Emotional Life

2017, A Year of Every Big Life Change

We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
What a time they have, these two housed as they are in the same body.
— Mary Oliver

Dearest readers,

2017 has been A YEAR for me, for our world.

For me, I have had immense progress and also hardcore stagnation. Mostly 2017 was incredible change. The greatest lesson I have had to learn over and over again how to come back to center as change spins around me. Cheers to more change, more centering in 2018

2017 in Summary

It is the first full year I have lived without my dad.

This has been an accomplishment. Existing in the world without my dad brought about a deeper way of viewing the world and more grief than I thought possible. But it is not simple grief, it is complex, and quiet and tender. The tears, the heartbreak, the sinking feelings sneak in just when I think I have a chance of being “past” it. It is continually hard for me to admit that the loss doesn’t disappear. The pain of being without my dad in the world does not go away. But life goes on. There is still joy, and hope and creating. And the missing him, that stays too.

 

I moved back to my hometown.

This has been both a privilege and comfort. Yet, there is a sneaky undertone of defeat. See, I tried to branch out beyond Berkeley. I sought out life among the orphans of NYC. I traveled. I sought out what is available in the world. I spent years exploring San Francisco and enjoying the perks of a small city. After all the exploration, after my dad died, Berkeley opened its reliable arms to be. In 2017 I got to come home.

 
lauren bride

 

I got married.

After building a new home in my hometown, I got to marry the sweetest man. Along with a wedding blessed by incredibly artistic, openhearted friends I shared a day unlike any other. There were so many tears. It opened my eyes to the true community I have, the rare moment you get to see it all in one room. The marriage, is like the final coat of paint on a house you have spent years building. The shift into matrimony is the final touch on a lot of hard work and now we have an even more structured foundation to live in.

 

I left one business to start another.

After buying a clinic called Service Workers Acupuncture Project three years ago. I left due to some changes in the lease and dove full force into Well in the West (Thanks for being here btw!). This has become a community, an advice column, a source for herbs, physical health advice and much deeper healing. I can feel the path opening up broader and wider. It is as if a two lane highway has expanded into a freeway. The road will only go faster, with more traffic from now on.

 

I healed my adrenals.

Even before the death of my dad, my adrenals were low. After working in Community acupuncture for a few years I was running on low. When my dad died, they went kaput. With a lot of supplements, dietary shifts I have learned how to nourish myself again…more… deeply. This year has been deeply infused with my own healing. There has been no other option.

 
callie.puppy

I got a complicated AF puppy

This little doggie has taught me more in three months than I thought possible. At five months old this puppy lived under our bed three days, we didn't get her off of our property for two weeks. Now she is eight months and has dog friends, loves going on hikes and is curious but not friendly to new people. She has taught me about fear, boundaries, healing, growth, expansion, brilliance… She is still not a “normal” dog, but she is on her way. Her world is expanding everyday. It's hard to explain the gamut of emotions I feel for this little creature. Above all she has been one of my greatest teachers.

 

I guided women through three transformational seasons, Winter, Spring, Fall.

I learned that the seasons embrace us, always. We have to learn how to embrace them back. Living with the pacing, the nutrition, what is available to us moment to moment, has taught me how to develop a resilience. Resilience calls for acceptance of what is happening. So often we reject when life slows us down, we get sick we still go to work. A loved one dies, we keep calm and carry on. We are deeply tired in winter, we go forth and drink all the coffee to stay well. We are launched out of our comfort zone and we curl into a ball.

As we sit back and enjoy the ride, the shifts and changes of each season hug us, they guide us, they nudge us. Living life more aligned to these tenants has been gently life changing, for me, for my clients… for communities we share the knowledge with.

 

I have remembered my artist self.

If there is one thing that adult life can beat out of you, it is the deep knowing that you are a creative artist with a lot to do and say. Art can be integrated into business, daily life. It can be a way of seeing things differently, accepting them, challenging them…art is all about making work about what we see in a creative and new way. I forgot this piece of myself a long time ago. Surrounding myself with all the people I love best, I have seen this in my friends living as professional artists. As well as all the people with day jobs who are lovely and holding tenderly their brilliant ideas, their creative streaks under the surface. We are all artists. Let's keep telling our stories.

 

As I sit and reflect on all these big changes. A LOT can shift in 365 Days. Looking forward to the 2018 reflections. Wishing you all a year of big change and growth. 

Grief in the Season of Joy Part V. Fin.

The thing about grief is that it gets better. It gets easier, it lessens, it lets off the gas. And at the very same time it doesn’t.

Remember the resume bullet point? (If not, go back to Part II) I had qualifications on being a professional handler of grief. I was until my dad died. Since then I have been knocked over, ribs shaking, snot-dripping crying like when I was a little girl. I have not had tears that have overcome me since I was a child, maybe a teen.

This newly experienced depth of emotion as an adult has shocked me. It has made me feel out of control, and like a small and vulnerable little girl. It has also reminded me that no matter how you prepare yourself, brace yourself for the worst thing to happen, it does not protect you from the pain. Nothing can.

The thing is, I am still a vulnerable little girl. She is there to remind me that life is hard, it hurts and sometimes I really want my dad.

IMG_1275 2.JPG

Back to things getting better. It does get better, or something. Days keep passing. The sun keeps rising. And life goes on. I have learned that something that seemed impossible one evening has full potential the next morning. 

After enough nights of sleep and sunrises that marked the passing of time, all of a sudden it was spring. Finally, after six months I was ready to go visit the place where he died.

I had craved being in the place that he died since the day after his death. The woman who called 911, who found him face down, who heard his last words, “I’m just walking.” She gave us a great gift. She found our family and told us her story.

I wanted to walk his last steps, to see where he took his last breaths. And it was more beautiful and perfect than I could have imagined. Seeing this beauty of the place he finished his steps on earth has gifted me more peace, trust and acceptance. In his last steps he walked up a small hill towards an oak tree. In the Spring, I followed the path he took in his last footsteps. The feeling of being beneath the oak tree was a sigh of relief. The oak tree had been there for his death and for perhaps hundreds of years prior. Suddenly his death felt like it was part of something far beyond his time in a human body. It was part of a greater ebb and flow of life. 

Nayyirah Waheed the mourn

I have a general trust in the order of the world. There is something about life lessons teaching us what we need to know, when we need to know them. I have realized that even when we are good and we learn the life lesson, it doesn't prevent the pain, the grief, the sorrow that comes with loss. There is nothing that takes away the humanness of the experience. That is probably my greatest lesson to share.

For now, I hope to enjoy the rest of Summer, the season of joy. To let my heart crack open with it’s aches, pains and tenderness. To let it all wash over me as an intensive lesson on duality, death, life, love and moving on.

Grief in the Season of Joy Part IV.

I got really lucky with who I got for a dad. My dad was great. He was imperfect, and he would be the first to tell you that. He could totally be an Eeyore, and was known to both have a spark in his eye and drag in his step. He epitomized contradiction. His humanness, his lack of filter, and his big radiant heart, he was incredibly loved.

His memorial service was huge. It was about 500 people and I stood on stage and shared intimately, vulnerably, heartfelt feelings without breaking into sobs. In that moment on stage I felt so cared for, so held, and definitely not alone.

So much of Grief with a capital G has been the feeling of being alone. My dad left me alone. And I’m not alone. I have great friends, amazing family, a beyond supportive partner. It doesn’t take away the aloneness of grief. Everyone wants to, so badly, but they can’t. No one is the person who died. No one can bring back the one person you want to make you feel not so alone.

People who have recently lost someone have a certain look, recognizable maybe only to those who have seen that look on their own faces. I have noticed it on my face and I notice it now on others. The look is one of extreme vulnerability, nakedness, openness. It is the look of someone who walks from the ophthalmologist’s office into the bright daylight with dilated eyes, or of someone who wears glasses and is suddenly made to take them off. These people who have lost someone look naked because they think themselves invisible. I myself felt invisible for a period of time, incorporeal. I seemed to have crossed one of those legendary rivers that divide the living from the dead, entered a place in which I could be seen only by those who were themselves recently bereaved.
— Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

 

Joan Didion saved me. I read A Year of Magical Thinking five months after my dad died. She so perceptively encapsulates the feelings of insanity that come with losing someone you love. She made me feel less alone.

I write this fragmented, imperfect reflection on grief because it helps me. If you have lost someone and you feel so very alone, I want to gently remind you that you are not alone. No one will have your specific pain for your specific bond with the person that you lost. You may only really be seen by those also recently bereaved, but you're very much, not alone. 

Grief in the Season of Joy, Part III.

There are photos, before he died. It was 7PM on the east coast, 4PM on the west coast. We had just arrived to Portland, ME. It was sunset.

We were happily on an outlook gazing over the city. It was beautiful. Also there was dog poop, the scent was wafting in. Couples were sitting at this outlook, enjoying the view. People were taking photos. We were taking photos, I was hysterically laughing at this incredible serene, instagrammable moment made real by stanky dog poop.

 

Since my dad died I have had many more incredibly serene, instagrammable moments. In those picture perfect moments what is still there the metaphorical undercurrent of realness by stanky grief and pain.

I was in Maine when my dad died. We were on a vacation after the wedding of a very dear friend. I was already raw with emotion from seeing someone I loved open his heart in a huge celebration of love.

At around 12AM my mom called and I couldn’t hear the alarm in her tone. She sounded fine. I think she asked how my trip was, trying to delay the words that came next, “dad died.” She said.

I was sitting, but I know that I crumpled, or fell over, or something. But really all I remember was hearing myself yell, “Noooooooooo” It wasn’t a tone I had heard leave my body before.

Sobs overtook me and I had to go throw up a little. They don’t really tell you that, I don’t know who ‘they’ are, but I am telling you. That it can happen. You can be an adult who is so sad, crying so hard, that you need to throw up.

Grief in the Season of Joy, Part II.

I have made a lot of mistakes in my perception of grief. I have experienced a fair share of loss and so I thought I knew.

It felt like my experience was a bullet on a resume.

 

Lauren Kaneko-Jones, Licensed Acupuncturist, Health Coach, Sensitive Human

Life experience:

  • grief, the losing of people I have loved, the knowing how to survive, I’m qualified
  • when it happens to you, I can help you.
  • when it happens to me, don’t worry, I got things covered.

 

I thought the knowing-how-loss-works could prepare and protect me. My qualifications would make me immune to the pain. In fact, I was EXTRA prepared for this loss! My dad’s mortality previewed when I was seven years old with a major heart attack in a third world country.
He was so lucky to survive!
We were so lucky he survived!

However the manic feelings of being lucky don't spare the pain of a loss when it happens. 

Ever since my dad's first heart attack I have prepared myself.
‘Dad might not be at my wedding.
Dad might not know my kids.
I am lucky, he is lucky, we are lucky.’

What I was really trying for was,
‘I will be ok,
we will be ok,
this will not hurt me,
this will not be hard,
I was ready, he was ready, we were ready.’

Yet even with all the trying and the aim to escape the grief of my dad's death, what happened was something more like this,
'Dad's death was beautiful.
He was so lucky to die quickly.
We are so lucky he didn't suffer.
Dad's not going to be at my wedding.
Dad's not going to know my kids...
I am... so not ok.'

The holding on to the feelings of 'being lucky' was an optimism that could only go so far. There were only so many words of comfort. Beneath all the attempts to be ok, was deep love and grief.

My luck that my dad survived 24 more years beyond the first heart attack was something I held onto tightly. Somehow, throughout those 24 more years, I thought it would make losing him a bit softer.

I assumed (in hindsight maybe it was sheer hope) that grief’s pain would elude me. Because, hopefully we lose our parents and they don’t lose us. It’s the natural order. And yet, it feels like the worst thing that ever happened.

Image Credit: Faces and Voices of Recovery

Image Credit: Faces and Voices of Recovery

Grief in the Season of Joy, Part I.

Summer in Chinese medicine is connected to the heart, which is connected to joy. The heart does not lie and whatever we have been feeling comes right up to the surface as we go into the summer solstice late night June 20th. The longest day of light illuminates what is within us.

For me, what is within me is grief of losing my father. I have wanted to put my grief into words so that maybe it could help someone else, maybe it could prepare them for their own sorrow. Or maybe it would just give them permission for it to be really hard, really big. But I haven’t been able to put it out there. My fear is that people are scared, they can’t handle it, they don’t want to see my pain. That might be true, but also, stories of others grief have made me feel so less alone, so less insane that finally, heart thumping, hands shaking I am sharing.

Yesterday, Father’s Day June 18th, 2017 has been 9 months since he died, to the date. It was just as hard of a day as I expected it to be.

I took my 99 year old grandmother to church, something he did 9 months ago the day that he died. I came home and I took a big, long nap. It is hard to be awake, and a feeling, hurting human. It is so hard to remember that I have no more father on Father’s Day.

Emerging into Spring

Last spring I had a huge emergence out of the vulnerability closet. I got engaged. Then I wrote about the complexities of engagement for me and the post got shared far and wide. It was scary to be exposed in that way.

The end of the summer I had a hard time maintaining the moment of Spring and as I began to get myself back into the grooves with back to school vibes of fall, my dad died.

Fall and winter were dark for me. (They are for everyone even without a recent loss.) The natural patterns of these seasons are looking inward and into places we have not looked at all year.

During Fall, the season was swallowed in the grief and logistics of a loved ones death. The Winter was welcomed as a time to hibernate, rest, take deep self-care and recover. To top it off I was dealing with the intense grief of losing my father paired with the ever present adrenal fatigue. 

But life goes on, and the darkness descends back into itself and life emerges again into Spring.

emerge definition: /əˈmərj/ verb 

  1. to become manifest : become known
  2. become apparent or prominent.
  3. recover from or survive a difficult situation.

For me, the third definition resonates so deeply: 3. recover from or survive a difficult situation.

Now that Spring is here, I am ready to grow and move forward. I have to admit, it is fucking scary to recover and survive the death of my father. I can tell that this Spring I am experiencing immense growth. Simultaneously I am honoring that the whole world is new and raw without the presence of my dad's protection.

I look forward to this season of growth. I am curious to explore the recovery period of this season. And always, always looking forward to what emerges this year. 

Seeds

All the buried seeds crack open in the dark the instant they surrender to a process they can’t see.
— Mark Nepo
seeds mark nepo

I have been in the dark. Fighting to see the light. 

The past month has been brutal. Orlando. Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. Dallas. All of a sudden the state of our country, which is almost at civil war, is so blatant. 

It's on every screen. Not only the event, but the aftermath. Orlando then anti-muslim sentiment and homophobia. Alton Sterling and the heartbreak of leaving behind a family. Philando Castile departing a beloved community, 4 year old and girlfriend. Black Lives Matter movement, arrests and more violence by police. Dallas policemen doing their jobs quickly losing their lives.

We, as Americans, are reeling and lost and wondering, how do we remake our country to be the LAND OF THE FREE and the HOME OF THE BRAVE?

Simultaneously, I have been facing my own scary health issues. Some issues as minor as a cavity, some as major as mysterious abdominal pain. 

Amidst cultural turmoil, my body is having its own revolution and civil war. 

I found out that I have an ovarian cyst. It's minor, not a big deal in the spectrum of health issues. But what I was experiencing was intense abdominal pain, feeling flu-ish and very uncomfortable in my body.

I got an ultrasound to look at my abdomen more closely and when I left the lab, I hurriedly walked to the car and called my fiancé. The phone rang twice and he picked up, 

"Hi" I said

"Hey, what's up?" he said

"I don't know..... I still....I just....I don't know what's happening..."

I broke into pieces right there over the phone. Big fat alligator tears rolled down my face and my breath caught in my throat. I was still in pain, had just done an exam, and now had to wait 5 days to get the results.

As a health practitioner, I knew the chances of something being really wrong and needing a procedure were low. I was shaking in my boots, as a patient, I am just like anyone else, lost, scared, confused and feeling crappy. 

I have a wide variety of solutions outside the western medical toolbox. I have herbs, (and herbalist friends) great foods, traditional women's health remedies and beyond amazing healer practitioner friends. But I did not want to be the crazy-alternative-medicine-lady who avoids going to the MD and then needs emergency surgery because her plant medicine wasn't the right thing. 

So I went, got the tests, paid for the doctor's appointments (that needs another essay, our healthcare system is wack) and I waited. Turns out, there's nothing much to do in western medicine, just sit, and wait for it to get better. Go back and get more tests, aka more dollars spent. 

For now, I have my resources, herbs, practitioners, friends who are practitioners, nutrition, and a few other tricks. It has made it all the more clear how VITAL it is for "alternative" health care such as acupuncture, herbalism, massage etc to be much higher on the list of resources AND integrated with our western medicine system. 

Simultaneous to this cultural and personal darkness there has been growth. These insanely violent murders have brought to light, loud and clear the big rift and all the work that needs to happen in this country. We have a long way to go to redefine how to truly be free and brave.

If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall; this is the physics of vulnerability. When we commit to showing up and risking falling, we are actually committing to falling...Daring is saying, “I know I will eventually fail and I’m still all in.”
— Brené Brown

Personally, in my darkness I have cracked open to my need to keep being vulnerable, sharing my experience and supporting others through their moments of mental and physical darkness. It seems there is no other way than to crack open and surrender. 

seeds growth brene brown

I don't know the answer, or the solutions. I am still grappling with the heartbreak of the violent injustices committed. And I am still figuring out how to get my body back to 100%. What I do know is that these seeds have been in the dark, and they have cracked open and grown, and I will follow their lead.