Aspen Princess: Living life as glass more than half-full, grief be damned |

Aspen Princess: Living life as glass more than half-full, grief be damned

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

It’s snowing.

I’m sitting in CC’s cafe in downtown Basalt, which is essentially Peaches West. Remember Peaches? That lovely cafe on the best street corner in Aspen where we once sat all the livelong day, killing time between yoga classes, catching up with friends, sunning ourselves on the sidewalk patio and Gertie on my lap with one paw on the table for stability as she dozed off.

How is it possible that it’s May? As I watch the snow swirling around outside it feels as though time has somehow been suspended, the standard markers of the change of season camouflaged by this endless winter. It’s a little disorienting, to say the least.

I try to stay positive, thinking about last summer’s wildfire and inviting every drop of moisture that falls from the sky with open arms. The higher the rivers, the more saturated the ground; the greener the trees, the better. Bring it on. While it seems like a million years ago we were displaced for 10 days as the fire continued to burn dangerously close to our home, the fear is not so easily forgotten. I still do a double take every time I see anything that even remotely resembles fire; a cloud that looks like smoke, a red glow at sunset over a mountain ridge that’s a little too bright, or the siren of a passing fire truck. Our home is still here, untouched by the flames that raged on the other side of the mountain from us.

It’s funny how people say time heals all wounds, and I suppose it does in terms of those close-to-the-surface emotions, the raw feelings that burn in the wake of a traumatic event. Maybe the anxiety that churns in your stomach settles down, the tears finally dry up and life marches on the way it does, the monotony of the day-to-day filling your brain with enough clutter to distract you. Maybe you immerse yourself in work, take a trip, or get caught up in a whole different challenge.

Still, the big ones stick with us, like a tattoo on your soul. From what little I know about grief, it’s a sneaky monster. It reminds me of surfing, when an outside set wave creeps in. If you can’t make it over the lip before that first wave breaks, you’re likely to take several on the head. These waves are bigger, the ones that hold you underwater and put you through the spin cycle where you can’t tell up from down. It takes a long time to learn how to relax in the midst of all that chaotic energy, to wait for the turbulence to pass when you can start to easily swim to the surface again. If you fight, it feels 10 times more terrifying. The life metaphors are obvious with that one.

A few weeks ago, we went to Passover seder at Alex and Dan’s. We were talking about grief, and I was saying how losing our fat little pug freaked us out because we worry how we will ever be able to cope when the time comes that we lose our parents.

Alex looked at me with this deep sadness in her eyes and said, “Oh, you are so young.”

Loss is part of life, and maybe it’s something you learn more about as you get older. I’ll be the first to admit I’m thankfully inexperienced in this department. Grandparents, sure, and our three dogs. There were tears and lump-in-throat, but those were all “part of life” experiences, unwelcomed instances but to be somewhat expected. There was despair, pain, and loss but no shock. We had time to process what was going on.

This loss of my fat little dog has triggered other feelings of loss that I thought I’d left in the past. Instead of dreaming of Gertie, as I thought I might (since all these people keep telling me “she’ll always be with you,”), I’m dreaming about past heartbreak and the despair and humiliation I suffered in the decade that was being single in my 30s. It’s become so acute I’ve thought of either booking a session with my beloved shrink (who I haven’t seen, other than running into him in the aisles of Whole Foods, in almost 10 years) or writing a series of letters to all the men I’d loved and lost. The thing I realize now is I never loved any of them, not really. What I really wanted was someone to love, to take care of, to give myself to and fuss over on a daily basis. Why I tended to choose men who were incapable of loving me back, either because they were incapable of loving anyone or because they simply didn’t want to, still baffles me to this day. There is a lot of shame floating around in the recesses of my little brain, kind of like pond scum.

In this time of loss, I try instead to focus on all that I do have. My little boy, my amazing husband, our parents, our beautiful home, seeing bald eagles and big horn sheep and herds of deer every single day. I love the minutia of my domestic life, of preparing meals from scratch, of folding Levi’s little clothes when they’re still warm from the dryer, of making sure the house is neat when Ryan comes home from work. I love my work, of being able to share these life experiences with so many of you, to read your emails, to share in your love and your loss.

I guess there is no pleasure without pain, no pride without shame, no life without death. I’m just so lucky my home is full, with the sound of my son’s shrill giggles, and that when I look into his eyes I don’t dwell on the past but see the future. Our home is still here, untouched.

The Princess had a dream last night that she had an eye lift. Email your love to