Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Learning to Thrive

I've been thinking lately about whether we are just surviving life or thriving in it and what that looks like and means for our family.

Last week a good friend stopped by to visit and we were chatting about how much has gone on in my life in the last 1 1/2 years and she said, "Wow, Diana, you know that's really a lot of big stuff...none of it's little." It got me thinking. Geez, she's right. My MIL passed away, a month later I miscarried and we found out about a large ovarian tumor and then a month after that I had ovarian surgery. Within 2 months of that I conceived Solomon totally naturally and very surprisingly. During all of that I lost nearly 40lbs and we put my stepson into a pricey private school. In the spring my dad died very unexpectedly. This past summer my stepson decided he didn't want to live here anymore and then I had a baby. We've had deaths, births, surgery, baby loss, major weight loss, the loss of an older child....geez.

Life has been challenging in the 8 years Craig and I have been married. There's been so many valleys we've almost gotten used to them. But we've sort of gotten used to the valleys by just surviving. It's a "if we can just get through this...." mentality. So yeah, we're getting through it. Sometimes that's absolute necessity and the only thing you can do. But what if it becomes habit? Here's what I've been pondering: how do we go from just getting through it, to actually being able to enjoy our day to day life? Most recently it's been difficult with my stepson gone. The girls are mourning the loss of him and so are we. I have a 4 year old who cries about it a lot and doesn't understand. She said a couple days ago, in the grocery store of all places, "why doesn't he love us anymore?" She can't comprehend how he was here one day and gone the next. The loss of a child so suddenly has definitely impacted our family.

Then we add a new baby into things, and one with colic that wants to be held 24/7....yeah, we're sort of just surviving yet again. Everyone has their advice or tips about how to 'fix' the colic. 99.9% of those people have never had a baby with true colic. I've had two. Colic is isolating. Few people truly know what it's like to live on 1-2 hours of sleep at night or feel like a prisoner in your own home with a little tyrant that won't stop screaming. A little tyrant you love so much. Then there's a cycle of guilt...feeling angry and exhausted and just wanting sleep and then feeling guilty for having any level of anger at a helpless newborn. Then the guilt that you must be causing it and ruining your baby because 1)you eat dairy, 2) you eat gluten, 3)you had garlic 2 weeks ago, 4) you had caffeine while pregnant, 5)you had broccoli or eggs or tomatoes or onions.....and on and on it goes. So you cut out dairy and other foods for weeks and notice zero difference. You want to yell at those people, "OK, I did it, he's still screaming, now what!!!" But you know they were just trying to be helpful and don't get at all what your life looks like right now. And then you feel guilty for being sort of angry at the 'helpful' people for all their non-helpful suggestions. See? It's isolating. There's often no solution. 3 or 4 months comes along and your baby stops screaming and you move on with life. But you might have PTSD from the months of screaming. Seriously.

However hard or easy life is or feels, the days keep flying by. There's no pause button. I often wish I had a remote like on the movie Click and I could just pause everyone so I could sleep for a large chunk of time or go away with my husband. But no pause button exists. The days continue and the years even faster. My firstborn will be 5 years old in 4 days. That is hard to even grasp for me. It's bittersweet. She's beautiful and smart and funny. But she's not little anymore. The years have gone by like sand through my fingers. A lot of it was totally outside my control, but it still happened and those hardships kept me just surviving through the days and years of her life. I think to myself, "does she realize how much has gone on? Has she felt pushed aside while mommy and daddy survive the tidal waves? Has she felt hushed, hurried, and unimportant?" Probably yes at times. That sucks. I don't want to just survive her childhood. Or my marriage. Or my life.

How does a person thrive and enjoy life when they are emotionally and physically exhausted? That's what I'm not sure about. I know the Christian answer is to just pray about it and "the joy of the Lord is your strength". Honestly, Jesus and hard work is how we have survived at all. But the real, nitty gritty question of how to get through each day with crying and whining toddlers when your colicky baby kept you up at night and you haven't had a real intimate moment or conversation with your hubby in months can't be answered by someone quoting Nehemiah 8:10. I know I am also still grieving the loss of my dad. It's been 8 months and having his grandson now makes the pain fresh as I think of the moments my dad is missing and the little man he never got to meet, but always hoped for.

What I am trying to do is slow down when I can. I want to try to say "hurry up" less. Try to hurry myself less. Look my kids in the eye when they talk to me. Even when it's about the 20th made up story of the hour.
The fact that my baby will only sleep on or with me bothers me the very most when I compare him to other babies who happily sleep in their cribs all night long. So, not comparing my life to other people's lives seems kind of huge. I want to feel close to my husband. That means real and genuine conversations need to happen and quality time. I want to build new memories with my family.

I know I am so totally and completely blessed. I have a husband who works very hard outside of the home so I don't have to and yet he comes home and also works his tail off in the yard and in the home and as a daddy. I have a precious 4 year old who is funny, inquisitive, and very strong willed. I have an adorable 2 year old whose little voice and view of the world really cracks me up. Her chocolate eyes melt me. I have an 8 week old little boy who I think literally took a piece of my heart when he was born. His smile is contagious and his giggle makes me tear up. I am blessed. I just also happen to be tired. That might be a lot of us, right? Acknowledging that we're worn and maybe a little torn, too, doesn't negate our blessings. It makes us human. That's been a purpose of my blog, I think. To say the stuff I believe other people are thinking, too. Because there's somehow a collective sigh of relief when someone verbalizes whatever we're also thinking. It's salve on a heart to realize someone else's life is hard or their marriage isn't perfect or they get mad at their kids. It helps us adjust our expectations to hear that others struggle. Pinterest is the new Pleasantville (remember that movie?). Well, my life isn't Pinterest Perfect, folks :)

I hope to endeavor this fall to find tangible ways to enjoy day to day life and be actively participating in it. I know I can't shove the sadness or grief under a rug, I have to go right through it. I can't pretend my baby isn't screaming and I can't pretend I get a lot of sleep. But I can give hugs and kisses to my family. I can put down the iPad and look my girls in the eye. I can wrangle a baby in the baby carrier and let my girls make a mess cutting endless sheets of paper or making cookies.

The years go by far too fast.

"Cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow...
for babies grow up, we've learned to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep."

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