The Only Hope

School has begun again and can I just give a big old, “WE MADE IT!”

Truthfully, I feel guilty that I want to gleefully dance on my rooftop while I whoop with joy. I’d rather emulate my own mom, who mourned the end of breaks as much as we did. I wanted to end this summer feeling like we soaked up every fun adventure and every opportunity to explore and have fun and do things together. But that was not this summer.

This summer was plain old hard, and I wasn’t anticipating that. Partly, it was Jude, no longer colicky, exactly, but not super content, either. He and Isla both needed naps on varying schedules, and juggling those with the rest of life plus a tired mama and a bored 9-year-old was overwhelming. I always felt like someone was getting the short end of the stick. Gabe, I’ve more fully learned, is intense, and when you throw intensity into small, closed quarters with little structure to channel the energy, the situation is combustible at best. Then we traveled for threeish weeks, and that was just a lot. I don’t mean these to be complaints so much as…facts. They just were. These were the things that made it hard.

We reached Labor Day weekend with a little sadness, but I harbored a little bit of hope for relief on the horizon – the relief that only comes from structure and predictability and known expectations. Sure, none of those things can make Jude sleep regularly, but they can’t hurt, right?

As it was, Jude’s sleep ended up being the impetus for a new layer of tumult, one that caught me completely by surprise.

Saturday night into Sunday morning was a difficult night for Jude (and me, by extension) – lots of crying, lots of frustration, and lots of sleeplessness. I had developed a plan in my head that involved me handling things until 7:00 AM, at which time I hoped Tahd would get up and take over so I could sleep for an hour or two before I tried to put Jude down for a nap.

When 7:00 AM rolled around and Tahd got up, interrupted sleep had taken its toll on Tahd, too, and he snapped at me, angry and frustrated and confused.

Like many married couples, Tahd and I have a handful of arguments we’re drawn to revisit, and there’s one that touches an especially deep nerve in me, one that leaves me feeling inept and foolish and disappointing. In fairness, he always says he didn’t mean things in the way I receive them, but it’s still a very tender spot in me, and it was this particular nerve he hit Sunday morning, and I disintegrated.

Choking back tears, I whisked Jude out of the room and out of the house and into the stroller, where I set out on a neighborhood walk to burn off my frustration. It wasn’t my most stellar moment, leaving without telling Tahd where I was going, but I didn’t know what else to do and fell back on my “Urgent! Withdraw from Conflict!” tendencies.

I came back about 40 minutes later, and we started the painful process of pulling at the string, unraveling the layers of the problem bit by bit – a process that took us several days between family gatherings and errands and first days of school.

The more we pulled, the deeper things went, and when we’d finally pulled out all the loose string into a pile at our feet, we found bits and pieces of the pain that grew out of lost babies and hopes and dreams and four years of attempted healing from miscarriage and infertility.

I didn’t expect that. I didn’t expect that four years later, the aftermath of a very painful miscarriage would result in that much ongoing relational pain. It had been there all along, I suppose, and we’d both spoken of some nebulous, underlying resentments in our relationship that we couldn’t quite put our fingers on. But I didn’t realize there were such concrete, clear-cut issues at play until this weekend.

When I miscarried our baby, I tumbled into the lowest pit I’d ever seen, lower than the ones I’d been in previously when I was “only” dealing with infertility. I’d tried to claw my way out of my infertility pits with minor success, and when the hole got deeper by way of miscarriage, I suddenly tapped into a new vein of determination in which I refused to live the rest of my life as a victim of painful circumstances. Come what may, I would learn to throw myself headlong into a full, rich life, even if it wasn’t the life I’d originally hoped to have.

Tahd, on the other hand, didn’t tumble into the same pit as I, and the meaning he created from our loss took on an entirely different form. I didn’t realize this, and couldn’t understand why he wasn’t making the same changes I was making–why he wasn’t pursuing a lighter and more joyful side of himself. As such, I judged him for this, and I’m sorry to say I wasn’t always kind or very full of grace. I didn’t hold space for him to be who he was and become who he needed to become. I didn’t trust the process, I didn’t trust him, and I didn’t trust God.

This parallel process resulted in unaddressed hurts, hurts that turned into irritations that festered beneath the surface, eventually resulting in our weekend.

In the middle of exchanging a few emails with Tahd, I thought to myself, This is hopeless! We’ve broken this beyond repair. How can we ever go back? It’s worth noting that statistics on trauma in marriage support the idea that these thoughts are not unreasonable. Couples who experience traumatic things like infertility and loss do, in fact, experience higher rates of divorce. Recovering from loss produces necessary growth within each individual, but that growth does not always propel the couple toward each other. It sometimes drives them apart. I am no longer the person with whom Tahd fell in love sixteen years ago, and according to the statistics, I am less that person because of our loss than I would be if we hadn’t experienced it.

At each of the most desperate moments of my life, I’ve found myself alone in my living room or car listening to a song that became my anthem for that struggle. When I absentmindedly surfed through my phone for an encouraging tune, the lyrics to this Ellie Holcomb song stopped me in my tracks. I knew God was giving me my song for this situation. Here’s a slice (and listen to it here)…

I take all the gifts that You have given
and I stake my claim like they’re my own,
Will you help me when I forget to remember
the good I’ve got is yours alone?

Oh, ’cause I don’t wanna tell some arrogant story,
or let myself believe I’m you
Will you help remind me of what is true?
The only hope I’ve got
It’s you.
It’s you.

Well, it’s only by your grace that I heard you whisper my name
And I don’t have the power to save, to change a heart
So won’t you come and change my heart.

So, that’s exactly what I did. I asked God to change my heart and change my actions and change Tahd’s heart, too. And every moment since then that I’ve panicked that I was too far over my head, I’ve remembered that there is hope, not because we hold that much promise in and of ourselves but because we know Hope Himself.

(I also read point five in this post I wrote last year, and it hit me between the eyes as appropriate for this situation. Hope is always worth it. Not just during infertility.)

I’m thankful to be married to a man of his word who honors what he said when he gave me his vows. When we reached the bottom of the pile and realized what we were dealing with, we reaffirmed our commitment to one another and to our family and decided on a course of action. I’m thankful for a God who is bigger than four years of hurt, and for the hope in knowing that the One who created the intricacies of the universe and eternity is not overwhelmed by two broken, imperfect hearts. I’m thankful for love and new mercies and second chances. And I’m (somewhat begrudgingly) thankful for fussy babies, because without them I’m not sure I’d ever get tired or frustrated enough to face the important stuff running underneath it all.

The Rest

Nothing like finishing up a post about vacation nearly a month after you went on it.  It was delayed primarily by the vast number of photos I took and had to import/cull/edit/resize, and also by the fact of…well, you know,  life, which has been good and busy and a bit stressful, and I can’t believe we’re at the end of August already!  Hello, school!  And since this is Wisconsin, possibly hello, winter.  Hopefully not, but the forecast isn’t looking good.  Darn that Farmer’s Almanac!

We spent a weekend in Naples followed by a week in West Palm Beach for Tahd’s work.  The next weekend, we headed on a road trip to Key West, and then it was back to West Palm Beach, followed by a little more time in Naples before we came home.  Here are the rest of the things that made me smile while we were away.  You can rest assured these memories are going to be what gets me through October through April!

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Florida005When we lived in Northern Maine, we drove the north of of Route 1 all the time.  It was fun to see the southern end.  Tahd and I decided we want to drive the whole thing one day.  In theory, I’d love to take the kids with us to see all the sights along the way.  In actuality…crying; and fighting in the car; and car sickness; and crying.  This may be a retirement adventure for us.

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Florida007So…Key West in July.  Hot.  Yeah.  Especially with a baby carrier.

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Florida011The colors in Key West were so much fun!  At quick glance, it looked like autumn, with trees changing to blaze orange.  Upon closer inspection, I realized that they were actually orange blossoms everywhere, not fall leaves.  Do trees even change color in Florida?

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Florida013We didn’t stay here.  I just liked the sign.  And the color.

Florida014The area around Duval Street was certainly festive!  That’s a place I’d rather return when the kids are older – it was just so busy and noisy that I think the little people were overwhelmed.

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We didn’t take a stroller on our trip – just the baby carrier.  I’m 50/50 on that decision.  It would have been so nice in the hot, sticky weather.  But not having it definitely made travel lighter, and since we already had a metric ton of stuff with us.

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Florida018We visited Hemingway’s house and I really wished we’d had time to visit Truman’s Little White House.  We drove by it on our way out of town, but I’m a sucker for all things political and know it would have been interesting to me.

Florida019The highlight of our time in Key West was sunset on Mallory Square.

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Florida021It wasn’t quite what I expected, but it was lovely nonetheless.

Florida022Gabe was pretty impressed with the flame-throwing street performer.

Florida023The sun went down while he was doing his thing.

Florida024I didn’t expect there to be another little island off to the west!  I’m sure we could have moved elsewhere along the pier to get a view over the water, but Jace the Juggler kept us pretty pinned to one spot.

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Florida026Those skies!  Oh!

We hadn’t had dinner, so after the sun peeked behind the other island (Sunset Key, I think?), we set off to find a restaurant, eventually settling on the slowest Johnny Rocket in the entire world.  Although there’s nothing as tasty as an icy milkshake, I’m not sure it was worth it when the kids were melting down and the server (with our check) was nowhere to be found and I left, carrying the two little kids myself back to the hotel while Tahd attempted to pay.  Our hotel (which – I’m looking at you, Crowne Plaza La Concha – we strongly do not recommend), although a sore disappointment, was near all the action, which made the location really nice.

The ride back to West Palm Beach from Key West was…long.  We were all glad to get back to our hotel, especially since the sunset view from our hotel windows looked like this…

Florida027That structure across the lagoon had a Whole Foods, which we visited approximately fifty three times in four days.  The cashiers knew us by name, which was slightly embarrassing, but they had real food, which was highly coveted (by me, not my children) at that point in our trip.

We ended the week in Naples, which cemented itself as my favorite.  Marco Island, Key West, and West Palm Beach felt like vacation destinations.  Naples feels like a second home.

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Florida045She was saying, “The moon!  I see it!”

Florida044See? ;)

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Florida050My favorite picture from the whole trip was the last one I took.

2014-08-09_1407545012Holy.  Actually holy.

And that was the end of Florida!

PS – I already want to go back.  Not for 17 days, though.

What I Did Not Choose

I’m not ashamed of my depression or anxiety.  I’m refuse to be ashamed.

I’m also not ashamed of taking antidepressents and anti-anxiety medication.  They’ve helped me survive and thrive.

I’m not ashamed of having gone to counseling.  I want to go to more.  It works for me.  It fixes me.  It’s a safe place for me to do my work.

I’m not ashamed of having grappled with hurting myself.  I’m thankful I never got to the point of planning anything or trying anything, but I’m not ashamed that those questions have been part of my past.

Sometimes, talking about these things makes my heart pound and my shoulders tingle and my face flush, and they’re harder to talk about face-to-face than in writing, but I’m not ashamed…

|| because I know I’m not alone.  More of us than not have dealt with one or more of these things.

|| because for as painful as they’ve been, dealing with them has also brought me the gift of learning to live fully and love generously.

|| because sometimes they keep me in check.  Without them, I think my invincibility could run away with my perfectionism and torture me forever.

|| because my family and friends love me and accept me without judgment, struggles and all.  I don’t know that I could do this without them.

Mostly, though?

|| because I didn’t choose depression or anxiety.  They chose me.  And although I work to kick them to the curb, I refuse to be ashamed of these things I didn’t choose in the first place.

I’m incredibly grateful that these struggles haven’t overtaken me or been horrifically onerous.  I know not everyone can say the same.  If you are struggling to stay afloat right now, imagine me hugging you and telling you you’re not alone and reminding you of how loved and valuable you are.  Depression and anxiety are hard…so hard, but we don’t have to suffer silently or ashamed.

Sharing this article, a lovely bit of encouragement with links to extra encouragement and resources at the end.

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

Mary Oliver

Isla-isms

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Toddler speech is pretty much the best thing ever, right?  It’s sort of like the redeeming quality of toddlerhood – yes, they scream, throw tantrums, and still poop in diapers.  But THEY SAY THE FUNNIEST THINGS!  Here are some of my recent favorites from Isla:

|| Oh my god!  Someone is going to the airport! {Said in Fort Myers when we arrived to the airport to fly home.}

|| No, no, no!  If you don’t sing, I won’t sing. {Since she’s a screamer, Tahd has started telling her that if she doesn’t scream, he won’t scream.  I started singing along with her one afternoon, and this was her comeback.}

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|| I have a ploblem! {Gah!  How cute is that?}

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|| Her: I want a tattoo!  Me: When you’re older you can get one.  <pause> Her: I’m older!  I can get one!

|| Mom!  My rankle hurts!  {Her ankle hurts}

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|| Will you tickle me? {All. The. Time!}

Do you have any funny talking toddler stories?  Please share!  I could use a good chuckle!

Marco Island

One evening during our vacation, we tried to visit a particular beach in Florida.  It landed in a complete bust, but we were already 45 minutes from Naples and sunset was nearing, so we decided to drive the few extra miles to visit somewhere new – Marco Island.  We were there for all of about two hours, and we only visited the beach, so I can’t say anything at all about the island itself.  But…the beach!

Oh!

As we crested the boardwalk to see the water ahead, velvet air met velvet earth and I could practically feel the creamy softness in the breeze drape over me like a comforting blanket, and I smiled.  I’ve never seen a place like it.

We raced waves and built castles and collected shells and saw a marvelous sunset and congratulated ourselves on our good fortune in getting lost.

marco001 marco002 marco003 marco004 marco005 marco006 marco007 marco008 marco009 marco010 marco011 marco012 marco013 marco014 marco015 marco016 marco017 marco018 marco019 marco020 marco021 marco022 marco023 marco024 marco025Good night, sun!

 

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