Happy Yahrzeit…Again

I like to write something every year on the anniversary of my husband’s death, but this post that I wrote 2 years ago is still every bit as true, and I can think of nothing I would add or take away from it.

There was a time when grief obliterated my ability to do anything but put one foot in front of the other. Wave after wave of tragedy and difficulty had rendered me speechless. I could only find expression in fiction and the occasional poem. The truth was too painful. And for someone who writes nonfiction, that’s a problem.

When there is a death, you find yourself divided into “before” and “after”. Following the initial adjustment to “after” comes the succession of milestones on your path leading away from the event. Every widow or widower knows that date. The day their spouse died.

We have no word in the English language for this event. This macabre anniversary that suffocates the weeks leading up to The Day. This magical marker that must surely mean that life can now go on. A year gone must mean something.

But for American culture, you’re meant to be busy getting on with your life and not making other people uncomfortable with your grief. We do not mark the day with any ritual. There is no section in Hallmark cards for remembering the day your friend’s life fell apart. And one year later, I am still searching for words – anybody’s words – to describe this process of letting go and forgiving and moving forward.

Thankfully, the Jews in their staggering capacity to honor and express grief, have a word precisely for this time. Yahrzeit. A Yiddish word specifically meant for the anniversary of the day a loved one died – often marked by lighting a candle, fasting (if it is the death of a parent), and general recognition that on this day someone important to you left your life forever.

And even I feel like no one remembered this day but me, it is good to know that there is a whole language and people devoted to the idea that one year is not enough to move on. That grief and loss will roll back on you and will be revisited. Even if only for a day.

See you next Yahrzeit.


Letting Go of 2016

I’ve been casting my mind back over the last 12 months, like pretty much everyone else, and reflecting on the lessons learned, the tasks completed, and what was left undone. I noticed a post on social media deriding those who ponder a new year. “If your life sucked on the last day of 2016, it’s still going to suck on the 1st day of 2017.” This is entirely possible. And it entirely misses the point of reflection and marking time.

(This is the same individual who once demanded to know why people who built tiny houses on wheels didn’t just buy a travel trailer. To that I say, campers are ugly, not intended for year-round use, not built to international building codes, not designed to last more than 10 years, not set up for sustainability,…  but I digress.)

Humans mark time, and have done so since, well, time started to be marked. We’re designed to measure success (or failure), progress (or lack thereof), whether goals have been met, and whether the inexorable aging process is compensating us with experience and wisdom. We’re still operating on time systems left to us by the Romans and Babylonians, so now is the designated pause in our revolution around the sun for us to consider the past and the future.

My year was packed – almost frantic with activity. I’ve run 3 businesses and part of a 4th. I’ve been active in 3 organizations, taken multiple trips, published a book, started a magazine, and shared hundreds of blog and social media posts. I’ve sold 2 vehicles and a camper. Painted the house. Replaced furniture. Remodeled 2 buildings. I’ve lost some I thought of as dear friends and reconnected with others who reminded me of the true meaning of friendship. I’ve rethought my life, made some tough choices, and tested my limits.

Looking back, there is a theme – a pattern – to this year that stands out above other years. And it is this… Letting Go.

I let go of an unprofitable business. I released the bitterness and resentment surrounding my husband’s death. I removed the man-made fences surrounding my faith. I relinquished any illusion of control over the unhappiness of family or friends. I walked away from our once beloved co-op and surrendered management of my children’s every educational moment. I relinquished the responsibility of doing yard work, and the guilt of paying someone else to do it. I said good-bye to the fantasy of eternally young parents and the idea that they will always be here. I dismissed employees and clients that were not healthy for my financial future. I gave up the illusion that there are generally accepted societal norms, common sense, and basic humanity. I jettisoned emotional baggage and physical leftovers of my old life. And I stopped looking for the place that I belong.

I know there is more letting go to come. I need to let more possessions go. I need to eventually release the hold on my house (and let it release its hold on me). My daughter will probably learn to drive, a forced letting go. My mother may slip away. My favorite yoga pants have stretched their last.

But I want the next year to be one of Reaching Out. I want to move toward the next chapter of life to refashion my days to reflect my values. I want to grab hold of more travel, to relish the time I have with true friends and family. I want to work into a deeper healing and a greater joy and more forward movement.

This year, I invested in myself. Not all of the money multiplied (or even broke even). Much of the time was spent in learning, instead of escapism or worry or grief. My energy resources are definitely depleted. I might do some things differently, but I would still do them all.

Was 2016 good or bad? I do not know. It passed. That is all. It was a learning year. A year of stabilizing and accepting, while simultaneously letting go and upsetting the balance.

So I could be in a better balance.

Letting go means you have to open your hands, which means they are ready to accept something new. And my hands are open.


Quotes for Moving On

I recently read Barbara Sher’s It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now, and while it was good for those in a mid-life crisis, it wasn’t really what I was looking for. However, nothing is wasted, and I found these six nuggets to ponder on. I think they apply to anyone who is making a change, moving on, or letting go.

Respect Reality. It’s bigger than you are.

A waste of Time is a waste of Talent.

Do your part and forget about the rest.

When you stop wanting the carrot, and the stick no longer hurts, you’re going to turn into a donkey with an opinion.

(This is a great one for breaking the negative cycle in your life. Dare to be a donkey with an opinion!)

Disapproval doesn’t bother me as much as it used to.

Be good only to the good people.

Do you have any favorite quotes that help you deal with the ups and downs of life? Please share them here. We need all we can get!