Baby Steps and Falling Forward

Sometimes I schedule a post the night before and wake up to a day that contradicts everything I just wrote.

Grief is like that.

Good day.  Bad day.  Better day. Worse day.

I can barely predict one moment to the next, much less a day or a week.

grief-is-not-linear

It’s easy for me to become discouraged when I stare at my own feet-measuring paltry progress when I long for leaps and bounds.

But truth is, no life is lived primarily by giant strides.  It’s mostly baby steps and falling forward.

Got up this morning?  Step.  

Remembered to make that phone call?  Step.

Smiled at the bird outside the window? Step.

Looked at Dominic’s picture and treasured the memory instead of crying?  Step.

And when I trip over my broken heart listening to a song on the radio and tumble headlong into wracking sobs-I reach out and fall forward, still making a little progress toward learning to live through a day.

It doesn’t matter how fast or how far I’ve traveled in this Valley.

It only matters that I refuse to give up.

may not be there yet but closer than yesterday perseverance

 

 

 

 

 

Yay You! Here’s to the Hearts That Persevere

This past little while I’ve started taking care of some things that have lingered long since Dominic left us.

The thought of doing them, of dealing with the details, and of trying to keep my tears behind my eyelids was overwhelming.

But they needed to be done.

So I’ve plunged ahead.

I’ve called on good friends to give me pep talks.

I’ve given myself pep talks.

Honestly, I’m exhausted.  It will most likely take me a week to recover.

But I did it.

I didn’t give up.  I didn’t give in.  I marched forward and conquered the fear and anxiety.

yay me snoopy

And “Yay You!” to every heart that chooses to persevere

even when it’s hard

or uncomfortable

or feels impossible.

may not be there yet but closer than yesterday perseverance

 

 

 

Mountains and Mole Hills

There’s a saying in the South, “You’re making a mountain out of a mole hill”.

It’s supposed knock sense into someone who is overreacting to a small and easily resolved problem.  Most of the time it works-stepping back and gaining perspective is a good thing.

But I find that this side of Dominic’s leaving, many, many things that were mole hills before are MOUNTAINS now.  Because my faith in my own ability to handle things has become so very small, nearly any challenge feels like a never-ending ascent up the mountain.

I used to be the person who crossed “t’s” and dotted “i’s”.

Shoot-my whole wedding was organized on 3×5 index cards kept in a tiny filing cabinet (long before online wedding sites!).  I still have that little metal box and can recite who received an invitation, who responded, who attended, what gift they gave us and when I wrote the “thank you” note.

Not anymore.

If I don’t put my truck keys in exactly the same spot, I’ will never find them.  And panic sets in about 60 seconds after I realize I don’t know where they are.

Everyday hiccups are absolutely exhausting and larger issues are downright debilitating.

It reminds me of a move my family made from Atlanta, Georgia to Denver, Colorado when I was twelve.

Denver is known as the “Mile High City” because on the first step of the capital building it is 5,280 feet above sea level.   My sea-level body had to work hard to live that much closer to the sun.

denver huff post

The first year was a real challenge because the red blood cells that had been sufficient to carry oxygen to my brain, vital organs and tissues at near sea-level, were woefully insufficient to carry enough oxygen to my extremities a mile closer to the sun. Eventually my body caught up to the new reality and made more corpuscles.

I’m afraid my mind, heart and spirit have yet to catch up to THIS new reality of life after child loss.

I am quickly struck down and discouraged when what SHOULD be a mole hill rapidly turns into a MOUNTAIN.

Regardless of what it looks like or feels like to anyone else, it IS a mountain to ME.

And that takes so much energy to scale.  It requires so much discipline to face.  It wears me out and uses up my resources so that I’m left depleted, panting and oh, so  tired from the effort.

I wish I could help those outside the child loss community understand just how much it takes for me and everyone like me to do what has to be done.

We aren’t being lazy or overly emotional or “making too much of nothing”.

We live in a different world than the rest of you.

Our air has less oxygen.  

Our bodies have to work harder to do what comes easily to the rest of you.

I promise we are trying.  But willpower can’t make up for the resources we just don’t have.

doing the best we can is all we should expect mr rogers

Note To Self: Forward is Forward

I’m pretty sure the first time I wrote a note to myself was in second grade.

I had discovered a book of quotes and decided that some were worth remembering so I copied them down and taped them to my bedroom wall

Now I have notes all over the house-on kitchen cabinets, the refrigerator door, my bathroom mirror, above my bed-anywhere my eyes might land when my heart needs encouragement.

Here are the ones I have posted now:

[Be present.]

I don’t want to miss a single moment with the ones I love because I know too well that more moments are not promised.

[Choose to listen.]

It’s so easy to babble on and not HEAR the other person in front of me or on the phone.  I already know what I’M thinking and feeling, listening is the only way to know what THEY’RE thinking and feeling.

[Escape ruts.]

Habits are helpful when they remind me to brush my teeth.  Not so much when they lead me down paths of fruitless relationship patterns and knee-jerk responses.  I’m not a thoughtless amoeba.  I can change.

[Forward is forward.]

If I am ONE INCH closer to my goal then I have made progress.  I refuse to be discouraged, no matter how slowly I am walking, crawling or limping ahead.

[Laugh!]

Laughter makes life lighter.  There is already too much heaviness in this journey.  Never miss a chance to laugh and lighten the load.

[Do small things with great love.]

I will never take a national stage or be able to address giant problems, but I can bend down to kiss a skinned knee, open a door for an old lady and bake cookies for my neighbor.  I won’t neglect or despise the small things waiting for the big ones that will never come along.

[The best is yet to come.]

The life I see is not all the life there is.  In fact, it’s not even the best life there is.  The best is yet to come when all this pain and sorrow and hurt will be redeemed.  My heart and my family will be restored.  My tears will be wiped away and I will stand in the glorious Presence of God and Christ forever.

[Love wins.]

I have a choice of what I allow to fill my broken heart.  I will not choose bitterness. Bitterness is buried with the heart that carries it.  But love lasts forever.  Its impact ripples through eternity.  It cannot be silenced or stopped.

 

love God love others rocks

Worn Slap Out

The best remedy for my heart on the days when grief rolls in like morning fog and refuses to burn off with sunshine is hard work.

If weather permits I go outside and move hay bales, pick up limbs, cut weeds or do anything that requires large muscles to accomplish the task.  The goal is exhaustion so I can sleep.

If the weather doesn’t cooperate, I’ll try to tackle jobs inside that I otherwise tend to ignore.  If you ever see me cleaning the bathroom or kitchen sink fixtures with a toothbrush, just leave me alone-I’m working something out.

So these past days leading up to Dominic’s birthday, that’s what I’ve done.

I sheared sheep, raked out a hay shed, moved hay, medicated horses, dogs and goats, picked up limbs brought down by rain and high winds, vacuumed, washed clothes, cleaned bathrooms and organized (sort of) my closet.

The ungrateful sheep and the silly cat kneading his paws while I’m bent over shearing her. 

photo (44)

Skinks are some of the happier surprises when moving hay.  Snakes and ants not so much.

 

The good thing about so many critters that eat grass is that I rarely cut it.

Now I’m worn slap out!

I think I’ll hit the sack.

fatigue is the best pillow

No Magic

I was looking for it too, at first.

There had to be a secret path, a magic word, a hidden key that would make this awful child loss journey more manageable.

But there is none.

It seems unbearable to think ahead to the possible years of doing this hard thing.  And it is- UNBEARABLE.  If I look at the missing writ large across the rest of my life, I will crumble beneath the weight of it.

Yet, I only have to live this moment, this breath, this day.

just-breathe

It’s no platitude-it’s how I have made it through these last three years.  I have no grand scheme or insight on navigating the path of burying a child.

Only leaning every day on the Truth.

Speaking it to my heart when my feelings tell me there is no hope.

Praying each day that the Father will wrap His loving arms around me and lift me up and that He will overwhelm my hurting heart with His mercy and grace.

Waiting, when necessary, for a grief wave to pass and then getting up

again

and again

and again.

Refusing to quit because Dominic was no quitter.

Carrying on because I carry him in my heart.

I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize. 13 My friends, I don’t feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. 14 I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done.

Philippians 2:12-14 CEV

 

 

 

Limping Along

Those of you who follow the blog regularly know I have rheumatoid arthritis.

It’s something I’ve been living with three times as long as the years I’ve lived without Dominic and I find strange parallels in the twin journey of chronic disease and chronic heartache.

Both are crippling in their own way, both force me to work around the pain.  Both have changed me in ways I could not have imagined and certainly wouldn’t have wished on myself or my family.

Both have taught me to endure.

Both have taught me many other things as well:  

I have learned to be more compassionate.  With pain as my constant companion, it reminds me this life is hard and that it’s hard for others too.

I have learned not to take a good day for granted.  I never know when I will wake to an RA flare, I am constantly surprised by random heavy grief days and I can’t tell when I go to bed at night what tomorrow will bring.  So when a day is good, I grab hold of every moment.  I laugh, I move, I do things that make my heart sing.  And I store the memory for days that aren’t so good.

I have learned to be gentle to myself.  I can only do what I can do.  And what I can’t do today will just have to wait for tomorrow-or maybe wait for forever-and that’s OK.

I have learned to say, “no” graciously, without making excuses.  I try very hard to live up to commitments so I am selective in taking on new ones.  I know that if I take on too many, I’m sure to have to let someone down in the end.  I can’t make others outside my disease or my grief understand so I’m learning to not try.  Their disappointment or disapproval is something they have to carry, not me. (I wrote more about this here:  No. It’s a Complete Sentence.)

I have learned to create “work arounds” for the things that I have to do but are very hard to do. For my RA that means unloading the dishwasher two plates at a time instead of lifting the whole stack at once.  For my grieving heart that means spreading out the hard things over a week instead of a few hours.  It means not feeling compelled to answer every message, phone call or text right away if my mind is unclear or my heart too heavy.

I’ve learned to wear what’s comfortable.  Whether that is shoes that accommodate my crooked toes or refusing to put on a “happy face” mask in public-I am who I am.  I certainly don’t mope around or try to draw attention to myself.  But I’m just not responsible for making other people feel comfortable with my disease or my grief.

I have learned to plan “rest stops” on my daily journey.  It may be a moment to sit down or a moment to do something creative or a moment to watch a funny video-but each thing is designed to help me recharge for the next few hours.  If I try to soldier on I end up too tired and emotionally spent to do anything.  One day of that and I may lose a whole week.  So I pace myself.

I have learned that appropriate medical intervention and treatment is not a crutch, it’s a pathway to a more productive life.  I resisted taking medication for my RA for a long time-the potential side effects are frightening.  But when the swelling, pain and joint deformity became too much to bear, I gave in.  I shouldn’t have waited so long.  It was foolish. I will never be free of the disease, but my life can be better with appropriate intervention.  It’s the same with grief.  Anti-depressants and anxiety medicine do not remove the pain of grief but they can make space in a heart and mind to do the work grief requires.  There is NO SHAME in using whatever tools are available to make it through.

I have learned to ask for help. There are a number of things I just can’t do alone.  I used to be able to do them.  But not anymore.  Asking for help is not defeat.  I have to remind myself of that.  At the end of the day what matters is that what matters gets done-I don’t get “extra credit” for struggling through alone.

I have learned to speak my truth.  (This is one I’m still working on!)  If I am having a bad pain day or a bad grief day, I don’t try to hide it.  I just tell those who ask and those closest to me the truth. The energy I have to expend to keep it covered up means less energy to work on the underlying factors contributing to the bad day.  It’s just NOT worth it.  And I’m not good at hiding it anyway.

I have learned that walking (literally or figuratively) with a limp is not a defect.  It’s simply my life.  I won’t apologize for it.  If someone asks, I’ll share.  But if not, I just go limping along, making my way forward.  I might be slow, but I’m moving.

And that’s what counts in the end.

I will walk with an emotional limp for the rest of my life … But I don’t want it to just remind me of the struggle and the pain; I want it to remind me of a place of surrender, a place where God met me and blessed me. Otherwise, it is just wasted pain.

~Nancy Guthrie, The One Year Book of Hope, p. 332