Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lesson #37: What doesn't kill you makes you...

One thing I learned in 2010 was to never say, "Enough is enough." Or, "I can't take anymore." Because for some incredibly amazingly horribly strange reason, I kept taking more.

As the holidays crept in on us, my family wondered how we would get through. We knew it was going to be hard, and we were going to feel the absence of The One We Lost acutely. First came Thanksgiving, then His birthday. As Christmas drew near we braced ourselves. One more major holiday and then in January, the anniversary of His death and then maybe ... light at the end of the tunnel of grief?

But while we were bracing, we lost another one. My husband's grandfather passed away. As we planned that funeral, Son #2 abruptly left our home and quit speaking to anyone in the family. We couldn't understand his strange departure at first, especially as the family sunk into grief over the latest loss. But I've come to understand that Son #2 is grieving, horribly, himself. A combination of surviviors guilt, unaddressed grief, another loss, and pressures from his young wife caused him to flee, likely in an attempt to run away from the harsh realities of life.

We held a memorial service for grandpa one day and I got a call the next day that a beloved aunt of mine had a stroke. I rushed to the hospital to sit with my cousin and uncle. I just wanted to be there. What else was there to do?

I came home that night -- last night -- emotionally exhausted, begging the universe to knock it off. Give us a break. Let us have a holiday from grief. Please.

This morning, as dawn broke on the winter solstice and the sun shone briefly over the mountains after days of cloudy obscurity, I felt a sense of happiness and joy that has been absent for a while. As our Earth turns, today marks the last of this year's encroaching night. From here on out -- for a few short months at least -- the sun will come back a little more each day. It will bring warmth, fresh life, and hope with it.

And that's something, at least.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lesson #36: Never put off giving yourself a clean slate.

I have had intentions of rearranging my bedroom furniture for six months -- maybe (probably) longer.

For one reason and then another I never got around to it. Over the summer I had plenty of time to do it, thanks to an extended bout of under-employment. Still, I never made the move. There was always eight hours a day worth of writing tasks, and job and client seeking to be done, a house to clean, dinner to make, homework help to dole out, and each day turned into another day until one day I had a 50-hour a week job to go to, a new freelance newspaper writing gig, and even less time to devote to home organizational projects.

Irony set in when I realized I was getting more done around the house now that I was working away from home than all those months I worked from home. Industry breeds industry it seems.

So, last weekend, I finally found the motivation to rearrange my bedroom furniture. I even created a Bagua diagram to feng shui the room. The new arrangement is beautiful, and the energy flow is invigorating. It may encourage me to -- insert shocking gasps here -- go through my ridiculously crowded closet. It would be much nicer on my self esteem to only have clothing that fits me in there.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lesson #35: Beware werewolves

Husband has told me numerous times that there is nothing scary about humans that turn into wolves. What would be scary is if wolves could become human. They would look like a human, walk and talk like a human, but you could never truly trust them because their motivations -- they're soul -- would never be human.

We watched the move Splice the other night. It wasn't a particularly good movie, but it was creepy because of the premise. The creature looks and acts human, but it's not.

We've been teaching our Olde English Bulldogge to speak. She can say her name, "hello," "outside," "weird," and "wrong." She speaks in a thick bullie accent, but nonetheless, if you were to hear her speak, it's obvious that she is mimicking the words we say. The fact that she says words like "weird" and "wrong" on command prove that she's mimicking us -- parrot-style -- as those are the words we use when we describe her speech, both to her and about her.

At first we thought her speaking was novel, funny. Until she started interrupting our conversations, interjecting her opinions, and speaking over us. Until we watched that movie Splice and realized that not all anthropomorphic traits are amusing, and are, in fact, rather creepy.

Lesson #34: Count Your Blessings

In the years that I have let the blog slide (really, was it much of a blog to begin with?), I have:
  • earned a four-year degree
  • gotten married and changed my name
  • become a step-mother to a wonderful group of boys
  • watched my eldest son graduate from high school (he is the first in two generations in my family to have done so)
  • started two businesses, one of which is starting to really thrive
  • gotten a great job at a university (I love the atmosphere at universities!)
  • become a newspaper columnist on the side
  • and developed for myself a comfortable, though unusual lifestyle.
My children are growing up to be handsome men of which I'm proud. My oldest, D, is working for his uncle and just bought his first car. He still dreams of attending art school, but wants to do so without going into debt -- I wish I was that smart -- so he is saving up money. The other two, K and I, are still in school, still plugging away and keeping out of trouble (that's a blessing).

In January, my oldest stepson passed away. I can say all sorts of things here, about reeling, about devastation, about loss and other cliches but nothing can truly describe it. There are the the commonly accepted five stages of grief, and I accept that as a truth after this experience. I am in the supposedly final stage of acceptance, but I waver between accepting what happened and hiding from it in the depression stage. When it happened, the whole family slid down this murky bank of despair and we had to grow these amazing spiritual muscles to help pull each other out and back into the sunlight. It took months to climb out, and there are days when one or all of us slide back down. His birthday is coming up -- next week in fact -- and I have a real, physical fear of that day and what it will do to us. I am bracing. But keep in mind, I am just his step mother. I stand by and feel these feelings and wipe the tears off my cheeks. And I watch his father and his mother buckle under the weight of true loss, while I am powerless to take that loss away from them, while I am powerless to shoulder that burden so they don't have to, though I wish every day I had that power.

This was one reason why we had the wedding -- to have something light to share after sharing something so dark. We were married on the first day of Spring under an old oak tree at Husband's grandparents home. The tree had just begun to bud, and winter's storm clouds had been swept away by the spring sunshine. We celebrated under that sun, and publicly celebrated our family and friends and our commitment to one another, knowing how tenuous life is. Knowing how short spring and summer truly are. Knowing that winter comes again. And again. And that is life.

In May, my next oldest stepson, G, married a beautiful and intelligent girl, M, at the foot of a snowy mountain in the Sierras. They moved back home this fall. We used to make jokes about adult children living with their parents, but we are having a good time having the kids near us. We appreciate it more than we ever did before. We want them to stay.

So, in my blogging absence, I have learned to count my blessings. I have learned that blessings come and go. We rejoice when they come; we mourn when they go. And for some reason, we always forget that this is the cycle of life. I am rejoicing now, while I still can.