Sunday, March 23, 2014

Letting the Unpretty Parts Be Seen

I have parts of me that I don't want to be seen. I have parts of me that I don't you to see. I want to be seen as intelligent and funny and kind, clever and generous and friendly. And I hope those things are true. But, what is also true is that I'm impatient and sarcastic and sometimes unkind. I'm selfish and high-maintenance and unreasonable and snippy.

I don't want you to see those things. I don't like that you know about them, that you can see them. So, I hide them. But, every once in a while, in a flash of trust laced with fear, I show someone deliberately. I confess my deepest secrets that reveal the darkest parts of me, sure that love is going to be ripped away -- and the funniest thing happens.


I didn't surprise them. They don't rip their love away -- because they already knew.

When I was seven or eight years old, I shared a bedroom and a set of bunkbeds with my younger four-year-old sister, Carey. One night, she begged to switch places so she could sleep on the top bunk herself. So, we did - but then she got scared. (Truly, this is the worst story... I am totally ashamed of what is about to transpire. Worst. Sister. Ever.)

"Joey... will you hold my hand?" she asked in her sweet little girl voice.

"Sure," I said, as I reached my hand up toward the top bunk while she let hers dangle over the edge.  JUST as her fingertips were about to reach mine, I was possessed by Evil Older Sister mode. I pulled my hand down a few inches, and said "Oh... I can't reach!"

She dangled her arm a little further down... and again, I pulled my hand down, claiming I still couldn't reach.  So, she... leaned out...  and...  fell. out. of. the. bed.

And then turned green. I was petrified. My mom rushed in... Carey ended up with a broken wrist, but I NEVER TOLD A SOUL that it was my fault.

Enter years of kid guilt. I knew it was my fault.

Finally, when I was 16 years old, after dying with guilt for eight years, I took a deep breath and confessed to my mom that the whole thing happened because I was being a huge brat to Carey.

"Oh," my mom said, off-hand. "I already knew that."

I was incredulous. "You knew??"

"Well, of course I knew.  I'm a mother... we know everything."

"But!  But!" I sputtered. "Why didn't you SAY anything?"

"Well, I didn't want to make you feel bad."  Which was sort of funny -- seeing as I'd been feeling AWFUL for eight years because I thought I had gotten away with something.

But, I think that sharing the worst parts of ourselves with people who love us is a lot like that.  We think we're doing a good job of hiding the parts of us that we're ashamed of...  and when we finally get the courage to share those parts of us with the people we love, it turns out that they knew those things all along...

And they love us anyway.  And maybe we needn't have been so frightened.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

When You Don't Know What to Say

What do you say when you don't know what to say?  When the heartache of someone you love is so deep and so hurtful... and you know that anything you said, any words you found...  they wouldn't be enough. They wouldn't be enough to change what hurts, or to cut through their pain to salve, or to even communicate how much your heart hurts for the pain theirs is feeling.

What do you say when there is literally nothing to say, nothing that could possibly be said?

Maybe the best you can do, though it never feels like it's enough, is simply to be there. Show up. Just show up. Let them know that you're there and that you're a safety net when holding on to their pain becomes too painful.

That hard roads don't have to be walked alone.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Grief Observed

It’s hard to know what to do when someone we love leaves us so unexpectedly. So early…. Certainly before we’re ready to let them go. It’s like a them-sized hole has been ripped into our hearts with no warning, no chance to prepare. Like someone walked by you and kicked you in the stomach for no reason at all and there’s just no catching your breath.

You couldn’t conceive of the idea that they wouldn’t be a part of your life any time soon… and you just… it just wasn’t something you entertained. Why would you?

And yet you’re here anyway with a heart ripped open, a hole you can’t fill, and a tremendous sense of loss that you can’t hope to fix. People tell you that they’re sorry, offer their condolences and their offers of help… which you appreciate. You do. But what could you ask them? What could they possibly do? This isn’t a scrape fixed with Band-aids or Mom’s kisses. There is no balm for this.

It hurts. It just hurts. And the memories come, tumbling over one another in your head, sometimes so fast you can’t seize on any single one. Until one finally comes into enough focus that it plays like a movie in your head, and you laugh at the memory because it was a good day. And because it was a good friendship. And because you shared so much… and yes, the tears mix with the laughter until you’re not really sure whether you’re laughing or crying.

But, you know that you were lucky and you were blessed to have had a friendship to mourn this much. And as much as it hurts… and oh it does… but these memories, you get to keep. This friendship you get to treasure.

Friday, March 14, 2014

NNGB, George Donaldson

People come into your life in strange and not-so-strange ways. Sometimes you meet at a coffeeshop over lattes or across the pumps at the gas station. I met my husband in math class in the 6th grade. Sometimes you find each other through the internet over shared interests. And sometimes you see people singing on TV one day by mere chance, decide you need to know more about them, and then find yourself on paths to unlikely friendships.

That's how I came to know the men who make up Celtic Thunder - and over the ensuing years, they have become my friends. Sometimes frustrating, to be sure -- but always very loved.

Sometimes you forget that the people in your life can change.

It was with shock, great sorrow, and many tears that I heard the devastating news that our beloved George Donaldson passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday night.  I am heartbroken.

I first came to know George as a performer -- initially through his work with Celtic Thunder and later as a solo performer with his own shows. There are a lot of hoops to jump through to snag front row seats to a Celtic Thunder show.  But the reason I have willingly jumped through them is George. Quick to smile and engage with his audience, George has always been a joy to see perform. Along with a warm inviting voice that is a pleasure to listen to and a smile that invites you in, he's made many a night a complete joy for me. His solo shows were doubly wonderful, and I can only thank Divine Providence that I decided to take in as many of his shows on the past fall's CT Cruise as I did.

But where George has meant more to me is off-stage. Some of my most grateful moments are ones in which George saw me and extended support. I have never seen George when he wasn't ready with a giant smile and his arms open wide for one of his beloved big bear hugs that crush the air right out of you.

This isn't doing him justice at all.

George is wonderful. He could always make me laugh -- quick with a joke and a hug. The thought of never seeing his wink or the twinkle in his eyes again fills me with such sadness. I loved him. I'm sorry...  I can't find words to describe what he meant to me.

To George -- Thank you for so much. You have always been so kind to me, in ways that no one else was, and I wish I would properly convey how much you have always meant to me. You're half of why I show up. Thank you for every time you have made me laugh. Thank you for every time you have made me cry. That one night...  It meant a lot to me. Thank you for your trust and your honesty and your openness. You made those months easier. I will miss you so much, from the very depth of my heart.

To the Celtic Thunder family -- I am so sorry. You have my heart.  Always.

To my fellow Celtic Thunder fans -- It is a strange thing to mourn for someone you've met only a few times - or even not at all. Isn't it? But, what you feel right now is real, too. And it is okay that we feel it.

Finally, to Carrie and Sarah -- If there was ever a common thread to weave through George's words over the past years, it would be his absolute and total love for you both. You were so clearly the joys of his life and we all felt that. It was something that made me respect him so much. I can only imagine what you are going through right now. Sarah is the same age as my youngest daughter and my heart truly breaks. My love and deepest prayers are with you both.

Sometimes people come into your life in the most unorthodox of ways. But, perhaps what really matters is that they were there and that you shared something worth remembering and worth grieving for.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Let Go of the Past

I was once part of a community that was riddled with jealousy and envy. Backstabbing, cruelty, and jockeying-for-position was the status quo. That's a terrible place to spend your time and to let your heart exist. It's hurtful. It's damaging.

In the middle of it, the person that the jealousy often revolved around got sick.  Really sick.  Scary sick. And yet, the jealousies and the in-fighting continued over who was most important.  It made me really angry. This person that we claimed to care about was in a hospital bed, unconscious.  And the only thing that mattered still was who was #1?  No...

Purely out of frustration, I remember tweeting, "If there was ever a time to set our petty jealousies aside, this is it."  I meant that. Almost losing someone has a way of changing how you think and how you act and how you feel. And when the person got better, it didn't change my feelings.

I was done with letting those evil emotions rule me. I was done letting them have any sort of control of me, and I turned aside from them.  Because they just didn't matter.

There is a saying that goes, "Let go of the past and it will let go of you."  Easy to say, hard to do.  But... it's also true. I find that I can look back on the people who I'd once been so hurt by, and feel honest sorrow and pity that they are still there. I can offer sincere forgiveness. It doesn't bother me if they think ill of me anymore.

That past doesn't hold me any longer because I made the choice to turn from it.  And so, if there is a past that is holding onto you, maybe it's because you are holding onto it. Maybe it's time to stop.
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