Does Light Still Shine in Darkness?
I don’t think that it really matters how close you are, when you lose your mother it is a profound experience no matter how you look at it. My mother was the first person who nurtured me in the womb. She was the first person who linked me to the physical experience of life outside the womb as well. She was my first example of love, whether it was a good one or not. After my mom died, going home to Miami was when the hard part of the grieving process began. As I prepared to leave my childhood home in Orlando, I began to realize that I would no longer have that nurturing and unconditional love to fall back on. And, there would be no more “night befores”. What I mean to say is that the night before an important event in my life, I would sit with my mom in my room or at the kitchen table and just talk about the exciting event. There were so many. For instance, I remember the night before I traveled to Colombia, South America for a three month cultural exchange, my mom was right there with me, helping me to pack contemplating the kind of experience that was yet to be discovered. I remember the night before going off to Boston College to start a new learning adventure and make new friends in an unknown place, my mom was right there with me, sharing with me how she felt when she started college. And, I remember the night before my wedding, one of the most important commitments in my life, my mom sat up with me calming my nerves and reassuring me that as long as God was at the center of our relationship, this would be a wonderful adventure and we could get through any difficulty. From the choosing of my perfect Vera Wang wedding dress to the excitement of watching the beautiful Portofino Bay Hotel constructed, the night before my mom shared with me her enthusiasm and love as we sat up in anticipation of the long awaited event. I remember the night before I had my first child, my son. She was right there by my side, watching old movies and praying for me so that I could find the strength to get through the labor and welcome this new life to the world. And, I remember the night before my daughter was born. She stayed with me, calming me over the phone when the doctors told me that they had to perform an emergency c-section because she had gone breach over night. There were so many more night befores with my mom and now there would be no more. I now had to rely on my memories to bring me comfort and to remember all the “night befores” stored away as I moved forward into this new reality without her.
As I packed up my suitcase to go home, I pondered that life would be so much easier if I could write my own screenplay setting out how the acts and scenes would play out. In fact, funny as this may seem, on one of my trips to Orlando to see my mom, I remember having a stroke of brilliant insight that I would one write the story of my life and turn my tragedies into a comic affair. I remember the inspiration. It took me four hours each way from Miami to Orlando and I had to find some way to have the time go by quicker between trips. On this one leg of my travels, I was listening to the book on CD called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I found it very surreal that while I was on my way home to face my seriously ill mother, I was listening to someone who was intent to find happiness each month holding strong to her commandments and rules to guide her along. And, it was then that it dawned on me, if I could rewrite my life with a new and different perspective, then perhaps I could bring some comedic flair to a childhood that gave me few things to laugh about in retrospect. There I could find my own happiness by appreciating ALL the events in my past because without them I would not be who I am today. If I could find humor in my pain, then perhaps I could find something humorous in what was going on in my life at that time. Believe me, that was quite the stretch, but my mother did smile as I announced that I was going to make a shift in how I remembered my past and take on a different perspective that would free me from the weight of my feelings of inferiority and insecurity. As I told her that I was going to use all those years where I was bullied and made fun of as material for empowerment through laughter, I even started to smile. I even started to feel the power shift take over. I started to believe that an incredible change could happen in any person’s life when they used the written word as their weapon against injustices. It dawned on me in that moment that the pen is truly mightier than the sword.
Now, to me, looking back, that whole announcement to use laughter to change my perspective on my past was funny in and of itself. How in the hell could I ever laugh about what my mom was experiencing with cancer? In retrospect, maybe in some way, my grand insight gave her the peace that she may have needed to know that through laughter I would be ok and would let go. I remember her smile as I told her that I would finally let go of the pain of the past that continued to weigh me down. So in essence, my great aha moment may have been what she might have needed not to hold on to life any longer- haha? Not so much. But, I did make her smile. I guess for any mom, all that we want for our children is for them to be happy. And if my great insight gave her that peace, then so be it. Maybe it turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy for me as well. While I do believe that there is a lot of credibility in the idea that as the author of my own story I could rewrite history from a new angle, the process of doing so is where the challenge arises. So I was bullied as a child and felt like I had to hide in my own world to protect myself. Now look at me. I have gotten to the point where I really feel like, what you see is what you get. No more hiding, no more apologizing for myself. I speak my truth and I wear my heart on my sleeve. And in return, I love the connections that I get to make because I do. So I was not recognized in school for the talents that I possessed, not inspired to work harder and always getting by with the least effort. I never received awards or recognition with the exception of languages. I always sat in the shadows of my two brilliant sisters who excelled. Now look at me. I am a student of life. I breathe in knowledge wherever it arises. My rewards lie in each day I am introduced to another person who opens up my world to a perspective that I may not have been aware of previously. Who gets the last laugh now??? I love it and I love what my past has paved out for me. Because I had to rise above and find my way, I did it my own way. And, in a way, by rewriting my past with a new perspective, funny and endearing, I get to embrace the path that has lead me to where I am, with no fear of any judgments for being less than perfect because who is.
While I may want to get to decide every aspect of the dialogue, the scenery and the characters and the script for others, that is not a possibility. Where I wished for the magic to write a script where I would get to decide when each of the players would live there life and when they would die, I can only do so for myself to the extent that I am able. Put in this type of role with control over the script of others, I would essentially be the God, the Great director in their story as well. While I do know that I am not God, I do get to experience the Great Plan and get to choose how I take it all in. But then why would I want to change the times where there was so much good and fun, going back to the days of my youth where I would travel to New York to visit my best friend every other month, where I would go dancing all night at Webster Hall with my cousin Gene and feel so happy and free, or where I would laugh all night because there was nothing too serious to worry about except for boys and what to wear the next day, where we would all wear the coolest wig in the world, drinking a little bit too much and get called out for jumping on the floor where the itinerant neighbor would bang on the door yelling stop the “boom boom boom”. Then, as I would do in the past, I would call my mom afterwards and tell her about the whole thing, laughing with her along the way. That is all a part of my story and when I remember those times I am grateful because I have learned that in spite of the crazy issues that I dealt with as a child, I have learned how to live, laugh and love life. While I am not the Great Director in life for others, when each of us is called back then we should go and my mom had moved on. And, because I would get more and more frustrated with reality I would wish to edit the script for her and decide for myself what would happen next, but unfortunately, that is not the way life works. And, while I never would have chosen to include grief in the screenplay called “Meg”, it was written into my life anyway. And, that is where the dark night of my soul took over. And, that is where I had to once again make my way back to the light.
Grief is a concept that was a mystery to me until it barged into my life. I have seen the great movies, I have read the great books, and I have been in awe by the true force of faith and will that enables those characters to rise from the ashes. But, this for me, I never wanted to experience it nor contemplate how it would invade my heart, my soul, and challenge my dreams. The grieving process is something that cannot be reconciled in a few days. It encompassed the loss of faith, the loss of trust, the loss of life, and the fear that overcame me like never before. I lost my mother and no longer could rely on her physical presence, watching out for me, making sure that I followed the right path, keeping movement in the direction of my dreams. And, ultimately I had to do what I so brilliantly declared, try to figure out how to bring the laughter back in the story of my life as it unfolded.
Where I found relief in my tears, it was only then that I could release the pain that bound my heart everyday. I felt lost and alone. I was alone with my debilitating thoughts that I hoped and prayed would only stay for a while. My life without my mother was a foreign concept to me. I did not know how I would go on. I went between anger and despair. She was such a beautiful soul- such a loving spirit. I missed her terribly. I could not understand how people survived such a loss. I remembered praying at night that maybe there was something good that could come out of this pain, maybe something wonderful that can come from an unknown situation. I missed her, but needed to find some way to go on, for it would be a greater tragedy if I did not. As I packed up my stuff to go home, I thought God be with me and send me lots of love and support as I faced the grieving process that would take over my life. But the darkness would eventually follow me to Miami. The darkness would find me and makes its home in the corner of my mind where the fear of death and dying was a real and tangible possibility as I met with it firsthand for the first time in that little hospital room where my mother took her last breath.
Understanding that I could not get through this alone, I started looking for tools to help me process my grief. Not wanting to take the prescribed anti-depressants or anti-anxiety pills, I looked for help elsewhere, While for some people, medication is the best course of treatment to keep them from harming themselves, every part of me resisted medication as a course of action for me. As I have an addicted personality, I get addicted to love, attention, people, and food, I did not want to become addicted to something else that would just end up masking the underlying problem. I needed to face all the stages of grief knowing that I was not alone. So while I initially believed that I could face this challenge by myself, I came to realize that while functioning and going to work on a daily basis was a good step in the right direction, coming home and crying myself to sleep each night was not. As the months would pass by and as depression set in, it was harder and harder to find a way out from the dark tunnel where I found myself. Ultimately, I found myself exhausted with no energy, drained by the constant bouts of tear filled nights, I was not taken care of myself physically as I let myself go, and I was frustrated and demoralized that this would be my life from now on. It was not until the ringing began that I was forced to seek out help from others because at that point I knew that I could not recover on my own. It was either seek out help or end my life. Thank God I was not yet to the point where despair and hopelessness overtook me completely to the point where I called it quits. Thank God that I was surrounded by family and friends who were concerned enough that they too would help me look for avenues to help me heal through the grief. And, thank God for my children who loved me and accepted me where I was throughout this very difficult reality. For without all of them, I would not have found a reason to seek a way out of my darkness. And, when I was able to seek again that is when I found the angels that entered my life and surrounded me from all angles. And, when I made the decision to let others help me, through the crack in the despair, there is where the light started to shine once again where there was only darkness. And, there I could change my tears of pain into tears of joy as slowly but surely I could adopt a perspective where laughter and comedic flair were reintroduced into my script of life. And there the dance begins again-Boom Boom Boom! Bring it on!