Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Only on the Eves

From Christmas Eve to New Year's Eve. With lots of nothing in between (save the busyness and feasting of Christmas day, of course).

But since then it's been long stretches in our jammies, chocolate in hand and endless hours of Mad Men on the tube. We blew through all 13 episodes of the first season in three days.

Heaven, I tell you. Heaven.

If, of course, you don't count what's missing. Which I do, naturally. But I'm also paying close attention to what isn't, and enjoying all that very much.

As for 2009 knocking furiously on my front door, I just don't know. I'll answer it at midnight. But I'm wary of the new guest blustering in with such universal fanfare and promise. And so I have no expectations.

I have only a plea for a kinder year. For peace. For direction. For guidance.

And for happiness that I once feared would elude me forever, and which I have worked very hard to cut and paste back into my life in a patchwork of moments and memories. I've papered over some of the badness. Replaced some of the sorrow with quiet peace. And my plan is to keep on going. To keep adding and building.

The little house of my soul might, to some eyes, always look like it's in tatters; bits torn out, patches taped over top, small cracks letting the cold in now and then. But it's still standing. And this is what it looks like as I work at the job of repairing it piece by piece.

Eventually, I hope, turning it into a mosaic.

Because even things that are broken can be beautiful again.

They can.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It's Christmas Eve...

...and I'm okay.

I hope you are too.

Monday, December 22, 2008

This 'n that

Remember those ridiculous fingerless gloves that were popular in the 80s? The hand part of the glove was in tact but the fingers only came up to about your first knuckle. Remember those? Remember how useless they were for keeping your fingertips warm - the part of your hand that usually gets the coldest; The part they are known to amputate if your frostbite is severe enough?

Remember those gloves?

Why are they back?


Despite eating a ridiculous amount of chocolate and very little vegetable matter over the last several weeks, I seem to be losing weight. Not huge amounts, mind you, but a half a pound here and there (which Weight Watchers is very happy about).

So either I'm dying or I've discovered a whole new way to diet.

I'll keep you posted.


The Duggar family had another baby. That's 18, if you're counting.

And I'd prefer not to.


My eyes flew open a little before 4:00am this morning, and haven't shut since.

My therapist gave me a foolproof way to lull myself back to sleep for occasions just such as these (and it has proven 100% effective in the past), but this morning I couldn't be bothered.

Seriously, how lazy do you have to be to find yourself unwilling to work at going back to sleep?

You'd think, being that lazy, that I'd be all over her method. But I just. couldn't. be. bothered.

And now I'm stupid tired.


Speaking of Therapist Lady, after a full year of talking, I recently discovered that I'm no closer to resolving my guilt issues.

I feel better about everything, in general, but that specifically? The poor woman hasn't even made a dent.

The other day after My Beloved and I had a very minor argument about something small, I found myself alone and sobbing my heart out.

He had said, "Don't you know that you can love someone and still be angry with them?"

My response was, "Of course I do". Of course. But then my mind drifted to the dark side and I thought, "But how can he love me when I am responsible for Thomas' death? I blame myself - how is it that he doesn't? And what's going to happen when he finally realizes that he DOES?"

And on, and on, and on.

Luckily he was at work and I was here. No one needs to witness that kind of unattractive neediness first-hand.

But yeah, Therapist Lady and I need to work on this.

A lot.


I think the grieving and infertile, in all our varied forms, need to work on cutting ourselves some slack over the next few days.

Because maybe it won't quite feel like Christmas. Maybe it won't be happy. Maybe we'll be angry. Maybe we'll be quieter than we used to be. Maybe we'll cry. Maybe we'll need reassurance. Maybe we'll need to be alone. Maybe we'll hurt more than we have in a long time.

And maybe we won't.

But people, if we do, it's okay.




One of the odd side effects of grief is that I now look forward to January. I used to see it as a bleak, cold, empty month. But now I see it as a time when the nothingness spreads out in front of me like an exciting blank canvas. No expectations, no commitments, no additional responsibilities. Just time and endless, beautiful space.

I can breathe in January. I inhale and exhale without thought; without trying to remember how.

I'm looking forward to jumping back on the Weight Watcher's bandwagon (all the chocolate, cheese and cookies should be gone by then) and starting in on a regular exercise routine (although the specific details of said routine are TBD).

As much as I do enjoy Christmas, the fact remains that I still have work at it. I spend a lot of time taking care of my mind during the holidays, sometimes at the expense of my chocolate and Bailey's laden body.

And so the easiness of the January emptiness is endlessly comforting. And very, very healthy.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The three of us

Christmas looms.

And it's not as hard as it was last year, fresh from the loss of the twins. And it's not as hard as it was the two years before that (time has given me distance and an effective arsenal of coping mechanisms).

But still, amidst the happy bustling and the busyness, there's a sadness that I suppose might always be there.

Because there's no little boy to rush down the stairs on Christmas morning, tousle-haired, bleary-eyed and all excited to open his stocking and see what treasures Santa has left him under the tree.

We have quiet, sweet Christmas mornings, My Beloved and I. Our cozy time together, just the two of us, is one of the things I treasure most about Christmas. Next to unbridled chocolate consumption, of course.

But I don't think either of us forget for one second that there were supposed to be three of us.

That there should be three of us.

Sometimes I look at the tree for Thomas. I try to see it through his eyes. The twinkle of the lights, the ornaments new and old, the shiny bows on the presents beneath. I imagine his wonder. The questions he'd ask. The stories we'd tell. The glow of the lights bathing his sweet little face in red and green as he took in every sight and every word.

My imaginary Christmas.

The real one isn't so bad. Truly. I have love and family and friends all around me. And I am happy. For real.

But my heart also longs for the imaginary Christmas it will never have. And the boy.

The three of us.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

In his shoes

I had to make a last minute trip to the vet with Lucy yesterday to get a nasty little rash on her chin looked at.

She's fine. It's either feline acne or an allergic reaction to a new food I gave her. We left with reassurances and an antibiotic to clear up the infection.

I'm sure it would have gone away on its own, to be honest, but late Thursday night Dr. Google told me it could be cancer and I panicked. As I am wont to do.

Especially at this time of year.

In fact, this will be the first Christmas in three years that I haven't run to the doctor with a suspected life-threatening aliment of my own. In 2006 it was breast cancer. Last year a serious heart condition.

This year I opted to subject the cat to the drama instead, since I can't seem to find anything wrong with myself. Knock on wood.

Anyway, as we were sitting in the waiting room prior to her appointment, I overheard the vet give an elderly couple very bad news about their dog. I only heard bits and pieces, but there was an enlarged heart, fluid in the lungs and nothing to be done but minimize the symptoms of whatever was eventually going to kill her. Finally, I heard him tell them they had a difficult decision to make.

And I felt the panic rising.

No music to distract me, no chatter from other pet owners, no ringing phones. Just me and Lucy and the vet's words of doom creeping out from beneath the exam room door.

A minute or so later an old man left the exam room, his eyes red and wet with tears, and went to walk the parking lot while his wife stayed with their dog.

It was agonizing.

And all I could think was, Please, please don't put their dog to sleep while I'm sitting her. Please don't make me watch them pay for their dog's euthanasia while I sit here, useless and small, in your hard gray office chair. Please don't make me."

In the end, because I guess they've done this sort of thing before, they took me first. And so I was the one who stood at the counter paying while the teary-eyed old man, who'd come back into the office while Lucy and I were in the exam room, sat behind me and watched.

I tried to keep my voice low. I tried not to sound happy that my cat was alive and well. And I didn't look at him on my way out in case he didn't want me to see his pain - or my relief that I wasn't in his shoes.

It wasn't until later that it dawned on me. This is what people with living children must think about me. I must look like the sad old man on the bench in the vet's waiting room with tears in my eyes.

Well, to those who sneak a glance, anyway.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

'Tis the season

We have our annual Family Christmas Tea on Saturday - an event also known as "the cookie party" because really, that's what it is. I bake as many kinds of cookies as I can in the weeks leading up to the big day, and we spend the afternoon eating them up and washing them down with wine, eggnog and coffee. With my family and the in-laws, of course. It's not a two-person gorge fest. I swear.

It's a tradition I started in 2005 - the first Christmas without Thomas.

I needed everything to be different that year. I refused to put up red and green lights outside. They were blue and white that year. I refused to have a real, red and green tree inside decked with all of our old, cozy ornaments. We adopted my parents artificial tree, pre-lit with white lights, and covered it in all new white and silver ornaments and balls. I refused to open presents Christmas morning in the living room by the tree. My Beloved and I carried our stockings and presents into the family room and opened them there.

I was simply unable to bear the idea of seeing Thomas missing from the Christmas picture I'd had in my head while I was pregnant. Without him there, I had to change everything.

And I did. With painstaking attention to detail. I changed it all as much as I possibly could.

I have no idea if it really helped or not, but because I believed it would, I did it anyway. I suspect that having red and green lights outside wouldn't have added to my pain or made me miss my baby any more than I already did, but the busyness of changing everything was like an addictive salve. Once I started, I couldn't stop. I felt productive. And healthy. And smart.

I fooled myself good.

The lights outside are red and green again, and now we have two trees every year - the artificial one in the living room with the white and silver finery I bought to mask my sorrow, and a real one in the family room heavy with the weight of our treasured old ornaments and trinkets.

But the cookie party tradition has stuck. I started it because I needed to create a new memory - I needed that first, lonely Christmas without Thomas to be about more than just the first, lonely Christmas without Thomas.

So I slapped on a happy face and baked my heart out.

They came. We ate. And a tradition that I now find cozy and sweet was born.

Today, in between the chocolate marshmallow meltaways and the magic cookie bars, I paused for a moment and admitted to myself that even though the motivation for having the event isn't fully therapeutic any longer, it is still a salve on an unhealed wound.

I know part of the reason why I'm still doing this four Christmases later is because it keeps me busy and gives me purpose during this season that is sometimes so hard on my heart.

Christmas is for children, I hear over and over and over again. But for people like us, it's also about survival. And making the most of a difficult situation. And finding sweet moments wherever you can.

Even when you have to bake them one by one.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Something's missing

In the midst of the construction I suddenly felt him missing. Suddenly noticed the Thomas-sized hole beside my chair in the kitchen.

I stopped, looked out at the gray sky drizzling cold rain down onto the freshly fallen snow, and told him, for the millionth time, that I miss him.

Sometimes, despite my best efforts, this is what Christmas looks like in our house.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

It was only a matter of time...

Me, reacting to a gaggle of teenagers wandering through Zellers laughing and talking: "Good God, young people are loud."

It's finally happened. I'm officially old.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

It changes

I finished writing my Christmas cards today, but they've gone out without the tiny angel stickers included in the signature - something I vowed to do that first lonely Christmas without Thomas in 2005, and something I did in 2006 and 2007 too.

For some reason this year, it didn't feel necessary. And I'm not entirely sure whether to be happy or sad about that.

Over the last year I've found that I need those kind of visible remembrances less and less. It always startles me a bit when I find that I'm content to keep him in my heart instead of on my sleeve, but I don't have the energy to dissect the reason why. It is what it is, and it feels right.

Sometimes I dig too deep to figure out the motivations for the way I think and feel, when sometimes it's best just to think and feel and move on without question.

I don't need the angel stickers this year. End of story. I love Thomas every bit as much as I did last year when I used them - maybe even more. I just don't happen to need the stickers anymore. It's as simple as that.

I think I'm just whittling down the rituals - condensing them, maybe.

Maybe it's all part of the slow acceptance process. At first you need outward signs of grief and remembrance - you need to actually see tangible things that might help you explain the agonizing pain you're in. But eventually, as time passes and the sorrow becomes more a part of who you are rather than something foreign you're constantly fighting to make sense of, you're content to be quieter about your ways of remembering and grieving.

But whatever the reason, I'm at peace with what I'm doing. And how I'm doing it.

I have ways I remember and honour him that I'm pretty sure I'll never change. The special candle at family dinners, the new ornament for his cemetery wreath each year, and the request for good deeds to be done in his name on his birthday. I can't see those ever changing. They are too much a part of my relationship with Thomas to change.

But other things have quietly slipped away, just like he did.

And it's okay. Somehow, it's okay.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I just can't stop...

...but it's not my fault! How many look-alikes doesn't this dude have anyway?!