As I sat on the floor packing up the contents of my mother’s bedroom, I glanced up to some pictures she’d hung on the wall. A small grouping of three beautiful photographs of nature were hung in simple black frames each with a quote which had clearly spoken to her heart. One said, “There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.” Funny. This felt like one of the few times in my life when I was in both storm and calm.
As many of you already know, my life was hit with a hurricane of highs and lows over the past six weeks. The high of my wedding on May 24th was followed by the low of having to put my beloved 15-year-old black lab companion dog down a few days later. This was followed by the always expansive and exhilarating experience of the Speaking Consulting Network’s annual meeting where I was so honored to receive the Linda Miles Spirit Award. Minutes before I walked onto the stage, a message came through that my sister had just passed away. Tom and I were immediately on a plane to my mother’s in east Texas where we helped her with the loss as well as with the planning for a memorial service a few weeks later. My mother insisted Tom and I still enjoy our prepaid honeymoon trip to Playa Del Carmen so we left from Texas three days later for that trip.
But we were just resting in the eye of the hurricane. Only home a few days and frantically preparing to return to Texas for my sister’s service, I received the shocking call that my mother, too, had just died suddenly of a massive heart attack. Stunned and operating now in a complete fog, Tom and I traveled back to Texas and now found ourselves planning a memorial service for both of them. We spent the next 10 days meeting with lawyers, reconciling accounts, and packing up the lives of my sister and mother. As I write this, I’m traveling back home to California with Tom in a U-Haul truck filled with their possessions that held some meaning for me along with my mother’s old dog, Sally.
As I sat there on the floor of that bedroom, I did feel as if I had just weathered a category-five hurricane that had swept through my life without warning, leaving a good dose of destruction in its wake. And yet, at that same moment I also felt a strong sense of calm that always seems to descend after any storm… A knowing that the worst was probably over and that while it would take some time before all the pieces were put back together, it would likely also be a while before another storm of such magnitude would hit my life. And also knowing that in the end, I am strong and resilient and all would be well.
So what have I learned in the storm? In the calm?
In the storm, I learned at a cellular level what I had given considerable lip service to in the past: Life is unpredictable and fragile, but I am not. I learned that it is very wise to practice the art of forgiveness and unconditional love as well as making double sure that those you admire, care for, and love hear it, experience it, and know it without a shadow of a doubt. Letting go of someone you love is hard, but it is made a whole lot easier when you can do so without regrets. I learned that I could cry and laugh at the same time and that letting my emotions flow without worrying about how it appeared to others was cathartic and healing. I learned that the process and emotions of grief are like waves of the ocean. They swell up within you and even though it can feel like you may drown from the weight of them, if you let them simply wash over you, they subside and you can breathe again, and you grow stronger and softer each time. I learned that even if I’d known this pain in advance, I wouldn’t have missed the dance.
In the calm, I learned that no life is perfect nor are all dreams completely realized. And that it doesn’t matter. I learned that you don’t miss things or possessions when someone you love makes their transition in life, but you do miss the sound of their voice and then… in the quiet calm, you realize that you can actually still hear that sound clearly in the memory of your heart.
As I sat and packed boxes – deciding what would go to goodwill, the trash bin, or home with me- I learned in those calm moments that what my children, grandchildren and friends would remember when I’m gone would not be the things I’d bought them but rather the gifts of time (both quantity and quality) I’d given them and the words of love I’d spoken. I learned that true love transcends time, space, and reality as we know it. I learned that I am one lucky girl to have had such an honest example of being perfectly imperfect in life and to have known the love of my mother.
Some things we learn in the storm and some things in the calm. And we must experience both of those to learn them at all.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your patience in reading the old Monday Morning Stretches we’ve recycled while I’ve been away, for unanswered emails and voice mails, unfulfilled website orders and course registrations and for all your condolences, prayers, and well wishes. I feel incredibly blessed to operate in such a community of caring folks.
Please know that I am back and anxious to embrace my work and my whole life again with renewed vigor. I’m anticipating smooth sailing into the second half of 2015 which is bound to go down in the record books as one heck of a year of personal growth for me!