…for your new life?
Jay asked me this question the Friday after we returned back home from Michigan. The question was a great one for me, in so many ways. I am living a new life now. An unfamiliar one that is so different from what it had been before.
When I left for Michigan on August 8th it was hot and dry in my hometown outside of St. Louis. As I drove the hundreds of miles toward Michigan it got noticeably cooler with each stop for fuel. The chill in the air was telling of what was ahead of me. After a long, hot and dry summer, my time in Michigan was filled with cool, rainy days—days my dad loved. He loved the wind blowing on his bare arms and legs, as he listened to the rain. Though his body was cool to the touch, he was comfortable, something he didn’t take for granted.
While I was in Michigan visiting with my dad and ultimately attending his funeral, summer vacation ended for my kids. In fact, they missed the first two days of school. We returned home to a new life in so many ways.
“What's your plan for your new life?” Jay asked me. He knew I wouldn’t simply go back to the way things had been before. My life was different now. But…what does this new life look like? Here is what I know so far.
I plan to bounce back. The first weekend I was back I read The Bounce Back Book by Karen Salmansohn. I picked up this book at Target at a time when I didn’t have anything to bounce back from. I simply liked the design of the book, and so I brought it home. I like this little book because it is filled with action steps—concrete things you can do to feel better if you’re going through a tough time. I especially love this bit of insight in the introduction. "In life, you always have a choice. Be weak or be strong." I choose strong.
I plan to be happier than ever before. This may sound strange as I sit here facing loss, but choosing happiness is one of the many things I learned from my father. The first few days after I returned home from Michigan, I decided to do things that made me feel better, in the moment. The good news is that most of these things are healthy activities like running, boot camp, talking to friends, taking naps, writing, and reading. I also found great satisfaction in mindless tasks like folding laundry. And reruns of Friends have also been my friend during this time—it feels good to laugh. It also feels good to focus on gratitude. Even in the darkest hours of this loss, I know I have so much to be grateful for.
I plan to soak-in and share kindness. If there’s one thing I will always remember about this period of my life, it is the acts of human kindness that I have experienced during this time. My Dad’s neighbors and friends shared kindness in the form of cookies, casseroles, chili, fruit trays, chips, salsa, and so much more, to nourish us during the days just after losing him. A Facebook friend shared her cell phone number with me so I could call any time (day or night) if I needed to chat. I have had friends send me heartfelt gifts, bring me flowers, and take me to lunch. I have received countless messages on blog posts, Facebook posts, via email and in the mail from people I know personally and people I have never met before. Every one of them shared kindness in the form of comforting and heartfelt thoughts. I plan to share this kindness with others, every chance I get.
I plan to take more time for the people and activities I love. When I think about my dad’s life and what made it work, I realize that he made time for the people and activities he loved. There are countless pictures of my dad sitting on the floor playing with my kids and doing other things he loved to do. My old life was busy. It is one of the things that really struck me when I returned back home. I was so busy. I plan to be a little less busy and create even more space in my life for the people and activities that make my heart sing. Creating and spreading joy—that’s the good stuff of this thing called life.
I plan to take it day by day. Each day is a gift. The good ones and the bad ones—they’re all gifts. Within each day there are good minutes and less good minutes, those minutes when the loss still stings. And that’s okay. Each day my heart heals a little bit more. Each day I’m feeling more and more like myself. Each day I’m getting more bounce back in my step. And each day the memories of my dad make me smile just a bit more…and cry just a bit less. It is good.
I plan to dance. The final song played at my Dad’s funeral was “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack. My stepmom chose the song, which was a perfect summation of what I know my dad would want for those he left behind.
This weekend I’m heading back up to Michigan—this time for a wedding. My niece is getting married on the beach on Lake Michigan. I am really looking forward to this trip. It will be a chance to spend time with my sister and her family, my brother and his family, my mom and my stepmom. It will be a time to heal a bit more, to laugh and enjoy the good stuff in life, like happy memories and the hope-filled promise of fresh starts and new beginnings. And it will be a time to dance. Sure, I will wish I could dance with my father, just one more time. But, I know he would want me to continue dancing without him. And I will. That is my plan.