I’ve been a bad blogger. No blogger should go four months without writing a post, but that’s what I’ve done. Anyone who truly knows me can confirm that I didn’t run out of things to say. I sort of “hit the wall” in my life, and I wasn’t sure what was worth saying anymore. Sometimes certain thoughts and ideas need to be thrown out rather than shared.
Writing in any form, be it a journal, blog, poetry, or novel, helps the writer develop a voice. What sort of voice have I developed in this blog? I don’t know, but I think the din of my own life got to be so loud that I just craved some silence in my own head.
It’s been a hard year. I think everyone can say that about every year. Life is hard. It’s a struggle. I want to throw in the towel sometimes. Is it worth it? Why bother? You give your utmost, and it still isn’t enough. You feel eroded on the inside. stretched too thin, but there is no one behind you to catch you if you fall, so you have to keep going. Everyone around you wants something from you, an idea, some sort of help, clean underwear, a meal, but where do you go when you need help? It isn’t easy being a woman, a mother, a wife, or a friend. As hard as you try to do the right thing, sometimes the right thing will be the wrong thing to everyone else, but you. And, in the end, no matter how hard you try to make it right, the right decision still feels like the wrong one.
So, I dropped off the face of the blogosphere for a few months. And, I left the country. My plane left America around 9 PM on April 26 and touched down in London eight hours later. I started worrying about this trip across the pond back in November 2010. I was going alone, and I was leaving my husband to look after the house, two cats, two fish, a dog, and four children, one of whom has autism. There are movies with this very plot–“Cheaper by the Dozen”, for instance. Sturdy, capable housewife of 14 years gets a life and leaves for two weeks (I was gone for ten days) leaving the hopelessly bumbling, idiotic dad to manage the household, pets, and children in her absence. Mayhem, injuries, and hilarity ensue.
Visions of disaster haunted me. Would the house be condemned upon my return? Would the children be feral? Would they eat Cheetos, hot dogs, and Vienna sausages from the can the entire time? How would my little Aspie (my daughter on the autism spectrum) do in my absence? She’s the youngest of my girls, and she’s very attached to me. What about our finances? What about the laundry? What about the girls’ asthma? What about…what about…what about…? And, what about me?
I used to live abroad so traveling internationally wasn’t new to me, but I was traveling to England for a friend’s wedding. I was to be the matron of honor. If the devil was in the details, then the devil was up my ass with his pitchfork. There was the issue of the bridesmaid’s dress, the color, and the style, all of which I had to choose without the presence of the bride, and I had to do it in a month’s time. The color actually had to match a very specific color which limited the choices significantly, and the dress had to be chosen in a matter of weeks which limited options as well because I had to buy it off the rack. I am 6′ tall. Another limiting factor in style. I had to have the dress altered, there were undergarments to buy, the passport to renew, luggage to borrow, meals to plan and prepare for my own family, and it just kept coming in waves. The manicure-pedicure to have done before I left, the shoes to find to match the dress, the pashmina wrap to find and order online because the dress was strapless, and I needed to be relatively modest as this was going to be an Anglican service in a 600 year-old church in England. Propriety matters. Wasn’t this supposed to be a pleasure?
In the middle of preparing to leave, I was embroiled in an elementary school drama regarding a member of the administration. Around sixty parents appeared before the school board to “testify” about their experiences with this administrator, and I was one of them. The meeting was televised. The local media was present. My face was photographed and put in the the papers. My name was used improperly. In the end, it appeared to some people that I was the ringleader of a coup in the school against this administrator which was not the case. The idea is laughable. People, however, are wont to believe what they will. The day before I was scheduled to depart, the school district called and asked if I would meet with them and their attorneys to discuss my experiences with this administrator. I thought my head was going to explode.
The day I was scheduled to depart for England, I didn’t even want to go. All I was hearing from my soon-to-be married friend via email was how stressed she was, and I was drowning in anxiety and overwhelming stress in my own life. I was having chronic migraines, and I wasn’t sleeping. My children were crying all the time because I was “leaving them”. I felt guilty. Who was I to try to do this?
My husband shoved me out the door, drove me to the airport, kissed me passionately, and told me to go and have a good time. As I walked away from our minivan, all I could hear was my four daughters loudly weeping. I looked back and saw my husband’s sweet face, trying to reassure me that he would take care of everything. I cried a little, tried to push down the pangs of guilt that were gnawing at me, and then I heard my stylist’s voice in my head. I had to get my hair trimmed and the color touched up before this trip, and Vicki took me by my shoulders, looked me in my eyes, and sternly told me, “You are going on an adventure for the first time in 15 years. For 15 years you’ve been a mother and wife. You’ve been something to someone else, but you haven’t been your own person. Well, you are going to go be your own person for ten whole days! So, go be YOU, and go enjoy it.”
I spent ten glorious days in county Devon. I was picked up from Heathrow by one of the kindest women I’ve ever met. A complete stranger to me at the time, but no longer. The weather was spectacular. We drove five hours from London to Devon in southwest England. I stayed in a 500 year-old farmhouse on what I can only describe as an estate of sorts. My beloved friend was delightful and generous, and her fiancé was full of wit, good humor, and an abundant willingness to show me everything in the area. His entire family can only be described as utterly kind and hospitable. I was steeped in generosity, hospitality and kindnesses of every sort. The landscape overwhelmed my senses. The first thing I noticed was the scent–a combination of sweet grasses, wisteria, jasmine, rose and honeysuckle. This Devonian springtime scent didn’t come and go. It was constant. The wood pigeons cooed, the spring lambs were young and new, bleating in the fields, the bluebells were in full bloom, saturating the countryside in deep blue, and many species of wildflower bloomed in the hedges in the lanes. It was like walking in Eden. I spent a good deal of time outdoors. There was no ugliness, no lack of beauty, no lack of inspiration, no lack of goodness in that place. The gardens of Dartington were groomed and well-tended.
The gardens of Cockington were a bit less formal. They were allowed to grow more wildly.
The country lanes were verdant, lush and rich with that Devonian springtime scent. It was almost timeless as it seemed that one could be in any century in that setting. The wood pigeons have been cooing for centuries. The bluebells have been blooming year after year. The Devonians have been treading these same country lanes for generations.
My idyllic, temporary home in Devon for ten days…
I drowned in heavenly cups of milky, sweet tea for days. I drank Pimm’s on the lawn of Buckland-Tout-Saints. I tossed back two pints of Crabbie’s ginger beer surrounded by medieval suits of armor at Churston Court, an 11th century manor house. I even went worm charming! I visited wonderful villages, saw beautiful places, and, hopefully, made some lasting friendships.
And, of course, there was the incredibly beautiful wedding–my reason for being there in the first place. It was everything a bride could ever hope or dream for. Devon, one of the most lush and beautiful settings on our planet…A 600 year-old village church for the ceremony…A grand entrance by Rolls-Royce….A beautiful and meaningful ceremony….A Devonian cream tea in the church for the village and wedding guests after the ceremony…photos in Dartington gardens where the groom proposed while the guests enjoyed the landscape….
Well, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words…
As I experienced wave upon wave of kindess, goodness, pleasure, and rest, a thought began to kindle in my mind. What if my general expectations for life are too low? My expectations for this trip were very low, and I was given a “sensory overload smackdown” of all things good. Even though I managed to embarrass myself on several occasions, I still walked away with nothing but good memories and funny stories. What if my trip to Devon exemplifies God’s heart for me? What if I need to raise my expectations?
After my daughter’s autism diagnosis, I think I started giving up. Dealing with a Borderline mother, an autistic child, C+PTSD, and, you know, just living seems hard. It’s easy to just lower and lower and lower the bar for what you really expect from your life until you’re back to surviving it. Are you happy? No, not really. Is anyone? Are you where you want to be? No. Is anyone? Is my marriage what I want it to be? Uuuuummmmmm…..What do I want from my life? Hmmmmmmmm…..Am I fulfilled? What does that mean? Am I where I thought I would be at this age? :::maniacal laughter::: What about your dreams? :::crazed, maniacal laughter::: What about intimacy? :::headdesk::::
Yeah…these are the questions that I heard when I was in Devon, and my heart started to ache because it started to thaw. I could write a f*cking novel in one post about what I thought about when I was there. What I did begin to realize was this: I have lowered my expectations to the point where they don’t even exist anymore, and that isn’t acceptable. Also, my view of God needs to continue to shift and evolve. All the “good” Christians say that “God is good”. You know what I experienced in Devon? God is not good. That statement implies a measured quantity. I experienced abundant pleasure, kindness, and some kind of otherworldly glory that I can only say was spiritual in nature during those ten days. It wasn’t measured or reined in by a boundary. It overflowed. It was bountiful. That is the nature of God’s goodness and kindness. That must meet up with my low expectations and change me. That was one of the things, I believe, God wanted to reveal to me when I was in England. And, of course, I think I was there to enjoy myself and my friend, too. Life is to be enjoyed to the fullest. And, I have to re-learn how to do that.
How can an abundantly, infinitely, and endlessly good and kind God weave His way into my life and change it as it is today? I have no idea. It feels like a clash of ideas sometimes, but I’ll tell you this. I didn’t have one migraine during my ten day stay in Devon. I haven’t gone ten days without a migraine in five years. And, I stayed up until 3 AM every morning, drank tea, coffee, and alcohol daily. Anything is possible.
What has become painfully clear to me is that I have buried my heart underneath a lifetime of disappointments, setbacks, traumas, pain, and the realities of the grinding and mundane aspects of daily life. That, however, is not who I have ever been. I have always been the hopeful lover of romance. The girl who watched “Room with a View” one hundred times. The girl who memorized every word of dialogue from “The Princess Bride”. For whatever reason, years of abuse and trauma did not kill the longing for romance, adventure, true and lasting intimacy, and meaning that I’ve always carried. And, much to my dismay, my heart sprang to life in the Devonian landscape. I reveled in it. I let it have a voice again, and I don’t want to ignore her and her desires anymore.
How much would it hurt to bury it again? How much would it hurt to listen to what it has to say? What if I raised my expectations for my life? What if I stopped letting past trauma and pain define my present and future? What if I dared to hope or, dare I say it, desire again? What if….what if….what if…? What about you? What if…?