survivor’s guilt.

Sophomore year of college, I had the pleasure of living with one of the sweetest, brightest people I have ever met.   Christine was a force to be reckoned with.  A phenomenal singer with a bubbling personality and a lust for life.

Christine and I were basically the Odd Couple. I would encourage her to go to class, eat vegetables and study for exams.  She would encourage me to party more, stay out later and enjoy life.  Neither of us took the other’s advice.

Christine ended up dropping out of school, later that year, due to medical issues.  Around that time, we ended up having a falling out – a situation too lengthy to recant here.

And then a few years ago, Christine died of a heroin overdose.  I didn’t know she was using heroin.  I didn’t know she was struggling.  I hadn’t seen her in a long time, so I wasn’t sure what she had been up to.  But for whatever reason, I felt nothing but guilt when I found out.  Somehow, I was responsible.  This voice in the back of my head would say “If you were a better friend, she wouldn’t be dead”.

Life milestones would come and go.  A promotion here.  An apartment there.  A new beau.  A trip to a new city.  And the guilt would set in.  I’m getting to enjoy things she never got to.  “You could have saved her.  You failed”.

It took years for me to finally realize that her death wasn’t my fault.

Thankfully, that survivor’s guilt that has been weighing on my neck like a millstone, has started to fall away.  Instead of guilt, I have decided to live a life of love.  Spreading joy, positivity, baked goods and happiness whenever and wherever I can.  While I hope and pray that my friends know they can come to me anytime, day or night, 24/7 if they need help, I know now that is also their right not to.

The one thing Christine taught me while she was alive was to live in the moment and not dwell on the past.  While this is certainly a struggle for me, I view every day as an opportunity to live a good life, in her memory.

For you, Christine,
-C

guest post: A Long and Winding Road

Recently, I asked a few of my fellow writer friends to contribute guest posts for this holiday weekend with the theme of renewal, rebirth and resurrectionAs you read the entries this Easter weekend, I invite you to think of a time in your life when you had to start over or make a significant change.  Was it a long time coming?  Or was it unexpected and sudden?  Was this many years ago?  Or is it happening right now?

Today’s post comes from a good friend and colleague who has asked to remain anonymous.  Please enjoy their entry “A Long and Winding Road”.

-C

A Long and Winding Road

road

 

One of the beautiful and scary things about life is how many possibilities we have each day. It is beautiful, because each moment we literally have an infinite amount of decisions we can make. The terrifying part? We literally have an infinite number of roads we can take.

I was recently reminded of this due to my living situation needing to change in the next couple of months. It has awakened the inner reminder of how important it is to examine my life, and reexamine, similar to a hiker and their relationship with a compass. Am I living a life I feel called to, or just one I am able to. What brings me joy? Do I spend time doing the things that bring me joy? Who am I helping day-to-day? How did I pack into the stream of life? These are just some of the questions I use for those inner surveys.

The life I want to live, is not always the life I am currently living. My path has definitely been a long and winding one. The last year has been full of sadness and grief, and as I have started to come out of this place, it has given me a new perspective. With the gift of time, I am grateful for how the last calendar year has played out.

As a past contributor to CYLFriday.com I feel called to carry on a tradition this Good Friday. We always had a call to action, and this week, who are you becoming? Take some time today, and take an inventory of your life, good, bad, and indifferent. What area of your life do you want to change? Share some of your thoughts and ideas in the comment section.

 

death, regret & lessons from the end.

Just as I started writing today’s blog post my phone started buzzing.  They finally found him, but it was too late.  He had passed away.  This young man, who I did not have the pleasure of knowing very well, was kind of like a distant sibling.  What we shared in common was our love and appreciation for our “second Mom” Tracie, a phenomenal woman who has a wide web of young people she has nurtured and mentored over the years.  We were both proud members of that extended family.

The last time I saw him was several months ago in Philly.  He showed me pictures of his daughter, telling me how much he loved her.  We told stories and shared some laughs.  He introduced me to his beautiful and equally sweet girlfriend.  We all talked about the past, overcoming obstacles and planning for the future.

Originally, this post was going to be a reflection on my time volunteering in hospice. But I think the one, big, life transforming lesson I’ve learned, both from hospice work and from mourning the passing of friends and family members, is the same:

We all have the tendency to spend way too much of our precious time and energy on the wrong shit.

A lot of people ask me what kinds of things the dying talk about as they near the end. God? Heaven? Hell?  In my experience, rarely.

My patients mostly talk about how much they adore their children and grandchildren.  Their pets.  How they love knitting, but can’t do it so much anymore because of arthritis.  The time they accidentally drank moonshine.  Family. Friends. Fun.

But also, lots of regret: the grudges held entirely too long, the friendships that could have been mended, the marriages that could have been saved, the fear that held them back from finding joy.

“I wish I had spent more time with my family.”

“I regret not making up with that friend.”

“I should have told my father I forgave him.  Now it’s too late.”

As an atheist, I don’t know if anything waits for us on the other side of death’s door, but I do know that we have this moment, right now.  Our time on this earth is finite. Sometimes we see the end approaching and sometimes we don’t.  But either way, I hope we can all spend a little more time creating great memories, spending quality time with our family and friends, forgiving trespasses and loving each other fully, without fear.

Love.
-C

the importance of doing “nothing”

Most people who have known me for more than two seconds, know that I’m one of those “doers”.  Whether it’s my career, a hobby, a new topic I want to explore or some new project I decided I need to conquer, I’m always doing something.  I don’t tend to sit still, which can present a pretty significant problem – one that I run into fairly often.

I work hard.  I challenge myself. I try to reach new goals. I achieve many of them. But then, I get burnt out and I start to get sick.  That’s where I am today: sitting on my couch, drinking tea and trying to nurse myself back to health.

Lately, I’ve been funneling a lot of emotional energy (read: stress) and time into some of my life goals, namely:

  • Adopt a dog and train her to provide therapy for my hospice patients
  • Lose some weight/get back into shape
  • Work on my career goals/network
  • Save up for a trip to Italy
  • Learn self-defense
  • Bake more

While these are all good things to work on, they’re all for naught if I don’t take care of myself.  It’s almost as if the Universe is trying to tell me something:

“Pace yourself. Breathe. Slow down. Relax.”

Having a strong work-ethic is a virtue, but so is self-care.  Looking to the future is good, but so is living in the moment.  Wanting to grow is admirable, but so is appreciating what you have right now.  Maybe drinking tea and watching funny videos on YouTube is important and vital to me being able to achieve all of the wonderful things I want to do.  Maybe kicking my feet up and doing “nothing” is not only acceptable, but necessary.

Lesson learned, Universe. (for now)

Peace and Love,
-C

P.S. Adorable mini cupcakes coming soon…

hello writing, my old friend

Welcome to my newest experiment: a place for me to share my musings on life, death, human nature, purpose and the biggest mysteries of the universe.  Of course, such an endeavor wouldn’t be complete without pretty pictures of things I like to bake and decorate (and give away at the office, lest I eat them).  And of course, let’s not kid ourselves, there’s going to be pictures of puppies.

Lots and lots of puppies.

Originally, this site sprang out of my desire to practice my HTML and CSS.  Thankfully, when I was picking my sister’s brain about a fun way to do so, she reminded me that I miss writing regularly. Here I am.

So stay awhile, watch this site change and develop as I shake the cobwebs off of both my writing and coding and (hopefully) be mildly entertained by my amateur cupcakes and even more amateur philosophy.

With love,
-C