How long does grief last?

Healing from a life changing incident takes time. Everybody says that. Social conventions have different approaches depending on culture, history and traditions. Whether it’s death, divorce, or job loss, we all know when the beginning of grief happens, but never the end. We don’t even know the middle until we’re near the end of the grief.

And those stages of grief? (shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) There are subdivisions of each of the five stages. Denial can include disbelief. Grief can also materialize in physical health issues. So I would add “anxiety” to the six stages of grief. A good therapist has given me tools to process the emotions so that they don’t keep impacting my physical health. Six months of insufferable stress became a cancer scare. Fifteen months of sustained stress have complicated aging eyes and migraines.

I still struggle with anxiety. Friends, family (especially my amazing husband), and a great community are worth fighting the daily battle of physical and emotional issues to get through the day. I’ve had to adjust my expectations of what I can do. And re-prioritize what I want to do. I’m still looking for a daily affirmation which has less foundations in guilt and sadness. If I reach for smaller victories, am I less than I should be?

Understanding grief and the process I’ve had to go through to find myself again has had many turns and retreats. Lately, I’ve realized my anger had split into bitterness and jealousy. I occasionally have day dreams about confronting wrong doers. But these imaginings have become more a comical fantasy than a wish for resolution. Do I have choice words for them? You bet. I have a speech ready for the perfect moment. And it’s never going to be said in real life.

Because I know that the reality was an institutional economic condition. My position was collateral damage. It’s just the cowardly way in which the decision was executed. That’s on them. I don’t need to carry that any longer. Doing so only hurts myself.

I’m nearly back. My reset is at 85% of ambition capacity. 10% is lack of confidence and 5% is self doubt. Realizing that 15% is still needing a change, I must cleanse through mediation, music making, and a lot of sweat. My fighting spirit isn’t about looking back to correct past wrongs. It’s about making sure I keep my head looking at now and moving forward.


Community – June 23

When I’m out with my kids, and I run into someone I know, there’s going to be a chance for conversation lingering beyond their bank of patience. After the conversation ends, one of them will say, “Mom, you know everyone.”

On our way home from her harp lesson today, my daughter was looking through my phone messages and told me that I know too many people, because I apparently don’t erase text messages. To this I said,

“I hold onto texts and emails in case there’s something I need to remember. What does that have to do with how many people I know?”
“Do you know how many people are in your contacts?”
“Do I need to?”
“How many friends do you have on Facebook?”
“All of them – and many more that I haven’t yet met.”

I was volunteering at Godfrey Daniels tonight. There was a gentleman there who came up to me after the concert and asked, “You’re Silagh, right?”
I didn’t know his name, and I didn’t remember meeting him.
“Our mutual friend introduced us at Levitt Pavilion last summer.”
And now we’re friends.

See kids? That’s how this works.

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What I’m Thinking – June 18

What I’m Thinking – June 18

Sundays are good days for taking things a little slower. For getting up a little earlier to weed the garden before it gets too hot. To not be bothered by the kids sleeping in. To have a quiet conversation with my husband. To give my son the brunch making duties. To hide away in my office for some blogging reflection.

I’m nearing the end of the 100 posts in 100 days writing challenge. I started to build a habit of writing daily, and to push through the demon self-editor. I haven’t read my posts. OK, I have read one or two, but only to see if I had written about the topic before. To get through the challenge, I started categories to help me think of topics, hoping they’d be interesting. But trying not to think about if readers liked it or not.

It’s not that I don’t care if the reader is engaged. It’s that if I worry too much about what people think, I will not try. The fear monster gains strength and her greatest weapon of destruction is procrastination.

I’ve mentioned a daily blogger that I read, Seth Godin. There are too many days when his morning post supports the exactly thought I’m having. Today was spot on:
The 100 posts in 100 days challenge was like learning to walk. Of course, I stumbled. But I’m happy to say that I feel really good about persisting through the “ah, screw it” thought.

As a musician, I should know this is the only way to really learn how to do something. This mind set informs my own teaching as well. But I don’t always approach change this way. I’m sure it’s fear of ridicule, imposter syndrome, or showing signs of weakness.

But I want to be successful in other areas. Too many other areas. I have to make some choices and small changes. The biking to work goal is going well; but I have to manage saboteurs better.  Other health decisions are too easily passed to “ah, screw it” because I haven’t developed better choices that lead to long term habits. If I limit the choices, I may make better decisions. Funny, that’s how I got my toddlers to cooperate…
“You can have strawberries or bananas.”
“You can wear this outfit, or that outfit.”
“When you sit quietly through this lecture, you will get a reward of playing in a fountain. If you choose not to cooperate, no playtime in the fountain.”
“You either come with me now, or I’ll leave you in the park all alone to be eaten by wolves…” (This is what I say to them now, as 14 year olds.)

I’ve got to mother myself. Give myself less choices. Take smaller steps and be happy with the steps, not the distance covered in a day, or a week, or a month.

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What I’m thinking – June 13

I was supposed to be going to bed early tonight so I can get an early start to a road trip to reconnect with friends I haven’t seen in five years.

I was supposed to have an awesome time re-telling college stories, and visiting a place near and dear to my heart.

I was supposed to spend a couple of days with my mom before coming back to Bethlehem.

But my eyes aren’t supposed to float apart. So it means using the time to figure out how to pace the strain I put on my eyes to see if I can go a few more months before I finally give in to surgery.

One song keeps rolling around and around in my head for this moment:

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What I’m Thinking – June 6

I was thinking this morning about how to thank some incredible people for helping to shape my kids not only in mind, but in spirit.

It’s not enough to be amazed by your own kids’ growth and achievement. Knowing that it took a few dozen teachers and quality school leaders to build a school environment like the one my kids attended.

In an age where our national leaders show less character than we would hope our kids to have, we are grateful for the adults in their lives who show them a better way to lead. By their example, they are kind, respectful, and fair. They hold themselves and their students to high standards. They help them see their actions have consequences and rewards. They encourage them to take risks and to get involved.

How does a parent really thank teachers for doing the job of a superhero?

Northeast Middle School Musical A Team.

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What I’m thinking – June 1

What I’m thinking – June 1

When the world needs leadership that recognizes the importance of changing human behaviors to save our planet, and we cannot rely on those in power, we have the power to change ourselves.
We can’t point fingers at others unless we are willing to make changes in our own lives.

I started changing my daily routine that can help reduce my personal carbon footprint by biking to work. There were things I had to think through to make this a more substantial change, and not a one week and check it off my list of do-gooder deeds. There will be other benefits to this change: saving money on gas, adding more exercise to my day, reduce downtown parking crowding, adding a few extra minutes in my commute to decompress work before I get home…

Since I started riding my bike to work three weeks ago, I’ve saved more than 70 miles than I would have otherwise used a car. It’s not much, but it’s a start. Want to really understand how the community can be more bike friendly? Start riding a bike and dealing with asshole drivers. Maybe then you’ll start seeing your own driving habits differently.

Many of us have been thinking globally today. I encourage the readers to act locally. Think about small changes you can make. If you have already made some changes, think about more changes. I have a long way to go. This is not a time for self shaming. It’s a time for reclaiming.

One way to act locally is to read or re-read Councilman Willie J. Reynold’s #Bethlehem2017 proposal. Don’t just skim the website. Download the proposal and read it. (psst – don’t print it out either. Save a tree.)

His first point is a Climate Action Plan. “Action” meaning, movement, change, direction. Not doing what we (collectively) have always done and wonder why nothing has changed.

We; the ubiquitous we, can no longer deny our personal responsibility to change our own behaviors. Finger pointing if only to someone else is just as bad as putting our head in the sand. Redirect your finger to yourself.

What are you going to do about climate change?

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Thoughts & Feelings: The Commencement Edition

In the ongoing attempt to understand how to untangle the various negative thoughts in my head, I continue to blog and delete, and write and erase. I search phrases on the internet, hoping to come across someone else’s experience that sounds like mine; if only to find comfort in not feeling alone. Then type more words and hover my finger over the publish button. If my writing helps someone else in their grief, then my pain is not for nothing.

Today could have included a formal ceremony to mark the completion of my fourth graduate degree. I finished it the day before last year’s commencement. But since the final grades were recorded after the deadline for that ceremony, my name appeared in today’s program.

Blue and yellow colors are the University of Rochester. The pink hood is the doctorate of musical arts from the Eastman School of Music.

I wanted to process with the faculty, as I have done for ten years in the doctoral robes I earned in 1997. Each time I wore my robes, a few other faculty or administrators would do a double take seeing me wearing them. Yes Virginia, there are academics who choose a different career path because they see the most use of their talents and passions outside the traditional route.

I participate in the ceremony to honor the students. It’s important to have their accomplishment recognized. In the immortal words of Vice President Joe Biden, “It’s a big, f*cking deal.”

My idea to celebrate the Masters of Educational Leadership degree was to leave the faculty area when the college of education read the names of their graduates. I would cue up in line with my name card, hand it to the reader and walk across the stage, then return to my seat with the faculty. Since I had been balancing administrative duties with teaching AND earning a degree, why not continue the same balance in the ceremony? But the protocol rules of regalia required I rent a masters robe and sit with the other graduates to receive the honor of having my name read aloud.

I have only participated in one college commencement ceremony in which I was recognized as a graduate in front of family and friends; thirty years ago. Schedule, travel, or financial limitations got in the way of the other ceremonies.  I could have been there today… but…

Most days I feel like I’m over the grief of losing my administrative position. But today I would have had to face a few people who trigger feelings of anger. Even though I understand how the decision was made, I just wish they would say three simple words. The fact that they’ve not said anything to me at all is what hurts even more.

Scrolling through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram today was tough. I was happy to see my students celebrating. And frustrated with myself for not being totally over it yet. I missed another chance to honor myself. This was my last chance for that, too.

I found an article today that helped me reflect on these feelings. I know I have a toxic level of grudge; and it will take more time for me to move on. Until then, these are the pieces of ephemera to mark the achievement.

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