The house we live in

Big change tends to stir up those things we repress. It draws out any ugliness we try to cover with the “New” thing or the “New” experience. I guess the real adventure is embracing every part of the process – not just the shiny newness, but all the brokenness that brought you there in the first place. Since we moved I have been a lost and found box of emotion. I have tried detaching, scare tactics, distraction, numbing, close up magic (just kidding) – none of it works. At the end of the day I look like an out of control emotional crazy person, and basically, I am.

Over the last six or so months I have been a little obsessed with personalities. There is a part of me that always wants | needs to know the “whys” of things. Why things happen, why two people can look at the same situation and come to separate conclusions…etc. Back in September a friend introduced me to the Enneagram (read: diagnosed me). The nerdy researcher in me began reading everything and anything I could get my hands on. It’s an absolutely fascinating concept, and dare I say, spot on. I am familiar with various other methods of personality typing, but this one described me perfectly, to the point where I may have had a small identity crisis. If you aren’t familiar, and are willing to see yourself in the best and worst sense, I would encourage you to check it out.

On my quest to gain a better understanding, I realized my biggest enemy, other than grief, is stress. When I am stressed I either get very sick or basically turn into a monster. I could be a monster to those closest to me, those within a 3 to 5,000 mile radius, or just to myself. I researched introvertedness, logical | critical thinking, sensing, feeling, judging; all the ways we as humans emotionally react to any given situation. I am incredibly hard on myself, the expectations I chase are more often than not impossible to catch. When I disappoint myself I take it out on others. When I am angry or lonely or sad or frustrated, but cannot put words or emotion to it – I project. It is a vicious cycle, one I am desperately attempting to correct. Stress inspires a way of acting/reacting that gives me visions of what I would have been like as a cavewoman – absolutely terrifying. If this were a sitcom we would flash to a scene: me in torn clothes, feeding on raw meat, blood trickling down my face, dirt smeared skin, and grunts and growls being my only form of communication. It also gives me an appreciation – like a deep tear inducing appreciation – for friends and family who love me in spite of my gnashing of teeth and/or disappearing acts.

Who we are and why we are those people is an important study. I was insulted at first by my personality typing and I was incredibly unkind to myself as a result. I am thankful for so many of the things that make me, me – but there are scary parts – there is a wildness that needs – not taming so much as love…self love. I read a quote the other day that basically said – the words you say to yourself, become the house you live in. Throat.Punch. The house I live in is weighed down by words of frustration, sadness, and weariness. Words of joy and gratefulness are certainly scattered in there – but self reflection is no joke. I need to strengthen my walls with encouragement, lower my expectations, accept my lack of control. I need to stop withholding grace – be OK with time: time for growth and healing.

I have been horrible at balancing life this last month. I have been difficult, cold, and ambivalent. Here’s to embracing all the messy broken parts – accepting responsibility and owning the process. Part of showing myself grace, is also a practice in showing it to others, better than I have in the past. Recognizing we are all works in progress – and the only way we can do this life is together is by simply loving ourselves and one another. Love has no expectations or pro and con lists; it is kindness, it is grace. And when we do a crappy job, which we ultimately will, love is owning that failure and trying again, over and over and over.

something i need to hear

I wrote this to Birdie before she was born. 33.5 years of advice in a basic, unassuming form. I have learned that most things in life are as simple has your decision to act. Life happens to everyone, it is complex – it’s size and weight may change, but we always determine our participation, our reactions, our perception of it. Although these words are my own, I find I need the reminder more often than not…well, more like everyday.

Don’t apologize for who you are or let anyone make you question it. Be gracious in these things but fiercely protective. Follow your heart – don’t surrender to archaic expectations/rules. Be honest with others, but most importantly, yourself. Manipulation and unspoken expectation only hurt you. Don’t wish for “five minutes from now,” live in each moment, memorize and cherish them. Own your decisions. Take a drive – destination unknown. Stay up all night sharing truth. Confrontation is not a bad thing. Practice selflessness. Say what you mean, mean what you say; don’t drag it out. Remember from where you came. Learn to say No. Chase things that move your soul. Be brave. Never let any problem or challenge be bigger than you – you can do anything.
Music is everything.
Laugh through the lines on your face and cherish each one – joy left its mark on you. When you learn what it is to love, don’t fear it – embrace it – not everyone knows its face. Dance parties cure most things. Save your money. Seek richness in relationship…let yourself be known. Failure is only a stepping stone to getting it right – it is not a definition or road block. Stand up for those you love and those without a voice. Seek beauty beneath the surface…every layer has a story.

Old Kinderhooks

When people don’t know what to say – they ask, “how are you?” The struggle to answer is in deciding – do they really want to know or are they being polite? Then…how do I put it into words?

I don’t know how to answer. I know what I think, but words in the head are like voices underwater. They are distorted. Jeanette Winterson

Yes – that sums it up.

We are OK**. That is the simplest response. We have horrible days, we have easy days – we exist in survival mode and that, in and of itself, is both sad and a success. Everyone wants to know how we are really doing because in their minds, there is no comprehension of how one functions in this space. A lot of that stems from having a family and their attempts to metaphorically wear our shoes. The idea is impossible. Well, so is each day, but we do it. Some of those days are filled with bright moments, belly laughs and what feels like normalcy. Other days we struggle to make it through and the world throws cruel twists and turns. But, we are OK.

Keep praying for us. Keep sending sweet notes and silly text messages. Leave us voicemails or send a positive thought our way. We appreciate every sentiment no matter its grandeur. We are not crumbling under the weight of Birdie. We have not been consumed by the grief. We are still Mick and Misie. If we had an online profile it would look the same – we enjoy a good bottle of gin, a good belly laugh and making fun of each other. If you saw us we would look and sound the same, however, our minds and hearts feel greater depths and at times function inside those depths. Don’t waste time worrying about us or grieving our hearts. Use that energy to love those around you and fight for your purpose.

An aside:

I have been tentative to write. I was caught off guard by the response to my previous post. It was not my intention to come across boastful or as if I wanted praise for our decision to donate breast milk. I am not sure why I was uncomfortable with your kindness, it was unexpected and not what I sought. I do not see myself as brave in doing so, to me, it was a logical step. I do appreciate your kind words, however, it has nothing to do with me. None of this is about Mick or I – it’s all about Birdie. It’s about her life and how it can encourage, inspire and bring perspective. She inspires everything we do. everything.

**Old Kinderhook club – history behind the phrase O.K. as told in my favorite movie Silver Linings Playbook – not historically factual, but, I like it, and not just because Bradley Cooper said it.

Joy.

There is a fear we will never know joy again, but that sounds a bit self deprecating doesn’t it? If you look for it, you can find joy almost anywhere. It may not carry the same weight as the joy we lost, but it’s joy nonetheless…and that’s something. When planning for our little bird, one of the most exciting things for me was breast feeding. I know that sounds weird, but as a nutrition nerd, I was thrilled with the science behind it. Without nerding out on you dear readers, there are SO many amazing things about it, some almost unfathomable. While we were in the hospital, they would store any production in time/date order so that when/if Birdie could feed regularly, they had an inventory. Once Birdie passed, Mick and I made the decision that I would continue to provide milk because there are moms who cannot and that in itself broke my heart. I was emotionally only able to continue this for about five weeks, but was very serious about getting it to someone in need. Yesterday we received a message from one of our midwives, the milk is now being used to grow a set of twins! There it is, a little piece of joy.

six years

Many years ago I was driving through Georgia; I pulled off 95 South to use the restroom and grab sustenance. I was not in the most populated area, but it did not seem like I was entering the plot of a horror movie either. [A common rule to determine ones safety.] I entered the “ladies” room and immediately noticed the strong stench of bleach. My initial thought was, awesome, I found the one gas station bathroom they actually clean! I noticed the sink was shiny, the mirror sparkling – SCORE! As I walked toward the stall, the smell grew stronger, except now it was mixed with another smell…something horrible. I entered the stall, as I turned toward the toilet I realized I was in a horror movie, my nightmare. A brown liquid substance covered the stall walls, filled the mini trash can and splattered all porcelain surfaces. As I fumbled for the lock, I did my best to not bring any additional damage to this restroom. If this was Georgia’s idea of a “ladies” room, I needed to vomit elsewhere.

Once I was back on the freeway I consulted my phone list. I had made a check list of people to call to keep me awake or entertained as I drove seventeen hours south. Someone I only recently met was next on the list, some guy named Micky. Welp, this is as good a time as any to break the ice. I dialed his number and began the conversation with my recent introduction to Georgia bathrooms. I do not want to put words his mouth, but I am pretty sure this is when he fell in love with me.

As Micky and I embark on our seventh year together, I look back at our humble beginnings. Even before we met – we had both been through so much change and hopeless moments. Together we have now faced tragedy, but it never feels difficult to love him; it is the most natural thing in the world. If I only knew at fifteen, eighteen, twenty, twenty-four – this is what I should strive to achieve, this is love. Love and marriage do not mean finding someone who can provide financial security. Love is not meant to be out of control and dysfunctional – those highs and lows – although seemingly romantic at times – will not get you through the dredges life inevitably throws. Love is courage, it means fighting for something despite our insecurities. You can love someone, and with everything inside yourself know they are your soul mate, but if you’re a coward, it is likely you will lose them. If your insecurities rule you, how much can you offer another person. Love is sacrifice, it means letting go of self, pride, expectation, and giving yourself in every way to someone else. It is honest, sharing even the ugly parts, because if you’re fighting the same fight, those ugly parts will become beautiful. No one does it perfectly, every one of us is flawed, but when you have someone with whom you are courageous, sacrificial and honest –  exceptional things await. Remember, my first adult conversation with my now husband was about explosive diarrhea…I clearly know what I’m talking about.

a process

The thing about grief is…there is no thing. No one can tell you how to go through it. No one can tell you if you’re doing it wrong. I understand there are five stages – they define general feelings you will process – general feelings. I don’t discount the years of study that created this logic, however at this point, they are the most simplistic terms to describe our hearts, and that seems offensive in some way. Maybe the five stages are more for those supporting you – it gives them something to grasp, a definition to satiate their helplessness. In my brief experience, the depths at which the soul grieves, supersedes the generic.

I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state, but a process. C.S. Lewis – A Grief Observed

To me – grief cannot be defined, each person translates it differently. The definition we give to each day’s emotion will change and warp and at times revisit itself. It swirls around quickly and then slows down. We are not given the luxury of determining it’s weight or timing, we only get to determine our stride in it’s midst. We will make attempts to move forward and discover versions of ourselves we never imagined. The people we were before Bridie, well, they seem like strangers. We now walk around in shells of our former selves; this will change. In grace we will heal. It will be an indefinite process, and those human shells – they will be filled with more mature, defined people. There is no map, there is no timeline. Our stages of grief will be just that, ours.

Thank you

Thank you to everyone for your prayers, thoughtful cards, and phone calls! This has been so far reaching and we appreciate it all very much. Very much. We are not in a place yet to respond to all the loving messages and notes, but know we feel SO loved and cushioned in prayer. This is a day by day – sometimes hour by hour – journey. It is difficult to predict how each moment will go, but we are doing our best to accept these moments for whatever they are. Thank you for loving us and continuing to pray for our hearts.