Tag Archives: cry

Tissues and Tears

I am away with my love this weekend. We are relaxing at Lake Anna in the midst of a season of difficult challenges. Maybe it should be seasons. The seasons have rolled into years.

The years have been hard.

It is difficult for me to be in the early morning quiet. I recognize this, as anxiety begins to mount at the prospect of an unstructured day ahead. I do not have words to give the man sitting at the opposite end of the sofa as I stare out the window at the sun rising over the water.

Pulling a creamy-soft throw from the back of the sofa and tucking it around me, I curl into a fetal position, resting my head on a square pillow. A tear falls. I feel it slip out of the corner of my eye, roll down my cheek and drip off of my face. More threaten to fall, betraying that all is not well.

I am not fine, and I have thirty-six hours to figure it out, before I have to go back. That is how it has always felt.

This is your chance. You had better not waste it or squander it or use it unwisely, because another one won’t be coming around any time soon! Redeem that time, Sister. You have been given much, and of you much is required.

Mustering every ounce of courage to make any sound come out of my mouth, I use my voice to share what is inside. It feels terrifying. There is a battle raging in my head. I want to stay behind the wall.

I don’t know how to be me by myself, and I sure don’t know how to be me and you by ourselves, and I am going to just ruin all of this!

Tears explode and fall in full-force sobs. I am sobbing on our first of two mornings together without parental and adult responsibilities before we have to go back. I feel self-contempt mounting and fight it fiercely.

Why can’t I just be carefree and fun?

Love pulls my feet into his lap and offers me comfort. He lets me ugly-cry and sob and leans over to rub my scalp and hug me. I feel so much resistance and try to stay present. I try to receive care without gauging what it will cost me.

Care comes at a cost, you know. Will this be worth it?

I fight against resistance to share with and be real with this life-partner who sits with me on the other side of the wall. Coming out from behind it is so scary and so hard and so risky for me.

I am met with safety and kindness. There is no judgment or expectation.

Love shares his feelings about sitting on the same side of the wall with me. I try not to twist them into something they are not.

They are only love and gratitude. I can choose to receive, which I do.

Grateful for the kindness offered to me to just be and process, I pull out a journal and begin to write. Thoughts come. Curiosities. More tears. I reach for tissues that begin to pile up. I consider taking a picture of them. That just seems wrong. I resist the urge.

Love gives me the space that I need. Little do I know I am being watched from above.

Always.

They Matter

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Facebook reminds me of this, and friends post their words on this, and stories flood back to me, and my heart grows heavy. I wrestle the with words I long to share, swirling inside of me, as my own darlings yell and fight over Saturday chores outside of my bedroom door.

Sitting in the space of pregnancy loss is uncomfortable. Something about the way it appears we had and have control over getting or not getting pregnant causes rationalization and hasty statements to make sense of the senseless. We want to push ahead to the but then this happened and look at how everything turned out just fine. In fact, if I hadn’t lost x then I wouldn’t have y.

And yet, x mattered, too. Every moment of x. The days written for x were x’s days to be, and I think we lose something if we leave x behind in the dust and ashes of rationalization and spiritualization. We cheapen all things working together for good when we fail to acknowledge all that is not as is should be. Working together for good and good are not the same.

First, there is grief and loss. Those things are not good.

I remember each pregnancy test I took. I can still feel the edginess of ambivalence, wondering if I really wanted to know, wondering if my life was about to change ~ again, wondering how I would break the news ~ again.

To write this from a place of eight pregnancies carried to term with relatively little complication is not meant to be insensitive to those who have struggled or never have or never will. There are pieces still in process in my story. I have struggled deeply. More than I am ready to share with the world today.

It is to say, I know the strong, life-changing feelings that occur simply by anticipating peeing on a stick (or in a cup as it was once-upon-a-time when pregnancy tests were more like chemistry sets!). I know the panic that blood during pregnancy brings. I have been there.

Knowing that blood equaled loss in my mother’s story, I thought it would be the same in mine, and prepared to lose my first dream, weeks into my marriage.

As it turned out, that first child has always been strong and made us well aware of her presence with the sound of a heartbeat, earlier than was supposed to be possible, according to the midwife. Nothing was sweeter and more reassuring than that sound of life galloping away inside of me.

But for a time, I was preparing for loss. I was on the edge of physically and emotionally losing the little one I had dreamed about and hoped for. Even in my ambivalence of newlywedded overwhelm and uncertainty, I wanted that little person so badly.

I wanted every one of them so badly. In the hard places, when I was not sure I was ready, once they were there, I could not imagine them not being. It is why I believe we usually get nine months to prepare. In best-case scenarios.

I have lost siblings to miscarriage. I have watched my mother grieve.

I have sat with women in hard places of loss, hearing heavy words and big feelings. I have held the fragile, lifeless body of my nephew born too soon while the same size of life grew inside of me. I have been unable to be there at times when I wish I could, leaving loved ones to suffer loss in loneliness.

I grieve.

Those little lives mattered. Each one of them. Even the ones that are hard to understand and process and place.

Every day that they lived was the life written for them. They had something to teach us and something to say. I find great comfort in Psalm 139:16, Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written every one of them the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.

Even 49 days matter. Even if another child is conceived two months after that. A child born after loss does not negate loss.

The secret things belong to the Lord, and there are things we will never understand this side of Heaven. Those who have experienced the profound loss of a child, or the hope of a child, or the death of the dream of a child, or a dream that they had for a child know that there are no easy answers. There is no making sense.

To those who have suffered pregnancy and infant loss, some of you sit in a space of longing for and missing your child, knowing with certainty your story of what was and then was not. Others sit in a place of confusion and conflict, not knowing for sure. I believe it is possible to know deep in your heart what was, even when no empirical evidence exists. Your body knows.

I invite you to consider what was written for you in the life of your child. What did that little one have to say to you? What were you taught through your little one’s days?

Because it matters. They matter.

Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief. Proverbs 14:13.

Summer Rising

It’s not even technically summer, yet, but we will call it summer.

School is out, finally and completely finished for everyone. The first morning of us all home together wrung me in the worst of ways. In the span of hours there were tears and heartache and disappointments and relief, and that was just from me.

Each child had his or her own voice to add to the chorus. Fifteen minutes of weeding the side yard and watering the rogue vines growing in the dirt pile out back offered a bit of relief for my soul.

I woke from a nightmare that was morbid and gruesome and disturbing. It’s meaning makes complete sense to me. My brain is full and dumping data on overtime’s schedule. Vivid dreams are one way I deal with overload.

After traveling at breakneck speed for the last weeks, it feels as if my internal emergency brake handle was pulled, leaving emotions to fly forward as I simultaneously jerk them back. The collateral damage felt through my eyes and heart reminds me of the messiness of even the good parts of life.

Day One. Send off adult kids to their own homes on the heels of a big graduation weekend. Process hard places and disappointments and Plan B with newest adult and send him off, as well. Hear the rest of the voices left under the roof, clamoring for attention. Drop one at a friend’s, take the others to the library, make semi-annual contribution to the library’s operating fund in the form of overdue book fees, talk to a sister or two on the phone, read for a little while. Try to write. Feel feelings that are stirring and allow self to cry. Go to quiet corner only to find it claimed by the queen of the house. Sit on bed instead.

Zephyr

I am trying to accept the arrival of summer with open hands. I see the kindness in the chaos and the goodness in the grief. It is only day one. There is time for space to open and for dust to settle and for change to offer perspective, as I feel summer rising.

Choosing Texas

Would you rather go to Hell or Texas?

Little Mae asks me this very question during our ride to school one morning in May. She sneaks it in after we finish dropping her older brother off at middle school but before arriving at ours. We are rounding the traffic circle, if memory serves.

I am shocked, stunned, slightly panicked.

Where in the world did THIS question come from and WHERE is it going?

Masking my ability to jump to the worst possible conclusion to anything in a single bound, I respond with a question of my own.

Why do you want to know?

I am learning, slowly, but surely, to put into practice all of those good parent techniques that other parents seem to have a handle on. Like asking clarifying questions.

Well, in Sunday School we are learning about the Apostle’s Creed, and there was the question, “Would you rather go to Hell or Texas?”

Aha! Now I have a context and framework. Of Course! He was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into Hell. The third day, he arose again from the dead. He ascended into Heaven. . .The words that I learned as a child flood back to my mind.

While some would say there is no difference, I definitely have my answer. . .

I would never want me or anyone to go to Hell, and I have been to Texas, so I definitely choose Texas.

In fact, I would love to be in Texas, where I was almost five years ago when I met the woman who would prove to be instrumental in guiding me to the place that I am today!

As is the case any time Mae and I engage in conversation, there is more. Big things and deep thoughts happen in the space of ten minutes, and this time is no exception.

At least I have someone I already know there waiting for me. You know. Porter?

My heart catches in my throat as we enter this new conversation about her cousin born too soon. I never know when to expect them or what to expect from them. Some times are predictable, like kindergarten graduation when they would have graduated together. Others are not, like when we are driving to school.

Yes. Porter is already in Heaven waiting for you. It will be exciting to meet him one day. It’s nice to have someone you know already there before you. . .

We talk about him for awhile and remember together. Well, I remember, and share with her. Each year, she understands a little more. She always understands that he is the cousin her age that is not here.

Just like Kirk has Deacon, and Chloe and Kanah have Jude. She loves Hadassah, but Porter is the one who would have been her age. In her class.

Porter is the one who is missing. Waiting for us on the other side.

So this year on the day that we should be celebrating him turning eight, I honor him by remembering him and reminding us that his life mattered. It still matters. He matters.

We miss you, Porter Silas. We wonder what you would look like and what you would act like. I wonder what it would have been like to teach three second graders this year, with you as a role model to those first grade boys, balancing out that first and second grade table of five at lunch. I wonder what it would have been like to teach you. Thank you for all that you taught us during your short, meaningful life. Thank you for living out each day written for you with purpose and dignity, even when we didn’t, and still don’t, understand why you had to leave us so soon. We are honored to call you nephew and cousin. We remember and will choose Texas every time. We can’t wait to meet you one day in Heaven.

Friendship Friday ~ Adult Daughter

Hi mama I miss you <3

The text comes through at 8:33pm, shortly after returning home from a failed shopping trip with one of her younger sisters. I am in tears, parenting solo this night, trying to get everyone what they need and where they need to be. I am up to my eyeballs in the thankless hard work of it all.

My partner on the journey is off on a well-deserved break, nurturing his creative outlet. Connecting with the adult daughters is a bonus he looks forward to. I encourage him in this endeavor, realizing he doesn’t get enough of it. Time for himself, that is.

The long day had morphed into a daunting evening. It is in the clothing store while experiencing deja-vu that I consider clarifying my life mission to Ruining the lives of young girls, one daughter at a time.

Pulling out my lifeline phone, I begin composing a text to an adult daughter who has already walked this same road with me as a tween/teen. Then I delete it, chiding myself for feeling a need to involve her in my struggle, having already survived the torture that was my mothering.

Tween daughter and I leave the store empty-handed, invectives and accusations searing my ears over the lack of clothing choices and my failure to mother well, every weakness noted and footnoted and trigger pushed. Tears sting my eyelids. Heart pounds in my chest. I cling to composure and arrive home to tuck the younger sister into bed and bid adieu to my shopping partner, whom I clearly fail by the minute.

Settling into my room, allowing tears sobs to flow freely, the text arrives.

Hi mama I miss you . . .

I respond with how I am feeling, and she reminds me that it is a phase. She shares her adult daughter perspective with me. She demonstrates love for the younger sister with her words and reminders to me about how it feels to be young with big feelings. She speaks words of kindness and truth about my writing and her thoughts on where it is headed and encourages me to keep on in the bigness and hard of it all.

She reminds me it is okay to rest, and when I text, Thanks. That’s what I need to do. Just. Go. To. Bed, she replies with Or a bath and bed. 🙂

That’s my girl. I feel so blessed.

Often, Steve and I comment to each other that it would be nice to say, Oh well, too bad we screwed up those four kids. At least we tried, and then go on with our life NOT having to keep up with parenting four more. It is hard to stay engaged and energized.

Then there are moments when a text comes through from an adult daughter turned friend that reminds you that this, too, shall pass. You are not alone.

How You Know Me

It depends.

I realized this while at a Harrisonburg High School performance of Aida last Saturday night. It was my second time in attendance, the first being during the preview show. Free tickets and deeply discounted tickets encouraged us to load up the not-so-littles on a Wednesday night to watch the show and listen for their big brother on the drum set.

My first-born son, second-born child, and alumnus of Harrisonburg High School, attended with me the second time, having driven up from his adult life in Roanoke for the weekend. Six years before began his adventure at HHS as a junior, and he sang in two musicals, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, during his time there.

Six years ago the littles were 7, 5, 3, and 1. Drum set brother was 11.

During intermission and after the show, my eldest son connected with friends and caught up with former teachers. I wandered with him, as well, tagging along, a third wheel feeling stirring inside. Small talk has never been my strong suit. There were several parents of students from his era who complimented me on senior son’s drumming.

Is he (drummer child) your youngest?

This question, and others about family size, drags me by the ankle and pulls me under in the deep end of the conversation pool, because acknowledging that, no, he is actually the fourth of eight stirs up a whole lot of what is still unresolved in my heart. They are just making conversation, not expecting my freaky fact to surface, and have no real follow-up other than some version of, I was not expecting you to say that.

Those who had never met my eldest son, and who met me through child four, were surprised that I had older children.

I thought he (drummer child) was your oldest!

And there you have the beef  that drummer child has with me in the first place, being in the awkward middle. He is the baby of the olders and the biggest of the youngers. Depending on how you know me, maybe it is all starting to make sense, now. Maybe not.

As I allowed my heart to feel all of the big feelings surrounding watching my senior son on stage for senior night that I would have missed had not adult son come to visit, tears began to flow. As I continue to embrace my story and the fact that most people’s issues don’t follow them around and call them Mom, tears flow. Trying to find words to sort the overwhelming bigness that is my life brings tears.

As did this musical. If you have never heard of or seen Aida the Elton John/Tim Rice musical, look it up. Start by watching the video below of a song from the show called “How I Know You” which just seemed perfect considering the theme of this post.

How do you know me?

Sometimes You Start with the Cake

My husband celebrates his birthday on January 10, a day that comes on the heels of a big season of celebrating ~ Christmas, New Year’s Eve, our Anniversary. It arrives before the tiniest bit of breathing room, and we celebrate two of our children at the end of the month.

He has always been gracious and low-maintenance about his day. His only request is the cake. It is a chocolate layer cake with three textures ~ cake layers, mousse middle, and ganache frosting. It is divine.

This year, with all of the busyness, he said, You don’t have to make the cake. I will just pick out a cake at Costco.

Now Costco has wonderful cakes, but I wrestled with the fact that the cake is one of the few special things I do for his birthday, and I really wanted to bake it, as always. I made up my mind to just do it.

Mixing up the wet ingredients, then the dry ones to add to the batter, I realized that I had measured the wrong amount of salt. I haven’t baked for awhile! was running through my head.

Dumping the dry ingredients into the trash, I measured again, carefully this time, and continued with the recipe. I poured beautiful batter into greased and lined pans. They baked while I began the mousse filling.

Pulling the pans from the oven, my first thought was, I don’t remember the layers looking so flat, but there are a lot of things I don’t remember that turn out fine. I continued.

Cooling the cake, I fluffed up the mousse and frosted between the layers. It was time to mix up the ganache and pour it over the top of the cake. This plate that I have the cake on makes it look really small. I’m sure it’s fine, though. No one will notice.

Smoothing the thick chocolate over the top and letting it drip down the sides of the layers, I returned the cake to the fridge to rest for the evening. It would be ready for the birthday celebration the following day.

Why does that cake look so small? exclaimed my little noticing truth-teller, the minute she opened the fridge the next morning. So it wasn’t just me. The wheels in my head began turning, and doubt that I had added baking soda during the second mixing settled firmly.

I thought it looked a little small, too, added the one whose birthday was being celebrated, but I’m sure it will still taste good.

The tearburst that followed caught us both off guard, as I sat crying about so many things, the least of which was the cake but also about the cake.

That’s what found us lighting candles and singing “Happy Birthday” at 8:30 on a Sunday morning in January. Because sometimes you start with the cake.

It was delicious. A little dense, but oh so tasty. Happy Birthday, Steve! Top o’ the morning to you!

happy birthday

 

Love Is Time Away

A few weekends ago, Steve and I took some much-needed time away together, with the holiday season in full swing. The timing was not ideal, but is it ever? As I type this line, I am transported in my mind to twenty-four years ago when we were saying, I do, at a time that was less-than ideal.

Today is our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary and the twenty-ninth anniversary of the season when we met.

There is a backstory to our time away, and while I could post pictures of festive decorations and divine cheese platters and gush about the reflexology treatment and hot-stone massage that my darling booked for me in advance, there would be much missing. There would be a glaring omission of the reality that we had to fight hard for this time and were almost taken down for the count.

That, dear reader, is the part that I want to share with you. Reality.

The story began last fall, summer, even, when my dearest asked our firstborn and her husband if they could spend Labor Day weekend with the kids so that we could go away together. Three nights alone seemed an incredible luxury. I was looking forward to it desperately.

When back-to-school life got full and pressures started bearing down, a voice inside reminded me that it would be worth it all when we were away. I could work really hard to get the school year going and then relax into the long weekend, emerging refreshed and re-connected with my partner in the midst of all of the madness.

We were both so caught up in our duties and responsibilities that a glaring omission happened. We failed to book a destination. This reality struck the week before we were to go away, when a painful conversation took place, leaving me feeling let-down, hurt, and angry.

Festering heart wounds that I thought had been dealt with, broke open and began to ooze painfully. I spent time trying to figure out a kind, yet honest, way to express my deep disappointment.

Too often I have offered a quick, That’s okay! or It’s no big deal! to things that were NOT okay and WERE big deals. It was a new path for me to sit in the hard place of feeling my feelings without minimizing them and of hurting without accusing my partner in anger. It was a struggle not to lash out at the one I love while in pain.

After these honest conversations, Labor Day weekend found us dog-sitting so that our daughter and son-in-law could go camping. We stayed at the house laboring, as usual. It was not the weekend I had envisioned, and I felt hurt and disappointed.

Steve quickly arranged for the next available time that the married adult couple could come and stay for a weekend. It was months away in December, but just having a date on the calendar was encouraging.

Things were rolling along smoothly. A non-refundable, non-transferable location was booked in Williamsburg, and Christmas Town tickets were purchased. Planning was enjoyable, and we were communicating. I had requested an entire Friday off to have a leisurely morning to myself before stealing away together.

I was picturing it in my head, and it was BEAUTIFUL!

Then things started to happen. Plans began to shift and change for honest reasons. Human error in communication caused the wrong weekend to be booked. We could still go away, but the child-care factor became much more labor-intensive and complicated.

I did not like the revised plan I was hearing. It felt forced and overwhelming and exhausting. Much complicated planning needed to happen just to arrive at our destination. It was not as I had envisioned. To top it off, the night before our planned departure, Steve became ill. He took to bed in a manner unusual for him unless it is serious. It was serious.

I was left in the nebulous unknown of wondering if I should continue to pack children to take to their siblings instead of having siblings come to them. I wondered if we would be able to go away at all.

Frankly, I was finished. Tired. Done.

My day off dawned, not as I had planned. It found me driving kids to school instead of rolling over for a little more sleep. After the drop off, I checked in with Steve who was not sure how he felt and did not look great.

Our revised plan had been to drive two cars to drop the kids with their adult siblings in Richmond on our way to Williamsburg. That would leave a vehicle for them to drive back to Harrisonburg that would fit everyone. Steve didn’t look up to the driving challenge. I was already less-than-thrilled with that idea BEFORE sickness crept in.

Let’s just not go. This is getting ridiculous. When are we going to read the sign that says this is not a good idea? What else has to happen?

We had until 11:00 to cancel the massage appointment he had booked. He wanted a little more rest, leaving me to make a teary call to my sister to help me process. She helped me sort out my heart, and when we hung up I realized that I needed to try.

Trying looked like seeing if there was any way to have the kids cared for here in town overnight instead of having to drive them to Richmond. The Richmond connection could drive themselves here the next day and hang out until we got home.

I reached out to friends and family who were able to say yes. While Steve slept, I arranged and drove around and packed up and picked up and dropped off. When he woke, I presented the new plan, which I think was plan d by this point. The kids were accounted for, he could sleep in the car while I drove, and we would at least be away, alone together.

If he felt better, great. If not, he could sleep while I read, addressed Christmas cards, wrote, did yoga, got a massage. We could watch movies or listen to podcasts together. It actually wasn’t looking too bad!

The bottom line is that we were able to go away, but it wasn’t easy.

We listened to podcasts together in the car. After a night of rest, Steve felt well enough to walk in the woods while I experienced a restorative massage. We ate at The Cheese Shop in downtown Williamsburg and walked around Merchant’s Square. We napped and relaxed. I didn’t write any Christmas cards. We didn’t make it to Christmas Town.

Our time together was too short. It always is. But it happened.

It was worth fighting for, because love is.

us

 

Return to Year’s End

It’s another year’s end. Almost. Today I sit in the tension of a messy house and messy relationships and messy conversations and a messy heart.

Floodplain, the latest project by Sara Groves, plays in the background while my youngest plays in a box in the living room for her not-so-quiet-time.

Really we don’t need much
Just strength to believe it
There’s honey in the rock
There’s more than we see.

These patches of joy
These stretches of sorrow
There’s enough for today
There will be enough tomorrow.

I’m trying to trust enough for today.

My brain works faster than my fingers as thoughts bombard my head, trying to connect in a coherent way. Last year’s word drifts through my mind, filtering experiences and thoughts through its grid.

Did I do enough? Get it right? How was my progress?

I’ve been here before. . . Sara croons in the background. Friends, get this album. *She has an incredible gift . . . wondering why I can’t do better than I’ve done.

The hand of grace reaches down to me ~
A voice inside says that I can be free.

And I sit here wanting to be anyone but myself.

A voice inside says that I will be free.

Ah, yes, it’s another year’s end.

*When I say get this album, I mean it is amazing. I receive nothing from this link other than the joy of knowing that others may discover Sara’s gift of singing to the heart.*

Son

When you defer hope, it is hard.
You don’t see results right away.
It sickens the heart,
and it dampens the eyes,
and the heaviness seems here to stay.

But listen, my son,
Please be wise.
Hear instruction and carefully heed
the words that remind you to keep pressing on,
to be honest about what you need.

Little by little advance.
Push through the pain and the strife.
One day you will see
your desire fulfilled.
It will be like a tree of life.

Be diligent in what you do,
and your soul will be richly supplied.
And the sweetness and good
and the wisdom you gain
Will be worth all the tears you have cried.

~thoughts for a Son from Proverbs 13~