Regrets and Remembering

dad
It’s been 7 years today since my father died. How it’s been this long is something I cannot understand, because on that morning, it felt like the entire world stopped spinning and all time ceased. In some ways, I suppose, it actually did. I’ll never be the same person I was before this day. Some part of me is frozen behind a transparent wall that separates me from evolving into who I would have been without this loss. I lost more than my father that day – I lost myself. Ever so slowly, I’ve gotten small parts of myself back, and yet I know there will never be a time when I get back the comfort I lost that day. Each year that passes, a new phase of loss takes over, and while it always focuses on something a little different, the feeling is the same: I’m physically and mentally exhausted and I find myself wandering aimlessly. On one of my recent wanderings, I started obsessing over things I regret when it comes to my dad. They aren’t huge regrets; luckily I have none of those (well, maybe one: right after he died, I cried for days when I realized my last Christmas gift to him had been a toaster…a toaster! I regret that damn toaster like you wouldn’t believe.)

If I Could Go Back I Would:

Take More Photographs – And by “more” I mean “way too many;” because now, I look back, and I don’t have nearly enough photos of my father and I together. We live in an age where there is a camera at your fingertips about 99% of the time – bust it out no matter how much people piss and moan – they’ll thank you later. Bonus points for taking candid’s of people you love when they don’t even know you’re doing it – when they’re being their authentic selves. Those captured moments are priceless and sadly, photographs tend to last much longer than we do.

Ask More Questions – I don’t know what age I was when I figured out that my parents were actually human beings, but now that I know they were individual people with a history of their own before I ever came into existence, I really wish I asked my dad more questions. I yearn to know him as an adult. Get to know your parents at every new age you enter – the man I knew my father to be when I was 12 years old, was different than the man I knew him as when I was 24…and I’d sure love the opportunity to get to know him now that I’m in my 30’s; because as we mature, so do the questions we ask.

Say “I Love You” More – As in, way too much. I come from a family where we say “I love you” constantly. I exchanged these words with my parents probably ten times in a day – and I STILL wish I’d said it to my father more. Tell people you love them. Say it until you’re blue in the face and they’re looking at you strangely wondering if something is very wrong with you. Just. Say. It.

Ride The Damn Motorcycle – My dad was a pretty cool guy. He hiked, he camped, he knew how to fix anything, he could cook up a feast, he knew every answer in Jeopardy, he loved riding motorcycles…the list goes on. As life goes, my dad let go of some of his beloved hobbies as he got older, riding motorcycles being one of them. As a gift, not long before he died, my mom surprised him with one. As in, went out and bought it behind his back and put it in the driveway on a beautiful summer morning. It was a completely insane gift that he never EVER would have bought for himself (You guys were a really good match, Mom…I see that more than ever now), and I will NEVER forget the open-mouthed look of surprise on his face when he saw it shining in the driveway. My regret is this: He asked me a thousand times to let him take me for a ride on it – but I always refused. I always shook my head violently whenever he’d beg, saying “It’s so frickin’ cool, Ash!” I know it would have made him so happy to take me for a ride, and there’s nothing I’d like more now than to climb on the back and bite back my fear. The point: If you can bring joy to your loved ones by saying “yes:” Just. Say. Yes. Say “yes” to being part of the things that make their heart happy.

(On a related note: Buy. The. Motorcycle. Life is too short to deny yourself the things that make your soul feel joy.)

Say “Thank You” More – I’ve always been grateful to my parents. Growing up, we didn’t have tons of money, and I saw how hard they worked to give us everything they could. Now that I’m older, I see the DEPTH of what they did for us. I can appreciate now, more than ever before, the extent of their love. For example, I now realize how completely EXHAUSTED my dad must have been, working the hours he worked, but he’d come through the front door every night, briefcase in hand, smiling – ready to play monopoly, backgammon, cook dinner, or watch movies with us. I’d love to say “thank you” not only for providing us with a home and food, but also for “man-ing up” and putting in the extra effort when I’m sure he wanted to collapse. Hell, I don’t even have three kids and when I get home from work, I can barely summon the energy to feed myself. So, find gratitude in the littlest things, which are really the biggest – and (here’s the important part) speak that gratitude out loud. I was still too young when my dad passed away to thank him for the things I’d thank him for now.

Every day that we’re on this earth with the people we love is a blessing and when you think of how fast it can all change, it becomes too big to comprehend. But, every single sacred moment that you’re in the presence of those most important to you is an opportunity to LOVE them – and I mean “love” as a verb, an action. Don’t let it overwhelm you. No act of love is too small. In fact, it’s the smallest things that end up being the biggest.

Missing you, daddy.

– A

Advertisements

Gratitude and Joy

4d3e204e476f060689018292a8039702

Last month I had what ended up being a pretty life changing experience. It has drastically impacted the my day to day journey from start to finish. Part of that experience is what I’m about to share with you.

Life has been difficult for me in the past months. While my suffering is no greater or worse than anyone else’s – it is only my experience – I was really struggling every single day. I was begging for answers, and coming up empty; until two wonderful people took the time to sit me down and give me truths I needed to hear and the healing I needed to feel. While the experience that I had is a bit too long to tell in a simple blog post (it would probably end up being more like a book), I want to pass on the simplest and easiest part of it. Anyone can do it, anytime.

Part of what these two wonderful people told me was this: “When you wake up in the morning, even if you don’t feel it, say out loud: Today I will find gratitude and joy. Say it with purpose, and again, even if you don’t feel like you’ll find either one, say you will. Even if you’re crying, say it.”

Even though I didn’t really give much creedance to that part of the advice (how could I be expected to even remember to say the very words gratitude and joy amidst one of the hardest periods of life I’ve ever faced?!? I was NOT finding gratitude or joy even when I called out to it), I trusted them, and every day from that point forward, even when I could hardly move myself to get out of bed, I said the words: Today I will find gratitude and joy. Some days (ok, quite a few days) with tears stinging my eyes, because even thinking of gratitude and joy made me hurt…they were so far from my grasp.

But….

Slowly (and in the grand scheme of things, very, very, very, quickly), I began to feel different. When I spoke that phrase aloud, I truly started to feel gratitude and joy. On certain days, I’d only remember to say it in a quiet moment of small happiness – a hot coffee, a smiling stranger, a beautiful sunset – but now, every day, I’m remembering to say it because I’m finding it every day. Now don’t confuse that with everything being perfect…it’s not. My life is a work in progress, but the clouds have parted and I have to say, I am finding joy every day. Joy…a word I never get much thought to, now fills me.

There is no magic happiness pill that will poof you into a state of bliss. And even what I’ve told you is just one small and simple part of what it takes to fill all the gaps in our lives until it pours over the brim with happiness. I am not the first to suffer, and I won’t be the last. So, I’m hoping that in passing along this little nugget, I can help someone the way I was helped – without expectation and out of love.

Today, I will find Gratitude and Joy.

– A

The Good Guys

image

Here’s to the dads who love the mother of their children, because they know it sets the tone for how their daughters will choose men and how their sons will treat women. Heres to the dads who learn how to french braid their daughters hair when mom is off duty for a night. Heres to the dads who teach their kids how to fish – they’ll eat for a lifetime. Heres to the dads who work themselves to the bone to put food on the table and still open the door with a smile on and ready to play monopoly and fix dinner when they come home.  Here’s to the dads who kiss and hug their kids. Heres to the dads who say ‘I Love You’ every single day – especially to their sons. Heres to the dads who stayed. Heres to the dads that know doing magic tricks and cooking pancakes in the shape of letters on Sunday mornings will feeds his kids souls longer than anything he could buy them would. Heres to the dads who aren’t afraid to look silly. Heres to the dads that let their daughters put hair ties and  in their hair and makeup on their face. Heres to the dads who put their childs happiness above all else. Heres to the dads who teach their kids right from wrong. Heres to the dads who let their kids know theyre proud of them. Heres to all the dads who TRY. If you aren’t a dad yet or youre new at it, please don’t forget: You are needed, now more than ever. You are loved. You are appreciated. You are important. Happy Fathers Day to all of you Dads out there. And Happy Fathers Day to the most amazing man I’ve ever known – the one I’m lucky enough to call Dad. I miss you, love you, and hope that was really you I hugged in my dreams last night.

What is Sunshine Without Rain?

op
Last week I went home to Massachusetts to spend Memorial Day weekend with my family in Maine.  I was there 8 days and it rained every single day with the exception of Memorial Day.  Every. Single. Day.

Now that I’m accustomed the weather in Southern California (i.e. constant sunshine and mild temperature), spending 8 days without sunshine took a toll on me.  Combine the dismal weather with the fact that my emotions were running high due to several different situations, and it made for a long week.

While the trip was flecked with wonderful (fresh Maine lobsters, sunsets, family gatherings, friends, and one sunny day that made all the rain worth it), overall, it was an incredibly difficult week for me.

The last day of my trip, my mom and I had a long talk.  I won’t discuss what it was about, but suffice it to say, we weren’t laughing.  But, after leaving the house for a bit to clear my head, I came home to my mom and hugged her hard.  The conversation that followed went something like this:

Mom: “Get a load of my socks.”

I look down at her socks and notice she’s wearing a completely mismatched pair.  I laughed and dipped my head knowing what I was about to reveal, feeling comfort, closure, love and acceptance.

Me: “Get a load of mine.”

I stooped down, untied, and removed my boots to reveal my own completely mismatched socks.

We documented it as proof:

socks

 

 

It was such an awesome moment that will forever remind me that no matter how much we may seem different, as family, we are deep down so very similar.

I left Massachusetts on a delayed and twice rerouted (of course, due to bad weather) flight out of Boston.   I came back to California with a new appreciation for the constant sunshine.
All it took was a little rain.