Seriously. Why Can’t I Keep My House Clean?

I freely admit I was never a housecleaning fanatic.

With a busy family, a small farm and mountains of paper, pencils and books scattered around I was content if the most obvious dirt was swept up and the sink free of dishes.

But, I DID have a routine.  I DID clean my bathrooms and wash clothes and make beds and vacuum the rugs on a regular basis.

Not anymore.

Even all this time after Dominic ran ahead to heaven, I have not reestablished any kind of rhythm.

Read the rest here: Why Can’t I Keep My House Clean? Grief and Everyday Responsiblities

The Locust Years

I’m no stranger to disappointment, disillusionment, discouragement and despair.

I have had some amazingly lofty peaks in this life but I’ve also had some terribly low valleys as well.

Some of the stories aren’t mine to tell so you will just have to take my word for it. Some of the stories I’ve already shared in this space so if you want more details you can check out old posts.

Right now I feel like I’m in one of those valleys.

In fact, I feel like I’m in the locust years the prophet Joel talks about in the Bible book that bears his name.

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming [a]locust has eaten,
The crawling locust,
The consuming locust,
And the chewing locust,
My great army which I sent among you.
26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame.
27 Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel:
am the Lord your God
And there is no other.
My people shall never be put to shame.

Joel 2:25-27

Joel (his name means “Yahweh is God”) was sent by God to encourage the nation of Israel during a time of famine and judgement. Because God’s chosen people refused to follow Him and obey His commandments, they were punished. God didn’t do that to harm them. He did it to draw their attention to their sin and to woo them back to Himself.

I’ve written before that child loss is not a test or a judgement or a hammer in the hand of God (https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/08/25/grief-is-not-a-hammer-in-the-hand-of-god/).

I firmly believe that while God may discipline His true children (see Hebrews 12:6) all the punishment sin requires has been paid for by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Still, I feel like there are parallels to the famine and devastation Israel faced and the past eighteen months of my life.

One “disaster” after another. One herculean challenge after another. One hill to climb after another. And with each new hard thing, I find my reserves are fewer and fewer.

Nothing-NOTHING-rises to the level of sending Dominic ahead to Heaven.

But that one giant, life-altering, earth shattering, heartbreaking event has weakened my defenses. It has made me more prone to wearing down and giving up than I’ve ever been in my life.

My faith is intact.

I have absolutely no doubt that every promise of God in Christ is “yes” and “amen”.

I trust the truth that all the enemy has stolen will be restored. Every sad thing will be undone. The world (including my own family) will be redeemed, restored and raised to life in Christ. When I pass my son’s grave facing east, I know one day the skies will open and Jesus will return as triumphant King over all creation.

Even so I am weary and heavy laden.

I take the burden to the foot of the cross over and over and over.

Just as I think the weight is lifted, another heavy brick is added to the load.

Sometimes you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Other times you just have to trust in the dark.

Sometimes the trial is limited. Other times it goes on and on and on.

But I know, know, know God is faithful.

His love endures forever.

And even when I find myself in the midst of spiritual famine, desolation and desperation, He will meet me there.

So I wait.

Holding on to hope.

Looking for the promised bounty.

Trusting that He will redeem, restore and resurrect.

Swallowing Panic

In the daylight

In the dark

In my dreams

Things creep in at the corner of my vision

Or sounds slip in unnoticed

Until my brain puts them together and screams, “Oh no!”.

It’s nothing worth getting excited about, nothing worth the surge of adrenaline that raises my heart rate, brings whatever I ate last back to my throat and sets my mind racing.

But the damage is done.

Now I’m fully engaged in a losing game of questions with no answers.

If I was asleep, I won’t be now.

If I wasn’t, I won’t be any time soon.

And if I was trying to get things done, I’m done for the day.

Doorbells.

Phones ringing.

Movie scenes.

Scents.

Anything, anytime, anywhere.

The taste of panic fills my mouth and I swallow it down.

Well, It Finally Happened

Yesterday was not an especially busy one in the sense of places to go or timely appointments to make.

But it was full of activity and people and chores and the need to use creative juices and exercise lots and lots of self-control.

It was also the day I take my weekly (very potent) medication for rheumatoid arthritis which normally doesn’t bother me much. I get a little tired, sleep it off that night and wake refreshed and ready for the rest of the week.

Last night, though, it hit me hard.

I got home from church and realized I hadn’t set up a post for early this morning (it usually goes out automatically to subscribers and is posted on my Facebook page just after midnight). And for the first time ever-EVER-in four years, I just let it go.

I didn’t try to quickly cue up a repost of an old post. I didn’t grab a meme or image off the internet and write around it. I just crawled into bed and went to sleep.

Pride is a terrible thing.

It often goads me into pushing my body, mind and spirit beyond physical, mental or psychological endurance. Sometimes it tricks me into thinking I’m leaning on God when I’m leaning on my own willful stubbornness instead.

I’m all about not giving up, giving in or giving out when faced with something a little harder than I like or even something miserably more difficult than I can stand. But I need to practice discernment and learn to let go of things that are more about my proving a point than walking worthy of the calling of Christ in me.

I love writing.

I love every single heart that chooses to read what I write and sometimes comment or just pass it along so others can read it too.

I hope I don’t skip another day any time soon.

But if I do, I’m going to practice what I preach and just let. it. go.

Even though it hurts my pride to admit my limitations.

Self Care in Grief

Looking back I’m shocked at how much I allowed societal norms and expectations to determine how I grieved Dominic’s death.

I withheld grace from myself that I would have gladly and freely given to another heart who just buried a child. Somehow I thought I had to soldier on in spite of the unbearable sorrow, pain, horror and worldview shattering loss I was enduring.

And the further I got from the date of his accident, the more I expected from myself.

I wrote lists of things I needed to do and surprisingly often I actually got them done.

But I crawled into bed each night exhausted, physically and emotionally drained and often unable to sleep for all the pent up feelings I still needed to process.

It was a dangerous cycle.

Eventually, through contact with other bereaved parents I learned that I absolutely, positively HAD to take care of myself. If I didn’t, there wouldn’t be a me to take care of.

And my family would be plunged beneath a new tsunami of loss.

I wasn’t going to do that to them if I could help it. So I committed to practicing better self-care on this grief journey.

I’m still not always good at it, but I’m better at it than I was.

If you are sucking it up, pushing it down, soldiering on, refusing to admit that grief takes a toll no one can ignore or deny, may I suggest you consider taking a step back and thinking about the ultimate outcome of ignoring your own needs?

Here’s a graphic to get you started.

It’s not an exhaustive list and the examples given may not suit your personality or circumstances but they should give you some ideas to find the activities and habits that will help strengthen you to do the work grief requires.

Tapping Out-Everyone Needs a Safe Word

Today went from OK to not good at all in a matter of hours.

Before lunchtime I had a confrontation with someone I love, entered a public space (when I thought I had my emotions in check) and couldn’t stop crying, misplaced my debit card, misplaced my driver’s license and lost my mind.

I desperately needed a do-over.

And then I realized that I hadn’t queued up a new post. Which really isn’t that big a deal to anyone but me (in my pride) because this November will make four years I haven’t missed a day.

I know sometimes I run a series of old posts but y’all have just been subjected to that because of Hurricane Dorian. I didn’t want to do it again so soon.

And I don’t like just posting fluff. I want to honor the time you take to read what I send out.

But this time I think I’m tapping out.

All my kids and my husband participated in Tae Kwon Do for years.

I watched a lot of sparring matches, demonstrations, testings and practices. James Michael eventually rose to the rank of Second Degree Black Belt and Dominic was the youngest ever (at eight years old) to test for First Degree Black Belt in their particular school.

There’s a safety protocol for sparring in Tae Kwon Do. Even though no one is supposed to be overly aggressive when sparring, sometimes it gets a little out of hand. So if your opponent crosses the line and is actually hurting you, you tap the mat indicating that they need to stop-RIGHT NOW-before harm is done.

I was oh, so grateful for that safety protocol when trying to keep my seat in the bleachers as my little guys were tossed around. I knew that if someone was really hurting them, they had a way out.

I should have learned it then, but I’m a slow learner.

Everyone needs a safety protocol.

Everyone needs a safe word or a safe space or a safe friend so that when things pile high or heavy or both, they can make it plain that IT HURTS!

I’ve managed to do the necessary today.

And like I’ve said before, the worst day of my life only lasted 24 hours.

Tomorrow is a new day, another sunrise, another chance for things to be a little easier, a little better, a little more bearable.

Thanks for listening.

I Didn’t Cry, But Then I Did

This past weekend was an emotional one.

My deployed son began his trek back home to his wife and newborn son.

My youngest son went on the bachelor trip with his soon to be brother-in-law and was incommunicado for almost 72  hours which always makes me nervous.

My daughter’s wedding is only a few weeks away and there is so much to do. Fun things.  Things I want to do.

My companion animal and faithful sidekick died two weeks ago and I haven’t been sleeping nearly as well as I did before

It was the fifth anniversary of Dominic’s death and funeral.

I didn’t cry, but then I did. 

And I couldn’t stop. 

I just couldn’t stop.

How in the world can it be five years?  I can’t explain it to anyone who hasn’t buried a child. But I keep trying.  The giant chasm between what I thought life would be like and what it actually turned out to be is so wide that it’s impossible to comprehend.  I’m living it and I can’t comprehend it.

dom on mountaintop

I am trying so, so hard to participate.

I’m working at keeping grief at bay and leaning into the life I have without constantly comparing it to the life I thought I would have or the life I wanted instead.  I’m purposing to keep my expectations low so I won’t be disappointed.

But it’s not working.

I think I’m just at the end of my personal resources.  I think I’ve exhausted any reserve I might have had.  I’m leaning into Truth and holding onto the hem of His garment.

I know it won’t always be this way.  

The tears will dry up.  They always do.  

Tomorrow is a new day.  

finish each day and be done with it emerson

 

 

 

 

 

On The Struggle Bus

I weigh more today than I’ve weighed in ten years.  

Just before Dominic graduated high school in 2008, I decided that being “fluffy” was not good for my health, not good for my joints and for the first time in my married life I had the extra energy, time and attention to work on losing weight.  

I lost over fifty pounds.  

Still not skinny, but definitely a much smaller version of me than had existed since I started having children.

IMG_0744 (1)
June 2013

But after Dom left us,  a series of choices and out-of-my-control health issues combined to make it harder and harder to maintain the weight loss I had (fairly) effortlessly maintained for six years.

I’m scheduled to see my GP tomorrow and you know what makes me more nervous than all the bloodwork they will have to do?  Stepping on the scales!

Why is it more deplorable to be fat than to be mean?

Why is it considered a greater moral failure to lug around extra pounds than to lug around a hateful heart?

I feel more like a failure because I’ve allowed pounds to creep back up on my backside than for so many other things that are so much more important.  

Menopause, middle age and many sleepless nights which increase my cortisol levels have conspired to make it harder this time than last time to rid my body of excess weight.

family fionas grad (2)

I’m active, eat well and in limited amounts (no Twinkies or high fructose corn syrup!) but my hips refuse to get smaller.

I try hard not to blame everything on child loss. 

But I’m pretty sure a significant portion of responsibility sits squarely on the fact that my heart is broken.  I am exercising so much self-control every. single. day. that I don’t have any left over.

I rarely cry any more in public. 

Goodness!  I rarely cry any more in private.  

I can return a cheery, “Have a nice day!” to any and everyone I meet.  

But that means I am constantly running a tape in my head that goes something like this:  “Don’t take it out on her.  She has no idea. Keep smiling.  People don’t know that you were about to cry just a minute ago. Don’t let that person’s ugly attitude unleash the beast inside you.”  

Can I be honest here?  

I’m tired.  

I’m tired of everything being hard.  

please be aware i am trying

I don’t know if or when I’ll lose weight (please don’t inbox me with your latest, greatest sales pitch).

I’m trying most days.  

But sometimes I just don’t have it in me to try.  Sometimes I just want to be normal-whatever THAT is.  Sometimes I just want to have one corner of life where things are easy and don’t require constant vigilance or extreme restraint.  Sometimes I want to eat ALL the things and not give a hoot if it adds inches to my waist.

the struggle bus

I won’t do it.  

Because I know it’s not what’s best.  

But I want to.  

eat whatever you want

When Sleep Won’t Fix It

I learned early on to make do on less sleep than I really need.

Four children in six years will do that to you.

dominic and siblings little children at nannys

It’s not that I have a physical need for sleep these days-although there are many nights when sleep eludes me.

It’s more that I am soul weary. 

Worn down in ways that sleep won’t touch.  Frayed and frazzled and falling down tired.

I wake up hopeful every morning.  “Today is going to be a productive, encouraging day!”

Sometimes I make it as far as lunchtime before fatigue sets in and overwhelms my good intentions.

I wish it were just a matter of extra shut eye!  I wish I could crawl up in the bed for 24 hours and wake refreshed, renewed and ready to go.

But I can’t.

Sleep won’t fix what’s wrong with me.

It can help.

If I’m physically drained in addition to emotionally exhausted then that’s never a good thing.  My fuse is shorter by the minute when my body is crying for rest.

sleep night terrors

Lack of sunlight, gray days and added stress from holiday preparations and obligations deepens the weariness in my bones.  I feel guilty sometimes because I know my life is still full of many blessings.  I really, truly do NOT take them for granted.  (How could I when I know how quickly and unexpectedly they can be gone?)

Still, all the blessings in the world can’t undo this exhaustion.

I’m well aware that discouragement begets discouragement and try so very hard to strive against it.  But in the end, I’m not sure I’m successful.

When I say to someone, “I’m so very tired!” they nearly always suggest a nap.  Trust me, if a nap would erase this soul weariness, I’d take one every single day.

But it doesn’t, so I don’t.

Instead I go outside and breathe some fresh air, make a cup of hot tea and sit down with a good book, or just sit down and watch the Christmas lights or a candle with my cat in my lap.

hand-coffee-roosevelt

That seems to help. 

It resets my focus and refuels my soul.

Night closes in and I find I’ve made it through another day.  <3

glowing candles huff post

 

 

Wife, Mother, Daughter, Sister, Friend

It would be helpful if the world could just stop for a day or a week (or a year!) when your heart is shattered by the news that one of the children you birthed into this world has suddenly left it.

But it doesn’t.

And immediately all the roles I have played for decades are overlaid by a new role:  bereaved mother.  Except instead of being definitive or even descriptive, this role is more like a foggy blanket that obscures and disorients me as I struggle to fulfill all the roles to which I’ve become accustomed.

Now I’m a bereaved mother AND 

  • wife,
  • mother to surviving siblings,
  • daughter,
  • sister,
  • friend.

In addition to all the challenges those various roles represent, I have a new challenge: 

How can I be the person I need to be for the ones I love when I’m barely able to be any kind of person at all?  How do I encourage THEM when I have to give myself a pep talk just to get out of the bed?  How do I navigate my own emotional landmines and help them navigate theirs so we all arrive safely on the other side of birthdays, holidays and special occasions?

I have to admit that I have. absolutely. no. idea.

I’m trying.  I don’t give up (although I want to!).  I keep showing up and having conversations (even some that are one-sided as I take the brunt of another’s emotional explosion).  I try to be a middleman and get first one person’s perspective and then another’s-negotiating for common ground and some kind of compromise.

But it often backfires.

No matter how hard I work at it, I can’t please everyone.  And the problem with being seen as the negotiator is that if things don’t turn out well, you are the scapegoat too.

I’ll be honest.  There have been more than a few days this past month I wanted to crawl up in the bed, pull the covers over my head and not answer the door or the phone.

After nearly five years of this, I’m worn down, worn out, feeling sick, feeling incompetent and feeling like no matter how hard I try it really doesn’t matter. 

I know it’s not true.  

But it feels that way.  

And it takes another giant bolus of energy I don’t really have to drag my butt out of the bed, make a list, make phone calls, do the things that need doing and then show up, smiling, to whatever event is next. 

Because that’s what wives, mothers, daughters, sisters and friends do.  

hope whispers blinding light