Sunday, April 30, 2006

Blog the Fourth and a Half

Generally, I practice what I preach.

Recently, life for me has become particularly overwhelming. There are a gaggle of details involved in being a responsible adult that I can't seem to get a handle on. At times like this, I begin to wish my Mother were here or that she'd at least left me some kind of Life Handbook with a specific chapter entitled - Overwhelming Adult Things and How to Handle Them.

But alas, it is not as easy as all that. So instead, to clear my head and get some well needed fresh air (and a bit of a different perspective), I took a drive. Two and a half hours round trip. Take a drive, if you remember dear reader, was advice given in Blog the Third. At some time just after half past 4 p.m. today, I hopped in my car, left my humble home in Altadena and headed for the dramatic bluffs along the coastline of Malibu.

When I need to find my Mother I go to the water. I stand on the edge of a low rising cliff and stare out across the sea. She is out there somewhere, out there past the ocean's infinite horizon. A few minutes in the breeze, letting my heart sing out to her, always helps puts things back in the right place. I leave a few tears behind, and feel much better afterwards.


Saturday, April 29, 2006

Blog the Fourth

I just received word that my friend's father passed away yesterday.

Those of us who have been Motherless Daughters for awhile are seasoned veterans at handling what comes after a death. We've done the memorials, cremations, wakes, funerals, black dresses, dark veils. We've made the arrangements for the flowers, the limos, the family. Many of us probably did all this in a daze. For us, that sort of work is passed, maybe even for many years now. For others, it is a prospect they will have to face tomorrow.

These are the little ones we have to watch out for. Those new to this experience will no doubt find this time completely and utterly overwhelming. Having been through the fire before, you can be a source of comfort to those who have had only mere hours to cope with what you've had years process.

It didn't come right away for me, the strength to help others. It took a very long while. I wasn't able to help a dear friend during a difficult time in her life that landed her in the hospital. I wasn't able to be there for another dear friend who's own Mother had died. My grief was still just too much.

I think veteran Motherless Daughters instinctively know what help to offer when someone they know has suffered a loss. There is a sharp recognition in their hearts, for now you are two of a kind, matched in a way that only grief knows.

If you find in your own family, or in the family of friends, that death has recently touched their lives, and if you find that you are ready to offer help, here are a few simple things you can do:

1. Cook or buy a meal and take it to your loved one's home. Even if they don't partake, they will have an already prepared meal waiting for them. Before you leave, give them a hug.

2. Grab your cleaning gloves and go to town. While your loved ones are solemnly preparing the details of flights and funerals, you can clean the dishes, wash the laundry, tidy up. Before you leave, give them a hug.

3. If your loved ones have children of any age, take them out. After you drop them off, give everybody a hug.

4. Hang out in your loved one's home. You don't have to say a word. Just be there. If you decide not to stay over, give them a hug before you go.

If the person you know who is suffering a loss is not a close friend or family member, variations on the above are also feasible. For instance, you can buy housekeeping time with a local service and present it to your friends in the form of a gift certificate. Hugs, however, are pretty much universal.


"Fezzik! Fezzik! Listen! Do you hear? That is the sound of ultimate suffering. My heart made that sound..."
-Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

Monday, April 24, 2006

Blog the Third

As a Motherless Daughter, many of us forget, or have forgotten how, to do the things we need to do in order to take care of ourselves.

Living in Los Angeles (or near enough) I am keenly aware of all the things Angelenos do to pamper themselves on a regular basis. No need for a crisis, Angelenos will go get a massage just because. Manicures, pedicures and leg waxings are activities LA women and men (and they don't have to be gay) indulge in just to get ready for a party filled weekend.

I have been here six years, and while I can certainly do with less plastic boobs, fake tans and shallow personalities, LA uses its powers for good when it shows us that spoiling ourselves once in awhile can be an absolutely fabulous thing.

So here are two tips to spoil yourself like a true Los Angeleno (within reason of course):

1. If you have some extra cash (or save up bit by bit) - get a massage! And preferably at a pretty spa.

The prices vary for Swedish, Deep Tissue, Hot Stone and the like, but an hour long pampering session is worth the splurge. Plus at a full service spa, the price may include time in the steam room, a facial or even a paraffin hand wax. All very delicious.

Because the attention is mainly on you, and I know Motherless Daughters most times would like to melt into the walls as if they never existed, you may feel uncomfortable or even become emotional. Connecting to a person who is touching your body is a very strong thing - especially, if like me, you are hell bent on trying to hide that you even feel anything at all. Feelings lead to lots of crying and for the most part Motherless Daughters would really like to skip all that.

The first massage I got after my Mother passed away, led me to crying my eyes out face down in the massage chair. Apparently, putting pressure in certain places can trigger lots of memories, unfortunately they were not happy ones. If you find you are uncomfortable or become emotional during a massage, let the massage therapist know you need to take a break. Plus it's not easy laying face down with a stuffy nose (you actually really can't breathe!). You don't have to explain, or you can, whatever you wish. Then, when you feel better, go back in and enjoy the rest of the time you have on the clock.

2. Take a drive.

No matter how high the gas prices go, you can't stop a Californian from taking time to cruise around. People get dressed up, grab their friends, hop in the car and only just drive around. Part of that I'm sure is that it costs $15 to park.

Don't stop to run errands while on your drive. This time is not for chores or responsibilities. This time is just for you to be an observer, to see what's going on in the world and with yourself. By taking a drive, you can see what's happening right in your own hood. A little league game, a community pancake breakfast, a yard sale. All things that show that life indeed still happens, whether you feel a part of it or not, somewhere it still happens. Also, you may find that you'd like to attend that upcoming pancake breakfast (who wouldn't!). This is very good. Anything that gets you connecting to the world and lessens your feelings of isolation is a good thing.

Your drive can also be to nowhere. It can be a trek up the longest stretch of road you can find and two hours later you're back home again. These are my favorite kinds of drives. The window open, the radio on (but most times not) a very long drive gives me some time to unravel all thoughts tangled up in my head. Driving lets me feel in control during a time when so many things are out of it. But please be careful, driving a vehicle if you're too emotional to focus can be dangerous. Don't use your car as a get away unless you trust that you can make it around safely.

Engaging in one of these simple activities, even if it's once every six months, will absolutely help you feel better, physically and emotionally, and allow you some breathing room to sort things out. Many of us have been caretakers, and may not be used to focusing on ourselves, may not be used to taking time out. But spending a few extra dollars to have someone focus on you, or you making yourself take time to be with yourself, is priceless. It is worth the few tears that will come because you are worth the time and effort. You are absolutely worth being out there in the world and not melting into walls.


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Blog the Second

"If you have ever lost someone very important to you, then you already know how it feels, and if you haven't, you cannot possibly imagine it." -Lemony Snicket, "A Series Of Unfortunate Events"

Motherless Daughters carry around with them a deep internal despair that at times seems as if it will never, ever go away. It hurts in your heart, all the time, especially at the beginning. The pain is so tremendous you cannot fathom how anyone could even understand, let alone offer any solace, or grant your secret wish to take the pain away.

When I was having my moments, and feeling my Mother's loss so intensely, my friends would come to comfort me. And while most of them had not experienced a loss of their own, and honestly admitted they could not possibly imagine it, it was nice just having them there. Wrapped in the arms of my buddies (thank you Sque!) I always, in time, felt better. I learned my most important lessons about grieving from people who could not imagine, and had not experienced, a loss like my own.

So here's lesson 1: Don't let your pain keep you apart from others.

(Some of them really do understand)

While the reason you hurt may be different from most (I wish there weren't more Motherless Daughters than there are), the fact that you hurt is a truth that many can claim as their own. Your friend at work, who cries at night because she was dumped by her boyfriend, might be just the person to offer you the comfort you need, even though it may seem her type of loss could not possibly compare. At that moment, she hurts like you, and you'll come to find it really doesn't matter why.

Opening up to the possibility that anyone can help you, even your neighbor's three-year-old, allows you so many more chances for simply just feeling better, even for a time. For a Motherless Daughter, those small moments, those breaks, are usually exactly what we need.

I encourage you then, to keep your eyes and hearts open for the people (or the pets even!) who are, without a doubt, going to make you feel better. I encourage you to string together a few of those good moments because at some point you may find you've made a whole day out of them. Playdoh is a great way to get a good moment. So are Oreo cookies.

And finally, don't let your pain keep you apart from others, at least not for long, because some of them really do understand.


Monday, April 17, 2006

Blog the First

When you are a Motherless Daughter, the thoughts you think are generally inconceivable to most people around you. Your life is full of answerless questions, what seems like a never ending stream of frustrating conundrums and flash flood emotions.

For instance, since I moved further into my twenty-something years last month, I began to realize:

#1: That someday I will be older than my Mother
#2: That there will come a time when I have lived longer without my Mother than the time I had lived with her
#3: That I had not learned nearly enough from my Mother about how to navigate this life before the ending of her own

These are my own puzzling thoughts (ones that I hope will not remain infinitely unsolved). You, I am sure, have a host of your very own.

This blog then is for you, Motherless Daughter, who thinks the thoughts and lives the life that many probably could not wrap their minds around. And this blog is for the friends of Motherless Daughters, whose shoulders we cried on, and whose care and laughter brought us back many a time from that all too familiar ledge. Most of us would not be as far along as we are without them.

I hope that in these postings you, your loved ones and your friends, will find guideposts and road signs to help in life's daily navigations. It's not easy going it alone.

I hope that in these postings you will find a familiar soul. Yup, I sure know what that's like. And will take a moment to share your stories and advice.

And finally, I hope that at some point, in the midst of all these musings, you will laugh. Because there's nothing worse than trudging through heaps of life crap without smiling at least once in awhile.

Welcome to my blog. Hang out and stay awhile.