I've been thinking a lot about the upcoming year and thinking a lot about the past year. This year began on a regular note, a normal note, but everything fell apart in July with the news of my sister's breast cancer returning, this time terminal; then my parents decided to move away from the house down the street from us and into an assisted living facility across town. What began as a tranquil year is going to end in upheaval and questions, questions about what next year will hold for my family and unavoidable loss.
I have been thinking a lot about grief, how it sucker punches you when you're least expecting it. I was running the other morning listening to U2's new album when a song on it, this one, brought tears to my eyes and I had to stop to control myself and fight back those tears. It wasn't so much the lyrics that choked me up, it was more the music. The music was so beautiful, bringing back so many memories of my big sister and so many times that we spent playing together, of me listening to the wonderful stories she'd tell me at night as we lay in our beds in our shared bedroom. I know she really didn't want to tell me stories, but she would and they were rich in detail, in imaginary pictures she drew in the air with her words and I was in that glittery world she was drawing for me.
The word "grief" sounds soft to me, sounds almost like how a cloud might feel, and like a cloud, it embraces you fully, enveloping you in it's folds. Grief is the color of grey, a non-color, an in between color. Grief itself is almost sad to cause such hurt, so much pain. It almost wants you to forgive it for causing tears to run down your cheeks, for the way your belly aches and feels hollow. Grief knows it's job, but it's also sorry for having to be so good at it.
I am not new to grief, but every time it visits me, it feels new. I know I need to acknowledge it and to work through it , but I also don't want to have it engulf me. I can't let myself be in that hole again. I fought so hard to get myself out of that hole, to become a new me, a different me, and yet now today I feel as I did so many years ago. Grief paralyzes you, sets you backward to a time that you never want to go back to. It makes you question every bit of your day . . . or it just flat out numbs you to thinking, which in retrospect is a good thing because then you don't have to think but just observe the world as it goes by without you.
You don't have to be a part of that world anymore.
Grief puts you in limbo, you're neither here nor there. You can't plan for the future because you don't know if those plans will still be good. You float through the day, craving sleep, deep, deep sleep because then the tears won't come and you don't have to go to the mail box to find cards of condolences. You're off the hook while you sleep. You're almost your old self while you sleep because then you can't remember.
Grief is hurt, pain, hate, grey, softness, tears, lumps in throats, stomach aches, headaches, red eyes, swollen eyes, colorless, blackness, numbness, bottomless holes, outside looking in, wishful, loathing, observant, mean, far reaching blue skies just out of reach, a promise, a broken vow, embracing, all encompassing, a desaturated world.
Grief takes the form of a great blue heron silently cutting his way through the early morning mist of a pond and suddenly color explodes back into your world and you know that grief will forever be a part of you.
And you learn to make friends with grief.
This year, instead of hitting the local malls and fighting the crowds and listening to piped in Christmas music, I've decided to shop as much as I can in the local shops in the area for Christmas gifts, and what I can't find locally, I will order on line. Much of the stress and anxiety I feel this time of year comes from the crowds and the "plastic-ness" of malls and Walmarts and Targets. They somehow make this magical season less magical to me.
Saturday, Fayetteville was the home of countless craft fairs and markets and Meghan and I hit nearly all of them, running into old friends and making new ones. It was beautiful weather, people were out and about, everyone was smiling and helpful and we walked away ready for Christmas. There was no stress, no traffic, no anxiety and no piped in Christmas music. It was a wonderful way to spend a December afternoon.
And I may've treated myself to a beautiful little hand made mug and wooden spoon. Consider it a Christmas gift to myself.
Yes, it rained and it was cold and overcast and dreary all day.
So I played with my lights in the morning and in the afternoon, I taught myself how to use the interval timer on my camera while I rode my 30 minutes on our new Peloton bike that David and I treated ourselves to for our 28th wedding anniversary this past Saturday.
Downtown Pittsburg, Kansas while making a quick weekend trip to pick up my parents from Thanksgiving.
I've been thinking more and more about starting up another 365 project once the new year rolls around. Lately, I've found myself reading the old posts I'd written earlier this year, just short little snippets of words describing my days and little events that happened along the way, wildlife spotted during my runs or walks and thoughts I'd entertained during those outings. I kinda miss doing that. I know that there are days when I may not take a photo or want to take a photo, but those are the days where I'll need to push myself the most, push myself to look closer. Right now, I'm still taking daily photos but they're all food related for the most part. I do love shooting food, but it is hard work some days. Challenging myself to get out of the house, away from the kitchen and stove and shooting something different will be good for me and observing Life will be good for me, too.
Because being in Life is so important right now.
We saw eleven deer in the horse pasture yesterday evening as we were heading up the hill back to the house. They stopped and stared at us before bounding away in the dwindling daylight, their white tails bobbing up and down. I don't think Langley noticed, intent as she was on her empty belly and the gathering darkness, both of which she's not a big fan of.
I don't know why I get so nervous or allow myself to get so anxious about photographing families. I've known this family ever since we moved to Fayetteville and these girls are near and dear to my heart. I had such fun goofing around with Sandra and Morgan, they truly made me less nervous, never knowing that I had butterflies racing around in my stomach. But I used my voice, directing everyone with their posing and counting down to three and yelling, "open your eyes!" . I realized walking back to my car afterwards, that there's a part of me that feels selfish for not wanting to photograph others outside my little family (and Dana and Ali and Ellie are definitely a part of our little family, so they don't count), for not wanting to give up part of my day to spend time taking pictures, even family pictures of dear friends of mine. I mean, isn't that just so, so selfish? For some crazy reason, that realization made me feel a little bit better, like I figured out a piece of the anxiety that goes into theses sessions. Maybe now that I've realized that little nugget, I can begin to calm my nerves down a bit if another family asks me to take their photos. I come away from these sessions a bit more confident each time. I am good, I know what I'm doing (or I'm really good at faking it!) and I know how to work my camera. To finally admit that feels good. Maybe I'm beginning to finally believe in myself.
Today was just sheer fun. And that makes everything good.
This past Saturday, David drove me up to the Benton County Fairgrounds to see the world famous Budweiser Clydesdales, who were in town as part of a special tour.
I totally reverted back to my horse-crazy days the moment we stepped out of our car and saw the three 18-wheelers in the parking lot next to the arena that are used to transport the 10 horses, the stables and the wagon.
And then when we stepped inside and saw the gentle giants in their portable stalls, all chowing down on their hay, I squealed like a little kid. They are so big! And so patient! And so gentle! And their hooves are gigantic!
Another little fun fact that the handler told the crowd that was gathered inside the arena, all of us ogling King, the Clydesdale that was "performing" for us: All baby Clydesdales are born weighing 200 pounds!
I can't even imagine.
The presentation lasted for about two hours, the handler patiently answering questions from the crowd, the whole time King standing patiently himself, looking out over the crowd, his warm brown eyes watching us, his ears always twitching this way and that. Finally, it was time to form a line and have our picture taken with the giant horse, and again, the whole three-year-old horse crazy girl could hardly wait to stand next to King.
As I walked off afterwards, I looked up at David and said excitedly, "They let me pet him!!"
Saturday was a very good day.