Looking Back, Planning Ahead, and Living Today #Confessions #GriefEpisodes #ChangeIsConstant

This morning my Facebook memories reminded me that seven years ago today was my bridal shower. Seven years ago I was preparing for my wedding day. Last weekend was spent doing the same thing with my sister. In just two months, she’ll be getting hitched to a very special man. I’ve been calling him Bro for a while now but soon it will be official! 😀

As I looked through the pictures of my bridal shower, a few things stuck out to me. First, the pure joy on my face and on the faces of the ones who were there with me. Those pictures captured a Michelle fully living in the moment, completely filled with joy. Secondly, it made me look at myself today. So very much has changed in those seven years. I’ve gone from single to engaged to married to widow. I’ve experienced great joys and deep sorrows. I’ve changed so much, matured even more, and have learned to love myself for all of it.

I’d be lying if I told you this has been easy. It hasn’t. It’s been a difficult walk at times but it has been the right path for me. I sit here trying to think back to what I was thinking seven years ago. How I felt. Who I was. But I can’t. I don’t remember her very well and I believe that is on purpose. It keeps me from judging my past actions and self too harshly.

All of the wedding preparations for my sister have been a great blessing. I’m so happy to see her and her fiancé embark on this journey of marriage together. In all of the preparations and festivities, cold hands of grief have coming clawing at my heart. If you remember or if you’ve read How I Learned to Shine Again, you will note that I was blessed to be a part of my best friend’s wedding in the months leading up to Chris’s death and just a few short weeks after his passing, I stood beside her at the altar at her wedding ceremony. God gave me such grace and strength on that day, I’m so very thankful for that. It is the only way I was able to set aside the pain over the sudden end of my marriage while celebrating the beginning of hers.

It’s irritating at times how grief can snake in like this. In the midst of happy planning for my sister, the weight of sadness pulled me down. All of those lies that grief whispered in my ear before returned. It tried to push on me old feelings, old lies about who I am and how my heart will always be marred by the scars of this loss.

You’ll always be damaged. No one will ever want you. You’ll always be alone. You’ll never have your family. You don’t belong.

Those nasty words echoed through my spirit. Then in typical grief fashion they were followed by feelings of guilt.

Why can’t you be happy? You’re such a horrible sister that you can’t get past this. You could be doing so much more for her right now. You’re the worst sister ever.

Thankfully after being jarred from the unexpected return of all of these feelings, I grabbed my coping tools and climbed out of the hole. First, I prayed and prayed and prayed and then prayed some more. Praying helps me untangle my emotions. In asking God what is going on with me, I find myself being guided to the truth. Secondly, I use all of the tools I learned in counseling. I allow myself to feel sad, recognize the cause of my sadness, and work through the unbalanced thinking that the grief episode has thrown me into.

I confess it can be incredibly difficult to get past the feeling that my life will never change. I look around and everything seems to be more of the same. Still single. Still the same routines. It really isn’t but that’s how it FEELS. This is when I rely heavily on my secret circle of friends to help me reset my thinking. Then I take a moment to recognize one of the greatest constants in our lives is change. Our lives are always changing. Sometimes too slowly, sometimes too quickly, but they change regardless.

Reflection on our past is important. It provides us some evidence of how we have changed. Just like I can’t remember the Michelle at her wedding shower (her feelings, her fears, her plans) in seven more years I won’t remember the Michelle I am today. I will (with God’s grace) look back on the Michelle of this day and say you had no idea the trials and triumphs ahead and how they’d shape you and yet here you are doing things you couldn’t imagine, living a life better than you’d planned, and thriving in the storms of life.

One thing I do know about Michelle of yesterday, she had no idea how many people would watch, learn, and find comfort from her struggles. She thought she was just a part of the crowd. She had no idea how special she was. She believed she was “just Michelle.” But she was really wrong about that or rather I was incredibly wrong about that. (Too much third person talk happening in this post. LOL!)

What is true for me is true for you too. You and I, we are so much more than just “insert name.” We are each made with a unique set of gifts and a significant purpose. We are here in this moment, living and breathing with a purpose only we can fulfill. You are so very important to this world, even if you don’t feel like it. Feelings are fleeting and to quote my late husband, “feelings are stupid” cause sometimes they make us believe far-fetched lies.

Live today. Take your breath with purpose knowing you are worth far more than you could ever imagine. Yesterday has passed. Tomorrow is coming. Today is now. Be present in the present. It is a gift beyond measure.

This is just a little confession that grief still gets me down at times. No matter how much I’d rather not be, I am human. I fall. And sometimes I’m wrong. The worst thing we could ever do is hide away our struggles, because there is strength and healing to be found in our stories—for ourselves and for others.

Love, Hugs, & Sunshine,

Michelle

 

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Official Title Doesn’t Equal Importance #QuoteExplained #Relationships #YourRole

Some of the most important people in our lives will never have an official title.

These words spilled out of my mouth without thought the other day, during a conversation with friends. Whenever that happens to me, I know it’s one of those God moments. That phrase is more profound than I could ever come up with on my own.

It fit the situation we were discussing perfectly and then I realized it fit into so many other places as well. I can think in my own life of people who have been great mentors, mother figures, father figures, motivators, and spiritual guides who don’t have an official title. I could say they are friends but friends sounds too generic. The word friend is often loosely thrown around and doesn’t necessary distinguish the depth of closeness and the bond we hold with a particular person.

Looking at that quote in reverse, sometimes the people in our lives with official titles of mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, cousin, and so on don’t hold the relationship bonds we expect of them. I’m not bashing anyone here but this is a reality almost all of us have experienced to some degree. Official family titles matter to us. We’ve been raised (even in this messy confused world) to expect the people with those official relationship titles to have a certain depth of closeness and loyalty to us. I could write forever and ever about disappointing relationships with people who hold official titles, from my own experiences and the experiences of others. But that’s not the rabbit trail I’m hopping down today.

Instead take a moment and think about the people in your life who matter deeply who don’t have an official title. Individuals who have deeply inspired and motivated you, pulled you through difficult times, and guided you down the straight and narrow path of “doing the right things.”

I’ve had female figures in my life (outside of my own amazing mother and other women in my family) who have helped direct my steps towards paths of righteousness, justice, and truth. Some were co-workers, some classmates, some counselors, others teachers, and some were complete strangers. Their influences have made me who I am today. In each of their own unique ways and styles, these women have shown me different perspectives, skills, and ways to be a good and loving person. We need those kind of unofficial people in our lives, especially outside of our family to help guide us. The difficulties of life are one of the few guarantees we get on this earth and because of that we need all the tools we can get on how to handle those moments without tarnishing our souls. Grace and strength are both gifts from God and learned behaviors. Other human beings to teach us how to use the gifts God gives us.

I’ve had some very significant male figures in my life as well. They’ve taught me so much more than I can even begin to put into words. They’ve helped break down the lies the world has thrown at me about who a man really is emotionally, spiritually, and physically. One of the greatest gifts I’ve received in my adult life is a greater understanding and compassion for the obstacles men face in their personal lives, work lives, and spiritual lives. Men have just as many unrealistic expectations put on them as women do, but you don’t “hear” that as often. The real men deal with their injustices in silence, behind the scenes as many real women do. The truth doesn’t shout; the truth just is.

In taking a quick glance at these figures in my life, it makes me realize that some of these people could never fully know the depth of importance they’ve had in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I do my best to let these people know how much they matter to me but sometimes I don’t even know what to say to them other than a “thank you” or a “you have no idea how much you’ve helped me.” Those phrases just aren’t enough but it’s the best I can come up with.

Now flip the coin with me. Think about the people in your life, the people you come into contact with, the ones you talk with, the ones you wave to, the ones you smile at. We come into contact with so many people. We have short amount of time with some and lengthy amounts of time with others. I bet there are people in your life, young, old, and in between that you hold no official title with other than “the person who always holds the door for me” or the broadest title of all “friend.” You may be a key influential person in their lives. Process that for a second. Does that make you think a little deeper about how you treat others? (I’m hoping it does.)

We are all connected. The way we act, the way we treat others creates ripples of energy. Are we pelting out stones of negative energy or tossing confetti of positive energy? Are we weighing people down or lifting them up? Whether you want to be or not you are a walking testimony for your gender, for your religion, for your hometown, for your employer, for your family, for an endless amount of things. We are all examples of something. The question is are you going to be an example of goodness, indifference, or hurtfulness?

The world needs more love so why not strive for that? You can be an example of love even when you’re sad, even when you’re hurting. You don’t have to “feel good” in order to show love to others. Love is a choice. Love is an action.

Remember you have no idea what kind of impact you are having on someone’s life. You could be the reason a young person stays out of trouble. You could be the reason a peer sees the truth in a world of confusion and keeps moving through their tough times. You could be the reason an older person doesn’t lose faith in the triumph of goodness after all the difficulties they’ve experienced.

You could be the ripple that starts a tidal wave of goodness and healthy changes in our world, merely with a smile and kind word.

You are the reason love exists in this world, because it exists in you and through you.

You are someone’s most important person without an official title.

Love, Hugs, & Sunshine,
Michelle

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