I went to a screening of Janis: Little Girl Blue this weekend, and was blown away by the powerhouse that Janis Joplin was. Like so many creative people who have died too young, I couldn’t help but contemplate what she would have gone on to make and do in this world had she not been gone at the age of 27. One of Janis’ bandmates described her as someone who lived with enormous emotional honesty, for better and for worse.
Emotional honesty. This phrase has been lingering in my mind since I saw the film. It hit a chord in me as I believe I have been leaning into that very type of being. Living and loving with my whole heart. While that may sound all unicorns and rainbows, I can assure you it is not. Yes, living with my heart wide open includes parts that are beautiful and rich and amazing. But. Not wearing armor is also RAW. Tender. Vulnerable.
Still, for better and for worse, I wouldn’t live any other way. Emotional honesty is living the truest version of myself. It’s being all in. It’s risking everything to have everything. I’m learning that we cannot have the fullest love, the fullest relationships, the fullest experiences, without risk, without emotional honesty. And yes, that takes enormous trust and is scary as hell. As buoys in this sea of emotional honesty, I hold on to Brené Brown’s sentiment that we cannot selectively numb. That is, we can’t numb out pain, heartache, and disappointment without also numbing joy, happiness, and love. Numbing is numbing, across the board.
Living and leaning into emotional honesty means I’m going to cry at yoga. Ache in my heart. AND. It also means I’m going to laugh with my whole body. Be bliss-filled. And love the whole experience — darkness and light — all the same. Emotional honesty. I’m in.
I went to California for the holidays. I needed something new to do for the season, something that was different from anything I had done in my “old life,” something that would halt the flashbacks to what was happening this time last year. Those early days when my life was blowing up. Rather, when he was blowing up my life, our life. Going back east didn’t seem a good option, nor did staying put in Nebraska. I seized the invitation from my bestie, Melissa, to visit her and her husband in Los Angeles and blow out the end of this shitshow of a year with fun and sun and love.
Christmas day and evening were actually lovely. Who knew? We went to yoga in the morning at a beautiful little studio where a cellist played live while we greeted the day with sun salutations and sweat, burning through toxins, both real and metaphorical. This was followed by a sweet brunch with the dearest of British in-laws (Melissa’s) peppering the conversation in an accent I could listen to all day. We had a feast for dinner, lots of bubbles and wine. We opened our crackers and played games. I got THE best sweater as a gift. Such a reparative experience. Christmas could be good.
The 26th dawned, I turned over my phone while still half-asleep to check the time. That’s when I saw I had 27 missed calls from my sister’s daughter. 27 missed calls. When no one uses their phone as a phone anymore. This could only mean one thing. I listened to two of the voicemail messages to confirm what I already knew was true, and then I called my niece.
My mother died.
It came quick. Pneumonia and sepsis.
My niece had called me over and over so I could say goodbye. But I was a three-hour time difference away with do-not-disturb enabled on my phone so I could sleep. What would there have been to say anyway?
I sat on the settee, listening to my niece cry and tell me the details of my mother’s final hours. I was silent. Not crying. Not uttering more than a few “uh-huhs.” Melissa knew something was wrong and stood in front of me while I sat with the phone pressed to my ear. I mouthed the words, “my mother died.” And she shook her head.
She shook her head, and because she knows me so well, her head-nodding communicated all that I was feeling. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. 2015, are you masochistic? What else you gonna dish out? Did you have to get in one final horrible blow before a new year unfolds? How awful of a year do you want to go down in history as? The year started with my husband walking out and now it’s ending with my mother dying. Un-fucking-believable.
So now what?
I’m not devastated. Don’t think that. The truth is, as many of you know, we did not have “that kind” of relationship. We were not close. Despite my attempts over the years. She was never a mother to me. Never a caregiver. It simply wasn’t in her DNA. She didn’t have a capacity for it. She was already gone before making it official when she left my father and me when I was 10. After that, I saw her when it fit her schedule, her needs. Only after constant canceling and rescheduling. She was too busy with a new life, dating, partying, trying to find shreds of happiness. Motherhood was not part of her repertoire.
Yet, she was still my mother.
I’m trying to sort out the jumble of emotions I’m feeling. Grateful to not be devastated. But, confused nonetheless. Sad. Angry. Relieved. Guilty. Numb. Unfazed. These are some of what’s floating around my heart.
How to grieve a mother I never really had? How to grieve a mother I’ve been grieving all of my life? As my therapist said, my lifelong loss of a mother finally comes to completion. Now to sort it out…
I’m a warrior. For love. I’m strong in this fight and I will fiercely love you. But as strong and vigilant as I may be, warriors get wounds. They get scraped and hurt. Amass scars. And I have my fair share of those — hurts, wounds. Scars in my heart and on my body. But that doesn’t make me give up the fight. Because friends, love… Love is the only thing worth fighting for. So I will continue to go into battle, no armor on, heart wide open. And I will prevail. Because love wins. Be a love warrior with me.
I’m a big believer in the Universe and that everything is unfolding as it should. BUT. That sentiment is so incredibly challenging to hold on to when you feel like your life is a shitshow and everything appears as though it is falling apart. When the seams of your life are unravelling, it’s beyond hard to think, “Yup, this is right where I need to be. This is good. This is what I need.”
Yet, I realize I can’t trust in the Universe and believe that everything is unfolding as it should ONLY when life feels good and is matching my version of what I want it to be. That’s not what trust is. As difficult as this past year has been, and as much as I would have told you to “shut the fuck up” if you had uttered the words to me that life is unfolding as it should, I am actually coming around. I’m beginning to see that, yes, there were some very good reasons my life needed to blow up. Among the darkness and pain of 2015, so much beauty has shown up. The Love Campaign would never have been born. My heart wouldn’t have broken open. Love wouldn’t have been able to pour out of those cracks and flood to the people dear to me. Nor would love have been able to come in, be received, flood my heart. I wouldn’t have seen so many dear friends from across the continent (thank you, Melissa, Corinna, Hillary, Tracy, Andy, Josh, Cherish). And I know, I trust, there are so many more amazing and beautiful things unfolding that I’m not even aware of yet.
So, yeah. Let me hold on to this moment. This knowing that in what feels “bad” and what feels shattering at the time (and for quite awhile after) is likely creating space for so much more of what I need.
Big love to you all. xoxo
I am so in love.
With this grey and iced-over day.
With the heat in my heart.
I am so in love.
Bliss ran up my spine in yoga today.
My heart burst open, wide.
Love confetti flying across the world.
I wished for each piece to touch every one of you.
My soul could feel yours in the vibration of this beautiful and tragic life.
We are all connected.
And I…I am so in love.
Come fall with me.