A Handful of Things

A handful of things happened this week.

What an inane statement.

Things happen every week obviously, but somehow, this week felt personal. Kate Spade committed suicide, I had two heart-wrenching appointments that illuminated just how far my life has moved from the happy, oblivious place it once was. Then on the same day Doug Ford was elected premiere of Ontario, Anthony Bourdain was found dead, also by suicide.

This still isn’t rock-bottom yet, but we’re getting closer.

I remember a time (circa Robin Williams) when I would hear a story of suicide, and my response would be a trite ‘I just don’t understand how someone could do that.’ Now, I realize that the people who can’t understand suicide are the lucky ones. Don’t misinterpret me. I’m not suicidal. I have, however, had a glimpse at the depth of suffering and despair that moves people to turn it all off once and for all. And for those of us who have caught this glimpse, with each story of suicide comes a resonance that’s frightening to admit. The difference with me is that I still cling to the hope that this darkness is not a permanent state.

But imagine if it was?

Imagine if every morning, I had to compel myself to get out of bed and face the day. If every day I was met with moments so fragile I had to close my eyes and force myself to draw breath. If I continued to sob, banging the steering wheel in frustration because I’ve been taken down by another flash of memory, yearning, aching for something that cannot be, every single day with no end in sight. If I continued to wake each night, gasping for breath, only to realize that I can’t wake up from this nightmare? If something tipped the chemical balance and I just couldn’t move away from the pain?

I have so many moments of respite. Moments where I almost feel entirely normal. Sometimes better than normal, thanks to an almost steady stream of girlfriends, loving family and pleasant distractions. I get gifts in the mail. Text exchanges from handsome acquaintances that offer hope, possibility and flash me forward to a happy, vibrant future me. What if none of those moments of light were landing? If the pain blocked the path of all of the love? Or what if I just couldn’t ask for help, an ear, a drink on a patio? How would I live with this sorrow?

I can’t shake my head in bewilderment anymore. This tiny trip into those dark corners is enough to help me understand, and I am filled with compassion. If you are reading this, and you feel like you just can’t hurt anymore, please know that I care about you. You can message me, and we’ll chat. I will listen to you. You may not see it or feel it, but you are of value and there are people who love you and need you. They are not better off without you, this is your darkness telling you lies. You don’t have to be strong, but I would ask you to hold on because nothing is permanent, and sometimes that’s a good thing. We are all filled with pain and promise and each of us has at least one deep wound that we may never fully heal. You aren’t alone.

For all of you who are saving me;
the new friends unwavering in their love,
the old friends I fall apart with
and know exactly how to piece me back together,
the handsome ones who remind me my heart can be mended,
my mom and dad who can’t stop worrying,
my brother who just wants to see me smile again,
my children who have anchored me,
the almost-stranger who held me tight and told me that she sees me,
to any single one of you who reads these words,
these words that keep propelling me forward
you are the light that I reach for
every single day.

Autumn and Grief

Today’s post is a guest contribution by one of our Elite Club members, Psychotherapist Allison Villa. Like many of you, the Fall is a time of great loss and sorrow in my family. I asked Allison to create a piece about Autumn and grief, and she wrote this beautiful essay that I’m honored to share. I hope it brings you some comfort if you too find this time of year particularly poignant.

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Time Away

cheerfulsnow

November is over. I’m very happy about that because it’s my least favourite month, and this year November was particularly dark. In fact, autumn in general has been coloured with so much loss and sorrow this year that I’m beginning to wonder if there is something about the shifting seasons that compels death not only in nature, but also in us inhabitants of mother earth.

You’ll have noticed that it’s been ages since I’ve written. I apologize if the posts you may have looked forward to haven’t been there, but I needed to withdraw and turn myself inside out a little bit. Since late August I’ve witnessed a remarkable amount of sorrow, loss, and grief and rather than sit before a computer screen, I’ve been compelled to spend more time with my children and my partners. I’ve just started to really miss writing here, and so my heart seems to be telling me that it’s time to return to writing.

Our dear friends lost their baby at seven months pregnant. I suppose I was foolish to think that such a shocking, staggering loss could never touch my inner circle. We have no such control over these things, do we? My heart was utterly broken by this, and these brave parents have been nothing but inspiring in the way they are moving through this life-changing event.

Those of you with pets will know that saying goodbye to a companion animal can be just as difficult as losing a human who you love and care for. My dear friends lost their sweet and noble dog, who had been their small creature to care for and nurture for years and years – I feel like this wonderful dog has been in their family all the time I’ve known them. They gave her such a wonderful life, and they adored her so completely.

My dear aunt Carmen, my fairy godmother, the cool, hip aunt that I idolized in my youth reached the end of her journey through cancer. She is my third aunt to die from this stupid disease and my mother’s fourth sibling to die from cancer. She too was incredibly brave, and positive, and like the dear friends mentioned above she was somehow able to find some light in such a dark turn of fate. My daughters and my Sarah and I sang at her exquisite memorial, at her request, and my heart found so much solace in the beauty of harmonizing with my beloved girls, and witnessing how their cherubic voices touched so many strangers. To live my life in the hopes of being remembered so passionately and beautifully by my friends and colleagues is now my goal.

Fate grips us and tears things apart just as much as it fills us and gives us such abundance. If these difficult lessons in feeling real gratitude and savouring each blessed moment weren’t enough, the universe sent some cruel irony my way in the form of the news of a somewhat distant colleague from the performing world. She chose to end her own life quite suddenly only a week ago.

The idea of suicide was one that filled me with scorn and contempt not long ago. It was hard to find compassion after watching so many people suffer because lives were ended/ing too soon. My older, more humble self shudders to imagine a day-to-day reality so painful that one must snuff out their own light to escape the bleakness of their lives.

It’s so fragile. We are so fragile.

All I can think to do in this landscape of so much love and so much light and so much loss is to gingerly make my way through each day. My sage therapist urges me to create the memories I want to have when I look back on my life, and I’m trying so hard to do this every day.

Please dear friends, take a moment, right now and breathe. Feel what it is to have the chance to draw breath, to move through space, to think and feel and hunger and love. Think of the challenges and hardships you face, and think of how many blessings you have to balance that.

This year, consider what you are giving rather than getting. We’re changing things up this year and trying to help the children value time and experience more than toys. Our plan is to spend Christmas on a beach somewhere, healing our hearts and indulging in the company of our little darlings. I hope you too can find meaningful ways to spend the season….