If you’ve talked to me for more than ten minutes in the past couple months, you’ve heard me say 2015 sucked. I’ve been saying it so much that Jonathan actually called me out the other night. He gently reminded me that 2015 was full of so many good things that could easily be forgotten with my broad generalization of the year. Caroline started Preschool this year. Both girls grew bigger, smarter and older without any major travesties. We traveled to Napa, Tennessee and had other great family weekend adventures. There were giggles, dance parties and curiosities that peppered the pages of the calendar. So while I will tell you about the bad, please know that I’m eternally grateful for the good. It got me through.
I knew the year was going to start out hard and raw, with my Father in law facing the end of his terminal illness. We knew that day was coming, and quickly. What I didn’t expect was the call from my family, letting me know that my uncle had died. As unexpected as that news was, it was that he had chosen to take his own life that left us all numb, dumbfounded and guilt-ridden.
The first couple months of the year were a blur as we lay to rest two contrasting men. My father-in-law was so loud in his passion, big in spirit, and public life and honored in an equally audible way. My uncle never met an animal he didn’t like. His quiet, elusive and introverted ways were a balanced matched to the loyal, intuitive nature of his canine friends. We celebrated his life intimately with those whose lives he touched.
I would say that my Father-in-laws death has tested our marriage more than I would care to admit. In my head I’ve been making an analogy that his passing is like the death of a massive star. As with the death of stars, the weight of his extinguished life crushed upon itself, creating a black hole. I watch painfully as some of my dearest family struggle not to be consumed by the gravity of it. I spent the first half of the year using all my love, anger, grief to try and pull my husband from despair, fighting the black hole, to keep him from being devoured. He was fighting his battle with grief and I was fighting that. We were both entirely ill prepared, angry and alone.
All the fighting to keep the grief at bay left me feeling extreme guilt for not having dealt with the grief over my Uncle, and moreover not having the energy, wherewithal or ability to be there for my Mom as she battles the cyclone of emotions of dealing with suicide.
With the heat of Summer upon us, we were all still tending wounded hearts, we got word that my Aunt (Also on my Mom’s side of the family) was facing the end of her 9-year battle with cancer. This amazing woman was diagnosed with Stage 4 Ovarian cancer NINE YEARS ago. In those years, she’s seen both her sons get married, met two of her grandchildren, traveled, lived and loved. She accepted the diagnosis and finality of it all with remarkable grace. My sisters and I were lucky to have some good reminiscing, laughter and visits before the end. She was a unique person that colored my life in bright and complex ways. As you can imagine more death on this side of the family only magnified what we were still dealing with. Instead of closeness, the distance seemed to grow.
Let me stop there to add some texture and complexity to the year. There are many areas of life- the day to day, your job, your relationships, finances, etc. Everything is rarely, if ever, all going well at the same time. But usually, if you have your rose-colored glasses handy, you can find some stability in one or two areas, leaning on those, until the other areas calm down. I only point this out to illustrate my anxiety when too many pillars of stability are removed at once.
Turning back the pages of the calendar to last year, we had the optimistic eyes of new homeowners. We made the decision to rent our house rather than sell it. The thought being, if we could keep a tenant, it could be a nice little college fund for the girls. How easy it seemed.
We did have a tenant for the majority of the year, but it was a constant battle to stay in contact, get utility bills paid and even to get rent. By the end of the year, there was no rent and no indication the tenant would be leaving on their own accord. I now know more about the eviction process than I ever wanted to. It was the beginning of December when we changed the locks and finally regain possession over our house. Our financial pillar of stability seemed to be crumbling.
I stood in the cold, dark, abandoned and abused house and very much felt like it was a reflection of my own heart. A place that was once so warm, safe and clean degraded to scary, dirty and cold. It was heartbreaking. I walked through the trash left behind¬-a baby shoe, fast food wrappers and chalk drawings on the wall. The mom in me was screaming to do something for the people I just evicted. “But What?” I questioned back.
We’ve spent the last month cleaning up the damage. My heart is raw and our bank account is beyond bruised. I will probably go over today to try and fix the stove (I don’t even know HOW they broke so many things). Despite the insane amount of money already lost, I’d rather throw more money at it than go over there and deal with the sadness and rage it invokes.
I’m beginning to think that house is the physical manifestation of the experiences we’ve gone through this year. And with that mindset, I’m looking forward to repairing, cleaning and preparing it for a new year and a new owner.
Similarly, I’ll be working on repairing, cleaning and prepping my own heart for a new year with a few goals in mind:
Go on a vacation
Exercise (the demons)
DANCE in the living room with my family
Spend more time celebrating the happiness, allowing it to grow bigger than any of the anxiety and sadness