The bottom of the well

by Rebecca on June 23, 2015

Every now and then I panic about the drought over here in the West. What will happen if the Earth runs dry? Sometimes I place a bowl to catch the water that runs from the faucet while I wait for the water to reach the right temperature. And then I take that bowl outside and dump it on something that looks a little too brown. If I do that enough, can I stop the devastation?

It’s been a year of that around here — everything running dry while I try desperately to catch any drops of nourishment for the parts of me that are turning a little too brown. The well has run dry more than once, as we’ve dealt with hospitalizations, a baby who wouldn’t get better, two job losses (Seriously! TWO! In less than a YEAR!) and subsequent unemployment, heavy responsibilities, and more. So much more.

When all this devastation began, I went to the well – and it was full. It was actually flooding over the top. The months before had been good — so good, and I had stored plenty of water for myself. The first time the doctor mentioned hospitalization about my baby boy, I took a nice, long drink from that well. And then two days later, when we were in the hospital and I was pleading with God for answers, relief, and help, I think I drank the rest. I think I jumped right in and went all the way to the bottom.

I didn’t know there wasn’t going to be any water in my well for a long, long time.

So I sat down there at the bottom of the well, completely helpless, while I spent every ounce of my energy and abilities on keeping my baby boy alive. People walked by, looked down, and told me I was doing a great job. They dropped in a cup of water here, a sprinkling of water there — and I started to float a little bit. Whenever there was a new development, I called out to the people walking by, and they dropped some more water down to me. Their encouragement was a balm to my soul.

Then time went by, and I still had the problem. I began to worry I was wearying the people in my life. I think that’s a normal feeling when one has a problem that doesn’t end. So I stopped calling out so often, and instead turned to God to fill my well. But with a problem that just doesn’t quit, it’s really hard to fill that well. I was able to add just enough each day for that day’s needs — and that was it.

Every now and then, someone would walk by, look down, and ask me how things were going. That act of asking always added something to my well.

But then, one day there was just nothing left in the well. Not even a drop. The baby was worse, my husband had just lost his job, I was starving because I was trying an elimination diet for my baby, and I looked around and saw no moisture — nothing to nourish and heal.

I began to scrape the bottom of that well with my fingernails. Desperate, I began to use my teeth. I cried out to those around me, and it was then — when I was at the very bottom – that the encouragement changed. (Or maybe my ears changed?) They told me I didn’t have it as bad as somebody else. “You should see her well over there; I mean, it’s 10 feet deeper than yours! At least you have the opportunity to dig lower.” I began to wonder if I was getting worked up over nothing.

They told me, “Your children won’t remember when you were at the bottom of the well,” and I began to wonder if I was being hysterical.

They told me, “One day, you’ll look back and this won’t seem so bad,” and I worried I was making a mountain out of a molehill. I wondered why I couldn’t just get it together.

Just when I was about to dehydrate completely, I decided to validate my own self. I knew people were trying to say things to help, and they had no idea their words had stopped helping. I had to stop depending on the validation of others, and look somewhere else.

I came to understand that: no, my problem wasn’t as bad as someone else’s, but it was still excruciatingly difficult.

No, my children wouldn’t remember the agony that hung in the air of our home, so real it was in the oxygen we breathed. But it was difficult for them in that moment, and that was worth something.

Yes, I’ll have more problems later in life — probably bigger ones — and this problem will seem easy compared to those. But this problem — this absolute horror at watching my son waste away with no clue how to help him — this was hell. And it was ok for me to feel that way.

And that’s when the shovel appeared. I don’t know where it came from, but it was there. I began to dig lower and lower, with no evidence of water, but I wasn’t discouraged because someone was digging with me. I couldn’t see Him, but I felt Him right next to me — telling me I was doing good, letting me know I was going through something so hard for me and it didn’t matter what anybody else had gone through or would go through, telling me that even though I couldn’t see it, there would soon be water. And it would be delicious.

My back was aching as I dug, but then… it wasn’t. He took over while I rested. Soon I could see water bubbling up — first just a few drops I eagerly lapped up with my tongue, then a small fountain bursting forth a few inches from the Earth. I put my dirty and tired face right into that fountain and soaked it in.

Soon I was rising with the water, nearing the top — and when my head broke through above the ground, He was there. He reached out His hand and lifted me up to where He could put me on solid ground and we sat together and stared at that well that was now filled to the brim.

I scooped up a big bucket full of cool and refreshing water, and hurried to share it with my family, now understanding more than ever that when things are good it’s my responsibility to give freely of the water in my well.

Things are calm-ish now. We still have lingering issues from all of our hard times, but things are relatively good. And I’m already forgetting how important it is to keep my well full and share what’s inside. As the troubling times ease, and I’m permitted to do more than simply survive, I sometimes even forget the well is there.

But the next time I turn on my tap water and wait for it to warm, I’ll be sure to place a bowl there — perhaps even a bucket.

{ 3 comments }

The Middle Years

by Rebecca on May 11, 2015

When we can’t find my 3-year-old’s favorite stuffed animal at bedtime, suddenly our house is under Code RED emergency lockdown. Nobody in, and nobody out until the precious bunny has been located, retrieved, and safely snuggled in the little dictator’s chubby arms.

Sometimes it’s exasperating. Most of the time, though, I really don’t mind. I love the few symbols of babyhood that linger as my children stretch and grow and become little people. They move through these years so quickly; at lightning speed, they’re abandoning the things that make them little. With next-to-no fanfare, they trade in pacifiers and sippy cups for noses in books, breakable glasses at the dinner table, and grownup flatware.

So when the 3-year-old whimpers for her bunny, I desperately tear the house apart to find her babyhood.

Unless Brooklyn Nine Nine is about to start, because — priorities.

My 7-year-old somehow recently found the remote control of her life and pressed fast-forward. Suddenly, she’s long limbs and missing teeth. She has zero remaining baby fat, and she can make her own lunch. She tells sophisticated jokes, she gets crushes on boys, and the angles of her face are starting to look downright womanly. I love this phase, but it terrifies me how much I’m already forgetting about her babyhood and toddler years as she moves towards adulthood. At night, when I tiptoe to her bed to kiss her sleeping face, I see my baby. She transforms to her 3-year-old self as she dreams. I’m not sure how she does it, but it must be a gift from God to remind me how little she really is.

These middle years of the 7-year-old are strange. She’s not a baby. She’s not a teenager – not even a pre-teen. She’s just in the middle. She can do so much for herself that I begin to treat her older than she is. And then she tantrums like her former 2-year-old self and I get so angry that she’s acting like a baby. She’s SEVEN, for goodness sake. What does she think she’s doing?

I think these middle years are tough on her too. One minute, she wants to do everything herself — Please let me ride my bike to my friend’s house and I can make my own breakfast today and I can get on the computer myself to find the game I want to play and let me let me let me do all these grownup things!

The next minute, she’s curling up next to me, talking in a baby voice about how much she loves me, begging me to snuggle her and read her stories.

We’re all confused. At times I want to hurry her through this phase, and at other times I want to rewind and keep her small.

But nowhere do I see this phase more clearly than when I see her favorite stuffed animals lying around the house.

FullSizeRender

It used to be that she could go nowhere without her gray bunny, Grunny, or her stuffed elephant, Ellie.

Grunny and Ellie were always there — tucked on either side of her in bed at night, one in each arm in the car when we traveled, always anywhere she was.

Now I find Grunny abandoned on the kitchen table long after my sweet 7-year-old has gone to bed. I find Ellie on the bathroom counter — and she stays there for days.

Ellie

It’s scary to me that my daughter doesn’t miss them. While forgetting a lovie at bedtime is a downright crisis for our 3-year-old, the 7-year-old doesn’t even notice. Her act of growing up is illustrated throughout our home in discarded lovies. It makes me sad, as if their worn and soft faces are begging me to slow down the clock and negotiate a few more years of play. You see, they aren’t ready to grow up either.

Grunny 2

Then, after a day or two, she happens upon Grunny or Ellie. Delighted, she shouts their names, scoops them into her arms and pulls them close to her face where she inhales their special lovie scent.

“Do you want to smell Grunny’s ear, Mom?” she asked me the other day. “Right here. It smells so good.”

I sniffed. Grunny smelled like my 7-year-old. She smelled like her childhood. Lydia snuggled her for quite a long time, and then abandoned her once again to ride her bike or read a book or some other such grownup thing.

Grunny and I locked eyes. “She’ll be back,” I promised.

These middle years. So bittersweet.

 

{ 2 comments }

The first 10 years of marriage: What I’ve learned

March 18, 2015

Today is my 10th wedding anniversary. It’s a big one, and as a writer, I feel this funny need to look within and say something noteworthy about this milestone. So I started this post three times, but each time it was wrong. In my other posts, I focused on the hard times. I wanted to […]

1 comment Read the full article →

Motherhood? No thanks

March 12, 2015

I was sitting at a church activity the other night, listening to some teenage girls tell each other they would never, ever get married and have children. Once you do that, you see, your life is over. “Oh yes,” I said. “I don’t do anything. I have no life anymore.” It was a lame joke, […]

4 comments Read the full article →

The moments

March 4, 2015

I walked into our bedroom to see Emma (3) doing a little dance. She was wrapped head-to-toe in her towel after a bath, and everybody knows there’s nothing cuter than a kid wrapped in a towel after a bath. Ryan was kneeling down in front of her, still taller than her even on his knees, copying […]

2 comments Read the full article →

7-year-old Lydia

February 20, 2015

Ever since Lydia turned 1, we’ve been taking her picture with her favorite stuffed animal at every birthday. I knew I was going to love the tradition when I started it seven years ago, and I always have. This year, it’s making me all sorts of weepy. SEVEN? SEVEN! I feel like this is the year when we’re […]

3 comments Read the full article →

The gods must be angry — or not

January 14, 2015

“Do you think Rex is extra… strong? Or extra… smart? Or something?” I tentatively asked my husband a few weeks ago. We’re pretty gaga over our kids, and tend to think they’re geniuses at everything they do. But I was really wondering if the strength and intelligence I see in our 6-month-old was the same as […]

3 comments Read the full article →

It’s somebody’s fault

October 29, 2014

Two nights ago, I dreamed I was looking at the pile of unmatched socks I keep on my laundry room counter. I thought to myself how unattractive that pile looked, and wished I only had a drawer underneath the counter where I could stash them. Suddenly a drawer appeared, and I was giddy as I […]

7 comments Read the full article →

Moms have to grow up too

September 5, 2014

  I thought sending my oldest to kindergarten was hard, but it was nothing compared to sending her to 1st grade. Oh, the worries. How can she be away from me for the whole day? How will she figure out how to eat lunch in the cafeteria? How will she remember to take a snack outside […]

1 comment Read the full article →

3-year-old Emma

August 29, 2014

         Emma turned 3 a few weeks ago, and we kept with our tradition of taking her picture with her favorite stuffed animal, Dino. The idea is for her to still be taking pictures with Dino when she’s a teenager, but with all the loving Dino gets, I’m not sure the little animal will make it […]

4 comments Read the full article →