Friday, January 24, 2014

Healing is a Matter of Time....

This is where I am now.  In this strange space where healing has met opportunity--in the most abstract of ways.  I can't even quite explain it but I'm going to try.  (Apologies in advance for what's sure to be a rather wordy post.)

The 24th of the month:
One year ago, on January 24th, I was figuring out the most creative way to announce our exciting news.  But as I scanned Pinterest, my body sent me a message that I could stop racking my brain, there wasn't going to be a celebratory announcement after all.

Then, exactly five months later, on June 24, (which happens to be my late grandfather's birthday) we had a "routine" ultrasound that proved not-so-routine.  We saw a perfect little plum-sized object, with a perfect little yolk sak, but the perfect beating heart had ceased.

Even now, thinking of that image on the screen makes my eyes water and my breathing become shallow.  I'm not sure I'll ever forget the way the doctors and nurses silently filed out of the room--to give Mason and me...a moment.  I know I'll never forget the way my eyes caught his and I buried my head into his chest and literally sobbed that this was all my fault.  He tried to shhhh me and reassure me that wasn't true but I told him, (and I believed), that I had caused this miscarriage.  I had wished the baby away.  I had stopped a perfectly little beating heart from beating for 80 or 90 more years.  My brain, filled with worry and doubt and anxiety and unease must have seeped that nasty poison down throughout my body.  I pictured it lining my uterus and making it impossible for anything to survive. My thoughts, my I believed with 100% certainty that I had caused this.

And people let me cry and tell them that I had caused the loss and they all said things like, "No sweetie, you did not cause this.  We don't know why these things happen.  Bad things happen to good people.  We don't know why that happens either."

I'm not sure how much time passed after that second miscarriage before I had a sudden and almost uncontrollable urge to not just take care of myself, but really fight for myself.  And I don't just mean eating better and exercising more, but really getting back in touch with who I am.  Somewhere, over the course of the last few years, I let the "me-ness" of me slip away.  I can't pinpoint when this happened-- it's been slow and gradual.  But last summer, in the midst of grieving and living and writing, I realized how much of myself I'm missing.

What did I used to do? What did I love? What inspired me? How did I play? How did I create? How did I find happiness?  I've always have the ready-made answers to these questions (I love spending time with my friends and family, my hobbies include reading, writing, and spending time outdoors. I love crafty stuff and good food and good wine.  I miss my dog and will someday talk Mason into being a dog family again.) But there's got to be more to it, right?  I mean, Who am I?

For so long, I had felt like I was swimming upstream, and not making any headway.  What's my purpose? Who are my close friends? Does everyone find mothering difficult?  Is marriage a roller-coaster for everyone?  Am I okay? Is being "just okay" okay? Where do I belong? Why am I so anxious?  My job was trying and often left me feeling frustrated and overwhelmed.  Why couldn't I handle work?  My four-legged best friend was suddenly absent, after ten years of her steady presence literally at my heels.  Does everyone feel this much pain after losing a dog?! Does everyone feel this much grief after a miscarriage? I had lost two babies that I wasn't entirely sure we were ready for.  Was something wrong with my body?  What was wrong with me? Why was I grieving these miscarriages like they were live births? Or like they were children I had known and held and giggled with?  Other people had survived far worse things than me, what was wrong with me?

Ecchart Tolle wrote,  "When you live in surrender, something comes through you into the world of duality that is not of this world."  Last summer, I had no choice but to surrender a bit.   I had to let go of everything I just wrote-- the worrying about who I should be, the anxiety over nothing, the fear of not being enough.  I needed to give up the plan that I had so meticulously mapped out for our family.  I had to give up the ideas of what the future should look like.  I had to surrender to the authentic me and stop comparing our lives in Spahnville to those of others.

And like the Buddhist proverb so simply and profoundly states, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." After making the conscious decision to surrender, my teacher appeared in the form of a 21 day online Meditation Challenge being offered by Dupac Chopra.  I loved the idea of a beginner meditation class-- and anytime someone gives me a challenge, I'm much more apt to participate.

So I began listening to the guided meditations every morning.  During the summer, my "schedule" combined with the early sunlight gave me plenty of time to walk outdoors and then meditate on our warm, quiet deck.  At first, my brain balked at the idea of sitting in silence.  My mind wandered and thoughts drifted in and out incessantly.  I found myself making to-do lists and daydreaming about the upcoming day.  I felt discouraged and frustrated about forgetting to concentrate on my breathing and the sanskrit mantra.

But over the course of a few days, I began to settle into the quiet-ness of meditation.  I still noticed random thoughts interrupting my quiet time, but rather than battling them, I acknowledged them and let them silently drift by.   I inhaled and exhaled and relaxed.  I took notes, journaled my feelings, and recorded new insights.  I found myself noticing more-- the words people used, the lighting in the sky, the sounds of summer slipping away.  I kept a journal of profound quotes and strangely enough, they seemed to be made especially for me on that particular day.

For the first time in years, years, I started to feel connected to everything.  I found it in that space between thoughts, when you let your mind stop thinking, stop articulating, and just feel and sense and be.  This feeling was especially present when I was able to sit outside among birds and animals and plants and grass and a bean field growing right next to me.  Slowly, I began to remember the person I had forgotten in the past few years.  I felt a surge of creativity, an appreciation for art and vintage finds, and the need to do for others.

It was during those moments of silence, that I slowly began to surrender to the unknown future, and then eventually trust my body again.  At one time, every thought screeching through my brain revolved around another pregnancy and the 100 page list of "what if's" that I couldn't stop producing.  But slowly, those thoughts lessened.

I started to trust my instincts again-- for me, for my family, for others.  I started carving time out for myself.  I started to allow myself to be more authentic-- to acknowledge and accept the feeling I'm having at the moment, without comparison to others.  I stopped apologizing for doing things for myself.  I let the mommy/wife/teacher/friend/sister/daughter/everything-to-everyone guilt drop like a lead balloon.  I allowed myself to make my wants (not just my needs) a priority in our family.  And I started to feel-- really feel, for the first time in a long time.  I suddenly felt in control of the ship (or at least riding along in the bridge) rather than just weakly tethered behind it.  It dawned on me that had these miscarriages not occurred, I might not have received the nudge needed to get me to this point. How long would I have wandered through my life in this half-awake/ reactive way?  In many ways, I woke up last summer.

At this exact moment, one year after the first miscarriage, the grief of loss is not present, but I'm sure the memory of that grief will never completely go away.  I have no answers about what our future holds.  But really, who does?  I feel like the only thing I know for sure, is that we have this moment.  Last night, I watched the sun set quickly in the Southwest sky.  (Aren't icy cold winter sunsets the best?)  And as I try to remain grateful for the present, I realize that the future is like a sunset.  It's something that has an abstract similarity from day to day, but changes in color and intensity and even visibility.  I look forward to the future, but know that it will always be a little elusive, like the unknown of the next sunset.

Many mornings, I still wake up early-- not to jump on the treadmill or head out for a run, but to meditate quietly in our little guest room.  I light candles and think of those little souls who ultimately challenged me to get on with life again.  Five months ago, I began a daily 20 minute ritual that has given me a sense of silence, peace, and surprising renewal.   At one time, I only wanted to erase much of 2013, but I've started to feel grateful for the journey of last year.  As we enter 2014, I bid farewell to 2013, and even allow myself to feel hopeful as the future sunsets reveal themselves--knowing that things will turn out just fine.

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