I See him There, in the Birds…

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So I see my dad in the birds, especially in the hawks…for whatever reason I believe they are part of our collective story.  From the time they swam in my pool right before he died…and looking at the pictures was one of the last things we did together…to the ones soaring intermittently overhead…to the occasional times when one has swooped toward the windshield, gliding up and over, as if it dropped in to say hi.

That’s how I take it, and that’s all that matters.  He was all about nature, and I indulged him his bird talk, maybe because I actually enjoyed it.  It’s different now that he’s gone (what isn’t?), but I find comfort in the birds…as if he’s someone still managing to be here, with me.

This weekend we did our almost-annual trip to Ogunquit, our first without dad…in our favorite little shop I saw this small stone bird, which I bought as a reminder of him and all of our good times and if all that he was and is to me.

Before our walk along the Marginal Way to Perkins Cove, we put all our food in the car lest the seagulls be tempted…and returned to our beach site a few hours later to find that the seagulls had gotten into our garbage, and our other bags…so those of us who had undergarments in their beach bags (not me) were greeted by bras on beach chairs.  When we were driving home and a hawk swooped the windshield, we were sure that my dad had ordered the seagull attack, and that he was close by, laughing.

Please, No Bucket List

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I’m not a big fan of the “Bucket List.” I think there’s something inherently negative (or maybe it’s the fatalism) about wanting to do things before you die. I have more of a life to-do list. It’s probably not that fundamentally different from a bucket list, only it’s got a much more positive view and it’s more about how I live and not what I do.

Even so, some life experiences of late have led me to realize that whatever list I manage to, there are some things that I never thought I would do, and could well have gone through life without having to do. And these unpleasantries, because of how I try to live my life, can actually be valuable and affirming experiences.

Like this week, which saw me waiting in a long line to pay my respects to the family of a murder victim. It was the son of someone who I’ve met through some volunteer work I do. I thought of the life cut short, and the countless broken hearts of loved ones left behind. The experience I had at that wake illuminated several key points for me:

  • Sometimes the right thing is the most uncomfortable thing, and after you do it you find you’ve traded a little discomfort for an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and relief and good-ness.
  • Be present in every moment, because subsequent moments are a gift and not a promise.
  • Volunteering matters. You may not always know it when you’re doing it, but I now know in no uncertain terms that getting up at 4:30am once a week and giving an hour of myself has an exponential and meaningful impact.

Consider the lessons I learned, consider what matters to you, and go ahead. Start. Make positive change now.

Go.

Recent (Re-)Learning

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Here are some things I’ve learned or re-learned over the last few weeks, as I subconsciously and consciously ponder the theory that there is in fact a time to every purpose under heaven.

1) Light years and lifetimes exist between expecting something and being prepared for it. Profoundly grateful for how I’ve chosen to live in the space between. Experiencing things intellectually and logically has absolutely nothing to do with experiencing them practically and emotionally.

2) Let people who care about you care about you. That was hard for me. To admit I needed a shoulder. To acknowledge that I matter to other people. But in the dark hours, let the people who care about you supply the flashlight batteries.

3) We can’t choose what happens, but we can choose what we do, and how we respond. Yes, happiness can be a choice. And sometimes circumstances preclude that particular choice. Even so we can choose the positive, and choose to move in a positive direction filled with light.

4) The silver lining sometimes is tarnished black. Know that it’s there, but put no pressure on yourself to polish it up right away.

5) People will surprise you. In good ways and in bad. Waste exactly no time on the latter and use the former to put positive energy in your tank.

I don’t know what to do or think or feel. I can’t imagine anything will ever be as good as it was. I suppose at some point I’ll stop making everything an absolute and relative comparison.

For now, I’m identifying and recognizing and enjoying the love I do have around me. While it’s no substitute, it does offer valuable emotional sustenance.

It’s love and happiness despite and in spite of losing dad. But it’s love and happiness nonetheless.

[As an aside, kind of…experienced-based…when you know of someone who is going through something, don’t do nothing because you’re not sure what to say or do, or because you don’t want to intrude…don’t suggest that people “call if (they) need anything,” because chances are they’ll never call…they don’t know what they need…here are a few things that helped me/us greatly:

—Emails/cards/messages simply saying “I’m thinking about you.”
—Gift certificates for local take out, mani/pedi, etc.
—Insistence on picking up the kids or delivering dinner.

I’m not talking big doings high ticket things. But if you have friends in pain and want to help them, help them. It makes a world of difference.]

Lessons everywhere. Always be learning.

And one more thing? I f-cking hate cancer.