Life With an Empty To Do List

Empty-Todo-ListWhat do you do when there is literally nothing to be done? When the proverbial To Do list is empty, and you have no immediate tasks at hand?

That is the rhetorical question that keeps rattling through my formerly too-busy brain. My old workaholic self is dead, replaced by a softer, more tender me who is willing to relax a whole lot more.

Now I am acutely aware of how little I got done last week or for several weeks prior.

The fact is that I am still grieving. A lot.

Turns out year two after the death of a child is far worse than year one. I finally get it: Teal is not coming back. Part of me has dropped to the floor, shattered.

And yet, life goes on because it has to. Work needs to happen; income needs to be produced. Yet because God is good, all is at peace.

In June I suddenly received a commission to write a series of six novels with a transman hero (a person who has transitioned from female to male.) My patron, a wealthy relative who likes my writing, has always wanted these books written. He was hoping I might be the one to do it.

I got a ‘yes’ from my heart … and so the flow carries me forward in this interesting new direction. I can even write these books as I chip away at my own creative work.

I don’t know what ‘the new Joy work’ is or when it will happen, but I know online cialis review that it will and must. There is at least one more ‘Joy’ book to write for sure. But for now I’m simply being called upon to trust, and act only when the time is right.

So with this grief comes an unfolding throughout my life. As I let go of Teal, I am opening up in all aspects to receive more and more and more.

This morning I was hit with a particularly intense wave of grief. Sobs overwhelmed me and I cried through it for a while. But then it was time to reach out, so I called a new friend.

Six months ago I never would have done this, but life has humbled me now and I understand that it’s okay to ask for help. Not only is it okay, it is preferable. Furthermore, it’s what I need. Speaking the unspeakable aloud always seems to prime the pump.

We talked and her words soothed me like warm honey; understanding and love were stitched throughout. I hung up feeling heard, understood and at peace again … at least until the next wave takes me down.

The source of my pain was not only the incalculable loss I feel as I attempt to grok my daughter’s death. Even greater is the shame I feel at not being “productive” — or even knowing what I am supposed to ‘do’.

Hey, shouldn’t my grief be over by now? Shouldn’t I be fine now?”, demands my busy brain.

Apparently not. But not only can I trust this process – I have no choice but to accept it. In letting go of who 20mg cialis online I ‘should’ be, I can finally, totally love myself, just as I am, surrounded by soggy Kleenex and lots of supportive friends.

After I hung up from speaking to my friend, I checked my phone. Randomly, I’d gotten this text message from a cell number in California I didn’t recognize. It said only this:

“Trusting God in this moment feels/looks like the following:

Not waiting for IT (whatever IT is to happen);

Not trying to make IT happen.

Jumping off the cliff and knowing that I’m supported. So I can stop trying to be safe by obsessively trying to figure out how to protect myself.

Telling the microscopic truth no matter what.”

This was followed by a second text that said,

“Oops, wrong person, but hope this is helpful to you anyway.”

Not only was it helpful – it was a perfect manifestation of God’s grace.

Wherever you are today, you, too, are held in a web of perfect unfolding. Life has your back in ways you cannot even begin to realize.

Maybe only one word needs to be on any To Do list.

That would be ‘Surrender.’

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13 replies
  1. Sue
    Sue says:

    This post allowed me to take a really deep breath and let it out slowly…the last lines in particular reminded me, in a way that others have failed over this past week, that I am safe, loved and protected. Thank you.

  2. Barb Brown
    Barb Brown says:

    Thank you for sharing so openly. Sometimes I think we stay so busy because we don’t want to feel those strong emotions such as grief. Slowing down helps you move through the grief and that is the only way to the other side – there just isn’t any way around it. I takes courage to push through and to transform. Good for you. And, your sharing helps others move through their grief as well.

    Good luck on your new adventure writing.

    Take care,

  3. Marilyn Clevenger
    Marilyn Clevenger says:

    Oh My Suzanne! You’ve done it again! Shared so beautifully and sweetly and made my heart swell with Love and Gratitude, and with Empathy. I lost my Darling partner and long time love two years ago. I know it is NOT the same as losing a child, and yet I feel a particular empathy and affinity with you! I am at peace that my grief will NOT end, and that I will continue to learn to be more and more at peace with it. Additionally I’m recovering from an auto accident! Got Broad-sided by an Elderly man, who never saw me, and hit me with his foot on the gas in my driver door! Totaled my car, and almost totaled me . . . so I’ve spent the past Nine Months with nothing on my TO DO list but take the best care of myself that I can manage, and contemplate what might come next, as I’m able to ‘do’ life again, slowly, slowly, but SURELY! My body and Brain are showing a semblance of returning to ‘normal’! WHEW! Your Lovely Sharings are always SO poignant, and sweetly expressed! You Inspire! I’m VERY touched by your upcoming project! I believe the results will touch the lives and consciousness of SO many people! New Paradigm Stuff for SURE! Ram Dass said, on his return home from his last trip to India, (and prior to having a stroke), that the ANSWER to ALL of the questions he traveled to India to ask, over many years . . . is: The Meaning of Life is “TO BE HAPPY!” I’m following SNOOPY’s Example from his book: “How To Be Happy Even Though You are STUCK in your OWN Back Yard!” And finding myself Blissfully Happy There! Like Emily Dickinson, I find I have Songbirds as Choristers! 🙂 Bless you as your journey continues to unfold! You are deeply and profoundly appreciated! Go forth and continue to BE BRILLIANT! And Thank You from the Bottom of my Heart! 🙂

  4. Lea Cullen Boyer
    Lea Cullen Boyer says:

    Thank you for this amazing article. It’s been 3 months since I retired form my day job of 21 years. I’ve been pushing and pushing to bolster my business. Trying to force outcomes. This week I’ve got nothing done. Well very little. I’ve not been willing to make decisions, unable to keep dates and commitments and generally not behaving like “me”. The Me that is reliable, and duty bound. I’m stopping for a moment and letting that be ok. It’s sad and beautiful and delicious. We’ll see where this all leads.

  5. Baylan
    Baylan says:

    Thank you for continually sharing from your honest heart, Suzanne, and for showing the way. Blessings and lightoto you,

  6. Michelle Manning-Kogler
    Michelle Manning-Kogler says:

    I don’t know that anyone ever really gets over the loss of a child. That grief is the natural result of losing a part of you. I appreciate your open and vulnerable honesty, Suzanne. It is helping people everywhere understand that it’s right and appropriate to feel their feelings. What many people don’t understand is that grief also happens when you lose a job, have a debilitating illness, go through a divorce or relationship breakup, don’t realize a goals or dream, make different life transitions. We are not taught how to grieve. We are taught to “buck up and be strong.” To get busy so we can “get over it.” Sometimes doing nothing is the most healing things we can do for ourselves. It feels odd, though, when that to-do list is empty. Simply sitting with our feelings can feel terribly overwhelming, but that is the way through the grief – feeling our feelings and allow the tears, the emotions to simply flow.

    Please let me know if I can be of help, Suzanne. I am here for you if you need me.

  7. Phoebe
    Phoebe says:

    Thank you for this beautifully written, inspirational piece. I have been in this same place after divorcing my husband of 20 years. I have two daughters and can only imagine the pain of your loss. I completely agree that we use our busy-ness to avoid feeling. Now that I have become busy again I am looking deeply into this phenomenon. I am constantly aware of what it is that I am busy doing. And how important is it? I am happy to report that I am currently busy doing only what I love. And this new state of buy-ness has me surrendering to the highest expression of my soul for the good of all. I am comforted by your words and I am here for you as well. Keep writing. Please share about the book more as well.

  8. Robin Ferschke
    Robin Ferschke says:

    I too lost my son in Aug. 2008. He was 22 years old, KIA in Iraq. He left a new wife of one month to the day. She was expecting his baby. He never met his beautiful son, all his plans and dreams were gone. Our grandson lives in Okinawa Japan so we don’t get to watch him grow up. They visit once a year and my husband and I go there every other year. Because of the cost to fly we don’t know how long the visits will last. I still don’t know why I’m here and what my purpose in life is. At the beginning I started writing a book, I’m only in the middle of it and can’t seem to pick it up again. I work everyday, and when I’m home I try to keep myself busy. I find myself not stopping but also not accomplishing much either. I’m so lost and can’t find my way back. Friends don’t stop by or call anymore, I understand though. I am not who I used to be, I try to hide my feelings but I think they see through it and stay away. I keep trying to let go and find some peace but just isn’t working. I’m so glad you are able to do what you are doing. I know your child is very proud of you. Thank you for letting me post.

    • Suzanne Falter
      Suzanne Falter says:

      Thank you for sharing Robin … your pain is our collective pain. And so you are not alone, though alone you may feel. I invite you to create some very quiet time and let it all go if you can. Sometimes we just need to stop for a while, do nothing and let that grief pour though us… That may be the hardest but the best thing …Hope this helps. Sending a hug. Suzanne

  9. Kelle Sparta
    Kelle Sparta says:

    Dear Suzanne,

    I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. I doubt you remember, but we met a number of years ago at Podcamp Boston. At the time you were very strong but also very guarded and I found it difficult to find a way into connection with you (which is usually something I'm quite good at so that's saying something).

    It is a beautiful thing to see this blossoming in you, this softness rising up from your core that is clearing away the defensiveness and distance. It is nice after all these years to finally meet you. Perhaps that was Teal's parting gift to you – being able to just be yourself. Regardless, it looks good on you. Thanks for letting us in.


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