Friday, February 19, 2010

Rough Road

**This is entirely not knitting-related, it is just something I needed to get out there. Skip if you're just here for the yarn porn.**

I am a firm believer that the universe never throws more at us than we can handle and that bad times are not a punishment for wrongdoing, but rather a test of our convictions and resolve. There is a lesson to be learned even in the darkest nights, and that lesson is different for everyone. Sometimes, the lesson is that you can't do it all yourself and it's OK to ask for help; sometimes it's a reminder to appreciate those around you before it's too late.

This week has run the gamut of highs and lows. I came into this week already stressed - we just had a major snowstorm and there was still lots of cleanup to do, not to mention snow just makes me nervous. Missing so much work had put a dent in our already tight budget. The kids haven't been sleeping well and the only solution I've been able to come up with is to get everyone to sleep in the living room. (Hey, it works! At least we all sleep now.) My knee has been giving me trouble recently and I dread another trip to the orthopedic surgeon, where they throw around words like "surgery" and "recovery time" with little regard for words like "job" and "kids" and "housework". The least of my worries seemed to be my ever-mounting stress levels and lack of dedicated mommy-time.

In a bit of downtime, I decided to go ahead and do our taxes so I could budget for the impending doom of having to pay taxes. Last year was not kind to us and I wanted to avoid the problems we had last year of "Surprise! Taxes!" So I gathered our paperwork and went about the inevitable. Turns out, having twins and being out of work for two months actually works in your favor when it comes to taxes, and the resultant refund (the first we've had since our first year of marriage) will be enough to get us back to a reasonably good place with our bills. This elation was not to last, however, as Tuesday came barrelling down on us.

Tuesday, in the wee hours of the morning, we learned of the sudden and untimely death of one of my husband's oldest friends, Nathan. He was, and still is devastated by the news. I have also known him many years, but the friendship was not as close as my husband, who shared a very deep bond with him since their school days.

I've got to explain some things here - when we were younger, both my husband and I ran with a slightly wilder crowd. We forged several meaningful relationships within the group, but we also did a lot of stupid things. When we chose to walk a different path, to settle down and have a family, we had to leave this part of our lives, and many of these bonds, behind. We did it for the safety and well-being of our young family, not out of any harsh feelings towards those we had to leave behind. We were simply walking a different path.

My husband was a bit more diplomatic about the split than I was, I think. When we first made the decision to move on with our lives in a different direction, I was already pregnant and moody. Going out to have "one last round" with my buddies was not an option for me at that time. I'm also very bad with goodbyes. I withdrew socially and stayed that way. I only really maintained contact with one of my friends, and even she will say that it might be weeks between calls or emails, even now. My husband maintained some contact with his friends, but made it clear that his family came first in all things and that he just couldn't return to the lifestyle we had before. I felt that some of his friends didn't get this and put pressure on him to go back. He stood his ground and lost some friendships over it.

This man was not one of those relationships lost. Whenever we saw him, it was as if time had never passed. He always welcomed my husband with a warm hug and "Brother, I've missed you." When they parted, it was with the same warm words and "I'll see you when I see you." He understood why my husband did what he did and didn't judge, even though it was maybe not a choice he would have made in his own life.

When my husband learned of his passing, and the news really sank in, he felt regret at not making more of an effort to keep contact with him. At first, I kind of took offense to this. I took it as regret that he had chosen us over his friends. I was mistaken, and I see that now. Wednesday brought with it a dificult day at work and a difficult night with the babies. I was in tears by 11 o'clock and my husband, in his less than tactful way, was trying to help, even while still working through his own grief. We argued, and he went to sleep angry. I stayed up with the babies, and Thursday came all too quickly.

I went to work on less sleep than I'd had in awhile, and in the course of an already hard day, learned of the passing of another good friend. Martin had known my brother and I met him when I was young. He always had kind words for Keith's tagalong kid sister. When my brother disappeared, he gave me understanding and support, rather than judgement for my brother's misdeeds.

He became a fairly well-known blogger on financial and political matters, and wrote pieces on a dizzying array of subjects for various publications. I read much of his work, though many times I would not comment or share my appreciation for his contributions. We emailed off and on, though when I dropped out of things socially, I lost contact with him. I still continued to read his work, and admired him from afar as he achieved the things he worked for and fought for the causes he believed in.

Martin brought himself into his work. When he was facing troubles in his life, he shared his story so others could learn from it as well. He put it out there, good and bad, and accepted both praise and criticism graciously and maturely. He answered many of my "stupid kid" questions about finances and politics (not my strongest suits) with the same grace. He never talked down to me; in fact, in my converstaions with him, he took time to explain things to me. I always felt like he wanted more that I understand the issue at hand rather than agree with him.

So, in the face of losing two good friends inside of a week, I wonder what it is the universe is trying to do to me. Surely, it's throwing more at me than I can handle. I mean, there's work and the babies and seven baskets of laundry. There's a sink full of dishes, Andy's drawn on the wall again, and now this? Two friends are gone?

So, I'm sitting here, trying to put it all together, and the answer I've come up with is this: I need to stop being afraid. In my fear - fear of not being accepted, fear of others' criticisms, fear that I really am doing it all wrong, I've pushed so many people away. I need to stop being so critical of people in my life who, in their own way, are trying to help. I need to be more forgiving and understanding, because other people forgive and srtive to understand me better every day, and I don't make it easy. I need to stop being so critical of myself.

Two people have gone from the world this week. Two people who lived the way they wanted, who spoke without fear of judgement or criticism, who opened up their lives to others and accepted what came their way, good and bad. In return, they both got to touch and change more people than they'll ever know, in all ways and all paths.

So, dear readers, hug your kids. Call your best friend. Don't let a day pass without letting your friends and family know how they challenge and change you. Tell your heroes what they mean to you, even if you didn't think they noticed you. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and don't let those who are quick to judge and slow to understand deter you.

Live the way you want people to remember you.

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