Hope

I didn’t pick a word for the new year. I didn’t make any resolutions. I didn’t even really make any goals.

I didn’t pick a word for the new year.

I didn’t make any resolutions. I didn’t even really make any goals.

I haven’t done any deep cleaning despite the Internet’s obsession with all things Kondo. Well, that’s not true. I put the existing “donate this pile” pile into a bag and placed it in the back of my car. After doing so, I felt momentarily inspired and decided to deal with the Purse Issue.

What’s the Purse Issue? I don’t change purses all that often, but when I do, I seem totally incapable of getting rid of the old purse. What if I need a solid green boho slouch bag? Or any of my floral print fabric bags from my handmade phase? Houndstooth? And what about my many camera bags despite the fact that they’ve been used beyond an inch of their lives?

The bags, originally contained to one large-sized tub, overflowed to the floor of the storage side of our basement. You could also find every single reusable bag from every single professional conference I have attended since 2009 in this heap. I have five reusable bags in my vehicle. My husband carries about ten in his. I also have two in the purse I’m currently carrying.

I didn’t need these bags.

So, I packed them all up in a box. They also now sit in the back of my car. Holiday weekend and snow, they’ll stay there until Tuesday.

But no, I haven’t made any grand plans for the year.

2018 taught me that plans, even the best laid ones, mean very little. I made so many goals last year. I even followed through with a number of them, starting a new job, running two half marathons, and losing the weight I put on during the emotional difficulties of 2017. But all of that changed in one minute on a September night.

I don’t know what this year holds. It started off on a difficult note, threw a little death our way, and the rest of the year seems a little bit if-y as to whether or not we can avoid more of the same. On the other hand, I’m making some great strides professionally and my sons make me happy to be their mother on the regular. (You know, mostly. They’re human, as am I.)

So no, I don’t have goals, resolutions, a word, anything. Instead, I’m holding on to a little hope. For what?

I guess we’ll find out.

Hope

Losing My Fire

I’ve always run a little hot.

I remember sweating through the armpits of my red satin shirt on picture day my freshman year of high school. I squeezed my arms tight to my sides as the photographer instructed me to tilt my giant, pixie-cut head to the side. I kept my shoulders back to keep my black suspenders attached to my plaid school girl skirt in place. You can’t see the sweat stains in the photo, but I know they’re as there as the giant golden glasses on my face, silver braces on my teeth.

I managed to sweat through another red shirt just last weekend, the heat beneath my choir robe growing hotter and hotter by the second. I don’t sweat in church because I fear God. I sweat in church because I’m one of two sopranos in the choir and it feels like a lot to handle right now. I sweat in church because I can see the doorway and I fear not who but what might come through those doors on any given Sunday. I sweat because hormones don’t stop on Sunday from ten thirty until the last words of the benediction are uttered, the first notes of the pianist’s postlude lilting through the spacious sanctuary. 

But I lost my heat a few weeks ago. 

In the midst of October, as we maneuvered our first full month after the loss of my father-in-law, I found myself sitting in my office, freezing cold. Sometimes this happens when I’m getting sick. I’ll spike a fever and the rest of my body will shiver and shake. However, I wasn’t sick. I was just cold. Both physically and emotionally frozen.

It’s odd when your heat leaves you, physically or otherwise. I’m not used to layering multiple tops and sweaters, covering up with a blanket, actually wearing socks. I know the tricks to cool down when I’m hot, when I’m overheating, when I’m darn near woozy due to outdoor or inner-soul temperatures. I don’t know how to warm back up it seems. 

It was during this loss of my physical heat that I realized my inner heat also seeped out somewhere along the way. I spent years close to the fire, easily able to go from placid and cool to firey rage. If you wanted to argue a point, I was there for it, ready to dig in my heels and prove my rightness above all else. 

That’s just gone. 

While I’ve physically warmed up again over the past month, too hot to wear my cute new sweaters, I still have no desire to argue, fight, or attend a debate of any kind. If you want to be right, have at it. If you need to be right, I am here for you in that as well. I have no fight left, no burning need to prove someone else wrong just to stoke my personal flames of self-righteousness. I’ve lost the desire to put relationships at risk simply to be right. It just doesn’t seem all that important anymore. 

Don’t get me wrong: I’m still competitive and I’m gonna win that moon game more often than not. If we’re playing UNO, I’m throwing a Draw 4 at you with a grin on my face. And I have a Clue Title to uphold after all. 

But I’ve lost my fire, my fight. Somewhere between seeing the moon that night two months ago and my husband taking my hand and leading me to the couch, my entire world changed. In place of that fire and fight is a heaviness, a brokenness. They say time will heal it, though I do not believe that to be true as I know a thing about those broken places, those heavy things. To hold my husband in his own brokenness, to help my sons navigate their unimaginable loss, to walk this tricky trail myself, I just don’t have it in me to rise to any other occasion than to love people where they are. 

Life is too short. I have second-guessed almost everything in the past two months, and I just keep coming back to that truth: Life is too short. Love your people as best you can and tell them as often as possible. 

In this cooling off period of my life, I am thankful for those who stand with us. I’m not who I was even in that immediate aftermath of his sudden, tragic death. Maybe it’s because I know all too well what it’s like to be in that dark place and now I see the fallout of that decision. Whatever the case, I feel my charge this cold November is to love my people in and through their sadness and grief, to wrap my love around their broken places and hold them up when it feels like too much weight to stand.

Yes, broken and cold and hurting, I wrap my arms around them and whisper, “You are loved. You are loved. You are loved,” over and over until they are warm again, until they believe it. 

Fire

Lone Wolf

For ten years, I shared photos on this blog of two boys in Halloween costumes. For a majority of those years, I chose the costumes and those two boys happily wore whatever I chose.

Then those years came during which they chose their costumes. They didn’t match. They didn’t show their faces. But they were happy, so I was happy.

And now it’s 2018. They’re just a couple of weeks away from turning 13 and 11. We’ve entered a new phase. 

The near-teenager decided he didn’t want to trick-or-treat. It was not forced upon him as I am fully in the Teenagers Trick-or-Treating Is A-Okay camp. Extending childhood in an age in which we force so much on our children feels like a good choice to me. Plus, if they’re asking me for candy, they’re not engaging in any number of other bad choices Generation X made on Halloween. So yes, I was for him heading out on Halloween in some kind of costume.

He just didn’t want to.

I fear this may be genetically my fault. While I did trick-or-treat as a seventh grader, I lack a certain amount of whimsy. Or basically, I lack any amount of whimsy. I am anti-whimsical. It’s a fault of mine that I acknowledge. So maybe he gets it from me. 

Whatever the case, he didn’t want to don a costume and hit the neighborhood. Fine. He wanted to hand out candy with my husband as it was his year to stand on the porch and my year to walk. This felt like an okay transition. Our older son is amazing with kids, especially young kids. It turns out he had a blast handing out candy—or, in our case, chips—to the kiddos. This makes my heart happy.

But I had a couple of hard moments walking through our neighborhood with my mother-in-law and just one of my sons. What do you mean that we’re down to one trick-or-treater? That older kid was just born yesterday or at least very recently and was a lion and a pumpkin in the same year because I couldn’t choose and then a firefighter and Sebastian and Buzz Lightyear and Waldo and Mario and some kind of Star Wars bad guy and freaking CALVIN and Spiderman and a ninja and some other kind of something I couldn’t see his face and now he’s nearly 13 leaving me to walk our candy route with a lone wolf.

That statement is funnier if you know the story of how my husband and I met as well as his username in 2001. 

Anyway, it was a lovely Halloween, 2018. The rain stopped just in time to head out for candy and stayed away until after we finished the chili and cornbread I made for dinner. My trick-or-treater had a great time even if he couldn’t really see where he was going and truly struggled at houses that wanted him to “pick his own candy.” I soft yelled, “He can’t see,” from my spot at the end of each driveway. Another memory, another heart pocket.

I am thankful that we were able to share a fun evening with my mother-in-law, for a safe place to beg neighbors for candy, for these people whom I love so very, very much. But so many giggles at the lone wolf concept.