Let there be Spaces…….

Recently I was sitting on my patio, cappuccino in hand, appreciating my garden.  This is truly my favourite place.   I am amazed at how it has evolved and changed with each passing year.  I have loved deciding which plants would thrive in each one of the flower beds, digging them into the soil and tending them until they fulfilled my vision of our backyard paradise.

Suddenly this summer, a few of those flower beds seemed to have become too full.  There were not enough spaces to really see the beauty of the shrubs and plants within it.  This fall I will begin to divide and move some of those plants.  I will create space.

In the world of art, that area between objects is known as “negative space”.

A terrific art teacher I once had, was the first to introduce this idea to me.  He emphasized the importance of the blank or negative  space in our work as equally important as the lines which create the images which become the art.  It was an interesting idea, but  I was impatient to fill up that paper with as much of my creative genius as possible.  Wasn’t that what art was about after all?”

Isn’t this the way it is in life? Our lives are defined by what we fill them with; the lines we create in the space available.

So with that in mind, we grow up, spending most of our time figuring out what we will fill our lives with.   How and with whom will we spend our time and doing what?   It seems we are designed to do.  We cram our schedules as full as possible as often as possible.  Not everythingwe schedule is necessary, but if there is space, it seems it should be filled.

At some point we all establish a home. Once again we spend our energy and money filling that home with things;  often as many things as possible.  Every empty space seems to beg for a thing to fill it up.  Blank walls are just waiting for something to hang on them.  Rarely if ever would we intentionally leave them bare.

We are all really good at emphasizing these lines on the canvas of our lives.  It is the most comfortable focus for most of us.  Isn’t that what life is about after all?

But without those negative spaces between the lines, it becomes difficult to appreciate the abundant life we have created. The beauty we have so carefully crafted and intentionally tended becomes hard to see without spaces in between.

For me, creativity lives in those spaces.

So does lightness.  And rejuvenation. And calm.

The void in my heart needs this space.  It is where the memories of my baby boy wait.

My patience as a parent comes from having quiet space, and time alone to collect my thoughts so I actually accomplish completing one!  Only when there is room for them do playfulness and humour come out of hiding.  New perspectives then take shape which weren’t obvious before.

I feel most grateful and content when I make the space between the lines as important as the living.

Here in the quiet of the evening, halfway through my glorious west coast vacation, I am reminded of how much I have missed these spaces.  And with that, finally words come back to me once again.

It feels so good to be writing again.

“And let there be spaces…..”

                        – Kahlil Gibran

 

 

In Praise of Hope

Hope revealed her twinkling self to me yesterday.  She kind of snuck up on me out of the blue.  Suddenly I realized that while I was driving and listening to music just a little too loudly, I was anticipating.  I was looking forward to things.  It doesn’t even matter what it was exactly that I was looking forward to.  The point is that hope, that elusive little thing which I had taken for granted until we lost our baby boy, was a regular part of my life.  Hope was the thing which kept me motivated, kept me dreaming, kept me driving forward.  The promise of something fun or new, of creating something meaningful, or better, was the fuel and the spark which has always lifted me out of the average day to day.  Not that the average is bad.  But familiarity, although stabilizing, often brings along blinders which makes seeing the forest for the trees difficult, and potential, invisible.

Hope thrives on potential. She lives in your heart.  But when your heart is broken, Hope has a hard time thriving.  You soon learn though that she is tough.  She is resilient.  She is the weaver which is at least partly responsible for bringing those broken pieces back together to heal. Helping one foot march in front of the other, she brings you to the light.  Before you know it, your face is turning towards that light.  The warmth that Hope sends forth is melting away fragments of sadness and shadow.  In her light, all of the beauty and love that you have to offer and share sparkles once again.  And finally you see it.  And then a new phase of living begins.

Thank you Hope. I have missed you.

Grief Does Not Equate Insanity

Samuel’s birthday is coming up.  I have been reflecting a lot lately upon this long, intense year. It has been gut wrenching and devastating and quite honestly the worst year of my entire life.  The moment we realized that my perfectly healthy, full term baby boy died inside of me, my life took an abrupt and unexpected detour which frankly, I would give anything to reverse.

Somehow though it has also been a remarkable journey so far.  I could have anticipated some of what we have had to overcome.  But some obstacles have been a complete surprise. I have had to accept that there is an exceptional amount of misunderstanding and assumption surrounding this world of loss which has been quite alarming.

I found myself having to frequently defend what Grief Is and Is Not to many people.  I didn’t expect that.  I have in fact, fought for and defended grief so often, that I actually googled law school a few weeks ago. It seemed I was making arguments in defense of grief so much, I began to think, hell, I should make money doing stuff like this!

I had no idea that I would be mourning my son and educating others about grief all at the same time. I suppose I assumed that people close to us would perhaps take it upon themselves to find out how to best support us on this awful road.  After all, resources abound.  There are books, and support groups and workshops and internet sites and Facebook groups.  Sadly, I am pretty sure not much of that information was accessed.

The idea that grief equates insanity was one of the most frequent and dismaying defenses I had to make.

Here was my first experience doing so.

I had been venting to a family member about my experience with a medical office receptionist.  I had called a urology office about their referral process.  I told the receptionist that I was interested getting some information about a vasectomy reversal and was it possible to come in to speak to the urologist about the procedure?  I told her that I had a couple of questions regarding wait times, success rate, potential for complications etc.

She asked “When was your husband’s vasectomy?”

“Only three months ago,” I responded.

She paused. “Ok………..  Well, it is obviously unusual to want a reversal so quickly after just having had the procedure done.”

“I know,” I said.  “Our situation is quite tragic.  My husband had a vasectomy just prior to our son being still born.  I had last minute reservations before he went in for the procedure.  As soon as I had the capacity to let what had happened sink in, I regretted that we did it.  I want to get some information about getting the vasectomy reversed.

Silence.

“Well,” she said, a bit too abruptly, “have you spoken to your doctor about this?”

I bristled.  “Of course I have, but he believes it is too soon to even inquire about the procedure.  I disagree.  I feel there is no harm in getting some information.  Can you help me?”  I defended.

“Frankly dear,” she replied, “I think you should take your doctor’s advice.  It is simply too soon to be making decisions like this.”

I was astounded.  I was gob-smacked. I was enraged.

“I’m sorry, I said. “What did you just say to me?  And who are you exactly? Are you the urologist?”

“No!'” she said, surprised.  “I am the receptionist.”

“Right”, I said tersely.  “And it is your job to give me information.  Not your opinion.”

I hung up.  I was totally furious!  How could a woman who didn’t even know my name, pretend to know what might possibly be best for me or my family?  How unprofessional! Who has that kind of nerve? Or arrogance?  Or such lack of basic kindness?

I phoned a member of my family to commiserate.  I related the details, with emphasis and appropriate pauses.  “Can you believe it?” I said at the end of my story.  “Can you imagine the audacity of this stupid woman?”  I expected immediate sympathy.  That was the reason I called in the first place.  I expected shared outrage and disdain.

This person didn’t skip a beat.  She jumped to the receptionist’s defense immediately.

“She was just probably concerned you know.  Given the circumstances.”

The devil’s advocate?  Seriously?  I couldn’t believe it.

I played along, just to be polite-ish, for a minute or so.  “Sure, maybe,” I conceded, “but she didn’t sound concerned.  In fact, come to think of it, she didn’t even say, ‘I’m so sorry for your loss.’  Pretty basic stuff I’d have thought.  At the end of the day, it was just simply unprofessional of her to offer any sort of opinion at all.  Her job is to give information.  That’s it.”

“Well you know though,” Devil’s Advocate continued, “she is in the healthcare field.  She must just be concerned about you.  You know, she probably was trying to determine whether or not you were of sound mind.”

??????

Of sound mind??

I almost hit the floor. I should have just abandoned the conversation.  But I just couldn’t help myself.  I had to clarify.

“What did you just say?  Did you just say of sound mind?” I gasped.  “Are you suggesting that because I lost my baby, that I also lost my mind?”

A bit of weak back pedalling ensued, but quickly I realized that yes, she did not see a huge separation between grief and insanity.  I learned quite a bit from that unfortunate exchange, not the least of which was how ill-informed most people are about what grieving really is about.  And moreover, what it is NOT.

Here is my version of the Coles Notes on the subject:

Mourning is messy.  It is unpredictable.  It is confusing, and although it changes, it doesn’t ever completely end.  There are many styles of grieving, and all are not wrong.  Every person’s experience and process is very different.  I understand to the observer of the grieving process, it must look crazy. I can say from experience, it sure feels crazy at times.  But it most certainly is not actually crazy.

In fact, grief is not listed as a diagnosis in the DSM V, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Health Conditions.  Here is one of the commonly accepted definitions of grief:

 ‘Grief is a normal response to a loss.’

(The National Cancer Institute. Loss, Grief, and Bereavement (PDQ) 2005. Health Professional Version) 

Grief is NORMAL.  As in NOT crazy.

So there you have it.  Grief does not equate insanity.

The Defense rests.