The F*!? Is Your Life

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So, this morning life made me simultaneously giggle and sigh deeply with exhaustion. That photo is my green juice.  That photo is probably a better metaphor for my life than the previous one where the juice is contained in an enormous goblet, resting on a festive napkin. If you’ve read a few of these Stealing Nectar blog posts, you know my “green juice” (a.ka. life) often explodes and leaves me to clean up the mess and salvage what healthy stuff I can from the remaining pieces.

Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, has another lesser known book (but better in my opinion) titled, “Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar.” Even though I had read Wild, I wasn’t inclined to pick up Tiny Beautiful Things until a close friend urged me to do so, saying she was in tears at the gym while listening to the audio version…and somehow I could tell she was trying to tell me something she needed to express to me.

Turns out, my friend was listening to this column included in the book from The Rumpus where Strayed was an anonymous advice columnist. This is a very moving, but longish read about miscarriage. I read this a few short months after losing Adam Gabriel, and I knew this was my friend’s way of empathizing with me. She was telling me that, on some level because of this column, she understood my pain and my great loss. She was using the column as a bridge, extending her support to my lonely, sad island of miscarriage.

As that column was so very important to my healing, so was this one, also included in Strayed’s book. Although it’s, likewise, a difficult and intense read, it has really stuck with me. Strayed so eloquently answers the vague and frustrating question, “WTF?” with the completely heartbreaking truth: “The F*!? is your life.” But, this can be pivotal. When I realized integration of the f*!? (yes, I really can’t write such a grotesque word out like an adult) – the miscarriages, the job loss, the rest of the negative list I am too tempted to type – was the only way through and passed…well, then, you get busy cleaning up the juice on your cabinets, on the floor, all over your robe…and get ready to do it all over again knowing that there are no guarantees in this life, but you’ll be okay anyway.

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Green Juice

My life in metaphor: green juice. Desperate and clinging to hope, I make green juice. My kale and spinach based liquid breakfast represents what I am trying to do in all aspects my life. When infusing life – or breakfast – with only the cleanest, nutritiously-packed ingredients, the output is bound to be superior than whatever happen-chance would produce. Rigggght?!?!

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Well, it’s something I am trying. The last few months have produced one failed pregnancy, three nasty colds, and a lot of immature emotions (like jealousy, anger, and entitlement) I have been trying to conquer. But…I finally have that summer feeling back where I have enough energy and stability to commit myself to positivity again. It may not be paddleboarding season yet, but I am working on filling my hours with only the best.

This includes a little work, lots of sleep, fresh foods, yoga, warm baths, book devouring, board game nights with my husband, and sweet cuddletime with Hollywood, my curly, Fraggle Rock of a pup. Long talks with friends, new volunteer activities, and exciting travel plans are on the agenda.

I feel all of this patience I have had to muster is preparing me for my next stage of life. We learned recently that we will be waiting until at least the summer to hear any news about an adopted child, so there is a continuous resetting of expectations. I expect, once the child is home with us, this theme will be repeated as we teach them English and try to help them reach new developmental milestones.

So, I choose to be thankful for the practice of patience. I choose to be thankful for this desert time which is really not that hard in so many ways. I choose to drink green juice and continue to hope for strength, change, and positive tomorrows.

A Mixed Bag

Life is always a mixed bag. I am trying not to live in a dualistic mindframe…but it’s sooooo hard. When my dog has lost a third of his body weight since almost dying last spring and there seems no clear way to get him to gain it back, it’s really difficult not to label that “bad.” When Adam’s due date is approaching and I can’t stop thinking about how he should be celebrating his first birthday and his first Christmas, I struggle with finding joy in that. When I come home to a sick, sad puppy and an email saying “no news” from Haiti, I struggle. Really, I am just tired of being sad and tired of worrying that anything living near me may be pulled from me sooner than I am ready.

That’s half of it. The other half is overwhelming gratitude. Last week my husband and I spent a week in Palm Springs for a work function of his. I spent my days absorbing the sunlight, running, and laughing more than I have in months, or maybe even years. I spent nights with more laughter, lots of dancing, and plenty of good food and drinks. I have complete flexibility in my life. I have inspiring people whom push me to keep learning and keep being positive…and, just show me love when I need that, too.

So, how can the worst times also be the best times? I guess I keep being shown that the “worst” times are really not the worst. The “best” times come with a fair amount of frustration or sadness on the side. This is life. I seem to be living it deeper in both “directions” (if we really want to label…or, if I can’t stop myself from labeling, I should say…). I don’t trust it will go back (to life being less complicated). I will have to keep changing, keep growing, and keep accepting the unstability. I will have to keep working on my patience. I will have to keep loving the seemingly unlovable days, and the gorgeous days, that make me question “why me?”.

I am so happy my loved ones still ask me to celebrate their pregnancies, their job successes, or just to spend some time with them road tripping along the Gulf Coast this next summer. When I want to scream and throw in the proverbial towel, I get to celebrate someone else’s joy or get a truckload of “oh my gosh my life is crazy good how is this my good fortune?” This is life. It’s the “good;” it’s the “bad;” it’s the lessons we take with us from the experiences. This mixed bag is mine, and I will reach my hand deep into the contents, not knowing what thrills or scares will grab me next.

Belated Thankfulness

I have so many swarming thoughts, but – a little belated – I want to write down many things I am thankful for this year:

1. My husband and my 9th anniversary. We’ve grown in our understanding of each other through each joy and setback. Our commitment to making each other’s life easier and more full of joy and hope continues each day. He is the kindest man I know and I am humbled to have him by my side every day. EVERY day. I am amazed at such a lovely truth.

2. I am not sure if I’ve put this into words before (maybe I have), but I often think how lucky I feel that our son, Adam Gabriel, got to meet nearly all of my most cherished humans when he traveled with me in my womb. We went to weddings of friends I’ve had for decades, danced all night with my huge extended family at my parents’ anniversary party, and attended girls’ weekend getaways. We met strangers on planes that wished us sincere happiness and even, in one instance, gave us a warm hug. We were glowing everywhere we went. These people he met, and the times we had, cheer me up from the inside out. I had more joy than ever before or since with late night milkshakes, deep conversations, and lots and lots of dancing.

3. Relief workers. On every continent, there are many who dedicate their lives to creating more good in this world with their time, talent, and treasure. As I grow in my compassion for life itself, I have a softer heart and true thankfulness for those who make sure others have clean water; housing; nutritious food; and maybe even education and equal rights. There are people who work really hard to keep families and support systems together. Humanitarians make me so happy and I have found that I am extra thankful for them in this season of my life.

4. Health. Whether it is being cold-free, cancer-free, or maybe just not having a doctor’s appointment on the schedule, I have realized how dependent I am on my good health. I used to take it more for granted, but just being alive and feeling well is such a huge gift. When the white noise lifts (poor work environments, difficult relationships, or other clutter we tend to collect and give more importance to than warranted), it is amazing what little, basic needs are vital to our happiness. A little sun and friendship can go a looonnnnng way.

5. And, finally, that leads me to connectedness. I have so many strong connections to people I’ve known almost all my life, to those I’ve known just a decade, or maybe even just a year or two. I have had friends who are more like sisters fly in to see me for an extended weekend. I have had friends with toddlers load up the car by themselves and drive many hours for nothing more than a great hang out session with walks, wine, and laughter on the agenda. I have spent half days lurking in coffee shops with soul sisters, pouring our hearts out about every interesting detail that has arisen in the last week, month, or year. I have people to unexpectedly cry in front of and not be embarrassed because I know they love me even though I am broken. I have a husband that often knows me better than myself. I am loved and connected, and anyone who knows me well, knows that connection is what I cherish above all else.

Mind Mania

When I go “into my head” too often, that’s always a sign I need to recenter, meditate, and find a way to rest my spirit. I feel a creeping in of my ego. I find doubt. Anxiety. Manic or half-thought thoughts. Catching it is one thing, but taming it is a whole other.

In the last few weeks, I have been sloppy with my words. Sloppy, or just not wise enough to choose better ones. I have been exhausting (to myself as well as others) with my repetitive focus, and I haven’t left enough room for deep breaths. The necessity of patience and comfort with ambiguity feels like a slow death….and I know that’s a result of a narrow perspective. There is openness and light here if I welcome it.

My husband and I went back to another specialist and genetic counselor and, once again, had it confirmed that we’ve had the supreme package of bad luck with our pregnancies. We are at the point of diminishing returns for any procedures/tests we would opt to have (results < effort), but – despite the lack of clarity – we felt a strange sense of relief, knowing that we are still “normal” in doctors’ terms.

However relieved, this new chapter of our life has reminded us that a long period of waiting is ahead of us. Many families have waited 3, 4 and 5 years to bring their children home from Haiti. We are open to building our family in so many different ways, but that kind of openness is not enough; there is much more patience needed. We need to be open to a timing that is divine and does not heed to chronological ticks and tocks. Although we are grasping at anything to aid in that preparation, there is much beyond our control, sight, and wisdom. In some ways it is very comforting because the responsibility doesn’t rest on our shoulders; in other ways it’s driving us nuts as we think we are ready for more purpose and responsibility NOW! (And, even as I typed that last sentence, I know I will look back at it, shaking my head, thinking, “Why didn’t I enjoy the quiet!”)

I feel a shift is actually upon us, though. This tension and rattling energy feels like we are at the top of the roller coaster’s hill, about to fly down the other side, feeling the wind blow our hair around with happy smiles and shrieks of joy. I don’t know what is on the other side of this uphill exactly, but I feel it’s just a breath away. I hope this really is the case.

So, I will calm my mind with prayer, exercise, good food, and connection. I will live purposefully, and I will anticipate the goodness that is upon us – now and that which is a moment away.

The Mystery of Miscarriages

Consistent inconsistencies. That might as well be the title of this chapter in my life right now. No, I wasn’t so surprised that I, sadly, found out I was miscarrying again. What is surprising is how I always need more patience than what I allot for an event. I am technically 8 weeks pregnant tomorrow, with no hope for viability of the baby, but my body can’t seem to acknowledge the fact that it needs to let go. In scientific terms, my hcg has been dropping and rising and dropping again…but will not take the plunge to “below five” which would make me clinically a non-pregnant female of pre-menopausal age.

People generally don’t know this happens – this process of miscarriage. This is definitely something that we have to learn through heart-wrenching personal experiences or loved ones’ experiences if we know at all. What I’ve learned, through sharing my miscarriage experiences, is that people generally think that a woman sees blood in the restroom and believes the fetus must be suffering, trying to survive, in that instant, and that the woman’s body must be failing. It becomes a poignant, emotional moment. This is often not true.

Many of us, sometimes unlucky enough to experience it a few times, find out our babies are measuring small in an ultrasound, don’t have a heartbeat, or simply haven’t been able to develop enough to produce healthy hcg numbers which hint at healthy pregnancy. (I say “hint” because my perspective has taught me that anything can happen at any time, especially with what seems to me as the miracle and delicate mystery that actually results in a breathing baby that leaves the hospital with you.) Miscarriage, instead, often happens through multiple trips to the doctor, weeks of anguish and prayers, and embarrassment in moments you have to look into the eyes of a stranger behind a desk and cancel an ultrasound appointment or hand over a sheet that is marked “threatened miscarriage” or “habitual spontaneous aborter.”

I wonder if my little son or daughter, seemingly stuck inside of me, developed a heartbeat. I wonder if this speck of a soul is still fighting or if he or she completed the journey on this side weeks ago. I’m not sure it matters, but it’s an uncomfortable thought with which I am trying to make peace. I mostly wonder why this happens at all because I can’t believe it just happens for me to evolve through the challenge or in order for my husband and I to realize adoption is the only way for us.

Jesus, the spirit of God’s son, was born to Mary in order to die on earth to transform us by showing us the way into connection with God. I believe my miscarriages are doing a similar thing for me – showing me a deeper way to connect with God and others – but I would love to know more about these little ones’ spirits. What is that perspective? What does this journey do for them? Is the purpose simply the rebirth, or transformation, of their spirits? Do they feel pain or are they spared that, even if scientifically they get to a developmental stage to have a nervous system?

The rambling of my thoughts could keep pouring out onto the page, but this has to be one of the great mysteries of life, death, and loss. Whatever the answers are, I do believe they all point to the progression of life and connection – on this planet and certainly beyond. What a wonderful, mysterious place this is.

Not the Worst Day of the Year

Monday was not the worst day of the year. Monday crept in softly with a blanket of snow, a warm cup of coffee, and an expected five, quiet, stolen hours with my husband driving back to our home from a weekend of nourishment with friends and activities. Monday started off as a lie.

9:00AM: Fear clenched and twisted the contents of our frames with a frantic decision to let our vet perform vital and expensive surgery on our dear Hollywood. Like the moment when I learned Adam Gabriel’s heart had stopped beating just 7 months ago, I swiftly made the necessary decision without emotion. But the inevitable tears and gulps for air found their place in the silence of the car, filling space in the now gaping hole in our hearts. Our little lovebug, our pup with the boundless energy and goofy smiles for all, might not make it through this seemingly ordinary day.

10:00AM: Hollywood was in surgery and my boss called to tell me he could only afford to pay me for 20 hours of work a week. After a frank conversation about longevity of the relationship, among other things, I was left to consider my life in a country town with no extended family, possibly no job (and no immediate prospects in this American district still prospering on what is left of coal)…and no jovial best friend to walk with me at noon or lay beside me as I spend endless hours staring into a computer screen.

11:30AM: Hollywood survived surgery, but his spleen and a small part of his stomach did not. His heart was not beating evenly, but we were to expect that for now. His doctor said tears were okay. She reminded us to prepare ourselves for the worst as the next 24 hours were critical.

2:00PM: Finally home, we were granted visiting rights solely because of the shock of this happening while we were out of town. I didn’t want to think it was because this might be our last visit, but I knew that was a possibility. I curled up on the floor next to him where tissues magically appeared – one box and then two – to make sure we had what little creature comforts could be afforded us in this ghastly situation. Covered by a blanket, with rogue blood spots seen with stolen glances underneath his body, was our little guy taking shallow breaths and drugged into oblivion.

5:15PM: After a flurried house cleaning, we greeted our 6 house guests, planning to stay the week with us. Then my husband and I collected Hollywood to physically transport him to an all-night emergency vet hospital. With sea legs and serious confusion, we led him to the car and lifted him in the backseat, where I sat beside him and let him lay his head on my lap. Again, the shallow breaths were heart-shattering but when I asked him to look at me, his glassy eyes found mine after a two or three moment delay. He was in there still.

6:30PM: Ill-prepared for our guests, we went running through the grocery store with our hearts bleeding and our eyes burning from tears. My husband and I declared this, “A very bad day, but not the worst day of the year.”

As I’ve said in various ways, at 31, this is not where I imagined my life. But grace has found me anyway. I am thankful for my husband’s stable job so we do not have to worry if we can cover feeding six extra mouths this week in the midst of my paycut and our newest set of undesired, unexpected hospital bills. I am ecstatic that I am typing this next to a shaved, happy/tired puppy with an eight-inch scar across his belly held together with medical staples. I guess, instead of the obligatory bad luck in threes, ours comes in about double that, but I have to think the end of this streak is near.

I feel a place inside of me has grown, in the midst of the worst and not worst days this year, and I feel a stirring of something holy…something I need to listen to closely and earnestly. Maybe it’s just will, or purpose, or just knowing what the heck matters to me. Whatever it is, I feel it’s going to lead me out of here.

But, in the meantime, there is love here. There is plenty of light. And, there is the sweetest little guy named Hollywood.