I’m going to start this out with a positive story. Well first a hey, Happy Valentine’s Day! I like the holiday. It takes many turns along the years. I loved it as a kid when my mom put out a huge cardboard box for us to “mail” our valentines to each other with. Then we’d wake up the next morning to open our valentines and get little presents and eat Lucky Charms. We never really ate Lucky Charms. Only on Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day (clover marshmallows!) and our birthdays, if that was the “junk” cereal we so chose. I loved Valentine’s Day as a teenager when we sent carnations to classmates through messengers. You got singled out in class on Valentine’s Day morning. I always received carnations from my sister and my gay guy friends. I also loved Valentine’s Day as a young adult because it was pretty great if I had a boyfriend, and it was also pretty great (maybe even greater) if I didn’t. I liked the mystery – wondering if something might happen for me.

I generally went through ages four through my twenties always with a crush on someone, or I was in a relationship, or both. (That sounds worse than it was)

I love Valentine’s Day as a wife because I have a Valentine. And I love it as a mother because it’s starting to get very fun for Scarlet as her understanding of holidays grows. It’s not always magical. Sometimes it downright can suck. Even today. I don’t care if it’s “cool” to love Valentine’s Day or hate it. I don’t care about the origins of the holiday or how it’s become all about Hallmark consumerism. So I’m just going to love it with the family and eat some heart-shaped cookies from a friend.

Oh, and Scarlet took one of the valentines her classmate made, licked it, wrote on it in pencil and declared it her own original valentine. She gave it to me and said, “I licked it.” Thanks?

Do you ever have “hanging by a thread” days? I know some people feel that way for weeks or months or years, or worse – for lifetimes. I generally don’t. It’s so temporary sometimes that it can turn in an instant. Yesterday I had a day like that. I felt at my wit’s end. Then I went to Target to get diapers and I got Scarlet another magic wand. She wanted me to open it for her right after we left the store. So I stood by a trashcan to open it, realizing I was blocking the path of a skateboarding boy who was watching us. He may have been ten or eleven. Tops. I apologized and got out of his way and he stopped me and said, “No. I just want you to know that your kids are..so awesome.”

Moments like that take me back from the wit’s end edge.

It changed my whole outlook. Des had had a bad night two nights ago and that always ruins my morale and gets me thinking insane thoughts about putting him alone in a soundproof room for the night, or sleeping in my car. I also start to think that even when he’s 30, he’ll still be in my house giggling and banging a rattle into a crib at some terrible hour. And after this nice exchange with the skateboarding boy, my mind cleared and I thought, “He might have a bad night again. So what? I’ll get up and nurse him even though I always say I won’t. I’ll hug him and love him and when he’s an adult, I’ll come into his room at 3:00 am and bang a drum.” Well at least you know I’m not totally rational. Halfway, maybe.

Maybe many of us are always hanging by one thread, and we just don’t know it. The brink before one missed paycheck, one car repair too many, another freakin’ snowstorm, a sleepless night or a spousal argument. A leaky roof. A bad tantrum. A year of missed paychecks. Half a year of bad tantrums. And then I wonder if that last thread were to be cut, from any of the aforementioned scenarios, would we fall to an untimely death on a hardwood floor? I’d like to believe that instead you band together with other loose or already cut threads and form new material.

Maybe you just fall into a soft, plush pile of friends, family, partners, neighbors, and skateboarding boys in front of Target threads. All together in this soft mess. Heartstrings.

How Does She Do It?

I have many good friends and family members who have been through terrible tragedies. I think I have too. I can’t even begin to dare to measure degrees of suffering in this world, but I believe that there are some events that top the list. One day, years after a personal tragedy that some friends went through, I sat with them one night and talked about all of the things people have said to them over the years since it happened. One thing they found particularly stupid was when people said, “I don’t know how you got through it. I couldn’t have done it myself.” My friends were incredulous:

“How did we get through it? How did we get through it, you idiots? What were our other options? It’s live or die.”

Plain and simple, you go on or you don’t. Most people go on.

It is overwhelming for me to think sometimes about how people get through suffering. I once read a psychologist say that heartbreak for most feels worse than when someone dies, at least on a temporary basis. Their reasoning was that with heartbreak, you get the frustrating sensation that what you want most in the world is in this world, but you can’t have it. With death, there’s a finality that you do accept. It’s not a rejection. It’s not something you can’t have that is going on without you, happy without you, with someone who isn’t you. And I’ve had my heartbreaks and seriously, how did I get through the suffering? It’s easy to say from this brighter side of things, “Well..maybe it wasn’t that bad. Yeah. I could do that again.” Maybe your memories get slightly erased. Like with birth! When you’re giving birth, you may be swearing or yelling or crying or wanting to die, or in my case, looking your nurse in the eyes and saying, “Yup! Won’t be doing this again!” And then it’s over and it’s glorious and the next day, you look your husband in the eyes and say, “I could do that again!”

But birth is just a day. Or for an unlucky few, 2-3 days. I’ve been thinking about individual suffering and how fast time can pass when you’re not suffering in any way. And you may see other people suffering, but since time passed quickly for you, you may assume time passed quickly for them. “Well hey,” you may say. “They’re strong. I couldn’t go through that.”

Oh, but you could. You can. One day you will be standing on the other side of your suffering. Whether standing as tall as you once were, or hunched over just the slightest bit, whether permanently or not. Standing, just the same.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my first pregnancy. I’ve been thinking about my friends’ pregnancies, because I have a few pregnant friends and they’re all a month or several months ahead of me right now. I’ve been thinking it was really easy for me with Scarlet. I’ve been thinking it’s really easy for my friends. I’ve been slowly learning it isn’t true. The middle and end of my pregnancy with Scarlet were quite wonderful. The beginning was fearful and snowy and icy and queasy. It passed. It’s easy from this end of things to forget how hard it was. It was nowhere near the levels of tragedy and suffering I referenced above. It’s a different level. It’s a happy occasion that is marked with a hard beginning. For most. When I finally get around to talking with my further-along friends, I hear their horror tales of fear and morning sickness and fatigue and anxiety. It’s not easy for them either. Their days have been long and painful and nauseating and anxiety-ridden too.

I wanted this. I planned this. It’s amazing and I’m blessed and overwhelmed with good feelings. But there’s still the end of fall to get through. There’s still winter to get through. There’s still the fact that I feel like I have mono all the time!

Every day is filled with pitfalls and obstacles. The smell of this, the thought of that, Scarlet peeing on the floor, the 3:00-5:00 pm slump, the fear of pregnancy loss, the darkness, the hunger, the thirst. Oh, the thirst.

One foot in front of the other. Painfully slow days. We all want time to pass slowly and time is passing slowly for me. Yet, it’s passing. Every night is a gift of a day over, a day closer to this baby. And then time will speed right back up for me!

I forgot how it feels to feel consistently normal and not like a Mack truck hit me. Yes, I chose this. That doesn’t mean I’m not having a hard time sometimes. I enjoy every non-suffering day and those non-suffering minutes of suffering days. I know this particular load will get lighter and I’ll stand tall on the other side. Time will fly again.

It just made me think. It’s not easy. We all just get through to the glorious other sides of our personal sufferings, eventually, because we have to. That doesn’t mean every second on the clock isn’t watched all the while. Isn’t hard all the while.