Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Seasons of Joy and Seasons of Sorrow

{Our tiny tree, which I'm trying to enjoy. A little brightness in the bleakness. As much as I could manage. Thankful that, as Addie Zierman says, Jesus comes anyway. And even more thankful that, not only does Jesus come irregardless of my decorations and crafts and holiday upworkings, Christ comes irregardless of my level of happiness or my mental state or my emotional stability.}

I'm starting to formulate our Christmas letter and it's got me thinking about all that we've experienced this year. In some ways, we haven't really had as many milestones (it seems like there for a bit we were Getting Married! Announcing A Pregnancy! Having A Baby! Announcing Another Pregnancy! Having Another Baby!). This year, has, in many ways been quieter. And I've been reflecting on that some. [Sidenote: parts of this post may well become the bulk of our Christmas letter. So if you're a usual recipient, excuse that please.]

Last Summer was full of love and life and beauty and we lived at exactly the pace I was comfortable with. It may well have been the most relaxed season I've had since having children. I was aware, even then, what a precious gift those days were because I know we were about to move into a more busy season, and to be blunt, a more stressful one.

This Fall, we added back in activities, but I felt like Peyton and I made decisions more deliberately- we didn't do every single thing every single time there was an invitation or an opportunity. We almost always chose relationally, we chose mostly intentionally, and sometimes we chose sacrificially. And I believe we chose well. I also think, that maybe more than any other time in our marriage so far, we sought to understand each other's needs and desires and we both tried to sacrifice some of our own comfort for the other person (i.e. Peyton didn't push to do as much and I didn't push back as much when he said he wanted to add something else to the calendar).

And it was better than okay, it was good. Not the perfection of the Summer, but I don't think that was something that was going to be feasible long term, anyway. I enjoyed Fall and I'm so thankful for it, too. So much has happened. Again, not big, grandiose events like adding additional family members, but little ways that I've watched the four of us grow.

Annie has this amazing, ever increasing pool of knowledge she draws from in our conversations. I know every parent probably feels this way, but it's exciting to me to hear all that she's learned and watch her turn it over and make connections and puzzle piece it all together in her little mind. The thing that is even more exciting than watching a repertoire of facts inside her tiny head grow is watching her hunger for knowledge grow. I was an inquisitive child myself, and while it's exhausting being a small person's primary encyclopedia, I love being on this side of the exchange. Finally, I'm the answer giver, instead of the question beggar and it's enchanting. With increasing frequency, I end up telling her "momma will have to look that up for you". It's been an exciting year, too, as I've watched her make strides in the things that are difficult for her (for example, writing her letters) and as I've watched her gain confidence in an incredible way.

As much as I've loved watching these processes with Ann Peyton, I've equally loved watching Graves change, gradually, from a baby to a little boy. I'm thankful that, well into this third year of his life with us, he still clings to a lot of baby things (his blanket, paci, stuffed animals). He loves to be rocked, still, and that provides me, I think, with as much comfort as it does him. At the same time, he's changing so much. Most notable is his verbal skills. I'm still amazed, often, by the things he says. This has been a wonderful season as far as learning about him socially and emotionally, too. He's such an affectionate child, so even tempered, and happy and pleasant. It seems like, as other children hit two and become obstinate and irritable (heaven knows his sister did!) he grows increasingly amicable and easy to please. And he truly wants to please us, too. With words have come a lot less frustration for him (and for us). We're letting him do things in his own timing (the paci and potty training, for example) and that seems to work for him. I will say that I'm thankful for this easy nature he seems to have, not only because it's a bit foreign to me, but because it counteracts my tendency to get frustrated with his lack of impulse control and extreme busyness and desire to break, stain, tear up, or otherwise destroy anything that could possibly be broken, stained, torn up or otherwise destroyed. Honestly, I've been surprised at how much I've been able to take his boyish behavior in stride. It seems so unnatural for me and I credit it (aside from the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, which I do, in all seriousness, credit it mostly) to his own easy, laid back nature.

As I mentioned above, I feel like this has been a season of growth for me and Peyton as a couple. We've never dealt with a true tragedy, but as those close to us (and most readers of this blog) know, there were so incredibly difficult days early on in our marriage. I think it took us a couple to find ourselves in a good place and just now, after the five mark, I feel like we've walked into an especially sweet season. I think so much of that has to do with us both trying to understand and empathize with each other. I've come to better understand Peyton's need for adventure and for a life that's not ordinary and I think a TINY bit of that has rubbed off on me. I think Peyton has a better grasp on the things that nourish my soul and I think he's more inclined to try to understand what helps me in the darkness, and what helps me not even go to those dark places, than he used to be.

One big event, if there was an event this Fall, was visiting New York. Some way, some how, my eyes were opened and I saw the city afresh. I'm still clinging to my happy memories on the sun drenched pavement of a city that, during the bitterness of December, I'm very much terrified of.

Which brings me up to present day. These past two seasons have been seasons of incredible joy. This is a season that's bittersweet, emphasis on the bitter, if I'm honest. It's a season that's full of anticipation always, but this season the joyful anticipation of Christmas has been coupled more dramatically than ever with an anticipatory fear.

December is, we all know, incredibly difficult from a mental health perspective. I've tried diligently to focus on the things that minister to my heart and prioritize them amidst the chaos. Sometimes self-care seems selfish and I have to tell myself what a lie that is before I can even get on with the business of it.

My friend Mallory wrote recently how it is the bleak mid-Winter after all. And ain't that the truth? Peyton has made me listen to one of his favorite lines from The Grapes of Wrath (he has a new found love for audio books, which absolutely grate on my every nerve). It's actually the very start of the book, I think. It says that there is a "sorrow which weeping cannot symbolize". For the last few days, my mind has come back again and again to that line. While I think it's a little foolish of me to compare my loneliness and fear to the depression-era reality of not being able to FEED YOUR KIDS, there's a truth in those words that resonates right now. And also, again with the letting go of the guilt of taking care of myself and acknowledging my emotions. I have to act like this is a safe place and I have to work to make the inside of my own head a safe place. So I'm calling it-- a sorrow which weeping cannot symbolize. It's not every moment and it's not debilitating in a true sense, but it's scary because sometimes I feel like I'm inches from that being reality again. Which is a whole other fear. WHAT IF WE MOVE TO NEW YORK AND I CAN'T GET OUT OF THE BED?

Overall, I think I'm doing okay. But I'm at the very edge of okay more often than I'd like and that makes me nervous. I'm definitely struggling in a way I haven't in a long time, but that's to be expected. It happens every Winter and it stands to reason that those feelings would be all the more strong with the upcoming move and the uncertainty of what life will even look like in six weeks.

I wish there was a bow to pop on this post, but right now I'm having a hard time finding it. I really felt like in my 31 Goodbyes, I did a pretty great job (if I do say so myself!) of focusing on the positive, which isn't really my natural disposition. I think the only thing I can say is what I said at the start of the post, which is that Jesus comes anyway. I also think that sometimes, a life lived in the tension- one not focused on pushing aside and dismissing the hard things, one where we don't put on artificial red and green consumerist band aids and try to numb ourselves with mindless buying (or drinking or over eating or whatever your vice is, mine happens to be trying to fill a void with jon jons), one where we don't think the only good, healthy life is the constantly happy one- is a beautiful story, and at the end of the day, a powerful testimony to God's grace.

So much is uncertain in New York, so much about our life there is outside what I can even imagine. I just have no basis for it. I don't know what our days will look like, I don't know how big our apartment will be or even where it will be. I don't know if I'll feel safe walking to the store with the children at night or if I'll be able to manage them on the subway by myself. I don't know if Peyton will work twelve hour shifts or fourteen hour shifts or even at night.

But I do know a lot. He'll be a pharmacist (somewhere). We'll live in Brooklyn (or Manhattan). We'll feel safe (enough) and have (some) space to live and breath. I'll spend my days with two of my favorite people ever. Annie will continue to learn and push me to educate her when I don't even feel like it. Graves will break all sorts of shit and then smile this knock out grin and I will melt because there's never been another little boy as great as him in all the world. Peyton and I will fight (a lot I'm sure) and seek to understand and grow to know each other better because, you know, that whole two becoming one thing.

And, more importantly than anything else, the Holy Spirit will live in our home. Irregardless of all else.


Sarah said...

Wow... I'm pretty sure I'm not on your Christmas card list, but if I were that sure would be a helluva Christmas letter to receive! Really open, honest and beautifully written. I can't help but think of the book Freefall to Fly -- have you heard of it? It's about a family who moves to NYC and the mom goes through some anxiety/depression before finally coming to peace with her new life.

Mary Louis Quinn said...

Loved that post.