Friday, March 28, 2014

The Baby of the Family?

Grief is a tricky business. Just when you think you've become familiar with it's cunning ways it sneaks up on you and does something unexpected. 

I'm learning that my grief process is like that old onion adage and there are layers.  It's no wonder I can't eat onions anymore. I hit a new layer in the last day or two.  One I dislike.  It might be the impending birthday... still far enough away that it feels distant and yet close enough to threaten me with another year. Or the reality of how profoundly my life has changed.  The proverbial ticking clock smacked me in the face with the reality that Eowyn is likely my last child. I'm well aware that I do not have fortune telling abilities nor do I believe anyone who says they do.  But I'm staring 34 in the face.  I had my last child at 29.  I'm in the middle of a Master's Degree and single. She will likely remain my baby forever.  That's not how I thought things were going to be.

I stared at my body in disbelief in the shower almost as if it were a traitor to me.  Unbelieving that it won't ever be pregnant again. Thinking of all the experiences I didn't treasure with my last baby that I won't ever have again.  It had betrayed me I felt.  Why didn't someone let me know to enjoy it more? How is that chapter really closed?  And hope for it to not be closed isn't something I want.  I have no desire to 'fix' this.  Eowyn will really never have a sister.  Something in me thought she would one day.  Three will be the number of children I have on this earth.  I have no desire or energy to orchestrate the possibility of another child for my family.  It's less painful to grieve and mourn.  

I've made peace to the best of my ability with this stage of my life.  I am single.  I am focused.  I work.  I go to school. I make a future and a present for my family. I workout for me time and that is my life. Sounds empty and perfunctory but it's not always. There are rewards in the laughter and peace I see in my children's demeanor.  I have more free time then I ever have had since becoming a mother.  Which is still a dismally small amount.  

But that also means grieving what cannot be. 

This is a concept so foreign to men the notion of ticking clocks and closing chapters.  Maybe it's because their bodies don't keep track of time like ours do.  We're reminded month after month that time is passing.  Sometimes that can feel like a gift other times it feels like a time bomb that will eventually go off but we're not sure when.  Maybe it's because for men their identity lies elsewhere. Or maybe it's because for them children aren't a time bound activity.  But whatever it is it is impossible for women to ignore.  

There will one day be fulfillment in my life.  I will eventually find joy again.  But as I stare at my four year old with the vocabulary of a ten year old I think of all the 'lasts' I didn't cherish enough.  The last diaper change, the last nursing session, the last bottle feeding, the last time I heard a baby of mine cry, the laughter of a one year old - a melody like nothing else... 

I'm tempted to wrap this up with some happy baby pictures of my kids or some sweet anecdote I do remember. But grief has taught me that when you shortcut it she becomes bitchy, it's better to let her be and feel.  

So excuse me if I take a million pictures of my Nina.  Excuse me if I spoil her more than a little.  Excuse me if I weep at the sight of pregnant women and newborns.  There are other things in this life for me but that one is gone and today that  hurts.  It'll probably hurt tomorrow too.  And hope is not something I want to be given, I'd rather make peace with it. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

In the Wake

Have you seen the aftermath of a really bad natural disaster on television or in real life?  Clothes are strewn all over the earth.  Trees uprooted.  Toilets in the middle of the lawn.

In other words it's a mess.  When disaster strikes it can be horrific.  There are mini hiccups in life all the time and then there's the ones where you wonder if you can breathe for the next hour.  The death of a loved one, the slow passing away that feels terminal for you as well as her.  Watching your child or sibling fight a battle you want nothing more than to take from them.  The pain it becomes habit, you live with it and its presence is constant if not comforting at least it's familiar.  You wonder, will I ever live without it?

After those disasters how do you remember to breathe?  Sometimes you are breathing, you're walking around and you feel like a ghost like; you aren't even really there.  You forget if your feet are touching the ground.  You forget to eat.  You have to remind yourself to shower.  Oh yeah, shower, I need a shower. When did I last take a shower?  You get out of the shower and you're exhausted.  You think, thank God that is over I don't want to have to do that again.

Do you remember hurricane Katrina?  The tsunamis?  Haiti's earthquake?  Those disasters, how long did they take to clean up?  A month, a year, five years?  Some of those places are still in rubble years in the wake of the disaster.  Perhaps we should treat the disasters that wreck our souls less like a thunderstorm and more like the earthquake that rocked Haiti?  We respect storms like that.  We don't brush them off.  We know they're serious they mean business.  Best not f with them.  No one stands in front of a 100 foot wave and says I got this shit.  We run.  We know; if we don't move we die.

When those disasters happen we don't expect anyone to be in great shape next week.  When those disasters happen we fly in extra aid, we make meals, send food and clothes and doctors.  But with our souls we're not so gentle are we?  We want our insides to begin functioning again.  We want to stop the hemorrhaging, stop the pain and pick ourselves up and get on with life.  But how do you resume going to the grocery store and performing the normal functions of life when a hurricane has destroyed the grocery store if not in real life, your insides have forgotten how to drive there or what you would want to get if you even went there.

This isn't about wallowing, the destruction is real.  We want to think those of us who take longer to heal are weak, but in actuality those of us that push through the pain and get on with life we deepen our pain.  We bury it and allow it to fester.  It will eventually wreck disaster again because like a water pipe that was never fixed after a hurricane if you keep drinking from it; it will make you sick and worse it will infect those you love.

I've been that person my whole life.  I am so good at getting on with life that I could put it on a resume and someone would hire me to do that job.  Shannon, we'll take her, she can get on with life.  We need someone just like that.  And it's infected the water I've been drinking.  So this time, no.  I won't.  I'm not going to drink the water at that well.  I'm not going to say I'm sorry to God and get back in line.  I refuse.  This rubble will take a while to clear.  And I plan to take my time.  I'm not going to sit idly by and find a vice or distraction or intellectualize this.  I'm going to sit here in pain and let it run its course.

So if you're expecting me to be happy, cheerful or repentant, I hate to disappoint but that ain't happening here.  Any positive emotional energy I have left will go solely for my kiddos and the rest of you will just have to suck it up.  After all I'm only human.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Own Epic Meltdown

I'm unhappy.

Well that's not totally true, I've been unhappy for a while now.

Now, I'm in pain and angry and unhappy.

Screaming at God telling him how much he totally sucks at doing his job (which is to make me happy, just in case you're wondering).  Actually I don't believe that God's job is to make me happy.  I do believe he has some type of job but it's more to be in relationship with us.  He created us to be in relationship with him, so he best make good on the deal and be in relationship with us as well.  Ignoring us is unacceptable.  Did you hear that up there? Ignoring me, IT'S UNACCEPTABLE, knock it off.

My crappy angry (only held momentarily) theology says that if you're in relationship with someone and you can do something to make that person happier especially if doing said thing would make the world an infinitely better place and you don't do it, you're not doing your job.  That is generally how I handle my relationships down here.  My kids want something, I weigh it and if it's in their best interest to give it to them, then I do.  Because I love them.  My friend needs a shoulder to cry on, or a hug, or someone to tell her not to go back to that bad habit she keeps trying to drop, I do those things for her, because I love her!   See in this crappy theology I love better than God.  Trust me, my brain knows I'm wrong.  It's my heart you're hearing at the moment.

Because you see, I know how I love people.  Selflessly.  I do.  Not perfectly selflessly but I'm a mom, let's be real.  I go out of my way to call friends just to check on them even when they consistently ignore me for months.  I feed friends and extra family members any chance I get because I know they enjoy it and it makes them feel good.  I do laundry and take care of my kids and make silly faces at them because I love them.  But you see God, I know how he loved us, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son" (John 3:16 [KJV]) and then we killed his son and he knew we were going to do that.  So logically he must love us.

That's really great.  I mean don't get me wrong, it's the single most selfless thing anyone has ever done.  But today I want to say, God, what exactly is Jesus' earthly life doing for me today?  I don't feel like it's doing ANYTHING.  I'm angry and hurting and I feel like you're standing back and doing NOTHING!  I can think of 10 solutions to my current, continued, long suffering pain in 30 seconds and yet there you sit, doing nothing.  Why aren't you doing anything!!!!?????!!!!!

See God and I, we're a bit on the outs at the moment.  Which sucks because I'm in seminary for Pete's sake! There is no justice and mercy in my current situation.  I can't even ignore God if I want to because I have to read his Word every single freaking day!

Have mercy, at least let me ignore you like a normal person!  Fight fair.  I shouldn't have to listen to you every day when I'm this angry.

I feel like you're mean, and unmerciful and unloving and I'm sick to death of listening to my head tell me that I'm wrong about you while I see you ignoring my heart.  My heart says ENOUGH ALREADY.  I don't want to hear that you're "creating a good work until it's completion,"  I don't want to hear "as iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another,"  I don't want to hear about thanking you in the midst of trials and tribulations.


I want to see you.  I want you to do something to help me now.  And I can't make you and that just feels wrong.  I shouldn't have to make you love me!  I shouldn't have to convince you to rescue me.  You should bring justice for me all on your own because YOU LOVE ME.  Because if I had your power that is what I would do.  You created us to have a voice, you created us to be in relationship and you created us and gave us power.  Well you've taken my power, I don't want this relationship with you now and all I have left is my voice.  So let me use it and use it well.

Let me use it to tell the world, how you left me here!  You left me alone with three kids to raise.  You gave a prostitute fucking asshole all our assets and left me and the kids penniless.  You let my love be driven away by the swirling vortex of chaos that constantly inhabits my life.  You left me here.  You left me here alone, which is how I will die one day.  Alone.  I hate you.  You have nothing for me you're willing to give.  Nothing for me that will help.  All I needed was rescue and protection.  I just needed to be hid in the cleft of the rock and covered.

But you left me outside, exposed to the elements and vulnerable.  And then you let the hurricane storm on unchecked.

You haven't listened.  You don't care.  I hate you.

I might not be God, Lord knows I'd never want to be, but you.... well at least I'd have mercy on the suffering.  Your ambivalence makes me nauseous.  Leave me alone.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Epic Meltdown

I got my kids back this morning; it was their weekend with their dad.  I try not to talk much about the specifics of what goes on in my kids' lives here because frankly their dad probably reads it.  But throwing caution to the wind here a little let me tell you what every other Monday looks like for us.  

Usually on the Fridays they go to see him, they're excited.  Who wouldn't be?  They have unlimited access to video games and no bedtime or limits seemingly anywhere in their little lives when they're with their dad.  That coupled with the sheer insane amount of spending he does on frivolities such as new toys, going to the movies, out to eat, passes to the amusement parks (but he's still unable to pay child support) makes it party land for them.  In some ways I'm very happy for them.  He's fun.  They like him.  That's great.  I really don't want them to hate their dad, that's not a burden any child should have to bear.

But Mondays when they come home suck ass.  Usually one of the two boys comes home sick and their dad deems that he can't go to school.  This happens so often the school has noticed a pattern.  So I pick up whichever boy is sick and Eowyn, and they come home and they head straight to bed and sleep for hours.  Today Harvey slept for FIVE HOURS before I finally woke him up to make sure he'd sleep tonight.  

They always come home in pjs despite my continual sending of them in clothes and the clothes never come back.  It's gotten ridiculous.  They come home dirty.  It's annoying but I have solutions to all of these things, so other then an eye roll and drawing a bath there's not much to be said about it.  

But as the day ticks by the baby's mood deteriorates, which is a polite way of saying after all of this 'fun' she becomes a moody mini tyrant.   My kids thrive on routine, normal bedtimes, mealtimes, rules and schedule it works for them, they function better.  They don't like the routine, but that's why I'm the parent and they're the children because I know it's good for them even if they don't like it.  About the time I have to go pick up whoever's at school Eowyn's done.  It's a bummer for me, I'm so excited to have them back it's hard to have them in such bad shape when they return, but I am their mother and it's not about me it's about them.  If they come back needing baths and bed, then I'll give that to them.  If they come back excited to be home and do fun stuff (even if it's play dough) we'll do that instead.  

So tonight, we made it through dinner, homework, baths with relatively few incidents but I could see the exhaustion wearing on my littlest.  By the time I said she needed a bath it was less than pleasant but with extra momma love I coaxed her in the tub.  She played and happily splashed and then it was time to get out.  You would have thought the world was on fire.  This child fought me about getting out of the tub like nothing I had ever seen from her.  She's naturally spunky so it was quite the display of anger.  

We both ended up soaked with her screaming for no less than 30 minutes.  She's loud.  Do you have any idea how loud a screaming four year old girl is?  Happy St. Paddy's Day to me!  Lord have mercy is she ever loud.  

So I walked with her, holding her wrapped in a towel, not letting her hit me, but also not letting her down to jump back in the tub, for thirty minutes while she screamed.  Getting pajamas on her was a joke, there was no doing anything with my mini tyrant until she calmed down.  So we walked and she screamed.  And we walked and she yelled some more.  And I held her and she yelled.

Then as if a switch had flipped she calmed down.  

In her now hoarse voice she told me that she didn't want to wear the pjs I was holding.  I offered to let her choose a different pair and we walked in her room together calmly as if nothing had happened.  I set out some pjs for her to choose from and she told me she needed to fix the little princesses because the weren't in her toy car.  

"I'm cold mommy, hold me tight." She told me.  I held her and felt her calming more.  I sent her all the love I had in me and the understanding I had that this behavior, though totally unacceptable was not her fault.  She's four and missed her mommy.  She hadn't slept and needed some extra love but all she knew how to say was that she didn't want to get out of the tub.  

She fixed her princesses and proceeded to pick the exact same jammies that I had been holding earlier. 

"Mommy I didn't get a snack, I'm hungry." She said.  
"Ok, baby girl, but you need to say you're sorry," I told her.  
"I'm sorry Mommy, all that made me tired." she responded as she snuggled in again.  
"I know baby I'm sure it did, I know." 

Epic meltdowns are a part of life.  They suck when you're four, seven, eight or thirty three.  Sometimes all of the experiences of the day or week or month make us want to throw things and hit and scream.  It helps when we have someone there to hold us as we storm and rage, keep us safe and then afterwards tell us, "I know, I love you, I know." 

I've had my own moments of epic meltdowns over the last few days. I've sent a few ranting texts to some friends.  I've screamed and cried at the injustice of life.  I've hurt.  I've been tired and sleep deprived.  But I'm not four.  I don't get a pass and chocolate milk at bedtime to make the pain go away.  Because life is more complicated at 33 than it is at four.  But while I held my daughter tonight and walked her out of her pain I praised God for the opportunity to do that, because maybe when the time comes for a 33 year old meltdown for her, she'll be able to see her way out. 

I love you baby girl, and I know.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Let It Go

The greatness of the new movie Frozen by Disney should not be understated.  But usually the reason that parents think Disney movies are outstanding is because they resonate so completely with the adults in the room, the kids' amusement is a by-product.  I think there isn't an adult anywhere that doesn't identify with Elsa.  Conceal don't feel, don't let them in, is her mantra.  Haven't we all done that?

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen
A kingdom of isolation,
And it looks like I’m the Queen.

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well, now they know

Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door

I don’t care
What they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway

It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free

Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You’ll never see me cry

Here I stand
And here I'll stay
Let the storm rage on

My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back,
The past is in the past

Let it go, let it go
And I'll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone

Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway

So many of the lyrics make me want to ask who was in my head when they were writing it.

A kingdom of isolation and it looks like I'm the Queen.

It's funny how some distance makes everything seem small

Let it go, the perfect girl is gone.

In an effort to embrace more honesty in my life I'm going to try more to LET. IT. GO.   And to let the fears that once controlled me not get to me at all.   There's a greater truth here in this song that resonates with me so, and that is the more that we live in our truth, the more free we are.  Elsa is only trapped in so long as she is scared of the power within her.  If she embraces the power, that power she knows can hurt, she also has the power to make something truly beautiful and amazing.

What's inside me can be scary.  It's got power.  It can hurt.  It hurts me, I'm afraid of the knowledge (which is my power) that lies in there.  I'm afraid that it could cause pain to those I love.  I'm afraid to share my knowledge, because of the power that it carries.  It could hurt me more to share it.   So I keep it inside.   But the more I walk toward that power, without fear, the greater chance I have to make something beautiful.

 Elsa's ice castle was a work of art.  We see the awe of all who observe its magnificence.  The story that I want to write, the one inside me is terrifying.  Every time I have set fingers to a keyboard to work on it I feel electrically repulsed from writing it.   And the shock for me comes from inside my soul.  The risk doesn't seem worth it.  There's danger here.  But it could be perhaps that power is always both beautiful and dangerous.  And more dangerous when we try to hide it.

And perhaps like the fictional Elsa, and so many more courageous real people, I'll let it go.  I'll let go of concealing, I'll begin feeling.  I'll stop holding back.  I'll trust that the power has a beauty and that it is worth the risk.

It's time to see what I can do