2017: On healing, compassion for a fallen tree, and the okayness of pain

On this New Year’s Day, the first day of 2017, I want to say that I still carry around a lot of raw feelings about the years of multiple pregnancy losses I recently experienced. It is difficult to parse out, sometimes, what exactly I am going through when I feel depressed, angry, or just sad. After all, these are normal human emotions. But then I sit with the feeling and see behind it and there it is–the years of isolation, loss, hopelessness, suicidal ideation, grief, fear, anxiety, rage, when I was losing babies and losing my heart and mind.

Also, I am going to be 43 soon, and my body isn’t feeling so good (I know I have to–have to–develop some sort of regular aerobic exercise habit that doesn’t cause injuries, I’m thinking I’ll try Pure Barre). And at times my premenstrual days are quite brutal, emotionally (Christmas Day was a bear of a Day One of my period, and the next day I caught my dad’s flu). There is unhealed rage inside me, living there, I know it, I feel it, and I know I sometimes still act out toward others in my life (my husband, my parents) because of it. I will think I have let go of resentments totally, but then I find myself in a dark, angry little vortex that has been there since the pain of loss started in 2012. There are quite a few vortexes inside, swift-acting land mines in the vast landscape of me.

I want to be a better person. I want to be calmer, more loving, less pessimistic, less angry. But there are other hurts, too, ones that go back and back and back to my childhood, that will also probably be there forever. They can’t be eradicated. But I can learn (and relearn) to live with them in as healthy a way as possible.

I am happy often. Fulfilled. Joyous. Energetic. It’s not always anger, sadness, depression, exhaustion, and body aches in my world. I said to my husband the other day, “I suffer so much. I am a deeply flawed human being.” And he said, “But you are also a deeply wonderful human being, a lot of the time.” Which was very generous of him, since he often bears the brunt of my frustrations.

The old bear Injustice raised its angry claws during this visit home to my parents. I got into a fight with my mom, and I realize, now, that I shouldn’t have. It was very short-lived and we are fine now, but I think I took out a lot of old hurts on her. I also called my aunt and roared my frustrations about my mom to her. Ugh. I wish I wouldn’t have. I realize that Christmastime is an extremely emotional time for me for so many reasons. The explosion that led to my breakup with my first husband happened Christmas of 2007. Then there were the lonely Christmases I thought I was lost forever. Then the Christmases I was losing what I thought would be my children and felt no one was supporting me the way I needed. And the Christmas I realized that my parents have no retirement savings left and will have to work until they drop. Much percolates to the surface around this time of year for me.

All the while, my S is singing, dancing, laughing, talking in sentences, making us all feel wonderful. He is such a unifier. His natural compassion is breathtaking.

The other day, we went for a walk, and he went up to a fallen tree and had a little talk with it. “Tree fall down,” he said. “Boom,” he said. “I hug,” he said. He wrapped his arm around the trunk and squeezed. “Happy now, Tree? Better?” He walked around to the other side of the trunk and hugged it, too. Then he patted the trunk gently for a while, looking down at it. Then he walked on. This was all unprompted by me and did not involve me. I just stood back and watched. Tears in my eyes.

That night, he said, “Mama, we bed. We snugoo.” (Snuggle.) And on the bed he said, “I hug,” and gave me a long, strong hug. I know that he could sense that something was a little off with me, that I was less happy than usual, because of some of the complicated feelings I was having about past hurts. “I love you, Mama,” he said, so clearly. “Arms,” he said, patting my arms. “Legs. Mama’s legs,” he whispered, giving them little pats. He pulled my arm over his little body so we could spoon and if I moved an inch he pressed that arm back down. “I happy,” he said. “Happy baby. You happy, mama?”

“Oh yes, I’m very happy, here with you, my sweet baby,” I said.

His affection is like medicine for the soul, for all people and creatures and plants around him. He shows this same sort of closeness with my parents and with DH. He loves love. He loves happy. In fact, when he falls down, he might cry for a while, but he is quick to assure us that he is happy. The parenting challenges are getting trickier already, because I want to somehow impart to him that it is okay to be unhappy when he falls down, that he doesn’t have to reassure us. It is okay to be sad and hurt.

I have to learn to model this tricky, tricky thing for him. We hurt, we are hurt, we live on. We heal, we don’t heal. We go down, we go up. All of that is just as it should be.

I have to model how to live a life that includes the pain and rage of injustice. The hollow grief of profound loss.

If we fall down and get up, we can cry, we don’t have to be happy about it. We can rage, cry, and we can even dwell, if we want to. All feelings are valid.

And it is never his job to reassure me. It is my job to hold and reassure him.

But he came from the stars and his star-creature nature is right there on the surface of him, at two years old, pure immortality stuff. A light that radiates, and I do believe his natural inclination is to shine.

At the beginning of 2017, I am committing myself to finding my own shining light, again. Since the election, I’ve been diving down into the depths, surfacing with glee, then going under again. The practical side of less deep-muck diving: More aerobic exercise and less social media and news articles about “Trump’s America” (a phrase I abhor, by the way). I do my weekly political actions (phone calls to representatives, and so on) and then if I get sucked into media, I watch the clock and turn away at a predetermined time. Other practicalities include focusing on buying a house (appointments lined up for next weekend) and perhaps pushing for a move this summer (better to get it over with now, while I’m not working, I think, and begin focusing on creating a home we’ll have for years). Completing what I need to do to get my PA clinical social work license is also very important. And the next big step: Getting a job of some sort. It’s important that I start making money again, continue to develop my career, and contribute to retirement savings. S will still be at his wonderful school next year (I continue to be in love with this dreamy place, the time they spend in nature in the snow, the relationships he is forming) and if I need to I can bump him up from three half-days to five half-days, should I find something to match those hours. It has to happen soon, because so many of our stresses are financial. Also: I’m absolutely dying to take S on vacation with us somewhere beautiful–and to go to Europe with DH, as he has never been!

Time to get some Bailey’s and go back to my parents’ house, where DH and I are going to make pork and sauerkraut and probably play with a few diggers, cars, trucks, dump trucks, big rigs, and trains. The biggest hit of Christmas Day, as far as presents go, was a stack of musty old model-train collector magazines from 1989 that we got for $3 at a PA train museum. “Oh wow,” S said when he opened them. “Wow-o-wow-o-wow.” One morning I came out, and there he was sitting in a chair at the kitchen, reading his train magazine and sipping his milk, paging through it quietly, while his Pa-Paw sat beside him reading his own magazine and drinking coffee. Old soul, I tell you.

But he’s a toddler, too. “We run?” he asks us. And we run through the house. “Mark, go! I win! I beat Mama!” Christmas Day, he led countless “races,” the entire crazy extended family running after him in a line through the basement.

Up, down. Up, down. Compassion for a fallen tree, compassion for one another and for ourselves. Learning repeatedly how to hold it all. Happy 2017, everyone.

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. I just love how loving and caring and compassionate S is. A ray of sunshine in darkness. I had to read to my husband about the old model train magazines and how he was reading it while sipping his milk. Definitely old gentle soul. As for you my friend, I hope that this year you get to be more calm and loving, and be able to find the house that you want, and get that license that you need and find that job that brings you fulfillment on top of financial security. Hope that bright and joyful days way outnumber any dark days that you may have. <3

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  2. I love when you talk about S–what a blessing he is! I’m wishing you health and wealth in the new year–that you find fulfilment in those areas of your life that you feel are lacking. <3 XOXO

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  3. I love this: “I have to learn to model this tricky, tricky thing for him. We hurt, we are hurt, we live on. We heal, we don’t heal. We go down, we go up. All of that is just as it should be.” On NYE we went to a party, and my belly has become the universal conversation piece. The people at the table (2 of whom are about to get married and don’t have children) were talking about the simple goals for what they want to teach their children: “I just want them to be happy” or “I want them to be passionate about something.” I said that I thought my goals were maybe a little loftier than that, and the thing I hoped to really impart on my girls is resiliency because it is the thing that has carried me in my own life – that strength to emerge from grief or failure, learn from it, find places for the dark stuff that doesn’t go away without enabling it to shroud the brightness, letting go of what I can and being patient with that process, accepting the messiness of everything and not allowing it to paralyze me or steal from me what is still possible. This is a tricky thing to teach and model, but it is so essential and, IMO, a large part of what the generation I teach has missed in their parents’ efforts to make sure they are happy, Happy, HAPPY all the time and sheltered from anything that might disturb that. You’re a damn good mama :)

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  4. Similar thoughts over here lady. The past few years have been rough, but right now life is pretty good. Someone forgot to send my body the memo though because it’s still on edge and worn out from trauma and stress. There’s a sense of coming out of it all now. I think we gotta take a step back and be kind to ourselves. You’ve been through a lot and you’re pushing into a new phase, new career stuff, housing, growing kiddo. Lots to get excited for and to keep fighting for. xo

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  5. Oh man, S has melted my heart into a big puddle all over the floor. <3

    Reply

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