Jan 27, 2015

The Mystery

"Everything which is done in the present, affects the future by consequence, and the past by redemption." 

One of my favorite people I've never met is Ken Burns. For the proverbial list of guests you'd pick to sit around your dinner table, he is one of mine. Because I think he's found a secret: that the process of going back, being knee deep in history, is beautiful. Because hindsight gives clarity and sense to our lives, even the bad things. Because it's a good story. While the present just seems like a mess- one without any rhythm or poetry, at that- the events that we look back on give meaning to the chaos.

But I read an article in the Chicago Tribune three days ago, and haven't stopped thinking about it. It told the story of an 87 year old woman named Anna. She is a psychoanalyst who was visiting the September 11 memorial. More importantly, she is a Holocaust survivor who lived in three concentration camps, including Auschwitz. She was freed when the camp was liberated. Her father and grandmother did not survive. She watched a friend die as mice waited nearby for their next meal.

Anna was asked, at the end of the article, if her background made her see meaning in the events of September 11. "Meaning? What meaning?" was her response.

I believe in God. I always have. But there are some things that will never be good. It doesn't mean He can't make good things from broken ones; He often does, and those make the best stories. Yet, it doesn't made the bad fade. What happened to Anna was inexplicable and horrifying. What happens to victims of abuse is senseless. When someone gets cancer, or dies too young, or has their heart broken, it doesn't sit right with us, and it never will. Sometimes, I don't think it's possible to reconcile tears.

Two weeks ago was my anniversary. Sky and I have been married for five years. In those five years, there have been two babies, three jobs, and four apartments. There have been long absences due to the military, and they add up to over a year apart. There has also been a lot of hurt.

The truth about my home is that it is not a happy place. It has not been a happy place for most of the last five years. There is not a lot of screaming or slamming of doors, no midnight shouting matches or broken dishes. There is just empty silence where sweet words should be. Separate rooms when there should be a shared couch. An absence of hope when it should be full to the brim. There is not a shred of trust. The one place in this world that should be calming and kind has never felt that way. And it doesn't make sense to me.

From the very beginning of our marriage, Sky and I have fought an uphill battle, and we've gone sliding down to the bottom again and again. It's where we find ourselves now. Only this time, I don't have the strength to keep climbing anymore. I am hoping that things will change and our family can stay whole. I hope that more than anything in this world. I wish that it was just up to me, but it's not.

These next few weeks/months/etc. are really our last chance at this. I tell you this because I ask for your prayers. I don't understand what has happened or why. I will never be able to be the wife that says, "I'm glad it happened. We're better for it." I am not glad. I hope we will be better for it.

In the meantime, I've quit trying to comprehend the reasons why we're here, and fix my gaze on Millie and Walter. On being gentle with our hearts. On waking up and going to bed and waking up again. On knowing I'm not the only one with problems that keep me up at night. On whispering prayers that remind God I need Him desperately, and remind me that He knows.

And maybe someday, there will be beauty in between the pain. Maybe someday, I can tell this story, and sigh when I get to the happy ending. Until then, the pages turn day by day. I'm in the middle of the mystery.

Jan 5, 2015

Life in Janurary

"Sometimes, I look outside, and I think that a lot of other people have seen this snow before. 
Just like I think that a lot of other people have read those books before. And listened to those songs.
I wonder how they feel tonight." 

The sun sank below the horizon hours ago. It's dark now, but the kind of dark that glows with newly falling snow. The stars are missing from the sky, as if they have sprinkled themselves into the vast white. It covers rooftops, molds into car shapes, and smooths over all hints of busyness from this day. There are those who shrink back from this kind of crystallized weather. But not me. Snow makes the real world disappear. It makes me forget.

I woke up earlier than usual this morning. I had heard what the weatherman predicted, and after breakfast was given and coats were found, Millie, Walter, and I made a trip to the grocery store. It's a lovely, chilly Midwest tradition, I think; when more than an inch of snow is in the forecast, it means we must shop for bread and milk. By the time the storm clouds break open and the tiny dots of white begin falling, there isn't a loaf or a gallon to be found on the shelves in Champaign-Urbana. We have plenty of plows to scatter the roads with salt and sand, but it's a tradition that stays with me still- grocery store, gas station so the tank will be full to the top, and home to a bowl of something warm. Then we press our noses to the windowpanes, straining our eyes to spot the first snowflake. If we turn our backs for a moment, we look back to see an unrecognizable scene of winter on our street.

When I opened this page, I meant to write to you about the snow. It does something to me, as most of the season changes do. I suppose what I really wanted to do is tell you how I am. What I'm doing.

In the past couple of weeks, I have spent time with more than one friend. This is remarkable when I'm such an introvert, and when I often feel I have no friends that I could do those kinds of things with. I spent one evening on a couch with a friend and her tiny baby boy. We sipped drinks and talked for hours about life. I stayed until after one in the morning, completely unaware of time. A few days later, I braved the bitter cold air to navigate brick streets and warm myself in a coffee shop, where I met another friend who I've known since we were both young. We used to write outlandish stories together and have lots of adventures. Her mother taught me to play the piano; I took lessons in their living room. The two of us had fancy desserts and caught up on the years we've missed. And though I love my time alone, that afternoon and that evening were some of the brightest times I have had in a very long time. I realize that community, with people who really understand me, is a beautiful thing, and I dearly hope to have more of  in the coming year.

Life now is a sometimes wonderful, sometimes maddening form of the same day, over and over again. It usually feels that most of my day is spent preparing meals, cleaning up meals, planning meals, and shopping for them. Walter is still as sweet as ever, but teething can throw that off some days. Millie is so full of life- I've never seen someone that alive before- and I usually have to beg her to slow down a bit in the morning until I've had a cup of coffee. I pick up the same toys and books every night. I wake up to the same demands of "nana!" (banana) for Walter and fifty questions from Millie. Most days, I find myself feeling so weary at one point or another, because motherhood does that. But I also see her curled up on my bed to read, wearing her long flannel nightgown and playing with her tiny curls, or have a grin and a kiss from him that covers my whole cheek in drool, and in those moments, I find myself near tears, because I know these days won't last.

Sky and I will be married 5 years on the 16th. I always think it's the 15th for some reason. I don't know what the day, or the year, will bring. I never do. But we are still trying.

For the last month or so, I've felt myself start to walk into the familiar dark forest of depression. It's nothing serious, and nothing unusual. I have been walking in and out of it for as long as I can remember. Sometimes, I can name a cause. Other times, it finds me on its own. This time may be a mix of both. I've learned that I can't cheer myself out of it. Instead, I try to minimize its appearance when the kids are awake, and I give myself permission to cry, or write, or do what I need to do to make it until the next day. My last post talked about perseverance a little, and depression requires it. I am doing what I can.

That is life now. The ins and outs of every day. The busy nothings that make up my life. The bits that seem unimportant and are really the only important parts. The sadness. The gritty, unpolished shards of hope. The quiet. The embraces of friends. The milk and bread. The snow.
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