What If I Miss This?

This post was previously published in 2008, in an entirely different life stage that challenged me in so many different ways than the current.I wrote this when they were three years old and just barely one.  Oh, what a whirlwind, those days that were put together of a million minutes and spills and tantrums.

I’m thankful I wrote it down.  And so thankful I didn’t miss it.
* * *

I had a fullblown parenting meltdown last night.

I will spare you the gory, self-depricating details, but suffice it say that it was a grand display of selfishness on my part. I desperately needed to run away, and I finally dropped the children off with my mom, left my sick husband to fend for himself (what kind of wife does that??), and left. I just drove. In my mind, I had a destination, but I wasn’t sure where it was. And it took me a LONG time to get there.

Sometimes, I just have to get out, get away, and get lost. I just have to. I am not proud to say it, but it’s wise to know one’s limitations, I’m pretty sure. Last night, I met mine.

This business of being a Mother of Two Under Three… well, it’s just hard. Sometimes I fear that the job description and endless demands may cause me to lose my mind, or worse yet: myself.

I am glad to report that the evening did the trick, I feel better today, and I woke up ready to face the challenges of the job. And it’s a good thing, because Tyler is on day three of diarrhea and Tuck threw up four times last night and twice this morning. Bring on the disinfectant; my kids are sick.

Thankfully, four hours away helped me gain some perspective as well as my Game Face. Robb, thanks for allowing the frantic departure. Mom, thanks for catching the kids as I tossed them at you.

And now, less than 24 hours later… I have a new approach, a new self discovery, and a new plan. Sort of. It’s only just now coming together in my mind.

As of late, I have had so many well-meaning people say to me, “Just enjoy every minute with these children. You’re going to miss it someday.”

I get what they mean. But not every minute is enjoyable. It’s just not.

I think I will miss the next stage. I will miss the preschool years, when they are potty trained and a little independent. When we are having family movie night and game night and reading books together and talking about what they are learning. I think I’ll miss that.

I think I’ll miss the elementary years, watching them run on the soccer field and be the blueberry in the school play. I think I’ll miss the school projects and the family camping trips. I’ll miss tucking them in and kissing them good night.

I think I’ll miss the teenage years. I think I will miss their football games and halftime shows. I will miss their humor, when they will live to make me laugh. I think I will miss knowing and loving their friends, the bustle that comes with a houseful of teenagers hanging out after practice, eating everything in sight.

But will I miss this? Will I?

As I talked with my mom about all of this (as I so often do, since she knows this journey so well, she remembers its demands, and she doesn’t make me feel ridiculous for feeling tired or spent), she said she would say the same thing differently. She doesn’t miss the baby years, but she recalls them fondly. That’s different. She looks at pictures of my brother and me, when we were so very little, and she remembers her babies. She even got teary saying so.

But does she want to go back and do that again? No. Not at all. But part of her heart will always remember and hold dear those sweet little people who called her Mommy.

That’s refreshing. It’s not about enjoying every minute… it’s about enjoying the ones I can and making the most of the ones that are harder to embrace. Like, oh, I don’t know… the vomit in Tucker’s bed this morning. Make the most, Tricia. Make the most.

So, here’s what I started to wonder… I have been so incredulous of anyone telling me I am going to miss this, while my children are hanging on my pantlegs and demanding more, more, more. Maybe I will miss it someday, but for now, I’m just trying to survive.

But there is a closely related danger: while I am waiting to “miss this,” what if I really miss this?

What if I miss the little details that are my children, so little, as they are today? What if I am so eager to move on and look back longingly, that it all bypasses me in the moment?

What if I miss the feel of their sweet little dimpled hands and their fingernails (that always need trimmed)?

What if I don’t look at them enough?

What if I forget the feel of Tyler’s hands in my hair, my curls gently tangled in his little fingers, as he falls asleep?

What if I forget the many faces of Tucker? He has a different expression when he is proud of himself, when he is trying not to laugh, when he knows he’s funny. Three different smiles. What if I forget their subtle distinctions?

What if I forget what it sounds like to hear them call my name, even if it feels incessant in the moment?

On my birthday, I gave myself the gift of sitting with them to watch Sesame Street. And to my surprise, I liked it. It was funny. But it was also darling, to sit in my chair with my little men. One on my lap, one at my side, all three of us wrapped up in Grover’s silly antics. What if I don’t do that enough, and when I’m finally ready to sit with them, they would rather run and play?

What if I forget how much Tyler loves his blanket? How he dives into it, in his crib, face first?

What if I forget how they smell right after a bath? Or even more endearing but demanding to love: right before the bath?

A friend of mine said not too long ago, “Look at Tyler’s feet. They are identical to Tucker’s.”
I had never noticed. How did I miss that??

What if I am so busy investing in other people that I forget to invest in them? What if all these play dates are really just about me and the other moms, and I’m just letting the boys tag along?

What if I miss what they need from me today, because I was too busy with what I need to do today?

What if I let them slip through my fingers, when they were so briefly mine to hold?

What if I miss this??

Okay, Tricia. Slow down. Yes, slow down with the questions and the what ifs. But more importantly, just slow down. Slow down the schedule. Slow down the day. Let today be what it is instead of trying to fill it up, make it more, maximize. I have learned that discontment sets in when I wish for more. More in my life, more in my day, more in this moment.

If this day is about jammies and Bert and Ernie? Do it. Slow down.

So that’s the new plan. I am here. So are they. No regrets. I don’t want to miss this.

Because someday, I really, truly, actually might… miss this.

A Thousand Times

“And so you have finished your first draft, Tricia.  What a unique way to heal,” my friend says to me.  “You are, like, the Queen of Non Denial.”

“That’s a beautiful way to say that.”

“It’s true.  You are.  You’ve immersed yourself in this over and over again.  You’ve lived it a thousand times over because you’ve put yourself in it again and again as you’ve written and rewritten.”

Healing comes in telling the story a thousand times.

The Place of True Healing

I flew back from Orlando on Sunday, July 22, my would-be twelfth wedding anniversary.  It was a long day of travel and solitude (in a sea of other travelers), and I had the time and space to lean into my sadness.

That’s a really good, important, beautiful, cleansing thing to do sometimes.  It’s like pressing the reset button or the release valve.  It’s a privilege to hurt that deeply.

At some time during my second flight, somewhere between Nashville and Denver, I discovered something truly remarkable, unbelievable.

I have finished grieving.

I didn’t think it was possible; I’m still not entirely sure what it means, and I’m more than a little hesitant to say it out loud.

It doesn’t mean
I don’t love him,
I didn’t love him,
I won’t have sad days,
I will snap like a rubberband to the familiar shape of the extroverted party girl I was two years ago,
I’ve forgotten,
Or that I’m committing any kind of dishonoring betrayal.

It means
I did the hard work.
I grieved him well.
I wasn’t born to be sad forever.
I can raise my glass to honor the girl he chose to marry,
one who is strong and courageous.

What timing to find this discovery – on the day when I annually recall when and where I was on the day I married him.  As I traveled home, the day was decidedly divided.  I cried and cried and cried, and then I didn’t.

I listened to my iPod, and I discovered that the song lyrics were no longer breaking my heart.  Rather, my thoughts leaned toward hope of what might be,
what might become, the joy that might wait for me.

Even, perhaps, a person that might wait for me.

I never thought this could happen.
Never thought it would.
Didn’t even know the words could fit together.
But they are true.

I have finished grieving.

It is the end of an era.  There are things to gain and things to lose as the era ends, but no season is forever.  And this one wasn’t either.

As Verdell Harris wrote, “Let me grieve, but not forever.”

Today I am 33.  Happy Birthday, Tricia.

* * *

“You will never stop loving . . .  You will never forget. . . You will always know . . . But [he] will always be dead.  Nobody can intervene and make that right and nobody will.  Nobody can take it back with silence or push it away with words.  Nobody will protect you from your suffering.  You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away.  It’s just there, and you have to survive it.  You have to endure it.  You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal. . . . The place of true healing is a fierce place.  It’s a giant place.  It’s a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark and glimmering light.  And you have to work really, really, really hard to get there, but you can do it.  You’re a woman who can travel that far.”

~ c. strayed,  tiny beautiful things

Encore!

My brother is a show director.  The world is his stage.

He’s been holding auditions, rehearsals, and opening nights for years – long before he was working with a cast or a live audience.

(Actually, he usually had two cast members: our dog and me.  But we didn’t always appreciate his authority.)

This weekend in Orlando, I attended three showings of this year’s performance of Encore Performing Arts: Finding Wonderland.  A full cast, choir, and orchestra.  And not a single one of them was pretend.

As the beginning overture swelled and the lights swept across the stage, I saw with my own eyes the vision he had always seen in his imagination.  As we grew up together, our basement was his theater, our back patio was his stage, and the green acre of our backyard was lined was invisible stadium seating.

I cried a lot that first night in the audience.  It’s good that I got to see it more than once, so I could actually watch it the second time without crying, crying, crying.  And it’s good that I got to see it more than twice, because I wanted to.

I think, for all of my days, I shall never tire of seeing my brother in his element, watching his handiwork on the stage, and hearing the audience cheer.

My brother didn’t grow up in a performing arts community.  He led the pack in our circle of friends and family, introducing most of us to theater through his big ideas, his tickets for sale, and eventually his stage debut.  He speaks with great emotion of the day he moved to Orlando, of his first series of real auditions in the field of paid entertainment, of looking around the casting room and realizing he was no longer a fish out of water.  He was surrounded by dreamers, a sea of people who had grown up thinking they too were alone in their passions.  In the theater, they found each other.

And yet, as he explored all the roles on the stage and behind the curtain, his favorite spot emerged with clarity: he is a director and producer at heart.

This weekend, I watched three of his six shows, each in a sold-out theater, all of the proceeds donated to a nonprofit.

I was the first to stand in the ovation and the last to finish the applause.  It was amazing.

The next time you go to the theater, when the actors line the stage to bow and receive applause at the end of the night, watch for the gracious nod they give to the back of the theater.

They’re giving due credit to the director.

His family is probably in the audience, and they’re cheering for the one you cannot see.

Encore, Rob.  Encore.

Half My Sandwich

Happy Anniversary, babe. We never did Disney on our anniversary, but I am here today.

I am sitting at a table for two, eating a sandwich we shared once. I only ate half the sandwich today. I wrapped up the other half. And I gave the extra chair to a tourist with more party than his table can hold.

It seemed like it would be smart to travel on this day. But now I am only alone and traveling with a void.

We had a good ride, honey. And if God sends me love again, I think I’ll jump in even farther, love even harder.

Because I get it now.

Happy 12 years, Love. Eat half a sandwich for me today.

I love you.

“It was the small moments of care taking that meant the most, that forged the real relationship. The way one pulled the blankets over the sleeping other, the way one prepared a snack for oneself but made enough to share. Such moments made for the team of two, which made for one’s sword and shield.”

~ e. berg