Sunday, August 10, 2014


I was lying in bed completely exhausted and wide awake--again--and thought it might help me get to sleep if I got up and wrote for a while and tried to empty my head a little bit.

I've been meaning to write a lot more this summer--and have probably started about 2 dozen blog posts--but every time I start to write, most of it is so vague that I end up thinking its useless, or its vague and I still feel like its far too personal and informative to put out there in the universe.  Its my way:  when things are stressful or difficult, I retreat into my shell.  I have joked about being a hermit, but I do keep getting worse.  I know I need to stop retreating, but in the back of my head I think I know that since school will be starting soon and I have class five days a week and will have to be more interactive (five days a week.  FIVE.), some part of me is justifying soaking up the solitude. Or at least the only-my-kids-and-husband-ever-talk-to-me partial solitude.  I have always been of the nature that I need to be mentally prepared to socialize, or I forget to hold up my end of the conversation, or just do so awkwardly, but half the time lately I feel like I'm doing that even when I should theoretically be prepared.  Not writing here wouldn't be so bad, but I haven't been journaling either.  I haven't been recording my kids the way I should, either in pictures or writing.  It may be the lost year in our family story.  Perhaps I'm being overly optimistic, but I tend to think we won't forget it.

Its been a rocky few years, and I think part of my problem is simply fatigue.  Things are actually going really well for our little family is so many ways.  We have found productive ways to address things that have been hanging over our heads for years, and I told Doug recently that I was the most personally optimistic I've ever been about us as a couple, as individuals, and about our family.  Which is wonderful, because it came after two of probably the most difficult years we've ever had.  But I am so sad and angry and frustrated about other things, beyond my control, that I'm struggling to be as happy as I probably should be about our blessings of late.  I have always had trouble separating my own emotions and circumstances from those of the the individuals I care about the most.  At my best, that makes me very empathetic and compassionate.  At my worst, it makes me a total basket case.  I seem to be vacillating between the two the last year.

And so I go to bed, and my mind starts racing and it won't shut up.  I'm sure nervousness about going back to school has increased it the last week or so, but its been happening for a while.

Truth be told, I've struggled with bouts of insomnia since I was a teenager.  My mind would start ping-ponging right about the time I wanted to go to sleep and would not stop.  I regularly fell asleep in class, and, on more than one occasion, a particularly kind and understanding teacher that I was an aid for actually turned out the lights and shut the door when I fell asleep in his classroom (during a prep period with no students) so that no one would disturb me.  It got better in college, and after I had my first baby (I was so utterly exhausted that I can and would fall asleep any time the chance arose).  For about a year after Conner died, every few weeks I'd have another bout of sleeplessness where my mind would run through horrible possibilities, or latch on to any and every reason it could think of to stress out.  Getting pregnant with and having Kylie Bear brought a lot of peace, and it got better for a while, until the unemployment stress.

I realized something recently, though.  When I was a teenager, the only real fool proof cure was going to Grandma's house.  The whole time I was growing up, I never lived more than half a mile from my Grandma (as the crow flies), and so from the time I was very little and all the way up through high school, I regularly spent the night at her house.  And I never had any trouble sleeping there.  No matter what was going on, when I went to Grandma's, I could feel peaceful and relaxed and drift off to sleep with ease.  A lot of it was a very conscious feeling of being emotionally safe there, with so many of my happiest childhood memories being wrapped up in that place, so little there to annoy or frustrate or sadden me. What I realized just a few months ago was that my mom's house now has the same effect on me.  I crawl into a warm soft bed in her basement and can sleep right through the night and even the sun coming up.  My anxiety about all the things beyond my control that tends to shout at me when my house finally gets quiet, remains subdued when I'm at "home".

My mom's house is sort of a family hub: a more or less constant buzz of activity, of coming and going, of aunts and uncles and cousins, flowing in and out in various combinations and group sizes.  Sunday afternoon dinners can easily be bigger than some families' holiday gatherings.  Its hard for others to tell which kids belong to whom, because for the most part all of the kids are as well loved and cared for by their aunts and uncles as they are by their parents, and are nearly as likely to arrive with a mish-mash of cousins as they are to pull up with their brothers and sisters.  And my mom calmly and patiently smiles through it all.  I remember there the same thing I used to know at Grandma's: there's a lot of love around me, and ultimately it matters a lot more than all the other things I worry about.  There are real troubles and real challenges, but there's enough love here to tend the wounds and carry each other when needed, and those relationships and that love will last.  All these beautiful kids--my kids, my nieces and nephews--they know that they are loved, that there are people who are paying attention, who care who they are and what they do and will love them no matter what.

I have heard people say that they believe we choose our families before we come to this earth.  I don't know if that's true, but I'm tremendously grateful to have been born into a family that makes it an easy thought to believe.

I think I'll sleep on that.

Thursday, August 7, 2014