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Fall 2017

Fall 2017

2018 Intentions

December 26, 2017

It’s the time of year when folks start thinking about resolutions, and we all know resolutions are meant to be broken. I have made them for years but once February rolls by, I’ve mostly forgotten about them. That’s because resolutions tend to be outlandish, sometimes unattainable, goals for ourselves instead of potential acts in true alignment with our purpose. This year, I’m setting intentions and for me, these are simply things I have been working on this year that I wish to continue into the next, and perhaps do them a little bigger or better.

While I’ve focused recently on writing about grief and death, one thing that grief shows us is that life is short. Even a long-lived life is short in comparison to the things we can hardly comprehend, like the age of our universe or the span of a century. It is our destiny to create meaning in our short lives. Setting intentions for the year allows us to expand our purpose and better ourselves slowly, with mindfulness and compassion.

In 2018, I will…

  • Turn 40 with grace and clarity. I have promised myself that I will drive to the SC mountains for a morning of sunrise yoga to celebrate my birthday and bring in a new decade with love and peace.
  • Focus on whole body wellness by concentrating on yoga, cardio, and nutrition. While I’ve always loved yoga, I haven’t yet made it a regular practice. This new year, it will become a consistent practice in my life along with the nutrition to support a more rigorous practice.
  • Get outdoors! I love hiking and walking trails but like yoga, I haven’t made it a regular part of my life. Nature brings me happiness; it is a natural mood-lifter and stabilizer for me. Less TV, more nature.
  • Attend one yoga festival. Asheville Yoga Festival, I’m looking at you!
  • Work towards preparation for a potential RYT 200 certification. I believe in callings and training to become a part-time yoga instructor focusing on resilience, grief, and recovery is something that has been tugging on me for a while. My body is not yet in the shape I need it to be to pursue this idea, but 2018 will certainly get me closer to this goal if it is to be.
  • Explore essential oils as part of an overall wellness plan. I’ve always loved working with essential oils, and I’d like to make them an even bigger part of my life next year.

While all of my intentions so far have centered on mind/body wellness, there is one very special to me that supports the next long-term step in my career as a funeral director and embalmer.

  • Work on building my personal financial foundation so that when the right offer to own a funeral home manifests itself in the future, I will be able to accept it. I know I’m still simply an apprentice, until March 2018 at least, but I have big dreams and owning a funeral home with my brother is one of them. I don’t know when or where it will happen but when it does, I will be ready.

Throughout the year, I plan to check in here with the progress of each of my intentions. This is a milestone year for me as I will be entering a new decade in my life while closing a chapter that began with the death of my mother three years ago. It was then that I decided to become a funeral director and embalmer and after earning a degree and apprenticing for two years, I will be fully licensed in March. I am full of hope and gratitude as I close in on 2017 and look forward to the new year.

 

Fall 2017

Three Years

December 16, 2017

I discovered this series of photos in January 2015. My mom died the month before, and my brother and I had just spent two days cleaning out her home. We saved going through her photos for last.

These were taken in 2000 during my mom’s visit to Wilmington to see me and my first son on his first birthday. I remember this being a stressful trip. My mom and I didn’t have a perfect relationship, especially when I was younger. I had a lot of resentments and in my naivety, I was unwilling to let them go. The only things I remember about this trip were the fight we had over dinner and the stress I felt by having my son’s routine disrupted. What my 22-year-old self couldn’t see and what my 36-year-old self could only see after losing her was that my mother loved me the best she knew how. She really loved me, and I spent a lot of wasted time in my younger years keeping her at a distance.

When I first discovered these photos 15 years after they were taken and one month after my mother’s death, I ugly cried with a heart full of regret. In four days, it will be three years since she died and I still regret that I didn’t do better. It’s probably the biggest regret of my life.

Maya Angelou said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

I know we did the best we could. My mother loved me the best she knew how, and I loved her the best I knew how. I just didn’t know better until I lost her, and maybe that’s what I regret the most. I wish I knew better sooner.

My relationships changed dramatically after she died. If there was unfinished business with someone, I spoke it aloud so we could work it out. I never let anyone leave without them knowing how much I love them. I give more hugs and speak more truths in my personal relationships. And most importantly, I don’t ever allow small things to be big things any more.

If I could see her now, there are so many things I would share with my mom. I would ask her to tell me the stories of her life so I could know her better. I would spend more time with her and work harder on the relationship we were building together as adults. I would tell her I’m sorry. And I would let her know I love her so much that life without her is just not the same.

Fall 2017

On Nurturing

November 8, 2017

There is a simplicity and beauty in life if we just stop and take a moment to let it unfold. It’s not easy to do, though. That’s why we chase it endlessly, day after day. We start our mornings in a rush (and let’s be honest here, I’m referring to myself as well), and the day gets away from us. As we finish up the dishes after the  family meal is served but before we settle into the couch for the latest This Is Us episode, we think, “Where did the day go?”

I left a career in marketing to pursue life as a mortician. While in marketing, I was home when my boys came home from school, and I had time to bake in the afternoons for the following day. I worked for myself and made enough to enjoy the afternoons off. I loved being a mom and I loved being home, but I wasn’t so keen on the work. A sacrifice, I thought, for the simple pleasures. It’s funny how one can feel so unfulfilled when denying a calling. I woke up every day thinking, “Is this all there is?” (Insert mom-guilt here. Yes, us moms are allowed to have passions outside of motherhood.)

Once I entered the funeral business, I knew it was where I needed to be. Luckily, my boys were older and understood that I wouldn’t be at home as often. After losing their Granny, they knew that showing up for other families meant sacrificing time with your own. However, as I quickly learned, the long hours and days on call can make one burn out quickly, no matter how understanding your children and partner can be. After two years in the business, I’m by no means an old-timer, yet I’ve already realized that self-care and family-care are important.

The time I spend with family now is quality time. I savor every moment, even if I’m still learning to put the phone down. I’m not perfect, but I’m present. Sometimes I sit back and think, “This is what a fulfilled life feels like.”

The self-care part, important as it is, is something I am still learning to embrace. I’ve always taken care of others before taking care of myself, and it is very easy to continue that trend in this industry. When I’m on a long stretch of days at the funeral home, sometimes my self-care goes right out the window. Yet, this is when I need it the most.

It’s the little things: a quiet bath, a trip to the nail salon (still trying to fit that one in), a nature walk, ordering groceries online so you don’t have to shop, or a home yoga session. It’s also the big things: a cleaning crew to come in and do the detail work, that new light fixture, or a mini-vacation with the family.

The latter is what I indulged in recently.

Every day, I try to see things with fresh eyes. I can see how this would sometimes make people want to break out the eye-roll emoji with the naivety of it all, but death with do that to you. When you see it on a daily basis, it’ll really do that to you. If you’re in the industry and it doesn’t do that to you, it’s time to leave.

We went to Florida to spend some time with my grandfather in Panama City, and I’ve seen the beach a million times. I’ve reluctantly headed to the beach for photo opportunities with my mom and grandmother (both of which are no longer with me), and I’ve gone seashell hunting in the white sand only to misplace the shells when I arrive home. But ever since my mom died… damn. The beach is spiritual experience.

The snowy sand, the way it feels in between your toes, the way it glistens in the sun. The vast expanse of water that dances translucently, somewhere between an emerald and a blue topaz. Standing on a mound of sand and watching your husband play with the kids in the distance, and no place is better than this because if you were a part of it, you’d never feel the sun on your face and the pull on your heart like you do in this moment.

Every day is precious. Every day is a miracle. When we have so many of them, we forget that it is so. That is a tragedy.

The root of self-care is understanding that your contribution to this world is worthwhile and knowing that you have to be your best self in order to show up every day. How can you be your best self? Well, that is up to you. We all have an inner voice that guides us. Listen to it. How can you take care of you today?

For me, I can’t always make the drive to Florida (although I’d love to see my grandfather more often. He is 84 and the wisest man I know. He is also the only grandparent I have left.)  Sometimes, it’s sitting in the tub and appreciating that I have access to water to take a hot bath, with a bath bomb no less! Sometimes, it’s sitting in traffic and being thankful for the heartbeat that sustains my life in this moment. Sometimes, it’s an indulgent shopping trip with the girls for all the things we don’t normally buy for ourselves. And sometimes, it’s the quiet whisper inside of you that knows what is good for you. It’s best to listen to it.

So here I am, back at my desk, back in the real world. No sand between my toes or salt spray in my hair. This is my real life, that delicate balance between nurturing others and nurturing myself. Today, I will take a small moment to nurture myself. You should, too.