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About: "Joy seldom sleeps for long. And someday in a lonely moment mankind will shake an unfamiliar hand and find it wounded." - Calvin Miller
Bar Fights

It has been a month since the miscarriage began. I think back to those days in pregnancy limbo - those days when I was racked with anxiety and distress at the awaited verdict of my baby’s life. Although the baby is gone, I still feel like I’m there, though - in a place of utter uncertainty. 

Ryan has been really worried about me lately. I’m not surprised; I would be too. I think it’s appropriate to say that depression has kicked in full-swing. I really thought by now I would be better, but I’m not. Some days it seems worse than ever. Time brings distance to tragedy and usually, that’s helpful, but the further I get from the miscarriage, the more I seem to mourn. Maybe it’s because I can’t stop counting my ghostly weeks (I would have been nearing the end of my first trimester today), or maybe it’s because freaking everyone seems to be announcing their healthy pregnancies this month, or maybe it’s because I genuinely don’t feel pregnant anymore. Whatever the reason, the emotion has left me wanting to hide. I have not wanted to be around anyone lately because I feel so very exposed.

Everyone has been so wonderful this last month. I feel like I have had a uniquely “pleasant” miscarriage experience in regards to people’s reactions. I’ve heard heartbreaking stories from people who were never validated in their loss, faced with people who were insensitive and ignorant. That, thankfully, has not been my experience. I have been met with so many hugs and tears and cards and gifts and flowers and messages and assurances… it’s really quite wonderful in context. However, the flip side to that is that, everywhere I go – work, church, get-togethers, Facebook – everyone wants to tell me how sorry they are. Everyone wants to offer comfort. Everyone wants to be salve on my wound. And I am conflicted because that’s how it should be and I would likely take offense if that weren’t the case but at the same time, it serves as a reminder of everything I already can’t forget.

Aside from familiar gatherings, I don’t even want to go to the store lately. I feel wobbly when I put on my shoes and sigh as I apply my mascara, wondering how many hours it will last before it mixes with my tears. I wonder and try to prepare for what will trigger me today. Will it be the Costco special on car seats? Or maybe the crisis pregnancy center billboard? Perhaps it will be the friend of mine entering her daughter in the “Cutest Baby” contest on Facebook? Let’s not forget about the mother coming into my work with 3 young children – all hers – and, just as an added bonus, a 7-month fully pregnant belly. Oh, and our adoption was just confirmed. Shoot me.

I feel like cotton candy in Seattle.

Friday, Ryan and I went out on a proper date for the first time in weeks. I had been eyeing my burgundy mary-janes all week and, for the first time in a long time, I was excited to dress up and go out. We arrived at the restaurant and were told there would be a fifteen-minute wait. That’s fine. Ryan grabbed our buzzer and we sat down in the waiting area smiling and flirtatious. I see a young couple across from us, also dressed up and holding hands. That’s nice, I thought. It was just a few minutes before her coat fell open and I could see her supple bulging belly. And in less than a moment, my heart hit the floor and I was trying not to hyperventilate there in the waiting area. When we were seated, I chose the north-side seat so as not to be facing the 1 year-old our table was diagonal from. The whole night just felt like a hammering – not on a nail – more like a mirror. But one that was already shattered and lying on the floor. That kind of hammering.

Sunday, Ryan’s brother and cousin invited us out to shoot some pool and have some beers. Sounded safe enough – likely no pregnant women or children to encounter at a bar. So we went and the first thing that happened after greetings was,

“Oh, hey Camlyn. Someone wanted me to give you this since you weren’t at church this morning.”

A card and banana bread.

How sweet.

 I skipped church to avoid consolation gifts.

Then we went about non-miscarriage related business. At one point I stepped out to take a call and found myself facing this:

 

At that point I was done.

 I am just done fighting against the tide.

I am just so done fighting the urge - the need - to mourn. Done pretending like a month is enough time to be well. It’s not. I’m not.

If you are reading this and you are pregnant, or have healthy children, or have been one of the blessed people to offer me comfort in this terrible place, please don’t take this post as one of condemnation or ungratefulness because it really isn’t. I’m just confused and conflicted. I don’t understand how to live side-by-side with people who are having joyful motherhoods because motherhood has only brought me deep sorrow. When I count up all my lifetime tragedies, combined, they still feel miniscule in comparison to this. I have truly never felt so utterly broken in all my life.

How are the mothers of dead children supposed to walk side by side with the mothers of the living? How are we supposed to do it? One cannot soothe the other. One is steeped in misfortune and grief while the other expects.

I have never understood the term “expecting” like I have in the last month. It’s the most appropriate; it really is. A pregnant mother expects a child. A fair expectation, really. While we may worry about miscarriage or complications, we don’t expect them. Our bodies and souls prepare for, long for, and expect a baby. The digestive system slows down to feed them. The blood increases to host them. The organs stretch and maneuver for them. All things in expectance.

In a miscarriage, though, the mother expects, while the body expels. The mother expects while the heart grieves. The mother expects while the mind looks for answers to the question that is met only with bitter silence…

Where is my child?

I’m not pregnant anymore, but I’m still expecting. 

Most Days

I really hate being around people right now.

Everyone knows

Everyone asks

“How are you feeling?”

I say,

It’s been hard

Some days are better than others

What I don’t say is,

Most days

I feel like throwing myself off a cliff

And I know I’m depressed

Because that seems like way too much effort

Most days

Are full of awful reminders

When I see the “What to Expect” book

When I take my multivitamin

When I put my pants on that were too uncomfortable to wear a month ago

When I choice normal espresso instead of decaf

When I drink a beer

When I order sushi

When I see the old prescription bottle in the trash

When I pass the spare bedroom

That was meant to be baby’s

Most days

Are filled with conflicted, confusing, terrifying thoughts

Like,

What if I get pregnant again?

And

What if I don’t?

Most days

I don’t eat until I’m feeling faint

Most days

I cry

And my heart feels like it will pound right out of my chest

Most days

I see children

And they make me want to scream

Some days

Really are better than most

Some days

I’m surprised at the sound of my own laughter

Some days

I don’t feel bitter

Or angry

Some days

I think joyfully of being pregnant again

Some days

I can be distracted

Some days

I really do trust God’s timing

His purposes

His ways

Though I do not understand

Today is like most days, though

And I don’t trust in much today

Aside from inevitable tragedy

My rain boots

And the fact that the heat will kick on when I’m hot with emotion

Today

Like most days

I feel cheated

And mocked

And offended

And sad

And defeated

And utterly

Completely

Quintessentially

Broken

Good Grief

From where I sit now, I find that often times when I pray for peace what I want is relief; and these are not necessarily the same… I think this is what it looks like to choose to treat the places of grief as sacred and pain as holy – to call God good even in the midst of the mess.

Hold.

I really miss being on Vicodin. They gave it to me when my miscarriage was confirmed to help with the associated pain. There was something so wonderful about the way it numbed by body and mind out. I really hope to be in a place someday where I can look back at all this and be grateful but right now I just want to forget everything so badly…

It was my first day back at work today and there was a customer who came in with a beautiful 6-month old girl. She had eyes like mine and hair like Ryan’s and I was jolted back to those conversations we had when I was still pregnant.

“I wonder what she’ll look like.” I said, convinced the baby was a girl.

“I hope she looks like you; curly hair and bright blue eyes.”

“I just would hate for her to have my nose.”

“Shut up. Your nose is beautiful.”

I hadn’t thought about it since the loss but after seeing that baby girl today, all I can think about was what our baby would have looked like.

I have pretty much avoided babies like the plague since the miscarriage. I have merely skimmed over the Facebook posts of baby pictures and anecdotes regarding, “you wouldn’t believe what Sam said today” and “Roland just can’t get enough of that stupid thing the dog does in the backyard”. Every once in a while I’ll stop the scroll and just linger, one foot in sorrow and the other in envy, not wondering much but feeling everything… but usually I don’t. Unfortunately, babies can’t be avoided at work.

When I saw them come in, I immediately felt like running, but accepted that I (probably) wouldn’t and greeted them instead. I was surprised at how okay I actually felt. I avoided eye contact with the baby girl at first but who the hell can keep that up? So I looked at those big blue eyes and told her “hello!” And you know that thing that babies do where they smile really big with their eyes first and then the rest of their face follows? That happened. Then I waved at her and she did this dumb little mock wave back with her fist that looked more like a Black Power statement than a greeting and Oh… how precious it was. Really, really was. And again, I was surprised at how ok I felt. Here I was, enjoying this baby’s presence without crumbling into a heap like I’ve been doing for the last two weeks and I was truly, truly happy to just interact with her. No envy or sorrow. Just joy.

But then, they left. And for this split second I had this intense twinge of regret that I hadn’t asked to hold her. Not that asking a stranger to hold their baby would have necessarily been appropriate, considering I was working and they were strangers, or that it would have been a wise thing to do, considering my current state, but, God… I felt it. I felt it so hard.

It suddenly hit me that I never got to hold my baby.

To tell the truth, there wasn’t really much baby to hold. During a first trimester miscarriage, some women pass an obvious embryo and some just pass indiscernible tissue. From what I understand, this is because some babies remain in the gestation sac, whereas others don’t and they’re fragile frames break down in the process. The result of the latter is the passing of tissue masses that don’t resemble much. My case was as such. If there was an embryo, I never saw one. I wanted to, though. I don’t know why it mattered so much to me, but any time I passed a substantial clot I fished it out of the toilet and searched the bloody mass for the incomplete child I would never know. I really didn’t know why it mattered so much to me at the time but today I realized that it was because, even if I knew our baby was dead, I still wanted to hold them.

I can’t even explain what happened today in that moment when that baby left the store. I don’t know if it’s because this was my first pregnancy or if it’s something all moms who lose their children feel but I just feel so strongly the urge to hold a child. But even if I do, I know they won’t be mine. That kills me all the more – to have this insanely strong desire to act in some way knowing that it is completely futile. 

Call me “Bitter” instead.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible comes from the first chapter of Ruth:

19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

Naomi had lost both her sons and her husband in Moab. We don’t know how they died – if it was a military death, an illness, a genetic problem; we only know that they died, and that’s really all that matters in the story. In response to losing her loved ones, Naomi traveled back to her home town of Bethlehem accompanied, by choice, by one of her daughters-in-law, Ruth. When she arrives in her home town, we get the impression that people recognize her.

“Can this be Naomi?”

In response to their request for confirmation, she responds in a non-committal way.

“Don’t call me Naomi…”

She confirms that she is indeed who they think she is but fiercely points out that, at the same time, she is not who they remember; she has changed.

“Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.”

I used to think this response was awful and an expression of a lack of faith. Like, “WOW, Naomi. That’s pretty dramatic of you. Way to toss your faith in the trash” but as I’ve read over this story again and again I have grown an amazing appreciation for Naomi and her faith in particular. Naomi is not denying God in any way, not really even denying her faith in his goodness. In fact, she has returned to Judah because she heard of God’s provision there. In a place of deep sorrow and confusion, Naomi caught wind of God’s presence and desperately sought to be there. This is not a lack of faith, but an honest one. She is simply saying, “God is God and I am his creation. He can do what he wants with me and I am bitter because of it. I am empty when I once was full. I had a husband, a new home, two sons who married two women; my family and my home were growing. And then my husband died. And then my sons died. I am emptied out. My life has become bitter.”

The name “Mara” comes from “maror” which means “bitter”. If you’ve ever attended a Passover dinner, you might recall eating the bitter herbs. It is always fun for those who have attended before to watch the newbies because horseradish is what is most often used to express the symbol and no one is ever ready for just HOW bitter it tastes. You’ll see someone scoop on a heaping gob of the stuff, bow their head in blessing, and eat the tainted cracker unknowing that everyone at the table has their cameras ready for the face they’re about to make. And everyone laughs. And it’s all in good fun. Of course, life’s bitterness is not warranting of laughter, but it’s odd how similar the process is. We all know life has its hardships. We all know sorrows and joys fluctuate. We all know the bitter herbs are bitter; no one hides their title and yet, we are always surprised at how they attack our senses.

The main thing about bitterness is that no enters into it willingly. When I think of bitter, I think of poorly made coffee, or my dill sauce that didn’t turn out right, or too much nutmeg in my pumpkin bread. It is always in regards to taste and furthermore, something that doesn’t taste like it should; and unexpected unpleasantness; an error in the process; too much or too little; an imbalance. Naomi didn’t feel like she had a balance in life; too much misfortune, sadness, and loss. So much so that she does not feel like herself. After all, ‘Naomi’ means ‘pleasant’, and she was not. In a beautifully heartbreaking statement, she states boldly, “Don’t call me what you once did, for that is no longer my identity. Call me ‘Bitter’, for life, though once sweet, has turned. My bread is now staled, my milk has soured, and my coffee is Folgers. Because of this, I am no longer who I was. I lost my husband and my sons – all my pieces of me and now, I am empty. Do not call me ‘Pleasant’. Call me ‘Bitter’ instead”.

After having lost my own child, I appreciate Naomi’s life testimony all the more. I have always wanted to be a mom and I always thought pregnancy would bring me joys abundant. Instead, I miscarried. Rather than thumbing through the progressive chapters of my “What to Expect…” pregnancy manual, I only read 2 and then skipped to the last- the one reserved for the 25% that undergo “Pregnancy Complications”. Instead of joining the mom forums to talk about my morning sickness and symptoms, I joined the miscarriage forums.  Instead of buying maternity clothes, I bought more pads. Rather than taking home my first sonogram picture to put on the fridge, I came home with a Vicodin prescription.  And now, I feel so much affinity with Naomi because I feel like I lost so much of myself in the miscarriage. I had accepted this entirely new and exciting role as a mother but have no one to be a mother to. I still have pregnancy symptoms, but instead of reminders that I’m growing a life, they are reminders that I have lost one. I don’t know where I fit in now.

So, don’t call me “Camlyn”. Call me “bitter”, because my pregnancy did not go how I expected - because I now have taste in my mouth I can’t shake at the moment. Call me “confusion”, because my identity has come into question. Call me “less” because I was once more. Call me “desperate” because my longing can’t be sated. Don’t treat me like you always have because tragedy has changed me.

Maybe, don’t call me anything just yet.

Why miscarriage matters when you're pro-life

Both babies may have died at the same gestation — one by choice, the other by chance. But the value attached to each child completely depended on how that child died.”

Valentine’s Day

“What about the Pie Bar?” I asked Ryan, inquiring about Valentine’s Day dinner options.

“What’s that?”

“They have all sorts of pies; meat pies, fruit pies and, of course, pie-inspired cocktails.”

“You can’t drink those!”

“I know! You can, though. And I can have a sip.”

It was to be our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple and, as an added joy, we had recently found out I was pregnant. About 6 weeks, we thought. We were both handling it differently; I was trying to get over the hill of the belief that there was a life growing inside of me that I couldn’t see and Ryan was combating my mood swings and red meat cravings with burger runs and soothing words and caresses. We were excited, though. We wanted this.

It had been a whirlwind since we arrived in Seattle. Between transplanting our lives and losing Ryan’s grandfather, we hadn’t had a lot of time to settle and find our footing. We hadn’t even really had much one-on-one time to just be with each other and then, add in some first trimester nausea and fatigue, and it felt like we were swimming upstream to find time to just be in the other’s presence. Alls to say, we wanted this Valentine’s Day to be a special one. After all, it would be the last one we spent on our own; just us.

Our first appointment with the midwife was scheduled for Thursday the 13th, but it was moved to Tuesday when I saw the blood on the toilet paper Monday night.

 ————————————————————————————————-

“You’re gestation sac is measuring 5 weeks and 6 days, so not hearing a heartbeat is perfectly normal for being this early. Don’t think the worst just yet.”

“Cramps?”

“No.”

“No period-like bleeding?”

“No.”

“About 1 in 4 women have random bleeding throughout their pregnancies. You and your baby might be just fine. It’s just too soon to tell.”

I knew the statistics. I’d studied the baby books.  I’d read the forums. Hundreds of women frightened for their unborn’s fate… about half returning to type out the joyful relief they felt when they saw the heartbeat the next week… and about half returning with shorter sentences – “We lost the baby… Thank you for the support… I’m just so sad… It was a miscarriage.” 1 in 4 women do go on to bleed without known cause throughout their pregnancies, but 1 in 4 women also go on to miscarry, and I knew it.

I knew what came next; blood test. Urinalysis. Tell me your symptoms again? Still no cramping? Pelvic exam. Cervix looks healthy. We want to rule out infection. No fever? Lower back pain? Come back on Thursday and we’ll draw your blood again to compare levels. Try not to worry.

Two days of utter hell. Every twinge I felt, anything my body did was a potential sign that Ryan and I would not be parents in September. Every time I went to the bathroom, expecting fully but hoping against more blood on the toilet paper. The nausea became undeniably worse – a good sign they said; it means hormone levels are still high. Everything could be just fine. Tuesday… Wednesday… Thursday, finally. Finally, the day that would give me permission to either rejoice or grieve. My symptoms were not worse, but exactly the same. My nausea was still awful, my heart rate still elevated, the blood was still there- still light in quantity and fluctuating in frequency. Everything could still be fine. My blood could not be drawn again until after noon, so I went to work early. Starting my last day of waiting, hopeful to be distracted by the smell of cookies, the warmth of the bread oven, the kindness of my coworkers, the normalcy and routine that would make Thursday seem like any other Thursday.

And like any other Thursday, one of our patrons came in for his morning hot chocolate. He asked how I was.

“I am well, and you?”

“Well it’s a beautiful day. Paul says in Corinthians that God’s grace is sufficient and in our weakness, He is strong.”

The tears came so fast I couldn’t hide them. Through poorly-disguised sobs, I explained that I might be in the process of miscarrying. He walked behind the counter to embrace me.

“That’s a hard thing to walk through. My wife and I did once. You’ll be in our prayers and remember, God is good, even in this.”

“It is so hard to trust him here.”

“I know.”

 ——————————————————————————————————

I was too scared to use the bathroom at work as I wasn’t eager to find out that I was losing my baby and the mild cramping that started the last hour of my shift suggested the inevitable. So when I came home to use the bathroom before heading to the clinic, the increased amount of blood in the toilet did not shock me the way it had Monday night.

I called my midwife to see if the blood test was still necessary, since I was now sure I was miscarrying. No, it wasn’t, although until I had severe cramping or passed the embryo, she said there was still hope things would be fine. She walked me through what would happen if I was miscarrying and said I would probably know within a day.

And I did.

Ryan brought me roses that night. We both took the next day off of work. I slept with the heating pad on high, held to my increasingly painful abdomen.

“I just wish it was over.”

I awoke on Valentine’s Day to a pain in my body I had never felt before.  Along with the period-like cramps I had been having all night, every few minutes it felt like someone reached into my insides and wrung them like a wet cloth. Contractions. My uterus was “evacuating”; expelling the conception tissue, gestational sac, placenta, and embryo from within its protective walls. And it made sure I knew it. Hours of this until I was doubled over on the bed, vomiting from the pain. I knew this was normal and nothing out of the ordinary for a miscarriage, but Ryan grew more and more worried every time I cried out from my body’s mock labor and, after a phone call to the midwife, he helped me to the car and drove me to the clinic.

“I just wish it was over.”

We arrived at the clinic and, no sooner than when we walked through the door, I was ironically fetal-positioned on the floor in more pain than I have ever known in my life.  Once the contraction passed, I was helped to an examination room. They had already called in a prescription for pain and nausea medications they eventually administered to me. The contractions became more frequent and longer-lasting as I curled up on the examination table trying to remember to breathe while Ryan, teary-eyed, held my hand. The midwife offered to do a pelvic exam to see if there was any lodged tissue she could remove.

“Yes. Please. I just want this to be over. “

Within moments, the contractions stopped and she showed me the placental tissue she removed from my cervix.

“Is it over?”

“No, but that should be the worst of it.”

We arrived home in a conflicting mixture of gratitude and sadness; gratitude for the lessening of the pains, and sadness for the confirmation of our loss. A baby we made but never knew; a life that was never lived, for either of us – a life where Ryan and I were parents and a life where our child was born.

The next few days blurred together and likewise, so did my emotions.

Offense – that God intentionally put me through this

Disappointment – in myself that I felt so entitled to a healthy pregnancy

Relief – that we finally had permission to grieve

Sorrow – enough to make me really understand the meaning of the word

Hopelessness – at our dreams of being parents

Guilt – for feeling so hopeless

Gratitude – because, despite the horrors, I knew it could have been much worse

I felt as though I could actually die from sadness.

And every time I went to the bathroom and saw the blood in the toilet, or passed more tissue, or felt another cramp, or saw my breasts returning to their small size and virgin color as the pregnancy hormones wept from my no longer expectant body… the same question found itself falling from my lips, “When will it be over?”

_____________________________________________

There is no mercy in miscarriage for the mother. When you know you are carrying a life, nothing is ever the same. Every meal, every exercise, every shower; every seemingly normal routine activity has another purpose and new rules. Being a mother, no matter how long you’ve been one, is a completely different role with completely life-changing stipulations. To accept that, to welcome that and then to lose it in a moment is awful. To see the remains of what was your child, to feel your body expel them impartially is no less than traumatic. Of the many, many articles and forums I’ve poured over regarding miscarriage, a piece from ‘The Miscarriage Dilemma’ hit the nail on the head: “Miscarriage is enigmatic. Even though it can feel like a death, there is nothing tangible to mourn.”

No, there is no mercy for the mother, but all the mercy for the child and from my short time spent as a mother, I know that’s the whole point. I know that miscarriage is merciful. I know it means that the pregnancy wasn’t healthy. I know that child will never have to experience the sorrows of this life. And through all the trauma and pain and tears, I know that is the only thing left to accept; that part of being a mother is letting go. I know I gave my baby a home inside my body and my heart, that I did everything in my power to keep it safe and healthy. I know, without a doubt, that if love, alone, could have kept our baby alive, that he or she would have lived forever.

It’s Thursday again. Ryan’s roses are starting to brown and so is the bleeding; a sign that the bodily process is finally over; a sign that healing can begin.

Childish Things

Our move from Phoenix to Seattle bleeds with analogy; desolation to saturation. 

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                                     Even the rocks grow foliage.

Ryan and I have been (slowly) settling into our current home here in Washington for the last month now. Arriving the week of Thanksgiving brought a whirlwind of distraction to divert us from our relatively normal routine and, with both of us starting new jobs as well, it has been a stormy sail into the New Year.

When Ryan’s family caught wind of our desire to move back to the Northwest, his grandparents offered up their basement to us. It has been an incredibly symbiotic arrangement; they are in their 90’s and need help with various things around their home, and we get to live for free, which allows us a *huge* upper hand in getting our debt paid off and stockpiling our savings. God could not have brought us here at a more perfect time, either.

 A few days before we arrived, Ryan’s grandpa started having bouts of nausea. At 92 this was not an oddity but, despite tests and a handful of doctor visits, he continued to feel unwell. After a minor episode of tachacardia, he and the doctors decided the nursing home would be the next best move. Within a few days, his heart was back to running at 100% and he said he was feeling much better. We all spent a portion of Christmas day in the nursing home with him and he and his wife celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary on the 27th. The following Monday, he started having an incessant cough that was interfering with is sleep. Grandma spent most of the day with him and, as she was rubbing his hand, he woke up and said, “goodbye” and fell back to sleep. The next day, the nurse gave him a breathing treatment and, perking up, he said, “I feel much better. I think I can rest now.” And just as the past year left us, so did he; in an exhale; a blink; a moment.

A life is much like a caress; a touch, a connection, a momentary pressure, and then, gone. The only evidence being the fallen strand of hair and the lack only you can attest to. We question death the way we question all ends, “are they really gone?” And of course they are, but not really. You still feel as though the guest will crush the ghost that sits on the middle cushion of the couch… their finger prints still mark the Ipad; bearing the virtual buttons linked to the movies, photographs, and Facetime conversations that brought them joy. The workshop still strewn with tools of creation. The look on Grandma’s face just after a laugh brought on from a random anecdote of her lover. How can someone who’s not there make you laugh so? Perhaps we are born phantoms that merely hide behind skin until we’re ready to emerge.

I feel such a strange mix of emotion being here in the midst of such an occasion; grieving with this family that is mine but not mine. I am an honored intruder.

Death has never taken someone close to me. I lost my father’s parents over the course of my pre-adolescent childhood, but the weight of such things was never really felt by my freckled, bony shoulders. In addition, my family gatherings tended to consist of my parent’s preceding and subsequent relational breakdowns. Familial closeness was more comparable to walking through a thorn bush than a hug; move slowly to avoid deep injury and if possible, just sit down and stay still. Ryan’s family is not like that. Ryan’s family is one, giant embrace. Grandpa died on New Year’s Eve and the house has not since been vacant. Smiling faces, bearing arms filled with crockpots and deep dishes, veggie platters and top-shelf beers. Boggle, Scrabble, Nerts, storytelling. Google-earth tours of Grandpa’s hometown. Here’s the box he made. Oh, that? That was his favorite book! Do you remember the time he painted the house? Here’s the card I wrote him when I was 12! I never knew he kept these…

Desolation to saturation. Desert to seaside. Cacti to fungi. Dust storms to air, damp with water droplets; the kind that never soak you but always make sure to leave your shoelaces wet. And for me, what feels akin to an orphan in an adoptive home; the honored intruder; gratefully uncomfortable and never quite wet.

I’ve tried to write about what a blessing Ryan and his family have been to me many times, but never really can put words to it… there really are none to do the thing justice. And you could never really know how wonderful my husband is unless you were as selfish and self-centered as me and married to him. There is nothing to compare, no analogy or symbolic phrase that could express how a heart like mine feels cradled in his hands. But… desolation to saturation might whisper a sentiment to the beauty of the thing. And this might wink at you from the heart of the matter:

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish things behind me.”

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Dragons and Coat-tails

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"He discovered the fact that all romantics know- that adventures happen on dull days, and not on sunny ones. When the chord of monotony is stretched most tight, then it breaks with a sound like song." 
-G. K. Chesterton

The rock candy’s melted, only diamonds now remain.

Exactly one year ago, I was finishing packing up my car with everything I owned and gassing up to leave for Phoenix in the morning. I think back to that day. A really beautiful, sunny, breezy Kansas City day. Standing in the driveway with my mom, readjusting and repacking my back seat and trunk to ensure the most efficient use of space (15% of which was Boulevard beer). Rechecking the bathroom, under the bed, the kitchen, the garage, oil level, tire pressure, Ipod charge, another cup of coffee, kisses from mom…

As Dara and I set out the next day from the city I called home for 15 years, I remember driving and driving and gradually getting further and further away from, not just the city, but from familiarity. There’s not one street I could go down in the KC Metro with out recalling some event, mishap, divine encounter, or old flame. Not one store I could go into without running into someone I knew. All over the town, pieces of my life - a tiny garden of forking paths, each diversion leading me away from who I am and closer to who I am now. I could literally map out the major and seemingly unimportant events in my life alongside every backroad and late-night restaurant in a 50-mile radius of Kansas City. 

And we just drove

And drove

Until, at last, I was on a road with no memory. 

A new journal opened up in front of me with nothing but crisp pages and virgin blue lines and I felt so many things… the weight and insecurity of leaving all my comfortable little limits and familiar places. The freedom of wide open spaces. The fear of that freedom. The sadness of leaving people I loved. The relief. The sudden inhale of air one breathes on mountain descent - not realizing just how thin the air was until it wasn’t any longer. 

I had never felt so alone.

I realize that sounds sad, but it wasn’t. I am not sure when, but at some point in time I fell into the habit of meeting everyone’s expectations. It’s a particularly bad habit because, I am REALLY bad at it. That loneliness, though, was the first time I think I felt really free from that. I was moving to a new city, starting a new job- not starting over, but just realizing where I ended and everyone else began. Seeing for the first time how horrid my depth perception was in regards to those lines and how I braided them into sturdy little bonds to keep me stuck there. 

When I was little, my mom used to pay me to untangle her jewelry. She would hand me this whopping mess of gold and silver chains intermingled with mateless earrings and threads and rave about how I was so good at separating all the little hooks and knots with my dainty fingers and hawk eyes. I never met a necklace I couldn’t untangle, but I never realized that those same little fingers work the opposite way too. Man, did I make a mess of myself; weaving my dreams and desires into everyone else’s, leaving me wrapped up in the middle of a ball of hand-me-down wants and tarnished excuses. 

One year and a day ago, I left. 

And, although I miss the people there, I have never desired to go back. Not once have I missed the place. 

I have heard so many people talk about not living in your past. I’ve had counselors that train brains to not recall painful memories. It doesn’t ever work though. We remember whether we want to or not. We have our intentional remembrances- anniversaries, birthdays, a playlist, a dinner order… but then there’s all the unintentional memories. One scent, one song, one little phrase or shirt pattern can send our minds and hearts shooting back to a moment we don’t ever want to relive again. All the sudden, we are just there with no willingness, no intention, no action. We are made to remember, but we are not made to relive. Leaving gave me the ability to do that, and I am ever so thankful. I had so many people and places dictating to me who I was that my reflection was fogged and I couldn’t see myself properly. 

I’m still not sure if I can, but I have certainly left the house of mirrors. Just being, just living. And lo and behold, I fell in love in the open spaces. And someone fell in love with me there. And one year later, I am 36 days away from marrying a man who loves me for exactly who I am, including everything I ever was or will be. 

This place, in flux and flow, this is the place where love is nurtured and freedom found. Open hands, open eyes and and open heart, ready for what may come, come what may, always ready and trusting God not because what he gives is good, but because he is good, and out of that, he gives. 

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