Call It What It Is

dirt road   In my imagination…I see a few New Englanders standing by the side of this road discussing what to name it. Someone suggests Lake Street because maybe there is a lake at the end. Someone else calls out how about Mountain View, because of the beautiful mountains in sight. Meadow Lane is tossed into the mix because of the lush meadow that runs along side the road. Then (remember, in my imagination) a fed up participant in this debate sticks a stake in the ground and says, just call it what it is – dirt road. 

Sometimes you just have to call it what it is.

I drove past this street sign for Dirt Road in October and took a precarious u-turn so I could snap a photo. I have been writing this post in my head since then because being IN the moment with what IS has been both a challenge and a savior. I spend a lot of mental energy discussing what is – both in my head and out loud. I look for and see the lakes, the mountains, and the meadows. My thoughts and sentences about our life, his death, and my grief are fleshed out with the grace, the love, and my determination. It is exhausting.

Two years ago, calling it what it is was saying cancer. When my husband and I were navigating the early days of surgery and recovery, we called it hope. When we learned that the cancer had spread aggressively only weeks later, we called it dying. As we shared every hour together and spent time with our children, family, and friends, we called it love. Late at night, alone in the hall of the hospice, I whispered into the phone – it’s excruciating. During the last days when he looked at me with his big beautiful brown eyes (have I told you yet how beautiful he was?), I agreed – it’s time.

Sometimes you just have to call it what it is even though it is a million other things as well.

I have been charging ahead at work and at home – taking on new challenges, traveling to see kids in college, completing major tasks in the house. All of this is good. But the grief will rise when it wants and no trip, or work success or home renovation project can stop it when it needs my attention. I was standing in a local grocery store after digging deep for weeks when my throat and neck started to burn. I have to get out of here I thought. I was tired and overwhelmed and had not sat still for days. Back home, sinking into the couch with a gentle listener on the other end of the phone, I called it what it is – it’s sad. I cried like I hadn’t cried in months.

Sometimes I need to stop looking at the moutain, lake or meadow view, and sit with what is. It’s a dirt road. It’s sad. Being in the moment with the sorrow is so painful, but sometimes it’s necessary. Even though I know it’s not the whole story, there are moments when it has to be all that is and I need to sit still with that. Coloring in the page with the beauty and the gifts – sometimes that just has to wait. Sometimes I need a break from being OK. After that stillness and sorrow, there is relief.

I am not sad as I write this. This day was filled with my kids, good work, homemade soup, and a mischievous kitty who is desperately trying to get my attention. Writing this blog is like standing on the top of the mountain shouting out to the meadow and lake below about my Love and waiting for it to be echoed back. I wonder – do you hear me? And how is it for you?












3 thoughts on “Call It What It Is

  1. Dear Caroline–

    Wow, just wow. Your writing really moves me, it calls forth deep feelings that are incredible. It is a gift that you are sharing them–not to make everything ok, because I know it can’t be, but to say what is. And that alone is beautiful.

    I’m sorry our schedules haven’t lined up; I hope they can soon. Maybe after Thanksgiving?

    I think about you a lot. I have a friend at work whose husband just received a very bleak diagnosis. She is at the beginning of the journey. All I know how to do is hug her. At some point would it be ok if I put her in touch with you? She’s the woman who hired me, now a dean at Wellesley.

    Sending love xoxo and admiration



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