What have I lost? Too much. What am I grieving? Too much. There are times I feel the overwhelming sense of loss fall through me and I can’t catch the tears in a butterfly net. Off they flutter, landing on this memory or touching on that ache in my soul. And I stumble along clumsily with my net not even thinking of what I would do if I were to catch them. Watch the shimmer on their wings, perhaps, as they open and close while watching me.
The tears might turn to sobs and these would be the times when I convince myself that I am, as they say, “hormonal” and wipe away the ugly tears. I don’t think I know anymore what it is I grieve for. What could there be left for me to reconcile?
I am newly-minted 37 and have experienced far too much and there it is, isn’t it? I have lived too much in far too little. Too much death, too much trial, too much darkness, too much pain, too much pressure, too much of the this and the that. But more than this, more than all of my Too Much, I grieve for my son’s Exceedingly Too Much. And for all the hills I run over, I will never catch these tears in my butterfly net.
In preschool my son lost his great-grandmother, whom he loved dearly, followed by his great-grandfather in Kindergarten. By the time my son was in first grade, he had to worry about his father who underwent four emergency surgeries. I won’t list every grade’s trauma, but each grade had one, including trying to understand my sexual assault (without knowing what had happened) and losing a baby. This soon-to-be 13 year old boy will never know a truly simple childhood, and maybe I am naive in thinking some children do, but it is for this I grieve.
For all my worrying, my boy is becoming who he is meant to become. He amazes me. He is gentle and kind. He is sensitive and loving to others, thoughtful and always seeks out those who have special needs to befriend them. This is my son, and I am extraordinarily proud of him. My heart breaks for all that was lost for him as he has grown up, but I am grateful for the strength it has given him — even if he and I both don’t recognize it yet.
And perhaps this is the reason I am only able to chase these butterfly tears at the moment. I don’t know yet where they might land.
The year 2013 is when I found my voice as an advocate with a pinch of protestor.
“There’s nothing more dangerous than someone who wants to make the world a better place.” ~~ Banksy
My soul craved its own Book of Genesis. It needed to turn order into chaos and then back into order again. This is the year I learned how to sew and thrifted at thrift shops to make new out of old.
This is the year of creation.
I cooked and baked new things; I designed new projects and reorganized old clutter. I needed to work with my hands and imagination to shape the world around me. I terrified friends and family with the words “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?” Coincidentally, my son joined cross country.
I wandered around do-it-yourself consignment stores and spray painted new light fixtures. I can sew purses out of sweaters and can make purses out of the bottoms of onesies. I’ve made a bench from a bed headboard and stepping stones out of concrete chunks. This is the year I came alive again in my craft room. I found my creativity again and I dream in color once more.
My Eden could have been made from parts found at the dollar store and leftover fabric and I still would have ended the day feeling like it was good.
#Reverb13, Day 1:
How do you feel, on this first day, in your mind? In your body? In your heart? In your soul?
Can it possibly be December again along with all its gift-wrapped endings? Yet here we are again facing the end of a year once more. For once in a very long time I feel quite alright.
Seventeen days from now it will be four years from the time my life was destroyed right before my eyes. It will be four years from this time that I will have sat across a desk from a contemptuous man with a dark heart and have my own heart disappear from my sight. Breathing will become an effort. Smiling will become a task. Leaving my home will become a trial to endure.
Each year since that day has stretched longer than the one before and while the memories still hang along with each ornament on the Christmas tree they no longer hold their power over me.
Reverb and I have met before in Decembers past, with its patient questions for celebration and reflection. It comes for me each end of year and waits for me on the porch until I have put away my Thanksgiving decorations and swept away the fall leaves. We’ve traveled my story, December and I, through darkness and tears, through suicide watch and staring at walls, and sometimes fleeting senses of Fine.
And now, in a long time, in at least four years, I feel whole again. In seventeen days, or in eighteen days, or in twenty days, it won’t matter. I no longer hear the words spoken. I only hear my heart again.
In the past month I visited a place completely new to me and enjoyed myself tremendously. I visited friends, made conversation with interesting people, spent some time writing and brainstorming new ideas, and truly allowed myself to breathe in new landscapes. I loved talking with each vendor I met at an open-air flea market and in gift shops, cluttered antique stores and with cashiers at local stores or restaurants. I was so charmed by everyone I met and genuinely interested in learning about their lives. Once I came home I was met with disbelief when I would say “Everyone was so nice there!”
Seriously. Everyone really was just so damn nice.
And yet, why are people so skeptical of my experience? I don’t know. But I do think it has something to do with the reality we have somehow created and nurtured in our culture today. For some reason, there is a hostile atmosphere that is celebrated and promoted in entertainment, journalism, and social media which has become a measuring tool for validity. And it is unfortunate.
Of course, this is not a new observation. And it is not a revelation to me. However, it is a trend that has troubled me for quite some time. The most recent example would have to be this one:
Maria Kang posted this picture of herself on her Facebook page in September and it immediately went viral. People attacked her for being a “bully” and for “fat-shaming” women while at the same time promoting an eating disorder mentality. For some reason, a woman who runs a business on the premise of not making excuses was under attack for asking the question: What’s your excuse? And let’s be honest, when it comes to health and fitness, people will create thousands of different excuses. In my neighborhood alone I have heard women use their children as the “reason” they can’t work on personal fitness. This image and question is not offensive. If it were a man working late at the office with the same question I am almost positive there would not have been the same backlash.
I know it can be hard to accept responsibility, especially in a time when dodging it has become something to brag about (Disagree? How many people do you know delight in telling how they’ve gotten out of a traffic ticket?), but sometimes people really are just overweight. And it isn’t “shaming” them when someone is running a business to motivate those who would like to get healthy posts a photograph.
And then of course there is the irrational anger of professional and high school sports, the volcanic eruptions over who will play Batman, the absolute righteous indignation over Taylor Swift writing songs with the same theme…
Recently on Halloween I was criticized because I have a 12 and under rule for trick or treating. I asked a kid to give her candy back to me because, mostly, she lied to me about her age. All of my trick or treating “rules” are in good fun in spirit of the holiday — it’s a trick or a treat, after all. I give two treats out to kids who say “please”, for example. And kids have to pay me a candy tax if they don’t say “trick or treat”. All this means is they trade one piece of their candy for one of mine. My critic decided I was cruel and harsh, and that I was ruining the holiday for kids. Not her kids. She lives in a completely different state. Supposedly I am just ruining the holiday for random kids she doesn’t know and she must avenge them.
Again, why was there so much anger directed towards me? It didn’t impact her kids. I have no control over the national holiday. (If I did there would be no more Slut-o-Ween.) She chose to be angry. It was her decision to react.
Of course there are many other examples I can give, both in the news and in my own personal life. It seems like what people should be offended by is too often ignored because nobody wants to get involved in what could actually change and they would rather be offended by things that are none of their business. Rarely is the offense over child poverty at the same fuming temperatures as it will be over a political Willy Wonka meme on Facebook. Biting arguments will go on and on for days over a Facebook status that is based on an obviously made up statistic yet nobody in that same thread will go out and act on their anger over domestic violence.
How does this relate to my insistence that everybody so nice on my trip? I have learned that you experience what you seek out. You can not be offended if no offense is taken, even if the offense was meant to be given. The man who flipped me off today because I dared to use my right of way, I’m sure, hoped to offend me. Instead I laughed and shook my finger at him. His temper isn’t my problem — how I react to it is. I saw all the people I encountered as sincerely nice and interesting people. That is what I looked for and that is what I found. My driver to the airport even stopped to buy me ice cream.
How could I ever be offended by ice cream?