The Palmer House lobby is one of my favorite places in Chicago. Over 20 years ago, when I worked at DePaul University, I would come here and eat my home-packed lunch. Or I’d take an afternoon break and drink hazelnut coffee as we did in the 90s. Now it makes me nauseated.
Today, I sit here and work with my Starbucks from the downstairs cafe. It’s my office today. It is grand and beautiful and inspires and motivates me. It is marble and wood, colors and soft lighting. It brings me back to my 20s. It brings me back to a time when a lot of things were different.
I’m sitting here, lost in a time before my kids, to when I was still married AND in love. It reminds me of when my life felt all in front of me and a time when my dad was still in this world.
This grieving thing is a weird game. Everyone’s parents die. It’s not shocking or surprising. I’m not overly sad and I don’t miss him all that much. However, for every breath I took up until two and a half months ago, my dad was breathing too.
There’s a song by Sara Thomsen that goes, The air that is my breath is the air that you are breathing. And the air that is your breath is the air that I am breathing. That song, By Breath, keeps running through my head and makes me think of my father. And it hurts.
I’m surprised that it hurts, and not surprised. We had a complicated relationship and I didn’t need to see him all the time. I didn’t even need to talk to him all that often, but the idea that he doesn’t exist anymore is tough.
I’m not naive. This isn’t about him. This isn’t about wasted life or forgiveness. It’s completely about me. About me being a certain age, the age that one gets to be when one’s parent dies of old age. It’s about a big part of my life being over. It’s about being okay with knowing that you don’t get the parents you think you should get. You get the parents you get and everyone is a little disappointed at one point in their life or another. And more than that being true, it’s about being okay with that being true.
This month I’m doing the Love Yourself Challenge over at Mighty Network. I am teaching, explaining, cajoling, begging people to take care and love themselves and I am trying to remember to do that too.
Self-love/self-care is one of the hardest things I teach. I can’t make someone love themselves. they have to believe they are worthy on their own, in their own time.
As I’m accepting my dad’s death, limitations and failures, I find a new freedom in loving myself and feeling worthy . As we’re learning big, big, long held secrets I’m not ashamed, alarmed or embarrassed. Who he was, what he did and who he hurt has nothing to do with me. As hard as it was for him to love me, it was even harder for him to love himself.
As I’ve been grieving, so many people have reached out. Some to just check-in. Some to tell me they relate and understand. Others just to let me know I am loved and cared for. I’ve had many who’ve thanked me for sharing this journey, even during the raw parts, without a lot of editing. I’m so grateful to you all. Thank you for walking this part of the path with me.
It’s because you held this space for me, gave me your love and support that I’ve had these big shifts. I’m so grateful. Thank you.