The Red Ds

I woke to my daughter and her husband knocking on the door, telling me a sheriff needed to see me. I assumed, as this had been our biggest trouble so far in life, that one of our cars was stolen, or totaled by a drunk driver. Both had recently happened, both were annoying, and I wasn’t looking forward to dealing with the details. 

As I stepped into the living room, I knew this wasn’t about a car. I was immediately cold, and the sheriff’s face showed the grim news he was about to deliver. My youngest brother, a treasured member of our little tribe, had committed suicide. All I remember was screaming no, crying hard, and then apologizing to the officer for his having to deliver such hard news.

We spent the night in a puddle on the couch, crying, lost, contacting relatives. To be fair, I didn’t call anyone, my family took that on. All I did was sit, shell-shocked that such a happy man could come to such a tragic end. That night was not the last time my people rallied around me and gave me strength to get from point A to point B, and I was too grief-stricken to tell them I noticed. All I did was breathe for a very long time. And that is what they let me do.   

Life spiraled down from there. A few bad decisions, doubt in what had before then been a life without doubt, fear, and more decline heaped onto my shoulders. I found myself letting life take me for a ride — seldom taking a stand, instead waiting for the other shoe to drop while I did the bare minimum. I call this being crushed by Red Ds — Death, Disease, Divorce (not part of my story, thank goodness) Debt, bad Decisions, Debilitating circumstances. The list of Ds can be a very long one, and many of us have more than one D at work in our life right now.

With a lot of hard work and a lot of time, I pulled myself out of that decline, got my feet under me, started to thrive and coached others to do the same. Then, Covid-chaos hit. My mom died on the day the world shut down, and instead of mourning her, I found myself mourning all of life. I reflected on  the changes in my business, the isolation from friends and family, and the realization that there was a lack of toilet paper in my basement warehouse, as I had been traveling home from my mom’s sick bed when that alarm rang. I am not sure what was worse, the lack of TP or the fact I was not particularly good at running the remote as previously I’d been too in love with living to do much watching, but now that was all I had strength to do.

I was knee deep in an ice cream container when I realized this could not, would not be my life, that BY DAMN, I would not just survive Covid, I would use the time to get healthier, and to build a stronger business.

By Damn.  

I would write my own story. I would help others to write a better story than the world was handing them. I would not die of kidney failure. I would not wither away into obscurity, having people ask, “Whatever happened to Karen?” By Damn. 

Making that decision lit me on fire. I developed and implemented a plan. I created a webinar for local businesses, and in May of last year, I delivered it to over 2,000 people — all for free — to give people hope in a hopeless situation. I lost 25 pounds. I leaned into learning. And, I stopped, as that is the one thing Covid-chaos gave us — the opportunity to stop. I felt the sunshine on my face and the grass under my feet. Being outside is a healing balm, and so I sat under a lot of trees last year while growing forward. Always forward.

There are a few things these dances with the Red Ds have taught me, things I’d like to offer to you, if you are crushed under the weight of defeat.  

The sun will rise tomorrow, and it is your duty to greet it. Get up, get out, and sing to the sun. If there is nothing else you can do for the day, stand in the glory of a new beginning and one day you will fully embrace it as yours.

Forget tolerance. You have been too tolerant for too long. I am not talking about diversity; that you should tolerate. Stop tolerating poor behavior on your part or the intolerable being done to you by others. Stop tolerating an unmade bed, uncombed hair and life in sweatpants. If it is not serving your highest self, why are you tolerating it?

Help someone. When you are down, out, sad and ugly, the last thing you think you have is anything else to give and I am here to tell you that is part of the death spiral. You have something others need. Give knowledge, give cookies, give a pair of socks to the guy on the corner. When you give, your heart opens, ever so much, and you can start to feel the warmth of life, even when grief chills your bones.

Plan something for tomorrow. Something for a week from now. Beyond that might seem too much, but with nothing to do, nothing to look forward to, your heart has no reason to beat a little faster. We learned this when we owned the ceramic studio, In Good Glazes. There were people who felt hopeless, and even suicidal, that painted a mug, or a tiny cat, and waiting to see it come out of the kiln gave them reason to live for five more days. Then, they would do it again, and eventually, with prayer and therapy, their life did not require trips to the studio as they were busy living it. 

Let others help you. They don’t really know what to do, they ask, “How are you?” when it is the dumbest question in the world, but they are sent, these people who stop to notice your pain, to serve you, to help you see the light of the Lord. Let them. Often it helps them as much as it helps you.

When you are in the doldrums, when the Red Ds have taken over, I hope you will look for the blessings, the things you can learn, and know that someday your Red D will be a part of your story, but not the end of your story. When Allan died, I thought I would be defined, and limited, by his death. An angel told me I didn’t have to be and I learned, from her and others, how to comfort someone in grief, which prior to that I thought meant baking a casserole and cheerfully saying, “I’m sending prayers.” 

I am a fuller, happier person because of these journeys with the Big Red Ds and you will be too. I promise you that. You just have to get through today and tomorrow too.  



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