I had to count to figure that out. I no longer carry this running tabulation of how long it’s been, just like I no longer carry a running count of how many weeks adjusted and chronological Olivia Moonpie is.
Where am I?
I remember when Glow in the Woods started up and the metaphor just clicked with me. I was so lost in this big, dark, scary woods and I had no idea which direction was the right one. I just kept putting one foot in front of another hoping and trusting that there had to be an end somewhere. It was perfect. I’ve been lost in woods before, literally. I have crawled on my hands and knees through a tangle of wild rhododendron so thick I couldn’t stand up and I couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead. The branches grabbed at my hair and my clothes, the roots tangled up my boots and hurt the palms of my hands. I had to just keep going, hoping it thinned out sooner rather than later. And that is exactly how my grief felt. It snagged and pulled and scratched. It was a million little papercuts that left me feeling thin and fragile and ready to shatter. There would be moments when I’d think I’d reached a clearing only to find myself plunged back into it by the most inane things.
One step at a time. Keep yourself busy. Go through the motions of life, whether you want to or not, whether you really feel it or not. Then one day you wake up and realize you are just living again.
Writing helped. Saying their names helped. It wasn’t easy. Just weeks after Zoë died, I had to call the IRS to figure out how to handle them on our taxes. That poor woman who had no idea what she was in for when she took that call from the queue sat with me until I could talk and waited until I could breathe again. Their names, Lennox and Zoë, caught in my throat more times than I can remember. Having to explain to various medical people how many times I’d been pregnant, how many children I had. “No, they were born alive. Lennox lived almost three days. Zoë lived three weeks.” I said that over and over. I know it was always more information than they needed, but I needed to say it, needed to have their short lives detailed, needed to let the world know that they were HERE. And like stones in a river, the sharp points are slowly wearing away. I find that I can talk about them, at least briefly without hearing that….thickness in my voice. You know what I mean, that sound that means the tears aren’t far behind.
It still gets me. Even now, I’m typing more by touch than sight because the tears have steamed up my glasses too much for me to see the screen or the keyboard. Olivia Moonpie turned one this week. She’s standing up and starting to cruise. She has gone from belly crawling to crawling on her hands and knees. She says, “Mama.” She feeds herself little bits of food. She will offer to share her puffs or her teething ring with you. I watch her and wonder what it would have been like with the twins. I wouldn’t have my Moonpie. Or maybe in a more perfect world, Moonpie would be trying hard to keep up with two three year old siblings and the house would be so full of noise and fun. I wonder all the time.
Olivia Moonpie was my lamp post in the snowy woods. She was the spraypainted blaze on the tree, marking the trail. She is a giggly, wiggly, drooly, silly, spinning YOU ARE HERE dot on the map. I try not to hold her tighter than she wants me too. I try not to get too many tears on her just barely not bald head when I rock her to sleep. She has done more to heal my heart than she will ever understand. The scars haven’t faded. They are still angry and red. They may never fade but, before Olivia Moonpie got here, the scars hadn’t formed and everything was raw and open.
Zoë and Lennox taught us to take as much pleasure in the small moments as we possibly can because they are so fleeting. We learned that NOW is what matters, far more than what might be ahead or what just passed. The laundry will wait ten minutes while we watch Miss Moonpie bounce like a bronco rider in her jumperoo. A cold dinner is a perfectly acceptable trade-off for a tickle-fest on the floor. Tomorrow, next month, next year there will be something else taking the place of right now, but right now she IS and we are blessed beyond belief to be witness to it and part of it.
That is right where I am. It isn’t where I ever thought I’d be and it may not be exactly how I wanted it. It just is. I’m not brave. I’m not strong. I’m not perfect. I just never gave up on the belief that I couldn’t possibly be lost in those woods forever. The trees have thinned out some. The thorns aren’t as dense or as sharp. I can see bits of sky now. There are still rocks to trip me up and sometimes the climb is steeper than I’m used to, but I’m getting there.
The Right Where I Am Project can be found at Still Life With Circles. It’s a fantastic project with some amazing posts by parents in all different stages of grief. Bring your kleenex (and sorry I left out the link originally!)