Cathartic Brain Drain

Writing is therapy for me. This is how I manage my thoughts and order my feelings, how I tally my emotions and file it all away. I think my thoughts and feel my feelings, and then writing helps me formulate what it all means to me and in getting the words on the page, I’m able to drain it all away and move on from there.

All that is another way of saying, get ready. Things might get messy.

Oh don’t get nervous. Not really messy. There will be no public running of mascara in this space. But today was a very, very hard day and the way I need to sweep and dust and mop is to sit here and let the words flow. It’s that whole writer thing versus blogger thing. Blogging feels much more like: what is the message I need to share today? Writing is: I. Must. Get. This. OUT.

Here, in this space, writing is what this next little season in my life is about. That might also mean I close comments because ironically, I get all shy feeling when I write like this and there’s that complicated mix of “someone left the sweetest comment!” and “only thirteen comments? Why so few?”

So, today. Rough.

I think I mentioned this before but I’m noticing in this season of watching my mom suffer so, that I can handle all that just fine but don’t throw me any curve balls. For some reason I’ve had a few lately. It’s the kind of thing where I wonder if I’ll look back a few months from now and laugh at the circumstances that pushed me to the limit or if I’ll say “wow! No, seriously, that was stressful no matter what.” Funny little things like a slight change to one carpool I’m in and it all suddenly felt overwhelmingly EPIC. And some communication with a friend that I totally misunderstood that I took really hard.

Today I also got caught up in some Internet drama — which I rarely do, honestly. I’ve been really lucky that my worst experience with on-line pettiness has included one man a few years ago telling me to give up writing and either have another baby or join the Junior League (did not join the Junior League but opted to have that baby) but please just get a life (the man actually later apologized! And we exchanged some heart-to-heart emails) and someone writing that the show I am on needed a style consultant which, while a little hurtful, might be true (wonder if she’d be willing to hire one for us?).

But I realized at the end of the day that I was thinking about that on-line situation (that involved some people I really love, not me) and that it was depleting me, much more than it should. Perhaps much more than it would under normal circumstances.

Add to this the fact that I didn’t have much to do today — nothing to complain about, I agree! — but I opted to use my “free time” (while Isa napped, and then continued to nap while Henry had some down-time) to watch a movie. A two hour movie. The Joy Luck Club. Have you seen it? Not a real laugh-a-minute.

So lower and lower I sank into my solitude and quiet and dangerously pensive place of sadness and fatigue. Watching a movie about moms and daughters and thinking about my mom. About half-way through the movie Henry got home from preschool and as I was outside getting him from carpool, my mom and dad got home from a long doctor’s appointment that involved getting fluids and working to get on top of some infections (stuff that I realize is standard issue with chemo). But there was my mom with mask to help avoid further infections and head scarf and just looking wiped out. And I hated it. I know she’s a fighter and all that good stuff, but my gosh I hate this.

And then, dumb old me, went back to watching this emotionally gut-wrenching movie while a) thinking about my mom and b) thinking about Internet drama and c) thinking about my feelings and d) thinking a little more about my feelings. All the while eyeing a fern on my front porch that looked dried out and me worrying about that as well. Is the fern dying? Am I watering too much? Not enough? Why is this movie so sad? It’s all so terrible!

The thing I’ve noticed with me is that the more I “lay low” the more incredibly capable I am of “laying low.” Which means, when I spend two hours of some very good and appreciated down-time, then I want more down-time. This afternoon, I started getting this bratty attitude towards anyone wanting anything from me. “You want me to push you on that swing AGAIN? I’d rather sit in this chair here and think about how I’m feeling at the moment if you don’t mind.”

Now if this sounds a little worrisome, I entreat you to please not diagnose me with anything. I do appreciate the care and concern, but this has been going on for one day and the point of this post is to not admit this problem as much as get over the problem. In other words, I share to get it out and move on. I write to clear my mind, to empty the trash (so to speak) so I can just quit with all this thinking thinking thinking. Thinking is way overrated. Who’s up for some retail therapy?!

So there we go. No nice tidy finish, no cutesy lesson. Today, it’s just me filling the page of this moleskin to empty the space in my head.

(But hey! Thanks for reading. I appreciate your love.)

Smells like Fear

Elliott and Paul are having a conversation in the dining room as everyone gathers for dinner.

Elliott, standing with his arms draped over Paul’s shoulders: Dad, are you afraid of anything?

Paul, facing Elliott: Of course I am.

Elliott: Like what?

Paul: Marshmallows on casseroles. And men’s cologne.

Afternoon Walk

Running stroller plus two boys on bikes plus one little guy on a scooter plus one boy on a ripstick being pulled by a dog equals my afternoon jaunt around the block.

If I didn’t already know every single one of my neighbors, I’d be tempted to wonder what they thought of us.

Yearning Soul

My soul is longing and yearning for the courts of the Lord.

My heart and my flesh cry out to the living God.

Before we had our first daughter two years ago, we had all boys. Five of them. My life was all about being a mom of boys (still is!) and I have loved it.

In the days before Isabel, walking about in public with all these boys would of course draw questions. People would ask if we were “trying for the girl.” Strangers would want to know the deepest longings of my heart, if it was hard for me not to have a daughter, how badly did I want a girl?

It always made me laugh a bit that someone in line at the grocery store was hoping for a quickly-distilled rundown of my innermost thoughts on the subject. But without going into too much navel-gazing, I got to where I could answer quickly: We’d love a daughter, but we love having all these boys too.

And that was the truth. Of course I’d love to have a girl, but I wasn’t walking around feeling like something was lacking. I suppose I was too busy telling my boys to get off the roof. Maybe I’d pine for a daughter if I had some time to think.

When a girl did come into our life, I didn’t realize exactly how much I had been longing for her. She is indeed a gift and she brings with her the sweetness and spark we had been missing. (Having said that, we felt the same exact way when our fifth son was born — he was the spark our family had been missing!)

A few years ago I got a letter from a woman with a bunch of boys. She told me that she so desperately wanted a daughter that she wasn’t sure if she would be truly happy until she had one.

“I have a hole in my heart that can only be filled by a daughter,” she wrote.

I understood the sentiment — I think we all can. There are those of us who might have circumstances that would make the solution more “obvious”– the single person only needs to be married, the married couple only needs a baby, the family with boys only needs a daughter. Human nature keeps us searching for what we need, too often looking where the real solution is not.

This approach can be futile and at times dangerous. Married couples should especially be vigilant against the temptation to think that someone else out there in the world could bring them more happiness than their current spouse.

We all have a longing within us. But the answer to that longing is not a better person. Nor is the answer a bigger house or faster car. These are not all necessarily bad things — and the desire for the “next thing” is normal. But ultimately they are not the answer to that longing deep within. Our wants, and even our needs, are not the things that can fill the emptiness we experience.

Only God can fill that void. There is nothing in this world that will bring us the peace and joy that God offers us. Each of us has a hole in our heart, and the only thing that will properly fill that emptiness in this world and the next, is Jesus. Nothing else can sooth our soul.

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord,” writes St. Augustine, “and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

May we have the grace this Lenten season to fill the void in our heart with the only solution that can truly quench our thirst — Jesus. May the Lord in his loving kindness show us the areas where we search in vain, and give us the grace to seek Him first, before the passing things of this earth.

This originally appeared in the Lenten Reflection booklet and then was reworked for my Southern Cross column. Just keeping it real, people.