Sunday, December 26, 2010

A tiny slice of the thinking pie...

(sigh) ... In some ways it's all over. And in some ways the magic still lingers - toys are fascinating and new, the wreath above the desk still smells like pine cones and wilderness (though its green is grayer now,) the paperwhites' veiny buds are yet to deliver their promise of blossoms.

So many times this Christmas season I felt my heart stretch and twist, trying to make room for new gratitude, more love, bigger joy. It felt to me that some dim and dusty things which had been lingering unwelcome were replaced by things more sterling and joyful. The Sunday before Christmas I couldn't hold the tears back as the choir sang. I wanted my voice to ascend with the believers in praise and thanks for the "unspeakable gift" of a Savior. I felt (feel) so much gratitude for His life and for what it has meant/means in mine.

The best thing about the holidays was just passing lazy time with my family. I love them. We played games, watched a season of 24, tossed a frisbee on the shore of the Pacific, drank hazelnut hot chockie, and, of course, we talked. I love to talk with my family - our topics of conversation spanned from the importance of raising musical children to the harmful effects of negative thinking to side-splitting stories from our childhood to each of our goals and hopes for change in 2011. It is such an inspiring group to be with - and so neat to feel perfectly safe, loved and accepted while also feeling inspired by the surrounding goodness and challenged to be and do more. I feel so thankful to my parents for what they worked so hard to create and sustain. I am realizing now that strong families don't just coalesce from happenstance and luck - they take a mindful and mighty effort. As I sat and laughed 'til tears with my siblings, or looked around a dimly lit room at each of them and felt my chest tighen with emotion, I thanked my parents for making the effort.

I was sad to say goodbye to everyone yesterday. Really sad. And a little deflated at the realization that this round of togetherness and fun had ended. But today I took down the Christmas decorations with a light heart, feeling like we'd soaked and celebrated satisfactorily. And realizing that the magic of Christmas comes, at least in part, from the fact that it lingers only for a short season just once a year. And January is coursing through me with new energy and possibility.

2010 was a year for the books - an epic chapter in our small story. We loved it. We were blessed beyond anything we deserved. We learned big, beautiful lessons. And we were mostly very happy. But it was hard. And scary. And I carried the stress of it all like an ill-fitting backpack 'til my body ached like a grandma. As we sat around the table at Thanksgiving this year, Nate's 80 year old grandmother commented on how wonderful she felt. She said she felt better than she had 10 years ago. Nate's uncle said something to that effect too, something about his knees feeling better than they had five years ago. I felt jealous. And sad. And I honestly thought to myself, "I feel like I'm a hundred." I had back and neck pain that sent me googling chronic diseases like lupus and fibromialga in the wee hours. (One of my New Year's resolutions is to never google my health symptoms ever again. ever. Bad idea.) I'm can't be totally sure, but I'm pretty certain that the pain came from a huge tangle of stress and heaviness I was quietly carrying around. I didn't want Nate to worry about me being worried. I opened up to my mom a time or two, but I'm just not super comfortable with the let-other-people-bear-my-burdens part of the "bear one another's burdens" directive. So I mostly just tucked it all inside. Little bit by little bit. Until it had its own pulse. And I felt sick. And then I went to the doctor and he told me I had a lot of muscle tension and tightness in my back and neck and that "yes, that could be causing the radiating pain in your head, but you're healthy. you're not dying. all your labs are normal. here's a super-strength anti-inflammatory - you're going to be fine." And now I feel mostly fine. And fine has never felt so fantastic. And I'm not writing this to get sympathy comments (please don't leave them), I'm not writing this to tell anybody about it. I'm just writing it so that I will remember. I am happy to put 2010 behind us, but I in no way want to put it out of my mind. And if there's ever a time where the choices we made to put ourselves here yield any sort of abundance or ease, I want to remember that we paid a dear, dear price for it.

One other thing I have to get down before I head to bed goes back to the Thanksgiving conversation I mentioned above. As we sat around that table enumerating our blessings and everyone else's seemed to be about their physical comfort, all I could think about was how unwell I felt, how badly I wanted the pain to go away and to just feel good. (And goodness, I know this all sounds dramatic, but those were my thoughts). To be perfectly truthful, I felt sort of frustrated at God and a little bit sorry for myself. But a few weeks later I was standing in my bathroom getting ready for the day and a thought came to my mind, quick and sure - and it was this: In every aspect of my life (except for maybe a small portion of my back and neck,) I feel better than I did ten years ago. In fact, in some ways I feel entirely new and changed. I didn't recognize that while I ate my yams, but I do now. And that, for me, is the unspeakable part of the Savior's gift. That somehow the goodness and grace of a sacrifice made two thousand years ago can take confusion and darkness and heaviness and make it ... light.

Like I mentioned above, I feel so invigorated about a new year, moreso than I have in the past, I think. It feels like a little gift from January. I hope it lasts...


  1. Dearest Em,

    I was SO sad not to get to see you when we were down for Erin's wedding but when your mom told me you were heading to the coast together I immediately did my happy dance. I'd stuff "family time at the beach" under your tree every year if I could. So magical!

    I've often marveled at the strength of my pioneer ancestors. How did they do it? How did they leave their homes and friends and families and tuck just the essentials into a wagon/handcart and make that journey? How did they keep on going when they buried babies on the roadside? That kind of strength isn't manifested in one day. It's forged over taking just one step ahead. At a time. Not quite the same experience as hopping on a plane. Both get you there. But there's a reason why "remember" is a constant spiritual whisper. I think you'll find your soul baring will bear fruits not just for you, but your children as well. An eternal testament, "See, we CAN do hard things!" Love you. So much!

  2. Emily, I think this quote is going up on my mirror so I can see it every day: "I am realizing now that strong families don't just coalesce from happenstance and luck - they take a mindful and mighty effort."

    I have been feeling that so much lately--such a desire to ensure that we are WORKING to be a good family. Not drudging away at it, but making a planned effort. Thank you for putting that so beautifully.

  3. I love how you write. You seem to say what we all feel at one point or another, but we just can't quite get it out on paper the proper way. I loved reading this! And I don't think you sound dreary, or sad...we all go through ups and downs, and thank heavens for both! Glad you had a very Merry Christmas!

  4. Thanks for the slice of pie! It was rich, sweet and full of good things. Love ya Em.

  5. I second Rachael's comment. Love you, Em.

  6. Such raw honesty is rare.
    Thanks for keeping it real, Emba :)