Normal, Old and New{ish}

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Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer, but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.”
~C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

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Lewis felt this way too? Well, I have to say… I feel I’m in good company.
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I came across this quote a short while ago. His were words I could relate to, so I bookmarked the quote in my Anysia-related browser folder.
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Though I’m reluctant to ever compare the grief I now experience in losing my daughter to the grief I went through after losing my father {because it just isn’t comparable}, I did hold them up side-by-side in light of this quote. I don’t think I could have quite understood what Lewis wrote above if I had read it while grieving the loss of my father. It makes so much more sense to me now, grieving the loss of Anysia.
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It’s not that losing such a dear man to me of thirty-four years wasn’t profoundly sad and difficult… only that I did not often think about living those days in grief as I was living them. Mourning his death did not quite follow me around the way mourning does now. It was more like I was visiting grief whenever I needed to {on my terms} to get through that loss. But this time is different—almost as though I have no choice in the matter.
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When my dad died that August, I was working full-time at a very busy job, commuting about 2.5 hours a day, and doing much more outside the home {I had a car of my own then} than I do now, all of which kept me far too busy to “live each day thinking about living each day in grief” as Lewis puts it.
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Seven+ years later, after losing a baby, things look so much different this time around… Now, it is Winter, which has us quite bound to the house. Now, I have a child {my other} to tend to within these confines… a constant reminder of her, as it was for him that we made her. And now, he and I have no car with which to get away and get our minds on other things.
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I won’t go so far as to say Now, I have no job. Because I do have a job… one which keeps me every bit as busy as any I’ve ever had. But motherhood is not the kind of job that typically gets me out of the house on a daily basis. And even when it does call me away from home, it’s not like there are projects, deadlines or expectations from bosses or management to distract me away from constant thoughts about loss. There are no coworkers with whom I can engage in distracting small talk.
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My job is Isaac, and my workplace is this home… the same home in which we chose to become pregnant with a second baby. The same home where I carried her for nine months. Reminders of Anysia are everywhere, at every turn. And there is little here to take my mind away from that.
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This can be both a blessing and a curse… it prevents me from losing sight of the memory of her {blessing}, but I rarely can get my mind off of her and how much my heart aches for her {curse}… not that her being on my mind any amount of time is a curse… only that she rarely is not, and rarely without aching.
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It goes without saying, I assume, why this is difficult. So I’ll leave such an explanation out. The point for me is about the quote. It makes complete sense. What he says about grief’s shadow? I get that. I know this shadow he speaks of… too well.
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This, at least for now, has become my new normal.
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I find myself saying things like “my old self” when talking to girlfriends who’ve reached out and invited me to lunch or a girls’-night-out dinner in hopes of bringing a sense of normalcy back to my days. I find it strange to refer to myself that way… old self. Last weekend, I wrote to thank the friend who invited me to meet up for dinner.
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Thank you for asking me to join you… it felt good to get out and do something normal. {To talk about our kids and lives the way we would have a year ago before life took such a drastic turn.}
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Old self.
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Do something normal.
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Those are phrases that point to my old normal. How different the new normal looks from the old.
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Part of me never wants to be my old self again. {I often pray that I will not walk away from this the same person I was.} But such a big part of me needs to feel that life is normal again. Many days, I wonder if I ever will. Even when I do feel that I will at some point, I feel torn, because I can’t imagine it… because I start to feel as though it will have meant we’ve turned the last page in this chapter of life if everything feels normal again.
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I would never rush grief… ever. But I do long for the sense of normalcy to return.
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I’m just now realizing as I type, I guess the gist of it is this…
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I don’t ever want to forget her or anything we experienced because of her. But I am eager for the day when grief’s shadow has gone… for that day when, still grieving, I’ve forgotten that I am. The day when I’m not thinking about living each day in grief. That day when it feels 100% normal and perfectly okay to dance around the kitchen with Isaac again. That day when it feels 100% natural to meet a friend for lunch and laugh with her again. That day when it won’t feel as though being capable of feeling like my old self again means I’ve moved on too quickly or moved through my grief too soon. That day when grief and normalcy can coexist without notice.
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I do dance now.
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I do laugh now, too.
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It just doesn’t feel very normal yet.
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I’m learning that, just as you can not turn off grief while it runs its course as it must, the same holds true with this “thinking about living in grief” that Lewis points out {unless, like I said above, there are many distractions that will keep you from thinking about living in it}. And I’m finding that, often, when I reach out to my counselor for encouragement and perspective, it’s usually in response to the latter… not the grief itself, but the thinking about {or dwelling on} living these days in grief.
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Perhaps we need to be ready {and willing} to learn it is just as necessary… “part of every misery”. We don’t merely need to grieve. We’ll be thinking about living with grief too. Maybe it is how to truly feel grief and what keeps us from covering it up, which many attempt to do.
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In the Psalms, David thought about his season of misery and suffering… and even wrote about it often, as my counselor pointed out while reading me Psalm 30 and encouraging me to read on through the next Psalm.
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“Rescue me speedily,” David writes.
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How I’ve prayed that so many times on so many days. Partly because the ache is often too crushing. But also because it was not only just this past December 19th that our nightmare began.
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June 28th of last year was the last time I remember feeling light… for a few short hours, before we would receive news of a severe abnormality.
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On some level, in some way, whether with anticipation or in looking back, we’ve been mourning the death of Anysia for 227 days. And from what I’ve heard is the norm with infant loss, we can expect for there to be many more.
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It is hard to imagine that dancing will ever come.
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Ever.
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In all these many months of carrying, delivering, losing and grieving Anysia, one of the losses I’ve struggled with the most {outside of losing one of my own flesh and blood, of course} is the loss of time. The pregnancy and emotional upheaval that came with it {not to mention the physical stresses} took away so much time that we’d already set aside in our minds for all sorts of things for our lives… time that was supposed to be filled with ideas, goals, expectations, wishes, hopes, probabilities and possibilities… and the fulfillment of each of those things.
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Instead, it was as though everything in that list was sucked away in a gust of wind into some vacuum or deep hole and will never be, replaced with nothing but tiny remnants of dashed ideas, goals, expectations…and all those other things I listed . It leaves us, in our human tendency, desperately wanting to move quickly through dealing with her death so we won’t have to lose any more time than we’ve already had to thus far. If only we could quickly come out on the other side with nothing but fond memories of her and a dedication to live our best lives in honor of her.
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If only we could soon get to here…

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
~Psalm 30:11-12
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But skipping this difficult season is neither healthy nor possible. I’ve learned that if I cover it up or downplay it at all, it only makes things worse, because then when it all resurfaces {my counselor and I call these waves}, it’s so much more intense and crushing. I’ll catch this tide of normalcy {which feels great} and try to accomplish so much, feeling the need to make up for lost time. And I may even do well for a day or two, perhaps even a week. But the danger in that is the risk of being blindsided when it all comes back around. {Although, I’m told that the waves of grief become more bearable over time as you become used to them and that the surprise factor they hold weakens, and thus, their power to wipe me out.} So I am trying my best to allow all this hurting to be felt and all these thoughts about living in grief to hang around.
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I guess this is how most things in life are… we’d all like to hang on to the good and let go of the bad. But how often they come as a package deal.
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If only we could celebrate and remember her, only do so without this crushing ache.
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But pain and its shadow are necessary, it seems. Both are where healing begins. And from prior experience, I do know this… that with healing comes normal, whether old or new.
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So whether I feel ready to or not, I’ve spent these past couple of weeks saying yes {even when so much in me wanted to say no} to invitations back to normalcy. Most took the form of a supportive friend bringing me into an old, familiar scene…
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dinner and wine with a friend {which meant sans-our-toddlers for a change… how refreshingly nice!},
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lunch and hot chocolate out on a snowy day with an old coworker bud,
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a relaxing day at the spa with my sister.
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{Haha!… not that spas were ever the norm for me, but dinner, lunch and hot chocolate with friends certainly were.}
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This, for now, is my old normal… returned to greet {and hopefully hunker down with} the new.
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• • • • •
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Now let’s talk photography, since it’s eventually what I want this blog to be about again.
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Another old normal that I hope will take hold again is bringing my camera with me everywhere I go. {Seems like forever since I did that. Seems like forever since I had places—or reason—to go!}.
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Last Saturday, I did just that. And how serendipitous it turned out to be, because upon sneaking in a couple of shots of my unsuspecting lunch date, Sandy, I discovered that we had sat in the most perfect little picture-taking nook that this particular Panera had to offer, affording the best source of natural light {coming in through a window above our table} for shooting photos.
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I loved the lighting in that corner so much, I declared it my new go-to spot if ever a client wants some nicely lit head shots taken in an indoor setting. This little spot provides such a beautiful soft background, rich with darker warm tones, as natural light pours in, giving plenty of light on the subject in such a flattering way without being at all harsh. I was so taken with the lighting {and my friend, of course} that I kept on snapping.
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It had been a while since I had taken any photos of Sandy, and with her new pair of glasses {aren’t they cute?}, she sort of wanted a few new photos of herself anyway. So it worked out well.
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I tell ya… if I ever felt normal in all these months, it was sitting there using my camera doing what I love… shooting people, even if impromptu. She was a sport about it, especially since she had no idea I would be bringing my camera along.
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To be honest, I had brought my camera with me in case I had the opportunity to get some photos of the snow while Mr. B and Izzy were at the auto shop getting new tires. Taking pictures of my friend had not crossed my mind. But like I said, the lighting and the timing were too serendipitous not to. So snap snap snap went I.
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And snap snap snap went she. I couldn’t be the only one having all the fun. I loved these shots she captured me in. I look a little bit mismatched {hello, three shades of green!} and very un-put-together. But I did not care, because it captures the way I am at this time in my life. This is who I am right now, inside and out… a little mismatched and un-put-together. A work in progress, you might say.
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And besides, like I said, I loved the light in that corner so much, I couldn’t miss an opportunity to have my mug captured there. Oh, sheesh!… no pun intended. I swear.

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