Throwing In The Towel

I don’t like boxing.  

While there are those who defend the sport as the ultimate test of one man’s strength, fortitude and endurance against another, all I see is a couple of guys beating each other to a pulp.  

But I understand the heart of a fighter.  

I know what it feels like to be down but refuse to stay down.  I’ve lifted myself up and stumbled back into the center of the ring waiting for the next punch to land.

I’ve waved off the good advice of those in my own corner who say, “Take a breather.  Rest a little.  Sit awhile.”

But I’m throwing in the towel.  

Not for good.  

Just for today.  

liberal-blog-down-for-the-count

There’s been so much going on lately that I think I’m finally down for the count.  

I don’t care that summer days mean sunshine until eight.  I don’t care that I haven’t managed to complete half my list.  

I’m going to bed, curling up with a good book and reading until I fall asleep.  

I hope I don’t wake until sunrise.  

sunrise trees

Sleepless Nights

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.  

back-to-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.

to do list

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.  

Maybe. 

Eventually.  

sands of time

 

 

 

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

 

 

Between Sleep and Wake: Speaking Peace To My Heart

When I was a little girl, I struggled mightily being afraid of the dark.

Sometimes I could barely close my eyes because I was scared something terrible would happen between going to sleep and waking up.

I outgrew that as I grew into my faith.

go to sleep in peace

But after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I found myself again afraid to go to sleep.  

Not because of “monsters” hiding beneath the bed but because it was between sleep and wake that he left.

I fell asleep with four living children and woke up with three.

I’m still not so good at falling asleep or staying asleep-just another change child loss has wrought in my life.  Most nights I have to talk myself into it.  

I recite truth to my spirit, sing songs to my soul.  

trust god in the light

I remind my heart that God was with me and was with Dominic the night he was killed. 

He was with me the morning I got the news and Dominic is with Him forever in Heaven.

I’ve learned that leaning into Him, I can find rest and wake to a new day, confident that whatever the sunrise brings, I am not alone.  

and when I wake up you are still with me

Emotional Bankruptcy: I Can’t Spend the Same Energy Twice

I wasn’t born with an “I don’t give a hoot” gene.

When I commit to a person, a project or a problem, I’m all in-no holding back.

That’s why this side of Dominic’s leaving I’ve been very cautious about making commitments. But in the past year I’ve begun branching out and joining in again.

In many ways it has been a positive experience.

In other ways, not so much.

Last evening was one of those times.

Some critical tasks are undone for a large project where deadlines are fast approaching. They are not my assigned tasks although I could perform them if I had the time and/or energy.

But I just don’t have either one.

So there is friction and panic and rush in the group that didn’t need to be there.  I won’t withdraw-I’m committed to fulfill my responsibilities but now I am burdened with all this negative emotional energy.

It followed me home and try as I might I was unable to regather my peace of mind.

I had spent all the emotional reserve I had for yesterday on keeping my responses controlled and relatively kind when people were trying to foist extra responsibilities on me as we walked out the door.

By the time I went to bed I was emotionally bankrupt.

The little bit of extra I depend on each night to keep my mind and heart focused on positive things as I drift off to sleep was spent.

I had nothing left.

I got to the edge of sleep over and over and the thought, “Dominic is dead.” flashed like lightning through my mind.  The thought brought horrible feelings with it.  I couldn’t escape no matter how hard I tried.

Eventually, exhausted, I fell asleep.  It was an awful sleep.  I woke up many times to the same thought all night long.  I will suffer for it today-sluggish and unable to concentrate.

THIS is why I can’t afford to get involved like I used to before Dominic ran ahead to heaven-not because I don’t care or I don’t want to-but because I CAN’T.

I cannot spend the same emotional energy twice.

I’ve only got so much to give.

daring to set boundaries brene brown

 

 

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

What Helps and What Hurts

I am committed to continue to trust Jesus and to look to the Word of God for my hope and direction in this life and in the one to come.

I speak truth to my heart through Scripture, worship songs, testimonies of others who have gone before and remaining in community with other believers.

But I’ve yet to reach the place where I can plan on most days being better days rather than hard ones.

I’m trying.

And I’m working to tease out the influences that make a difference-both the ones that help and the ones that hurt.

So here’s the list so far:

WHAT HELPS

  • Starting the day with Bible reading
  • Writing out a verse or two that speaks hope to my heart
  • Listening to worship music
  • Feeling well-less physical pain translates to an overall sense of well-being
  • Having a plan for the day-even if it is simple and created in broad strokes, knowing what I plan to do gives me a reason to get up and get going
  • Seeking companionship with other believers either via Facebook groups, telephone calls, in person get togethers or messaging.
  • Allowing myself a set time to grieve-cry, pray, lament, or whatever-then moving on with the day
  • Mixing up physical activity with rest-changing my body position often reorients my attitude.
  • Striving to get proper sleep, eating good food (not junk and not mindlessly), exercising and stretching.
  • Crying-if I need to cry I’ve found allowing the tears to fall is much better than fighting them off all day.
  • Retreating when necessary-if I find a situation is too much for me to handle, I give myself permission to retreat.  Most things can be done another day.  Sometimes just granting myself permission means I have the courage to press on and face it.
  • Planning for hard things.  If I know I’m going to have to face a hard thing, then I try to plan it.  I prepare myself by thinking through (as much as possible) various outcomes.  I’m more prepared and usually it goes better than I anticpated.
  • Not overscheduling my days/weeks-it is harder than it used to be to get going in the mornings so I take that into consideration when making appointments.  If I have a busy day on Monday, I will try to make Tuesday open and relaxed.  Having space between commitments gives me time to recoup and minimizes anxiety.
  • Doing as many things via Internet and telephone as possible-I can do needful things even if I’m having a bad day if I don’t have to get dressed and go out to do them.

WHAT HURTS

  • Neglecting my spiritual life-if I don’t read Scripture, don’t engage with other believers and refuse to acknowledge and thank God for the blessings He still bestows-I can quickly succumb to the dark whispers of the enemy of my soul.
  • Ignoring physical needs-when I don’t prioritize sleep, good nutrition, adequate exercise and appropriate pain control (for my RA) then sadness is multiplied and it is so much harder to climb out of the pit of despair.
  • Carrying unnecessary burdens-I cannot MAKE anyone understand the pain and ongoing challenge of child loss.  So when people outside my immediate grief circle question my feelings or try to make me conform to their expectations of what grief should look like and how long it should last, I have to shake it off. If it’s an important and ongoing relationship, I try to help them understand but if they choose not to or if it is a tangential relationship, I let it go.  I refuse to carry the burden of others’ expectations in addition to the burden of burying my child.
  • Being ignored-it hurts to be ignored.  It hurts when someone asks how I am yet doesn’t allow the space and time for me to answer.  It hurts when I answer and they ignore my pain or dismiss it with a story or platitude or Bible verse or just don’t say anything.
  • Being shamed-it hurts for others to shame me by implying that I am not strong in my faith or not trusting Jesus or not hoping hard enough for heaven when I admit I still struggle in grief and still miss my son.
  • Disregarding my triggers:  There are certain situations that I know will guarantee a breakdown, panic or a crying fit.  I avoid them when I can.  If I can’t-then I make a plan of escape (just in case).
  • Being “on display” for others-I am one woman doing the best I can to walk faithfully with Jesus through an unbelievably painful experience.  I am not the Author and Finisher of your faith-Jesus is.  It hurts when I feel like others are watching to see if I’ll make it, if I’ll say the “wrong” thing, if I’ll admit that I doubt.  I want the same freedom others have to grow in my faith and to make mistakes and learn from them.  I don’t want to be a “poster child” for anything.
  • Friends staying away.  I know it is hard to be my friend right now.  You never know what you might get when you call.  But if you ARE my friend, please don’t stay away.  Please reach out even when it makes you uncomfortable.  A good word at the right moment is often the difference between a very bad and very lonely day and a pretty good and generally hopeful one.
  • Hiding my sorrow-when I try to pretend I am stronger than I really am or when I try to hide my tears it takes so much energy and makes me so less capable to do the other things life requires.

These are just some of the things that help/hurt me in my journey.  I would love to have others share what helps/hurts them in theirs.  There’s strength in community.

Leave your thoughts in the COMMENTS below!