Thursday, January 26, 2012

I Will Run To You: When Life Makes My Head Spin

That's my intent for 2012.

I'm notorious for putting lots of pressure on myself and trying to do things on my own. It was drilled into me even deeper during the years of caregiving prior to Thomas' death.

But as life speeds up, and I'm still slowed by grief, I'm learning to lean on God again. Okay, overall, things are looking up for us. I’m making emotional progress and there is a lot of emotional progress to make. I’m just so tired. I know it is common and normal with grief and I know my life doesn’t leave much room for rest, but I’m just really drained. It is taking a lot of emotional work to rebuild my life. It’s a job to process all of the feelings not just from Thomas’ death, but from his life and illness. A lot of prayer which sometimes consists of just rambling on and on about what happened to the only one who can’t get away from me. That’s God’s reward for being omnipresent. Thankfully He can take it. And when I look around, there’s work, the house needs attention, Ariana needs attention, and Elijah needs attention.

Work: After working as a contractor/temporary employee for 3 years, HR told management of my department they could no longer keep extending contracts and the long-term contractors either had to be hired on as permanent employees or let go. Well, despite me not wanting the only position they were hiring permanent employees for (because it would mean I could not be there for my children the way I need to be now) they wanted me to stay so they put in a requisition for my current position and it was approved so no more contracting, which means benefits now like company paid life insurance, 401K, long-term and short-term disability, paid sick and personal leave, all things I have been without for a long time. The last 3 years were actually the last 3 of 7 total years that have passed since I had a permanent job.

So now I’m going over things, especially our financial plan, making some changes and revamping our short-term and long-term goals. We’ll stick with the health insurance Thomas left us, but I’ll be getting us dental and vision through my job because frankly while it is good on medical benefits, the dental and vision portion stinks. I’m looking at routines and things at home because this commute that tends to wear me down at times…well now I really need to make it work. And I have been doing better since the permanent position came through. My career was basically at a standstill between being a contractor and the job that I didn’t want to take being the next level up, but when the director talked to me, she put me on a three year timeline to move up and I can live with that. I figure by the time Elijah is in school (which is how she phrased it) I’ll either be ready to move up or move on.

The house had an exterior makeover that I’m really happy with and it looks great when we come home in the afternoons. The interior still needs work, but I was too spent emotionally to continue after the exterior work was done.

And here I am…after nearly two years without Thomas. As reality set in that he was not going to come back, reality set in that I’m a survivor. But I had no choice. Life never slowed down for me and it isn’t slowing down now. I’ve heard the term mourning on the run and our lives could definitely qualify for that. Six days after the funeral it was back to work and unless I was taking Elijah to one of many check-ups he had that first year (one of which was two days after Thomas died) I worked every day except the 12 days total we were on vacation or someone was sick. I bust my behind at home and at work just like any other parent. At times I've found it hard to breathe. I'm convinced that during those times, my heart would have broken beyond repair had it not been for my faith in His mercy.

I started the book "Believe" by Jennifer Silvera. Her pain comes right off the pages. Those moments of looking up into the dark and wondering if anyone is there...if God is's real. Moments during Thomas' illness and times since his death, I've known that type of desparation.

What I'm learning in my time conversing with God, mainly crying out in my angst is patience. I've said a few times on this journey I have learned over this time to respect the load I am carrying. And part of learning that lesson is remembering my faith. It's remembering that beating myself up when the world starts to move too fast for me isn't productive. I've learned a lot of lessons about faith and grace, lessons I'm trying to pass to my children.

It's rarely easy. Today as I started my flight down the highway, my daily game of beat the clock as I drive as fast as I legally can to get to the school before aftercare, I looked up and admitted I was exhausted, my head was spinning with details, and even though I'm full of anticipation, physically I felt like crashing. I can trust God to understand I'm still grateful for all He's done, for the fact that I have a job and beautiful babies. But to do the job and raise the babies I need His help.

So when I ran to Him today I wanted to slow things down. Traffic wasn't bad on the way home and Ariana had already completed over half of her homework. Ahhh...thank You! Watching sports on TV, trying to wind down from the homework session with Ariana, I also watched the children play and tried to literally absorb the sound of their laughter. Eventually, Elijah brought his Thomas the Tank Engine toys from his room into mine. I played trains with my son. It's amazing how something so simple can have a huge effect on the day. He looks at me saying "choo choo" and I repeat "choo choo". He says, "All aboard!" My heart smiled and the spinning slowed.

Monday, January 2, 2012

December: Our 2 Cristmas Without Daddy, Part 2

So, we made the trip (it's an hour) to the cemetery to say Merry Christmas to daddy and visit with the in-laws. We arrived shortly after 10 to find everyone in Thomas' family that lives in town at the site. We joined in with the gathering to say Merry Christmas to Thomas, but I declined to talk right then.

After that we did a caravan to McDonald's where we had breakfast. Then I took the children to their grandmother's house so they could spend time with her and their cousins.

Once we left there I asked Ariana if she wanted to go back and see daddy before we went home and thankfully as usual, she did. I usually didn't but this time I wanted to go back. I had some stuff to tell him.

We has brought him a bouquet of white roses so I got some pictures of the children there. All because when I started to get sad there talking to him, she started singing to him, which she used to do quite a bit when he wasn't feeling well.

Then, Elijah seemed to be paying attention to where we were so I talked to him about why we were there. Who knew if he had any idea what I was saying, when I said his father loved him, but he had died and this was where he was. When we were about to leave though he stood over the grave and gave a thumb's up sign.

On Christmas Day, we had a nice breakfast, I gave Ariana something out of her stocking, and we went to church. After that, we fulfilled a request to spend some time at my mother's house. We finally got home around 5:00, at which point, I had to get dinner on the table pretty quick. Presents were after that, and after all of the preparation and wrapping, it took about 45 minutes to get into all of the packages. Setting up the toys was not as quick a process. How I could pick so many toys that required Adult Assembly, I'm not sure. They were happy though. Ariana loved everything and was glad to help her brother with his toys. He was a bit overwhelmed. I don't really buy toys during the year, so it was a bit of a shock for him. Several times I saw him trying to play with more than one toy at once. Their faces...that was enough of a gift.

After the New Year rolled in, I found myself thinking about all I had faced in 2011. This was my first full calendar year as a widow. Even though Thomas passed away pretty early in 2010, the part for which he was present was very significant: our son's birth, our 10th anniversary both of those happened in those first couple of months. And thanks to his determination, we also purchased the vehicle I have now.

A lot of things were left to do though. In 2011, I had some major work done on our home's exterior, things a 17 year-old house needs done in most cases, at least in this neighborhood. I started work on the interior of the house. I painted Ariana's bedroom and the room that will be Elijah's room. It's been a pretty emotional process, making some major decisions, and spending that money. It continues to be so as I finish packing Thomas' clothes for donation. Two boxes have gone to the local Men's Correctional Facility like he wanted. But they can't hold it all. I will follow his instructions to donate his clothes. I had so few things I was sure of when he died, but I'm sure of this.

I ventured out into the world with and without my children, but still found the space between them the most comfortable for me. This walk continues to be a roller coaster at times. But at night, and at certain times during the day, I feel a calm. That intense stress of waiting for the next emergency is absent. Constantly facing the possibility of Thomas' death was certainly different than it actually happening; but, even though we miss him, I cannot deny the brutality of his suffering and I cannot wish him back like he was. His love for us, his family and his friends had no limit, but his body was another matter. Many have heard the saying, "A heap see, but a few know." Well, a few really saw and a few really knew what happened at home, what he endured...what I endured...what Ariana endured. Our original prognosis was 2007 and he made it to 2010. I'll always be grateful for that, especially when I look at my son. We'll always miss him; but he's safe now, and I feel we can make it.

My daughter told me, "We just have to stick together no matter what. We have a great family still, the Lord is so worthy (of praise)." She's right. That's what we have done. I stuck with Thomas and he stuck with me until he was done. My children and I have our challenges, but that is what we will do. God has been loving, kind, merciful, patient and faithful. When talking to my pastor's wife she mentioned I still had a smile. I thought of my amazing children. I realize though what that look really is. It's peace. As challenging as this life is at times, I have confidence in God's plan. I know He loves us and intends for us survive and thrive.

In 2012, I want to love God better. He gave us life, gave Thomas rest, restored my faith, and made me dream again. I've seen His healing power in our lives. He's given us good people around us, and makes it all happen here, sometimes (when I'm under the sadness) with little cooperation from me. It's been hard, but I'm still standing. I've laughed, cried, asked why again and again. But I am finding out what I'm made of along the way. I'm a survivor.