It’s been seven years since I started this blog.
At the time, I had no idea where it would lead. I just knew I’d started a transition in my life and felt compelled to share it with my family and friends. It’s been a journey to discover my voice, getting comfortable with using the pronoun “I” and embracing the twitchy feeling of vulnerability every time I hit “publish”. My hope was to share travel adventures, inspire and open up new possibilities for others, and, if possible, make the reader laugh while reflecting deeply. I never dreamed I’d still be writing all these years later.
I’ve been reviewing the content and realize the blogs where I lose my Zen or confess to embarrassing foibles – well, those get more comments. Thank you, readers, for acknowledging my human vulnerabilities and encouraging me to continue writing about them!
This blog has also acted as witness to my exit from the corporate world, the death of both my parents, my battle with breast cancer, my journey to become a coach and my gradual acceptance of my life as a 3rd act gypsy. So may life-quakes shaking up my former life and so many lessons as I adapt after each one. So, I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that blog number 75 holds yet another lesson.
This summer was full of incredible joy as we celebrated two weddings and reconnected with family after the pandemic. My heart has been full of laughter and hope and a deep feeling of being blessed. The past month has also held sorrow with the sudden passing of my brother. The yin-yang of these events is not lost on me. I feel compelled to share this part of my journey in hopes it may help others who have experienced a sudden loss.
When my brother, Mike, was four years old, he insisted on buying me a birthday present, so my mother took him shopping. When they got home, they huddled in the bedroom for quite some time, eventually emerging with a gift hidden behind his back. He had the biggest smile in the world and was bouncing with eagerness. My mom pulled me into the kitchen and with hushed but emphatic tones, told me that no matter what this present was, I needed to love it. Mike thought it was the perfect gift for me, so you will love it. I was a very dutiful child of ten at that stage and took the stern advice to heart.
We went back into the living room where he presented the tiny box with great pride. Open it! he crowed. I slowly opened the wrinkly-wrapped gift held together with more tape than ribbon. This wasn’t just a young child’s attempt at wrapping, this is a Pelka trait. My dad would wrap packages with an engineer’s intensity and so much heavy-duty tape that I’d need a nap after wrestling the package open. It became a joke for years and as I look back, Mike showed the same tendency at the tender age of four.
“Oh, my,” I exclaimed, “a red chicken! I’ve always wanted a red chicken. How did you know?” I gushed and held it up to show the rest of the family. I was over-grinning, the kind that hurts your face if you do it for too long, but I was determined to show my delight at this gift. I turned to my brother and saw he was close to tears. He cried, “It’s not a chicken. It’s a robin, it’s a red robin!”
I course corrected quickly and assured him it was, indeed, a robin, and I loved it and it was perfect. I made a big deal of placing it on my dresser so I could see it every day. That seemed to please him and my gift identification crisis was averted.
Over the years, it became a teasing debate between us; he was insistent it was a robin and I would argue it was most likely a chicken. We’d laugh and move on, agreeing to disagree.
I’ve carried the chicken-robin with me my whole life. It sits on my dresser; still tiny, still red and still looking very much like a red chicken to me.
What I wouldn’t give to have one more teasing faux-debate over the red chicken-robin.
Instead, I’ll look for and accept the gifts that loss has provided; the happy memories of recent family-filled weddings, a new beginning for the old family home, a deepening relationship with my nephew and a renewed commitment that life needs to be lived fiercely and consciously every day.
“Grief is just love looking for a place to land.”
– Susan David, Emotional Agility