Ain’t Nothing Easy About It

I’ve been doing this for 1,487 days. 

If it takes two weeks to form a habit, I’m way past habit by now.  

Except that, as C.S. Lewis says, “in grief nothing ‘stays put'” so even though it seems I am traveling the same road, walking the same territory, it shifts and moves so that I’m never quite sure of my footing.

And there ain’t nothing easy about it. 

No flat spots to catch my breath.  No downhill slope regardless of how many hills I climb.  It seems that I never reach a patch that’s just a little less strenuous.  

I wish I would.

I wish so badly that I could have two days strung together where I could just kind of coast along-no real effort required.

charlie brown too tired to cry

Last week I visited my oldest son in Florida.  He’s really into CrossFit and while my joints preclude my participation, he convinced his younger brother to join in a friendly intra-gym competition.

As I sat watching Julian lift that weighted bar over and over all I could think of was, “This is hard, but it’s not the hardest thing you’ve ever done.”  

julian at crossfit1

When you’ve buried a brother (or a child) and lived each day since, there aren’t too many things that measure up to that level of difficulty.

I wish I could say that I’m better at this by now, but I’m not.  

There are better days-I can laugh and rejoice and even sing-but when grief rolls over me it is just as devastating-every. single. time.

It doesn’t last as long.  

And for that I’m thankful. 

But ain’t nothing easy.

It’s still hard.  

For in grief nothing “stays put.” One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?

But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?

How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time.

~C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

 

Ain’t Got Time (Or Energy!) For That

I wouldn’t describe myself as an optimist. 

It’s not really that I always see the glass half-full, it’s just that somewhere, early in life, I learned to be thankful I had a glass.

half-full

So when faced with a challenge or problem or even devastating circumstances, my first thought is, “What resources do I have available to address this?”

I used to be able to take Negative Nellies in stride. 

I could brush off their comments like gnats in the summer. 

Annoying, but ultimately powerless to do me harm. 

And I used to spend a lot of time cheerleading for others-trying hard to help them see that whatever situation THEY were in was not as hopeless as they thought.

I tried to encourage friends, family and even acquaintances to use their own deep resources to tackle a problem.  

But somehow, in this Valley, surrounded by high mountains and with an unlit path winding long before me, negative talk, action and attitudes are on my nerves.

Instead of merely being an annoyance, it feels like these folks have tapped into whatever strength I have left and are draining it through a straw.

If I stick around too long, they will drain me dry.

So I turn and run when I can.  

Call it cowardice.  

I call it self-preservation.

paco face (2)
“Don’t try to win over the haters, you are not a jackass whisperer.” ~ Brene Brown

 

What Else Can I Do?

I will confess right here that this week I am more than tired. 

I’m defeated. 

I have fought the good fight, tried hard to endure and worked myself nearly to death and in the end can’t move the challenging situations I face one inch closer to resolution.

And like I’ve written before here,these months and years after Dominic ran to heaven have amply demonstrated the truth of the phrase “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.  It’s not the STRAW, it’s the unbelievable heavy weight the camel is already carrying!

That last, seemingly tiny, almost weightless additional burden sends the poor critter over the edge.

straw that broke camel back

But unlike a dumb animal, I don’t get to just lay down and give up.  My head and my heart tell me that if I do, the load will just shift to my family.  If I quit I can’t simply drift off into witless sleep where I don’t realize how hard I’m making it for everyone else.

So I don’t give up. 

I keep on keeping on. 

I raise my eyes to the sky and beg God to give me the grace and strength and help to endure. 

I beg for mercy-for some small token that things might just get better.  

I lean into the promises of God in Christ and hold on with both hands.  

What else can I do but keep praying to You even when I feel dark;

to keep writing about You even when I feel numb;

to keep speaking Your name even when I feel alone.

Come, Lord Jesus come.

Have mercy on me, a sinner.

-Henri Nouwen

 

Receiving Rest

It’s hard sometimes to admit that I’ve reached the end of my physical strength. 

I’m much more adept at finding the edges of my emotional limits.  I’m even half-way good at understanding that my brain just isn’t what it used to be.

But giving up on getting up?  That feels like defeat to me.

But it’s not.

I am a fragile human being and just like all human beings have limits.  My body can only take so much.  If I push too far past the boundary of exhaustion it will take more than rest to bring it back to working order.

tired

So today, after six weeks of stress, mental strain and travel, I’m resting.

Not just sitting down for a few minutes between chores but curling up with a book and glass of tea and not moving all day.

rest renew and reconnect

At least that’s my plan.

We’ll see how it goes.

I really need to rest.

I hope I can.

we all need a break ordained sabbath

Stressed: Why Doesn’t My Head Just Explode?

No days are easy when you are this side of child loss.

There is the constant burden of sorrow and pain bearing down on my heart and mind 24/7.  Then there are the little (and not so little!) everyday bumps along the road of life.

But sometimes it’s not a bump, but a mountain that looms large.  Or it may be a sinkhole that opens up and swallows days and weeks before you even realize how much time has passed since you last drew a calm breath.

These past weeks have been like that.

From the night my mother was lifeflighted to the hospital until today, we spent a week and a half in hospital plus these past few days at home trying to get her stable, better and transitioned to a new regimen that will hopefully keep her reasonably well.

While every medical professional gave great care, the majority of responsibility is falling on my dad and myself.  And it’s a huge adjustment for everyone.  No more in and out to the field on the tractor.  No more quick trips into town-at 2 litres of oxygen per hour it will take one portable tank just for the round trip.

Doctor appointments need to be carefully scheduled and routed to minimize time away from home where there is an unlimited supply of oxygen.

I am learning that elder care is a huge challenge-one I thought I knew (in principle, though not by experience).

I was dreadfully wrong.

Just like child loss, until a single call or event takes your world from “I’m in control” to “I have lost all control”, it’s impossible to understand.

There is so much to keep track of, to manage, to watch for, and to do that I honestly feel like my head is about to pop off.

Add random phone calls, doctor appointments, home health visits and (oh yes!) Hurricane Irma-well, you get the picture.

So here’s to all my fellow sandwich generation peers.

And here’s a special shout-out to the ones whose broken hearts already limp along because they are missing a child they love and are now caring for ailing parents as well.

May we all reach out to the only One Who can strengthen us for this journey.

May we speak courage to one another.  

May we extend grace to ourselves because no matter how hard we try to pretend otherwise, we are human.

shame for being human

 

 

Time (and Life!) Marches On

I’ve probaby heard the question a half-dozen times in the past three weeks as doctors or nurses were checking my mom’s mental function during her hospital stay:  What year is it?

And every single time-even though I know full well that it is 2017-the answer makes me suck in my breath.  Because, really, how has the world kept turning since Dominic left us?

How, how, how can it be nearly three and a half years since I talked to him, hugged him, heard his voice?

But it is.  

And the further we get from that point in time when the world as I knew it came crashing down, the harder it is for people around me to remember that I continue to carry this load.

I’ve gotten stronger.  I’ve developed ways to work around the grief most days and in most situations.

Still, I find daily tasks more challenging than before.  Sadness sneaks up on me and tears leak from my eyes.  Anxiety stalks my heart and sometimes catches it.

I get tired-so, so tired-because there is just no reserve.

I wish I could press the “pause” button and give myself a little break.

But time (and life!) marches on.  

 

Closed For Repairs

Oh how I wish I could hang a sign for just a single day, “Closed for Repairs”!

I keep thinking that tomorrow or next week will be the little bit of respite I need to catch my breath and to do a few things I really must do for my own mental wellness.

But life has conspired to make that impossible.  

So here I am, hanging on by a thread again.  

Just barely managing to get by.  

Just barely managing to not scream in the middle of the grocery store when I can’t lift the case of Powerade bottles into the cart.  Just barely able to contain my panic when I reach for my checkbook and can’t find it in the bottom of my purse.  Just barely able to keep from crying when the bag rips putting it into the truck.

If the people around me knew how close I am to falling apart or breaking down, they would run away in fear of what might happen if I blow.  

Yes, it’s been three years.

But Dominic walked with me on this earth for nearly 24 years. Three years isn’t long enough to adjust to his absence.

I need a day off.

Or a week.  

Or a year.