Tag Archives: loss

a now spoken rule of 4

this is the story of 4 and all its multiples

When we look at the most formative and transformative periods in our life and more specifically our young adult lives, I have found that most things follow a connective rule of 4’s. And although experience is measured with a minimum of 2 and bad/good things occur in patterns containing 3, and 5 is the best number of years to earn you above an entry-level position. 4, like most even numbers seems to be the rule when it comes to things like balance, and education, and frankly, all the walls of all the boxes we allow ourselves to be put in.

And since patterns are mostly in our heads – and since this one is most definitely mine – let me open the door and invite you in for a bit…

My unspoken rule of 4

4, the number of years it takes to survive high school (barely).

4, the number of years in college (traditionally).

4, the number of wheels on your first car (hopefully).

4 the number of people in what was once considered an atomic family. 2 parents, 2 kids, and the promise of a picket fence. But for all the things that require 4 – why then is it that we more often think of 3 as the magic number? Which brings us to 3 –

3, the number of “adult” jobs I had after college before I found lucky number 4.

3, the number of medications I tried just to manage the depression that those years and those jobs cost me,

3 the number of members in my family since April of 2010 (excluding of course those with 4 legs).

and 3 the number of 4 year periods since my family became a party of 3.

Which brings us to 12. The number of days until the same number in years since my father lost his fight with cancer. (and no I didn’t think of that when I started writing this today.)

Loss is (you guessed it) a 4 letter word

Most often, when we talk about loss, it’s hard to keep our own selves out of it. “I – lost my dad,” “I – lost someone I loved” “I,” “I,” “I,”and after a while all the I’s make it less about the life they lived and more about the life that them being gone “took” from you. So it comes with a sense of entitlement more than what it actually is – grief and loss and a massive change in perception of what life and family should look like.

See perspective is a funny thing because if you take “I” out and replace it with someone else’s pronouns the narrative shifts and you get “He never got to walk me down the isle” “He wasn’t at my graduation” “He didn’t teach me how to drive” but the problem with that is that it wasn’t something he could do or controll. It wasn’t something he could be there for – and while that in itself is another loss – it places blame that, in most cases, that person doesn’t deserve. It sucks, yes – but at least in my case, it’s not his fault and its not my fault and it isn’t about him and it’s not about me. IT JUST IS.

Because in the grand scheme of things – things don’t happen to us, they just happen. and it’s really easy to make it about us and put ourselves at the center of it but that doesn’t mean that’s how it works. There’s no one keeping score, there’s no tit for tat, things just happen and you can spend all the time you want hating it and blaming others but at the end of the day – some things are just out of our controll.

Professionals will say 7

If you ask a professional they will tell you that there are 7 stages of grief. (and I have definitely felt all of them) That you can feel more than one at once or intermittently feel them etc etc etc. But if you google it the first thing you’ll get is a 7 bullet list with a whole bunch of synonyms crammed in. Which is fairly accurate because grief puts you and your emotions all over the damn place BUT since neither number is a multiple of 4, the reason I bring it up is that on a certain level and as the above heading (Loss…) suggests, most days I feel like I’ve done the work to accept things – and that doesn’t mean I 100% have or haven’t but that after 12 years I can confidently say that while it doesn’t hurt less it does hurt different. (Which is sometimes a good thing)

Maybe its not a rule but a suggestion

Ok so maybe the whole “rule of 4” thing was bs. Maybe I was just feeling poetic and feeling like patterns could heal me a bit because frankly, I have been feeling it a lot lately. And maybe in 2 years I will look back on this and pull something crazier out of my hat like “remember when I said ‘rule of 4? well 14 has a 4 in it!” and maybe then we can laugh. Or maybe we can just laugh now.

You know, because it’s kind of funny, every year on here or on instagram or on something I continue to tell some version of this story. It’s always true, it’s always from the heart and its always durring this month. And I used to think that I wrote it just to help some kid going through what I did and I used to think to myself that if it helped even one person that would be enough – but as much as I do still love the idea of helping others, I will never understand their loss or their story as I do my own. So maybe I was never writing for some random kid, and as predictable as it would be to say that I was writing it for me, to make my own sense of it, I can’t say that’s entirely true either. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wasn’t writing for some kid and I wasn’t writing to this version of me. But maybe I was writing to the kid I was then – the one that needed the most healing to get to where I am today; and maybe that’s progress because now, instead of being the sad, poor little girl that lost her dad at 14 – maybe I’m just me at 26, looking back with a smile and telling her that I will always fight for her (and her ludacris rule of 4)

So in honor of her victory and mine – I give you the now spoken rule of 4

4, the number of years in high school when I thought about giving up but didn’t

4, the number of years that I had with my 3 best friends making memories and learning how to heal.

4, the number of years since I graduated undergrad with my family by my side and my dad on my shoulder.

All leading to 12 –

12 days to 12 years without him.12, years I’ve grown and stumbled and somehow figured a bunch of things out about me and the world and my family.12, the number of years until I was able to realize that I didn’t have to walk away from that part of me to be happy – I just had to set a better pace to walk with it.

No Buts

I know it’s ok, but…

I know it’s ok, but I’m not where I thought I’d be by now.

Its psychological you know

When it comes to expectations, we approach them from what we already know and what we see and experience around us. So, we can’t actually picture what our life will look like – yet society and pinterest tricks us into planning it all out and pretending that the best we can do is white weddings and trips to the hamptons with our two and a half beautiful babies. Big houses, and little league and – clearly I grew up very lucky because I know how much privilege comes with those dreams.

And it’s funny because these expectations, they aren’t unlike how we view happiness because subconsciously we all have a level of happiness that we can rise to, before we believe it’s “too good to be true.” So we expect what we already know to happen again, just as it has, and when it doesn’t, it jars us. We grow up expecting what we think we deserve, but at any age we are still learning what we deserve based on our own developing definition of worth so — in short, we can’t fathom what the future looks like, but we honest to goodness believe we can. And then we get disappointed when it doesn’t happen.

Back then I had it all figured out

Or at least… I thought I had it all figured out. Typical youth dilemma, I know.

Anyway…

Lately I’ve been excessively retrospective, telling my friends that “I had a better idea of what 26 would look like when I was 16, than I do now.” Which is somewhat a lie, because back then I didn’t think I’d make it this far but also true in that – when I skipped to this part of my story, being an adult and having freedom etc. it did look a lot less complicated. But back then, so did life.

A decade ago, in 2012, my future looked a lot less complicated and a lot more straight-forward. And despite what you may assume, it wasn’t because I was young. It’s because the world we know now, was just getting started.

[Insert HUH?]

Let me explain…

In 2012, I was 16 years old, just over 3x the age of the first iPhone, which was made in 2007. And this was also the year, most of us thought the world was ending, not because we had real proof, but because at least 4 movies came out saying that it was going to based on a calendar that was thousands of years old. In 2012, the music industry was much harder to get into. Like a lot harder, and it wasn’t because the talent wasn’t there but because the technology needed to make an EP was much less accessible than it is now. In 2012, I was still watching the Disney channel… and all the shows were still irrefutably iconic and High School Musical wasn’t a remake it was still a story being told for the first time. In 2012 I was binging the vampire diaries, and writing the first draft of my novel. I was grieving, and living with it, and praying to a godless sky that I could find answers that I knew wouldn’t come. In 2012 I had no possible idea of what my 20’s would look like beyond fiction and fantasy – but in that way, I suppose a part of me then, knew more than I do now. Because that’s exactly what the concept of our twenties is before we actually get there… it’s fiction, and fantasy, and excessively hormonal teen dramas with all the sex and none of the quarter life crisis that we all inevitably go through.

So yeah, a decade ago I had a more clear picture of what 26 would look like, but 5 days out from my 26th birthday – I have no recollection of what I could have been thinking at 16.

I know it’s ok… but – no buts

I know it’s ok, but yeah, I’m definitely NOT where I thought I’d be by now… and that’s hands down the best gift I could have given myself this year because when I say “I’m not where I thought I’d be” it’s not a feeling of inadequacy, and, surprisingly, it’s not even a feeling that I’ve fallen short of my own expectations, because frankly those would have been with me, buried 6 ft in the ground or scattered across the lake that my dad and his siblings grew up on. Truth is, if I had ended up where I honestly thought I’d be now, at 16… well let’s just say I’m really glad I didn’t. And this life, it’s not a fantasy, and it’s not a show on HBO and I don’t have a super sexy vampire boyfriend [or girlfriend] – but I am figuring it all out, day by day, and on my own time.

So yeah… when I say, “I know it’s ok… that I’m not where I thought I’d be,” I mean it. Not because I never wanted to be somewhere else, not because I never wanted someone else’s life, not because I wish I had become the princess of Genovia living in a castle with Sandra O answering the queens calls [although, that would be pretty damn cool]. I say, “it’s ok” because I’m here. Because I made it. Because I kept picking points on the path to run to and telling myself, “Rachel, if you make it there, you can stop. If you make it there, it’s not giving up… but also, keep going.” And honestly, the more I think about it, I love that I am not where I thought I’d be in my imagination ten years ago, because when things get hard now, and when someone tells me it’ll be ok… I believe them. And the rest? Well, that’s all just part of the ride.

Life after life

Graduating college comes with a personal loss. While there is an excitement to graduating, many of us mourn the transition into the new life we are meant to live.

So how do we survive life after life? How do we transition from the life we know into the life we were meant to live.

Until recently I didn’t understand why people live at home after they graduate. Other than the practicality and genius of saving money rather than jumping into the real world – living at home seems to present a kind of common comfort as we (as adults) transition into our new lives.

But while many move home, I cannot speak to that experience. For me, when I graduated, my survival was dependent on diving into a new reality… and by that I mean that I coped by maintaining a sense of comfort and similarity. For me I didn’t go “home” but I clung to the new home that I had made for myself.

After graduating undergrad chose to go back to school. This was my survival technique. I picked up grad classes at the place I had gone to undergrad, stayed on the Track team for one more year and clung to every ounce of sameness that I could.

Let me set the record straight – surviving life (post grad) isn’t easy, but if it was it wouldn’t be worth it.

After graduating grad school last May I crashed a little but luckily I found new life in Maine “in the pines” where I was able to find myself again and build enough confidence to get a new job and move back to my home in Massachusetts.

Now I have a great job, some solid friends and a new outlook on adulting.

For me, surviving post grad has been a whirlwind, and for you it will be different. It won’t be easy, it will be expensive, and at times you will lose sight of who you thought you were – but that is exactly what life after life is all about.

Moral of the story – I can’t give you the perfect answer on “how to survive life” not after college, not through the winter, and not after a bad breakup. But what I can do – I can tell you that you will make it and that it will be worth it. So for now – don’t worry, enjoy the moment, and strive to be nothing less than you.

First. Forgotten. Forgiven

They say you never forget your first 

and while that may be a blanket statement, whoever “they” are… 

well, I guess they kind of know what they’re talking about.

First and Foremost (a list)

Your first pet – The one you sang to when she cried, when she was hurt or scared – she was your world, and she loved Spanish lullabies and having her die in your arms was one of the most painful feelings in the world.

Your first dance – with that weird boy from gym class or the family friend that took pity on you because your mom or his mom told them to ask you to dance.

The first person to give you flowers – my mom, I was 16, it was my birthday and no one could have orchestrated it better.

The first one you let get away – probably the best for all involved in that one.

your first kiss – mine had red hair, the whole faculty saw, and oddly enough it was and still is the best kiss I’ve ever had – or at the very least it makes top five.

Your first date – we saw iron man 3, he wore a blue v neck and we finished the night on my porch after having ice cream that he had kept in a cooler in his car (beyond romantic) and he didn’t kiss me that night but part of me wishes he did.

Your first love – I was in the first grade, his name was Logan (like Lerman or Hugh Jackman when he played Wolverine in X-Men) and he wasn’t out of my league by any means but boy did I think he was. None the less it was unrequited and vastly problematic.

Your first car – Kia Sol, Green exterior (yes really), name : Martin the Martian

Your first lover – the one you still think about but wish you didn’t.

Your first home – or apartment but either way you were paying rent for that dinky old place.

Your first job – camp. Duh.

And the list goes on and on because we measure our lives and histories in the memories of doing things for the first time. And because no one gets credit for doing something second.

but there is a pitfall to expecting every first to be great – to grabbing memories from a bag of “firsts” and comparing them to everything else

And it is the pitfall that I personally have a problem with – it’s the idea that we are or are not supposed to experience things based on the number of times it has been done. I mean think about it.

  • birthdays – the FIRST day of that new year, where you are also celebrating the FIRST day you were on earth… because comparatively, conception day is irrelevant, first heartbeat day no one has pictures from and when you finally looked like a gourd in the womb rather than an avocado – well… you get the point.
  • relationships – we remember the first because it had the most impact – but then we still carry it with us through the best relationships, unable to release that point of reference.
  • school – we celebrate first days, but what about every other day you worked and suffered and toiled through to get that first diploma? 

and look i am not saying we need to forget firsts – but we could try forgiving ourselves for all the seconds and thirds we take for granted. 

  • the second bite of cake and the fifteenth you probably shouldn’t have pushed for. 
  • the second day in a row you made it to the gym.
  • the second promotion that lead to your first fire and ultimately got you to your dream job. 
  • the second love – whether it was a person or a passion, the one you forgot after the fourth broke your heart and the fifth who proposed. 

The point of it all is that everything that comes after that first – no matter how much the first taught you – is just as important. And at the end of the day, I will always remember my firsts, my first pet, my first love, my first kiss – but I will also remember that the first wasn’t the thing that made me who I am today, but everything and every day in between was – and that my friends, has made all the difference.

To the Men Who Spoke at My Fathers Funeral

I don’t remember much about my father dying, I guess that’s because I wasn’t there – but I don’t remember much of him being sick either – some would call that a blessing. I just know I wish I was there for him when he needed me most…

Don’t get me wrong I know the bad stuff, the boxes of food to go through his feeding tube, the sounds of him keeled over the toilet in the morning, how worried my mother was – and the looks on family friends faces.

Yeah, I guess when it comes down to it I don’t remember much about my father dying, and come to think of it I don’t remember much about his funeral either – but what I do remember is one voice – the voice of my coach.

So a little background about me, I was raised Quaker and the definitions on that will most definitely appear on another post but what that means for this one is that funerals for us are not Like funerals for Christians, Catholics, Methodists or Jewish people. No, because in our service we focus on the person’s story.

Look at 14 you never think you’ll be sitting in a dress at your fathers funeral, you never imagine that your mom won’t let you wear black or that your friends will show up to support you – but as a Quaker, you could never be more grateful of all the amazing stories that are shared when a loved one dies.

The stories I heard then. At my fathers funeral were and are some that still resonate with me today. I couldn’t be more thankful for those times because no matter how painful. Those are the stories that keep the lost and allow them to remain here with us.

lose, find, navigate

Loss is a weird concept

because

you can Lose a lot of things

you can Lose a soccer game,

a chess match,

or a hot dog eating contest,

or come in last in a dance recital

 

you can Lose time, and you can Lose hope

you can Lose pets, and you can Lose people

you can Lose your car keys,

or,

Lose your way

(which is more difficult to find if,

you also happen to Lose

your gps)

clear glass with red sand grainer
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

i’ve been fortunate

to not have Lost a lot of people

but the ones I have,

Hurt.

 

you know the school saying,

quality,

over quantity

 

sometimes you may feel

like you’ve

Lost yourself

 

you may go

on a spiritual

or soulful

journey to find you

again

 

but the you

that you find

is different every time

beige analog gauge
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

i think the scariest thing,

is not spiders or monsters,

not killers or WWIII

but ghosts, of sorts.

 

the scariest thing,

i believe,

is Losing memories of those

whom we love

but can no longer

make new memories with,

because they,

also,

have been Lost.

 

when you Lose something,

important.

something,

that hurts your heart

to Lose.

 

you may try to find new ways

to look at the world

for better

or for worse

 

but the problem is,

what are you to do

when you realize

nothing can help find them.

person s hand on black board with hello text beside brown mug

when you figure out,

that just being kind,

or reaching out,

while great in the moment,

can’t find someone you’ve already Lost.

 

it can’t bring back

your Lost friend

your Lost sibling

your Lost parent

like you can find your car keys

or practice your soccer skills

 

but it can,

possibly,

prevent someone else from Losing

something they love

 

it can help

navigate

the strangeness of our hearts

white and gray textile
Photo by Tobi on Pexels.com

it can help mellow

the way we sway

through the winds

that whistle like our lost items,

our Lost

emotions.

 

Loss is a weird concept

because

sometimes I feel like I have

Lost something

that I never even had in the first place.

adult anger art black background
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

xoxo

Dear Dad

Hey,

Long time no talk. Look I would have called sooner but… yeah – work has been great. Yeah – mom calls all the time. The Boy? Davis? He’s good – he’s definitely you’re son… no doubt about it. Yeah – he’s everything to me these days. What? Haha no – no boyfriend, haven’t found a man like you yet. And don’t worry I don’t plan on settling. What? Sorry? You’re breaking up. No. Dad. No. I’m getting another call I’ll. [the line cuts out]… I’ll call you soon…

or at least that’s what I should have said… but then I woke up.

Long distance living

This morning I slept in, I showed up late to work, I let myself slip because when you make a mistake enough it loses its value – but this doesn’t. The morals I’ve learned have value but somehow – today –  I didn’t seem to care because last nights dream was one that was too good to pass up. And I know you’re close but our visits, well they are few and far between and well … look since I messed up and didn’t say what I should have let me re-start like this. Dear Dad.

Dear Dad,

Hey, you know I could have sworn I saw you last night or eh – this morning? I was dreaming but it felt so… so real? I mean it didn’t because the moment I saw you I looked up and said, you seem shorter than my dad… but you’ll do… I was settling for a vision but suddenly I didn’t mind. Dear Dad.

Don’t worry you looked good.

Your hair was darker than it has been in a while, your face looked as though it had the slightest pixilation, but you looked young and healthy and amazing and then suddenly I woke up feeling like I had just played the best game of my life because I finally found you.

Dear Dad,

Its been – five? years since you’ve shown up in a dream. And in this one I had a step dad – and mom wasn’t happy, the whole world was off and this man – this man in our house – well he clearly didn’t belong. and – I know – I’m rambling I just have a lot I should have said like – dear dad.

Dear Dad,

It’s been eight years? since I’ve seen you, but last night made it feel like yesterday – and I knew t was fake but… I didn’t care. Dear dad.

Dear Dad,

I miss you. And don’t worry, your day dream doppelganger does not compare but I won’t say it wasn’t nice to have you… or him… or umm…?

Dear Dad,

I got a job?

I’m doing well.

Your son acts just like you – it couldn’t make me more proud. and your siblings take care of me as if I were their own – and I think I’m finally getting a hold of this growing up thing. Maybe… ?

Dear Dad,

I’ve visited your ashes three times this year. It’s a new record and I will top it again in the fall.

Dear Dad,

It was nice to see you in my dreams but I forgot to say one thing…

I love you – and of all the things I wish I could have said — I just wish I had said that before I woke up.

 

 

It’s Never Just a Job

my sophomore year of college I became a ref

See mom always tells me “water seeks its own level.” meaning we search for the people we think we deserve. When I joined intramurals I wasn’t looking for more than a steady paycheck and a way to straighten my life out but – you can imagine my surprise when [after sipping the fit and rec Kool-Aid] I bought into the “we’re a family” mentality.

truth is I never thought I’d be a ref

I grew up saying “I love sports, but I can’t JUST watch – I have to play.” And until college this was true – but really I just hadn’t met the right leaders – or the right family – to get me to buy in to what it meant to be a part of a team – even if that team specialized in playing off the field and on the sidelines.

A couple names come to mind when I think of people that shaped my life. John Concannon, Matt Gordon, Jon Conley, David Chance, Lia Nawn, Justin Flory, Phil Gilbride and Rebecca Scott. And what they all have in common is that they taught me how to be a great leader.

See the people above weren’t just Intramural refs, they were the people that – come hell and high water – you knew you could depend on them. Concannon in particular stands out because he wasn’t just on the field, but he was a resident advisor who literally watched me and my friends commute to hell and back every weekend – never judging openly, but letting us grow.

today we said goodbye

This morning 8.18.18 a member of the Merrimack college community was laid to rest. But in truth he was so much more than a member of the Merrimack community. His name was Craig Maxfield, he was 23, and words cannot describe what he meant to his friends and family.

To me Craig was quiet, kind, and a great person to work with. He was someone to look up to and he was a part of my best years on the Merrimack Intramural Staff.

See I learned a lot at Merrimack over the years. I took a lot of classes, made a handful of friends, and worked a number of jobs – but what I learned is that it is never about the job.

it’s about people – and by that I mean family

I don’t know what it was – scratch that, I know WHO it was. You see the people I named above, they are what made a job feel like home – they are what got me to appreciate working more than I ever had because suddenly someone as small as me – who USED TO BE QUIET suddenly had a huge voice and the power to make people listen. And I wasn’t the only one who experienced this metamorphosis.

Truth is I wasn’t always the best worker – truth is I fell off a little when the leaders I truly believed in left, but the fact still remains that no one I know – whole heartedly, and cheesily buys into family as much as that 2015-2017 staff did. Sure we were lost, and maybe it was just the Kool-Aid, but I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.

so today we said goodbye

To a brother, a friend, a Merrimack Family member, and with hearts heavy we have watched a chapter end too soon.

But what I can promise you now – is the same I bought into then. The people I met at Merrimack are family, the people I worked with for Intramurals were family – and yeah we were dysfunctional at times, yeah I was delusional some nights but I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

You see it’s never just a job. It’s a shot in the dark – that turns into a passion – that transforms into a home and suddenly you realize that that rut you thought you were in before, was really just the breadcrumbs you needed to guide yourself to something you could truly believe in.

and then suddenly you’re home.