Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Tears of a story-listener and story-teller

By Monica Vest Wheeler

Still easing back into the "real world," yesterday I interviewed a nurse who had cared for premature babies for years. It's one of many conversations for a local history project I'm working on.

As she shared a particularly poignant story, I felt the all-too-familiar shuddering inside … and my tears erupted like a faucet. She didn't miss a beat as she continued her story, and the video camera kept rolling as I still jotted notes.

Only for one micro-second did I think, "How unprofessional of me to cry!" No, I had invested MYSELF in this interview, and this is simply who I am.

My tears fell several more times during our conversation because her stories shook my very core about the fragility and meaning of life. After turning off the video camera, I apologized out of habit about my tears, though added I had lost my mom just two months ago.

And we had this amazing discussion … all because we had allowed ourselves to be real … and even vulnerable.

I spoke for an hour to an Alzheimer's support group last week … no notes, no Powerpoint, no specific topic … other than how to survive. The words flowed as my heart wrote them … along with some tears as I shared the fears and hope of this uniquely human journey …

I may cry when I story-listen … and when I story-tell. Because it means I'm here … where I'm supposed to be … spreading the word, sharing the heartache, discovering the joy …

Monday, September 17, 2018

Blessed are those who don't run away

By Monica Vest Wheeler

We all look for someone to hold on to at times …

I love this amazing statue in Green Lake, Wisconsin, of a ring of children holding hands as they play. There's one opening in the circle … and like many before me, I jumped in to join the fun.

Recently, it's almost been easier to grab the bronze child's hand than a human one because I still struggle with tears when I connect with "real" people.

My family and friends continue to go above and beyond as I still grieve the loss of my parents within a year and a half of each other. And then I feel guilty as so many people deal with far, far greater losses, challenges and realities.

Therein lies the brutal uncertainty of grief. It plays cruel games with our hearts, souls and minds. Just when we think we can make it through another day, it screams, "Gotcha!" Its taunting can be haunting …

I've discovered that grief seems to magnify my own shortcomings, fears and insecurities. It's like walking through the walls of distorted mirrors in the funhouse without any of the fun.

This morning, as I witnessed the distant sunrise through the apple tree branches that did not produce fruit this year, I watched my two cats position themselves at the screen door overlooking the back yard. They gaze upon it with such curiosity that you'd think they'd never seen it before. Their heads turn in unison at every sound and movement of nature.

And I am filled with wonder again as I should be … as I realize how blessed I am to be surrounded by loved ones who don't run away from my tears …