The First Scratch

July 2, 2021

Everyone says that love is the most important emotion of all.  It has been documented forever.  After all, literature and poetry over centuries captured the feeling of love.  Like the most famous celebrity.  The Queen of all emotions.  But what if the most profound feeling of our existence is not love, but loss.  And it never got the fame love did. It has been hidden. Shamed. Forbidden.  Cut short.  ‘They’ took away its words, and expression of it.  We had to adjust our behavior to mimic its invisibility.  We learned that communicating loss externally meant weakness.  We were supposed to keep on working, caregiving, functioning regardless of what we felt internally. I believe this has been a type of human suffocation.  It is easier to discuss and fight for an outer form of human suppression than demand validation for inner suffering that lasts longer than 6 months. It is nearly unheard of.  It is hard to command a revolution for something that is invisible to the naked eye.  You see, loss is not famous.  But love, well love has been expressed a million times, in a million ways.  If only loss had that same luxury.  And I don’t just mean the loss of another person.  I am bringing forth the loss that has not yet been defined, expressed and shown in all its parts, because it has been deleted from our rights by shaming us for ever expressing it.  Even as I am writing this, I am thinking that maybe I should not be so dramatic.  Maybe not everyone is feeling loss.  Because even I have been brainwashed to believe that talking about it in the extremes, is an exaggeration.  What a lie. What a false sense of existing that has been forced upon us.  It is as if we get scratched every day and everyone around us is pretending not to see the scratch. Well, it is just a scratch right?  Then every day, a new scratch happens.  Some of the new scratches happen at the same location.  After a while the scratch is a deep wound, but you can’t tell anyone because after all, it is a scratch. So we deny the wounds that did not start out deep.  We deny them, because we are taught to believe that what we feel, what hurts, what looks like a deep wound is just a scratch.  For some people, especially the ones who are really good at enduring the daily scratch, and even better at ignoring the becoming of the wound, one day they wake up preparing for another scratch and they don’t make it.  The wound was so deep from the thousands of daily scratches that it took over them.  Now imagine, if only that first day when the first scratch took place, someone taught us how to tend to it. Care for it. Talk about it.  Imagine how things could have been.  Since we can’t change the past. And my next book on this won’t be here until 2023, can you try and tend to your scratches daily?  Can you witness and validate every seemingly insignificant moment that caused you to sigh. Made you lose sleep.  And if you are not ready to share it with others, or there is no other to share it with.  Write it down for yourself, and give yourself permission to look at your scratch as the big deal it can be.  May your weekend be filled with a knowing that someone, somewhere knows how painful those scratches ended up being.  And just like that, we start the journey to making loss as famous as love. After all, we know it better than we know anything else.  Maybe even better than love.    With scratches,  Christina  P.S. This week’s Dear Life Podcast was 9 minutes with just me, talking to you. I hope you listen here. 

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A Quick Stroll Along My 49 Year Old Life

June 25, 2021

Today I decided to share a little more about my life.  There are so many new readers who joined the Friday Letter Subscription that I think it's important to tell you about my journey here.  My name is Christina Rasmussen and 49 years ago I was born in Greece in a small town called Volos. When I was growing up, there was definitely an inner guide that lived within myself but it was a very quiet one.  I was me but there was the essence of another me, witnessing my life.  I also believe this is true for everyone, you just have to look for that other you.  In my early years I didn’t like to eat much. I had a lot of anxiety and it often took away my appetite.  I did not know this about myself, or that I struggled from anxiety growing up until my 40s.  I also felt very nauseous every morning before I had to go to school.  I deeply disliked school.  The only good memory I have from those early education years was in Kindergarden. Everything after that first year was like a loss experienced every single day having to wake up and go to school.  My grades in school were never good. I never studied.  I never wanted to do homework.  When it came to math, I nearly failed year after year.  One time, the school nearly kept me back a year.  My math teacher told me how I nearly didn't make it.  I have dreams about failing math to this day.  Never underestimate your early schooling experience.  When I finally graduated from high school, my parents sent me to England to study.  I went to live with my two great aunts for the first three years. I honestly never thought in a million years I would be able to go to college.  After all, I nearly failed at everything. But I did go.  I spent 5 years in a very old and historic town called Durham where England’s third oldest University is, and where some of Harry Potter was filmed also.  I had a boyfriend during those years, we dated for 5 years. Until I found out that he cheated on me multiple times and I had no idea.  I experienced my first traditional loss then.  One of the invisible losses that stemmed from that experience was that I had no idea that he was cheating. He seemed so dedicated to our relationship.  He spent every summer visiting my parents home in Greece, he even learned Greek.  How did I miss this? How was I fooled like that?  I did my Masters in Counseling two years after.  I also went to Denmark for a study abroad program and where I met my first husband Bjarne. Sometimes life is very strange. I was planning on going to Spain for my study abroad but one afternoon, I ran into one of my professors in the coffee room and she said to me, don’t go to Spain, go to Denmark you will love it there. So I went.  Denmark was wonderful, and one night at a 70s party with some new Danish friends I met Bjarne. He moved to England to be with me. We then decided to go on an adventure and move to the US.  He asked his company to transfer us to their Houston office.  And this is how I found my way to the country that I would call home for over 20 years now. Just before we moved here, we gave birth to our first daughter early as her lungs did not mature and her heart was not functioning properly. She passed the day she was born, on December 18th 1998. On her 20 year anniversary my book Where Did You Go? was released. Talk about timing.  We moved to Houston on February 14th, 1999.  That is when I volunteered at the Houston Hospice. I spent a few months there, sitting with the dying, running support groups, visiting people in their homes after they lost someone they loved.  Until my daughter Elina was born in Houston. We were off again. This time in California.  Our daughter Isabel was born there. And we then moved to Boston, where he was immediately diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.  He was 31 at the time. I was 30 and our daughters, 9 months and 2 years.  We did everything to keep him alive.  We even went to the Philippines for an experimental drug.  He nearly died there. I lied to his doctors, I told them I was going to bring him to the hospital to be admitted but I knew he was never going to make it out. I did not want him to die there. So I lied and got him on a plane back home.  I remember at the time thinking, this cannot be my real life.  It must be some kind of movie.  We made it home, he lived for another few months.  This July 21st, it will be 15 years since the day he passed.  At first, it was as if the nightmare was never going to end.  Being a single mom, and working full time at a corporate job while at the same time grieving the loss of my husband was not for the faint of heart.  You enter the most unloving, uncaring and cold world.  Where nobody wants to know about the widow who is sitting at the cubicle.  It felt like I walked inside a zombie world.  That is how the corporate world felt to me at the time.  I spent 3 years there. It did get better. Or, I did adapt.  After all, we are made to adapt to anything.  In 2010 I remarried. I met my second husband at a support group for the kids.  Eric had lost his 35 year old wife and he was raising two young daughters also.  During our first dates, I would sit across from him and not let him anywhere near me. I called those early months with Eric, my frozen months.  We finally started our lives together, blending two families, and four children.  I never talk about the blending.  As part of that story is not mine to tell.  But it was a very hard experience for many reasons.  And I will leave it at that for now.  Sometimes, life is so surprising that it feels like someone is playing a prank on you.  I know you know this feeling.  After three years at the job I decided to resign and do something on my own.  That is when I started this letter, you are reading.  It was just a paragraph at first.  Thinking who would want to read anything from me.  But it grew and grew and now tens of thousands of people read it every week.  I did a lot of other things too, but today’s letter is not about the books I wrote, or the classes I taught, or the mission of the work. That is not the story. It feels like it is, but the story is written by memories. I am now living in Austin, both of my kids are in college, writing my next book and I just recently signed up for my MFA in Painting. Making my oldest dream come true.  Someone asked me the other day, why has it taken you so long to say yes to this dream?  I think the answer is in the story.  It is inside the invisible parts of the story. It always is.  Otherwise we would all be doing only the things that feed our soul.  If this is your first letter, I apologize for the length. It normally is very short.  So don’t unsubscribe yet. This is a rare version of it.  A personal letter that hopefully can also help you to look at your whole story.  And connect some of the dots. I write to you every week so we can understand our lives, our days and our weeks. Maybe in ways that are not often discussed with our families and friends. I started writing this letter in 2010 talking about traditional loss, but it transitioned to the invisible losses, the kind that hide under everyday life.  Under the bigger losses.  Under our most important relationships. Under our breath.  When that boyfriend cheated, it never was about losing him but about not trusting myself to know other people.  Look for what is lurking underneath your big losses.  The knowing and the healing of ourselves lives there.    With trust, Christina 

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The 5 Legged Chair of Joy

June 18, 2021

Happiness is personal.  A journey, as unique as the way you look.  As rare as a doppelganger, as surprising as a few people in the world that look like you. It is the same with happiness.  We have very quirky ways of experiencing happiness.  For instance, when I say I love the color of the sea water, there is a particular shade of blue that makes me happy.  It takes place when the light hits the water early in the morning, about an hour after sunrise.  I feel joy in that moment that I can’t feel any other time of the day while next to the water.  I also find happiness when I am holding a book, just holding it.  Even more than reading it.  And if I pair it with a cup of coffee between 6:00 to 6:30am then it's true bliss.  The silence of that early hour does something to my soul and it cannot be experienced in the same way later on, even if I hold that same book and drink coffee from that same mug.  You see, the more loss you have experienced the more tailored your happiness will need to be. But we can have the same losses, the same stories, the same heartbreaks.  We may visit the same places. Walk the same roads. Look at the same views. But our feelings of happiness will not be found at the same exact moment, as everyone else’s.  Don’t look for it there.  Go after your own version of what feels good.  Even if it is a half painted wall in your kitchen.  Or a chair with 5 legs.  Maybe even a dish made of plain spaghetti.  Whatever it is, remember anything that mimics the five legged chair or the coffee mug you love won’t cut it. It won’t make you feel the things you need to feel.  Now let’s say we take this point of view to finding someone new to love.  It is hard to meet someone you can fall head over heels for when we don’t pay attention to the peculiar ways in which we can fall in love.  Maybe who you find attractive is someone with an interesting smell, or someone who wears old burgundy coats from thrift shops. Who knows.  Just make sure you notice your own peculiarities so you can find your way to the happiness that occupies them. Tell yourself about the chairs with five legs and the books that like to be held and not read. Oh and don’t forget to visit a thrift shop along the way.  Just in case.    With 6:00am coffee and book holding, Christina

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The Water Shoes

June 11, 2021

Did you know that when you choose a different life, it feels divergent?  Unalike the one you are walking out from.  Logically, this should not be a surprise.  A different life should feel different.  But as I stepped into a new chapter in my life this week I started to feel unfamiliar. Even my body acted anew.  I saw my reality through different eyes.  It was as if someone put me inside another body.  I have written many new chapters in my life, so when I was writing this next one for myself I expected it to have some of the same elements.  Some fear, excitement, doubt and difficulty level.  As everything is always more challenging when it's new.  But here is what was completely different.  The challenge part.  It was hard but it was easy at the same time.  Almost like I had water shoes on to walk on a pebble beach.  I sat with this for a couple of days and tried to understand, how did these water shoes go on my feet? Why weren’t they there in previous chapters?  How come I have never worn them before, or never thought it was an option.  So, this is what I think happens.  When the choice you are making is deeply right for you, then the Universe/God sends you water shoes.  I have never had them sent to me before. Ever.  This choice that I made for myself must have been unlike any other choice before it.  The closest I ever got to previously was loaner water shoes. But this time the water shoes stayed on.  I have been wearing them since last week.  And the longer I have them on, the more I feel this is a very different chapter.  It feels like more than just a new beginning, more than just a chapter inside my book.  I think it may just be a new book.  Here’s to you choosing what you know is true for yourself and receiving your own water shoes.  I believe there is a pair available for every person on Earth.    With my very own water shoes, Christina  P.S. Art by me.

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