Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Agonizing Presence Of Pain.

*Photo by the amazing Erica Bartel

It rarely comes when we expect.  It is the stark reality of living and yet we pray with bated breath that we will survive this life without the aching grips of agony.  That we will sleep tucked safely beside the one we love, that we will watch our children grow, unharmed.  That what we hunger for will endure in peaceful security.  Yet to live is to accept the breaking, shaking, and harsh reality of change.  Those we love will die, those we desire may leave, we may get sick before our time, we may lose limbs, we may lose children, and if we are guaranteed anything it is that we will weather the storms of pain.

I cannot tell you that there is a perfect course through the grips of trauma.  I can tell you, that you will make it through.  One day, the pain will not crush you.  There will be a time that for a moment you'll forget, and that may be worse.

As we grow, most of us make it unscathed through this life.  We may hear the stories of so and so, their loss, the cautionary tales of what not to do, because we all know that person who lost everything.  Yet, most make it, keeping the terrors of life at arms length.  It's not until we're fully grown, or even more grown, that we realize the horrors of life are not so far away.  They are not respecters of people, things, or circumstance.  They come at the worst of times and they strip us and leave us fully bare in a room of people averting eyes and telling us to cover up.

Grief, hurt, these are not pleasant emotions.  They're not the topics of our girls lunches or our retreats.  They are for the moments when life has crushed and even then we wonder how quickly we can flee the uncomfortable stench of pain.

How do you move when you have lost everything, when what was once your security is taken from you.  How do you breathe when the joy of your life is robbed.  How do you move forward when you're given days to live.  How do we accept what at it's core is unacceptable.

The brutal reality of grief is that there is no easy way through it.  There are not detours or shortcuts.  It is ruthless and demanding.  The only truth is that we will make it through.  Head down, eyes closed, breath shallow, hurting in every way imaginable, there is nothing more physically draining than the endurance of heartbreak.

Don't cover up or try to hide.  Let it come in its waves.  There will be moments of laughter and you'll wonder how anything can be funny or if you'll ever laugh and feel the joyous course of mirth again.  You will.  You'll wonder if you'll come through like Frodo after delivering the ring to the fiery abyss. Shattered, a shell of the person you once were, given only to harken the eastern shores.

Grief transforms us, turns us inside out, changes the world from what was once an invincible life to the fragile glimmer it truly is.  No one is guaranteed their eighty years.  In fact, if one thing is true, it is that we will have to say goodbye to those we love.  And it will ache like nothing else can hurt.  It will alter us and we will be people acquainted with pain.

There was a day more than a year ago that my family said goodbye to one of their own.  We covered a white, infant size casket with red kisses.  Like a hallmark card, heralding everlasting love, we placed her gently in the ground and we wept.  We broke and I can say that there is a stark difference between bidding goodbye to one at the beginning of their life than one at the end.  Still, the hated pain lingers.  It burns like the icy cold and it breaks the spirit and freezes the bones.  It robs one of joy and holds for too long a moment, it's ache.

Time marches through our grief, through our long held breaths, and moments of pause.  It gives ease to our ache, and in it's hated reality takes us further from the pain than we necessarily want to go.  It separates and spares us the lingering in so great a moment.  It gives freedom to hearts trapped in torment and it kisses the burnt lips of brokenness.

We will endure.  We will weather these storms.  We will live, even in this life that has become a hollow echo of a long abandoned hall.  We will pick flowers from the burnt mountainside once more and what we thought could never be again, will be.  Our lives on this earth are not eternal - we harken to an ever distant shore and when we have born up under the weight of life and death and grief and joy - we will find ourselves sailing toward a sunrise of hope.

If you know one in this place.  In the grips of life's darkest moments - sit still with them, let them weep.  Don't try to feel what they're enduring, simply be, hand held, quiet.  Listen to them, pray, love, be gentle, and feed them.  Bring coffee and comfort, but not questions, advice, or explanations.  Just let your presence fill the chasm of emptiness - when you're in the midst, this is all you need.

In a few short moments we will bid goodbye to this last year and for some it will be one they couldn't bear to see again.  Already time is marching on and despite the desperate wish to hold it still, there will be the ease and freedom that comes with its passing.  For now, just breathe.  It's okay to sit in the agonizing grip of pain and weep for what you've lost.  Look forward, if you're feeling the sting of too much grief, there is a dawning and while it may not ease on these western shores - look east and watch the rising of an ever present sun.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

This Boy Of Mine

The air is sweet and heady.  One sleeps, quiet for a moment, the other roller blades in the rain.  It is peace and gentle for this brief interlude in our otherwise overcrowded day.  I sit, bundled in my husband's jacket, all of my coats too small for my growing waist.
Then I hear, "Mom, want to play?  Really quick, I won't kick the ball too hard to you".
It's easy, when we're settled, to ignore the beckoning call of a child playing in the rain.  Do I want to play?  No, I want to sit, cuddled with my laptop and tea.  I want you to raise yourself and go fully into this world, functioning well, and happily adjusted.
I got up, put on the shoes that were hurting my feet and played pass back with the soccer ball to the little blonde boy on rollerblades.  The boy that has my heart.  The one I miss, because as much as I am like him, I hide from his constant demands.  He is my socialite.  He is the one who is constantly on the go and I find ourselves filling our days with playdates and activities to fill his time, because it's what delights him.  Then I realize, I've missed so much of who he is, because I allow him to have full rein.  It's been a pulling back of sorts, as I realize how quickly he is growing.  How much I have already missed.  How many times I have shooed him away to finish the laundry, clean the house, or make dinner.  He becomes the after thought, that constantly occupies my heart.  It is amazing the difficulty of showing him how much I love him.  It demands that I play when I'd rather sit, that I talk to him over puzzles and games.  He needs me as much as I long for him, but time and life and circumstance often get in our way.
Today was the perfect enjoyment of one another.  As the little one slept it was just mommy and son, talking, laughing, and playing.  We filled the afternoon.  Not a lot got done.  Lists were ignored, laundry piled, and too much popcorn was enjoyed.  It was just us and for a while we were fully connected.  I hold to these moments, I recognize how fleeting they are.  Despite my longing to carve one on one time into our day it is often the first thing to fall by the wayside.  It gets disrupted with the commitments, friends, obligations, lists, and life.  The one I most long to cuddle and connect with is the same one that is too busy to settle into my lap.  He's too big to carry, squirms from my hugs, and looks embarrassed if I say I love you in front of his friends.  He is grown, this baby of mine, to just a child age.  An age where peers and expectation pull him from me, but his child heart desperately craves my affection.  He squirms and ignores that for which he longs.
I will miss opportunities in the future.  I will frustrate him.  I will ache to be the mother he needs and and at times I will fall short of even the  most base of expectations.  There are so many shoulds, should nots, and wishes that fill my heart.  It's not for perfection, but connection.  It's to teach him in my own desperate way that he is the joy of my life, the song of my heart, and I could not imagine this life without him.
His wisdom amazes, his kindness overwhelms, his love of adventure and fun resonate within me and as I trail along behind and watch him grow, I see so much more than my mistakes and mishandling of our time.  I see that despite my lack, my failures, my anger, my ignorance, he is growing and blossoming into exactly the man-child he is called to.  It is not as much my influence as my presence.  It is less my demands than my understanding.  It is playing in the rain when I'd rather read.  It is choosing him first and in so doing, loving him with all of my heart.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Tis The Season.

*Photo by the amazing Erica Bartel

We fight desperately for the unique connection that comes with the Christmas holiday.  Imagery and hope fill us, until reality and tension leave us clenching to an ever shortening rope that unravels somewhere between Christmas and New Year.

Chastened to enjoy the moment while commitments and need bang relentlessly at our already overwhelmed door.  As deeply as I long to be present, I equally want to fill my cocoa with too much schnapps and pass out under the lopsided tree.

Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook show me the perfect skill of my contemporaries, the unrivaled perfection of their all together home and lives.  Their houses decorated with light and charm, their children coordinated and smiling gleefully for the camera.  I trip over legos, scold my children, and bake half burned cookies, the frosting turns to an interesting state of brown after all of the colors are mixed together while my back is turned.

Christmas.  Joy.  Peace.  Harmony.

Or is it Chaos.  Tension.  Stress.

The well meaning will encourage us to enjoy the moments, their pressing guilt fills us with shame that perhaps we aren't valuing the hand holding and joy filled eyes enough.  If you are like me, you cuddled close to whichever sleepy head found your lap in the wee hours when dawn has not fully broken forth and your tree twinkles it's glistening lights, hot coffee in your hand, and this moment is the heart clenching breath of I love you mommy.  Only for the light to break free from the nights hold and suddenly it's shrieks of we're going to be late, get dressed, leave the ornaments on the tree, stop unwrapping the gifts, stop eating the advent candy.

Because life is not a succession of picture perfect moments.  It is in the chaos, the stress, the wild unnecessary pressure that we find little treasures of joy and peace and perfection.   It's while the kids are screaming about hating cutting down the tree that we laugh and run and smile.  It's the memories built over cups of cocoa and weary hearts finding each other in the midst of this ever changing world.  It's laughing at twinkling lights while we drive around in our old car, the heat fogging the windows.  It is the breathless I love you after chase and anger.  It's forgiveness and gentleness.

Enjoy this holiday, your winter season.  Enjoy the perfect in the middle of the ridiculous.  Smile at a stranger, give whole heartedly.  No matter how desperate we are to cling to this season, we will fall into moments of stress, frustration, and guilt.  Let it go.  Breathe deep and look into dark eyes that are pushing tacks into the hot cookies you just baked to take to the dessert auction.  Then laugh and maybe take a sip of schnapps.