Embracing The Muddling

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

The year after Mom died, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” became my holiday theme.  Not surprisingly, as the Holidays draw near again, it’s resurfacing for me.

Husband and I watched The Family Stone last week during a cheap-skate date (dinner and a movie in, free babysitter–gotta love that!).  I’d kind of forgotten that it had the whole ‘terminally ill woman spends Christmas with her family’ theme going on with it.  I’d never seen it before.

I would have been fine with the whole thing if “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” hadn’t been prominently featured in the film.  I really would have.  But there was Judy Garland singing her heart out, crying those beautiful vintage tears and bringing me back to reflect on the Muddling of it all.

“Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow….  Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow….”  (I’ve quoted that line here before….  It’s a recurring theme, what can I say?)

I laid there that night, after we watched the movie, after I heard the song that packs such an emotional punch for me and all I could think was how prominent the concept of “muddling” has been to us.  And I cried and bawled and wailed, and poor Husband didn’t know what to do with me.

Muddling.  I feel like my whole marriage with Husband has been muddling.  Not because of Husband of course.  Our marriage has played out against the backdrop of a Navy lifestyle, the death of my mother, five grandparents, and several other significant friends and family members.  We’ve experienced the stress of raisingn two young children while enduring the yo-yoing of separating and coming together again with deployments and detachments.    Maybe it’s because I’m codependent and I like to create my own chaos, or maybe it’s because life has really been bits and pieces of chaos.  I just always feel like we’re muddling.  Just doing what we can to make the best of it.  Trying to embrace the beauty and the mess of it all. 

This year, the mess is me.  It’s us.  The mess is our healing.  The mess is Husband and I trying to reconnect as Husband and wife in the wake of all the previous mudding.  It’s the exhaustion and the frustration and the stress and the joy and the exquisite tenderness and the pure amazement of raising our two beautiful children. 

Muddling feels something akin to just surviving.  And my ideal is to do more than survive, but to really live.

But it occurs to me that maybe muddling IS living.  It is part of living life abundant.  Of feeling the heights of the joy and the depths of the pain.  Of facing the messiness that is you. 

It’s not that all has been joyless.  There has been much joy–exquisite joy.  Discovery, and abundant love, and wonder and amazement.  It’s not that the difficulties we’ve faced have been so extraordinary.  We have a very ordinary set of troubles.  We do.

This Christmas song that I love so much isn’t about muddling.  It’s a song about looking forward with hope despite less than ideal circumstances…  and living fully in the joy of the present in the meantime.   It’s not about having joy because of an absence of muddling, but about holding onto the light of now in the midst of it.

I want to learn to, or remember to, or continue to joyfully embrace my muddling.  I want to continue to look forward with hope…  to days of being together with people that I love, both on this side of Heaven and beyond…  to days of feeling together and not like an unraveling mess…  Days of sinking in solidly to the feel of my husband’s arms around me without a burden of cares and worries and disconnections between us.  In the mess and the muddling in the meantime, I want to grasp the reality of the joy of right now with both hands and hold on tight.

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Tender and Tired Making Turkey Ramblings

All is still very tender around here.  Healing is still hard.  The mending that needs to happen in our family is still hard.  And disciplining our children, especially Little Miss, can just be so exhausting.

I feel wrung out, and down, and I’m not entirely sure why.

We’re hosting Thanksgiving for some friends of ours on Thursday, and even though I’m feeling ‘off’ I’m very much looking forward to that.  It’s become a tradition for us.  I’m suprised that I’ve discovered that I love cooking up a storm for people, having them over, sharing our favorite dishes and making family when we can’t be with our own.  This will be our last Thanksgiving with our friends, Jamie and Todd.  I told Husband the other day that I hate that because Jamie and Todd HAVE BEEN our family for almost all the time we’ve been here.  It will be bittersweet to know that this will be our last Holiday together before they leave the Navy and discover what else life holds for them.  Such is the nature of life and friendship in transient military communities.

I find myself drawn to anything warm–not so much for physical comfort, as for emotional…  I HAVE to have a fire burning in the stove, I make tea, or cider several times a day.  I’ve baked non-stop for over a month now.  Christmas music makes me feel warm and I can’t wait to turn it on.  In the meantime, I’m pinch-hitting with Aaron Copland.

I want to jot out a pithy little post, or an inspiring one, or a Thankfully Thanksgiving one, but I find myself just out there on the edge…  Wrung out, tired, and thoroughly muddling.  God is in the  muddling.  It is a healing kind of muddling.  All is well.  I am just tender and tired.

Things I Can Never Understand

My husband has been places that I have never been.  And most of those places I will never go.

He’s done things that I would never imagine him doing–nothing against his character, but several things that are different than what I would assume my husband would do.  They don’t fit the mental boxes I have constructed for husband.  They represent a different side of him than the loving and devoted husband and father.

He’s had responsibilities and burdens on his shoulders that I can’t fathom.

He’s been to war–no, not on the front lines–but directly involved in a global conflict.  This is something I as a civilian, can never comprehend.

He’s forged bonds with people–from shared experiences, space, living conditions that I can’t touch.  I can’t crawl inside of.  And he can’t take me there no matter how many pictures I see, or how many stories I hear.  I have to admit, when he talks with his buddies about where they’ve been, and what they’ve done, and I hear the comraderie, sometimes I feel jealous.

A very good friend of his, a friend from Husband’s last shop, died this week.  It wasn’t a ‘military’ thing, at least not directly.  This young man–only 22–was recently discharged from the Navy after a string of bad choices and bad luck.  He had JUST returned home to his family, when in a surprising accident, he was hit by a train and died.

My husband aches in ways that I can’t touch.  I want to crawl inside of his grief and hold him against it, but despite my own journeys through grieving, I don’t know how to.  It’s not an unfamiliar dance for us.  He journeyed into the land of parent loss years before I did, and all I could do then was sit with him and be.  It’s the same now….  And not the same now…

Again, all I can do is sit with him and be.

But it is hard after five years of marriage to be so separate from this part of him.  The ‘away’ parts of his life will always be so foreign to me.  There is something very, very lonely about that.

I never met this person who meant so much to my husband.  I wanted to.  I wanted to adopt him and send care packages to him.  But he was always a part of that ‘other’ world.  And other circumstances got in the way before I could connect with him as a supporter and package sender on the home front.

I grieve for this man that I never even met.  I considered him a friend and part of our network simply because my husband loved him.

I am sad for never having known him–for never having seen him wear one of his silly hats.

I am equally sad for not being able to know this part of my husband.  I am sad to not be able to fully walk around with him in this grief.  I am sad that out of five years of marriage we share years of separate experiences–and that his are so foreign to me, so vastly different from mine.  My life was the same minus him.  His life away from us was literally world’s apart in difference.

Most of all, I am sad that a man so full of life and charm and humor and spunk is gone from this earth…  Tragically, Senselessly….  Gone.  I am stymied at the unfairness of it.  And this is another thing that I will never understand.

Political Spasms

I’m REALLY bugged about Prop. 8 passing in California. 

I’m REALLY bugged about physician assisted suicide passing here in Washington, especially when considering some of the repercussions it’s had in Oregon.

I’m REALLY bugged that no one is talking about the latter, though we hear commentary ad nauseum on the former. 

I thought I was going to make it through this political season with a little bit of hope, a little bit of energy, but without emotionally spasming or becoming  impassioned to the point of stress and emotional duress.  I don’t fit easily into political molds, and there aren’t so many people to discuss my ideas with when I need a sounding board and not a debate.

I don’t do a lot of politicking over here, because I know I am easily in over my head, but I  just have to tell you:

I’m  bugged.  Bugged, bugged, bugged.

Another First

I thought I’d hit all the firsts after losing my Mom.  Over three years has gone by (how is THAT possible?).  I’ve come along way from that first year where everything was new and tender.

And then there was election night.

If you didn’t know my Mom, you would think that was a weird event to miss someone over.  It’s not Christmas or Thanksgiving or some other warm Family-oriented time.  But my mother loved politics.  She stayed informed and abreast of the issues and had an opinion–generally a fiery one–about all things political.  She cared passionately about this country and who was running it and there was nothing that she loved better than a little political sparring.  This last election season would have been like one long Bears game to her.  There would have been a lot of yelling.  A lot of jumping up and down.  A lot of excitement.  And plenty of commentary.

So to see history being made last night, to see a candidate that she would have whole-heartedly supported elected especially after the last eight years when she was and would have continued to be fit to be tied, to not be able to call her when the announcements that we had a new history-breaking president elect were made….  It was awful.

I miss my Mom.  I miss who she was.  I miss her fire and passion.  I miss the way she challenged me to think about the issues.  I miss how much she cared.

I miss sharing things like this with her.

I miss her.  And no matter the reason, it still sucks.  So while the rest of the world celebrates our new president-elect, or cowers in fear about what the next four years may hold, I still have to hold down my spot in this little place here.  This place that says my Mom should be here seeing this, and she isn’t.

Fleas are Good Teachers

The fleas have upped the ante on the already sky-high stress level around here.  Things have just been hard.  Nothing big has gone down, thank God, but the little things just keep wearing us down like sandpaper.   I watch the money leak out of our accounts despite our recent bare bones budget formation.  The girls have both been picking up on the tension and for that and other reasons we’re seeing a rash of really difficult behavior, especially from Little Miss.  Husband and I are trying to approach life together as a team again, but the work we are doing together and individually heightens everything.

I’m trying to keep a level head about it all.  I’m trying to ask questions and keep lines open between God and I.  I keep asking “What is going on here?” 

The fleas, I have found as good fodder for reflection:  How do they mirror the idea of being attacked?  Of darkness trying to squeeze out the light?  (I know–heady terms for a flea infestation, but I’m trying to take it to a metaphorical level and learn).

The forced cleanliness of the house has proven to be a lot of work for both Husband and I, but has also bolstered Husband’s spirits.  That’s a good thing.

And I find as an overarching theme in my heart, that though I’m stressed, and tired, and angry, and frustrated, and at times feel utterly helpless with the fleas+money+family stress scenario that I have this one underlying feeling when it comes to the work of ‘defleaification.’

It’s something Husband and I are doing TOGETHER.  It’s a progress that we’re taking on TOGETHER.  We’re both needed and essential.  He is HERE.  It is not just MINE to deal with.  I have HELP.  And as awful as it is to do 100 loads of laundry a day and vacuum and vacuum and vacuum and clean and clean and clean, something feels so good about doing it TOGETHER.

The fleas gave me the opportunity to flex my developing muscles of not overcommitting myself.  Not insisting on doing everything.  Not thinking I am the answer to every problem and that there is no wiggle room to my commitments.  Today was supposed to be my ‘helper’ day at Little Miss’s preschool.  I bought the brownies to make last night.  I thought over scenarios to get everything done this morning and to still be gone for those 4 hours.  And at 8 p.m. last night I cried uncle, and called another parent to trade days.  I am learning to put my sanity first.  This is good.

And best of all, despite the fleas and the stress and the knot of tension that has been lodged in my belly with ropes pulling against my shoulders…  Despite that suffocating feeling that I could just give in to, on the way home from dropping Little Miss off at school, I was called by the sea (or the maker of it) to draw close to the water’s edge and breathe.  And so despite the list of things I wanted to get done this morning, I took the turn to the beach instead of the turn to our house.  And I sat–just for ten minutes–and watched the crashing of the waves.  They were incredible today.  Filled with fury and as much tension and intensity as the stress of things right now.  But they unwound me.  For a brief time this morning I made just breathing my priority.  It was a very good choice.