Thursday, August 16, 2012

Slipping Through My Fingers

Everything makes me cry these days: pictures of my friend's new baby, my friends' kids' senior pictures, pictures of the homecoming dresses we won't be shopping for, back-to-school shopping, the list of things Chloe needs to bring next week to her dorm room. Everything. I cried all the way around Target last week picking out sheets and towels and laundry soap. It was a little bit embarrassing. I hope it gets better next week, but this week: I'm a mess.

It's funny how people who don't even really know me are hesitant to ask me how I'm doing because even they know I'm gonna cry. Seriously. I signed Lily up for dance, and the teacher, who had been Chloe's teacher as well, said very sympathetically, "So...how ya doing with the big day looming?" I've nearly perfected this really pathetic smiling-amidst-a-choked-back-sob response of, "I can't really talk about it."

Brad says I need to feel my feelings. I feel them, all right. He's trying to keep me sane. The little ones are trying in their own way too, by misbehaving and fighting to the point that perhaps I'll be so distracted with them and their nonsense that I will stop crying about their sister leaving. That's not really working. Lately, my life is a dysfunctional cycle of crying, screaming, apologizing, asking forgiveness, crying, screaming, working, praying, and sleeping.

Even things that should distract me make me cry, like going to Peyton's scrimmage last night, which reminded me that Chloe won't be on the sidelines cheering this year. On a side note, watching your child cheer is a different and less nervewracking dynamic than watching your child play football. If someone could hear my thoughts at a football game, it would sound something like: "Please protect him, Lord. Please don't let him get hurt. Why is he guarding that big guy? Is that guy gonna tackle him? Oh no, please, God, no! Lord, wrap Your arms around him. Run faster, buddy! Get up. Get UP. LORD, PLEASE LET HIM GET UP!!!! Thank you."

It's fantastic. Brad said one time that he'd like to spend an hour in my head. No. No, you wouldn't. It's a bizarre and frightening place.

I feel a lot like one of my favorite Abba songs from Mamma Mia:

Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile
I watch her go with a surge of that well-known sadness
And I have to sit down for a while
The feeling that I'm losing her forever
And without really entering her world
I'm glad whenever I can share her laughter
That funny little girl

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time
Do I really see what's in her mind
Each time I think I'm close to knowing
She keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time

Sleep in our eyes, her and me at the breakfast table
Barely awake, I let precious time go by
Then when she's gone there's that odd melancholy feeling
And a sense of guilt I can't deny
What happened to the wonderful adventures
The places I had planned for us to go
Well, some of that we did but most we didn't
And why I just don't know

Sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture
And save it from the funny tricks of time
Slipping through my fingers...

And now, I'm crying, and Lily and Peyton are fighting again, and it must be time for a cocktail.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pretty is as pretty does

Sometimes kindness is just selfishness in a pretty dress. My dad used to say, "Pretty is as pretty does," which besides being a Peachism (my father's words of wisdom, usually borrowed from a tv show or movie, such as one of his favorites, "Take care of you," from Pretty Woman) didn't make much sense to me when I was young. Now, I see examples of that quite a bit. Beautiful people doing ugly things. Good people doing bad things. Friends and family gossiping about each other. Christians taking the Bible out of context to spread hate.

A friend of mine told me recently that the Catholic church had done an investigation into nuns and found many of them unfit. Apparently, they were putting too much energy into such trivial tasks as caring for the poor and spreading love and peace rather than following their calling by the Catholic church--to stand up against abortion and gay marriage. The pastor at our non-Catholic church advises that we should strive to be remembered for what we love, not for what we hate.

Despite my efforts to do good, to serve, to follow Jesus, in the last two weeks, two people defriended me. Not just in the facebook sense, but in a real, "It's been nice knowing you," sense. These were people I know and love and who know me better than most everyone in my life. Granted, I've tried very hard over the past year to put my faith in God and not be unhinged by people who don't like me, but that makes a person wonder, "What am I doing wrong?"

As it is, I really don't have relationships with my siblings other than the occasional phone call or text. I love them, but I don't really know them that well. Sometimes I wonder if it's because our shared history is so pain-filled that it's easier to remain distant. Whatever the reason, we're not close. I find out things about them on facebook, just like the people I went to high school with and haven't seen for twenty years.

So all of this brings me to selfishness and a book I'm reading that has really opened my eyes. How even the kindest gestures can be motivated by selfishness, if we perform them with the hope or expectation of reward or recognition. Many times, I have done something for someone and felt hurt later when it seemed my efforts went unnoticed or unappreciated. Selfish. Many times, I've helped a stranger and then told somebody. Selfish. Many times I've felt misunderstood, unappreciated, and left out. Selfish. Basically any time our heart is motivated by anything other than bringing glory to God through our actions, we are acting out of selfishness. And it's really easy to tell exactly where your heart is.

When I let a person pull out in front of me and they don't wave a thank you, I think: Rude. When I give my time or energy to a person, and only to find out when I need them, they have no time for me, I think: Self-absorbed. When I clean the house, and the kids promptly make a mess, I think: Ungrateful. What does all of this say? That I surround myself with selfish people? No. It says that all too often my motivation is myself not God. I am not serving others to bring glory to God, I'm serving to fulfill my own needs and desires.

People have said that about my blog. They've called me egotistical and said I post it so that I can revel in the compliments. If that were the case, today, as I'm analyzing my heart's motivation, I would delete it and never share it again. But I can honestly say, I share it because I hope that maybe someone, somewhere will read it and feel understood, feel hope, feel the desire to get closer to God, and pass that on to someone else.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hump of Tears

A couple times a year, I deal with bouts of sadness. Not the type of debilitating depression that requires pharmaceuticals or hospitalization, but a darkness that creeps over my life dissipating in a few weeks when my face is red and puffy, and I am on the verge of seeking pharmaceutical intervention. It's a lot like watching a storm come in. I see the clouds and hear the thunder, and despite my willing it to change directions, it keeps coming. I'm powerless to do anything but cry, pray, and wait.

It happens in February, when my dad and my brother, Chris, died. And in August, when my brother, Brian, died, and this year, when my daughter moves away. Usually it creeps up rather slowly. I feel off for a day or so, and then I look at the calendar or the sky and realize it's coming. This year, I was prepared for it. It started on Monday. I tried to shake it. I read more in the Bible. I got a Dunkin' Donuts coffee, which nearly always lightens my mood. I got some uplifting books from the library. But the rain clouds kept coming.

Yesterday, my girlfriend asked me how I was doing with Chloe's departure just three weeks away, and I literally couldn't speak around the lump in my throat. I finally choked out some sort of answer, hoping that she didn't hear the sob I tried to suppress. I'm sure she did, but she was kind enough not to press me any further and just to offer some mom-to-mom advice. She did this just a few years ago with her own daughter. She knows. I am grateful for her. Because Brad really doesn't want to talk about it, and I know that is his way of avoiding his own storm.

I recently read a memoir by a psychologist about the death of her psychiatrist husband. It was beautiful and sad and haunting and academic all at the same time. In one part, she talks about tears and how the chemical makeup of the tears we cry when we are sad is different than other tears. Evidently, researchers have found these tears contain chemicals of stress that accumulate in our bodies during difficult times. So crying is actually good for us, because it's a biological way to rid ourselves of these bad chemicals. Oh, God, You are something else.

That made me think of my mom and the little hump on her back. She is shrinking from osteoporosis, and often osteoporosis sufferers get that little hump. When my brothers and my dad died, though, my mom hardly cried. Chloe said she thought all the sadness my mom hadn't expressed was in that hump. Yesterday, after reading about crying, we decided that hump may be full of tears. That makes me simultaneously sad and curious. If she started crying and letting go of all the sadness stored in her, would the hump would go away?

I'm in no danger of getting a hump full of tears. I cry all the time. In fact, my fear is often that I won't be able to stop crying. The beginning of August will come and go, and I'll relive the horror of my brother's death, and then that sadness will subside. The third week of August will come, and we will take our big grown up girl to Pittsburgh and leave her. I pray that I won't fall apart. Then the last week of August will come, and we will put our baby girl on the bus to Kindergarten, and another beautiful bittersweet journey will begin.