Of Seasons and Changes

I loved being pregnant.

It was glorious.

I never vomited. I felt a bit nauseated, got tired, but for the most part, I was able to simply E N J O Y.

I bought maternity clothes, I planned, I walked my hugely rounded belly around the neighborhood. I knew every public bathroom in a 15 mile radius.

But–as much as I loved being pregnant, as much as I reveled in the miracle of it all, a new season was coming. To have this infant, to hold this tiny person in my arms, I couldn’t stay pregnant forever.

Change of seasons to the fall of it all for my pregnancy, but then spring again with her birth.

Change. For as many changes I have made in the last 8 years, I’m really rather change-phobic. It brings panic. It makes me unsettled. It challenges my efforts to hold onto my calm, to even enjoy my life.

When my sister died in 2012, my cousin Lea Ann shared a book with me, looking at death as a season, as autumn. The falling of the leaves from the trees to the ground, leaving bare the branches. But, as one season ends, another begins–new growth, new leaves. I realized that in time, although I didn’t know how long, spring would show up again.

What a hard year of grieving! I made noises I didn’t know I could make, wailing for the loss of the one last person I knew held the same truth of our childhoods as I did. I felt untethered to the ground, as if only with her in my life did I have enough gravity to not disappear from this earth.

Her death shined a light on the loss of what I had hoped to have in my decades-long marriage, someone who loved me and accepted me as I was, someone who would be there for me in such a huge time of loss–a tether to the earth. But that too was missing. I knew every tiny way I was a disappointment, every way I allegedly failed to be the supportive, loving, compassionate person I thought I was trying to be. I was confused, my sense of self splintered, an arrow shot through the heart of it, and my world was spinning out of control.

I knew every tiny way I was a disappointment, every way I allegedly failed to be the supportive, loving, compassionate person I thought I was trying to be. I was confused, my sense of self splintered…

Patti died on our brother’s birthday, March 10th–I’m pretty sure that was her way of giving him the finger for abandoning us in 1989 when things didn’t go his way after our father’s funeral.

When daughter Corinne got the news of my sister’s death, she said it felt like someone had scooped a big hole out of her middle. That was the perfect visual for what I felt, a void where my sister should be.

That was grief, that was the fall of it all.

I’ve visited loss again, after this first post-divorce relationship–with that scoop-shaped hole in my chest and belly. Fortunately, as we began as friends, we end as friends.

I learned much from this relationship: about what it means to be in a romantic relationship with someone who will listen to how I feel, and not judge. Someone who could accept the truth of me and even enjoy the person I am. I learned what was a surprising to me piece of information: you can have two entirely amazing human beings not be the right amazing human beings for each other.

I shared literal miles of words with a friend from California as we explored my new home in the South, I’ve talked with friends and family, breathed deeply a lot, and eaten a more than decent amount of peanut butter pie (thank you, Lambert’s!) All that to say, I’m wading through this mud puddle of a season. Each day is different, and I’m learning what it means to grieve without judging myself for grieving too hard or not politely enough.

I’m slowly gaining gravity on this planet, becoming grounded, as I learn more about who I am. I’m listening to the wisdom of my body and brain, what long-severed physical sensations are saying to me. I’m learning how to be the parent for myself that I needed when I was small and terrified, and nobody came. I’m learning to be there for me. I’m learning to hear me.

Recently I’ve talked with several people who have no idea what it’s like having lived with trauma for a lifetime. I’m relieved for them, I am, but also a bit jealous. What lives on in our bodies and brains can make day to day life pretty struggly. My trauma tends to hijack hope, the view of a positive future. Whatever exists today is all there is, so if the leaves are off the tree today, I’m pretty sure the leaves are off the tree forever.

Trauma changes our neural wiring, it changes our reactions to sounds, smells, and sights by oversensitizing our entire nervous system. We tend to hold our breath, never fully inhaling and exhaling. Try breathing shallowly for a day. It’s exhausting.

Yes, we can work to rewire our brains, our whole nervous systems, but it is, at the end of the day, work. Ongoing work.

I’m grateful for my therapist. I’m grateful for listening friends who don’t judge. I’m grateful for the chance to learn that I can let my guard down in a relationship, and still feel emotionally and physically safe. That in fact, I can watch out for my own safety.

The sense of hopelessness and aloneness that accompanies loss and change can look and feel all-encompassing. I know–I have a frequent visitor punch card to that place. And yet each time I’ve come out the other side, questionable sense of humor intact.

It feels risky, this sharing of what is so personal. BUT–I share this because I want you to know: seasons happen, change happens, and you can get through your own fall of it all. You were created as a unique being, and there is no replacing you on this planet.

Reach out: find listening friends and family, a great therapist, and check in with your own spiritual self. Listen to what your body is telling you, and feel the feelings–even the unpleasant ones. You’ll get through.

…hopelessness and aloneness…can look and feel all-encompassing. …And yet each time I’ve come out the other side…

Finding a place with great pie never hurts either.

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