Self-Love for the Lonely.

As published in Elephant Journal on March 21, 2018.

“You must love yourself before you can truly love anyone else.”

We’ve all probably heard this many times by now whether it’s in a quote, an article, a book, or a song—and with good reason, as there is evidence that without true, authentic love of self, it’s significantly harder to thrive in relationships with others.

But what happens for those going through prolonged periods of loneliness in life who may feel that this lesson is pointless because there’s no one around to love, anyway?

I never sought to be the mom who referred to her child as her best friend. But as I sit here on yet another night that I’ve spent by myself while he’s with his dad, I’ve realized that from the physical perspective, my five-year-old son is my best friend right now. He’s who I spend the most time with, and who I go out on dates with. I ask him if my shirt looks nice or which earrings I should wear. On the days and nights he’s not with me, I might go grocery shopping or to the yoga studio, but I am otherwise staring at a blank calendar with zero plans.

This is not at all what I expected upon moving here two and a half years ago. Finding and having friends has never been difficult for me. My closest friends are still the girls I met when I was in junior high and high school. I continued to make other friends in my 20s and early 30s who are still my soul sisters.

But here, in this place I now call home, I haven’t a single true friend to spend quality time with—and I’m realizing for the first time how much this state of physical loneliness is impacting the person I want to be. Someone who sees each day as a blessing. Someone who is open to challenges. Someone who smiles and laughs freely without wondering if my amusement is causing me to look silly or out of place.

I never thought I would see a week where I could say I cried every day and rarely laughed, but I can say it now.

I fear the isolation is turning me into an embittered and angry person. Someone I don’t recognize. I’m sometimes scared to leave the house these days because I may just be looking at another situation where I feel rejected.

Don’t be mistaken, I have tried here. I’ve dated. I attempted to start a book club. I joined a yoga studio. I talk to the other moms when my son is at soccer or swimming practice. I can’t tell you how many times the words, “We should get together,” have fallen from my lips, only for those invitations to not be accepted or even acknowledged. I get it: people are busy, and to be a single mom in her late (yikes) 30s, hailing from a different place and just trying to integrate herself into already established circles, is a hard hand to be dealt.

I ask God at times why this is happening. I’m here on my own free will, so I won’t blame anyone for my circumstances. I’ve gone to therapy to work on my self-image and self-esteem and self-compassion. But I’ve become tired of talking about it. I’ve likely exhausted my friends who have their own lives and problems going on. I’ve worried my parents.

It’s left me to wonder—where are the self-love books about loving yourself when you feel so incredibly alone in your life that you worry with each day if all the doors you see will close in your face? How do you love a you that you think others find unlovable? How are you supposed to be your own number one fan as you sit in leggings on your couch binge-watching “The Mindy Project,” eating frozen pizza while scrolling through Instagram, double-tapping the photos of your friends living a fun, happy life?

How do you find that place of inner love and acceptance when the jeans feel tighter and the grey hair is beginning to show? When you feel left out of the very place where you live, and when you can’t remember the last time a man told you that you looked beautiful, and it’s been over a year and half since you’ve been kissed?

I don’t think you’re going to find it in a book. I don’t think it’s in a quote or in an article. Or rather, you may find it there, but you’re sure as sh*t going to lose it if you temporarily rely on those words and ideas but don’t use the teachings to cultivate your own garden within.

It may feel that self-acceptance is easier to attain when you’re in the presence of others and radiating in their love for you. I can’t deny that I feel my best when I’m around people who bring out the best in me.

But why is it that I am not one of those people? I know the love I give to others, and can honestly admit that I’m more likely to be focused on loving others than I am on taking care of myself. If I likened myself to a garden, I’m the patch that has gone untended for far too long.

I need to remember that gardens grow regardless of who else may stop to admire the sight or scent of the blossoms.

They grow when they are watered, tended to, pruned, and exposed to light. And it truly only takes one pair of capable hands—my own—to help a garden grow.

When I think more of what is currently going on in my life, I wonder if the most painful times come because we are so convinced that outside forces—and even other people—will make things better or hurt less. And you know what? Sometimes they do.

But when we don’t have something or someone real to come home to, nothing outside of ourselves will matter. Or when we find ourselves in a situation where we have to move and start all over again. Or when the time in our life comes that physically strips us of what we believe makes up our identity—our homes, our friends, our romances. Our jobs, our wealth, or our social status.

But if those kinds of conditions must always be present in order for us to feel worthy and lovable, what happens when the inevitable life storm hits and wipes them away from our grip? Where are we when we’re just us?

If you feel alone in life right now, by all means read the books. Listen to the songs and watch the TED Talks. Let others inspire you, and let others into your struggles and your fears and your worries. Work through the loneliness, but not by drowning it in that which is outside of you. Let it become an opportunity to love yourself more deeply than ever before, without outside distractions and without any other acceptance than your own.

Take what you learn and pour it inward to create the you that is so lovable to you that regardless of the weather, regardless of the storms, you are still your greatest caretaker.

Because once that seed is really and truly planted, you’ll find that life begins to bloom.

Author: Jenny Roman
Editor: Callie Rushton

This Fad Deserves An Extension.

It’s Thanksgiving.

This means family time and hearty meals.  It means possible late night shopping excursions, parties, time in planes or in cars, pajamas for hours and days off from work, if you’re lucky.

It also means an extra helping of gratitude.  The emphasis on gratitude is everywhere this time of year and it’s never a bad thing.  Focusing on the people, places and things that bless our lives and make our hearts warmer can never be a bad thing.  I love this time of year because even though we may eat more and become “heavier,” some appear lighter.  They appear lighter because they are lit.  They are lit from the inside with a glow and a warmth that is perceptible to anyone within their realm and the gratitude they feel for their own blessings seems to pour into their lives in all kinds of ways.  They may be more prone to hold doors open, let someone into their lane in a traffic jam, or even allow another customer have the last cream-filled donut (don’t look at me… I probably wouldn’t go that far).

So… it leaves me to wonder… what happens the other 11 months of the year?  Where does gratitude go on Black Friday when one stranger threatens another over a toy?  Can we dig into that space in the middle of February when we’re freezing, but have a warm bed to sleep in and hot coffee to drink?  Can we sit around the table with family in May, the same as we did in November, and be thankful that God gave us these people to share time with?  Would it be crazy to go around the table on July 23 and say, “I’m thankful for…”?

A heart of gratitude is more than just a fad.  Over the last 10 years, study after study has been conducted about just what happens to people when gratitude becomes an integral part of their daily lives.  It’s a free investment into your well-being and yourself that pays dividends beyond anything you could truly imagine.  It’s not junk science or new agey, granola BS that is being sold in an infomercial at 3:00am.  It’s this: “a growing body of research shows that gratitude is truly amazing in its physical and psychosocial benefits.” -Drs. Blaire & Rita Justice.

It’s 100% cliche for me to write this today and I understand that.  I understand that I’m emphasizing the regular, not just seasonal practice of gratitude on the day that is most associated with gratitude.  Maybe I’m inspired to believe that today you’re more inclined to be inspired.  To soak it up and in, to lather, rinse and repeat… maybe you’ll start today,  plant the seed and see your gratitude grow.

Almost 18 months ago, a dear friend and I started a daily gratitude practice.  We exchange texts each morning that include gratitude statements, professions of self-love and our intention for that day.  There is no standard or pressure and I can only tell you that it is just as heartwarming to be grateful that you didn’t really run out  of toilet paper as it is that you met the love of your life.  Start big.  Start small.  But most importantly… start.

Gratitude does not prevent tragedy or heartache.  There are many days where I sit and struggle to find things to be grateful for, even when I’m well aware that I have more blessings than problems.  It has, however, softened those blows.  It allows for more hope and more peace and a glimpse of calm during times that feel difficult to get through.  It has transformed me in ways that may not be evident to others, but I can see so clearly.

May the spirit and attitude of gratitude carry in, with and through you today, tomorrow and well beyond.  May you be crazy blessed with all the love and laughter your heart can handle.  And may you know how much you matter. ❤️

Everything I’ll Never Say In My Online Dating Profile.

As posted in Elephant Journal on 08.19.17

I once listed my rocker and ottoman for sale online.

I wrote of its lush fabric and beautiful pattern. I described the memories created sitting in that chair. I didn’t include the fact that scuff marks were created when it was carried up the stairs, or the arms had breast milk stains I just couldn’t get 100 percent out.

I declined to describe the accident a baby boy had while sitting naked in that chair. I left out the part that the ottoman has a tendency to squeak just at the moment when your little one has finally fallen asleep after hours of cluster feeding.

Creating an online dating profile seems to be much the same process. Putting together the positive details and rainbow colors of my life and personality and exposing it to God knows how many men in the hopes that one of them (or a few of them) will like what they see and want to meet me.

They’ll see the professional headshot, in which my eyes sparkle, and my hair is smooth and on point. They’ll see what I feel is the best amateur photo of me—tan and sitting at the bar smiling with one of my best friends. They’ll see a photo taken of my son and me as we view the ocean and step in into the waves (only from behind, of course, so as not to reveal the face of that little boy I’m not ready for anyone to be familiar with just yet).

They’ll read words about my love of reading. About how I like to have a nice dinner out, as much as I love to sit on the couch under a warm blanket as I watch 80s movies, documentaries, or old episodes of “Dateline.” They’ll know all about how when I’m not being a mama, I’m working, or practicing yoga, or traveling.

It’s boring. It’s common. It’s anything and everything—except how I would truly describe myself and the woman you may end up getting to know.

The truth is darker, but also brighter. Because any truth, even the ugly ones, contain sparks of light as we chip away at the layers of concrete we’ve built around our heart walls after years of heartbreak and missed connections. After the disappointment when the ones you believe to be the one turn out to be anything but.

The truth goes something like this:


I’ll meet you for a first date at a coffee shop or restaurant. Depending on how I felt that morning, I’ll either put a lot of effort into getting ready, or will ho-hum it through my routine of hair and make-up. I’ll wear something flattering—but not for you. No, for me and for the chance to feel as if I actually have something I can control in this effort.

I’ll walk through the doors, and you’ll be waiting—and before we even sit next to or across from each other, I’ve likely already decided whether or not I want to spend more time with you.

It may be the lack of direct eye contact or the hesitancy in your smile. It may be whether or not you understand my sense of humor and can recognize movie quotes or song lyrics. I’ll whisper to myself, “Don’t do this. Don’t give up,” and I’ll try to listen.

We’ll talk about our childhoods and careers. I’ll tell you why I moved from a place that I love to where I live now, and you’ll remark on my selflessness and sacrifice. We’ll glaze over past marriages and relationships, and I’ll describe my last love affair so briefly that it will seem to you that it had little meaning, when the truth is, I’m still reeling from the loss of him—of us—and the dynamic impact he made on my life in such a short time.

I’ll tell you that my co-parenting relationship with my son’s father is easy and cooperative, when oftentimes, I don’t like being in the same room with him because of his domineering attitude and nature. I’ll tell you that I’m adjusting alright to this new city and state, when actually, homesickness sends me running 550 miles west any chance I get.

I’ll skip the part where the only time I felt genuinely full and happy in this new place was when he was in my life, and I had something—someone—to look forward to sharing my time with.

I won’t tell you that there are stretches of days—or weeks—that I don’t believe in magic anymore.

So why am I here? Why am I even giving this a shot? Because of the sliver of me that still does still believe in magic. Because of the work I’ve put in to becoming someone who I would want to be with.

Someone who is a listener as much as she’s a talker. Someone who wants to do life with someone else, who yearns to be less jealous and more understanding. Someone who will jump in the car at four in the morning to see a sunrise with you, or drive to your parents’ house on a Sunday afternoon to have dinner with them. Someone who wants to be your emergency contact and do your laundry as much as I want to help you get your clothes a little dirty.

I’m here because of the simple fact that I’ve felt it. I’ve been there—and can I really, truly say that I can’t be there once, twice, three times again? Maybe not every day, but today may just be the day that I believe.

I’ll believe, because I think it’s possible I’ll meet someone who is in this same cycle. Who is so much more than a few words on an app or website. Who is terrified that, again, someone may check out and leave. Who may feel like they’re on their last chance, but something in them is telling them to just try…one more time.

Perhaps, you’ll look at me like I am magic—but I won’t believe I’m magic because you think I am; I’ll believe it because I know I am.

Beyond perfect headshots and common interests—and the hope that you’ll like my cooking and corny jokes—I’ll believe you’ll see me for me, and I’ll see you for you…and perhaps, we can believe together.

Author: Jenny Roman 
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Good Vibrations.

“Girl, he’s definitely going to call you.”

These were the words I read from a close friend after I told her about my first date in over a year. I digested them and reflected on the events of the last week and the short amount of time I had spent getting to know Eric (the name has been changed to protect the innocent… or the guilty… you can read and decide). And I realized almost instantly that even if I never heard from him again, I wasn’t sure if I would care. But it was a completely different kind of “I don’t care,” than I had ever really felt before…

I don’t like dating and I envy those who do. I listen to others talk about how fun it is to go out with and get to know new and interesting people. After a couple of months of being single, I went back online last fall, but the sour feeling in my stomach wouldn’t go away as I judged profiles of men with such severe scrutiny that none of them had a chance of getting through this brick wall. I gave up quickly and over the next few months started to turn my gaze inward and sought out to heal that hurt on my own rather than expecting anyone else to take over that huge job.

I kept reading lovely quotes like “What you seek is seeking you,” (Rumi) and “The Law of Attraction states that whatever you focus on, think about, read about, and talk about intensely, you’re going to attract more of into your life,” (Jack Canfield). I had conversations with my friends about how to re-enter the dating world. I wanted to be out more and be “visible,” but didn’t want to put myself into a setting I normally would steer clear of because why would I want to meet someone somewhere I would never usually be? Regardless of my positive approach and attitude, I began to feel frustrated. Was I meant to be alone? Did men even find me attractive? Why is this so freaking hard and how can others always make it look so easy when to me, it feels like I’m training for a marathon with absolutely no finish line in sight?

As much as I didn’t want to do online again, I was introduced to a site by a friend that didn’t feel so “meat market-ish.” And one night while sitting on the couch, I said – probably out loud – “what the f&*k do you have to lose?” I put together a profile and the connections (like magic!) started rolling in. One of these, Eric, quickly stood out to me… he had nice eyes and seemed to have his life together. When we started chatting, he was responsive, but not overeager. We had a decent flow of conversation and then decided we would talk on the phone. This thrilled me because I actually like the phone whereas most people think that using the phone to talk these days is a hideous, archaic concept. Our conversation was fun… we seemed to have some things in common, including a mutual love of Phil Collins, which is not an easy thing to find. We agreed to meet up a couple of days later at a local brewery and I was looking forward to it. But what was so strange is that I wasn’t the least bit jittery. Maybe a little nervous about what to wear and if I would get sweaty in the heat, but overall, I was calm and comfortable.

We met and spent three pretty easy hours together. I wasn’t overwhelmed with chemistry or physical attraction, but was alarmed with how okay I was with that because it was something that had always been so important to me before, and we all know how well that’s worked out so far. We talked openly about family and football, work and weather and I can tell you, I was never bored. As we parted, I only thought, “I would be happy to hear from him again.” But there was no pining. There was zero time spent wondering if I had said the right thing. No reflection on the day thinking, “I shouldn’t have had so many beers or that many pieces of pizza.”

My friend was right in her prediction and the next day, I did hear from Eric.  And what transpired in a couple hours of sporadic texting can only be described as… kind of indescribable. The conversation started out benign enough… an overview of the workday and the photo shoot he went to after leaving me the night before. He shared a couple of pictures from a shoot he had done at a hot air balloon festival. I remembered he had told me about the last book he had read and asked again for the name of it. In his response, he told me that I was welcome to borrow it if I would like. I responded, “Yes, I would like that.” Then…

“Well, that means you would have to see me again.”

“Yes, I know. I would like that.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure. I had a great time yesterday.”

“Are you sure?” (Huh? Didn’t I answer this already? Did he not read my initial response?”)

“Ummm… yes. I just said I was sure. Why are you asking again?”

“Do you want me to be honest with you?” (Oh shit, really? This can’t be promising…)


Text silence for about 5 minutes and he doesn’t have an iPhone, so I couldn’t see if he was typing… and then…

“I kind of got a weird vibe from ya. It’s hard for me to explain, but you’re just too nice. It’s not bad or anything, but something definitely felt off.”

At this point, I was dumbfounded and texted a couple of friends to ask for their translation of “weird vibe.” Yeah, nothing good…

“I’m not really sure how to take that…”

“Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have said anything. I like you and I really would like to see you again. The weird vibe had nothing to do with your personality, so you know. I would just want to see if I get the same vibe. I’m sure this is confusing, lol.”

WTF???? Seriously?? You need to see if I’m still weird or possibly even weirder??? I had to think about this for a bit, but this was the last text I sent to him:

“Yes, I’m even more confused… if the weird vibe had nothing to do with my personality, then there had to have been a reason you felt that way… trust your gut. Always. I’m not sure I would be able to feel that relaxed around you (like I was yesterday) given this. But I am grateful you were honest. People should be that way more often. I’m sure you will meet someone you get better vibes from. Thanks again for a nice afternoon.”

And with that, I erased Eric’s number from my phone and despite a couple of follow-up texts from him saying very compelling things such as, “I’m sure it isn’t that bad! I’m 110% sure I want to see you again!” I didn’t respond.

But this was by far the best part… I didn’t care. A year ago, I would have read his words and thought only, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? WHY DOESN’T HE LIKE ME?” Even given the fact that I wasn’t super into him, I would have started there and would have then broken myself into a 500-piece puzzle trying to figure out how to put the pieces back together in a way that would make me a less weird version of myself. Eric and I are not going to be exposing our vibes to each other again, and I am super okay with this and it’s not the “eff you” kind of okay. It’s the – we’re not all meant to fall in love with each other and just because you can’t feel my vibe, it doesn’t mean it isn’t a wonderful one for someone else.

In the end, my friend was right. He did call. The next one might not. Regardless, I’m riding my vibe and will until the right one recognizes that awesome energy of mine and says, “I can feel it… coming in the air tonight… oh Lord.”

In Reconsideration of Regret.

I find myself fantasizing about time travel a lot.

I only time travel backwards.  I never really try to see into the future and imagine where life is five, 10, 25 years from now.  No, it’s the going backwards that gets me.  It’s reliving that conversation.  That morning in bed.  That moment when I lost my shit and said those words.  The night I chose not to call and instead waited for the phone to ring on my end, which it never did.  The summer I decided not to go away to college.  Or when I agreed to move far, far away to pursue a life with my love at the time, even when everything in my gut screamed, “Don’t do it.”

Do you do that?  Do you sit in the quiet of your room at night and think of those moments, or do you accept that everything that has occurred in your life happened the way it was supposed to?  And if it wasn’t for that exact order of people ahead of you in line at Starbucks, smiles, words, motions, stoplights, storm clouds, then every other moment that transpired thereafter was impossible?  If so, oh how I envy you…

My actions, or possibly inaction, at the end of my last relationship have haunted me.  Something I toy with even on the good days, which outnumber the bad significantly.  I see a sunset from my deck and think, “what would it be like if he was here to experience this sight with me?”  Or I look at a date on a calendar and think, “a year ago, we were…” Now that the number of days we’ve been apart are far, far greater than the number of days we were together, the regret has diminished somewhat, but still remains at times a passenger in my car or something that stares back at me in the mirror.  That was the case until I learned something about regret I never considered before… and I want you to learn it too.

Picture a moment you don’t like to picture because you weren’t your best self and the outcome is something you wish you could change.  A moment that sticks out in your memory as a significant…  “If only I had… I wish that I would have…”  For me, I picture a night that inevitably changed the course of that relationship.   Where I crumpled under the weight of self-doubt and believed I wasn’t good enough to be with the person I had fallen in love with – someone who meant so much to me and I was so afraid of losing.  I convinced myself that regardless of how much he said he loved and cared about me, I wasn’t worthy and didn’t deserve him as a partner.

Now stop.

Picture who you were in that moment.  Picture your capability to understand what was going on with you, paired with everything at that time you believed about yourself to be true.  Did you believe you were worthy?  Did you believe you deserved love?  Did you believe you were able to act any differently?

In the time since the end of that relationship, I have poured hours of therapy, pages of journals and books, weeks of yoga classes, thousands of frequent flyer miles, and countless conversations with friends into myself.  Into growing and changing and learning exactly what it means to be a lover of myself and my life.  This is exactly why this exercise works for me and can also work for you if you’ve put effort into making the same kind of changes to better your life and improve how you view yourself.     If you have, now ask yourself the same questions, but ask them of you today.  Do you believe you are worthy?  Do you believe you deserve love?  Do you believe you are able to act differently?  If the answers to the first set of questions are no and the answers to the second set of questions are yes, then I invite you to reconsider your regret.  Look at that moment in your life with a fresh set of eyes, seeing and realizing that at that former time, when something happened you so, so wish had never happened or had happened another way, the truth is simple – you were not capable in that moment of doing anything differently.  This is not to punish you.  This is not to dig the knife in deeper or make you feel worse about what you did at the time.  This is a gentle, kind, but completely accurate, way of reminding yourself that who you are today is not who you once were.  And perhaps, just perhaps, that moment happened only because you were meant for something far greater, which may have never arrived for you had that moment that has caused sleepless nights and aches in your chest not occurred.  If this concept is still hard to grasp, imagine yourself as a small child – or imagine a small child you know and love.  Imagine they’ve done something “wrong” and over time have learned new ways of living and being so as to not repeat past behaviors that may have harmed themselves or others.  Would you want them wallowing in what they did before, when they did not know any better?  Would you encourage that suffering?  Or would you praise them for the ways they’ve grown and changed and become better versions of themselves?

The next time you are laying in bed, drowning in your suffering and regret, may the you of today whisper to the you of yesterday…  “My dear heart… you just weren’t ready… you have more to learn… you have more to do.  You didn’t know how to make a different choice.  And given the chance again, you will do it differently.”


This is Ruining Our Summer Vacations More than Ever Before.

As published in Elephant Journal:

How to make the out-of-office reply your friend:

Recently, I stood in a lovely condo in Southeast Florida around 8:00 in the morning as my son was eating and my parents and I were getting ready for a day on the beach.

In that moment of perceived relaxation, I almost had a full-blown panic attack as I looked at my iPad and saw the emails rolling in.

Questions—that could best be answered by me, but were being handled by others because I wasn’t responding—filled the screen and anxiety filled my brain. My heart started to race as I sat down to type, with the hope that my answers would be sufficient enough to not bring on follow-up questions. My pulse sped up as, within moments, an additional “ping” filled the air, mixing with the sound of breaking waves.

Then, my son asked me a question and I still regret the tone of my voice as I answered, “Can’t you see I’m in the middle of something?”

Ask me how many memories I have of being on vacation with my parents when I was a child, and watching their heads buried in their phones. The answer is zero. I have zero such memories. I know that history is on their side, as when I was a child in the mid-80s, the only person with a phone on the beach was Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street.”

I can’t tell you how many times I wonder if my son is going to grow up with memories of the top of my head instead of my eyes. But I kind of already know the answer. At school, he prepared a lovely All About My Mommy book for Mother’s Day.

Here are a few of the highlights:

“She likes to work.”
“My mom is as smart as work.”
“My mom is as busy as working.”
“I love my mom because she works so hard at work.”

I love to work. There, I said it. I like my job and the people I work with. I like creating training modules and writing contracts. I like contributing to an organization that is trying to help others better their lives, and I can freely admit that I would make a terrible stay-at-home parent.

Regardless, the last time I checked, the show can absolutely go on without me.

Here are some tips I’m going to remember the next time I turn on that out-of-office message in my email. I hope they help you too, if, like me, you are worried that work can’t work without you:

1. You can’t get fired for using vacation time that you’ve earned. I don’t care if you don’t respond to one voicemail or email while you’re gone. If you are on approved time off, you should not be receiving a “Dear John” letter upon your return.

2. The work will get done when you get back. It will be waiting for you, and it will get done. After my last vacation, I returned to work and guess what? I answered every email and returned every call. It got done.

3. A “heads up” can serve you well. Send a message to your regular contacts in advance of your time away and let them know you’ll be gone and that you will not be responding. You deserve these boundaries and the people you’re vacationing with do, too.

4. Remember how you treat those you work with when they’re on vacation. If you’re like me, you want them to enjoy their time away. They want the same for you.

5. You’re just not that important. This isn’t harmful self-deprecating talk here. This is the truth. This is a solid reminder that life (and work) goes on, but that your children will not always be small and will never again have their first convertible ride in a red Camaro along A1A. Be here now. That’s where you matter.

May vacation time be the time you dreamt it to be when you spent hours picking the beach where you would leave your footprints, the mountain you would climb, or the music festival where you would high five strangers from all 50 states.

You deserve it.

Author: Jenny Roman
Editor: Catherine Monkman

True Love Is Watching Someone Die.

As seen in elephant journal:

We come into this world as a bolt of lightning.

Screaming and red-faced as we announce we’ve arrived. The elation of that hospital room, bedroom, or bathroom is at a peak—something not often re-experienced as we move through our lives.

We grow until we start shrinking. We build memories until we start forgetting. We raise children until they move out of the house and their bedrooms are overtaken with scrapbooks and toys getting dusty in between visits from grandchildren. We build 401ks and IRAs until we need to withdraw from them. We trade in our four bedroom colonials for townhouses in a 55+ community where we do aerobics with the gals or play shuffleboard with the gents. We walk until we need a wheelchair. We cook until we rely on Meals on Wheels or a visiting angel. We get up to use the bathroom several times a night until we finally surrender to a bedpan or catheter.

Our hearts beat until one day, they stop.

If we are lucky, we will live a grand life and succumb to the “great beyond” at an old age. If a different path is chosen for us, we may not reach our time of gray hair or ear hair.

Oftentimes, not much thought or conversation occurs as the years pass by. We should really start building a plan for how we want to be cared for when the time comes that we can no longer manage ourselves.

Caring for the young is tiring, but babies are cute and need us to survive. Our feelings about being caretakers change when the ones we’re responsible for are our parents, grandparents, elderly neighbors, or friends. Something about the obligation of wiping the chin of a 90-year-old slurping soup just doesn’t feel the same as a toothy nine-month-old needing the same assistance.

In the former scenario, we may think of our own schedules and demands; how we have other things to do and people to take care of. These circumstances can lead to decisions where instead of allowing the ones who gave us life to end theirs peacefully, in the comfort of their homes, we hire others to take care of them, simply because there is not enough time or hands to do so without outside help.

I have seen the last moments before death—they are haunting, but beautiful.

There is a sense of serenity and peace that is void from so much of our busy lives. Passing over comes with a certain aura around the person, almost like they are bathed in their own departure. Depending on their clarity and means, those preparing to die may want us to just talk, sit, and laugh with them.

I laughed with my dying friend, 43 years old and leaving behind a beautiful wife and toddler, as my own baby sat on his bed in a bright green onesie and stole fruit from his bowl. I laughed hearing stories about my 91-year-old grandfather who saw visions of long-passed pets and relatives. He told my family to take care of my grandmother because she was “trouble.”

It was difficult to muster a laugh when I saw that same man 24 hours before he left the Earth. Once strong and capable, he was shrunken into a shell of himself, laying incoherently in a portable hospital bed. I could smile because my grandmother, parents, and siblings gave him the chance to end his life at home on his own terms.

Their efforts opened my mind to seeing the process of death in a much different way. They made me realize that honoring those who paved our way to die with dignity and comfort means so much more than personal agendas or inconveniences.

I know it isn’t always possible. I know that family circumstances sometimes don’t allow this to happen for many understandable reasons. But I hope when it’s my own parents—and honestly, when it’s me—that the chance is given. If I live out as many years as I hope to, when the moment comes, I hope it’s in a familiar place with people who mean the world to me. I hope my son can tell his children the story of my death because he was there, not because someone from the nursing home called to tell him I have passed.

Regardless of whether or not you’re contemplating the best source of care for yourself or a member of your family, I encourage you to spend time with the dying.

Sit with them and listen to their stories, their lessons, and their regrets. Watch their faces light up as they recall the moments they met the loves of their lives, or the births of their first children. Listen to their advice about pyramid schemes, whether or not you really need that fancy car to be happy, or the best place they’ve ever watched a sunset. Ask them what they would do differently and what they wouldn’t change.

At all points in our lives, we’re seeking relevancy. We want to matter and we want to touch others, even in moments when we may believe we have little to actually offer.

Giving someone who is about to leave the physical world an opportunity to matter will stay with you long after they are gone.

To be in the company of a child entering the world is breathtaking; to be in the company of someone about to leave it is humbling.

To experience both is to be blessed.

Author: Jenny Roman
Editor: Danielle Beutell