The Day I Pooped My Closet

Jan 30 2015

 

Dear the Internets,

This is a true story.

This is my true story.

I lay down my dignity for you, because I love you very much.

Sincerely,
Beth

 

Once upon a time, I pooped my closet. 

I was pregnant.

With twins.

Approximately 100 years pregnant with twins, judging by my size, but really only 7 months or so, which made me roughly larger than a semi-truck and smaller than the Empire State building. Big, in other words, especially since I started the pregnancy “fluffy” according to a nurse who was kind and wonderful and didn’t call me chubby to my face for which I will always love her something fierce.

Fluffy to begin, I was, and then I got, well, fluffier. Growing two babies does a number on the body, and mine popped out in all sorts of delightful places not limited to my belly. No; I’m pretty sure my hind end, my thighs and my breasts were growing sympathetically in proportion to my middle, good girlfriends that they were, not wanting my belly to feel alone in all the fluff. 

Now I didn’t spend much time feeling badly about my weight because I’d lost 3 babies to miscarriage years ago, and now my body was making two of them, so HOT DAMN, Fluffy Body; you ROCK, you know?

Still, every time my mama walked into my house, she’d catch sight of my largess and her eyes would pop and her face would pale and she’d say, “Honey, you’re as big as a barn” and “You know you’re going to have those babies early, right? Because YOU CANNOT GET ANY BIGGER, Child; THERE’S NO WHERE ELSE FOR THOSE BABIES TO GO except OUT OF YOU” which I think was her prayer or an exorcism of sorts: IN JESUS’ PRECIOUS NAME, I COMMAND YOU TO GET OUT, Babies! 

So I was big, is what I’m saying. Or Enormous if one wants the technical, scientific description. And that meant it was hard to move, particularly if I was sitting or laying down or anything other than already in motion per Newton’s First Law of Motion which I’m sure he discovered whilst watching someone pregnant.

And I was tired all the time because a) growing two babies is hard work, man, and b) lugging the three of us around was tantamount to getting a cruise liner in and out of port; slow, tedious, a real nail-biter in close quarters.

On the day of the incident, I laid myself down in bed and took a nap. A nap! Which, in case you don’t have kids, I’ll tell you is a miracle both in scope and in frequency because naps are precious and rare, friends. If I ever get to nominate anything for sainthood — anything to sit at the right hand of God the Father in Glorious Heaven — it will be naps. People will be like, What about Mother Teresa who selflessly cared for the destitute and dying? And I will be all, MOVE OVER, TERESA because NAPS. 

So I was taking a nap in my nightie sans panties because I could no longer figure out how to lasso those things around my ankles much less wrestle them all the way up my legs, but I was awakened by an urge to go potty. I ignored it, of course, because NAP and exhaustion and the impractical nature of moving the ship out of port, and I fell back asleep, only to be awakened again and again.

Le sigh.

The age old decision of Go Potty vs. Stay in Bed compounded by Pregnancy. It’s a doozy, I tell you, but I finally decided to wrestle myself from the bed and make the trek through our master closet to the en suite bathroom and relieve myself.

Only, on the way, I farted.

Except it wasn’t just an air poopy like I thought.

It was a poopy poopy.

Followed by another poopy poopy.

Followed by another poopy poopy.

Poopies in rapid succession making good their escape and rushing to freedom. 

And, as I was sans panties, each soft poopy slid to the closet floor with little puh-looping sounds and sat there like brownie batter, soaking into the carpet. 

I, of course, was no longer in the proper physical condition to get my carcass down on the floor to clean it up, but I was also full of abject humiliation and paralyzed at the thought of a) telling my husband I’d just pooped our closet, and b) asking him to clean it. 

So I did what anyone in my situation would do: I stood in a sea of poopies and cried.

And cried.

And cried.

Which is where Greg found me. In my nightie. Standing in a field of daisies minus the daisies and plus my feces. Sobbing.

He tried to bundle me off to bed so he could scrub the carpet, but I wasn’t then and am not now a woman who appreciates being bundled, so, through my hiccuppy sobs, I asked the man to lower me to the closet floor, bring me a scrub brush and carpet cleaner and let me clean up my own mess in privacy. Complete privacy please, I begged, “You go AWAY, Greg. Go FAR, FAR AWAY and try to FORGET THIS EVER HAPPENED. I know we vowed for better or worse, in sickness and health, but THAT WAS A CROCK, MAN. I meant for better or worse FINANCIALLY, and in sickness and health WITH NURSES TO CLEAN OUR BOTTOMS. I did not agree to THIS. To Poop Fest 2006. So I need you to go AWAY and breathe peppermint and imagine me back when I wasn’t a closet pooper. PLEASE, man; I BEG YOU. GO AWAY.” 

And so he did. He brought me supplies. He lowered me to the floor. He went away. 

But I should’ve agreed to the bundling, because I spent the next half hour sitting crisscross in the closet trying to reach past my babies to scrub the carpet, and you guys… you guys… every time I shifted, I touched poop. To the left, my knee hit poop. To the right, my thigh nudged poop. Like St. Patrick’s prayer, except instead of Christ behind me, before me, beneath me, above me, to my left and to my right, where I sit and where I lie, it was POOP. I mean, Jesus was there, too, but mostly POOP.

Due to belly size, I didn’t have the leverage to clean. So instead of cleaning, I smeared. And when I freaked out that I was smearing — I am smearing poop in my closet. OH MY WORD. I AM SMEARING POOP IN MY CLOSET. — I smeared some more. OCD poop cleaning, except without any actual ability to clean. Obsessive compulsive poop smearing. I’m pretty sure that’s a diagnosable psychiatric condition. 

Well, eventually, I quit. Wisdom is the better part of valor, after all, and although I admittedly like to exhaust valor before I let wisdom through the door, I could admit I’d tried and was defeated and needed Greg to finish.

I went to get him. 

I mean, I tried to go get him, but that’s when I discovered my legs were asleep after being trapped under the belly all that time. 

I pulled on the dead weight of my legs to get them out from under me, sticking them straight out from my belly — and into the wasteland — to revive them, but no feeling came back. Minutes and minutes of leaving my legs in poop and just no feeling at all because they were still beneath my belly, even sticking out, and the belly was still good at cutting off blood. 

So I laid down.

In the closet.

In smeared poop. 

And Greg came back a half hour later to find me there, with poop on my hands and poop on my legs, lying in the poop I’d smushed into the carpet. 

In conclusion, I once pooped the closet.

And also, being married to me is THE BEST. 

So listen, friend. You might be having a down day. You might be going through a rough patch. You might wonder if you’re the only one sitting in a giant, figurative pile of poo. But I am here to tell you, if you are not sitting in a giant, literal pile of poo, you’re doing better than you know. Better than you know, friends, and better than me that day. 

Sending love to you,

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Living Between the Hallelujahs

Dec 15 2014

I’ve been listening to Pandora’s classical Christmas station for two weeks now, which is a mistake for a couple reasons.

First, there are approximately six songs total on Pandora’s classical Christmas station and five hundred thousand different arrangements of the six. Honest to God, if I have to hear another classical arrangement of The Holly and The Ivy or its tied-for-most-mind-numbing-Christmas-song-ever, Here We Come A Wassailing, I can’t be held responsible for my actions. Although, in defense of Here We Come A Wassailing, it’s a song meant to be fueled by booze like One Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall or the movie, Dude, Where’s My Car, which are awesome but only after some seriously questionable amounts of imbibing, and I was listening to it stone cold sober, so… my bad.

The second reason Pandora’s classical Christmas is a mistake — and the reason I keep listening to it — is the Hallelujah Chorus.

The Hallelujah Chorus, you guys!

So bold!

So triumphant!

So beautiful and BIG and powerful and filled with joy!

I love the Hallelujah Chorus.

I mean, I love LOVE the Hallelujah Chorus. 

I can hit that high A note, too, so I’m practically obligated to sing along every time it comes on. Which is a lot. A lot, a lot. It’s like every second song on Pandora’s classical Christmas station, and sometimes, when my children are very lucky, it’s every song. Song after song of nothing but the Hallelujah Chorus.

Let me tell you, my kids think the very best part of Christmas is their mama twirling in her nightie and bunny slippers throughout the wreckage that is our house and singing the Hallelujah Chorus full throttle, rockets firing, tearing down that runway and TAKING OFF toward that high A like I mean it. Which I DO. And, sure, they compare my singing to the tragic wails of a dying walrus, but their words belie their hearts which are crying out for more. “MORE SINGING, Mommy!” their little eyes say, filled with hope/dread, “MORE SINGING.” And so I do even though their words say “NO!” and “STOP!” and “I’LL GIVE YOU ALL MY MONEY, MOM!” Their words are just kidding, and our house is filled with joy, so I’ll take it.

I’ll take it.

The mess. The madness. The music. The magic. The mundane. The mystery. The magnificence.

I’ll take it.

I’ll take all of it.

Except the parts of the mess and the madness I don’t want, of course.

I’m not quite so eager to accept those with open arms.

The cute messes, yes; glitter and flour spills; shirts on backwards; the 8-year-old who lets one rip in church during quiet prayer time, fine. And the adorable, quirky madnesses? The middle schooler who believes in unicorns; the kid who washes the same pair of socks every day in a load all by itself; and the 2nd grader who can’t sleep without a separate, second bedtime snack every, single night? Great; I’m in. Whatever.

I’m just… less of a fan of the messes that wind their way to the murky darkness and the madnesses that cut us past our core.

My cousin’s cousin died last week. Overdosed on drugs. I didn’t know him, but I hugged his aunt who’s also my aunt tight on Saturday and whispered, “I’m so sorry” in her ear and she whispered, “me, too” before she squeezed tighter and said, “stupid boys; stupid, stupid boys.” Next month will be 15 years since her own boy died, lost in a maze of depression and confusion, and there was a whole world of grief and love and longing in her voice. We hugged in the middle of a party. A party celebrating a graduation and a milestone for yet another cousin. An enormous accomplishment. A BIG DEAL. A joyful day. My aunt released me but grabbed my arms and locked her eyes with mine and said, fiercely, “But now we celebrate.” And I gripped her back and said, “We party like we mean it.” And she said, “We party because we do mean it.” And I said, “Both/And.” And she said, “Both/And.” And it was magic in the mess.

This is the Season of Light in the Darkness.

My Jewish friends begin Hanukkah — the Festival of Lights — at sundown tomorrow, and we Christians wait now in our Season of Advent. 

This is the Season of Anticipation. The Season of Hope. The Season of Love Made Flesh. The Season of Light With Us. Of Divinity and Humanity Intertwined. The Season of God, as finite and eternal and fragile and strong as a baby, which is the best miracle I know.

But the darkness persists.

Doesn’t it?

The darkness is resilient, too.

Damn it.

Light walks among us and darkness still exists, and I find in this whole season and all of life, I am so very Both/And. Both deeply content and always unsettled. Both certain of the Light and sitting in darkness. 

‘Tis the Season, friends.

Both/And.

Both Joy and Grief. Both Light and Dark. Both Steady As She Goes! and Brace For Impact! Both Human and Divine. Both Steady and Unstable.

I got an email last week from a friend who’s recovering from major surgery. He linked to a blog by Fred Smith about Leonard Cohen’s song, Hallelujah, which is so very different from the Hallelujah Chorus I’ve been singing around my house.

So very different, and yet… the Hallelujah Chorus and the cold and broken Hallelujahs are only as different as two sides of the same coin, I suppose. And so it’s not difficult in the end to consider that both joy and grief — both mess and magic — spill out as Hallelujahs, after all

“This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled,” Cohen has said, “but there are moments when we can transcend the dualistic system and reconcile and embrace the whole mess, and that’s what I mean by ‘Hallelujah.’ That regardless of what the impossibility of the situation is, there is a moment when you open your mouth and you throw open your arms and you embrace the thing and you just say, ‘Hallelujah! Blessed is the name.’…

“The only moment that you can live here comfortably in these absolutely irreconcilable conflicts is in this moment when you embrace it all and you say, ‘Look, I don’t understand a fucking thing at all – Hallelujah!’

My friend signed his email, “living between the bookends of hallelujah,” and I thought, yes.

Yes, this is it, entirely. We are living between the bookends of Hallelujah. A whole, messy life lived inside of Hallelujah.

Because there is a Light shining in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. And through it all, together, somehow, Hallelujah.

Living Between the Bookends of Hallelujah,

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P.S. Please, if you feel so inclined, share your Hallelujahs, friends. Whatever kind. I keep meaning to ask you for updates — to inquire how this season is for you — but my season is busy and I haven’t and I miss you.

On Grace, Waves and How to Look at Rocks

Nov 1 2013

My friend Lynn lost her husband unexpectedly last year. She came home to find Jon unconscious. He died from a stroke a few hours later. And so Lynn has found herself at the crossroads. Again, really, because Lynn has lived enough of life to know that the paths we walk are winding, and we don’t always know what’s around the next bend.

Lynn went to the beach at the one year anniversary of Jon’s death. It was one of their favorite places to walk and to be, Jon sitting in the sun or the drizzle and Lynn wandering the shoreline to look for agates which catch the light, sending their little reflective signs like miniature survivors using a mirror to signal the search plane, waiting to be rescued and brought home and cherished.

This time, though, after a year of grief and uncertainty and upended by change, Lynn contemplated the ocean, standing still at its edge and watching the waves come in, again and again, like Grace which ebbs and flows and always returns with more gifts in its hands, cleansed and rubbed smooth, before it takes back the jagged bits, over and over.

She stood for a while to watch Grace and also to confess, because there’s a Right Way to do things, you know, a Standard for Christ’s followers we’ve been taught from the cradle, and Confession is that Way; the examination of our hearts, the lists of our sins, the humbling of our spirits, the requests for forgiveness. And so Lynn watched Grace bring the gray and black rocks to the surface. The rocks of her selfishness. The rocks of her pride. The rocks of her despair. The rocks of her fear, determined as she was to suss out the darkness and hand it over to Grace.

Which is when the Whisper came on the wind and into Lynn’s heart.

“What about the agates?” the Voice asked.

And Lynn thought, “What?” And, “Shhh.” And, “I’m busy Confessing over here. I’m focusing on the Sins. Be quiet.”

But the Whisper came again.

“But what about the agates, Lynn?”

And so Lynn reluctantly slowed her confession to listen.

photo 3 (36) “What about the agates?” said the Voice, gentle and sure and a lot like Love and, not shushed this time, the Voice went on. “Remember wandering by the waves to look for the agates? Walking next to the waves of Grace to watch for the bright bits to wash up? Well, I was just wondering… can we do that again? If you’re ready, I mean. Can we comb the beach to look for the gems? Can we let Grace unearth the beauty, too? Can we anticipate the light and the brilliance as it catches our eyes? Or must we stand here longer, letting Grace only unearth the dark? Tell me when you’re ready, Lynn. Tell me when you’re ready, and we’ll go walk the beach together.”

….

I sat in the sun with Lynn the other day, because when the sun comes out in Oregon, that’s what we do. We bask in it. That’s even what my littlest ones call it. Basking. “I’m going to go bask now, Mom!” they yell on their way out the door before they slam it or leave it hospitably open for the flies.

So I sat in the sun with Lynn, basking while she told me her story, and we laughed and laughed and laughed cleansing laughs at the human condition which is our condition and at our temptation to watch for Grace to reveal only our darkness. Because this is what we do sometimes, isn’t it? We focus so much on doing things the Right Way, and on ridding ourselves of the dark, and on finding our shortcomings so we can tackle them and drown them and send them far, far away that we forget to listen for Joy. Or open ourselves to Love. Or watch for Beauty.

It’s OK, though.

It’s OK.

We’re trying so hard.

Every last one of us.

Trying so hard.

And the very Good News is that Love has a way of talking to us if we slow our self-flagellation long enough to listen. Because there is a still, small Voice on wind. And Grace ebbs and flows as steady as the waves, unearthing more treasure for us all the time.

 

photo 4 (26)

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Radical Acts of Self Care

Oct 22 2013

Anne Lamott talks from time to time about radical acts of self care.

BettyLou

Or maybe it’s Oprah.

Or Betty Lou from Sesame Street who’s one of the spiritual gurus of our time with her calm focus on kindness and sharing and befriending our fellow monsters.

A wise woman said it, anyway, except I feel they should be called RADICAL ACTS of SELF CARE, like that, in bold and all caps so we might announce them in our 1950’s-style Broadcaster Voice when they descend from the sky like super heroes to save us from ourselves.

What’s that?
Up in the sky!
Why…
it’s a RADICAL ACT of SELF CARE!

And then we can clutch our hearts and swoon theatrically to give our acts of valor the adoration and attention they deserve.

Today, for example, I engaged in two whole Radical Acts of Self Care, and they were worthy of some theatrical clutching and adoration for sure.

Today,

1.      I went to the bathroom at the very first sign that I needed to go,
and
2.      I drank my entire cup of coffee while it was still warm.

I know. Not to be braggy, but I really did.

Furthermore, during both acts, I sat all the way down, and I focused on them ‘til I was done.

Call me a liar if you must, but for five whole minutes – the duration of two Radical Acts – I didn’t read anyone a Clifford story. Or Berenstain Bears. Or Franklin. Or play Legos or blocks or trains where my legs are the tunnels and someone’s noggin hits me – KAPOW! – in the crotch bone.

For five minutes, I didn’t balance my checkbook.

For five minutes, I didn’t sign a permission slip

For five minutes, I didn’t referee a fight or kiss a boo boo or braid my daughter’s crunchy, candy-coated hair.

I didn’t holler reminders to “Hurry up or we’ll be late for school!” And I didn’t visit the Pioneer Woman or the Bloggess or Facebook – not even once.

For five whole minutes, I did two radical things, and, although I had an attentive audience for one, I managed to do the other all by myself without the usual cast of thousands sitting at my feet on the sticky floor waiting anxiously for me to finish. Drinking that cup of coffee alone was like a miracle.

The truth is, I like Radical Acts of Self Care far more than Me Time even if that’s just semantics. It’s just that Me Time never manages to show up at my house without a little person clinging desperately to one leg and my mama guilt clinging harder to the other. I’ve tried Me Time – I have – and it’s like the Agony and the Ecstasy, except mostly agony which makes it hardly worth inviting over. I end up feeling more selfish than refreshed, and I, frankly, do not have the time for that much angst.

Radical Acts of Self Care, on the other hand, are small gifts I can give to myself; random kindnesses, silly victories and breaths of air in the middle of the madness. They’re opportunities for grace, and they come with tiny bits of optimism and caffeine stuffed in their pockets like the hard candies Earl sneaks the kids at church on Sunday.

We were late for school this morning, FYI, by five minutes.

Five minutes and two radical acts that were totally worth it.

……….

And so I throw down the gauntlet and challenge YOU to a RADICAL ACT OF SELF-CARE. What silly victory will you have today? What breath in the middle of the madness? What opportunity for grace? Will you share it with us?

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I originally wrote this for Families in the Loop.
Republished here with permission as part of:

40DaysofGraceLogoYou can see all of the 40 Days of Grace posts
here on the Five Kids blog and here on Facebook.

 

 

Sanctuary

Oct 16 2013

It’s the dramatic moment in the movie, when the one who is persecuted sprints into the Church and cries out for sanctuary.

“SANCTUARY!” she yells, bursting through the great, wood doors, stumbling down the aisle and falling at the foot of the altar, safe.

God, I miss this picture of the Church. And I find myself frequently brokenhearted that the Church isn’t perceived as safe anymore, but instead as a Sin Detection Agency where WE WILL FIND YOU OUT, or a Purification Station where WE WILL CLEANSE YOU. It’s sanctuary turned inside out, and it’s terribly wrong. Horribly misplaced. Deeply out of character with a Jesus who touched the untouchables, welcomed the outcasts, said the blind man hadn’t sinned, and sent the angry mob away from the woman who’d been convicted by them.

The political and religious wars rage in our minds and in our hearts and on our Facebook pages, friend against friend and brother against brother in true civil war fashion, and I am often weary when I watch, not because I won’t stand up for what I believe, but because I need a break from being bruised and battered in the battle, and I find these days I’d rather work to create the sanctuary, anyway, than work at being right.

I turned 40 over the weekend. Forty years old! Or, like my kids like to say, WHOA.

I spent all of my 20’s and the early part of my 30’s seeking sanctuary. Desperate for it. Desperate for a place to fall down in safety. Desperate to lay my grimy head at the foot of the altar. Desperate to let my scratched feet and scraped legs stick out from underneath my torn clothes. To stop trying to cover the scars. To meet the gentle priest who brings bread and wine, not with the intention to sway me toward sanctification or salvation, but just for sustenance. And for the sake of kindness. “You’re safe,” he’d say. “Eat. Drink. Rest.”

And I found myself terribly disappointed and disillusioned that the Church was unreliable about providing it. That I wasn’t sure I was safe to show my wounds there. That I wasn’t free to say the things I thought out loud without inviting the mob to attack.

Of course, there are people in the Church who provide sanctuary, time and time again. So many. So beautifully. With such abiding and selfless love. But there are also people in the Church who won’t, or who can’t, or who think they do but don’t, because the Church is peppered with humans just everywhere making it all terribly perfect and also pathetic like the rest of the human race, except in the name of GOD, which is what makes it hard to take.

Now, I know I’m holding the Church to unreasonable expectations, as though the Church is supposed to BE God rather than learn God, which, it turns out, is me making the Church an idol and then being disappointed when my god made of sticks and mud doesn’t act like the God made of Love, but I just wanted so badly to know where to find it. Sanctuary.

So I looked for it in my marriage. And I looked for it in my children. And I looked for it in my family and in my friends. And in my church. And on the wind. And in the waves. And in myself.

And I found it there, too. Often. Sanctuary is there. In every one of those people and places, absolutely.

But only sometimes. And not always when I’d like. Because people and wind and waves can be fickle. Steady and unstable. Which is why they’re so much fun and so gorgeous and so destructive and so costly.

So where is the sanctuary, then? You know… reliably.

Where’s the sanctuary, if not in the Church? Or in our people? Or in ourselves?

Where is the sanctuary we so desperately seek?

Well, I’m 40 now, you know. Forty years old! Which means I’ve run for sanctuary hundreds of times, maybe thousands, barefoot through the city, and I’ve been greeted by the priest, and I’ve found the Church empty, and I’ve been lifted up and let down by all my people, including myself.

And this is what I’ve learned.

Sanctuary is wherever Love is found.

And Love rains down all the time, but it only hits us drop by drop.

ID-100199684In the Church, drop by drop. Out of the Church, drop by drop. In my marriage, drop by drop. And in myself, drop by drop.

A tiny piece of Love at a time, and in that Love, sanctuary.

Yes, sanctuary is wherever we find Love, who some call God or Jesus, and Anne Lamott calls Howard, and I sometimes call the Aunties because they’re wise and smart and savvy and strong and they laugh uproariously and shriek when they skinny dip and give me sips of bourbon by the fire which is, to me, a piece of Love made wrinkly flesh.

It’s true that only in Perfect Love is there Perfect Rest, but here’s the secret … anyone can be the conduit through which Perfect Love flows for a little while. It’s up to us to be on the lookout for them. On the lookout for the drops between the droughts. Because in Love is the only place we’ll find real sanctuary.

……….

“Then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.”
George Fox, 1656

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Water Drops image credit Supertrooper via freedigitalimages.net

Holding Hands in the Dark

Oct 7 2013

Tracy was my best friend in elementary school, and, though her motives remain unclear, I suspect she chose me as a friend because she was kind, compassionate, and knew I needed her. 

And because she lived across the street so I was hard to avoid.

Not that she ever made me feel like she was avoiding me. On the contrary, she always made me feel welcome and wanted and loved.

And she cleaned my room for me a lot. 

And she let me eat all the ramen noodles while she drank the broth. 

And she didn’t blame me when our hamster, Fluffy, for whom we shared joint custody after combining our allowances to purchase him, died from choking on a piece of his plastic cage while in my care.

Best friends forever, man. 

But Tracy was popular, and I was not. She had that uncanny and apparently inborn ability to know what to wear, how to entice people to pick her for teams, and how to make dozens of friends, so I regularly watched her on the playground and wondered what I had to give to our friendship.

Until nighttime.

During overnights, Tracy became terribly homesick, and so we usually slept in the living room where we could see her house out the picture window, kitty corner from mine. And then we’d hold hands while we fell asleep.

The thing about the dark is it can be overwhelming. And sometimes, we just need friends who will sit with us in it.

This weekend, our cousin, a 1st grader like my twin boys, stayed over. He’s tried to stay at our house before, sometimes even successfully, but he never likes it here after dark, when the chaos is finally tamped down to a quiet smolder and all the distractions are gone, so he usually asks to go back home, a few houses down the street.

This weekend, though, his parents were away so home wasn’t an option and he was stuck with us. And he did GREAT sleeping in the big puppy pile with the other 1st graders on the floor of our bedroom with their stuffed pets and pillows and blankets and elbows and knees crammed in each other’s faces.

Yep.

He did GREAT, except for 3:00-5:00am when he woke up and it was dark except for the dim glow of the bathroom light which, let’s be honest, is never enough. He didn’t fuss or cry or moan or whine, though. He just said, in a small, snuffly voice, “Is it morning yet?”

And I said, “No. I’m sorry. It’s the middle of the night.”

And he said, “Oh,” but like it broke his heart that he hadn’t made it through the dark yet.

So I said, “Want to come up here beside me?”

And he said, “Yes.”

And I said, “OK.”

So he crawled up into my bed and laid his head on the pillow beside mine, and I said, “Do you want to hold hands?”

And he whispered a barely audible “yeah” while his cousins snored on the ground.

We spent the next two hours snuggled up in the dark, holding hands and waiting. Eventually, he fell asleep and so did I, and the sun rose sometime after we stopped watching.

I didn’t expect easy nights with this kid. Just like I don’t expect easy nights with mine. Nights are too tempting to bad dreams and wet beds and bloody noses and getting sick. Besides, nights are too full of the dark to be easy for any of us.

But I didn’t expect the blessings of hard nights, either. The blessing of having someone there so you can ask if it’s morning yet. The blessing of earning trust by offering a hand. The blessing of keeping the vigil for the morning together. The blessing of knowing the light is coming, even though we always seem to fall asleep on our watch.

As much as we all want easy nights – to never have to be awake to fight the dark or ourselves – we don’t get to have as many as we’d like. And so my greatest wish for us is that we’d find a hand to hold in our darknesses. To know the Light is coming. And that we’re not alone while we wait.

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A Determined Walk Toward Slow Hope: An Update on Depression

Sep 17 2013

This is not a real post. I am far, far too giddy and drunk on I Am Responsible for ZERO Kids Right Now to write a real post.

But it is an update of sorts. An update on depression in disguise. And anxiety. And finding a way out.

An encouragement, hopefully. And a determined walk toward slow hope.

Because, you see, Greg and I are away. Away away. From home. On purpose. For 40ish hours, we’re away, and I can go potty whenever I want. What’s more, I bet Greg isn’t going to lay on the floor outside the bathroom and stick his fingers under the door and say, “MomMomMomMomMommyMom” or ask “ARE YOU DONE YET?” or holler “MY BROTHER JUST PUNCHED ME IN THE PENIS.” He probably won’t yell that even once. And I’m not sure I can adequately express the kind of jaw-dropping, drool-inducing, mind-blowing bliss that comes from that knowledge.

And can I just say? The fact that I’m happy about this trip? The fact that I’m looking forward to being away from home? The fact that I think I may actually enjoy myself? That’s a miracle right there. A medical marvel. Because I did not feel like this a few months ago. Not even a little. Anxiety had backed me up against the wall with a hand around my throat and it did not let up until my doctor told me it was Depression in Disguise and I started the long road toward health. Again.

The road to mental health is always long, and I just hate that. I step back on the road and I want a supersonic jet or a bullet train or a Formula One race car to pull alongside and offer me a ride. I want to bypass the journey and arrive at the Perfect Mental Health destination NOW. But nooooo. It’s never like that. Never ever. I step back on the road to mental health in my scuffed tennis shoes with my underused muscles and the only way forward is one foot in front of the other in front of the other in front of the other. And onward to infinity.

Sometimes it looks like no progress at all. Especially with the inevitable medication changes and being aware of my feelings and having to stay engaged in the process. Blerg. But then one day, maybe months and months after finding the road again, I look up and realize I’ve walked or jogged or crawled quite a way. I realize that, while I can’t see my destination, I also can’t see where I started. I realize I’m headed out on a brief trip with my husband and I’m not just going through the motions. Not dreading being away. Maybe I’m even eager to go.

Crazy.

Or maybe Not Crazy, to use the technical medical term.

Now, it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine getting ready for this trip.

I had to do certain things.

Like update our will.

And clean.

And I’m never sure which of those things I hate worse.

My parents are staying with the kids while we’re away, so we picked up just enough this weekend to upgrade our house from the Pit of Everlasting Despair to I’m So, So Sorry You Have to Stay Here. I’d feel worse about all the beds that are unmade and towels that are frayed and children who are unbathed except the house looks approximately 20,000 times better than the time I was pregnant with twins and my water broke prematurely and we bolted from the house in the middle of the night leaving my in-laws to babysit preschoolers and sop up amniotic fluid. So, you know; the house isn’t that bad. It’s all about perspective, right?

The truth is, I’ve tried 3 different combinations of medications since starting treatment again in May, and I’m not exactly the palm-to-the-forehead, BE-HEALED kind of better. I sent a message to my brother and sister-in-law last week titled “We’ll Be Gone Next Week… MAYBE FOREVER” and I opened with “In light of our upcoming trip (read: imminent deaths), I need to clarify some things about our will.” So, you know; Hello, Anxiety, my old friend. But when we hugged and kissed our kids good-bye, I didn’t experience soul-crushing sorrow, either. Or dread. Or defeat. I would say, in fact, I could breathe. So Hello, Progress. 

I may not be out of the dark yet. I may not be standing in full sunshine. But the moon has risen in the dark, and it’s full, and it’s bright, and I can imagine the sunlight on the horizon. For now, that’s enough.

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A determined walk toward slow hope.

And enough.

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P.S. I guess this turned into a real post after all. Shows what I know.

P.P.S. I’m not too proud to ask for your prayers or good wishes for this time away. For rest for a weary mama. For air to breathe. xoxo

Image by Roger Hutchison used with permission:
you can find out more about Roger’s art at The Painting Table.