When life feels particularly chaotic and stressful, I find myself looking for the good in little bits and pieces; anything that reminds me of the beauty and joy in the world and helps me to hold onto hope, remembering that tough times are there to make us appreciate the periods of smoother sailing. The past weeks have been really busy and emotionally difficult for Dan and me, and we are working to find ways to heal our hearts, our minds, and our bodies- both of us deeply grateful to have the other to hold onto through it all.
I have been so worried about my sweet husband, as he has worked a grueling and stress-filled schedule at the theater- often there at 8am and not home until 11pm- with no respite in sight until he retires at the beginning of September. Other than my mentor Kal Opperman, I have never known anyone with Dan's work ethic. He continues to work (and teach yoga) through intense pain caused by two knees that need to be replaced and severe arthritis in his neck and back that as of yet the doctors haven't been able to relieve. And, he is still dealing with his own grief over our summer of losses. The poor guy needs a break. I have dreams of stealing him away to the beach or some place where he could be pampered, where he could rest and recharge. Instead, he's trying to schedule the surgeries he desperately needs and has postponed because of his work schedule.
Mugging for the camera…
We are both fragile in different ways right now. Dan is absolutely exhausted, just about pushed to his edge; I am still coming to terms with the losses of two cherished pets and a dear friend, along with the stresses of performing and presenting at an international conference. I'm also still healing internally from my hysterectomy, and I forget about that sometimes, as outwardly I appear healed. A good friend reminded me that some of my deep sadness could be hormonally driven as my body continues to adjust from the surgery and not just from grief. I will take her wise suggestion and talk with my surgeon about it.
It's all life- I realize that. There will be times of calm and times of chaos. It just seems like chaos has stayed far past his welcome this time. The sadness continues to steal over me unexpectedly, and when it does, it is overwhelming. I was sitting in a recital at the conference when tears began rolling down my cheeks. I couldn't stop thinking about Cooper's sudden collapse and the heartbreaking necessity to release her from her pain with no time to prepare ourselves for her loss. When the door opens at home in a couple of hours, only one dog will be there to greet me instead of two. I'm having a tough time wrapping my head and heart around that still.
I kept so focused and busy during the conference that I was able to push the grief back into its compartment in my heart. I had my best friend with me, and we talked and laughed (and made others smile and laugh with our antics). As soon as the final concert ended yesterday and Diane left with her husband to enjoy a vacation at the Disney parks, I felt the lid of that compartment fly open, and the grief spilled over me like a heavy, wet, woolen cloak. It was a rainy, dreary day anyway, and so I holed my introvert self up in my room all afternoon so that I could cry when I needed to and just feel what I needed to feel without having to be on as I'd had to be all week. Fifteen hundred and fifty clarinetists running around is a lot of being on, and while I loved it all, I am drained. I need the balm of being home with my family, even reduced in numbers now as it is.
The University Professors Clarinet Choir…
Things won't be slowing down, as I go right into work commitments and a clarinet clinic for teachers in Ft. Myers next week, and the new semester begins soon. That's okay; I love my busy life and the wonderfully varied things I get to do as part of my career- and, throwing myself into my work has always been my method of coping with difficult times. I am doing my best, though, to face my feelings, work through them the best I can, and get help as I need. I want to be able to move forward, joyfully; this sadness is not who I am, and I am encouraged knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Life is for the living, and I want to be able to open my heart to another dog and cat when the time is right, never expecting them to replace Kasey and Coops, but allow them to bring their own personalities and gifts to our lives. Another chapter. My therapist talks about challenges being only a page of the book of our lives, that we need to see the enormity of what makes up our lives. The sad things may leave their mark on us, but they can only overshadow our joy if we let them.
My ride-along buddy…
As far as the 'little bits and pieces', Dan and I are planning a special trip to see our favorite Cirque du Soleil in Atlanta in October to celebrate his retirement, my promotion to Full Professor, and hopefully my book being released…and also just to give us something to look forward to and plan, a healing activity in itself. We've thought about taking Sophie and going to the beach for Christmas. We always said we were going to take the girls, but never got to it. Sophie will be a good and easy travel companion. Trips are only a part of it all. It's also watching the beautiful clouds as my plane decends into Birmingham, the lightning bugs I saw blinking in the dark all around me as I went out with Sophie tonight. It's the look of joy in my husband's face when he picked me up at the airport, and the peace I felt when the garage door opened and I walked out into the beauty of our back decks and into our funky old home. So many things to be grateful for always. I just need to remind myself to see them.
For now, our little family will tuck in tight, supporting each other as we heal. The normal routines of life will march on, and we will get used to a quieter house…for now. Life is a beautiful, crazy thing- all of it. Every single part.