Practicing Wonder, Renewed

“Perhaps many things inside you have been transformed; perhaps somewhere, someplace deep inside your being, you have undergone important changes while you were sad.”

–Rainer Maria Rilke

As time always does, the years since I have written here brought change.

My late husband’s Parkinson’s Disease progressed, bringing with it emotional and physical challenges for me as well as for him, the type a dear friend calls FGO’s (effing growth opportunities): intensive caregiving accompanied by stress, anger, exhaustion, and anticipatory grief; the pain of watching a loved one decline bit by bit and ultimately die. More grieving after. Being alone after a long marriage. Letting go of how I had expected life to be and the plans we had made. Letting go of “we”.

The time after his death also meant taking practical actions such as repairing and updating the house, which had been overlooked during the illness years. The personal aspect of that was to shape it into my home instead of ours, a part of figuring out who I was alone. I realized pretty quickly I wanted another relationship eventually, but I didn’t have a clue how that might manifest. I was not unhappy, but I was lonely. Sharing life is important to me.

Many familiar comforts remained, and I spent time on them anew: Enjoying nature’s restorative influence. Reading on topics that helped the fog lift. Visiting with my daughter. Consulting with wise and kind friends in meaningful ways. Journaling and experiencing writing’s healing power. Hiking. Horseback riding. Cycling. Some solo traveling.

Gradually I began to feel more like myself. The exhaustion I had felt at the molecular level eased. Now, in addition to savoring the peace brought by the touchstones of these “familiars”, I am learning more about how to accept new joy as it comes.

Novelist Alice Walker wrote in the voice of one of her characters: “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”

This is what I mean by practicing wonder. Noticing. Being aware. Doing the activities which fill our soul. Accepting the gifts that still abound in this world. Being grateful. Choosing joy.

Just before the pandemic began, a big dose of joy came to me in the handsome form of an amazing man who understands, who has brought his own love for all my favorite comforts along with an appreciation of music, a reverence for family land, a highly developed sense of wonder, a gift for thoughtfulness, a voice that melts me, and a smile that helps set the world to rights.

Those FGO’s I would not have chosen have taught me a lot. One of the lessons is this: Tears can reflect both sadness and joy at once.

This is because grief and gratitude are compatible. In fact, they can enrich each other, deepening the experience–and the wonder–of life.

Photos taken on hikes with Steve in Washington State last month.

Writing Practice:

What activities comfort you and feed your soul? In what ways?

What emotions seem incompatible but are actually connected in some way for you? Why?

18 thoughts on “Practicing Wonder, Renewed

  1. I read this twice. You are an incredible person because of your deep love of nature, people , experiences and love of life, no matter what comes your way. Please continue because you really touch me in such a beautiful way. You give me strength.

  2. I like that term FGO. Growth Opportunity sounds so great but that F at the front is a reminder that it’s not easy and not something one would opt for given the choice. Growth Opportunity is a reminder that we do have a choice when life hands out lemons.

    Ron was such an amazing person, good friend and wonderful husband. Plus he was really funny and made everyone laugh and feel happy. It must have been challenging watching him decline plus all that care took a deep toll, physically and emotionally. Then there was numbness, emptiness and loneliness after he died — and probably tiredness even though there was so much time since you didn’t have someone to care for round the clock.

    Happy that you have foundtime to heal and can look at these challenges as FGO’s (cuz there are a lot of other terms you could use.) And very happy that you have found someone to share life’s wonders! I’m very much looking forward to meeting your big dose of joy. 😍 Plus I love your writing and I love you.

    • Val, thank you so much for your kind words and your amazing friendship. How I love that you and Dan knew and remember Ron so well. It’s always lovely to hear about him from those who have stories of him in their hearts. I so very much look forward to seeing you guys and having Steve meet you! I love you, too, mi amiga.

  3. ABOUT TIME, Chris!
    Thank you for my morning of thought and exploration. “a voice that melts me” pierced my heart.

    Please do more.

  4. Dearest Chris, what a joy to read Practicing Wonder again in your rich,wise voice. Thank you for sharing your grief and gratitude, each enriching the other. A priceless insight! May the blessings continue. With gratitude & love, Anne

  5. Reading your posts bring me joy. Your eloquent writing, the beautiful pictures, the happiness I have for you makes my heart so happy. We will remember Ron with love, because of who he was.
    Thank you for sharing your story of healing and happiness.
    So happy for the both of you.
    I love you and miss you.

    • Thank you from my heart, Diane. Those years of camping in Baja were amazing for many reasons, but foremost among them are the people Ron and I came to know. You have a light and kindness that are a blessing to everyone around you. Thank you for remembering Ron.

  6. Chris, I can totally relate to everything you wrote! I too have met someone, built a new home, and began this wonderful adventure of life again. I know there will be more FGO’s in the future, but for now God has given me peace and contentment that I thought was gone. Loved your writings!

  7. Your post made so many friends glad to know you are thriving. Life is difficult and joyous and that irony makes it a learning journey for everyone. Thanks for your words, pictures and thoughts. Take care, my friend.
    Love, Anita

  8. Dear Chris, It’s so lovely to “hear” your voice again here, and to know that you are following your heart on this new and un-asked-for path. May you continue to find joy as you and Steve navigate life, together and separately, and may you always know love from those you hold dear! Hugs from me, Susan

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