Tuesday, December 29, 2015

30 is just a new beginning.

Today is my first day in my thirties. It sort of feels like going to the doctor to get a shot when you're a little kid. Preparing for the worst, you imagine the needle is the size of a javelin, and you just know the doctor is going to make it hurt. You sit down in the chair, close your eyes, and....it's over? Already? But I only felt a little poke....are you sure that's it? That's how today feels.

I have been agonizing over turning 30 for months now. Something about it made me super uncomfortable. I know that part of it is that I am definitely nowhere near I thought I would be at this age. You know, we make those highly dangerous 'plans' and expect them to just flow through to fruition. How foolish we are.

I definitely thought I would be Dr. Brooke Wilson at this juncture and that I would have a private practice for kiddos with mental illness. I would just be considering marriage, or maybe newly married, and entertaining the thought of children in a couple years. Instead, I'm a child care director, I'm divorced, and I'm a single mother to a 5 year old kindergartner. WHAT IS THAT.

At the time, the idea of a child, of being a mom, scared me silly. I was excited, don't get me wrong, but here I was, just a 23-year-old baby, getting ready to raise my own child. How was I supposed to teach this tiny human how to human, when I was clearly still very much a child myself?

Then I got married, and just like that, got divorced. I don't believe in divorce. Marriage is commitment. It's that all-in, I'm-not-going-anywhere, I-will-follow-you-into-the-dark kind of commitment that isn't a game, isn't a joke. I don't believe in divorce, and I got a divorce less than a year after getting married. WHAT IS THAT.

Then I got kicked out of graduate school. Yes. Kicked out. I filed for divorce, was raising an infant, got an apartment and a part-time job, all in the same month, and missed an assignment. My GPA dropped below the requirement and just like that, I was kicked out of school, frantically waving goodbye to my dreams of becoming a psychiatrist. WHAT IS THAT.

That's how this whole 'life' thing goes. You make this plan, you set up this big beautiful future for yourself, and then, without notice, something deviates from that plan and starts a chain of events that will change every second of your life forever, in very big and very small ways.

Now here I am, one day into 30, and it's all cool. Terrible things happened this year and it breaks my heart every day, but it's going to be o.k. My daughter is a freaking weirdo and is loving kindergarten and life. My job is pretty great and I'm sort of alright at it. I'm in a relationship with the most amazing human being I've ever known. Thirty is going to be o.k. That javelin-sized shot that I was bracing myself for was a barely noticeable poke. I didn't even need a band-aid.

30 is just a new beginning.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Love Should Make You Feel Good

When we started this year, everything made sense. Maybe everything wasn't easy, or perfect, but things made sense. I could look around at life and think, "Hey, this is pretty good." I was working 3 jobs, but I loved every single one of them. My family was healthy and happy. I certainly struggled, but things always seemed to work themselves out.

Then Mike's mom got sick. Then I quit my 3 jobs and got one new job. Then Mike's mom died. Then Mike got sick. Then I moved out of my mom's house. Then Mike died. Everything came to a shocking, screeching halt and nothing made sense after that.

I remember pacing in the living room of a dear friend, shaking my fists and screaming at the ceiling about how we can possibly love another person, because everyone goes away in the end, in the most painful of ways.

I remember collapsing into my mom's arms after I spoke my last words to Mike, when he was still awake, and could understand me and knew who I was. He held my hand and told me his missed me and that he loved me.

I remember frantically driving home in the darkness during Labor day weekend, threatened by the closeness of the pain, overtaken by the deep desire to get as far away from it as possible.

I remember driving to his house after he died, so I could say goodbye. That is the pain I will never, ever forget. It's forged onto my soul. The depth cuts almost all the way through to the other side, and no amount of stitches or salve will ever heal it.

Mike was only in my life for 7 years. While he was here, that felt like an eternity. Now that he's gone, it feels like only a split second. I would give absolutely anything to hear his voice again, get another hug, another nugget of his hilarious wisdom, another chance for anything at all.

How can one person touch the soul of another in such a way? How can we possibly allow ourselves to dive into the depths of what we call love? We are creatures full of doubt, full of questions, constantly analyzing the risk of a situation, trying to foresee the outcome. We plan our financial futures to the penny. We buy cars based on their projected safety. We take jobs based on their ability to provide for our lives and our needs, looking into the future for growth and success. What is it about human relationships that causes us to abandon that calculated risk assessment and run headlong in potential heartache?

 People that love us give us perspective on ourselves that we might not otherwise see. We choose to see all the things that are wrong with us, on the inside and the outside. When we look in the mirror, we see the pimples, the overgrown eyebrows, the way our noses turn up too much at the end. The people who love us see the way our mouths curve right before we smile. They see the way the lights hits our eyes just so. They see our flaws and they adore them. I think that is what allows us to abandon risk when love comes around. Here is this person, standing in front of you, covered in flaws and imperfections that only they see, hoping against hope that you will look past those flaws to the soul beneath. That is a vulnerability that cannot be conjured.

This year has been deeply, deeply tragic. I can't begin to fathom how this pain will continue to morph and hurt as life goes on, but I hope it doesn't hurt like this forever. I want to love in spite of that hurt. I want to love through the pain. I want the fear of never loving fiercely to outweigh the potential risk. I want the tragedy of all the memories I didn't get to make, to shape the way I love from here on out.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Sweetest Thing

These are words that have been aching at the tips of my fingers for some time now, and after successfully pushing it down for the last few weeks, they're bursting out. Now is the time to turn away if you don't like the raw, vulnerable, uncooked-meat-kind-of-emotion that only some people are brave enough for.

My step-dad has stage 4 metastatic melanoma. While this has been happening, I've been experiencing a tremendous amount of success at work. There are other things happening that make me incandescently happy. There should be a new word for happiness this big.

Do you know how terribly difficult it is to feel all these big emotions all at once? I don't have the room in my brain or my heart to handle it all. I have had to learn to compartmentalize every second of every day. One moment, I'll be full of euphoric happiness. The next moment, someone will ask me how Mike is doing. The next moment, I have to meet with a prospective parent and enroll a new family. The course of my brain-thought shifts moment to moment.

There have been many other times in my life where I've been holding two very different emotions simultaneously, but this is so different. There's something so much....bigger....about these feelings. They lack description. I often don't even have words to capture how I'm feeling. People ask me, "How are you?" and I can only shrug because words don't exist.

One of my favorite quotes is from Frederick Beuchner. It says, "This is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." The reason I like this quote is because it's real. It doesn't try to paint this fake pretty picture of life as some magnificent piece of art that you paint once and it's finished and on display for all to see; perfection forever. It sets life up as the ridiculously ancient canvas in your basement, which is cracked and peeling from all the layers of paint you've thrown at it over the last however-many-years. You can see the bits and pieces of what you've painted before, peeking out from behind the other gobs of paint you've thrown on it more recently, but none of it makes sense. It doesn't even look like anything. It's just a mess. It's a big, fricking mess. It's your life, and it's a gargantuan, painted-over, blob of nothing that makes sense to no one but you. And that is why you love it. You can interpret and appreciate the big, beautiful mess.

The point I want to make (mostly to myself) is this: The beautiful things and the terrible things can be together. They can happen together. They can coexist peacefully. I've been grappling with guilt over being as happy as I've been the past month or so, because of what's happening with Mike. Beautiful and terrible things, I remind myself, not beautiful or terrible things. The quote says nothing about them not happening together. In fact, I think they may need each other...

Maybe....we need the beautiful things and the terrible things to happen together. Maybe the beautiful things make the terrible things easier to bear, and the terrible things make the beautiful things that much more enjoyable. Perhaps it's like the light and the darkness. We don't understand light without darkness. The darkness makes us appreciate the light, and the light reminds us that darkness isn't forever.

I might just try to let the beautiful and terrible things happen together, and see where they lead me.

Listen to this.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Importance of Being Broken.

First of all, I'm writing this from my phone, so bear with any grammatical or spelling errors. This has been welling up, and when the urge to write strikes, you just write.

 Pain is a beast. It settles around you like thick dust, choking your air supply and making everything around you dim and hazy. You can push and fight your way through it all day, but it just gets thicker, blocking out the sunlight and closing you off.

It weighs thousands of pounds, more than any human can bear, but it isn't a solid mass. It's thousands of small pieces that you have to pick up one by one. They become heavier and heavier, but you don't dare set one piece down for fear of starting over.

Pain is a ghost. Its presence is sometimes visible to only you, and it cripples you with a threat that no one else can see.

Pain is a healing scar. It isn't a gaping wound, but it will nag at you with a lingering hurt that you just can't shake, even after you've bandaged the wound.

Pain is a whisper, coming to you at the most inconvenient times, after the rush of life has settled down for the day and you finally relax a little. It breathes in your ear the reminders of itself, that it hasn't gone; it's just waiting beneath the surface.

Pain is a wave, when you're out to sea and a storm is coming.  You find your way to a lifeboat, and just pull yourself onto it, when you can sense the tug of the water, the pull of the sea, as the wave doubles, triples in size, before it pounces on you like a starving water beast.

Pain is a void.

It's nothing and everything all at once. It's the first spark of the fire that consumes the forest. It's the first drop of rain that signals a hurricane is coming soon.

My stepdad has cancer, and there is nothing I can do about it. So I will lean into the pain. I'll let the dust settle around me. I'll stop and listen to the whisper. I'll let the wound throb. I'll set some of the thousands of pieces down. I'll let the waves wash over me, because I'll be alright. We'll all be alright, because we're doing life together.

Pain is nothing, compared to love.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

This is not the end.

Death is approaching us all, and it is swift, and it is cruel. It doesn't wait for you to be ready. It doesn't stand back and give you a moment to collect yourself. It is right there, and it only takes. There is no mercy, no grace period - no amount of begging will make it go away.

But, I will tell you.....this is not the end.

This is not the end of the memories. This is not the end of the happiness that filled your heart when you were with her. This is not the end of the little wrinkles at the corners of her mouth when she smiled. This is not the end of how she patted your hand when you were sad. This is not the end of the stories she told about her life. This is the not the end of the way she smelled when you hugged her. This is not the end of the way she made you feel when she said "I love you."

This is the end of the pain. This is the end of the suffering. This is the end of the medicine, and the tubes, and the hospital visits.

But this is not the end of her, oh, no. This is not the end at all. It's just her beginning.

Sunday, May 3, 2015


"Here in your room where nobody can see
Voices are loud, but seldom clear
Beneath the confusion that's running so deep
There is a promise you must here
The love that seems so far away
Is standing very near
You're on the verge of a miracle
Standing there, oh
You're the on the verge of a miracle
Just waiting to be believed in
Open your eyes and see
You're on the verge of a miracle."

This song has been my heartcry the last week or so. My life is teetering right on the edge of something big. It feels a little like the extreme calm when you know a hurricane or other natural disaster is impending. You can't see it yet, but you can feel it.

A precipice is defined as 'a cliff with a vertical, nearly vertical, or overhanging face' or 'a precarious situation.' One of my favorite books is 'Hind's Feet on High Places.' In it, Much Afraid, the main character, has twisted feet and deformed face and is ostracized by her family. She follows the Good Shepherd up toward the High Places with 2 companions, Sorrow and Suffering. She struggles to climb to the High Places because her feet are so deformed, but the Good Shepherd asks her to press on.

The moment of greatest intensity for me as the reader comes in the chapter entitled 'Great Precipice Injury.' This is an actual place name, but it is also a metaphor for the part of the journey Much Afraid has reached. She has been followed by her evil cousins, who are trying to tell her that the Shepherd is leading her on a wild goose chase and doesn't actually care about her. She desperately wants to hold out hope that the Shepherd is taking her to the true High Places. Great Precipice Injury is where she is basically forced to tune out the voices of her cousins and follow the Shepherd or to give in to her counsins' lies and turn back. [I'll let you read the book to find out what happens....]

I am currently standing on Great Precipice Injury. On Tuesday, I have an appointment with my ENT to determine whether or not I'll have sinus surgery that will essentially change my life. I'm also a living kidney donor, but I can't do the donation until 3 months after I have this surgery. I want to have the sinus surgery so I can feel better, but I am also concerned for the person receiving my kidney, because he's not doing well. I have some other really big decisions riding on whether or not I have the sinus surgery first, or the kidney donation. I'm also concerned about how all these things will impact Juniper, our schedule, and my financial situation.

My brain has been going over and over these things in my head, trying to discern what's 'right.' I heard a sermon this morning that really challenged that. The teacher this morning argued that we don't always love what we think, meaning that sometimes, we think we should want or love something but it's not what's really in our hearts or what we really want. I have to re-calibrate my brain to figure out what it is I really love, what I really want. My heart is like a compass, and sometimes I mistakenly point it toward my head, or what I know. Jesus wants me to point due north, to him and his will for my life, so I can make that my will, too.

I've been trying to balance on this precipice without falling, but I'm starting to think that I just need to let myself fall and see where I land, or if God catches me. I'm sure he will.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I Struggle with Forward Motion

Oh, my dear friends....it's been awhile. Thanks for coming back to me. Let me catch you up: I've been busy, the end.

Here's where we are now. I just submitted an application for Juniper for kindergarten. She'll be five years old in June. I'm still struggling with this. I know that five is a humongous milestone, but it just feels particularly surreal for me, and I've been trying to navigate why. I'm just going to ramble a little bit while I wade through these really emotional thoughts.

June was never supposed to happen. She was supposed to be medically impossible. I never anticipated being a mother, so she was a huge surprise - a welcome, happy surprise, but a surprise just the same. That has been a compass for me as a mother - June shouldn't technically be here. She's just the most tremendous gift, the world's greatest surprise, and I try to never take that for granted.

Making the mental shift to 'mother' was such an arduous journey for me. I had to wrap my mind around the medical logistics of it, the risks, the issues that I could encounter, etc., before I could even begin thinking about having to train someone how to be a human being for 18+ years. Once that sunk in (read: once I decided to stop thinking about the medical aspect of it) I was able to get into the right head space and get excited about motherhood. June's dad and I were overjoyed when she was born, and she was perfectly healthy, and I was healthy, and we were all safe. We were a family, and it was good.

Jump forward to when June was around 9 months old....I got a divorce.

You could write an entire book about being a single mother, but I won't, because I can't. Because it's too much. The divorce itself was just the ugliest thing that's ever happened to me. I can point to the moment when I started out on my own with Juniper as one of the top 3 pivotal moments in my life. I was alone, I had to find my own place, I had to get a part time job, I was in graduate school full time....and I was a single mom. It was like a wide-awake nightmare. I grew up so, so much in the space of about 2 months, and I think that time is what is influencing why I am struggling the way that I am with Juniper doing this whole 'growing up' business.

When it was just me and June, we developed this routine. We learned each other really quickly and intimately. I was her hiding place and she was mine. We did everything together, and because I was doing the whole parenting thing alone, I was really protective and experienced everything with her. I think that something happened in my brain during those first few months, before June's dad had any custody, when June and I were hiding out alone, and I made this imaginary world for her. The only thing I can liken it to is Where the Wild Things Are. It's like we ran away, and I built this castle around her and myself and stored up all the best things on the inside and pushed all the bad things to the outside.

Through the past five years, even through shared custody with her dad, and changing jobs, and moving, and being in relationships, I think I've somehow kept us in that stronghold. I stand guard at the gates, sorting through everything that could possibly hurt her, but more importantly, anything that could separate her from me and muck up our utopia. As the years have gone on, I've expanded the castle walls, but still built them to keep the good in and the bad out. It's our safe place, where it's just she and I and we're safe and together and happy.

This next chapter of her life, five years old, means letting her leave the castle. Since she's gone to whatever center or preschool I've worked at since she was 8 months old, I've been able to keep her close to me. Kindergarten means I can't go with her. I can't go be her kindergarten teacher. I can't stand guard anymore to keep the bad things out and pull all the good things in. The gates are opening, and I have to let her bring in some of the bad things to sort out for herself.

In the face of this realization, I have to believe that because she is so, so good, she will see the good, and go out and fight for it like the brave little warrior princess she is. As I'm imagining her do this, I'm moved to tears because she is so brave and so true to herself and I know she will find the good, just as I have found the good and shored it up for her these past (almost) five years. She will begin to see the good and the bad, and she will begin to stand guard for herself and she will build the castle walls bigger to let more of the good in. There will be less bad because she will go out to the bad things and take them by the hand and help them find out how to become good.

I'm trying to trust that June's heart is her biggest and most powerful organ, and that she will use it in the most powerful of ways, because I can't use my heart as a shield for her anymore. Our hearts will be forever intertwined in a way that shall never be undone, because for so long our hearts have carried each other through the painful things of life. We have been each others life raft, and I need to let her go out into deeper water now, on her own. I'm flinging her out into the universe with all my love.

I'll stand here at the gates of our fortress and wait for her to come back, with all the tales of her great adventures.

Brooke + JuneBug