Resting

Resting on my laurels is almost too enormous a thought for me, but I’m going to give it a test drive.  The widow in me feels somewhat jinxed by even writing the words on paper, because I know that bad things can happen.  I’m going to suppress those feelings as well as I am able and give myself a break for a bit (at least as long as it takes to write this blog.)  Over the past four or five years, I have been working diligently to accept and manage this unexpected life of mine. I have set goals and many times I have been able to achieve them.  It has been an enlightening time in my life.  I have had to completely reassess what is important to me and then align my life to support my priorities.

The health, well-being, and general happiness of my family are my first priority.  It was my priority before Dave died, but it’s funny how the magnification of our home lives and relationships has changed.  The balance of trying to do anything to make up to the boys that their dad died and not giving them whatever they want just to make them happy has been difficult.  I have always wanted my boys to be hardworking, loving, compassionate people who are givers, not takers in this world.  Then, life took their dad from them.  It took a while for me to learn to accept I will never be able to make up for this.  It took a while for me to come to grips that being their sole parent will be fine…maybe even a good experience for them.  I still struggle with that one…I miss parenting with him.  We were so different and he brought so many wonderful things to our lives.  Re-aligning my brain, my actions, well, really my whole life and soul to meet this priority has kept me on my toes and working really, really hard over the past few years.

Another priority is modeling a life worth living.  This is not just for my boys, but for me and anyone else around me that glance into my life.  My husband loved life.  My husband was a fun, happy guy.  The last thing that he would ever want for me would be for my life to stop or be miserable.  I’m not talking about my grief here…that is necessary…I have to recognize, name, experience and walk through my feelings, emotions, all of the consequences his death has brought me. I am talking about this unexpected life I have now.  I’m talking about my happily ever after.  I strive to remember the things that make me happy, the things that bring me joy, the good/healthy habits that bring me growth, the things that make me Chris, not just widow.

My third guiding principle these last years is to be kind.  I am kind in a way that I truly didn’t know before he died.  Kindness really drives me.  Again, with this priority, I have to make sure there is balance and I am not trampled over by those who may not value the same things.  Kindness does not mean pushover.  Kindness, smart, strong, and even sassy can live together.  I’ve always considered myself a servant-leader and acting with kindness toward others (and myself too) is at the root of this.  My older son has asked me, “How are you always so nice to people mom, especially when people can be such jerks?” My reply is that it isn’t always easy, it’s a choice.  It’s a choice to treat someone with dignity who may not do the same for you and at the end of the day I am at peace because I have been kind and loving to those around me.

These things will not change as I rest.  These are constants.  What will change? I will not be going after or trying to grab the next gold ring.  I am going to enjoy the ride for a while.  I am going to enjoy the culmination of my work for the last years. I am grateful for the struggles…working on my masters, getting my teaching certificate, getting/changing jobs, creating this blog, submitting work all over the place, learning to coach and then coaching, finding crossfit and working on my physical well-being…all these things have had me pushed to my maximum for a long time.  Now, many of these things are my norm.  Now, it is time for me to enjoy the nook I’ve carved out…enjoy the now, be present to today…maybe, dream about a future…yes, I said it…a future.  Sitting in the here and now,  resting my soul, and maybe walking into a future that doesn’t feel so foreign anymore.

Holiday spirit

Nearly every morsel of me wants to title this blog…bah humbug…but that little light of hope I carry around won’t let me do it.  The holidays are upon us and well, they are bringing me down.  At least I think it’s the holidays.  I’ve had so many changes this year. The largest one, taking a new job hasn’t been what I had hoped. My personal life, well, I’m not sure how much personal life I have because I work a bunch and it is catching up with me. My boys just aren’t themselves.  Is it really as simple as we are back in the midst of the holidays again and our broken hearts surface again in a more distinct way?

I really do have a hard time some days sorting out which is which.  Are some of the things that bring me down just normal things or am I taken down more deeply because of my widowed soul.  I know many people struggle with work, children, balancing their lives every day. Is the acute pain I feel because down deep, I know my life would have been very different if cancer hadn’t knocked on my door nine years ago and taken the only man that could put up with me?

It has been a very long several weeks.  Really, it has been a long semester.  The new job I took, shuffled our lives around so much.  That coupled with the fact that it was necessary for me to take on coaching for extra income the last six weeks has exhausted me.  I was already feeling pretty guilty about how much time I am with my boys, but add coaching and I only see them for three or four hours a day, if that.  I feel like that out of touch parent.  They spend more of their days with other people.  The time we are together is not quality time because it’s catch up time.

I’ve been trying over the past several years to let my social life back in too.  I’ve had a bit of success, but I think the more I let it in, it compounds the loneliness. Once a month or so, I have a night out and then the nights home feel quieter, lonelier than before when I was just used to being alone at night. Does that make sense? I think again, changing jobs has a huge impact here too.  Teaching in high school is a much different beast than teaching in an elementary school.  I’m not sure if it’s just this particular place or high schools in general, but the apathy runs deep and I finding myself disappointed in my choice.  I love the kids and the teaching, but miss collaborating with colleagues.  I keep telling myself that it takes time to build new relationships in a new workplace, but now I’m not sure if that’s it.  I miss my former colleagues very much.  I miss a work place that fosters building relationships and models it.

I also had very sweet, dear friend let me down in a way I never thought would happen.  I trusted this friend with a very vulnerable part of me.  A place of respite and safety for me has disappeared.  I am so hurt by this and what appears to be a lack of care for the disappointment that my heart is broken.  It really makes me wonder if it’s worth it to put that trust in someone, anyone really.  So, I don’t know if it’s just a normal disappointment that’s hurting my heart or is it my own abandonment issues that make it impact me more.

All these pieces of my life march into the holidays with me.  I see the spirit around me rising, but I’m feeling more broken this year.  My fragmented heart is feeling its scars. I am thinking about my boys and another year without their dad has passed.  My little one is always so angry.  I’m not sure if it’s a phase or if it’s his grief coming out sideways.  My big one had his heart broken by a girl.  He appears to be handling it ok, but again, that anger comes out.  I wonder if he’ll struggle with the same abandonment issues that I struggle with as he moves into adult life.  I wonder if we will always be waiting for the other shoe to drop when we have happy moments.  We did know happy.  We did know safety, security.  We did know love. The other shoe dropped though.  I really don’t know if I’ll ever be able to buy in completely again.  I want to, I hope I can, but I don’t believe I’ll be able to get there.  Well, because I know nothing really lasts forever.  Nothing.

Yet, despite nothing lasting, the light of hope, the memory of love, and the longing to feel safe again will propel me into the holidays the way it always does.  I will go through the motions and hope they become reality. I’ve come this far, I can’t give up now. I know I will hit moments when it feels like life is miserable. I know this.  I know I will hit moments that scream at me that I’ve made the wrong decision, trusted the wrong person, or let myself and my kids down.  I will pick myself up and try again.  I have survived.  I will continue…holidays or not.

That damn hope.

That wonderful hope.

That undying hope.

Hiccups

Since the end of last month, my world has been in a state of flux. Those last few weeks of July, I was feeling impatient, edgy, and frustrated.  I didn’t have a classroom, but had an idea about a job at the school that I’ve worked at for years. I was feeling the squeeze of the door shutting on the upcoming school year with the jobs filling, but I was still without a place to call home.  As is the story of my life in more recent years, in the final hours…voila…a great job appeared. I interviewed and was offered the position.

Just one little hiccup…it was in a new place. I wasn’t ready for that.  I had to over process the decision (as I always do) of leaving the people I love to have the job I really desire.  I had to jump. It was so far from how I was expecting things to work out for the school year.  It was such a great opportunity.  For me, the over processing, hates to make a decision girl, it was a huge leap.

I overcame the hiccup in my mind.  I overcame the idea that everything was going to be different again.  I took the job and love it.  I forgot how much I love working with older students.  Last year, I worked with students of all ages, all learning abilities, all in a state of flux because their teacher was going to be away from their classroom for a large amount of time.  I was the fill in for someone else’s hiccup.  I stepped in while another person had something come up that was not in their plan. I loved the work, I loved the students, but I was always just a fill-in, not the real thing.  Now, I get to be the real thing.

Hiccup.

My boys are adjusting to the change too.  I must say, that they are remarkable.  After a few tough moments in the first days of school, my little one is “settling in”…his words.  Our first nights of school were heartbreaking.  He was so sad that I wouldn’t be at the same school with him.  Lots of hugs and cuddles during those first days seemed to help him, but my momma guilt was so high that I really didn’t know where to put all my thoughts of how selfish I was to be putting my own need in front of my children’s needs.  I remained calm.  I tried to remember that a happy momma, who can pay the bills, who feels fulfilled with her work, who can be home and present to her kids equals a happier home.  I knew the change would be hard.  Change is always hard.  Change in my house…sometimes feels like the world is coming to an end…again.

Hiccup.

This week, we begin week three of the changes and I have to say that it is going well.  I really love the work, the boys are adjusting, and all the logistics of being in three different schools on time in the morning with the boys getting home safely have all been ironed out.  The new routine has begun and we are all feeling ok about it.

Hiccup.

During the week, a few things happened that threw me off balance.  Pretty normal things, but when you’re me, my family, and in the midst of changing many things…my stress level sky rockets.  These things are just the daily little hiccups that folks deal with all the time.  One hiccup that threw me this week was simple, ordinary, not eventful at all. Nonetheless, it becomes a big deal in my mind.  It grows from a hiccup to “CRAP! What am I going to do if this gets thrown into the mix?”  It’s just my car acting up.  That’s all.  In my head though, it is a monumental amount of stress.  For many folks, there is another grown up in the house and another car…well, there are some easy options.  I never really stressed out about this kind of stuff before I was widowed.  We just worked it out.  Now, in my altered state, I have to rely on people outside the doors of my home.  I have to call on those people around me who also have their own lives to take care of everyday.  It’s really hard for me to do.  I always feel like I’m imposing. I always feel like I’m becoming a burden to them…a nuisance.  I hate burdening others with my stuff, but some days, if I don’t let the hiccups out…I will implode.

So, I’m learning to let it out.  Even over eight years after Dave died, I am still learning how to do this.  When I think about it, I don’t know how he dealt with all my crazy, all the worry I could build up in my mind, all my internal and external over processing.  That poor guy!  It’s funny, but all the things I used to rely on one person for back then, is now spread out over my village of people.  Certain people pull me out of certain things.  As hard as it is for me, I make the calls.  I hate to interrupt their lives.  I hate, hate, hate feeling like a burden.  I think it’s that over responsible, oldest child in me.  As much as I hate it, I do it.  Being widowed has taught me many things.  One of the greatest lessons I have learned though…let people love and help me.  Let people in and amazing things can happen.  My car concerns turned into an evening spent with my brothers and dear friend hanging out…pretty great for something that was killing me only hours before.  My shuffling of children to get us all where we need to be each day, has turned into my boys being graced by the presence of some other wonderful people in their lives…and some new self-reliance.

Many of my hiccups along the way have turned into unexpected friendships, moments of gratitude and revelation for me.  Although I still struggle and freak out a bit at first when the hiccup erupts, I know with certainty most things are survivable.  I know that many of those things that throw me off balance are really just hiccups…and with the courage to reach out to the people who love me (and even a kind stranger sometimes) they will remain just that…a hiccup.

Summer Wipeout

I know most parents feel this when we hit mid-summer…”when will the kids be going back to school…I need a break!” As a sole parent, I don’t know if it’s worse or not.  I know that I have to do it alone though.  I also know that there are parents out there with spouses that do it alone.  In my neck of the woods, school begins again in early August.  This year, I’m kind of feeling like summer has been too short and blown by quickly.  I worked most the summer and am feeling all those things that I didn’t get done weighing on my shoulders.  I’m happy I worked.  The boys have done great this summer and in general, all is well.

I don’t feel like I had any moments of respite though.  I don’t feel caught up and I don’t feel settled.  I love the start of school.  I love it for me and for my kids.  There is always this time prior to the start that I feel restless and stuck.  I am feeling like I’ve been in this same place before so many times.  I feel the anticipation of not having a permanent place to work again.  I feel the stress of not being sure how financially sound I am.  I feel the loneliness of having done everything on my own for another summer.

Summer wipeout.

This week and next are the weeks that call for my greatest level of patience.  I have done all the leg work for setting things in place for another school year and now the ball is out of my court.  I must be patient and wait.  A dear friend reminded me the other day that things most often work out for me…with work that is.  She reminded me that last year I really did achieve what I had wanted.  I worked in a place that I love all year.  I gained experience and wisdom.  If only my patience had increased!

I think when the heat of summer sets in to stay, I feel the weight of my daily life a bit more.  I miss the moments of respite.  I miss moments when I don’t have to be in charge.  I miss the moments of pure relaxation and fun.  I have been much better recently about taking care of myself and making sure I have down time.  As a sole parent though, I haven’t really felt any true down time like I used to feel it.  I am always on and always need to be.  I’m all my boys have.  Even with good self-care, this fact alone makes me weary.  I miss feeling safe and relieved at the end of the day.  I miss not always having a to-do list.  I miss sharing the responsibilities.

Truthfully, I will most likely always shoulder the responsibilities of my children, our lives, alone.  There are very few brave souls that will step in and love me and love my boys…finding one brave soul…well, nearly impossible.  I am grateful though for the responsibility in a way too.  I am so grateful to have these lovely boys who remind me so much of their dad, who, although they can wear me out, they always love me and in their own ways saved my life.  Without them, the responsibility of caring for them, well…I probably would have faded away after Dave died.  I nearly did fade away even with them here…but it was my love for them that gave me hope each day.

So, even though I’m feeling restless, a bit wiped, impatient, and mentally and emotionally fatigued, I know the summer wipeout will pass.  I know in a few weeks, we will be back to full steam again and I will have landed just where I was meant to be…for now.  I will continue to care for myself and carve out the time I need to recharge.  I will rely on myself to be my safe place…hard to do all the time, but I will.  I will do my best to rest peacefully in the thoughts of how far we’ve come and that I am surely a survivor.

The Grief Hangover

So, it doesn’t happen every year.  Lately, the years and their events have been ok.  We’ve made it through the holidays and special events relatively unscathed.  I’ve come to expect this life that I lead now to be what it is.  Is it what I had hoped? Not always, but it is ok, really it is. I’m pretty used to being alone.  I’m pretty used to sole parenting.  I’m pretty used to dealing with all the matters that arise on my own. That’s just how my life is.  The one thing that is really getting to me lately is seeing my boys suffer.  I see their broken hearts.  I ache. But they are their hearts though…I can do all that I can to get them help to cope, build their grief tool boxes, and love them, but some days…well some days…they will  just miss their dad and there is nothing I can do to lift that from them.

The last week has been one of those weeks.  We had Dave’s birthday followed by Father’s Day…always a double whammy…but this year was a rough one again.  My little boy is really missing his daddy and I feel so helpless.  Father’s Day found both boys missing Dave this year.  I mean, they miss him every year, but this year they were both feeling it strongly.  It’s hard because I never know what to expect when we begin one of these days.  I know its Father’s Day, but I don’t always know what direction it will hit me from when the blow comes.

Yesterday started out pretty well.  We spent the morning enjoying the zoo.  We rode our bikes there and had fun.  It was good.  My little boy wanted to go to the cemeteries: one for his dad, one for my dad, to leave flowers for each man they have lost.  Still, everything was going ok.  I usually leave these types of visits and such up to the boys.  I don’t suggest.  I let them guide me.  We got flowers.  We went.

At the cemetery, my very stoic eight year old lost it.  He doesn’t talk about it.  He just sobs.  Every ounce of my being wants to fix this for him.  I know I can’t.  I know it is his journey. It still kills me.  My big boy only stepped out of the car for a few minutes.  He didn’t really want to be there, but did it for his brother.  He misses his dad and it’s different than it was when he was younger. There we stood looking at the headstone with Dave’s name and picture on it.  It is still so surreal for me.  There we stood broken again, hurting again, missing Dave.  I don’t want my children to go through this…is that selfish?  I don’t want my boys to grow up without their dad…am I asking too much?  I would suffer the pain of losing Dave over and over again through one thousand lifetimes to save them from this one lifetime without their dad.

We made it through the day.  We enjoyed the zoo and time with my brothers and their families later in the evening.  It was an ok day.  It was an ok day, but today I woke up with the sadness again.  I’m tired.  That sad tired that feels draining with apathy running thickly through it.  It is a grief hangover, so to speak.  No motivation, no hopefulness, just tired and sad.  We survived our ninth Father’s day, but I don’t feel good about it.  I just want to take away their pain, my pain…and sleep.

The thing I know is that I can’t walk the journey of grief for my kids.  I can stand beside them.  I can love them all the way through it, but I can’t do it for them or lift it from them.  They will walk the loss of their dad all their lives.  It will be woven through the men they become.  It will hopefully open their hearts to the greater love that only losing someone so dear can bring.  It is in the pure sweetness of experiencing love and the deep ache of loss that something more special, more precious can be received and given…at least that is my hope.

So, as the sadness weighs me down today, I will let it hold me…thankfully, I know it will pass.  I know that I will return to the unexpected life that I am coming to know so well.  I know that with each day of pain, a day of love will be remembered and perhaps a new one built.

I love my boys.  They are my greatest treasure.  I only have them because I had Dave…even that time cut short, even every ounce of heartbreak I have felt, even every night of loneliness I endure is worth it because I have them.  Even when my heart breaks for them, I will endure.  I will endure it and love them more and walk beside them always…even when I can’t make it better.

Lack vs Abundance

Years ago, I adopted a quote I heard as a personal mantra.  It was nearly twenty years ago now and the mantra is still a part of me.  I believe it. I remind myself of it daily.  It has given me strength to face deep challenge and the grace to appreciate the joys in life.  It helps me walk in awe of the human spirit and natural beauty.  It reminds me that today’s feelings of lack will pass and moments of abundance and gratitude will follow.  “Everything is in divine and perfect order…NOW!” is the quote that I repeat to myself in difficult and joyful moments.  I wish I could remember where I found it all those years ago.  I love these words for several reasons.  They speak to the current moment.  They leave the future and the past where they belong and remind me that every moment I am given has something for me to receive or to give or both.

This past week or so, I have been fighting the blues.  Change has been abundant recently and has left me a little off balance.  I have been questioning my decisions and how they affect my children’s lives.  I have been wondering how my choices to pursue my master’s degree, to teach, and the relative poverty I experience because of these choices will impact the boys long term.  As I faced a new challenge of beginning a new job again last week, I struggled with leaving them home to manage on their own.  My big boy is fifteen and completely capable of watching his brother.  He has even been certified with emergency care and a babysitting class…still…I worry.  Today on facebook, a friend posted an article from The Huffington Post by Christine Gros-Loh ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christine-grossloh/the-milestones-that-matter-most_b_3195567.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false). This article reminded me of perspective.  This reminder brought my old mantra front and center.  As I continue to reflect on it, I am amazed how remarkable a simple shift in perspective can change feelings of lack to abundance…at least in my mind.

When I read this, I thought of the many moments of growth my children have had in the absence of my physical presence.  I am reminded that the work and love that I have put into parenting them has built the foundation for them to learn who they are as individuals.  It is without me hovering that they have both learned new things about themselves and mastered new skills.  My little one plays soccer skillfully for his age…I had nothing to do with this…well, I was his ride to practice and back.  My big boy has successfully navigated much of our surrounding area on his bike…alone!  Imagine these boys find their way without their mom watching every moment!  Sometimes, I seriously need to let it go and remember the gifts and skills they will learn.  They know where I am.  They have back up plans.  Hopefully this summer will be a time of growth for all three of us…mommy included.  “Everything is in divine and perfect order…NOW!”

I am also facing changes professionally again.  Right now, I have a wonderful opportunity to work with the skills I have nurtured and worked so hard to achieve.  Here’s the rub though…it is in a totally different environment.  Not only will I be a part of hands on, experiential learning with children…I will be doing it in a totally new environment.  I get to continue to the work I love while learning about the natural world in a new way.  I got to go in the enclosure with an 800lb Galapagos Tortoise and see many animals I’ve only seen from a safe distance up close and personal…feeding them, touching them, and being amazed by their beauty!  I remind myself that this is an experience not everyone will have.   I get to work with behavioral enrichment of children and wild animals!  What a gift!  This past week, I have been burdening myself with the worries of how it will all work rather than living in the wonderment of the amazing things I will receive from the new people around me and the way my gifts may touch their lives.  “Everything is in divine and perfect order…NOW!”

I have also been lonely.  All of these changes have also reminded me of the successes I have achieved over the past months.  For me, many times the successes feel more shallow without someone to share them with…I know I have my kids, family, and friends…and I do share with them…but it’s different when there is someone in my life who desires me.  I was reminded what it felt like to be desired again after many years and now it’s not there again.  So as I think of my mantra, I realize that although there may not be anyone there right now, I feel healthier and stronger physically now than I have in many years.  I have worked very hard the past six months to take care of myself physically. Over the years since Dave died, I neglected this part of me. I have pushed myself beyond my self-imposed boundaries and am reaping the benefits of my hard work.  It has reminded me that true outer beauty comes from the confidence I have in myself and how comfortable I am in my own skin.  The strengthening of my body has strengthened my confidence again.  I know that as long as my heart is open and am patient, someone will find me attractive and once again, I will be desired for all that I am, with all my strengths, my challenges, my compassion, and even my baggage.  “Everything is divine and perfect order…NOW!”

So today, I can see my life though this perspective.  I am grateful.  I know that I can see things this way because I did experience a couple of weeks off balance and searching.  I know that both sides are there to add depth to my life.  When I give both sides the time and energy they deserve, but don’t get lost in the sadness endlessly, I grow.  Those moments of loneliness, feeling lost, feeling the lack help me shift perspective, become more resourceful, and experience gratitude for what I do have in a new way.

“Everything is in divine and perfect order…NOW!”

An Insulated Heart

Right after I was widowed, my heart was raw.  It was wide open, exposed, and vulnerable to all and any heartache that I saw and heard.  It didn’t matter if that tragedy was near or far.  If I heard it, saw it, read it my heart ached for those involved.  My empathetic senses were turned up to full power.  If I heard of people losing loved ones, I was ripped back to my early moments of loss and sadness.  It truly was like going back to square one and experiencing my own loss of Dave as if it were the first moments again.

I was extremely raw the first ten months or so…arguably the entire first year, maybe two.  I was weary from my loss, my lack of control of my sadness and my tears.  Through the help of support groups, individual grief therapy, and living my grief, I began the process of insulating my heart again.  I say again, because I had already learned this skill through my ministry.  While working with young people and their families, I would be a place they came with their own tragedy and issues for help and guidance.  A skill I was taught during my ministry years was to leave their tragedies and issues at the church when I left.  It was very hard to learn, but it was essential.  It helped me to live in the present with my own family and not be continually burdened by the struggles of others that I experienced daily.  It started in a very literal way, I would use a physical sign to leave them behind at my office; maybe asking them to stay behind as I closed my office door, praying for their well-being as I left for the day, washing my hands before I left sending the issues of the day down the drain, or shutting my car door as I left and telling them they could not come home with me.  It sounds kind of silly, but it works.  In my final years as a minister, there were many trials.  Teens in my ministry were killed in accidents, the church was going through the period of recognizing its own sins, and the betrayal by a colleague whom I trusted and worked very closely with were all very challenging.  I can’t remember the name of the movie, but there was a character who would lift his arms and run his fingers through the leaves of a tree outside his front door whenever he returned home, leaving the troubles of his day there dangling in the tree.  When he left the next day for work, he would run his fingers back through the leaves taking back the troubles, thoughts, and experiences of his work and life outside of his home.  Eventually, this became my main imagery of letting go as I returned home.  It didn’t always work, but most days, it kept the ministry of church outside the door of my home and let me be present to my family.

So in those early years of loss, I remembered and began insulating my heart again.  I was insulating against the triggers of grief that I knew.  It was difficult because in the beginning, nearly everything was a trigger.  I had to insulate my heart without cutting it off from loving all together.  Many days, I now wonder if I insulated too well.  I wonder if I have built too solid a wall around my heart in the hope of survival.  I hoped that the insulation would be soft enough to let the love flow back and forth, but strong enough to not let me drown in the loss of that very love.  It was a balance.  It was a time of learning what to let in and what to shut out.  When tragedy struck up close and in person or outside my life in a more global way, I would carefully gauge how much I could take and then shut myself off…I would run my fingers through the tree in my imagination and let the troubles hang in the tree for me to pick up again when I felt strong enough to hold them again.  When I think of it, it is really a very selfish thing.  For me, it was also a very necessary thing.  I needed my heart to survive Dave’s death.  It was imperative. Many days, I wonder if I have become too skillful at keeping my heart insulated.

This past week brought the news of the tornado in Oklahoma.  On Mondays, I volunteer with/for a friend at her church.  She is a dear friend.  She is from Oklahoma.  Her family lives only blocks from the area of impact.  She pushed into my insulated heart with her concerns for her family.  She chipped away at the tough exterior when she told me of the school children trapped.  The sadness began to seep into my heart.  It began to hurt again. I also attribute this quick penetration of my heart to the children I have been teaching the last six weeks also.  I spent six weeks teaching kindergarten and first grade.  These sweet little souls have no insulation around their hearts and emotions.  They wear their entire hearts on their sleeves.  Whether they are joyful, feel wronged, afraid or happy, it all is all right there on the surface.  The emotions traveled through by these sweet children each day are transparent and immediate.  I think being with them made my heart squishier. They let me into their little hearts right away.  They trusted me, loved me and showed this daily with their wonderfully transparent emotions and behavior.  I loved them right back.  When I was finished with this six week stint with them, I was still greeted daily by their hugs, smiles, and some days’ tears and fears every day I was on campus.  So, thinking of the teachers and children in Oklahoma brought me to tears and made my heart ache.

Something happened Monday afternoon as I drove home from my volunteer gig.  My sorrow from the news in Oklahoma brought back my sadness for many of the kids I knew long ago.  My mind was flooded with the thoughts of those precious lives lost.  Images and memories of moments sitting with their parents in the silence of their sorrow draped over me. I remembered moments I haven’t let into my consciousness in a long time.  Moments I have insulated my heart from very carefully. I thought of the courage of those who live through great loss and felt the sadness of that journey.

Those emotions have been consuming me most of the week.  I have also let in the emotions linked with ending another school year.  There are many goodbyes this year. Colleagues I love are moving on for many reasons.  My own future is uncertain and this limbo always triggers my grief.  Next week, I begin a new summer job and all the transition is draining my emotional strength. Add the holiday weekend, which still to my own dismay affects me in ways I often can’t expect. My insulation is thinning and my heart is feeling very squishy.

I try to remember that feeling emotions is okay.  That it can be healing and lets others know how grateful I am for their presence in my life.  I feel so exhausted though.  This week, I can feel myself shutting down again as my heart opens and experiences the changes.  I know from experience that this will be temporary, but it is taxing nonetheless.  I find myself sleeping off my sorrow again and my motivation is waning. I remind myself that this too will pass.  I remind myself that it is only because I have been fully present to those around me that I feel this pain at all.  I remind myself that my insulation has been balanced because no matter how much I try to build walls around my heart, people get in and I love them.  What a gift! I often joke that I am a Jane of all trades and master of none…the more I consider this, the more I find that there is one thing that I have been good at for a long time…building relationships with others.  I look around and I see the relationships I build.  I open my heart to those around me and when I am brave enough to let myself love them, joy comes.  It makes the insulation around my heart soften and it will be ok.  The joy is fuller because through the loss and sadness that change can bring, I am grateful with all my being that I have invested in people.  Even when I have a week like this past week has been, I am grateful for the gift of the wonderful people around me.  When saying goodbye is heartbreaking, when the world throws tragedy of others toward my wounded heart, when the insulation of my heart is penetrated, it is testament to the fact that I am still here…not just surviving, but thriving and letting love back into my heart and soul, despite my wounds.