How Great Thou Part

How Great Thou Part

Are You Living A Proactive or Reactive Marriage?

posted by corme

I am walking with my friends Cookie and Candy. It’s our first lap around Cookie’s neighborhood. As usual, in between laughs we are attempting to solve the world’s problems as well as our own. Well, usually mine since I am in the middle of this thing called divorce.

We chat about the difference in life as we get older. Ultimately, we loop back around to chatting about our exercising, our mid-life pounds and our health.

It makes me think.

It makes me think about a time when I lived a proactive life rather than a reactive life.

I was happy with my proactive life.

This reactive life is weighing on me.

I think back to the days that life flowed effortlessly and happiness and calm were the roommates of my heart. Now in this thing called divorce and all the year’s leading up to it, sadness and stress have become the roommates of my heart.

I know why I started living a reactive life. I know why things became out of control and life seemed like a minefield that needed to be cautiously side stepped.

I stayed in a bad situation too long. The longer I stayed the more life became out of control. I was one person trying to fix the problem. I became less and less of myself and my strength diminished.

I advise people now to never stay in a bad situation too long. It takes a slice of you that is hard to restore and diminishes you to a point where you need to be your entire whole to eventually get out of it.

Are You Forgiving or Are You an Enabler?

posted by corme

I enter the office with my marriage counseling tool kit. A cup of coffee and a few tissues. It is still early in my marital distress. I slump into the couch knowing instinctively that this is one of the few safe places to let go of my pain.

The pain begins to find a way out. At first it is a slow drizzle of tears, then a slight downpour and ultimately a hurricane. It is hard to find safe harbor from these salty demons.

My marriage counselor closes the door.

He slides into his familiar chair. We chat for a few minutes before I start my standard, one woman, verbal dissertation of angst. I alternate between exercising my heart and begging for knowledge to restore it.

“Colleen,” says my counselor. “You are not an enabler. You are a major, major enabler.”

“Wow,” I respond with a rare chuckle. “Has anyone ever told you that you have a little Dr. Phil in you?”

“Why, yes, I have been told that before,” laughs my counselor.

I will call him, “Dr. Hope,” because that is who he is for me. He is a safe refuge that absorbs my pain and promises the eventual delivery of the joy that I have involuntarily misplaced.

Dr. Hope continues……….

“Colleen, what were you thinking? Why did you put up with the same behavior again and again?”

I don’t need to think about this. I respond immediately.

“I was thinking I was being kind,” I say.

The words that Dr. Hope speaks next are life changing. They transport me back to the little girl with pigtails who sits in her first grade classroom at Saint Luke’s Elementary. The chalk scrapes the blackboard and is guided by Sister Lisa Marie, a young and loving nun who makes school seem exciting. It is the precursor to my Catholic education where kindness is emphasized and only reinforced by a young nun who delivers it in spades.

“Colleen,” says Dr. Hope. His voice carries the same brand as Sister Lisa Marie.

“Kindness is forgiving bad behavior once or twice. Enabling is forgiving that same behavior over and over again.”

It is a shifting moment for me.

I am no longer confused.

I can be kind AND have limits. It does not mean I lack kindness. It means I have boundaries. It means that I deserve to not only be kind to others, but to be kind to myself as well.

 

 

The White Wine Obituary

posted by corme

I open the door and jump into my neighbor’s car. It’s a mild summer evening perfect for the Lionel Richie / Cee Lo Green concert.

There’s no absence of chatter. It is all pure excitement.

We pull into the parking lot. We grab the bags of goodies out of the car.

We inch towards the golf carts that will take us to the outdoor venue more easily. It seems that Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay are quite heavy while still uncorked. Despite their obvious weight begging to be taken off, we decide to walk the rest of the way.

There are a sea of blankets dotting the green, sloped lawn.

We are smart.

We send one sacrificial lamb to stake our territory as we wait in far less coveted ground. It is my neighbor who invites us here this evening. I will call her, “Summer.”

“Summer” waves at the rest of us and we quickly find the Pinot and Chardonnay light enough to bull doze through anyone in our way. After all, “Summer” has found us the perfect spot to sing Lionel songs.

We hunker down. Our rock star neighbor has agreed to be our designated driver. I will call, her “Seasons.”

My other neighbor uncorks the bottle, I will call her, “Mick” for reasons known only unto her. We pass around some appey’s and help Pinot and Chardonnay lose a little weight.

Cee Lo starts off and we wonder how we have lived without seeing him in concert before.

Then Lionel, the sneaky one, ambushes us with our past and transports “Summer” to her senior prom.

It is one song after another yanking us back to our youth. Like shots lined up at a bar. Each one making you more impaired as you drink them down.

It is then that my neighbor “Mick” turns towards me and “Summer.” She leaves “Seasons” alone since she is our driver.

“Will you girls have another glass of wine with me?” she muses.

“Of course!” reply me and “Summer”

With an absolute squeal of delight, Mick declares us, “The best neighbors ever!”

Now, of course, we know that, but it’s always nice to be validated.

We feel a bit younger tonight. A little Lionel lightness. A little 1980‘s giddy. We, “Dance The Night Away.” Well, actually, no………….we leave that to the guy a few blankets in front of us.

Lionel takes a few minutes to remind us of our age. He tells us when we suffer through a day and we don’t know who to turn to………….not to worry……….because he does.

“His name is wine,” says Richie. “You go home and you grab your album, your CD, your cassette and your eight track and you call on Lionel Richie.”

We spend the night doing just that.

The next day, a few neighborly calls make their way from house to house. We are relieved to hear that, “Seasons,” still finds us the best neighbors ever. Never mind, that she drove us home from our mid-life, ‘prom.’

We tally just how much weight Pinot Grig and Chard lost the night before.

It seems that while, “Lionel, we all wish we could say we were still a little, “Stuck on You.”

Let’s just say, that our “Endless Love”  with Pinot and Chard lasted “All Night Long.”

The next time we find ourselves back in the 1980’s and, “Running With the Night,”  it will be with “Merlot.”

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone Should Know This Type of Love

posted by corme

It is early evening as I step through the front doors of the assisted living rehabilitation center. The building is quiet as I meander down the hall.

I spy a familiar face and walk into the room.

The mood is joyful and lively.

My friend’s father sits up in the bed. He is wearing his trademark grin. His wife stands close by and sports her own matching trademark smile.

The nurses are reveling in these guests who transport them with their infectious love and laughter.

As is customary in my column I will change the names to protect the innocent and call my friend’s parents, “Ricky and Lucy”

“Ricky just lights up every time Lucy walks into the room,” says a nurse. “That never happens here.”

We all giggle for a moment.

Ricky validates the comment and proudly confirms that seeing Lucy walk in is the best part of his day and that every time he sees Lucy it’s like seeing her for the first time.

I digest the splendor of their love and reflect on how seldom it is seen amongst long married couples.

It is some time later and long after my early evening visit that I am driving and hear a new song by country artist, Jana Kramer. It is titled, “Love.”

I am drawn to the beauty of the words……….

“I still believe in miracles. I still believe in wedding rings and Bibles. I still believe the best walk you will ever take is walking down the isle.” The song goes on to say, “Love, love, love I still believe in you. You’ll pull me through cause that’s what you do……that’s what you do, love.”

I think back to Ricky and Lucy.

I think back to their unique brand of love. A brand so strong it lasts them a lifetime.

I remember a moment while sharing cocktails with them.

“You’re a dreamer??” asks Ricky enthusiastically.

“Yes,” I say with a smile.

“I’m a dreamer too!!” he says proudly

He grabs my hand and races me into the dining room and announces to his two sons, “Did you know Colleen was a dreamer?!”

Then he urges me to tell them one of my crazy product ideas.

We all roar with laughter.

Ricky and I walk back outside and sit down next to Lucy. We sip our drinks and share a few more ideas as only dreamers can. He jokes about a book he wants to write.

Ricky sports the signature, “joie de vivre’ of every great dreamer. He revels in the endless possibilities of life. Ricky knows what I know. That the world is filled with realists, yet it’s sprinkled with just a few candy coated dreamers.

He tells me of a time, when as a young man, he comes home to tell Lucy that he wants to open a cheese shop on Long Island. Never mind that at that time, no one has ever heard of a shop just for cheese. Never mind that it involves quitting his very lucrative job. Never mind that soon Lucy will find herself working and selling cheese in that very shop. Never mind because Lucy believed in her dreamer who also happened to be intuitively ahead of his time.

A few days ago, I get the call that Ricky has left his love affair with life and therefore, his one true love.

Lucy has lost her dreamer.

I think back to the song, “Love.”

“Love, love, love I still believe in you. You’ll pull me through cause that’s what you do……that’s what you do, love.”

I think back to the rehabilitative center. I think back to Ricky lighting up when Lucy walks into the room.

Ricky believed in love and dreams.

Lucy believed in love and her dreamer.

And he proved to her that dreams really do come true.

 

 

The Two Types of Human Suffering

posted by corme

I shift from side to side in the bed and punch at the pillows. I spray lavender into the air. The fan hums a white noise lullaby, yet sleep evades me. I fight it at first, but soon I begin to cry.

It is not long before my eyes are so puffy that the tears can barely find their escape.

Divorce comes in all different shapes and sizes.

Some end with the remembrance of the love which starts it still lingering.

Others end with the love drowning and the heart left gasping for air.

I am no stranger to loss. I am no stranger to stress.

This feels like neither.

It feels like destruction.

I believe in human suffering we are meant to learn from it.

I believe in extreme human suffering we are meant to do something with it.

In basic human suffering there are small set backs in life. We are meant to look inward and learn from them. Perhaps we are meant to grow and become better people and other times we are meant to learn that we need to self-protect and develop boundaries. Regardless, it is a journey of one to become a better version of ourselves.

In extreme human suffering where more seems thrown at an individual than seems bearable I think we are meant to do something with it. It is a journey that starts with one and joins many. In extreme human suffering we are meant to touch the lives of others. To take what we have experienced outside of our own four walls and attempt to do something good with it.

To reach for the other hearts gasping for air and share our oxygen.

The One Piece of Advice My Uncle The Priest Left Me

posted by corme

I grab for a book and realize my heart is too heavy and my mind too crowded to absorb it. I know that in the struggle of divorce there are days where no energy exists to absorb words of wisdom despite the fact that I crave them.

I am reminded why I write this column. I try and make my words brief since life distraction demands it. I am reminded of the limits that we possess during pain.

I am reminded of my uncle the priest. I am reminded of what he would have told me today when self-help and inspiration evades me. It is something my family reminds me through gentle, nudging texts.

I am reminded of letting go.

I am reminded of faith which is in essence…………….‘letting go.’

I will not get where I am intended if I do not.

I am reminded of the one single piece of advice my uncle always gave me. It never changed. It did not matter if it was a different day and a different struggle. My uncle, Father Pat always reminded me of his favorite Proverb 3:5-7. It has become my mantra in life and I lean on it often through this divorce.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make straight your paths.”

My Catholic Mother’s Jewish Best Friend

posted by corme

We sit nestled under an umbrella. The late August sun peeks out around us. We are jabbering relentlessly because far too many years have passed between us. The waiter stops to take our order only to be ushered away while we chat some more.

For me there are not enough hours in this visit. I am thrilled to be sitting next to one of my mother’s very best friends and her son and his partner. So happy to be reunited with them.

She is a Brooklyn girl just like my mom which brings forth a familiarity that comforts me.

As we talk she reaches for my arm. It too, reminds me of my mother. It is a familiar gesture and brings with it the type of understanding empathy that my mom would offer me in this moment.

In the throws of this thing called divorce which ravages the heart I am missing my mom. She is the only one that could truly absorb my hurricane of tears, chase away my fears and make me believe that everything will one day be okay.

Though many years have come and gone since Babs has moved to the West Coast she is just as I remember her. She is warm, kind, and loving with a spirited ‘joie de vivre’ and a constant smile.

Babs once fondly told me of their first meeting. After her move to Washington, D.C., she went in search of a few Jewish girlfriends and in the midst of that she met an Irish Catholic girl from Park Slope, who spoke a little yiddish and brought her Jewish penicillin when she was sick.

We find ourselves laughing over my mom and her yiddish.

We dig into the food in front of us. There are stories and memories. For a few hours my mom is present. A bit of her brought to life by a friend who loved her.

I am in the moment grateful for this gift. I am in that short time lifted to the twelve year old sitting at the table watching my mom and Babs trade rapturous laughter and happy to be in the middle of it.

I pour out a bit of my heart as the lunch nears an end. I share a few of the fears I would have told my mom.

Babs imparts a bit of wisdom and offers me a hug.

I watch her walk away. I am left with the same combination of love, hope and moxie that my mom would have gifted me.

I may be the only Irish Catholic girl who hears someone talk about Jewish Penicillin and responds, “Hey, my mom made that!”

Then again, my mom was always proud to say that she spoke a little yiddish.

The Silver Linings of Divorce – How Great Thou Hope

posted by corme

It is not long after I start my divorce that things get even more complicated and I am feeling a mixture of fear and hope.

I hear a knock at the door.

It is my friend. I will call her, “Rosalita.”

In she walks, hands dripping with friendship filled gifts to ease my pain.

I snatch one thing from the typically generous and overflowing “Rosalita” gift bag. I place it on my kitchen bar top. I stare at the black, wooden sign with white infused writing.

“You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.”

I do not feel strong.

I leave it perched there as my mantra. A wooden nod to my current life predicament.

Somehow, as I walk into my kitchen each day, it becomes believable.

I AM strong. I HAVE no choice.

It is months later and I am talking with a friend who tells me not to forget to aim high for what I deserve.

“Thank you for saying that,” I respond back. “Divorce has in many ways undermined my sense of self and in other ways restored it.”

This makes me reflect on “Rosalita’s” sign.

I switch momentarily to my e-mail. I open a few before I get to one from a friend who has just learned of my divorce who tells me I am in their prayers. In the closing line I spy a phrase that I say frequently at the beginning of my divorce and have now lost sight of.

“Remember……There is always a silver lining.”

I google the origin of “Rosalita’s” sign. It is a quote from Bob Marley.

I scroll down a few more quotes to another that catches my attention.

“Just because you are happy it does not mean that the day is perfect but that you have looked beyond its imperfections.”
It seems Bob Marley chose to believe in the “Silver Linings” of life as well.

It turns out I am stronger than I think I am……………Silver Lining

The Priest That Raised Me

posted by corme

My uncle and me

My uncle and me

My large family is competing for air space around the dining table. I am comfortable here. Actually I am happy here. I glance at my uncle and I see, that he too, is happy in this space.

The food is trademark yummy and is being tossed back and forth. For a moment, here and there the conversation stops long enough to listen to a party of ‘one’ in this party of ‘many.’ However, for the most part it is a ‘party line’ of conversations. We don’t seem to mind. Quite the contrary, my family relishes in the delicious commotion that accompanies the meal.

In between casual conversations we tease my uncle, the priest.

“Cover your ears, Padre,” we say.

We are an irreverent bunch. He is so mild mannered, joyful and spirited that he shows us no matter.

The truth be told he is a Brooklyn boy through and through. He loves everything about being a guy from a big, Irish Catholic family.

“We are a clan,” he says to me with an ever so proud smile.

That is ‘our’ Padre, ‘my’ Padre.

He lives joyfully in the moment. It is how I remember him since I am little.

He is the uncle (the priest to others) that shows grace and patience. It is no trouble for him to stop and help another.

I meet him in a hospital entrance to usher him towards his sister, yet he stops countless times on the way to the elevator to pray for a family member he does not know. He does not let on. He shows no indictors that he is here to see his own family member and not a parishioner.

I love that he treats them all with kindness despite our own personal worry. I know that my mom just floors above us and completely unaware would love this too. She would not want her “Paddy” to rush to her. She, ever so proud of her brother, would delight in those rushing towards him.

It is the first time that I am truly aware of my uncle, the priest. For me he is the guy who sings to us, jumps waves to us and delights in us. It is the first time that I understand that he is never, ever off duty. That he is a symbol of hope, of peace, of forgiveness, of comfort, of healing and of faith to others.

It is thirty minutes later when he makes his way to my mom’s hospital room though there is no dent in his demeanor. He fills the room with grace and is still present for all of us. I know he worries for his sister. He does not let us see that. He protects us.

It is not long after, that we say an impossibly difficult farewell to my mother. It is then, at her mass that I detect a dent in his demeanor. His unshakable faith temporarily made human while his brotherly instincts take over and he says goodbye to his beloved sister.

As it does, time passes.

I am in my home office striking at the keyboard in front of me. I pick up the phone. It is my “Padre,” and I hear the comforting love that for me only his voice carries. He knows I am struggling in my marriage.

It pains me to know he feels my pain.

I suddenly detect that slight dent in his demeanor. The one where uncle meets priest. The one I recognize from my mom’s last goodbye.

“Colleen, the Holy Spirit gave you the gift of joy your whole life,” he says. “Do not let another human being take that that from you.”

I hang up the phone.

I sit quietly in my office. I go over his words again and again. I go over and over the slight dent in his demeanor. The one where uncle meets priest.

He is telling me it is okay to move on from my marriage.

He is telling me that even unshakable faith is human.

A Love Letter to My Children

posted by corme

I’ve never needed to be right.

What I tell my children is to remember what I did right.

Remember the moments I caught myself distracted and not listening to what made your world go round and I stopped and heard your precious voice.

Remember the moments I sang to you in the car while the rain poured down and I made the rain seem equal to the sun.

Remember the moments when the normally peaceful me raged like a lion in your defense.

Remember the moments I read you a story and I told you the world could be yours.

Remember the moments when you forgot who you were and I was the loudest reminder in the room.

Remember the moments I kissed your boo boo’s and you knew that love could heal all.

Remember the moments that I woke you up ever day and your grin reflected the joy in my face.

Remember the moments when the world seemed scary and I told you it wasn’t and I was the safest person you knew.

Remember the moments you sensed you were grown and I was both happy and sad.

Remember the moments you left the safety of home and I told you that soon you would be happy and free even without me.

Remember the moments when we were together and all seemed right with the world and I told you not to worry that time would capture it all.

Remember the moments when you were mine and I was yours.

Remember the moments when LOVE unequivocally met LOVE.

They were by far the grandest moments of my life.

I will carry them with me and my hope is that you will carry them with you as well because for all too short a time they were the best of joy and the best of moments and the best of time………………..

And forever and ever until memories cease me, they were the best of moments that passed far faster than the love I possess.

So please, whatever you do, remember me as I remember you and remember the moments because absolutely…………….

Forever and ever I do and forever and ever they were never enough because that’s how much LOVE………I have for you.

Previous Posts

Are You Living A Proactive or Reactive Marriage?
I am walking with my friends Cookie and Candy. It's our first lap around Cookie's neighborhood. As usual, in between laughs we are attempting to solve the world's problems as well as our own. Well, usually mine since I am in the middle of this thing called divorce. We chat about the difference in

posted 11:26:03am Sep. 19, 2014 | read full post »

Are You Forgiving or Are You an Enabler?
I enter the office with my marriage counseling tool kit. A cup of coffee and a few tissues. It is still early in my marital distress. I slump into the couch knowing instinctively that this is one of the few safe places to let go of my pain. The pain begins to find a way out. At first it is a slow

posted 2:28:58pm Sep. 17, 2014 | read full post »

The White Wine Obituary
I open the door and jump into my neighbor’s car. It’s a mild summer evening perfect for the Lionel Richie / Cee Lo Green concert. There’s no absence of chatter. It is all pure excitement. We pull into the parking lot. We grab the bags of goodies out of the car. We inch towards the gol

posted 7:43:50pm Sep. 11, 2014 | read full post »

Everyone Should Know This Type of Love
It is early evening as I step through the front doors of the assisted living rehabilitation center. The building is quiet as I meander down the hall. I spy a familiar face and walk into the room. The mood is joyful and lively. My friend’s father sits up in the bed. He is wearing his trade

posted 12:42:23am Sep. 10, 2014 | read full post »

The Two Types of Human Suffering
I shift from side to side in the bed and punch at the pillows. I spray lavender into the air. The fan hums a white noise lullaby, yet sleep evades me. I fight it at first, but soon I begin to cry. It is not long before my eyes are so puffy that the tears can barely find their escape. Divorce

posted 6:09:38pm Sep. 05, 2014 | read full post »


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