It’s the Hard Knock Life

I always thought the song was called, “It’s a Hard Knock Life.” Google it. I promise–it’s “the”–not “a.”

And, now, just so you can sing along with me:

On a more serious note, I have been in the midst of trauma and turmoil for the last couple of months. While I won’t go into details (we all have our sad, dark, difficult moments), I would like to share with you a small bit of wisdom I have learned.

Life is hard.

Sometimes it’s harder than hard. And sometimes it just plain sucks.

Wait–let me backtrack a bit. I was a teenager once. Were you? Did we know each other? Maybe you will remember as I do that I wasn’t the happiest person. My favorite shirt had Eeyore (from Winnie the Pooh) on the front–you know, the character that is associated with lines like, “Tut, tut. Looks like rain”–that was me.


photo credit

I loved the rain. (Isn’t it romantic, and sad?) I loved nothing more than to turn on “Pictures of You” by The Cure or “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M. and watch the rain fall.

Then, I grew up a little, got a little less teen angsty, and decided that life was better in the sunshine. I worked hours on retraining the default settings of my brain to reflect on positive aspects of life. I began to count blessings instead of troubles. And I chose happiness.

(That’s probably the hardest part right now. Happiness evades me daily. I want it back, and I’m trying each moment of each day to choose it–but I get tired of walking down the staircase and reliving my baby’s fall, my legs shaking so much on the ambulance drive with him, thinking of myself in the front seat pleading with the driver to tell me about himself as a distraction from my little guy lying on a backboard while three EMTs tended to him, the sleepless days and nights in ICU that followed, and the fear of coming home and seeing it all happen again.)

Trauma is real. And I pray, but it’s still there. I read and study, but the pain aches in my chest, my head, my heart. I smile, and every once in a while, the smile feels sincere.

And even though we’ve had so many gifts and blessings (and he is healing), I pull my knees to my chest and cry–more often than I did as a fifteen-year-old.

And I am grateful. And I am smiling, softly, not with my lips but with my eyes, thinking of each of you–your friendship, support, and love.

And someday, when I tell myself that “everything will be okay,” the phrase will stop feeling like a lie. And everything will be okay (even though life will still be hard).

At least I’m learning, right?

Ode to the Washing Machine

I’m sad to let you go…

We’ve seen hours of work together, you and I
I count you among my closest friends

You came into my life when I was expecting my first child
Since then, we’ve worked together, preparing and cleaning clothing for
Many who followed.

You’ve seen me through infant twins
(and all their laundry).

You’ve been strong through it all
Stalwart, faithful

(Except for the time you broke, and then broke again)
YouTube was our lifesaver, yours and
Mine

I couldn’t count the loads we’ve carried
Together.

Now, as we part ways, I feel sadness
Mixing with gratitude

Your replacement is new and shiny, with fancy
Lights and buttons, innovative settings and a computer chip

But I will miss you.

Thank you.

What’ll I Do?

I stare at my phone again, pressing into the home button with my finger for at least the eighty-seventh time today. I don’t know what I’m hoping to see…some magic message app, like one of those black and white eight-ball fortune tellers we used to ask questions of when we were teenagers, trusting that the answer was the gospel truth.

Yes, I think that’s what I’m wanting tonight.

But my apps all look the same.

Earlier today, the clip-clop of my clogs against the pavement and the dripping sound off the roof reminded me in a fierce way that I had several cups of water earlier that needed to leave my body. I wanted relief.

That relief was only temporary.

The ache I feel is still here.

I’m sure it will eventually fade, or I will just become used to it…my new normal. But I fear that, at some point, my capacity for accepting another new normal will deteriorate so much that I can no longer find it.

I’m hoping the tears will come soon.

“Water cleanses you know, washes away dirt, makes new.” –STP

My mother used to sing this song by Irving Berlin:

“What’ll I do when you are far away
And I am blue, what’ll I do?”

I’m feeling this way now, like a piece of me is far away, out of touch, out of reach…and I have a million or more things on my “to-do list.”

But I just want to sit here and swipe my phone…waiting for some message or answer about what I’m to do.

Tonight I will go to bed and wake again tomorrow and move on…and thankfully the tears have started to fall. Yes, maybe I’ll be new tomorrow.

But tonight, I will just sit here and wait. Wait for the void to fill somehow. And wait for the memories to spread into my heart, to fill the empty place.

And someday I know I will feel whole again.

Flags

I walked into the almost empty room, noting the somber expressions on once-familiar faces, and moved toward Joan, who had already taken her place by our son.

I took my steps carefully through the aisle, shaking a few hands along the way, until I reached for Joan’s freshly-lotioned hand and felt her squeeze mine back gently.  I wondered if she took strength from me or gave it back.

Then I saw him.  I would like to say that our eyes met, but his were, of course, closed.  I placed my hand gently on his chest, ran my fingers down his tie as if to straighten it like I did when he was about twelve years old.

I could see us then, in front of the mirror at the old house by the lake, getting ready for Easter Sunday service.  Joan and I had taken him to purchase his first real suit and tie, and I stood behind him and helped him learn the way to cross one end over the other and secure a Double Windsor knot.  I taught him how to tuck the tail into his shirt as it was a little longer than needed.  “Our secret,” I smiled as I put my finger to my lips and shared a laugh with him.

I wondered who had tied his tie today.

Joan looked over to me and dabbed my eye with a small, white handkerchief.

The caretaker…or whatever he was called…walked over toward us and quietly whispered, “Are you ready?”

Joan nodded for both of us, and I pulled my hand away from his tie, letting my fingers brush his cool hands.  She stood by and held me around my waist, and I again wondered if her actions were for her benefit or my own.  We took a step back together to make space for the man, and he carefully closed the top of the casket.  Joan turned her face into my shoulder to muffle the sobbing sound coming from inside her.

The man placed familiar fabric over the top, a perfect stitching of white, blue, and the color of my son’s blood, spilt in the name of freedom.

Nineteen really is too young to die.

Choices

As I approach the dashboard of my blog to write this Monday morning, my heart is (honestly) a little heavy.  I know I can sit here and recount the conversations of the weekend and how we are all really no less safe than we were four days ago…but we may feel like we are.  I know I can ignore what I am feeling, as well, and get lost in some editing or fiction writing or a book or movie.  I also know that I can take my advice from Friday (which I posted before the news hit) and count my blessings.  I think I will choose the last.

(I would be dishonest to say that I didn’t hug my little ones a little tighter before they left my door this morning, though.)

I am so very blessed in my life.  Currently, I live in a more-than-ample house with a kitchen I adore using.  I have beautiful, insightful children who impart wisdom to me daily.  I have a handsome husband who loves me in spite of my multitude of flaws, shortcomings, and occasional sadness over situations I cannot control.  I was raised by good parents.  I have amazing friends and family members.  I can rock heels.  (And, last week, I even found brown boots…but that is another story!)

Somehow choosing to focus on the vast blessings before me helps my heart feel a little lighter.  I will try to choose happiness instead of feeding the negative feelings bouncing around my head of fear and uncertainty.  I will count a few more blessings along my path today…and among them will be you, my dear readers.  🙂

Thanks for listening…and reading.  I appreciate you more than you know.