It’s 1am on January 1st, 2015. I’m alone and blogging, which is always how I blog because if I open my computer for more than two seconds, someone under the age of five is automatically scaling my legs and asking to watch YouTube videos of Yo Gabba Gabba and a Baby Monkey Riding on a Pig.
I did not write anything in the year of 2014.
I sat and stared at the same screen over and over again, trying to formulate words to accompany what was happening. There was no space left inside myself for words in 2014. They would well up in my soul and keep me awake at night, but never managed to spill out of my fingers and onto the dirty, crumb infested keyboard that is my sole workstation. Even now, at 1am, I am not sure what exactly to say about it all.The best I can do is summarize in a list form.
Big Things: My son had some seizures. My mother-in-law was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer and then miraculously went into remission a few months later. My beloved Momo passed away. I’ve been in nursing school this whole year, which for those of you who don’t know is also affectionately referred to as “HELL”. I’ve wiped all ages and stages of buttocks, smelled all ages and stages of foul smells, seen things that I can never unsee, held hands of people who were dying, watched someone get shocked back to life, not eaten, not slept, not bathed and not cared. My house is a disaster 100% of the time I’m alive. I doubt myself daily, and wonder if I haven’t just screwed up my entire family’s entire life by trying to go back to school, or even by just waking up in the morning. I turned 30. As soon as I turned 30, like the very day, I gained 5 pounds of pure jigglefat and wrinkles popped up everywhere. Nothing I plan happens as planned. Ever. I hate my dogs and want to get rid of them yesterday, but I don’t want the stigma that comes long with being the lady who went crazy and got rid of her pets when life got hard. But life has gotten hard and I want nothing more than to put them in a cardboard box and drop them off in the mall. Despite my most desperate trying, I can only achieve mediocre results on all fronts and I feel like I am on the verge of crossing a border of insanity that I can never recover from. The days are horribly long. The money is horribly short. There is so much I want to do and be and see that I am not doing and not being and not seeing and it sits in my chest like a ball of acid. So much I want to be different, but no difference is on the horizon.
If I had to sum it up, I’d say the past year was just so much.
So much drama.
So much out of my control.
So many lows.
So little sleep.
So many chances to find me in the fetal position behind a couch somewhere with a two week supply of potato chips and a bottle of Jack.
Nobody said it would be easy, I know that for sure. But nobody told me that all of the crap stuff that was eluding you in your twenties would all unleash during the same time, either. How did I or anyone else in my circle of people survive the torrential monsoon of bad news that was the entirety of the year 2014?
The answer is 99.5% miracle. God handed my family heavy things, and held our scrawny little arms and pulled them upward towards Him so that we could feel the illusion of lifting them. His sustenance was really the only way we survived. But that other 0.5%, the little bit that I could contribute to in all of this chaos made the difference between just physiological survival and functional survival. I’m not saying there were any form of cupcakes or rainbows or glistening silver lining to the oppression of storm clouds. Things were hard and unrelenting and unforgiving and just when we thought we were out of Woods A, we walked right into the middle of Woods B, encompassed by Woods C. It was a Russian Nesting Doll of difficulty.
You know these dolls, right? You open a large doll to find a smaller doll which contains an even smaller doll, etc. This process continues until you reach what is at the heart of a Russian Nesting Doll: a very small blob of wood. This blob of wood is the 0.5% of my survival.
Her tiny features are almost indistinguishable. You can’t really tell if she’s happy or sad or mad, and it doesn’t really matter anyway. The small doll in the very middle is whole and unbroken. She’s surrounded by trials on all sides, encompassed by darkness, but she is just chilling out, waiting for someone to remove the top so she can see the light of day. Not pretty, not flashy, but whole.
The Big Things are completely out of my control. People get sick and die. Sometimes your son is having a seizure on the kitchen floor on Easter Sunday for no reason. Sometimes your grandmother has a stroke and can’t tell you goodbye for the last time with her mouth, but takes your hand and wiggles it back and forth while tears stream down both your faces. Sometimes you decide to go to nursing school with two small children and trade in sleeping and showers for studying and feeling inept. Sometimes people need their butts wiped. Sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes multiple bad things happen all at once. Sometimes life throws more than you think you can even handle at you, and there you are, buried and lost. Small, dense, ugly, wondering when things are going to get better, but unbroken.
And this is what 2014 has taught me:
The small things are the core of life.
Human life begins as a single cell. Big Bangers believe that the Universe began as a single speck in a vacuum. Creationists believe God spoke the Universe into existence with a single sentence. World changing plagues begin with a single virus cell. The very threshold of eternity and Heaven was split open with the singular life of Jesus. A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. Small things- microscopic things- can grow and multiply at a rate that will take over the world. Small things are where life begins and grows and flourishes.
Small things are also hard to break. You can easily break a vase, but it’s hard to break a marble. You can crush a wooden box, but can run over a dowel with a car and it stays whole. Black holes are simply a single point that are so small and so dense that it sucks entire planets and stars into it and shatters them.
My friend Ryan says it best:
The smartest thing I’ve ever learned
Is that I don’t have all the answers,
Just a little light to call my own.
Though it pales in comparison
To the overarching shadows,
A speck of light can reignite the sun
And swallow darkness whole.
-“Emphasis” by Sleeping at Last
When I look back on the difficult journey I’ve taken this year, and take stock of the Big Things that tried to steal my sanity and break me and my family down, the only hope I can have for a better 2015 or any year, is that I am small and dense and whole. Big things can nest and nest and nest on top of me. You can put 1000 Big Things around my tiny frame, and I’ll long for the darkness to end and the days to get brighter and for all of these shadows to flee away, but I won’t break. The problems around me will one day shatter but I will stay intact.
0.5% is a small number, when it comes to staying sane. It’s made up of small moments of small mercies. Sometimes it’s just a laugh, or a thank you, or watching my babies learn to do something they didn’t know how to do before. Sometimes it’s the pattern the sun makes in the grass through the leaves, or the smell of dinner cooking, or the comfort of the swish sounds textbook pages make in the wee hours. Hanging in a hammock, smelling a box of new pencils or freshly bathed baby heads. Sometimes you really have to dig for these mercies. Sometimes I felt too lazy to dig and find the small mercies. I’d feel angry, lost, overwhelmed and faltering. But they were there- small, dense, and whole waiting for me to notice. Treasuring this 0.5%, I believe, is the key to survival when all seems lost. Its a speck of light, after all, that can “reignite the sun and swallow darkness whole”. I am small and I hold the small as sacred.
So-and-so I bid a hearty “good riddance” to this past year. I recognize that 2015 could be an ever crappier year than 2014 ever hoped to be. And if that happens, you will find me in the middle of it all somewhere, small, ugly, dense and whole. Watching, waiting, and trying my hardest to assemble the specks of light into brighter days.