Sunday, January 26, 2014

the power of words, and muffins.

{this is my friend kelly, who will probably kill me for posting this picture of her cleaning my house.}

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it's wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” 

what a difference one week can make.

i don't often reach my breaking point.  i'd like to believe it's because my rope has a longer tolerance than most, but unfortunately it's more likely because it's hard for me to recognize my own needs and emotions.  this is something i've been changing for the past 4 years, but sometimes i fall back into old habits of pushing my needs back down and shouldering on through whatever difficulty i'm treading water in, carrying the emotions of others and answering those whose needs feel more urgent than my own.  i have a tendency to shut down and isolate, and though i'm getting better with this, i'm still a work in progress.

after my last post, i realized as the words flew through my fingers without stopping, they were serving two purposes:

1)  to update friends and family.  i'm not great at talking about it unless asked-- it's a complicated situation without a clear answer yet, but i knew there were a few people wondering what was going on with ben's school situation.

2)  to recognize i do actually have a breaking point, and had reached it.

after posting the words, i found myself wanting to take it all back--to say life is fine, and i am fine, and what's going on will be fine.  i felt vulnerable--or embarrassed?  a little?  that i was weaker than i wanted to believe, or wanted others to believe.  i worried i would be perceived as searching for attention, and began to minimize my feelings, questioning why i was having such a hard time with all of it, when i genuinely find so much happiness in my life.

i thought about re-writing, making sure to end it wrapped up in a nice, neat package with an inspirational quote about perseverance or not giving up.  because that is what i actually know, and who i am, most of the time.

instead, i decided to let the words sit where they had been placed, and find peace inside of not always having to be fine.

it's okay to not have to always be okay,  

was the phrase that continually rolled through my mind on wednesday.

and then,

comments and texts in response to my post began showing up... extending love, kindness and validation.  i read them, letting them sink in as i went throughout my day, feeling my weariness lifting.

ben was interviewing in ohio at the time, and would be driving to pennsylvania that night for another interview, not to come home for 3 more days.  a friend of ours had found a family willing to let him stay in their home, which blessing came when we needed it most--checking our bank account daily with the hope of seeing a student loan deposited, and biting my nails off when each day passed without it happening.

he called me on his drive to pennsylvania, telling me of the family he stayed with, who had opened their homes as well as their hearts.  he was given food that lasted him the entire day so he didn't have to spend money we didn't have.  he was taken care of and had been treated as a friend instead of a stranger.

his interview in ohio had gone really well.  at one point, all of those being interviewed were in the same room together, and began talking.  out of the entire group, only ben and one other were married while in school, and ben was the only one with children.  "my wife and i have purposely waited to have kids while i'm doing my dissertation and interviewing--we're too stressed out, " he was told by the other married man.  ben was asked how he was surviving a doctoral program with three children and a wife, while also working for almost the entire 5 years.

"i told them," ben said through the phone, "it was because of my amazing wife."

as he spoke those words, his voice cracked and he began to cry.  and oh boy, nothing makes me cry more than when someone i love is crying.  we both sniffed as he continued to tell me how grateful he is for my support and efforts in this much-longer-than-planned journey of school.  i didn't know how much i needed to hear him say that, but i did.  and let those words sink even further, as more weariness lifted.

the rest of the week was full of family and friends extending more love and kindness.  as hard as it was, i forced myself to accept help, and by friday morning i was feeling much better emotionally, ready to handle life again.  there were dishes and laundry and sweeping to be done.  also?  it was mid-january and my christmas tree was still up, though i had pulled the empty tubs waiting to be filled with holiday decorations out over a week ago.  for some reason i had a mental block about taking it down by myself, but finding a night where both ben and i were together wasn't happening.  i had decided this morning was it, and resolved to take it down alone.

then there was a knock on the door--my dear friend kelly, who showed up with muffins in hand.  "i made extra this morning and thought you might need some," she explained as she and her adorable daughter vi walked into my disorganized home.

three hours later, we hugged before they walked back out.  as i closed the door behind them, i turned around to see an empty and scrubbed kitchen sink, swept kitchen floor, vacuumed living room, and--most importantly--the christmas tree taken down and the holiday tubs filled, ready to be carried into the garage.  we talked as we had worked together, and i realized again how important good friends are when family doesn't live close by.  those three hours may not have been a big deal for her, but i felt overwhelmed with gratitude.

just then, ben called to give me details of his pennsylvania interview.  as i answered i began to cry, explaining what kelly had just done for me, and all of the other kind things that had happened at the hands of others while he had been away.

once the phone call was finished, i sat down in the quiet, thinking back through the past week.  i've heard those who say they cannot see God during their trials, only after they are over--only during the times when things are going smoothly or miracles are taking place can they recognize His goodness and love for them.  yet our trial with ben's school was not over, not by a long shot.  not much of our situation had changed at all, in fact.  we know there are still mountains to climb.  but by allowing myself to not be okay, i allowed others to love and take care of me, and i found God again, through them.

and was (and still am) so, so grateful.

thank you.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

the awakening of resistance.

“Life always bursts the boundaries of formulas. Defeat may prove to have been the only path to resurrection, despite its ugliness. I take it for granted that to create a tree I condemn a seed to rot. If the first act of resistance comes too late it is doomed to defeat. But it is, nevertheless, the awakening of resistance. Life may grow from it as from a seed.” 

i've felt a little lost, all day.  for so long through this ride called Graduate School, i've felt surety and seen clarity--even when ben could neither feel or hear those things himself.  today is rare, when both of those things have been missing inside, and the void of them has knocked me off my normal balance.

it looks as though the Miracles he has been working so hard for are not going to come to fruition--again.  if we accept what he is being told, (which we aren't being given much of an option) then we will be accepting a 3rd extra year of school.  extra.  on top of what is already required.  and as much time as i've spent emotionally preparing myself for this possibility, because i could see us heading for it months ago, today i've finally felt a piece of what this good man has felt for a long time:


he came home tonight and we hugged, holding on like two deflated balloons trying to cling to whatever small pockets of air were left.  i told him for the first time in a while, i didn't know whether he could look to me for the usual pep-talk-filled-with-affirmations i provide when he walks through the front door of the Pink House with furrowed brows and sadness in his brown eyes.  i no longer felt sure of my speech--tonight i needed someone to give me that lift.

though we will most likely be here another year, we are learning--ben is learning-- this battle is not just about Graduate School, but is his lifelong battle of Worth.  for some that battle takes place in relationships, or careers, or childhood trauma, or addictions.  for him it takes place in School.

we are used to defeat, and have accepted it too easily for most of our lives.  it is what we have both known for so long, in different ways.  but we have been changing these past few years, building ourselves up from the rubble of defeat we once accepted, because we have seen Worth, and God, within us.  this is what pushes us to keep climbing.

he began the real fight today, one that has the potential to turn ugly, quickly.  it's against the grain of our characters to fight this way, contacting Legal Advice with the intention to take this war to the top of the chain of his school.  i'm purposely withholding the details until i can say more, but just the thought of what we might be in for makes the Peacemaker within feel drained.  how is it we can be tired before we've even begun?

we've considered this option in the past, but were too fearful of its repercussions, and held back.  last year the theme was mine to combat Fear in my life, and this year he told me he has adopted the theme as his.  and so, we're 14 days into january and that theme is being challenged.  God hears you when you make these commitments to growth, did you know that?  we don't get to choose how He will show up, whether in small hills or enormous mountains, but we do get to choose to stay committed, take risks, fight fear, awaken our resistance, trust Him--or to run.

ben is packing his suitcases right now, choosing to stay committed.  i am worried for him, and proud of him.

more than anything?  i'm hoping my balance returns tomorrow.