Saturday, December 31, 2022

Let's go

 I've been thinking... a bunch. My considerations these past few days have been a blur of so many things, and it's really quite a jumble even inside my head, but I still feel the need to write, to record for my boys so that they remember. It's the details that we shelve (out of necessity, mostly) and forget as our hearts and minds age and juggle the stuff of life. 

I got a nose diamond. I know about half of my readers will highly disapprove, but it is something I've wanted since I was a freshman in college and I'm very happy I did it. A dear friend of mine gave me a gift card for it and it was just the catalyst I needed to make the jump. My boys all love it and that is good enough for me! 💃 

Lochlan is obsessed with Paddington. All things Paddington. The books, the movies, the audio books, the stuffed animals, just all of it. He spends copious hours drawing Paddington. That silly bear and his vacuum are usually frequent subjects in those drawings. In one of the movies, Paddington does some pretty fancy spy moves with his vacuum cleaner. Tonight, Lochlan spent over 2 hours looking up and watching vacuum reviews. 😂

The past couple of months have been grueling, for many reasons. I have felt the strain on my boys as my attention/time has been divided doing what my days absolutely require of me, trying to process the impossible and simultaneously wrestling with the guilt of what I can't do/be for them. Instead of expressing their frustrations with me, they have worked together to help clean up our house when I'm cleaning the Airbnbs, made dinner when they see my fatigue, taken turns cleaning the kitchen after dinners, entertained Lochlan when he's being a grizzly bear, and written me notes almost daily, encouraging me and quite honestly putting the wind into my sails. 

Madigan and Kelton both have some kind of trauma from this past year. They cannot sleep if the wind is blowing, or if it is raining hard. They lie awake in a state of near-panic. I usually move them to the couch and put the Bose Speaker between them and turn on some kind of white noise to help drown out the sounds. Last night Madigan still couldn't sleep because he could hear the wind rattling the foam insulation we have in our broken window, so he put in some earplugs and was eventually able to sleep. It makes for some long nights because our weather has been stormy and wintry for many days. I keep praying that time will heal this trauma. 

We've been reading The Count of Monte Cristo and it has been so poignant in many places: 

  • Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when the storm comes.
  • All human wisdom is contained in these two words -- wait and hope.
  • It is the privilege of youth to believe and hope, but old men see death more clearly. 

I've had a headache for 9 weeks. I've slept less than 5 hours/night for over 9 weeks because Lochlan does not sleep anymore. I have felt this pressure in my head which comes from a severe lack of sleep; it's fatigue that rests itself squarely over my eyes and into my temples. Last night Lochlan finally slept and I was able to sleep for 9 hours! When I awoke, the pressure had dissipated. I kept waiting for it to creep back in today, but it has not. Sleep is like a miracle. 

We have been surrounded by such a beautiful community and I am deeply grateful. I almost never go to town without running into someone I know and love and it's the conversations at the end of the road, the chance encounters in the grocery store, the friendly honk of the horn and wave of a neighbor when I'm in the fields/yard working... these things I treasure in my heart. 

Our neighborhood is lit up with Christmas lights this year and it makes the heart merry. What a beautiful thing to see a community, hounded by fire, water, mud and destruction, stand up in the merriest of seasons and light their houses up in a final act of defiance against the havoc of the year 2022.  I walked the neighborhood in the dark last night underneath a moonlit sky and it brought me so much joy. 

My boys are incredibly funny. Almost constantly. Declan never stops making puns. It's constant PUNishment for the rest of us. Madigan canters around the house making noise - just so much noise. He builds so many magnificent Lego creations, and each of those creations has it's own special noise. Each of his stuffed animals has a unique voice too. Kelton is D.R.A.M.A. He's an incredible actor and entertains us almost constantly with his antics. He is passionate and enthusiastic - a compelling combination for the entertainer of the family. Lochlan - well, Lochlan loves vacuums. 

As a general observation, grief seems to run a parallel course to life.  Sometimes life and grief intersect, and once they intersect, grief lurks for the remainder of the journey. Sometimes it may even alter our entire trajectory as a whole, for good or for ill. I think experiencing grief helps us to understand life and perhaps even live it more fully. The simple things can become more profound, it can give us the ability to see and understand others, it can break us and help us to heal back more beautifully. 

Tomorrow is the start of a new year. I have no expectations that this new year will somehow be full of colorful horizons and lustrous tomorrows. After all, it's just tomorrow. It is another day to rise, do the next thing and make the absolute most of the time we are given. It is a day to hope. I am excited because it is tomorrow, not because it is a new year that is sure to be filled with everything that 2022 was not. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Batteries not included

Christmas is just a few days away. Christmas is a beautiful holiday, but it's also just a special time of the year. It is something I have always looked forward to from the youngest years of my childhood all the way into this old adult age. :-) The hope of what we celebrate sets the precedent for the season for me, but I love every intricate (and let's face it, mostly unrelated) detail: baking Christmas cookies, the coming of winter with it's breath of snow, family time together, traditions carried down through generations, Christmas lights on as much as possible, waking up to a Christmas tree every morning that it's up, hot cider, watching the delight of people unwrapping a gift I've carefully considered and chosen for them because I know them, Christmas music playing everywhere including in my heart, eggnog with whipped cream on top... I just love all of it, honestly. 

This year my heart feels differently. I feel numb. The joy is evident and the magic of the season probably still exists, but for me it is simply muted. I've struggled to find gifts - in part because we lack the funds to purchase gifts, but mostly because I just can't seem to rein in my thoughts to deeply consider those I love and choose accordingly. I haven't decorated our house or the airbnbs. Luckily, for me, my eldest son is filled with initiative and drive and has managed to beautifully decorate our house. He even decorated the ficus tree in our indoor garden with lights and ornaments from our Christmas box. He has wrapped all our presents with anything and everything he can find. He has built into his brothers that excitement that should be a part of every Christmas. He has worked tirelessly to make it all special and I am so grateful to him. He has asked me to make cinnamon rolls for Christmas breakfast and I'm glad he did because I have a goal and a plan to do so and it's good. 

Next year, I will put Christmas lights back on our round house - we've had them every year except this year. I will put a big bow on the gate to our driveway, as well as solar lights. I will cover our beautiful gabion walls with Christmas lights. I will decorate our outside Christmas tree which still stands tall and firm in spite of the floods that hit it. I will buy a live Christmas tree to plant in the yard to start to replace the trees we have lost this year, and we will decorate it as a family and eat Christmas cookies and hot cider. I will wake the kids up every morning with Christmas music. We will make cookies for all of our neighbors because we adore them and we know that we are incredibly blessed to live in this community of people who live and love to the fullest. I MAY even try to send out a couple Christmas cards. 

This year I just can't. I wish I understood why, but I guess that's part of the process. I wake up every morning ready to face the day and all that it may hold. But, there's a caution in my heart, a mild dread if I'm being perfectly honest. I work hard every day and I spend most of my day with the people I love the most in this world. I feel incredibly blessed and thankful. I feel weary too. I have worked so hard to restore that which was destroyed, spending days, weeks, and now months rebuilding and it has been rewarding and fruitful labor. I have worked alongside so many I love and so many who have given freely of themselves to assist and make my burden lighter. My heart is full and my joy complete. But, in my unguarded moments, I remember watching a huge part of my life disappear underneath mud and water. I remember hearing the fences pop as they simply fell over, their posts bent into two. I remember the raging rivers rushing past, shaking the walls that kept it from hitting the house. I remember watching whole trees wash through the yard. I remember seeing my neighbors weep. I remember the feelings of desperation and terror. 

It seems like the tragedies of this holiday season are deeply compounded for me this year by what I haven't yet worked through in all it's entirely. The injuries of a beloved friend from a horrible car accident. The death of a good man's son and granddaughter in another car accident. The surgery a kind and wonderful man had to endure just before Christmas. The ache of missing my siblings. The void left by a friend lost to cancer. The longing for friends far away. The heartache of families broken apart. The loss of a beloved pet. And so much more... 

I think love is a part of it. It seems love, which is so incomparable in it's power to change us, fill us, give us life in all it's fullness, is also capable of breaking us into pieces. We love people, places, things, and even ideas. We love our God. We love what He has created. And in that love we become more of what we should become. The process of love includes the excruciating joy/fulfillment alongside the breaking pain that chips away at us in the molding process. 

So, admittedly, guilt nags at me, but like a body running a race with limited energy, I find the parameters of what I can fulfill this year to be smaller than I would wish. I know what I wish I could create in all that is Christmas this year, but the very real limitations of what my heart will allow are very much in my own way. And I'm choosing to accept them and ask for forbearance from all affected in the process. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

The Perils of Sleeplessness

I'm currently participating in a scientific study on the effects of sleep deprivation. It is one of the longest running studies being conducted. It's my own study and though we will wait until the study is completed to publish all the data, the results are quite compelling. 

  • Sleep is a luxury
  • Restful sleep is taken for granted
  • The lack of sleep alters brain function and efficiency
  • A person can adapt to limited sleep for a long time
  • Being really tired is not terribly unlike being really drunk, or so it would seem (this part of the study is still mostly inconclusive as I am physically incapable of having any amount of alcohol before falling asleep)
  • Nights which don't include sleep are excruciatingly long
  • The moon is rather inspiring in the wee hours of the morning
  • There is quite a bit of night life among the wild creatures of our forests and meadows
  • All things are funnier and/or significantly more alarming at 3:00 AM
  • There are so many shooting stars at night... we miss the show too often
  • Getting a goodly amount of sleep is our overall recommendation
Lochlan is off sleep again. Four nights ago he didn't sleep until 7:30 AM the following morning at which point the rest of the household was wide awake and facing the day ahead. By 8:00 PM that day I had been awake for well over 40 hours. The past three nights have been less grueling, but only marginally. I think I could sleep for a solid week and very likely still be behind on sleep. But, right now, I'd love to participate in such an experiment... find a quiet cabin in the mountains, take my two snuggly (well, one snuggly and the other "almost nice") canines and sleep. Just sleep. 

Though I'm insanely tired, my heart is full of hope and I have much to rejoice in as I look back on the past few weeks. Our beloved friends Mark and Renae (and Linnea) came for Thanksgiving and Mark spent an entire week helping me transform the Octagon property from looking like a war zone to the start of our place of refuge once again. He was able to "see" my vision and put into action the creation for future gardens, flood mitigation, rebuilt flagstone pathways, wildfire prevention measures, and general restoration of all the pieces of this special place which were destroyed by the floods. We were able to fill in some of our canyons, reroute water pathways to less devastating channels, move copious amounts of dirt to appropriate places, remove rocks, build 9 gabion walls to protect the house, build raised garden beds out of flood debris materials, rebuild our driveway, remove destroyed fencing from underneath 14 inches of dried mud, trim and remove trees that were broken or dying, uncover a large portion of our beautiful garden pathways, etc. Mark saw the canvas, helped me scrape off the old paint residue and helped me identify what colors to start with and where to place them. It is true that there are few gifts greater than that of a brother, but even greater the gift of a brother who makes the stuff of living the day-to-day, the sweat, blood, tears of hard work sweet and rewarding again. I think having Mark and Renae here was truly the second wind that none of us knew we needed desperately. 

We also took a couple of days to not work. :-) They had never seen the Grand Canyon before so that was very special to share with each of them! 

So, though sleep may all but elude me, I find my heart at peace and my eyes set to look forward. We must rise tomorrow and face whatever is required of us.