Tag Archives: grief

For Sue

11 Jun


“You’re lovely to remember, and looking back then feeling like I’m walking very slowly through a soft and misty rain. And a beautiful sadness comes over me. Though, I’ve never been so lonely, I’m happy in a way, for the love that I still feel when I think of you today. And a beautiful sadness comes over me.” (Beautiful Sadness, Leikin, M.A. / Holdridge, L.E., © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management US, LLC)

Finding myself like the proverbial “duck out of water” in oh, so many ways, as both married to my husband and living in the middle of Amish country in Pennsylvania, I had the opportunity to leave the insurance business and move back into my chosen career of technical editing/writing. The company was known around town as “the bomb factory” although this was supposed to be a big secret. The place was a front for the CIA, although when it all fell apart a few years after I joined, of course the government denied this and several people, including the founder, went to jail.

I don’t remember interviewing with my supervisor, Sue. I don’t remember first meeting her. My brain cannot process when it did not have a picture of her in it. Straight line skirts, long-sleeved silk blouses with modest V-neck, just a peek of camisole. She was in her late 40s when we met; I was in my late 20s. She had a hearty laugh. She walked briskly and confidently around the proposal production center, which she managed. I was smitten. It was safe. She was married; I was married. I wasn’t smitten totally in that way, but I was smitten further than I had ever been smitten before. (The last time I had been smitten was for a boy named Mark in 5th grade.)

I had known I was gay for a long time. No, a long, long, long time. Growing up, I knew I was different since at least age 10. I had suspected I was gay since at least my mid-teens. Being brought up Roman Catholic, having the expectations of a Mrs. Degree, the white picket fence, the kiddies; it just was not an option. By the time I arrived in California for my final two years of college, it was a foregone conclusion. I had one acquaintance on the student paper I would confide in about this when I got really drunk (a frequent event), but it was confusing because there wasn’t anyone I was “into” in that way.

Then there was Sue.

Oh, Sue.

That throaty laugh. The way her camisole peeked out on her suntanned chest. Her confident, brisk walk.

I had it bad.

We became fast friends. She already had a great girlfriend at work, which made me insanely jealous. That, however, was her “shopping” girlfriend. We had more. (Oh, the things we tell ourselves sometimes!) Her husband was soon dying of cancer. I was soon drinking and drugging, and realizing I was gay and needed to leave my husband. We glommed onto each other like the two dysfunctional, co-dependent, alcoholic, needy people we were.

I was in heaven.

During frequent breaks in the lactation room off the ladies’ room, I’d bare my soul while she’d smoke. After her husband went into the hospital for good and I left my husband, these breaks became less frequent and instead, I’d head to her house after work while she drank and bared her soul while I listened.

One Saturday night after I left my husband, I decided it was finally time to determine whether I was gay. My therapist told me I was unusual because most gays and lesbians come out “with” someone or “because of” someone, but I did not. I decided I must go to the local lesbian bar, find someone to make out with, and see whether I was really gay. (This has all the makings of a bad movie, does it not?)

I am a painful introvert, and drinking never helped. I didn’t have moves. I didn’t have lines. It was sad. Finally someone started paying attention. She was older, which I liked. I definitely needed someone with experience. A few drinks later, I agreed to go back to her place. One thing led to another and another thing led to…The Crying Game. I sobered up fast and things came to a halt. We actually became good friends, but if I said it wasn’t traumatizing at the time, I’d be lying.

First thing at work Monday, I dragged Sue to the lactation room. “You won’t believe what happened to me Saturday night!” I was in hysterics as I recounted the story. “Yeah, so?” She said, in the totally non-judgmental, chill way only she could do. It was not a dismissive tone; it was an embracing, “It could happen to anyone” tone. This was in the middle of the 1980s, people!

Through my whole coming out, separation, divorce, first girlfriend, getting sober, first time getting 13th stepped at AA – through every single thing – this friend of mine never once judged, never once stopped being my friend, never stopped, dare I say, loving me for me. We lost touch a few year after I left the area and she remarried, but I’ve never forgotten her kindness.

So, last night about midnight, I had this thought about her, and I googled. She confidently and briskly left this earth in 2011 at age 72. I am so glad that when I was in her area in 2010, I looked her up and phoned her. I reminded her of my “night of self-discovery.” She laughed that throaty laugh. I now know she was very ill. I thanked her. She said she was happy I was doing well, and she couldn’t wait to tell her daughter I called. I told her I still want Meryl Streep to play her in the movie adaptation of my book.

“I always thought you were the best, I guess I always will. I always thought that we were blessed, and I feel that way still. Sometimes we took the hard road, but we always saw it through. If I had only one friend left, I’d want it to be you. Someone who understands me and knows me inside out. Helps keep me together, and believes without a doubt. That I could move a mountain, someone to tell it to. If I had only one friend left, I’d want it to be you.” (One Friend, Seals, D., © Alfred Publishing Co.)


When It’s Over, It’s Just Beginning

10 Jan

Some say it’s just the nature of the beast
When you love somebody so passionately
Time has a way of stealing
That raging fire feeling
Leaving the ashes laying at your feet

© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Emi Music Publishing, Zells Music Company (Kennedy, M. A./Rose, P./Parton, C.)

I hate to be a spoilsport if you haven’t already figured this out, but every beginning has an ending. It is one of life’s greatest paradoxes that part of living is losing.

Whether it’s a delicious meal, a delightful conversation, or a delirious love affair, sooner or later, it’s going to be over.

Like many other things life throws our way, however, the key is how we handle it when it happens.

The end of a relationship may come suddenly like a push off a cliff or slowly like death by a thousand paper cuts. The way it ends affects how our mind, our heart, and our soul remains, but we are always left in some state of messiness. All of us are left this way. It does not matter if the parting was expected, unexpected, desired, undesired; it is messy. We can never be prepared. Our humanity has a way of smacking us in the face. And, if it was undesired (or we didn’t get to “break up first”), our ego. Oh, our ego!

You can study loss, grieving, break ups, death and dying, bereavement, and heartbreak all you want, and it won’t matter when it’s your time. You may have consoled dozens of friends and family in the same situation and can replay all the right words to yourself over and over, and it sounds just like Charlie Brown’s parents: “Whaa, whaa, whaa.”

The loss of a relationship makes us question everything. It doesn’t help when those around us, however well meaning, make comments like, “What were you thinking?” or “What did you ever see in him?” Please, friends and family, do not make these comments; we are already asking ourselves the same thing!

As a former queen of serial monogamy, I feel qualified to offer some breakup advice.

  1. Be kind to yourself. You are not fat, ugly, unlovable, stupid, or any combination thereof. This is not the time for self-criticism. It is a good time for self-examination. There is a difference.
  2. Surround yourself with those who care about you. Particularly if you and the recently departed spent a lot of time together and your friendship time waned, you may be hesitant to contact friends to chat and hang out. Don’t be hesitant. We’ve all been there. You need to be around those who know you well and love you. You especially need to be around those not afraid to tell you the truth.
  3. Eat. Pray. Love. Don’t forget to eat. Don’t stop exercising. Don’t stop doing things you love.  (If you can’t remember what they are, see #2.) Meditation and prayer are wonderful ways to take your mind off the radio station U247 and get some peace.
  4. Don’t put a timeframe on your healing. It is going to take as long as it takes. It took me longer to heal from a relationship that never really was than it did to heal from a relationship of almost 10 years. You cannot predict in advance how long it will take. Yeah, that sucks. Get over it.
  5. It will bite you in the butt when you least expect it. Somewhere down the road, long after you think you are over it, “it” will come back and bite you in the butt. Guess what? That’s okay. We want endings to be all neat and tidy, but they are not.

If you are struggling with a relationship loss, no matter the circumstances, I wish you peace and light. If there are approaches that have worked for you in dealing with losses, please share them in the comments section so we may all learn.

To our Creator,

Please comfort those who are struggling with any sort of loss. Fill that empty place with light, love, and peace. We know you are near the brokenhearted and save those crushed in spirit. Rescue us from our loneliness; let us find one another in sisterhood and brotherhood, for we are all more alike than we are different.

Amen. (Psalm 34)

Please visit the other synchroblog authors who wrote about New Beginnings for this month:

Jen Bradbury – Enough

Abbie Watters – New Beginnings

Cara Strickland – Bursting

Carol Kuniholm – Acorns, King, Beloved Community

Done With Religion – A New Year, A New Beginning

Kelly Stanley – A Blank Canvas

Glenn Hager – Overcoming The Biggest Obstacle To Reaching Your Goals

Dave Criddle – Get Some New Thinking

David Derbyshire – Changed Priorities Ahead

J A Carter – The Year of Reading Scripture for the First Time

Damon – New Beginnings: Consider These 5 Questions Before Tying The Knot

Jeffrey Kranz – Where To Start Reading The Bible

Joanna990 – On survival – my one word for 2014

K W Leslie – Atonement

Happy – my One Word 365 surprise

Michelle Moseley – Ends and Beginnings

Matthew Bryant – A New Creation

Liz Dyer – It’s a new year and time to make some new mistakes

Edwin Pastor Fedex Aldrich – Foreclosed: The beginning of a new dream

Jennifer Clark Tinker – Starting a New Year Presently

Loveday Anyim – New Year New Resolutions

Loveday Anyim – New Year Resolution Dreamers

Loveday Anyim – New Year Resolution Specialists

Loveday Anyin – New Year Resolution Planners and Achievers

Jeremy Myers – Publish Your Book with Redeeming Press

Amy Hetland – New Beginnings

Phil Lancaster – New Beginnings

Mallory Pickering – Something Old, Something New

Margaret Boelman – The Other Side of Grief

Kathy Escobar – One Image

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