I have to write this post. It's a little scary though, because I have no idea where it's going. I just know it's going.
There is a place in this big world where I predictably return every year. In this place, burnout is remedied, love comes to life in the budding of flowers and the greening of trees, friendships are renewed and sunshine-starved souls welcome the spring.
Year after year, predictably, I go there. I bring my new babies for their first taste of springtime in this great, glorious world. I even go when extreme nausea and fatigue prevent me from going anywhere else. Somehow, I get myself down there.
I didn't have a new baby this year. And I didn't have a baby on the way. That was different.
And more than a little sad.
My children come with me. They propel me there, begging to be there, begging to stay. There we are. This place is us. And I love it.
But not this year. This year I returned there. And it just wasn't the same. I went through the motions. I took the pictures. I willed it to be so. But it wasn't.
This year, the flowers bloomed early. They caught me by surprise. I was exhausted when they burst into color.
Utterly and completely exhausted.
This was not burnout. At least not the garden variety. This was complete depletion.
Lent had been long. My husband was gone for most of it.
It began with a betrayal of trust, an awakening to the understanding that some women were not at all who I thought they were. This was a strange place to be. All through Lent it raged around me; I was oddly calm in the face of it. One friend reminded me that we melancholy types often struggle with something much later--kind of a delayed reaction. I appreciated her concern. But I wasn't worried.
I had good counsel throughout that trying time. I read good things, went almost daily to Mass, surrounded myself with good and holy people.
Out there, in the computer world, women picked apart my life. They questioned my faithfulness to the Church. They questioned the way I am raising and educating my children. They even picked apart the story my daughter wrote for her little sisters and said all sorts of unkind things about it. That was probably the most difficult of all. Do what you want with me, but really, don't hurt my kids.
Here at home, I was too busy to spend much time dwelling on what was happening in the computer. I had children who needed me in very big ways and they were stretching me beyond what I thought possible. So many of them. So little of me. Such big issues.
In hindsight, I recognize that I did what I usually do when I am stressed, only I did it to an extreme I've never done it in the past. I tried valiantly to perfectly order my environment. It was as if I thought that if I could control every last detail in my house, somehow I could bring healing to my hurting children, and quiet to an unkind crowd, and peace to my troubled soul.
So, I slept four hours a night for all of Holy Week and invested everything I had in my home. I made sure that we did all the traditional Holy Week things we always do, despite the fact that Mike was gone and Paddy was gone and Christian and Mary Beth were both too sick to help with anything. I cooked, I cleaned, I ordered the world in my control.
I pushed and pushed and pushed myself as if I could vacuum away the hurt and bleach out the sorrow.
Easter came. The sun shone. Mike arrived home just after sunrise. All was right with the world.
Or at least is should have been that way.
But I was so tired I couldn't even function. As nature would have it, Easter Monday was our first Bluebell Day. I cried on the way there. I cried on the way home. I cried the next day, too. And the next.
It was as if, now that he was home, I recognized that it was safe to fall apart. And so I did.
It wasn't pretty. I did that melancholy thing.
And I wondered again and again. Why do I do it? Why do I put myself out there and offer my life in this space and in nearly 17 years of family life columns? Why do let myself be in such a place of vulnerability?
I don't know.
But I do know that every time I wanted to give up, to snap the computer shut and never look back, there was a perfectly timed email from a total stranger. Someone took the time to let me know that the words that appear in this place somehow made life a little better for her.
I was glad for that.
Glad to encourage.
Glad to help.
Glad to have taken the time to care.
But mostly glad for the opportunity to share God's grace.
Because He's here.
He's here even when the hard days stretch into entire seasons.
He gives me time and words and beautiful pictures.
He gives me 10 glorious reasons to get up in the morning.
I went back to the bluebells today. I went with my best friend in the world and her youngest children and a small band of my children. I had a good, honest talk. I understood the great gift of forever friends.
The flowers are fading--it's a stretch to even say it's still bluebell season. But the trees are a lovely leafy green that wasn't there two weeks ago and the forest floor a regal carpet of lush color.
It's a beautiful life.
Sometimes, even a beautiful life hurts.
And then, there is Easter.