The Cliff; Metaphorically Speaking

Creative Nonfiction

Although it is praised by those who visit as the cleanest lake in New England, it is quite modest and unassuming in its beauty. It makes sense that those that treasure it are as well. Nestled among the smaller mountains of New Hampshire, Newfound Lake would serve as one of the backdrops of my childhood. To grasp the significance of this, you would need to appreciate all that a lake has to offer. Not to mention the moments amidst this one particular lake that have become ingrained in my mind and have taken on more significance over time.

I know where this story is headed. I know the culmination of it all, at least in my mind. I am just finding myself as I type as I have time and time again listening to the gentle waters lap beside me. Face and heart warmed by the afternoon sun.

Beyond the immediate bay of our beach, lay another 6 miles or so of relatively quiet waters. Among those miles, a sandbar that never seemed to be overly crowded despite its limited size as compared to larger, more advertised lakes in the area. One of its main attractions is the “house on the island.” It is known by most visitors and is perched at the far end of the lake from our beach. A quick boat ride to one of its other main attractions is where this story swells, as if my heart itself is beneath the surface of the those waters.

The funny thing about this all is I barely remember the actual events of this story. It has been shared with time and time again by another. This is where this story has been molding me for more than just a day at the lake. The significance of a moment etching itself into my life over many decades.

There was a time our mixed family was fortunate enough to have a boat to explore all these waters. I remind you that it is the simplicity of the moments on this lake that have stayed with me the most. I cannot say that I have traveled much, but I have never felt that I have missed out on too much because I was able to dip my toes in Newfound waters every summer. Those that treasure this often do not want for much more and I am proud of that.

One otherwise uneventful summer day, my oldest stepbrother drove the boat to “the cliff.” It is important to mention that he has always been the cool stepbrother. Cool as in energetic, charismatic and handsome in that unassuming way. I was a preteen, barely filling my bathing suit… if at all with womanly curves. I was awkward, quiet and unsure of myself, but being in his presence always invigorated me. Maybe that is why on this random day I was brave enough to join the others that were jumping off this cliff.

Now, by “cliff” I mean not a massive drop but a jump just high enough that it sort of became this rite of passage. Unassuming dare I state again. It is endearingly called “the cliff” by those that visit regardless. Many would never jump from it I will add.

I barely remember the jump, but I do remember my stepbrother staying close by in the boat and encouraging me. I remember swimming to and from the boat and how soothing the water felt against my skin. As soon as I slipped into the waters from the boat to make my way to the cliff, I was not afraid. I was curious. I seem to remember being pretty calm and focused. The day would end in the same way as many others, probably with dinner on the grill and a small fire. I imagine I slipped under the covers that night with the smell of beach on my skin, smoke in my hair and the sound of crickets and frogs lulling me to sleep, no different than any night there before.

Time would pass, but never the significance of this jump. This story would peak in October of 2020. But first, would be years and years of reminders of this day.

My stepfather, Pep, as he would later be called when grandchildren arrived, actually has the central role in this story. Isn’t it strange how history can take on so many expressions in the grand scheme of life and in everyday occurrences. Depending on who you ask, you may get a different version but that is often what makes it so intriguing. The manner in which a person’s heart and mind can weave their own story, adding significance and meaning wherever they chose. It is our privilege alone to share if we chose.

I do not remember a time without Pep. He was in my life from the beginning, when formative memories would begin to take shape. He was a guardian of sorts. An incredibly hard-working and successful man who lived a life as full and as painful as they come. Yet, you would never hear him wallow, ever. He was a traditional alpha man who protected and provided for his family, as diverse as it was like the lion on a prairie. I was lucky enough to be claimed as one of his cubs when he married my mother. We were a mixed family. Eight children in total all with our own stories and versions of history, especially as it related to Pep’s influence in our lives.

As alpha as Pep was, he would soften around the females in the family. I think all 8 of us would agree, the girls got off a lot easier when it came to our interactions with him. I was his “little honey.” Of course, my mother was always the “Honey.” I’d be embellishing if I shared that my relationship with him did not have its challenges, but that is not what matters to me. Especially now.

Pep gave me something I will forever treasure. It all starts and ends with that jump as silly as it sounds.

Although a humble man, he had a multitude of achievements that anyone else may find themselves bragging about. I never knew until I was much older how hard he truly worked to provide for his family. Despite this, he never shied away from sharing the fact that his “little honey”, scrawny legs and tangled hair, leapt from a cliff without fear. I cannot count the number of times over the course of my life I heard him brag about this fact and those happen to be the times I was in earshot.

Doesn’t seem like too big of a deal. He bragged about all his children and grandchildren to anyone that happened to be around. But for a young girl becoming a woman dealing with grief and loss that belongs to a different story, he made certain I knew that he knew how strong I was. He made me feel beautiful in my skin, but more importantly he constantly reminded me that my beauty was much deeper.

With the passage of time, moments like this can either be washed away like the rippling waters of Newfound meeting their final destination on the shore or they can settle within the fibers of your being.

Pep would never let me forget this moment of newfound courage.

That is why in the final months of his life, as indescribably heartbreaking as it all was, I have something to celebrate. In his later years, as his mind was forced to succumb to his failing heart, he turned to his painting more and more. He left behind countless paintings, many more has he neared his end. He was a fan of fluffy clouds, birds and any body of water. He was most proud of the painting he did of my mother,

“It was so hard to capture how beautiful her eyes are. They are so deep set,” he would share with a bit of frustration.

It was in this spirit, that I made a request of him.

“Pep,” I requested in October of 2020, “would you paint your version of me jumping off that cliff?”

“Ohhh, yes little honey,” he replied with a gentle smile. And that was that.

His condition was deteriorating rapidly, but just before he was hospitalized for the last time, he presented me with my painting. It would only be months later he was gone. I was the first to get the call from the hospice nurse. Despite holding his hand for hours, witnessing some of his last breathes he truly fought to give, he would wait to give his last when he was alone. He did not want to leave us in any way. That much was obvious to me.

“Wow, Pep. This is beautiful,” I exclaimed as I continued to point to the colors of the cliff, the sky and the extra shine he added to the splash around my feet.

I could see in his face that he was proud to share this moment and this painting with me. He knew what it meant to me.

“This will always remind me to have courage,” I added putting my hand to my heart.

“I know little honey,” he whispered as I put my arms around his withering shoulders.

Courage would be exactly what I needed to be with him as he passed. Courage would be what I needed to share a poem I wrote for him at his service. Courage would be what I needed to learn to live and embrace joy despite this loss.

A seemingly insignificant moment, a painting, a lake and a man that will always remind me of the possibility of newfound courage throughout life. That it does not need to be monumental to have a positive impact as if it were the unassuming waters of Newfound Lake.

June 11th

Today is my biological father’s birthday. I just remembered. But, here’s the thing. I have seen him twice since I was eighteen. I’m forty-seven. Even though I have only seen him twice in decades, I have thought of him a million times over.

In my early twenties I would fantasize about a reunion and a fulfilling father-daughter relationship. I craved a happy ending. My heart was broken.

Today, I reflect on how this relationship (or lack of to be more premise) has impacted my life. I am reminded of it’s influence often in my need to be validated and in my deep seated fear of rejection. I have consciously sought to heal these parts of myself.

I am struck by a unexpected gift this morning. A revelation of sorts. Through the pain that this abandonment has caused me, I have gained not just wisdom but something else. Something so empowering that it has brought me so much peace throughout my adult years.

The ability to accept people as they are. The conviction that you can hold someone in your heart, but not in your life. The realization that generally people are as they are and any fantasy about changing them to your liking and comfort is a misguided expenditure of your energy.

Instead, hold space for them, wish them healing and live your life…with or without them. Ultimately it is you that decides how you allow others to show up for you if at all.

Life is messy and complicated, but I can do without the shackles from the pain in my past. Most importantly, I am worthy of the love I give…now, all those yesterdays (sorry little me) and every day moving forward. I am giving that to myself today, June 11th.


A year that has taken so much from all of us. I do not want to focus on that because there would be so few words left to write about the void that has been felt by each of us. We have been challenged to choose in these 365 days how it would define us. That decision gets exhausting at times. There are moments, like this one, that all there is left is pure and unaltered honesty.

For me, exploring this sentiment fills some of that void.

Most New Year’s I am inspired to transpire with the universe. Today, I simply hope it does not forsake me. 2021 brought to me the deep seated realization that some things simply and plainly…suck. Maybe, that is truly what acceptance is all about. This was a harsh realization but necessary for my preservation.

I am still tempted to share all the moments I have risen to the occasion, especially in 2021. An example of the resilience I have demonstrated throughout my life. But I pause.

Why must I?

With this raw acceptance comes the realization that I am worthy too. Not just parts of me, but all of me. The parts that have been celebrated and valued, but also the parts that are still growing and “flawed.” I no longer need to justify any of them.

Neither does 2021. It was what it was.

In the depths that was 2021, I discovered that worth is not something to be displayed or paraded, but rather something that is experienced and felt.

For all that was lost in this past year, 2021 has safely led me back to myself. I am proud that I am able to continue to show up as her in 2022.

Continue reading

On Loss

Stillness speaks; indiscreet, as it may.

The air becomes dense as it burrows within my chest; my heart now in disarray.

In an instant, I can almost sense all there was left to say.

I slowly rise from his chair, living with the memories for yet another day.

It is silent, yet in these moments there is a lifetime on display.


Nothing is as it seems;

I have been living as if a dream.

How could it ever be the same

smiling despite this pain?

I have been a fool.

This world can be so cruel.

You may be right.

All birds do fly out of sight.

Just as for a second I thought,

love would always be my light.


I walk around with a broken heart.

Others cannot see;

the windows are dark.

Some days, I want to scream from a mountaintop.

No one is even there to tell me to stop.

Honestly, I want to punch a wall.

To my knees I’d fall.

Helpless, not hopeless.

But…do we ever really know how it will end?

I don’t think so, my friend.

Win the day,

that is what I say because that is the only way.

Not to lose my mind,

What else would I find.

A bottomless pit,

In which to sit.

For this; I will NEVER quit.

Insights from 2020; not all was lost.

In the uncertainty of the past few months, some things did become more certain.  For that, I am grateful.

  • You are not required to be accessible to everyone.  It is not selfish to prioritize your peace.
  • Cultivating and maintaining boundaries around your space, time and relationships is a self-care/self-love practice.
  • The ego will always slip in the back door.  Do not shame it.  In order to usher it back out, you must be open to listening to what it has to say.
  • It is you alone that holds the potential to thrive and fulfill your dreams and passions or to stay where you are.  The energy expended is the same.
  • Fears can either keep you stuck or motivate you to grow and create.  They can become a powerful catalyst, while it is only you that is the alchemist.
  • The mind believes what you tell it.  It simply is a construct of your perceptions and beliefs. Choose wisely; are your thoughts focused on scarcity or on abundance?
  • You have all the potential in the world or none at all depending on which sentiment just garnered your focus.

       Lastly, my new favorite quote on potential:

“For it’s during our expectant hours-those hours that might once have been called ‘idle’-that we are most pregnant with our potential.”   (S.B. Breathnach)




Pandemic 2020

April 21sth, 2020

“Still” Here 


Cloaked in uncertainty, this day has brought to me and nothing is sure to be.

Except, perhaps, that time has passed just as carelessly.

As the drops that now escape the sky, have no place left to flee

Neither do we know for certain, but our breath leaves us just as faithfully.

Pandemic 2020; Uncertainty

March 26th, 2020


One emotion to describe our present times, uncertainty.  Each day, perhaps, revealing more uncertainty. Uncertainty can cause us all to unravel.  To grope, to claw at what we do not know and to plead for answers.  The unknown can feel so scary, I know.  That sensation of falling, spinning and not knowing when and how you will land.  Some will respond with anger, some with despair and some will cling to an illusion of control. Ah, yes control.  That is a phenomenon for another day.


I have developed an intimate relationship with uncertainty in my life.  I can fully appreciate that now.  Overcoming the uncertainties in my life since I was young, is helping me to be strong now.  No, not strong in every second of every day, but overall…yes.


When it hits me, I recognize it almost immediately.  The sensations in my body.  My mind scattered.  I walk to a window, lean my forehead on the cold glass and gaze outside.  The cold feels refreshing on my skin.  I have done this since I can remember.  In fact, it is one of my first memories as a child.  I watch the trees, one or two leaves even, and how they sway in the breeze.  I focus my attention on nature.  I breathe deeply and give myself space to feel.  I do not judge it.  I am not ashamed.  I am a human and a resilient soul.


Uncertainty in my life has been not knowing if I will ever see a loved one again.  It is not knowing if I will be abandoned again.  It is experiencing two divorces by the time I was eighteen.  It is witnessing firsthand the grip of significant mental illness on my loved ones.  It is enduring loss and not knowing how I will cope.  But, somehow, I always did.  And, so have you endured…the uncertainties in your life as you stand today.


I have stopped expecting that all my questions will have answers.  I can still ask, but I must first be OK if no answer comes before I can be brave enough to ask.  Yes, uncertainty has taught me as much.


“And, if it didn’t hurt, would you be this strong now?”


Yes, it hurt.  And, I am strong now…even in uncertainty.  The uncertainty of this pandemic illuminating the lessons that it has taught me much of my life.  And, I have hope that it provides that possibility for every one of us.


“She has grace in her heart and fire in her soul.”



Pandemic 2020

Day Four (3/15/2020)

Today, I ponder and am granted ample time to do so.  Perhaps, this is a giant wake up call to those of us who are walking mindlessly through life.  This virus has forced us to engage the emergency brake.  Every one of us is affected, some more than others.  I consider those who are in unsafe homes.  Those among us who are barely sustaining.  Those among us who struggle emotionally.  I know life as we know it will not be the same.  This will affect every generation moving forward, however subtle it may be…it will.

I consider the emotions involved: fear, panic, uncertainty, angst, suffering, anger, outrage, bitterness but also hope, love, faith, unity, determination, compassion, creativity, and the list goes on.  I do frequent check-ins to determine where I fall on this spectrum.

I sense the stillness that surrounds me in my home, my community, and in the country.  But, I also sense the intensity and mission of those on the front lines.  I am trying to discover the balance between the two.  It does not seem fair that I can indulge in this stillness, while others must struggle.  The thought comes, ‘I am a nurse.  Maybe, I can volunteer to help.’

Governor Baker is addressing the state on the current mandates.  He is tightening the grip and doing more to enforce social distancing.  Social distancing; a concept that is at the forefront of containment.  I have never heard these words more than in the past two days.  Schools are mandated to close for three weeks now.  Bars and restaurants are being forced to close.  There are heightened regulations protecting those in long term care facilities.  The city is essentially being locked down.  There are so many unanswerable questions.

It seems to be sinking into my children that this is not a vacation, but a world event that will have a significant impact in one way or another.  At this point, no one knows the reach, but this is certain.  The press conference is over just as quickly as it started.  Brooke was making macaroni and cheese standing by the oven on her phone when the notification came in.  We scurried to turn on the T.V.

Within minutes, they have turned on a silly movie with cartoon characters and Michael Jordan.  Their version of decompressing.  It is a lot to process for everyone, but particularly for those whose life has been relatively stable and predictable to this point.  I have faith they will gleam the good out of all to this.  Concepts such as sacrifice, gratitude, and empathy.


“The best teacher I know is life.  It has a strange way of humbling us and forcing us to grow and open our hearts and minds.”  Joe Duncan (CEO and Founder of Before 5am)