Monday, July 1, 2013

A Challenge

Yesterday evening, I took a walk around my neighborhood. I was hoping it would help my headache and my storm-cloud mood. Everyone was out with their dog for a walk and all the doggy antics made me smile. Just being out among the living made me smile.  

Then I passed the yard.

There was something about this back yard that made me crumple up into myself. Made my eyes brim with hot tears.

The raised beds overflowing with veggies and flowers so similar to the ones I grew lovingly from seed every year.

The hammock swinging in the breeze.

The slight mess that made it clear that the owners lived a life of fun and creativity.

In that moment, it represented what I had, what I can’t have now, what I’ve lost and what I worry I’ll never get to experience again.

And then again, in the two years since Dave died, so many beautiful things have happened (many of which I’ve created myself) that I’d never have predicted. The experience has exceeded my expectations in pain, heartache AND in small miracles. I think it might just be up to me to see the miracles for what they are and not spend so much time gawking at what could have been and what has been taken and instead spend a little more time appreciating what is.

It sounds like a load of bullshit and most days I both feel that and will say that, but even on the short walk I took, I had the chance to either breathe in the summer evening, note the show-offy dogwood blossoms and smell the roses and jasmine, feeling gratitude for them, or I could suffer and rail and inwardly pound my fists and scream at the universe.

Or I could do a little of both, which is what I ended up doing. I imagined going home and smashing every breakable item in my house until the fury and frustration at what I’ve lost burned out a little. I cried a little. I even played the tape of the day he died in my head for a few seconds, feeling my chest tighten and the sobs build steam under my sternum as I pictured the doctor telling me he was gone.

But then, I turned up the music on my iPod, breathed in the smells of summer in Portland, and headed for home.  Where I am now. My home. On my balcony in the treetops. I can hear a cedar waxwing whistling somewhere above me. The breeze blows a complex mixture of summer blossoms and dinners cooking. 

And I hold both the pain and the beauty together, inside me. How I can fit it all in there, I have no idea. Every day, that’s my challenge. To turn away from the bad long enough to see the beauty and then to look at the bad and feel it, without censoring myself from it. Without feeling bad for wallowing a little.  Without judging myself for still feeling it. 

It’s there and can’t be denied, but so is that beauty. Unlike the bad, the beauty doesn’t come looking for me quite as much. I have to look for it. It plays hard to get while the negative thoughts flirt mercilessly with me and are always there for the taking. 

Fortunately, I like a challenge.


  1. "To turn away from the bad long enough to see the beauty and then to look at the bad and feel it, without censoring myself from it."


  2. Nice writing and perspective... I fully relate.

  3. Thanks for the reminder to look for the beauty in life, it is all around us. I am so used to being it this down state of mind that so much is passing me by, and I don't see it anymore either, just the negative. Time to open my eyes and look again, see the world as it is; even tho he isn't in it anymore, it can be a beautiful place, if only my heart will open up to it again. Sure takes time, and effort, but hoping it is doable.

  4. One particularly difficult day not too long ago I was struggling to keep from screaming. The memories of my past life were so seductive while my current life seemed to be beating all the joy out of my that I had worked so hard to put back in.

    Then, accidentally, I saw it. It was a simple wooden fence that had become overgrown with some type of flowering plant. The viny mess itself wasn't anything to behold but as I got closer to it I noticed... it was buzzing. Loudly! So I got closer. I was overjoyed to see hundreds of bees happily harvesting the sweet nectar from the flowers. I stood up close, listening to the hum of their wings, watching them land and scamper around each flower, basking in the glory that nature provided me right then and there. It was glorious.

    That moment picked me up and reminded me that there is soooo much life going on around us and things that I think are so beautiful. Every day I spend staring at the ground or at Maggie's picture, I'm not seeing all the rest. That moment was another little earthquake - one of many - that's helped reshape my current perspective on my world. That moment is helping me make the difficult decisions I'm making right now.

    But I had to be willing to stop, look up and see it. Otherwise, I would have walked right by none the wiser or richer. Hugs from Austin.

    1. Chris, that's beautiful. Thank you. You were so dearly missed at camp, dude.

  5. Cassie, so well constructed and such a reminder of the beauty surrounding us. The walks around the neighborhood for me pull in two directions. The envy of watching the couples strolling along hand in hand and wishing anything that could be me. But I also reveal in their joy and am grateful that they do not qualify for this club we belong to. There is beauty in that simple fact.

    Thanks for your gracious and insightful blog today!

  6. I know there is so much beauty around me but I realized that I am holding myself back from seeing it. It hurts too much. I can feel myself turning away from the wonder and refusing to acknowledge beauty of things in my life. I do this because Michael isn't here to share and/or enjoy it too. I also do it because in some warped grief stricken way, I feel closer to the fresh pain of Michael's death and that brings me closer to the time of his life. Thank you Cassie for helping bring this to my attention with your post.

  7. Thank you, I needed that today. Leslie