Cleaning Up Landslides with a Teaspoon

As I read over the last few weeks of journal entries, the themes are the same. So far, July is another level of grief about my family. It’s a grief that feels impossible. Writing about it publicly could be a terrible idea. But I know it helps unlock what I can’t by myself.

I look around at my circumstances and I still feel mainly perplexed on good days and devastated on bad days. I keep telling myself to just do the next right thing. Face the chores at the store. Face the quiet at the store. Take a walk. Journal. Meet with so-and-so. There’s always something I could do that would be good for me. But the truth is, trying to build a life apart from being a mother with kids at home…well, it’s not going so great. There really hasn’t been what feels like a breakthrough to the surface. I still feel like I’m swimming underwater.

I told a friend once that an empty nest would have been difficult for me in the best of circumstances. But this…

I ran into one of my daughter’s former friends the other day. This friend has a boyfriend she wants to marry. She’s headed to Bible college. In case you didn’t know it already, kids that go to Bible college get married really young because…well, I digress. But even though Bible college and getting married young was not the right path for any of my children, I realize that the way things worked out instead is so terribly far away from that, I could never have imagined what happened instead.

Actually, the brothers are where I imagined them to be. I’m so proud of them both. And I feel a lot of sadness that I can’t protect them from this messiness. Sometimes I get really scared. I try to accept this family might always walk with a limp because of all that’s happened. I try most days to keep a smile on my face, but in July so far, I feel like I’m sitting among shrapnel. I feel like a large hole has been blown in the side of our house and all I can do is sit and look at the damage. There’s no fixing it on my own.

One thing I love about my husband is that he’s good at fixing things simply. This also makes me crazy. He comes up with the solution to fix the squeak of the car door, for example, by sticking a piece of cardboard somewhere so it doesn’t rattle. This skill comes in handy when we’re on a road trip or trying to save money. But it also means I have felt like things that need to be taken care of stay broken.

That’s how I feel about my family.

Great damage has been done. We’ve stuck cardboard in a few places to help with the squeak. But I also feel like I’m living in a home without a wall. It’s like we threw up some plastic to help protect us from the weather, but nothing really’s been fixed.

My husband is out of town this week. Because of his new job, this is going to happen more and more. It’s just me and the (stupid, stinky) dogs in my home that I used to love. But it’s so empty now. So empty. Living rurally doesn’t make much sense now that the kids are gone.

Every day I tell myself, “You should…” Go back to yoga. Brighten up that part of the house. Sign up for that class. Some days I make those kind of choices. But many days it’s still naps, TV, and eating my feelings.

Remember that movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”? Of course you do. Why are other cultures so much better at family togetherness? What do you think? Some of this feels like it’s just the way the white folk do….individualism over community. I don’t know. Time to try and sleep and do the next right thing.