We are visiting my parents’ for a few days. I wake and go for a walk around the neighborhood in a drizzle of rain. My dad joins me on the first lap; I like hearing his reflections on turning 70. I walk the second lap alone, and come home to a breakfast of eggs and bacon. Around 10:30am, the hubs and I leave the youngsters in the care of their grand-dad so we can spend time with a friend before he moves cross-country and because I have an appointment with our holistic doctor.
As we begin our hour-drive to Denton with beverages in hand – cappuccino for him, Orange Ka-Bam smoothie with “energy boost enhancer” for me – the hubs talks fast and furious about deep, spiritual matters…things like how he thinks marriage is just a practice-run for how we will be in relationship with everyone in the next life. I love listening to his well-thought-out thoughts, and I wish I could recount them here as eloquently. His perceptive impressions remind me of the other day when I was bemoaning a dying tree having to be removed from our yard. I wondered out loud if it was all a prediction of a teetering friendship of mine – a depressing symbol of what was to come in the relationship – and the hubs came back with: “Maybe it IS a symbol…the dead parts of that friendship are being trimmed away, allowing the still-living parts to flourish.” To which I replied, “WHOA. That’s actually rather profound.” To which HE replied, “Uh, that reaction from you is making me feel really stupid.” To which I laughed.
As we steer into Denton, I call our friend and he suggests Chuy’s for lunch. He is graciously carving out a couple hours to hang with us before he up and moves to Maine tomorrow. We’ve been in relationship with this guy for almost twenty years now, and he is one of my favorite people on the planet. I’m so happy to be with him. I don’t know if my face is glowing but it feels like it is. Over baja tacos and creamy jalapeno dip, he fills us in on his new job and we expound on our kids’ latest antics. After lunch we move out to the patio to enjoy the unseasonably cool weather (balmy instead of baking); he shows us pics of where he’ll be living and informs us he has finally joined Facebook. I’m so thrilled for this next chapter in his journey…but Maine is quite a long hop from Texas. Just like most significant life transitions, the moment is bittersweet. When we part ways there are multiple hugs, a few tears, and one big lump in my throat.
We head to the Doc for my follow-up. Because of the insomnia and anxiety I’ve been navigating since early this year, I’ve been in touch with him more often. About three months ago, I drove in for an in-person visit where he put me on about 27 supplements and told me I should spring for a massage as often as possible (tense much?). Today when he asks how I’m doing, I tell him…better. I hesitate though, like I’m afraid that if I say it out loud, better will disappear. The Doc asks me to unpack my response, so I tell him I’m having an easier time falling asleep and that I’ve been pointedly focused on examining how I, Jana, interact with the world-at-large. I tell him, after years of knowing I possess this attribute, I am putting the brakes on chasing after the approval of other people to validate my self-worth. He stops his note-taking, looks up from his paperwork, and says, “That’s huge.” I also explain that I’m attempting to be more still. He asks, “How’s it going for you? That can be hard to put into practice.” It IS hard. I don’t have a chance to mention that I am afraid in the stillness – in my present non-pursuit of relationships – that my people will lose interest in me, that they will move on, and that I will be left with more heart-aching loss.
During my physical assessment, when the Doc palpates the soft spot under my right ribcage, I mention that it hurts a bit. He then pushes on the spot so hard it feels like my lungs constrict. There is tension in the diaphragmic muscle, he says, and calls it a flibbertyjibbit or some other clinical-sounding word that starts with an F. As our conversation continues, the wellness coach assisting the Doc labels us (the Doc and I) a comedy team…or dynamic duo…something like that. She thinks I’m funny, she says. I have no idea what I’m saying or doing that’s funny. (Wait, maybe she meant funny-in-the-head.) She says I am just the person with whom she needed to end her work day. I’ll take that as a compliment. I think. Depending on her definition of funny. As he leaves, the Doc grabs my hand and says, “Someday God is going to send someone your way to help.” I smile politely but feel confused by his statement. I feel like I’ve already been sent several someones to help, including this doctor. So when he closes the door behind him, I look at Brandon and ask, “What did he mean by that?” The hubs stares back at me quizzically. “What?” I implore. “He means he thinks God is going to send someone your way who needs your help…who needs to hear about your experience of healing.” Oh. Right. That makes more sense. Then Brandon gives me a look and says, “Sometimes I wonder about you.”
We hop in the car for the drive back to my parents’ house; I check social media and see something that makes my heart sink. Suddenly I feel quite the opposite of better. I try to keep it together – we’ve had such a lovely day and I don’t wanna go all Debbie Downer on our drive home – but I am. My mood is plunging. Brandon tries to give me a pep talk but it doesn’t work. Jokingly, he says, “Hey you. Snap out of it.” I reply, “I can’t.” It’s maddening that one small circumstance can have such a large effect on my emotional state. This is where the practice of being still turns difficult. Trying to sit with the pain? Trying to examine why certain words/actions hurt so much? Trying not to feel guilty about feeling hurt? Trying to figure out how to eventually transcend the hurt? Trying to forgive? Trying to forgive others AND myself?
We buy some custard and sit in the sun. Then drive back across town and pick up take-out from Freebirds. As we pull into my parents’ driveway, I say to Brandon, “It’s so hard to forgive. I don’t want to forgive. It’s too hard! Someone’s always doing something stupid or hurtful and I’m always having to forgive. And the more people you have in your life, the more you have to forgive.” He replies, “It’s good practice then. And aren’t you glad you’ve been forgiven for the stupid and hurtful things you’ve done to others?” At that moment, we step into my parents’ living room and back into our everyday reality of parenting three children, so I don’t have the chance to turn around and glare at him for speaking truth at the precise instant I don’t want but need to hear it.
The 3yo runs up to hug me, the 7yo is upside down in the recliner, and the 10yo informs us that the 3yo was fussing all day long (according to my dad, this is just the 10yo’s opinion). There are baths and a prayer, and then we shuttle the kids off to their various sleeping spots. The 10yo asks me to tuck him in. As soon as I lay back on the bed next to him, I am crying. I say, “I’m sorry. I’m feeling sad about some stuff.” There is a long pause and he asks, “What are you thinking about?” I try to boil it down to pre-pubescent childhood terms… “You know how sometimes you want your friend to invite you over to play? or invite you to their birthday party? and sometimes they don’t and you feel sad? It’s the same for grownups. Sometimes I want the people in my life to do things and they don’t and it makes me sad.” Another pause while tears slide back into my hair. Then he says, “Maybe your friends don’t know what to do…maybe they’re learning.” I lay there in tearful silence as I ponder that statement: maybe they’re learning. This wisdom from the lips of my 5th grade boy, the one with whom I butt heads almost every day. Of course they’re learning. Just like me. Like him. Isn’t that kind of our role as human beings? Maybe they’re learning. Maybe I’m not the only stumbling through life, sometimes falling flat on my face, learning by experience.
Later on Brandon notices my downcast demeanor and says, “Hey. I love you.” I reply, “I know you do. But nobody else does.” (I might be prone to dramatic statements on occasion.) He responds, “Yes, they do. Just because people do stupid things doesn’t mean they don’t love you.” I know he is right, but I don’t want to admit it.
I’m still learning.