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Welcome February

Fall In-Love w/ Yourself February 2018 is here.

wow.

I’m both shocked it got here so soon, and wondering why the hell it took so long to pull into the driveway…

For me December was laborious, a month of getting pretty much nothing done except the important work of feeling/crying/seeing/healing. My triggered PTSD took my brain into some deep well of darkness and my low-level depression bloomed there. I was in such distress. I couldn’t focus at work or here in my studio.

I didn’t get the new scarf crocheted for my husband’s Christmas gift, nor the embroidered gifts I’d planned for his mom and sister. I didn’t get the Christmas cards I’d bought mailed out. The night of the Winter Solstice came and went without a ritual or even a candle and a prayer said. I woke up Christmas morning and just did not know how to find joy at all. It was all I could do to write a grocery list each week, much less move forward on creating and planning for 2018.

January began much as December had ended. I either didn’t feel like eating, or ate too much, putting on another 5 pounds my knee and back didn’t need. I think I’ve shaved my legs twice since Thanksgiving. I couldn’t concentrate to read and found Facebook took too much energy to engage in – even with the groups and folks I really get a lift from connecting with. I missed sending one of my weekly Love Notes, which felt particularly defeating as those are as much a commitment to myself as my subscribers. And, to top it off, I was unable to finish the Self-Care Guide for Winter – having published the guides for Spring, Summer & Fall this would have completed the circle. I was, and still am, deeply disappointed this didn’t get finished (and, yes, I do plan to eventually finish it).

It wasn’t pretty.

It also wasn’t outwardly dramatic.

I just quietly struggled in my darkness.

But still I labored on in my healing work. Worry was building about February looming closer and closer without my having sought out the submissions I’d hoped for or even having really announced submissions were open – I think I posted about it one, maybe two times total, and the challenge – yeah, I couldn’t even wrap my head around that one. I knew I had to find my way to a place where I could at least host a few guest pieces if nothing else – this series is the bedrock of everything my work is about here at Grace & Magic – I could not let it die, and yet for 6 weeks I couldn’t gather the energy and focus to work on it.

I felt a shift happening as the second week of January passed the halfway park, a pathway back into the light if you will. Quickly, before it could evaporate and leave me wordless again, I sent out submission requests and began jotting down ideas for my own posts and for a 2nd annual Fall In-Love w/ Yourself Challenge. I even managed a blog post. I wouldn’t say I was on fire, but I had an ember gaining strength and it was warming and nurturing and encouraging me to continue, to begin again.

Then, on January 11th, my beloved friend Brighid, now too weak from cancer to care for herself, was admitted to the hospital. She’d only learned she had stage IV colon cancer on November 4, 2017 – a mere 76 days before.

Everything stopped.

Those of us in a private Facebook group set up to facilitate care for her began scrambling:

How long would she be there? Who would care for her young sons? What about the dog? The outdoor cats? Were visitors allowed? Who could stay with her when her primary caregivers needed to go home and tend to their own families? How could we all best help?

Derek, my husband, says he wants to play cello or guitar for her if she wants, when asked she clearly says, yes, she wants this.

Sunday, Jan. 14th, we got everything ready to go visit her only to receive word she wasn’t able to have visitors that day.

Monday, Jan. 15th, it was a go and we spend the afternoon into evening in her room – him alternating between cello and guitar (he eventually ends up singing Beatles songs to her), me just sitting, praying, loving her. She doesn’t regain consciousness our entire visit.

Tuesday, Jan 16th, at noon I drive back up to Seattle to take a turn being her caregiver.

Wednesday, Jan 17th, I tell her “I love you” and head back home.

Sunday, Jan 24th, we pack up and drive back up to Seattle. She’s able to speak a little, whispers really. When I ask her if she’d like Derek to play for her there’s a horse but clear “yes”, and so he plays, on-and-off, for 7 hours for her, switching between guitar and cello. In the evening, as another friend and I rub her tender swollen ankles to ease her discomfort he sings her Beatles love songs again. When it was time to head home I leaned in, putting my forehead against hers and whisper, “I love you Brighid, safe travels.”

That was the last time I saw Brighid.

On that drive home I find myself so exhausted and sad that I’m going numb or something, staring straight ahead feeling so many things, holding so many unanswerable questions about justice and fairness and miracles so very needed. This should not be happening.

Monday, Jan 25th, Derek comes home from looking pale and ragged. He slumps down into a chair at the kitchen table, “I feel like crap.” At my insistence, because “I can’t lose you too right now!”, he calls in sick for the next day and agrees to a trip to urgent care the next day. My night owl is in bed well before 8:00.

Tuesday, Jan 26th, at 7:25am, my beautiful and beloved friend Brighid dies, passing over into whatever-is-next. I find out while at work that morning, tears flow down onto my keyboard. My first thought is to text Derek, then I remember that he’s home sleeping and so ill. So instead, I hold this to myself.

When I get home that morning I want to rush into his arms for comfort, but I fear it’ll be too much to let out only to then have to tuck back inside for our trip to urgent care. So I continue to hold it to myself. He’s so out of it that he doesn’t think to ask after her – that helps.

That afternoon I take him into urgent care. It’s the flu. He’s sent home with instructions to stay home from work and rest for the remainder of the week. We head straight home from the pharmacy my bag now full of cough syrup with codeine, an inhaler, and Tamiflu.

Once home I’m trying to figure out dinner and I turn around to find him standing there in the living room looking at me.

I can’t hold this inside any longer and go into his embrace, telling him about Brighid’s passing.

“How is she gone? How could this happen? This isn’t fair!” I cry into his shoulder.

That was a little over a week ago. Since then we’ve all battled the flu, I’m still fighting it. I’ve slept and slept, and I’ve laid awake at night feeling awful and cruddy and sick at heart that she’s gone from us.

And I’ve made no progress on my planned post for Fall In-Love w/ Yourself February. I missed sending another weekly Love Note to subscribers. The laundry pile has grown to frightful heights. I’ve missed two days of work during the busiest week of the month there. And the Fall In-Love w/ Yourself Challenge just could not come to being as hoped for.

Why am I telling you all of this in the opening post for ta series called Fall In-Love w/ Yourself February?

Because in the midst of all of all these distressing and stressing things, amidst all the triggered tears, disappointments and heartbreak, I held true to myself.
What do I mean by holding true?

I mean that I stayed strong in my commitment to love myself and offer myself the utmost of compassion and acceptance.

Am I still disappointed about what I didn’t get done?

Yes.

But here’s the thing about engaging in regular and committed self-care and compassion practices – you can be disappointed in yourself for not meeting a goal without tearing yourself apart over it.

Because, let’s face it, from time to time we’re all gonna have goals we fail to reach, sometimes that we even fail to take the first step towards.

And while, yes, it’s disappointing and even at times annoying – having a strong foundation of self-love and compassion allows you to be disappointed and annoyed with yourself without being cruel to yourself.

That is the difference between loving yourself and just tolerating yourself: the ability to be honest about your disappointments without tearing yourself down for them.

Another thing this foundation of self-love and compassion have offered me these past two months was the absolute faith that resting and healing were what I needed, and that giving myself what I needed was the truest, wisest thing I could do. I mean, sure, I probably could have stuffed my feelings deep into a box or a bottle of wine and finished the Self-Care Guide for Winter, but really?!? That goes against everything I stand for and would have tainted the guide through my own energetic self-harming.

And so I rested, I cried, I stared at the walls and held fast to my faith that loving myself with honest compassion for where I was right then was, truly, the most sacred thing I could be doing.

This is the gift of authentic self-love.

This is why I host Fall In-Love w/ Yourself February each year.

Because life is better when you love yourself.

….If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss a post this month, you can subscribe to weekly Love Notes here for links to all of them.

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