching, I determined that her fate was not a reason to change mine.  I chose not to reconcile with her before she died because I had already gone through the arduous and painful process of mourning her, many years before her soul actually left her body.  I struggled through the guilt, anger and absolute torture of knowing my mother was no longer.  I knew that I had to separate from her and remove her from my life.  When I learned that she was sick, I contemplated reconsidering my relationship with her and determined that it would only prove to ease her soul, not mine.  I had already done too much of that in my lifetime.  I searched my heart and tried to figure out if I was intended to be selfish or selfless and, given our history, I knew, with completely certainty, that it was time for me to be selfish.  I had no regrets.  I still have no regrets.

While I do not fear flying nor do I worry about my plane going down, every time I take off (which is quite often these days), I go through a very ritualistic process.  As the plane makes it descent into the clouds, I pray.  I have been doing this for as long as I can remember and, over the years, my prayers have gotten more intense.  What used to be a simple “please keep me safe and keep my family and loved ones safe” is now more complex and detailed.  Now that my children are older, I understand that the impact of my death would be much more significant than when they were babies.  I think about my boys and how their spirits would be damaged by such a loss.  I shudder at the thought of their beautiful, innocent selves being adversely impacted by such a tragedy.  More powerful than my own fears about losing my life, I am terrified and, frankly, abhor the thought of my children being damaged in any way as a result of such a horrific turn of events.  I think about my husband and how he might try to parent a teen and tween while grieving the loss of his soulmate, his partner for nearly half his life.  I take a full personal inventory and think about my closest friends and say prayers for them all.  My life literally flashes before my eyes each and every time.  It is both a conscious and unconscious exercise because I never have to remind myself to do it and I am very present and aware as these thoughts pass through my mind.

On my last plane trip a week ago, I thought about my mother – something I do not recall ever doing before.  I had the oddest feeling as we climbed higher and higher into the clouds.  From out of nowhere, I felt blanketed by the idea that she was watching over me.  Despite the fact that I do not necessarily believe in heaven and hell and, if I did, I am not sure that I would consider my mother as a candidate for moving up, I did acknowledge the symbolism of ascending into the clouds and moving closer to the “great beyond.”  The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that something very positive had happened after she died.  And, yet, I struggled with this thinking because I am challenged with the idea of what happens after we die.  When I allow myself to entertain the morbid thoughts of my own death, I always imagine myself looking down on my loved ones.  I fantasize about the ability to care for them from afar.  As I am sure many others do, I believe I will continue to have the ability to protect them and love them even though I no longer have a physical presence to do so.  I struggle with the idea of their pain and imagine myself providing supernatural comfort.  And, paradoxically, I believe that there is no way this is possible.  Death is the end.  This fantasy is just my way of easing the blow.  This is my way of trying to imagine myself having some type of eternal flame that cannot be extinguished.

I started wondering if, perhaps, my mother was repenting for her misdeeds by serving as a guardian angel of sorts.  I felt warmed by the idea that she might finally be able to take care of me, comfort me, love me, support me.  I contemplated that maybe, just maybe, her physical ending was met with a spiritual rebirth that provided me with a new architecture to feel embraced by my parent.  It made me happy.  It gave me solace.  I felt peaceful.  Perhaps this idea was a product of my continued healing and offered a new mechanism for me to cope with and accept the truth about my mother.  It might have been an indication that I am transitioning to a place of forgiveness and finding my peace with her.  This may have been a message to myself that I can find a way to believe that she loved me and I can extract the nectar of that and feel her love.  By releasing my own anger and hurt and allowing it to drift into the clouds, I am able to retrieve the vitamins and minerals of her soul.  I am able to carve out a small space inside me that accepts her for who she was and understands that, no matter how painful her blows might have been, she was still my mother and somewhere down deep she loved me.

And, who knows, maybe she is my guardian angel.  That would be fitting.


Forgiveness is the economy of the heart… forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits.
– Hannah More

I get a lot of inspiration for what I write from what I read.  And, I try to read as much as I can.  I am obsessed with other’s blogs and try to reference them and share them as much as possible.  People touch me and help me understand the world in a more meaningful way than I ever could on my own.  I have been diagnosed as an extroverted thinker which means that collaboration is critical for me.  When working with clients or sorting through problems, I do my best work when talking it through with others.  It is not that I do not have my own ideas but my ideas flow more readily when I am thinking aloud with others.  A friend shared a blog post last week that I checked out and, while I did not 100% relate to the author’s feelings or her place in the world, I appreciated where she was coming from and she was provocative enough to make me contemplate my own life.

What I related to the most was her background.  She said a few things that struck a chord with me – deeply.

“I’m usually an honest person. I am creative and kind. I’m brave and loyal and trustworthy. I’m smart. Wicked smart, sometimes. I’m quite funny. I make big mistakes and I say I’m sorry and then quickly forgive myself.  And that nakedness, brokenness, and sensitivity I was born with? They’ve turned out to be my greatest gifts. My nakedness allows me to tell the truth without shame or fear and my brokenness is what allows others to trust and love me. My sensitivity is what drives me to feel the pain of others and love them so fiercely. The parts of me that made the first half of my life so exceptionally hard are the exact same parts making the second half exceptional. 

Life’s about how you use what you got, I think.

I was right when I was little. Life is brutal. But it’s also beautiful. Brutiful, I call it. Life’s brutal and beautiful are woven together so tightly that they can’t be separated. Reject the brutal, reject the beauty. So now I embrace both, and I live well and hard and real.

I write this blog because it’s part of my healing process. Healing starts fresh each morning. I pour myself out and drink you all in. Because sharing life’s brutiful is what connects us and makes us less afraid. Life can’t be stuffed down with food or booze or exercise or work or cutting or shopping for long. Hiding from life causes its own unique pain, and it’s lonely pain. We have to Live – we have to show up for ourselves and each other – even when it hurts. It’s the only way through.”

I love every word of that and it resonates with me on a very deep level.  The one part that I could not get out of my head were I make big mistakes and I say I’m sorry and then quickly forgive myself.

I make a lot of mistakes in my life.  We all do.  I hurt people, I say mean things, I am insensitive.  I am human.  Naturally, I make the most mistakes with the people closest to me – my husband, my family and my close friends.  I make these mistakes and I expect people to forgive me for them.  Mostly, they do.  Yet, I rarely forgive myself.  I wish I could pick myself up, forgive myself and move on.  Regrettably, that is usually not the case for me.

I have spent a lot of time in recent years focusing on guilt and the force it plays in my life.  I often feel guilty.  Mostly about things I probably should not feel guilty about.  I remember being told that I should take all my feelings of guilt and lock them away in a closet inside of me and throw away the key.  There is no room for guilt in our lives. Remorse and growth is powerful; guilt is crippling.  Guilt is actually what often causes us to do really bad things – to ourselves and others.  It is an emotion that we have little control over yet it sometimes completely controls our life.  In my journey of trying to release myself from absorbing all of the pain those around me have suffered (and taking the responsibility for it), guilt has become a big topic of conversation.

One of the primary definitions of guilt is “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.”  Ironically, so many of us experience guilt that is completely unrelated to any moral or ethical offense or crime.  Our guilt is lingering residue from experiences that lay either unresolved or we have not granted ourselves forgiveness for.  As much as we are willing to forgive others for any wrongdoings, we seldom offer ourselves the same courtesy.

I will admit that forgiveness is not something at which I am extremely adept.  While I definitely hold grudges against people who have hurt me, I am usually very quick to forego my grudge and forgive them – sometimes at the cost of squashing my own feelings.  I do not like to be angry and do not like to make other people feel bad.  In my family, we never said “I’m sorry” and I learned later in life the power of those words when they are connected with genuine commitment to the apology.  Often, my husband and I fight and forget to apologize for the hurtful things we say to one another (well, mostly I forget) and expect that, because we are married and love each other, that we will just move forward.  I was recently talking to a friend about this who told me that she refrains, as often as possible, from making any biting comments that she cannot take back because no apology can pull the words back in.  I’d like to think I could subscribe to such disciplined behavior but I know myself better.  I know I have a temper and I know that, like any animal, I immediately fight back when I feel vulnerable or under fire.  It is what I do afterwards that matters.  I can always apologize to my husband and sincerely ask for forgiveness but will I ever truly forgive myself for the hurt that I cause?

I try to bear a sense of responsibility for my actions and work very hard to not cause pain or suffering to others AND I know that, once again, I am human.  Also, I know that when I let go of my bad feelings towards myself or others, I feel freed.  It is a feeling like no other.  It is weight lifted from my body.  It is a liberation of my heart.  It is a spiritual rebirth.  Hanging on to anger towards anyone, especially myself, hurts even more than the original sin that caused me to feel angry in the first place.  And, while I continue to mandate no resolutions, I do pay attention to the universe which is telling me right now that I need to focus on forgiveness towards others but mostly of myself.  We cannot control how others treat us or feel about us but we have absolute oversight of how we treat ourselves and the more we are able to free ourselves of pain and guilt, the easier and happier our lives will be – and the easier it will be to deal with pain as it arises.

So, I thank my friend (and all the friends) who posted the link to this blog because it gave me a message that I so readily needed.  Now let’s see what I can do with it.