And So On: A Tribute To Healing

How do I start this post? Should I talk about hitting rock bottom again (although this time it will be literally and not figuratively)? Do I talk about how ironic and rhythmic life seems to be? Do I talk about how losing my children seems to suck me in like a vacuum, and – all the while – I am running like hell to escape the eye of the tornado?

Yesterday marked the two year anniversary of finding out Adam Gabriel was not going to make it full term. I can tell you I am still grieving as that doesn’t go away, but also that the intensity of it has lifted. Two years out and I feel like I am catching momentum again. I can say this without a child in my arms, without being pregnant, and without knowing which year in the future our adoption is going to be completed.

My in-laws are here and they are avid bikers, so yesterday we decided to take a 30-something mile bike ride down a local mountain. When my father-in-law asked me the date for a form that morning, I internally cringed and let him know it was the 24th – the day that starts my four day mourning period each year for A.G. (These are the horrendous four days between arriving to the hospital and delivering our angel; these dates aren’t something I really talk about with my in-laws, so I am not sure if they are cognizant of their meaning or not, although they obviously were devastated when they lost their grandson at 17 weeks of gestation.)

So, off we ride. It’s a beautiful day and I think to myself, on more than one occasion, that even though I am a little moody this morning, I am doing SO much better than the two years prior. I am enjoying the adventure and not overthinking things too much. I feel strong and healthy. I am holding it together! Well…

About 5 miles until the finish line, we need to cross another small highway that connects the trail. The guys are slightly in front of us and there is a truck coming. I have time to make the cross, but I am worried about my mother-in-law seeing the truck and I see she is swerving wide to avoid the truck which makes me pay extra attention. To her. Not to my bike’s path. I go down FAST, skidding across the loose gravel parking lot that connects us to the rest of the trail. My whole body is planted to this rocky, uneven, sharp surface. I slowly get up in a daze. I have dirt caked on my whole structure and, through the dirt, I can see I am starting to bleed in various places.

I was not worried about my physical body, but this was one of those moments you realize your mental fragility is coming to the surface because of something unexpected. I have had my share of hard knocks in the last three years, so I didn’t cry or show emotion. I know now how to control my deep sadness (mostly). My thoughts were racing though. My outside body now matched the turmoil and bruises I felt inside my body. I wanted to cry. I unbuckled my helmet because I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I let my husband use whatever water we had left to try to wash off the open skin while I stood there in silence. I gave myself an extra second to get on my bike as I still felt unsteady and tingly.

Bike Bruises

I did not survive this day as a hero. This 24th day of July was marked in truth by the unfortunate incidents of today and my past. When our group asked me how I was doing I so badly wanted to say how my outside pain matched my inner turmoil, although the internal pain was much worse. I wanted to say that this fall felt like total defeat.

Oh…but I didn’t. I got back on my bike. I took a painful shower. I dumped hydrogen peroxide on my forearms, my shins, and my hands. I let it burn while I agonized. I did it again. I took a needle and picked the gravel out of the heel of my hand. I moved on with my day. I ate pizza and joined the group. I found a comfortable (enough) position to sleep despite my lacerated body.

This is what we do. We suffer. We remember. We pick ourselves up and try to heal. We remember. We suffer. We pick ourselves up and try to heal. We heal. We remember. We suffer again, but less. We heal a little more. And so on.

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What Trauma Sometimes Looks Like

And then there was this moment
tonight
one year and a half later
when you realize

you never told your husband you were having his son

it was just a fleeting thought
a response to something on tv
and you looked over at him, puzzled, and
asked, “When did you know we were having a son?”
he replied, confused, starting his response with “we”
and you stop him and ask him, “Did you know before you got to the doctor’s office? The hospital? Did I tell you over the phone? Did I say “son”?”

And you realize he didn’t. You didn’t. He says, “We found out when he was born, when we held him.”

I am confused now. Trying to put the scattered, blurry pieces together – didn’t I know after the ultrasound, the one where there was no heartbeat? Didn’t the doctor say, “Do you want to know? [Insert my head nodding….?] You were having a son.” (Did she say “You were having” or “You have” or something else that gave more or less meaning to his short life?)

And I tell my husband, “I knew. I knew we were having a son. I knew four days before he was born.” I knew four days before you. I never told you.

Did I say “sorry”? I don’t know. He’s asleep now and I can’t sleep because I am thinking about how we were going to go to dinner to celebrate after finding out the sex together and then decorate with sailboats or flamingos…but I found out four days before him. I found out before calling him to come to the doctor’s office because, it turns out, I wasn’t having a routine appointment. I found out before trying to hide my tears when I walked through the waiting room, putting on a brave face for the still-expectant mothers and fathers.

I knew before the nurse lectured me on the time of day I take my thyroid medicine (since that must have been the reason I was checking into the hospital with a dead fetus) and the “yes, yes please” to drugs over and over again because I wanted to sleep and escape my newfound hell. I knew before I couldn’t talk because I was so weak from not being allowed to eat for days. I knew before starting the ten or so painful hours of labor to deliver my sweet, sleeping son.

I didn’t tell him he was having a son. I couldn’t. And I didn’t know until tonight.

And this is what trauma sometimes looks like. Something is triggered. Something is confusing or sad or scary and your fight or flight response is initiated and your blood pumps faster. And it doesn’t matter how long it’s been because it feels raw, and real. It’s always unexpected and there is fire running through your veins because you are so disappointed with, and unaccepting of, reality.

You never told your husband you were having a son. Not “you never told your husband in a cute way.” Not “you decided together you were going to be surprised.” You just never told him because your world collapsed and you were fighting to get through the thing you couldn’t get through in a hospital bed.

I didn’t tell him I was having his son. I couldn’t. My world collapsed. I was fighting to get through the thing I couldn’t get through.

I suppose that’s a good reason. But it doesn’t feel like one.

The F*!? Is Your Life

GJ_explosion_edited

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.

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?!?!

GJ_cinema

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.

Crush

I wish I was over this hurting, this squeezing of my heart. I wish I was over the outbursts of sadness. Because the triggers are unpredictable, the emotional door slams in my face. I haven’t had one of these in quite a while, but today my emotions stole my composure.

Crushed ice background

Today, an old friend texted to say she was expecting her first baby boy…on what would have been my latest due date. Any phrasing of the news that left out the date, and I don’t think I would have turned it around so quickly to be about me and about my loss. I’ve prided myself on being happy for all my friends and family who continue to have healthy pregnancies followed by the cutest little 7 pound miracles. But today my selfishness got the best of me and, although I texted back a joyous response (that I really did mean), the next moment was all about me and my loss, my hurt, my world not being fair (which is a huge joke of a thought since I am so, so fortunate in life).

So, sometimes the crush seemingly comes out of nowhere. I was having a normal – or maybe above average day – and didn’t expect the tears to flood from my eyes today. I didn’t expect to have to expend the energy struggling with my emotions and needing to recenter myself. But wouldn’t it be inhumane of me not to remember the date, the lost joy I had for my family? So, here we continue. I know I am so lucky, but this just sucks. Life is often hard. Life moves on with or without us…so I’ll just keep trying to get unstuck.

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.