Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Getting Through It.

"Dang it!" I mutter as I turn for a third time into a new row of cars in the packed Costco parking lot. I've been circling for what seems like forever trying to find a spot that's not in the back forty. All the while the baby in the back is shrieking like a tea kettle about to boil over. 

Frustrated and half crazy from auditory overload, I stop the car and wait to see if anyone moves. After a minute long eternity passes, I finally see Mr. Red Toyota Camry slide into his car, hotdog in hand, and reverse out of his spot. Before he even got in the car my blinker was on. I pull forward into the spot which is thankfully close to the entrance and look over to see people pouring in and out of the building like ants at a picnic. "Great"' I say out loud, "looks like Saturday afternoon wasn't a very good choice for grocery shopping." Milo screams in agreement. I slam on the parking brake and pull off my shades. "Well", I snort, "I'm just gonna just get through it. It's just like anything else these days."

Twenty minutes later finds me and my happily fed-and-burped baby rolling through the aisles again, this time inside the store. I look at my list and push down a light wave of anxiety as I am crammed into the main corridor with a countless number of my fellow Saturday shoppers. "You can do this" I tell myself "Keep swimming, you just need to get through this."

Did I just think that again? I wonder to myself, suddenly shocked as I register my state of mind. I examine the thought again, "I'll just get through it", and am even more startled at how familiar a mind set it really is. 

My heart is experiencing a deer in the head lights moment. Somewhere in the last month since the fire this mantra has quietly crept into my everyday existence. Now it is running amok in the back of my thoughts without me even realizing it. I grab a tub of animal cookies and hurry on. 

"I'll get through it." Such a subtle, invasive, and fortified thought that still has me reeling at it's ease of adoption as my attitude towards life. It's not surprising that I didn't notice that it had come to roost, after all this has probably been one of the hardest months of my life. We've been dealing with the gravity of our loss and the push to start again from an almost blank slate, all the while trying to maintain an already full life with three tiny kids. It's totally normal to feel like this... right? 
Well, then why does the thought bother me so badly?

I'm so lost in my thoughts that the noise makes me jump. In a split second I regain my composure and realize that the raspy dinosaur-like squeak just came from my son who is beaming up at me from his seat in the cart. He started this new game about a week ago, and it is admittedly pretty cute. 

"You are so sweet!" I say, leaning in for an Eskimo kiss. "Did you just need some Mama smiles?"

And that's when it hits me, with a quiet crushing force that threatens to break me apart right there in the cheese aisle. This is the reason why "getting through it" unsettles me. While I have been busy charging through life with my iron clad will and well armored heart, I have been leaving the simple joys of everyday life in the dust of my campaign. 

It is a tragic realization. How many of these beautiful smiles have I missed? How many gentle nudges for attention coming from my children have I disregarded in the past month? Who else have I shut out or mown down in my quest to get to the other side of this, whatever the other side is?

The scope of of these thoughts is so big that I can't begin to get my mind around them. Thankfully in a moment that could have felt so devastating, I received encouragement instead. In the depths of my soul I felt a warm reassurance. 

"Allisen, it's OK. You are OK. Just breathe. You are doing fine, just slow down and open your eyes."

And in that moment that's just what I did. I opened my eyes. I saw my beautiful baby, my cart filled with groceries, and remembered for the first time in quite a little while that life is something to be savored, not just survived. 
So Milo and I sat and sqwaked at each other in front of the eggs while people smiled but secretly scorned me for blocking the way to the sample cart. I was obliviously happy. I could feel the heavy armor on my heart falling away, and I was once again free to enjoy all that I have been given on this journey; the good, the bad, and the all the stuff in between. 

All the things that I was steeling myself against have not gone away. Driving home from the store I look out my window and see the charred ashes of all we lost, an open grave on Main Street in Fortuna. I check the mail and see notices and statements seeking decisions from a business that is still in limbo. I step inside my house and am greeted by the prolific pile of dishes that winks at me from beside the sink. 

But as I look around my little house, scattered with bits and pieces of a life that I cannot keep up on, I am reminded once again about the importance of being present in the moment, even when life is painful. It feels very raw sometimes, but there are so many little things that I do not want to miss. Life will be peppered difficulties of varying degrees. I know that I will need to remember what I am learning right now all along the journey, not just in this one season. Learning to savor even the hard things is what makes life sweet. 

I start to unpack my groceries and I look down once again at my baby who is sitting on the floor. I smile with the thought of how full life is and how overwhelming it can be. "Its ok", I tell myself this time "you can do this. Just open your eyes and breathe."