January 23, 2014

Stuck in FBM

Full-Brain-Mode (FBM): (n.) 1. the state of being in which a person looks into a window of his/her own life rather than actually living it; 2. having a perception of too much to process, too much to feel, too much to accomplish, thus resulting in a static state; 3. the state of being so overwhelmed one cannot go on

Yes, people. I have decided this FBM must be a real thing (it's not. I made it up.) since there absolutely has to be a perfectly scientific, logical reason why I am struggling to check things off my list, to find motivation, to find purpose to my every day happenings. Back in August, I started to consider what it meant to be a mama with her baby, and I thought (and think) I figured that out, but that doesn't mean I still don't get stuck outside simply watching my life pass me by. That sounds so dramatic, especially since I have expressed so much gratitude for the many blessings I do recognize in my life. So let me clarify: when my brain is so darn full with things to do, things to process (a.k.a. analyze, I generally over-do that), and things to feel I intuitively distance myself--or leave the building--to stand back, hoping to catch a darn break! Seriously, can I please just have some peace?

**deeeeeep breeeeeath**

However, as long as I'm looking through the window avoiding the processing, the feeling and the doing, the brain continues to be full. I get stuck in FBM, going through the motions of the every day while I watch the time and people pass by.  

Sometimes, I watch the whole world below...

Occasionally, I'll step back into my life and really feel, really process what's going on. Living intentionally is something I hold very dear to my heart. I will sometimes compare the choice to live intentionally to walking into a fire. Letting the flames lick my legs. Feeling the burn, the warmth. It can be painful yet comforting. I may cry or shake with anger, but I accept this as relief. I chose to walk in that fire, so I embrace that fire. It burns for a reason. As that fire burns, the pain slowly becomes like ashes, disintegrating around me. Only then do I start to feel the warmth of the coals. I feel joy, love, passion as the glowing coals dance at my now raw ankles. 

Boy, that sounds gruesome. But it's true. Without processing and feeling everything, I can't expect to intentionally, actively participate in my life. I am just a spectator. 

The last three or so months have been full of things to do, things to process, things to feel. I've been trying to keep up with it all, but today...and yesterday, last week, last month...my brain is definitely in FBM.

Who would have thought saying goodbye to the house that was always known as temporary could be so hard? To say goodbye to the house where my first child was supposed to spend his first few months? To say goodbye to the house that provide a space to heal? To say goodbye to the house where my loved ones grieved with me, laughed with me, hoped with me? It was always just a rental, but this rental became the home that would hold so, so much of my life. David and I spent 90+ long, intentional minutes going from room to room, reliving each memory the night before I handed over the keys. For me, the master bedroom held the most poignant memories, memories I will forever cherish. Memories of Samuel's body laying in his co-sleeper. So tiny. So peaceful. So cold. Memories of my mom, dad, sister all standing in the room, crying. Not sure what to say. Memories of our dear friend and now brother-in-law, Pat, seeing his godson for the first time...and the last. I think about how strange that was. My friend from college, just a friend like anyone else, was experiencing a moment so intimate with us. When I met him all those years ago, just a year after meeting David, I would have never guessed in a million years that he would have become part of my family, someone with whom I'd share such joy and such grief. Then, standing in our room with Samuel's body. Crying. No words. I remember hugging Pat. Just not sure what to do. So many memories, it didn't seem possible to hold on to all of them if I left. If I said goodbye... Before we turned off the lights to our bedroom, David and I offered a prayer for the new family. We asked that the house provide them with many blessings, countless days of joy. That their hearts be made full of love in this home. For that is what this home gave to us. Hearts full.

The transition into the new home was much harder--is much harder--to experience. For me, that fire burns a little too hot at times. The change can feel too overwhelming. But as David reminds me on a regular basis, I have never been one to adapt quickly to change. :) In fact, when we were first married and moved to downtown Seattle, I hate. ed. it. Couldn't stand the noise. Couldn't stand the people. The lack of furniture in our condo. Everything about our new lives I hated. But I really didn't. I hated the change. I didn't want to learn how to live in the city. I didn't want to allow myself to like living in the city. Nine loooooong months later I started to really love our home. I loved my job, loved walking everywhere. I even loved the noise. So here I am, in another change. Our first home without memories of our first-born. Our first home we own. My first home older than one from 90's. With each month that we live here, I grow more fond of it. With each added bit of organization, with each accomplished project, with each decorated wall I find myself growing more comfortable in the space. But that doesn't mean I still struggle to adapt. That's a fire I'm not very comfortable accepting, let alone walking into.

Since we've moved into this house, the fire has burned steadily. The holidays added quite a bit of fuel to it. I had no desire to even acknowledge this hot monster. Nope. I'm just going to step outside and wait for it to die down. Well, apparently avoidance is just another kind of fuel. That fire burned and burned and burned, hotter than a hornet's nest (is that even a real idiom?). I managed to enjoy Thanksgiving, acknowledging who was missing. Accepting my sorrow over not actually having Samuel in my lap as I would have tried to eat my turkey without spilling gravy all over his cuteness (I guess that's what high chairs are for?). As soon as we returned home, Advent started. But instead of waiting in anticipation, waiting with a full heart for the coming of our Lord Jesus, I was anxious. I was tired of waiting for another baby. Tired of being patient. Tired of being so hopeful, being the strong, faith-filled wife. That fire was burning with such intensity I grew afraid of it. Instead of taking a seat next it, I ran for cover. I avoided conversations with David. I stopped talking to God throughout the day, let alone at any point during the day. I pretended everything was just fine, I simply needed to get through the holidays. I even convinced my grief therapist of this. My life was just a picture, and I was doing my darndest to paint it pretty.

One day, probably two and half weeks into Advent, I called my mom to for comfort. Instead, I ended up expressing my total angst about all this pretending. My perfect little picture was actually not perfect. Life was not okay. And I was tired of waiting for life to start again. Why did I have to be the mama who wouldn't have her baby at Christmas? Why did I have to always be the one to wait on people? Oh my goodness, this sudden burst of anger hit me like a freight train at full speed. Not even a whistle warning. When my mom sensed I was coming to a lull in my rant, she asked me a very gentle and very simple question: Beth, are you still angry that's Samuel's gone?

Well, whadayaknow. My mom can still deliver. Her simple little question was like an invitation back into the house. An invitation to come sit by the fire, I didn't have to walk into those flames if I didn't want to. I could just sit by it for a while. Get a sense for what was going on. So I did. She concluded our conversation with another bit of wisdom: as with every Advent, we are asked to wait. We are asked to be patient and to prepare. Perhaps this season is more important, more meaningful than ever before because you are not just preparing for Christ, but for having another baby. For healing in your family. For welcoming God back into your heart.

That conversation stayed with me throughout the holidays. It was that conversation and realization that helped me reconnect with David. Helped me reconnect with God. I prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet for the first time in months, practically begging Christ for his mercy, begging Him to believe me that I trusted in Him once more--that I would trust in Him. All this begging was more for myself, begging myself to be open to Christ's mercy and to trust in him once more. I felt a shift of heart.

Even though I started to process this feeling of longing and anger, I continued to discover other emotions, other thoughts, other fears. Two more babies were born in my family.

grandbaby #29

grandbaby #30, aka my god-daughter

Our house continued to give us projects, not even waiting until we finished the first list.

David building my craft / sewing table 

Painting baseboards. Too cold to paint in the garage!

David and I started talking about our own little family again, talking about Samuel, about future brothers and sisters, about our marriage. We shared our fears about what it would mean to get pregnant again. Fears I had yet to address. I explored these fears as my shoulders shook, my chest heaving and face swollen with tears. Was I even capable of having a healthy baby? What if the baby is once again affected by a genetic disorder or a chromosomal mutation? Could I handle yet another hurdle? Could I love this baby, or what seems less likely, could I still love God if he gave us yet another baby with challenges, rather than just a plain ol' healthy baby? Isn't raising a healthy baby challenging enough? I fear that I will distance myself from this potential next child just to protect myself from future possible challenges. I fear the next pregnancy will not be as beautiful, as peaceful, as perfect as my first with Samuel. I fear the next baby will go through a long labor full of complications unlike my labor and delivery with Samuel. I fear our medical team might not know how to best support David and I, thus alienating us rather than encourage us through this painful first jump. I fear that my fear of complications will hinder, will distract from the beauty and miracle that is the creation of new life. I long to have my days of innocence back, the days that I didn't believe anything could go wrong. I don't want the burden of knowing that things can go wrong.

Must I carry that cross? If only I could be more like Mary, offering a freer YES to accept and embrace the path on which God has set me upon. I envy those mothers who have never experienced such pain, complication or tragedy in their lives. I would never wish such things upon them, ever. But I do envy their more care-free paths, their seemingly simpler paths. I took my care-free path for granted. I regret doing that. Maybe that is why we had Samuel, why we had our T13 baby? To wake me up to the realities of humanity? To realize life is truly, TRULY a miracle? This fire is burning a little too hot for comfort...I want to step away. If I stand in it a little longer, the pain will subside.

That pain will always be a part of me now, whether I choose to accept it or avoid it. It will always be there. Through that pain, with that pain, I can see all the beautiful blessings I've received as a result of Samuel's passing, his becoming a saint. I have come to know God's will, his mercy, his providence far more clearly than ever before. I have felt the Holy Spirit in my life, working through David and me, gifting us with courage and wisdom, sending us the fruits of faith and peace. God's grace has been beyond abundant, flowing like a river just after the spring thaw. Vibrant, powerful. I've learned that while we are born with many virtues, it is only by the grace of God that we can receive the spiritual virtues of faith, hope and love. Three things I have experienced FULLY and TRULY in the last nine months.

And yet...I still get stuck in FBM. Life feels so much heavier than it did a year ago. I cannot escape, break from the static life, the empty life of FBM without God anymore. I thought that I used to be able to. But now, without His grace, his mercy I truly struggle to find joy. When I stay focused on Him, I am focused on getting to Heaven. Focused on reuniting with my first-born son. Focused on being with Jesus. There is nothing more in this world that I want than to be with Jesus and all the angels and saints. Free from the chains of humanity. When all seems lost, when no one else can provide the words to bring me back to the present, it is this focus on my Creator that can pull me back into the house. It is this focus that allows me to then, and only then, see more clearly. To sort through and accept my pains, my crosses. It is this focus that can help me break free from full-brain-mode and breathe.


Oh Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of Mercy for us, I trust in you!

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