April 27, 2021
Funny, even as I sit down to write today, my mind wanders. More accurately, it wants to power through a checklist of all the to-dos and random odds and ends that I haven’t been able to cross off yet. Some items are more pressing than others (like paying bills) and others are just annoying (like breakfast dishes wading in the sink). And yet others are pre-pandemic that maybe at this point aren’t even relevant anymore. I’ve always found that keeping my hands busy is the solution to the feelings that sometimes want to bubble up. But I had to stop myself because for the first time in months all three of my kids are in school. Even though the time is only about two hours of overlap, it’s still two hours that I haven’t had in over a year. So rather than looking at the undone list (I see you, leaning tour of laundry), I decided to sit down. And be still.
This day was supposed to come two months ago when my older girls were both finally allowed to go back on campus for in-person learning. My littlest had recently started preschool two mornings a week and I was looking forward to having a bit of time to myself. To think. To breathe. Or more accurately, exhale after what has felt like a year of a sharp inhale. The excitement was high. The weekend started off by searching through backpacks and proved to be a treasure hunt as we found markers, pencils, and old assignments that hadn’t seen the light of day since last spring. Thankfully some stale Cheez-its were the only food casualty. It could have been worse. A friend of mine found an unrecognizable but what was suspected to be a year-old sandwich in the bottom of her sons’ bag!
Diligently we went through the checklist of school supplies, bought fun snacks, and even put together in-person-first-day of school outfits. We were ready. What I didn’t anticipate was a concussion. What I didn’t see coming were weeks of headaches, nausea, dizziness, and brain fog coupled with endless trips to a concussion specialist and physical therapist. Most recently we added a visit to an imaging center for an MRI to our afternoon routine.
Two months ago, I didn’t know that school days would be limited, playdates canceled, homework modified, tests taken at home administered by me, softball on hold, and birthday parties missed. I didn’t know I would be monitoring my child’s sleep, moods, behavior, appetite, and overall wellbeing. Or being forced to limit screen time of all kinds when so much of school is done online. I didn’t anticipate how big my fear would grow and multiply. How late-night Google searches would bring more questions than answers. I didn’t know our already tenuous plans would be annihilated.
Maybe that’s why we don’t get a warning. That sometimes life has to shift, change or blow up completely in order to spur us forward. The warning might scare us into stillness, letting the fear take over, instead of the strength we usually muster up only because we have to.
These last two months took me there. I think I was delicately, cautiously but optimistically seeing some pieces of normal life come back together. The promise of on-campus learning coupled with sports and friends seemed to be the light at the end of a very long pandemic-driven tunnel. So when my oldest daughter got a concussion, I wasn’t prepared. Emotionally raw, my tender underbelly felt like it was exposed to the world and the world wasn’t letting up. I had written previously about walking the fine line of sanity as my hubs has graciously and without ever complaining (maybe I complain enough for the both of us!), taken on the hero role of keeping his fitness business afloat amidst lockdowns, closures, and the strictest of regulations. But it has meant an incredible amount of hours, usually 15-17 hours a day, to keep the business alive. In a weird way, I was doing my best to come to terms with it. Deciding finally to cling desperately to Jesus rather than my fear and stand firm in the hope that better days are coming. Maybe that’s why the concussion and all that has followed felt like a 2 by 4 to the face. Or maybe I needed a glimpse of hope in order to keep walking forward. To have a tiny bit of faith in my grasp that somehow we will get through this too.
I think the greatest example of grace and patience has been in watching my daughter. At ten years old she is handling the disappointments with more class than I’ve seen in many adults. Of course, she has her moments of anger and sadness as milestones big and small pass by, excluding her. As friends have playdates and birthday parties that she can’t attend, class performances she has to miss, or the biggest blow: softball starting without her. Her positivity has been remarkable. The healing is happening both physically and emotionally, it just feels so dang slow. I wish I could speed it up. Flip through these challenging chapters and move on to the happy ending. The middle can be the hardest part. The unknown. The waiting. If only patience were a blanket to curl under or a chilled drink to slowly sip on. An under-the-radar, barely noticeable shift inside of us. Unfortunately, I haven’t found that to be the case. Patience is rewarded only after a hard-fought battle. A well-earned honor after uproaring destruction. The scales and gradations of chaos, pain, and difficulties may vary, but the feelings are usually marked by the same DNA.
It begs the question, what is the purpose?
This is where I’m sitting right now. Maybe the purpose, reason, or whatever lofty title I so desperately want to attach to this season of life being played out with the backdrop of a worldwide pandemic, will someday be assigned or maybe not. In time, I hope we will see the nuances, the lessons learned, and the grace interwoven throughout the journey. But it takes time. So my focus has to shift to the present. Instead of spiraling down the chasm of what if’s, I have to be here, in this very moment or I might completely break down. I’m finding shelter in the outpouring of love and prayers, in the reminders that I am not alone. My gratitude rests firmly on those life rafts that carry us on our particularly difficult days.
In looking back someday, maybe we will see a trail that leads to a bit of clarity. Reflection is so good and necessary, but I actually think healing starts here. Right now. In the quietest moments, when there’s nothing left to do but surrender. When we have strong-armed for so long that our muscles finally give way. The pandemic has been a vice that refuses to release. The relentlessness and uncertainty upended how many of us do life and the results may still linger in the aftermath. Maybe you find yourself in this space too. Where your arms are weak not from lack of trying, but from holding up your bit of the world with arms stretched above your head for so long. Just like the concussion, I don’t know when it will end. When life will be normal. When our days will be filled with softball practices, playdates, movie marathons, and birthday parties. When masks will be flung to the far ethos of the closet only to be played with at Halloween or used as makeshift slingshots.
But I do know I’m ready to let my arms down, release my white knuckles, and let the corners of my lips turn upward. To embrace something good right now. To lean into all the victories, like laughing with a dear friend over late-night sugar cookies and kombucha or dropping off my preschooler to school tear-free, even if it did take three good-bye hugs and a gentle bribe from her teacher that she would decorate her dinosaur shirt first today. Rather than being driven by the big flashy wins, this time continues to remind me to seek the tiny victories. To see the people and the moments in front of me and do my best to tease out the good. To not let the overarching heartaches and frustrations color my vision and drown out even the faintest bits of joy that have been scattered like wildflowers amongst the weeds. God certainly knows this is a lesson that I so desperately need to learn. By acknowledging, might I dare say even celebrating, the smallest wins, somehow the burden feels a bit lighter and the darkness isn’t quite so overpowering. There are times to cry, feel the ache, and sit in the hurt. Those moments are incredibly important too. But I do believe our soul is longing for those gentle joys because they breathe life back into us. Sweet reminders that God is close by and in the details. And it is in that place where our hearts can start to heal.