A Single Purple Crocus
Friday morning I slipped my feet into my Uggs and stuck my arms through my big bulky purple sweater over my pajamas to let the dogs out front to potty. I expected it to be cold. It was supposed to be cloudy and rainy this week. I unlocked the front door and pulled it open. Unlatched the storm door and pushed through. The dogs quickly sprinted out towards our big front tree near the road, hunting for unsuspecting squirrels and lifting a leg to pee. I stepped onto the front porch and down the steps to the walkway leading from the front door to the driveway. I walked onto the grass and suddenly noticed it was warm. Balmy even. I lifted my right arm and waved my hand through the air to confirm, my sweater pulled tightly around me, held in place by my left arm. I breathed in deep.
Jake trotted over to the side yard after releasing his pee. Found a nice little spot near the chainlink fence we share with our neighbors to squat and poo. I slowly made my way to him with my poop bag ready to scoop up his present. He finished the job and proceeded to investigate some smell in the grass as he walked away. As I crept down to pick it up, my eye caught something purple in the side yard garden. I finished picking up the poo, stood up and tied the bag closed with my fingers, and then walked over to inspect what I had seen. A single purple crocus. The first flower I had seen this year. A few seconds later the sun burst through the clouds and a beam of light shone down on my lone small flower. I felt as if God was saying, "I see you and I am with you." It was not, "you will be free from suffering" or anything like that. Rather it was a gentle reassurance that God sees me. He knows my concerns. He knows that I had been tossing and turning with a mind full of anxious rumination all night. He knows all of my complex and conflicted thoughts. He knows it all. And he sees me and is with me. No matter what may come.
I have been reflecting on how much my advent study spoke to me this year. In the midst of such a dark time for me, God showed up as Immanuel: God with us. God with us in the mess of life. The one who can identify with us. Identify with our pain and suffering. Who has experienced it all. Who grieves loss with us. The one who loves and values us so much that he came to die for us to restore us to a right relationship with the Father. What a kind and gracious God we have. What a comfort he provides in the Holy Spirit that Jesus left with us after his death and resurrection. He does not promise freedom from suffering in this world. What he promises is that he will be with us through it. I am holding onto that.
This week has been quite a week. "Unprecedented" is the word I keep hearing. I have gone back and forth on so many things. I feel so grateful for my home, my husband, my two children, our two crazy dogs. So thankful that I feel safe with the people in my house with me. Grateful that we have income for now. That we have other resources available to use if things get bad. That we have food and toilet paper (ha). That we have a community of neighbors around our block that we have befriended this last year. Thankful for my communities of mamas from Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS), and my Friday Morning Mamas group. Grateful for technology that allows us to stay in touch even when we have to be apart. Thankful for a three week free trial of Disney+ and a house full of play spaces that I have worked so hard to cultivate. And then I think: but what about the people who have already lost their income? The people who live paycheck to paycheck who cannot afford to stock up on weeks worth of food? What about those who are in a house with their abuser, unable to escape? What about children who will be left at home without supervision? What about those who do not have a community of neighbors they can rely on? Why am I so privileged and others not? And what can I do about that in a tangible way right now? How can I keep us afloat while helping others? It is not either/or, it is both/and.
I have been in the depths of severe anxiety and depression this week. And anyone who has experienced this knows there are moments of feeling somewhat normal. It almost cycles. Waves that ebb and flow. When I am in the depths, it is hard to think about the next moment. Tomorrow. Next week. Next month. How long will this go on. How long can I hold on. That is when I realize I need to really insulate and focus on taking care of my mind and my heart. For me that has meant insulating myself from the news, identifying what interaction brings me peace, hope and joy, and taking a step back from interaction that results in triggering. Maybe only temporarily, but for sure necessary for right now.
I am an empath and feel like I need to hold space for everyone and everything, stepping in to correct others when I feel they are not expressing things in a way that protects the most vulnerable. I feel like I need to check in on all the people. Make sure everyone is doing okay. But the reality is, I AM NOT THE CHRIST. I cannot hold space for everyone and everything. If I spend all of my emotional resources and leave myself utterly depleted, if I consume all the terrifying news in an effort to remain informed, if I make sure I know and prepare for all of the very worst case scenarios possible... I die. I cannot do it. I am just one human. One human very vulnerable to mental health struggles. Especially given the grief I have been processing since the end of December after the total upending of how I understood certain family members for the last 34 years, I have to protect my heart and mind so that I can take care of myself so I can take care of my people and others.
Yesterday afternoon I started feeling like myself again and that has continued through today. I may spiral again tomorrow when David returns to work after being off this weekend. And if I do, that is okay. It is okay not to be okay. Now is the time for all the grace and self compassion. Re-centering. Reading the Big Picture Story Bible with the girls and listening to Bethel Worship Arts. FaceTiming with my mom and bonus dad in Arizona. Zoom calls for my BSF discussion group, Friday Morning Mamas group, and the mentoring group I am a part of. Watching Frozen II four times a day. Catching up on all the Toy Story movies I have missed. Going through the motions to keep some normalcy to our daily lives. Make the bed. Do the laundry. Vacuum. EAT. Even when I do not feel like eating. Get outside. Breathe. Take a walk around the block wearing the baby and holding the hand of the protesting four year old while holding the leashes of the two dogs.
This virus is scary and it is resulting in some extremely scary circumstances and loss of life. Most of which are completely beyond my control. Times like this it helps to narrow my focus. Take precautions to protect myself, my family, and our community. Take precautions to protect the most vulnerable among us. Stay home. And then keep my eyes open to the simple joys in my life in the midst of disruption of routine, loss of security, and looming uncertainty: That single purple crocus. The sun shining in Michigan. A break in the clouds and an expanse of blue sky. A toothy smile from the baby. Sabina's boundless energy. A good laugh watching Olaf in Frozen II. Snuggles with my girls. Two rockstar boobs that provide both comfort and nourishment to my small humans. Sitting on the porch with my eyes closed, noticing the different songs of the birds. Sabina's hand in mine as we walk around the block. Juniper sleeping snugly in the Lillebaby carrier as I write this post. The reality that in this moment, I am okay. That may change. Circumstances may change. And if they do, I trust that God will grant me the grace I need to face them. Because I know that he sees me. He is with me. Even on my darkest days, he has never left me. And I know he never will.