2011 has been a difficult year and I’m not going to sugar coat it. I’m glad to see it go.
This may seem a bit harsh, a bit glass-half-empty, a bit whiny, and even a bit ungrateful. But it’s also true, more true than I even wish to share here, in this place that I feel more comfortable sharing in than any other place.
This has been the catch phrase – the theme – that has embedded itself into my brain throughout the year. You may know by now that I talk to myself in letter form quite frequently. Words bring order to my thoughts and sometimes I find a good opening sentence can provide just enough structure to my musings to give me the strength to make a decision, perform a task, analyze a situation. In E’s class they call this “the grabber”. Once you’ve got a good opener you’ve drawn them in and provided the foundation for the story to follow.
I run into someone I haven’t seen in awhile and they ask “How’s it going?” I find myself shrugging, non-committal. Okay. So-so. I can read the questions on their face. “It’s been a tough year,” I offer up, a vague explanation of a more complicated formula for the general state of things. I always smile – it’s the optimist in me. Things do get better, they slow down, they ease up. Right?
I carried this phrase with me for most of the year. It started so early, in the month of renewal and promise that January is supposed to be. It came in the form of a cruel and unjust diagnosis for someone that we love.
It wove its way through our heartbeats, and we felt the stress and the weight of it as we waited for our father, our grandfather, to have his heart that we love so much opened up, scarred, forced to heal in a new way. We thought we would be the most terrified during those hours when his heart would stop operating on its own, nervous that we had to trust a machine and a pair of hands to bridge the gap between non-function and function, death and life. Looking back we know now that those hours were not the difficult ones. The moments of his pain, his discomfort, were the stressful ones. Make it worth it we whispered in our heads as we tried to work, to eat, to sleep, to play.
Work stress began to pile up, and the hours in the day to get done what needed to be done just weren’t there. So we took them from the nights. Two years into my title as “underemployed”, the shift of roles at work from getting jobs done to trying to find jobs was starting to wear thin. I’d like to think of my husband as “overemployed” – too many tasks for one person to sanely do. Our beloved daycare was faced with finding a new home after twenty-three years in the same location, and M’s role as simple board member multiplied overnight, and the responsibilities and weight that he carried added into the mix. I worked late hours each week in long meetings and through stressful presentations in an effort to shape a beautiful, sustainable, functioning church out of our beautiful, dated, sometimes non-functioning one. Sleep is vital, and we got little of it.
The summer wore on with no vacation, no respite. It was a bit of belt-tightening and a bit of practicality. There simply wasn’t the money or the time. We had started out the year full of hope for new projects to complete and tasks to finish. Again, there simply wasn’t the money or the time. The list of things that I needed to be working on never shortened, and the weight of those unfinished tasks became heavier and heavier. I found that I could manage to stay on top of those things that needed to be done in the present, but the underlying things that needed to be done (or that I wanted to do) just never surfaced to the top. I long ago mastered the art of taking photos of the everyday. I almost daily upload them to my computer, sort and size them, post them and write about them. But the photo albums that I had started for both grandmothers and both girls sat unfilled as the months and years ticked by. The dropping off point was April 2009, and I know that it was because I was well into my pregnancy with the little one, and every waking moment spent outside of work and family was spent studying for an exam. And then the baby came, and the months piled up, the task growing in size, becoming more daunting with each passing day.