I’ve learned grief isn’t something you get over, it’s something you learn to live with. You never know when a new wave is going to strike without warning.
My guilty pleasure is The Voice, and I usually watch it when I’m walking on my treadmill. Today I watched the Top 13 perform, and when I heard contestant Marybeth Byrd was going to sing the beautiful, heartbreaking “Go Rest High on That Mountain” by Vince Gill, I was immediately transported back to the days following my father’s death. I was one of the family members giving a eulogy, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get through it.
Every morning and evening that I drove his Subaru Forrester the 30 minutes to and from town, I had this song and one other on repeat so I could embrace and settle into the grief. It helped. I did some gut-wrenching, ugly crying and was able to deliver the eulogy my father deserved.
Which brings me to today, nearly two years later. When Marybeth’s tribute package rolled, she spoke of her beloved Grandfather who passed the night before she left for her blind audition. Marybeth no sooner began the song when grief rolled through me again. I damn near fell off my treadmill.
I recently attended a book reading by my friend Gordon M. Berg, author of Harry and the Hurricane. The book details the true account of his seven-year-old father living through the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926. His father rarely spoke of his experience, and Gordon only learned the details after his death, when his mother told him.
Gordon ended his talk imploring us to ask our loved ones “What is the worst thing that’s ever happened to you, and how did you get through it?” That is one of the many questions I wish I had asked my father.
Who is someone you’d like to ask that question? Do it…before it’s too late.
I have a confession to make. I still haven’t cashed the $200 Chicken Soup for the Soul check I received for my Semper Fi Sister story that was published in their June 4th release of Running for Good. My coach Lauren Sapala says INFJs need to suffer to feel like they earn success. If it’s true, that’s messed up.
I’ve been holding on to the check for two months. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited to finally be published and paid for my writing, and I was especially grateful to receive the check. But there’s been something holding me back from cashing it that I can’t quite put my finger on. Every time I think about depositing it, every instinct I have pushes back like repelling magnets.
I think it may have something to do with my Marathon Guardian Angel Megan McClung because I feel the story is just as much hers as it is mine.
This morning I journaled about it, thinking of one reason after another. Finally I wrote, Megan what should I do with the check? And my fingers typed…You earned it, you did the hard work. Treat yourself and enjoy the fruits of your labor Marine.
Whether I was channeling Megan or just my inner wise self, tonight I signed and deposited the check and celebrated a milestone: being a paid author.
Yesterday I became a Medium paid subscriber just to write a comment on a post where the writer was questioning her memoir writing plans. I wrote this comment as much for me as in response to what she had written “I’ve come to understand that when I’ve faced resistance, it was because I was still processing what had happened and wasn’t ready to put it on the page. Be patient with yourself and the process.”
It’s tough writing memoir because a lot of stuff jumps out that you had boxed up and put in the back storage closet of your mind. If we ourselves haven’t processed what’s happened to us and made peace with our past, what spills onto the page is unresolved emotions with no universal lessons for the reader. No wonder it takes some people so long to write to write a memoir.
I find myself questioning whether I can really do this. Only in the last couple of years have I disclosed to friends my mother’s mental illness. Now I’m writing about it for the world to see? It’s scary. But I’m writing my story for others out there who like me was feeling they’re the only ones to bear the pain of loss to mental illness. You are not alone.
It hit me like a gut-punch this week. In a year of firsts since my father passed, this would be the first Christmas without him. I crumbled at the thought, but sucked it up, stuffed my emotions, and went to work.
“Guess what I did Pa? I joined the Marines.”
“Guess where I am Pa? I’m in Vegas and I just got married.”
Yup, I was that kid that would turn a parent’s hair prematurely gray. My father was my Rock. No matter what I did or where I was, he’d respond, “You did what?!” and then want to know all the details. He was always a shoulder to cry on and a soft place to land through two divorces and the death of my mother, his first wife.
The cycle of life is inevitable but getting older sucks. I know I’m lucky he was in my life for 63 years but it doesn’t ease the pain of the gaping hole his passing left.
I’m fortunate to have had a lifetime of loving memories with the man I’m proud to call my father. This weekend, I’m taking a stroll down memory lane looking through pictures and watching all the 8mm movies my father took that I had digitized. It will be another first, watching our younger years without being able to call and reminisce with him. Please pass the tissues.
As a Psychology major studying Jungian personality theory back in the day, taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was required. I like to know what makes people tick and the personality test developed by Isabel Myers and her mother, Katharine Cook Briggs nailed my type, Introversion iNtuition Feeling Judging (INFJ). I’ve taken the test many times over the years and no matter the circumstances, I’ve always been an INFJ, a rare 1.6% of the population.
I explored a lot of paths for personal growth and my bookshelves are lined with writing books, but I never could get back to the page. After Julia Cameron’s nudge at “Creative Reboot“, I began morning pages again. Then in a synchronistic surprise, the next day a new book appeared at the check-out table called “The INFJ Writer“.
Turns out a lot of writers are INFJs. In a brief conversation with author Lauren Sapala, I expressed my struggle to write and she responded that I’d probably have to get my memoir out of my system before I could write anything else. I devoured the book, reading it from cover to cover by the time I got home. Lauren speaks my language.
Soon morning pages morphed into a regular writing habit. I jumped into NaNoWriMo with wild abandon to write a crappy first draft of my memoir. Reading “The INFJ Writer” helped me understand where my potential roadblocks are and what I can do to navigate the emotional writing tides that sometimes threaten to swamp my progress.
I didn’t major in Psychology to practice as a therapist, but the knowledge I gained has served me well throughout my career. While the audience for “The INFJ Writer” seems like a small niche, I’m glad Lauren wrote it. The book inspired me to quit thinking about my writing angst and just start writing. Thank you Lauren.