As many of us focus on our diets, habits, and such, I am looking inward. These pursuits of re-examining our eating habits, or health routines is a great endeavor. For me, this time of year is different.
January seems to be a measuring stick for me, and I may not be the only one. Take away the shoulds, and I honestly must state this month finds me always surprised. I am always struggling with something, a person of whom I may be concerned, or a feeling of the world not feeling safe or secure.
Tomorrow will be January 2. On January 8 at about 10:30 in the morning, 15 years ago, my first husband of nine years died suddenly and tragically as a first responder volunteer firefighter. He died in a car crash on the way to the fire station to rescue others from a car wreck. The moment happened just like that, as quick and easy as a quick stop on the way home from work.
Just like that I was standing over a receiving blanket with my daughter exploring the many options limbs provide on a flat surface in her play time with me watching her move. She fascinated me, her eyes on a brightly colored rattle toy, or a sound she might make discovering a way to move her body differently. I loved giving her floor time.
The phone rang, and our lives were never the same. I filled bottles with formula, as I had just stopped nursing two weeks prior. Taking the bottles carefully in the diaper bag, I found myself calm. I do not think I truly understood the magnitude of the words spoken to me. I just new I needed to get to the hospital. Occasionally I felt myself tremble, but something soothed me. I was able to go to the hospital, just blocks away, to find out the horrible news, Lattie was dead. He had just been standing in the den. That was one of the great things about our set up. The church was across the street. He could pop in many times a day, as I was procrastinating returning to work big time. I had made my six weeks last six months. I knew that could not last forever, the staying at home. I worried so much about how we would afford, how “we” would afford…
Now, how do I go from here. That was the question. Where was here? Was it a bad dream? I knew I was awake, but I doubted my sensibilities.
Trauma can do that to you. You feel as though you are dreaming. The dreamy feeling is helpful actually. Being grounded in reality would have been horrible. I remember feeling as though I had it all figure out about 24 hours later. I remember sitting in my car crying with a close friend. I saw a Mercedes pass by the house, and then a homeless man on a bike. Breaking into tears, I saw the two worlds of the man on the bicycle and the man driving the nice car, as one and the true vanity, the true fleeting foolishness of the idea that any THING, anything at all is permanent, or at least going with you, the irony that one even seemed less fortunate at one time in my eyes. Both were heading for the same place. Who can say what was in either man’s heart, or what they meant to someone. I could remember deciding that I needed a Mercedes while I was in graduate school. I had told Lattie I thought I should have one when I made it as a therapist. Ridiculous to me at that moment that thinking seemed. How could I have wanted a car so badly, when our time here was so short together. What a ridiculous thing to focus on, something that could not make our lives fuller or better. We both had a thing about cars. I think it was a sign of success. It would make me feel untouchable. But, in reality, it’s a really pretty car. That’s all. I wanted to fill my life with people, hold onto them and never let them go. I thought about Lattie’s work with the homeless, and all the people he had given hope. I felt hopeful, full of life. I was ready to grab life by the reigns and live like I never had before. Yes, the pain of loss was deep, but I never truly lost that thought in that moment, that life was precious, and that I wanted to live more deeply, even if I was sad. I wanted to not miss one thing. I wanted to do life. I wanted to do it better. I wanted to do it like I had never had before. And, one day I would see him again.
So, here I am 15 years later. It’s January 1st. I have now been married eight years, I think! My husband, Kyle and I lose track of time. We are bad about those little things like keeping track of dates. For Christmas I got him an Atari! I found one with all of the games on it from the seventies. I can’t wait. I am planning on building the entertainment center tomorrow, so I need to go to bed soon. My fifteen year old is spending the night out, and she is in the band at her school. She also is incredibly musically gifted. She has great friends and I wonder what I did to deserve this wonderful family. My parents are doing great and are in great health. They live on the water and their Bay House is a twenty minute drive from our home. Kyle and I live in a nice home in this really beautiful community with parks along the water, and incredibly nice people.
Am I okay? Well, I do struggle with anxiety. It sucks. I also have inner ear problems which is officially called a Vestibular Disorder or more commonly known as vertigo. I can not do in one day all I used to be able to do, but I am alive! I have to watch how much I take on, and give myself time to meditate and stretch regularly. It’s not exactly a life or time hack, but meditating is what helps me breathe. Breathing is important. If I try to do too much, I will get dizzy. Crowds make me dizzy. Shopping makes me dizzy. House cleaning makes me dizzy. So, I must take extra care of myself. Slowing down and taking one thing at a time is what works for me.
My tongue is not as tame as it was when I was married to a minister. But, I have always been a bit fiery, as Lattie knew well. I can get emotional and say things I never thought I could before. Whereas, I used to get mad at myself for being shy, or not saying anything. My mouth gets me into trouble now. I try very hard to hold myself accountable when I say too much, and make peace rather than my point. I don’t always succeed, but I try. That’s got to be worth something.
When all is said and done, I still think I am the same person. The lady today who sometimes says something that no one can avoid hearing, is the same shy girl who was so withdrawn as a kid. I am that kid and I am the grown woman too. I am still working it all out! I will say this. I would not ever choose for Lattie to have died. I also would not wish how I had to start over and let go of what we had built, my career, our future together in the church, all of that, was not possible after he died. Even so, I am glad something pushed me out of my shell. I am glad. My prayer is that my words are for good, and if not that God will help me and others to deal with those words. People are more important than words. People are more important than opinions. I sometimes forget that fact.
With all that being said, maybe it’s time to regard the measuring stick that reappears annually to remind me of what can happen. The yard stick that reminds it can all disappear in seconds, I can see it, Hello yardstick. Guess what? I could not have found Kyle Griffin, raised Hannah Collins, found this awesome community, made the friends I have made, and enjoyed my life this much without God. Yard stick, you are of this earth. Take a hike yard stick.
The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. He leadeth me beside still waters and green pastures too. He maketh awesome places for me to take naps and rest like my home and sometimes even by Mobile Bay on a sofa on a porch at the Bayhouse. I did nothing to deserve this. He did a great job with that! He prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies. I mean. There are a few people that don’t like me. That happens. For some reason in those moments, I find the blessing of humor or perspective. I may even find myself praying for them. Good grief God is good! I would never have even thought of praying for someone who avoids or does not like me without God. My cup runneth over. God’s generosity in my life is vivid when I open my eyes. Surely my days will be awesome and one day I will get to be in God’s kingdom where I can thank God all the time every day and everywhere. He has a room prepared for me right now. It’s going to be better than Disney World. But, the reason why is God, because he is awesome.
So, in this New Year, I toss my measuring stick and trust in God’s providence for what is to come and will be fully. I have NEVER been able to say that and mean it. Feels great!