Grief: Can’t Go Under it, Can’t Go Over it. Gotta Go Through It

Grief feels like a language that I am still learning to speak. Thick and heavy on my tongue, it’s syntax is still new to me. Yet as I struggle to find the right words, I have a new appreciation for the many people I know that understand and speak it fluently. Like a traveler to a foreign country, I am comforted when I encounter someone who shares even a little of this new language with me. And in my lesser moments, I envy those who are unable to understand even a snippet of it.

I have learned that grief has a way of leaving an indelible mark, and people that have been touched by it never forget.  Like a tattoo this mark might be displayed openly its symbolism explained in great detail to all whether they ask or not, shared with just a few, or dutifully hidden. Yet no matter who sees it, the mark remains, and although each one is unique, many of us bare this type of mark.

Grief is both a singular journey and one of life’s most widely shared experiences. While it stems from a unique place,  those that grieve similarly find themselves at the edge of a great chasm. This deep abyss can be crossed but the journey is not easy; there are no maps or Sherpas. We must navigate our own paths and carry our own, heavy loads.

As I find myself at the edge the first chasm that has been put squarely in my path, I am reminded of one of my favorite children’s books, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.” The premise is that when confronted with an obstacle, you must meet it head on–“Can’t go under it, can’t go over it, gotta go through it.”

Eventually, I must cross through this chasm because, if I want to move forward, I will need to get to the other side. Fortunately no one is timing me, and I won’t be judged too harshly if I get lost a time or two. But someday, I will reach the other side, and when I do, I won’t forget the journey. Rather, I will bare that indelible mark, and I will remember because some things are far to great to forget.


That’s All She Wrote

On New Beginnings

I moved to a small town in my home state and started my first ever, full-time job about a week after my college graduation. I had been so overjoyed to find a job (note this post where I admit to majoring in Political Philosophy and Latin) just a few hours away from home that I had never paused to consider it might be difficult to make new friends or get involved in the community. Looking back, I am grateful that I didn’t because if I had, I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to move.

The first few months were hard. I had gone from living in a sorority house full of friends always on hand to living alone in just one short week. I had spent much of my senior year envisioning what I would do if I had a free evening only to find that free evenings could be awfully hard to fill. The hours from 5pm to 11pm loomed in front of me seeming like an eternity. I had no idea how to go about meeting people and making friends. I was petrified. My office had a few young people, but they were all either married or engaged. In fact, nearly everyone I met seemed to be married, engaged, or in a serious relationship. I would have given anything just to have someone to go to lunch with me.

There were a few benefits to having no local friends. I saved a ton of money; visited home often and both got to know my brother’s girlfriend who later became my sister-in-law and spend time with my grandpa before he passed away; and I learned how beautiful it is to be and to have friends. I will forever be thankful for those long distance friends that spent endless hours on the phone with me both commiserating and assuring me that things would get better, and for my family who always reminded me of all that was good and put up with a fair amount of tears.

As summer turned to fall, I slowly started to make friends thanks to weekend work events and an invitation to play on a volleyball team (“Life in the ‘C’ League” post to come). But, I learned an important lesson along the way—life is what you make it. My summer of mourning became a fall of activity. My tears dried up along with the leaves, and I started building the life I had envisioned. I joined every organization I had an interest in, overcame my fear of arriving at events alone, and I worked hard. I often like to compare my shift in attitude to one of my favorite children’s book, Peter Pan. In the summer, I was convinced that Peter was right when he told Wendy, “don’t grow up it’s a trap,” but by fall I had decided that his comment that “to live would be an awfully big adventure” was  far more accurate.

Now, I am confident that I could start over again, and maybe someday I will. My advice to recent college graduates, or really anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation would be as follows:

  •  Make your home comfortable: You live there now, and whether it is a tiny, loft apartment or a five bedroom house, you deserve to have a happy place to call home.
  •  Get internet or television: Don’t cut yourself off from the outside world. I am not suggesting that you buy the fastest internet or the most extensive cable package, but money spent on basic cable or internet is money well spent. You might be spending a few more evenings at home, and why not make that time more enjoyable? Besides, people bond over television. You might meet somebody you could invite over to watch an awards ceremony or to indulge in a Netflix binge. Who doesn’t love a good Netflix binge?
  • Join a gym: You might meet people there, or you might not. Regardless, working out is a great way to beat the blues.
  • Moreover, be a joiner: Find a group the suits your interests and join it. Organizations are always looking for new members.
  • Be an asker: Do you like going out for drinks or grabbing lunch? Invite people to do those things with you. Sure, they might say no, but maybe they will put forth a counter offer.
  • Married people need friends too: I made the mistake of thinking that anyone in a relationship wouldn’t be interested in being friends with somebody that was single. That is ridiculous. Just because you don’t have the same relationship status doesn’t mean you don’t have all sorts of other things in common.
  • Push your limits: I spent a lot of time just waiting for my situation to change on its own, but that just isn’t how life works. We are in control of our own lives, and sometimes that is uncomfortable. But you never know, extending an invite to a new acquaintance or attending that event where you don’t know anyone could be a game changer

This year marks my third fall. My junior year in the real world has already been markedly full with family (I am now an aunt!), friends both new and old, and graduate school classes. And, one day a few weeks ago, three different people invited me to lunch. New beginnings are difficult, but Peter was right—to live is an awfully big adventure.

That’s All She Wrote

Flat Tires: The first item in a series of things I know nothing about

I found myself on the side of the interstate with a flat tire on a bitterly cold evening last November. As you might imagine, the whole ordeal was fairly unpleasant. I have assembled a few worthwhile tips for others who find themselves, or would like to avoid finding themselves, in a similar situation.

  • Proper Rotation: First and foremost, rotate your tires every other oil change. This is (apparently) vital. The necessity of tire rotation very well might be common knowledge, but I managed to obtain various degrees and numerous other life skills without hide nor hair of tire rotation. I assumed that tires wore evenly. In fact, I still don’t really understand why they wear differently. Physics. Email me if you know because I doubt I will take the time to look it up. I have adopted the “Just Do It” motto when it comes to proper tire rotation.
  • Capable Travel Companions: If you don’t rotate your tires, make sure to choose your travel companions wisely. Consider only traveling with friends who are capable of putting on a spare tire in case of a flat. Fortunately for me, I was traveling with someone who pragmatically changed my tire while I held back tears and called my dad. You will, of course, be indebted to this friend for life, and should rehearse telling the “flat tire” anecdote. It is absolutely vital that you do this individual justice while recounting his or her heroic endeavors. Additionally, it is worth noting that just being male does not ensure the ability to change a tire.
  • New Skill: Like traveling alone? I too understand the call to the open road. To be more accurate, I realize travel companions are not always an option. I suppose that it might not be a bad idea to learn how to change your very own tire. That being said, I have no intention of acquiring this skill. I know my limitations. If I were to change my tire, it would only result in necessary angst over whether or not my tire is about to fall off of my vehicle.
  • AAA: Rather than learning how to put on the ol’ spare, I opted to subscribe to AAA. Membership is the only sure fire way to ensure that the need to utilize its services never arises. However, cancellation of your membership will likely result in immediate vehicular complications.
  • Roll the Dice: How likely are you to actually get a flat tire? Short on cash–doubtful it will happen to you? Then by all means, take your chances.

Take my advice with a grain of salt because, as the title notes, flat tires are just one of the many things I know nothing about.


            That’s All She Wrote