Birthdays. When I was young it was all about the celebration. My mom would decorate our kitchen table and I couldn’t wait to run downstairs in the morning. My dad was creative and would make the most amazing cake. Always something adorable and well thought-out. Birthdays seem quite different now. This was the first one without my parents. I know my dad was smiling down from heaven but it felt odd not having him show up, mom at his side, on my doorstep. And by odd, I mean empty and sad. Our family of five now two. We all have those pockets of emptiness. Life carves them out whether we are ready for them or not. So it’s our job to acclimate. Should we choose to.
Choices. We are faced with a million each day. If you have young children the choices can seem overwhelming. Breastfeed or bottle? Prepare your own food or buy it? Sleep train or don’t? And each choice seems to carry a weight of judgement. What am I supposed to do? What will people think if I do this or that? Not sure what it is about our culture that feels the need to judge. Misplaced energy if you ask me. What a force we would all be if we stayed in our own lane. Full speed ahead.
But as I have grown older, the choices only seem to multiply. Parenting decisions, career choices, financial planning and caring for our parents. Save every last dime or squander it away because today may be our last? These are the things that can keep me up at night. And then I settle into the silence. Do you do that? Do you ever get so comfortable in the stillness that you don’t feel the need to worry? It’s a rare occurrence for me but I am learning with each passing year the importance of shutting out the static.
Remember those pockets of emptiness? Think about one that exists in your heart. Have you tried to fill it with saying yes to this or that? Have you busied yourself or told yourself in time it will get better? Me too. Just keep plowing ahead and all will be well. But it’s abundantly clear to me that those losses, those vacancies, they don’t get filled in. They become part of our landscape. While some may feel like craters, others are merely dents. But you know what? They settle in and patina over time. They age with us. They create a more authentic and unique you. I am learning that as I accept the hollow parts of my heart to simply exist, beautiful things happen. I accept help when before I did not. I receive friendship in a way that is more true and lasting. I see other’s struggles and know that they are more human than ever before.
What I have come to realize – and I am sure all of you can relate with your own life experiences is that beauty and suffering are not mutually exclusive. They weave together in a way that is both fraught with pain and filled with joy. So we are faced with a choice, aren’t we? When the joy presents itself are we to shun it away and think, “I can’t possibly feel that euphoria when I have this emptiness to protect?” Or do we run towards it? Full speed ahead. Because that joy is the very essence of what fuels us to keep going. To push ahead. To cradle the emptiness as if it’s ours to protect while we embrace all the good that is around us. Some days we feel more of the suffering. Some days we feel more of the joy. More often than not we feel both if we allow ourselves to settle in to this new version of ourselves. And it feels more full, more real, and more worthwhile. For that I am immensely grateful.
More words from the heart:
Setting Sail: A Look at Grief Two Years Later
Alzheimer’s Diagnosis. Now What?
Incredible, Courtney. Thank you for sharing your beautiful words and insight. Your view on grief and joy is inspiring.
Thank you, Shannon. I appreciate that more than you know. Hope your week is going well.
Mary aiello says
Beautiful Courtney, we are going to the pain right now with her only dog remaining. He’s given his 14 great years but he’s having a lot of trouble walking And I can see the void coming up I can’t bear to face it.
So hard, Mary. I’m sorry. Sending you big hugs. Enjoy the time with your precious pup.
So sorry Mary. Enjoy the time with your sweet furbaby. My husband and I are in a similar situation, our poor 5 year old cat George has a very aggressive cancer, and whilst he seems happy and comfortable enough for now I have a feeling we won’t be able to fight the disease for much longer as some of his medications have stopped working for him ????. Trying to enjoy every moment with him now. All the best to you!
What a beautiful blog post Courtney. I love reading your blog, love all the home and diy topics, but also the more personal and family related ones, especially since my mum is ill as well (chronic depression) and I always look forward to seeing what you write next.
Thank you so much for this. I’m going to save it and reread it when I most need to be reminded to run full speed ahead toward the joy in my life, and hopefully the emptiness and loss will patina over time. What a beautiful post.
That makes my day to hear. I have to constantly remind myself it’s ok to feel that joy. Takes some practice but so worth it.
Such beautiful, inspiring thoughts Courtney! Speaks to my soul perfectly. You have such a way with words– I can’t believe you’re not a professional writer. But I guess you are with this blog ???? along with your many other talents. My thoughts and prayers were with you on your birthday and Father’s Day. Thank you for showing us all how to move more gracefully and thoughtfully through this journey of life.
And you look amazing in these pictures!! LOVE your hair like that!
Thank you so very much. You’re way too nice. Hoping by chatting about the tough stuff more people realize they are not alone. And thank you for the kind compliment. xo
Denise Olsen says
Thanks for this personal post! I do believe we feel that way and most people don’t want to talk about it. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you. Not always fun to talk about the struggles. But I do feel that at the heart of it we are all more alike than different.
Sarah Gonzales says
Courtney, thank you so much for sharing your reflections with your readers – I know it’s both brave and intentional. You humbly put words to the pain and beauty of living – anyone who has experienced loss or the brokenness of this world speaks this language, even if we don’t have words for it yet. Continuing to keep your family in prayer!
You said that so beautifully. “Anyone who has experienced loss or the brokenness of this world speaks this language.” Yes. So very true. Thank you for taking the time to comment and for your prayers. So very kind.
Wonderfully worded Courtney. Just one more reason to love your blog.
You have always been so supportive. Love anytime I hear from you. Enjoy your week, my friend.
Thank you for sharing from your heart sweet friend. I truly believe that while the emptiness will always be there, God also places new joy in our lives to help us cope with it.
Thank you, Lauren. I agree. And it’s our job to be open to it and embrace it. Love you, friend. Thankful for your friendship over the years.
Beautifully said. I like the patina analogy. God bless xo
Thank you! Have a wonderful weekend.
Shelley Carter says
This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing and for reminding us the beauty that comes with being human! It immediately reminded me of Romans 5:3-5 —
[W]e rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
I have loved your heartfelt sharing on the blog lately. Growing older has helped me to become so much more compassionate and true to who God made me. I have also found that sorrow and joy can coexist. Thank you for sharing your heart and your story. You look fantastic in that black jumpsuit too!
Also having grown older, I too have learned all that transpires is part of my LIFE! You need to live both life’s good and life’s difficult times. Just this week, I lost my ideal job, but know it’s not the end but just the beginning of a new stage. God gives us the spirit and grace to continue on this journey!
So good. I’ve been going through health problems for the last year, and keep dreaming about the future… when I’m better. I will love my hubby and 3 babies better and we’ll have more fun… when I’m better.
This is such a beautiful post. I love your honesty, vulnerability, and willingness to share from your heart. 🙂
Clearly you don’t know me from “Adam.” However I understand somewhat what you are experiencing. My dad unexpectedly died at 66 years old. Massive heart attack, no time to say goodbye or I Love You. Two months before that my 6 year old daughter was diagnosis with cancer and started chemo and radiation. My dad was my rock and he was ripped away. But you know what, God prevailed and so did my daughter. I felt like my dad was storming heaven for her healing and our strength. I hope your dad is doing that for you now as well. I am sad to say it doesn’t get easier really, living with the loss. You just learn to live and work around it. Thank you for sharing your heart here on your blog.
You describe grief and joy beautifully. They go hand in hand don’t they? Happy belated birthday!
Linda Sosnowski says
Your strength is inspiring. We all have times of sadness, emptiness, and helplessness to somehow plow through. I admire your words of hope. Yes, we need to grab on to the happiness and joy that is right in front of us but at times is hard to let our hearts open up to. Happy belated Birthday and have a wonderful year!
Of course I agree with every word, and this duality is something that I embrace daily. What a beautiful post. And such a good point about wasted energy, “changing lanes”. Full speed ahead, friend.
Tamara H says
Your perspective reflects such wisdom, and is incredibly helpful. Thank you for sharing the gift of your eloquence both in fun ways, and ways that are also real and tough. Your vulnerability is inspiring!
Thank you for posting this. We had to make the difficult decision to turn my sister-in-law’s life support off this month, and your words so describe how I’ve been feeling. There was intense aching and gratefulness and anger and noise and stillness, and so many other things, all wrapped up as one.
This makes me cry.
One of my best friends lost her partner of 9 years at 39 years old. I have know her for 20 years and I said the wrong thing while she was dealing with his short battle with cancer. I don’t feel like things will ever be the same between us and although it was meant to help her out of her sadness it made her angry and she hasn’t talked to me..
I now feel gun shy about calling her that I’ll say the wrong thing again.
I want to send her this article but I don’t think she’s ready. Thank you for putting these calming thoughts out in the universe.. hopefully she will find them somehow.
Your words are perfect! I loved the stay in your own lane and go full speed ahead. Surround yourself with love and support.
I watched my mom struggle for 16 years with Alzheimer’s. It’s cruel and so frustrating. She was sweet after she couldn’t remember anymore. You have to go with the flow. Go into her world instead of trying to fix her helped me. She passed away in 2016.
Last year my husband passed away of brain cancer suddenly. We were married for 44 years.
The patina of grief and changes is so well portrayed with your words.
Wonderful touching post. I hope you know you have a gift. Your words are so inspiring and so real. You’re touching so many people ..probably in ways you will never realize..thank you for that. We need so much more of you in this world
Leslie M. says
Not quite sure how I missed this last year but none the less, really needed it today! So beautifully said, as usual friend ❤️