What in your life is worth holding onto?

by Guest on November 6, 2009

in Love, family & community

I have met many wonderful people on Twitter and through my blog. Some of those people have even crossed some invisible boundary into a place that feels like true friendship, even though I’ve never met them face to face. Meredith has become one of those friends.

It’s not that we share everything in common. I’m GenX, Meredith is GenY. I live in a small city in the Midwest, she lives in a big city in New England. I have gone through a divorce as a spouse and mother, she has experienced divorce as a child. Yet we have really connected through a variety of issues and interactions. I think, in large part, that’s a result of Meredith’s honesty, openness, and willingness to dig deeper. Once again, I was deeply moved by the words she was willing to share with us here as part of the Love List Project. Please welcome Meredith, and make sure to check out her blog, Ordinary Mer.

_________________________

by Meredith

When Kristin first asked me to write a guest post, she suggested—and I agreed—that I write about life being good and how important it is to recognize and deliberately hold on to the good things. For me, the Love List is a way to be very conscious of all these good things in my life.

Sometimes I have a tendency to focus too much on the negative and not enough on the positive. Over the last year, however, I made a few decisions and took a few steps that brought me to a really positive place. Life was great and I was happy and content. Participating in the Love List Project felt like a natural way to honor the happiness in my life and focus on the good.

Then, a few weeks ago, my grandmother passed away unexpectedly. In the midst of all of the family chaos and sadness, I found it difficult to concentrate on anything positive. My own Love List took a back seat to my grief. I wondered if it even mattered anymore.

The answer, of course, is that it does matter. Life moves on. We grieve, yes, but the good things don’t go away just because something bad happened. Deliberately holding on to the good things in life is just as (if not more) important now.

When my grandmother passed, my entire immediate family was together, either by coincidence or divine providence, on a previously-planned vacation. And though I think of it at the time, I was also in the middle of doing something I loved, something I put on my Love List: playing board or card games with my family, especially when we’re all crowded around a table together and there’s an equal sense of camaraderie and competitiveness.

Grief won’t vanish overnight, but knowing that I was doing something I loved, surrounded by the people I loved, has helped intertwine that sadness with joy. So has continuing to add to my Love List. When I initially started my list, I wasn’t thinking ahead. I was simply creating a catalog of the things I loved, adding to it organically over time.

To my surprise, my Love List ended up providing comfort and giving me a way to honor my grandmother. During the last few weeks, when things haven’t been so positive, my list has been a tangible reminder that (to quote a little red-haired girl) the sun will come out tomorrow. And while I may not be able to make my sorrow disappear magically, I can pay tribute to my grandma’s life by living my own life to the fullest—a life that doesn’t take anything for granted and celebrates the wonderfully good things I’m blessed to have.

It may only be words written on a sheet of paper, but my Love List has come to be so much more than just words and paper. It’s a visible symbol of the things and people in my life that are worth holding on to, in good times and in bad. And that’s certainly something to love.

What does your Love List symbolize to you? What has been the most surprising part of this journey?

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  • http://www.jungleoflife.com/ Lance

    Kristin,
    It’s so good, to once again be back here and thinking more deeply about what this idea of a love list really means.

    Meredith,
    I find your story touching, and at the same time so interesting that I would read this today. I’m just home from a funeral this afternoon. Not someone I knew directly, the mother to a good friend. And in this case it was not unexpected, and it was time. It was still sad, though, thinking about life, and the ending of it. Although, I like to think that this isn’t the end, that this is only the beginning – the beginning with something much greater beyond. Of course, losing a loved family member is not easy. Today, I shared in that sadness, and then laughed at the good memories from years past – and a glimpse into a life I didn’t know.

    Life here on earth is not fully known…really – what’s next. And that’s okay, we have this moment – now. And that’s really where this love list idea is so beautiful. Because, for me, that list is a lot of things – especially, though – it’s the moments. Those little moments that mean so much. And I’ll take them, and I’ll love them…and whatever tomorrow brings, I’ll know that love is always there, and love is always good.

    Meredith, thank you so much for sharing your story, especially today – as I think more deeply about what this idea of “moment” means to me…

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin T.

    Meredith, I was really moved by this post, too, in a very personal way. I loved it right away when you sent it to me on Wednesday. But last night, when I was talking to my mom on the phone, she told me that they’ve decided to start hospice care for my grandma (her mom). As you can imagine, by the time I was getting your post formatted and published this morning, it had taken on a very different meaning. I’m so glad you followed your instincts and decided to write about this. What we love and what brings us joy can’t be isolated from what saddens us, if we really want to understand either end of the spectrum.

  • Carmen

    M, how sweet that your family was gathered together doing something as a group when you got the news. I really like your awareness of how your outlook (positive vs negative) affects reality. Difficulties in life sometimes trump a good attitude, but bouncing back is so much easier when you have optimism to help you. Good luck and I’m sorry for your loss.

  • Jules

    So awesome! I love how the love list has encouraged each of us on our journeys. An amazing testament of even during sad times we can turn to our love list and find ways to celebrate.

    I’m sorry for your loss M. I pray your love list continues to bring you a source of joy and a way to celebrate your grandma’s life. :)

    Much love and peace!

    Jules!

  • http://www.ordinarymer.com Meredith

    Lance – I really liked the idea of the Love List as moments, almost as if the things we put on our love lists are snapshots of certain points in our life and when taken together, tell a story about who we are. I’m glad you were able to connect with my story in some way by sharing the sadness and happiness of your friend.

    Kristin – Once again, thank you for the opportunity to write this guest post. Even just the writing itself was helpful for me. I wasn’t sure how others would respond, because it is such a personal story. But if by sharing my story I’m able to provide some insight or perspective to someone else in a similar – yet different – situation (like you and your grandmother), then I’m glad I followed my instincts too!

    Carmen – You’re right – a good attitude and optimism really do go a long way towards helping us through the sad times. That’s why I think the Love List is a part of that good attitude. Having a tangible list (e.g., I keep my in a small notebook) gives us something concrete to literally and figuratively hold on to.

    Jules – Between Kristin’s posts and the guest posts, I’ve really been amazed at how the Love List project has effected people in different ways. I think it’s a great testament to how life can take you to some pretty amazing places when you least expect it. Thank you for your prayers. They’re greatly appreciated!

  • http://newvinegrowing.wordpress.com Colleen Newvine

    Meredith, thank you for sharing your post.

    I think if I’d had a gratitude journal or love list when my mom died, it might have been a life raft to cling to while I bobbed in the ocean of grief. Most especially focusing on the things I loved about my mom that I would carry forward in my heart.

    I love this line, as well: I can pay tribute to my grandma’s life by living my own life to the fullest—a life that doesn’t take anything for granted and celebrates the wonderfully good things I’m blessed to have.

    I think living our lives to the fullest is a beautiful way to honor the dead.

    Meanwhile, the Love List is one way to find a silver lining in the sadness.

    A friend of mine wrote about another on her blog this fall: http://theflamingoroom.blogspot.com/2009/09/staying-open.html
    My darling friend (who was grieving the sudden death of her mother) … is hunkering down with a heavy heart. What she said next though, humbled me: “I’m trying to listen for what it is I might learn from this loss.”

  • http://www.orangeshirtguy.com Dave Thurston

    It is touched on a bunch, but it is amazing what a change in attitude (even if the change is kind of fake) does for one’s self. Isn’t that what the love list, or a journal, or heck even just bouncing ideas off of a non-judgmental friend does. It gets that “stuff” out there so that it can be processed and so that “the good stuff” can be gathered and learned from.”

    Granted, during times of great difficulty such as your recent one Meredith, getting to that level isn’t possible . . . but still, it is good to know that somewhere in one’s brain and one’s self that the learning place (and peace) will be reached.

    Oh, and (say) ten years from now, won’t it be cool that when you’re reminded of your love list that you’ll also be reminded of your grandmother? Pretty good connection.

  • http://www.ordinarymer.com Meredith

    Colleen – It has been quite surprising to see the affect of the Love List. As I mention in my post, I certainly didn’t expect to find some degree of comfort from my list. It’s been a great reminder that comfort and joy can come from the most unexpected places. Your friend seems very wise to be able to recognize that there might be something to learn from grief, sadness and death. Imagine what we could all learn if we took a moment to pause and just listen!

    Dave – I agree that getting the “stuff” out there is a huge part of it. It forces us (in a good way) to have a different kind of awareness about ourselves and our lives. In some ways, making this stuff public even holds us accountable. We’re responsible for what we’ve put out into the universe. And I do think it’s very cool that my grandma is now linked to my Love List! It’s a great reminder to have.