For the first couple of weeks after Dominic left us, I couldn’t fall asleep.
It was impossible to close my eyes without a dozen awful scenes flashing behind the lids.
Silent darkness was not my friend.
Eventually exhaustion won and I could fall asleep but couldn’t stay asleep. Two or three hours in and my body had just enough rest to shake slumber and force my heart to face another day (even if the sun wasn’t up yet).
Somewhere around year three I finally settled into a pretty regular pattern of between five and six hours of solid sleep.
But for the past several months I’ve lost the rhythm and am once again struggling.
Lots of changes, lots of stress, lots of physical discomfort and lots of lists floating in my head have landed me back in sleepless territory.
I wish there was a switch I could flip that made it easy to fall and stay asleep. I wish there was a way to stop stray thoughts from invading my consciousness and my dreams. I wish I could have a solid week of solid sleep.
I know it would make everything so much easier to manage.
I’d be calmer, more focused, more energetic and more optimistic.
But it’s a vicious cycle.
I’m hoping long days of hard work in the summer sun will shift my body back to a better rhythm.
I don’t know about you, but I think of every day as a blank canvas and it’s my responsibility to paint something useful or beautiful or helpful on it.
I’m a list maker so each night before I drift off, I usually jot down 3 or 300 things I would like to do the next day.
I get up, get started and then (more often than I’d like to confess!) hit a wall.
Sometimes it’s the wall of circumstance. Things happen I didn’t expect and suddenly the hours I was going to spend cleaning the garage are spent cleaning a mess.
Sometimes it’s the wall of community. Someone calls. Or a multitude of someones call. I hate to admit it but I’m really not a fan of the telephone. Like Alexander Graham Bell, I consider it more of an inconvenience and interruption than a means of delightful connectivity. Minutes slip by and I can’t recover them.
I love my friends and family.
But I’d rather chat while we are doing something together in person than over the phone.
Sometimes it’s the wall of pain. Rheumatoid Arthritis, like all autoimmune diseases, is unpredictable. Usually I can tell in the early morning hours if my joints are going to cooperate on a given day. But sometimes they surprise me and I find that all that yard work will have to wait.
Sometimes it’s the wall of grief or sadness or longing or any of a multitude of feelings. I have gotten pretty skilled at steering clear of grief triggers when I know I have lots of things to do. I don’t listen to the songs friends post on their timelines or read too many comments on the sites for bereaved parents. But I can’t anticipate random sights, sounds or memories. I’ve been working on a room, cleaning drawers, moving stuff tucked in corners and come across a Lego man or a pellet from the air soft guns they weren’t supposed to shoot inside the house (but of course did anyway) when the boys were young. That does me in and I have to walk away.
Sometimes it’s the wall of “What difference does it make anyway?!!”This one I usually see approaching in the distance when there have been too many days and too little progress. Or a string of gray, rainy mornings. Or multiple failed attempts at fixing something. And then I throw up my hands and decide my paltry attempts at controlling my corner of the world hardly matter, so why keep doing them.
So I give in and let myself just have a day.
It doesn’t have to be a good one or a productive one or even a cheerful one. The glass can just be a glass. I don’t have to pretend it’s half-full or declare it half-empty.
And after a rest I usually remember that what I used to find impossible is now possible; what used to be hard, is often a little easier.
I am stronger and better able to carry this load.
Sorrow is no longer all I feel nor my son’s absence all I see.
And although THIS day may be lost. It’s only ONE day.
It’s perfectly OK for me to sit down with a cup of coffee, a book or a movie and let myself off the hook.
I have never been one of those women who lied about her age.
My weight…well, you will have to threaten me with something that matters to get THAT number out of my lips.
But I’ve noticed this year more than others since Dominic left us that the wear and tear of years and tears and life and loss are showing up on my face as well as my hips.
I am definitely the worse for wear.
My daughter is getting married in May and for the first time in my life I am religious about applying under eye cream and moisturizing lotion to my face each morning and night.
I don’t want to be the sore thumb in the family pictures!
I’m not sure it’s working. I’m not sure anything can erase or roll back the marks that life and love and loss have etched on my face.
I’m not sure I want to.
Because each wrinkle, each line, each saggy, baggy skin flap says, “I loved, I lived and I am surviving-even though it’s hard.”
Before Dom left I was camera shy. I still am, a bit. But I’m trying hard to suck up my pride and my insecurity and let those flashes pop. Memories are made one day at a time and photos help preserve them.
So whether I’m at my best, at my worst or somewhere in between, I won’t say no to a Kodak moment.
I wish I had more of them from “before”.
I wish I hadn’t’ been so darned particular about what I looked like, what I was wearing and whether or not my wrinkles or big butt showed.
Worse for wear?
This one wasn’t made to last.
For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.
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.
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 is 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.
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 of everything being hard.
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.
Even in the very first hours after the news, my brain began instructing my heart, “Now, try to be brave. Try not to disappoint people. Try to say the right thing, do the right thing and be the example you should be.”
Whatever that meant.
As I made phone calls and received concerned friends and family members I was so aware that they would take a cue from me-how much can I say, how hard can I cry, should I hug or stand back, should I talk about him or be silent lest it make the tears fall harder?
And here-almost five years later-I still feel like I need to lead the way in conversations and social encounters.
I learned early on to make do on less sleep than I really need.
Four children in six years will do that to you.
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.
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.
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
My empty nest means I’m rarely crazy busy even around the holidays.
I no longer have to fit in shopping whenever I can manage it because little eyes might be watching or Christmas choir performances and church programs fill the calendar.
Most of my shopping is online and I don’t even have to worry about whisking gifts off the porch before anyone sees them.
I’m a different kind of busy now.
I’m busy making sure I’m not overexposed to Christmas commercials, Christmas movies or Christmas carols because they are likely to open the floodgates of tears I keep behind a dam of determination.
I’m busy drawing deep breaths when I pick up the phone and it’s a relative that never calls but needs an address for a Christmas card and, since I’m apparently the Keeper of the Addresses, always calls me.
I’m busy looking away from the childhood photos lining my upstairs hallway so I can stay focused on the vacuuming that needs doing.
I’m busy pinning down fruitless thoughts of “what if” or “if only” or “I wish”.
I’m busy getting things ready for the brief time my remaining family will be gathered around the dining room table. I’m trying hard to accommodate schedules and preferences and favorite foods and treasured traditions.
I’m busy pushing back sadness that threatens to overwhelm me in the dark of the year when clouds and rain make it even darker, even earlier. I’m lighting candles, plugging in lights and adding cheerful touches here and there to drive out the shadows that come creeping.
From the outside looking in, I’m awash in free time and easy choices.
And some folks wonder why I don’t answer the phone or join in the party.