I lost a loved on in Nosara

A mini-reflection on grief

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Disclaimer: This newsletter’s main story (yet again) has little to do with freelancing. Instead, it is a reflection on grief after members from my extended family passed away. If that’s not up your alley, please feel free to skip. Next week we’ll get into more business things. Promise.

Hey there, 

I was in Nosara, Costa Rica earlier this November when I got the call. 

It happened during lunch. The phone rang and I gingerly placed my rye sandwich down to answer. “Hey, Dad.”  

“Hey, Alice. Listen. Your grandfather passed a few hours ago.” 

It wasn’t a surprise. He’d been struggling since my grandmother’s passing in March. After 68 years (!) of marriage, her absence put a magnifying glass on his solitude that was unbearable. 

I remember my grandfather having rough hands. He used them vigorously; to prune his garden tomatoes, pierce worms with fishing hooks, build swing sets and slides for his grandchildren. 

For me and my grandfather, l’étang (the pond) in July was our spot. He taught me how to reel in trout, lure minnows and would show me off to his fishing buddies. 

To have his offspring go from sleepy St. Brice en Cogles, France to New York City was an astonishing feat. He grew up in the rural French countryside, having to sleep in hay alongside his 11 siblings before laying bricks for his father in the morning. His grandchildren were a testament: to his good fortune, to his sacrifices, that life had played out spectacularly, all things considered. 

I chucked the leftovers in a brown paper bag and sat at that lunch table for a long time. 

Trivaux Pond, 1917, Henri Matisse

*** 

A few days later, my friend Tara and I were driving to Playa Garza. Destination: Ecstatic Dance. 

“I can’t explain to you what it’s like,” Tara said. “You just have to see for yourself.” 

Upon arriving at the gazebo, a sign read: “No drugs. No phones. No speaking.” A woman sporting a tie-dye shawl puttered around the stage barefoot burning sage. The music started and dozens of people rose to all fours to crawl toward one another like leopards. “These people are clinically insane,” I diagnosed. 

30 minutes later I was dancing alongside them. 

*** 

After two hours, all of us were sprawled starfish onto the gazebo for shivasana, our clothes soaked through with sweat and mosquito repellent. Within seconds, I started to cry — fat, warm, salty tears.

I hadn’t cried when telling my travel friends about my grandparents or when writing them a letter goodbye. But if there’s one thing you can count on grief for, it’s to surprise you. 

Tie-dye shawl lady got up. “Can everyone gather around our two guests in the center here? It’s their birthday,” she announced. 

Everyone scooted closer. “Hold the hand of the person next to you. Let’s send these people some love.” This place was setting the granola bar higher than expected. 

But something peculiar happened once clasped these stranger’s fingers. Their celebratory cheers ran through me like an ocean at high tide, gushing and clear, into the negative space of my grandfather’s disappearance.

I felt alive. The room felt alive. It was exactly what I needed to counteract the disorientation from someone ceasing to exist.

Singer Mike Posner found a similar resurgence in the face of loss after his father died from brain cancer at 72. He used that pain, he says, to write his album A Real Good Kid. “The goal isn’t for the pain to disappear. It’s to give it a purpose,” he noted.

I’m unsure on the “purpose” of this pain. For now, there’s solace that grief isn’t some stagnant, rotten body of water. It has momentum. Force. It pushes us, whether that be toward sorrow, creation, or something else.

But it moves us, always.

My grandparents wedding. 🤍

✍️ Quick Writing Tip

Don’t use too many “ings.”

Here’s why: 

  • It alters the root effect of the verb. Take the verb “paint.” If you add an “s” or “ed,” you get “paints” and “painted.” But “painting,” with its extra syllable, sounds like a different word. 

  • The “ing” words start to blend. Walking and running and climbing and swimming are all solid forms of exercise, but it’s better to say your friend walks, runs, climbs, and swims. 

Next time your writing doesn’t sound quite right, test for “ings.” 

This tip is from Roy Peter Clark’s “Writing Tools.” Here’s the free PDF

🥒 Content Diet

💪 Reprogram Limiting Beliefs with Kat Norton by Powerhouse WomenTrue story: I put on this podcast for my six mile run. I got so pumped that I ran 8.5 miles instead. This podcast on how Kat grew her online course business to seven-figures is that motivating.

📚 Show Your Work by Austin Kleon — Learn how to build an audience, deal with the rollercoaster of putting yourself out in the world, and get content ideas. I’m enjoying Austin’s book so far. It’s short, sweet, and right to the point.

🚶 Pathless Path by Paul Millerd (Free PDF) — If you’re in a career rut (AKA having thoughts like “This can’t be all there is in life”) then Paul’s book is up your alley. I read it last year and it profoundly changed my perspective on labor. Plus, Paul just released the book for free!

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a beautiful week, wherever you are.

Stay Creative,

Alice 💌

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