Italy, Knowing it All, & How to Solve the Problems of the World

August 21, 2014 § 1 Comment

I’ve struggled with what to write about this summer.

While I was gone a civilian aircraft was shot down over the Ukraine – as well as an Air Algérie flight, which crashed in Mali. On both flights all on board were killed.

Conflict has been renewed between Israel and Palestine.

The death toll in Syria rises.

People realized that among the many casualties of ISIS are Christians.

There were horrible landslides in Nepal.

Finally, police across the US have continued to shoot citizens, but in Ferguson, Missouri they shot an unarmed black teenager about to leave for college resulting in ongoing rioting.

Haley and I traveled for a week before Bologna. Justin and I traveled for two weeks after. The five weeks in between were spent at a Symposium on Conflict Prevention, Resolution, and Reconciliation. I will write about the symposium at some point, but I need more time. It was much different than almost all of us expected. We all learned incredible things from each other, from some of the speakers, from the dynamics, and from the incredible cultural diversity. We also learned a lot from those around us that had nothing to learn.

There are several kinds of non-learners. There are people that have something to say about everything, there are people who are passive aggressive directors – frustrated if they can’t control a conversation/discussion/small group/friendship/negotiation etc., there are simply quiet resistors to information, and there are just people that believe they know everything and don’t care what you have to say. These people may be academics, they may be teachers, students, facilitators, they may even perceive themselves to be dynamic empathetic learners – but they are unaware of the way that their communication changes the air in a room. You may speak to them, they may repeat back to you what you’ve said, but you know distinctly you have not been heard.

Why does this matter?

As I try to consider what’s happening in the world…

As I contemplate this summer…

As I grieve the infrastructural and systemic racism in this nation…

As I question what I can write that’s not offensive to those who struggle. Truly struggle.

I recognize we often choose our ignorance.

We choose not to hear when oppressed communities say, “this is wrong, it’s not just, it’s not right.”

We choose to defend our position, our organization, our religion, our ideology, our ‘hard work’, our rights, or our opinions.

We don’t often ask ourselves why.

What does it cost us to have our paradigm shifted?

Or what about this…

What does it cost us to live peacefully and respectfully with strongly differing ideas?

I often hear extreme right wing Christians say that they feel alienated in mainstream culture, politics, & schools. They feel that this country, which they believe was founded on Christian values (including the 3/5 Clause, no voting or land rights for women, and other Constitutional offenses), is rejecting them. These are OFTEN (not always) the very same people that deny religious freedoms to Muslims, or the right of no religion to agnostics and atheists – with little understanding of the similarity of the situation.

By extension, when you look at the situation in Israel, you see a similar inability to recognize that by displacing Palestinians from Israel in the 40s they were doing the exact same thing to the Arab people that had been done to them so long ago – they seemed to disregard the potential unintended consequences of that displacement for the Palestinian people as well. We as a world, compelled to assuage our gilt for our sins of WWII and driven by a powerful lobby, refuse to acknowledge the fact that the global standard for Rules of Engagement is the “absolute minimum force necessary proportional to the threat.” There is no way that we can call what is happening in Israel against Palestine proportional to the threat – if there is a question we can compare the casualties between the two countries. As of today, according to the New York Times, “the Palestinian death toll since the onset of the operation to nearly 2,100. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers and three civilians, one a foreign laborer, have been killed.” 33:1 – Disproportionate. This is not a matter of ideology, this is a matter of numbers, logic, and international law.

As far as what is happening in Ferguson, I feel hesitant to speak. Not because I don’t feel what’s happening is wrong, but because it’s not new. I don’t understand why we are surprised. If you feel that there are better options to rioting, if you feel people should be keeping authority issued curfews, perhaps consider that two men have been killed in the area in the last week. Tazers were not used. Mace, a baton, or some equally undesirable but non-lethal action was not attempted. Consider what you would do if your government had failed you? What if that government had shown that it was going to fail to achieve justice on your behalf? Do you think I am being dramatic? Go back and read what was written after Trayvon Martin and see how familiar it all sounds. Or the articles from the 1960s… The oppressed of our society are not confused about their oppression, it’s generally those holding on to their privilege that refuse to see how much they benefit from denying their co-nationals equality.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about our sense of patriotism and identification. How we tend to identify with those familiar to us more than we do ‘the other.’ For instance “our brothers and sisters in Christ.” It is the similar tendency that makes us want to close our borders, guard our tax dollars, protect our co-nationals from potential terrorists sneaking over borders, and maintain the “American way of life.” I am not entirely sure what any of this means. We are a nation founded on principles that “all men are created equal” whether we identify more greatly with them or not. We may think ISIS is MORE evil for killing Christians – but ISIS is just killing people, all the people, and they’ve been doing so for a long time. Also, as you’ve seen on the news – your co-nationals – a 19 year old from Colorado has joined the organization and is participating. So, in that case, since people are actually defecting, should we stop people from LEAVING America, so that they can no longer kill Iraqi Christians in the name of Allah? It becomes problematic to value people more because we can identify with them, nationalism was a pretty serious problem historically, one that led to the current problem in Israel, and despite claiming a lot of love for our co-nationals, we, here in America can’t seem to work out the problems on our own soil – so perhaps we shouldn’t go on and on about the evils abroad. We’ve got a pretty large plank in our eye that might be obstructing our vision.

More than ever, especially after my time in Italy, what I think I believe is that if people refuse to listen to each other – if they refuse to recognize their own weakness and be comfortable with their imperfection and lack of knowledge, then they will not seek others to compliment their weakness or ignorance and instead surround themselves with people who assure them their thinking is complete and correct. This is a dangerous and deadly thing in our world. We are all weak, ignorant, and flawed – this is humanity. The beauty of humanity is that we have each other to complement us, to teach us, to strengthen us. We don’t need to know everything, to be able to do everything, to be experts in every field…

We must learn to live in tension. We must accept the differences in those around us. We must learn to extend to others those things we demand for ourselves. We must offer the same empathies and compassions that we have sought for ourselves. It is not required that we all agree, that we all like each other, that we sing in harmony – there can be beauty in musical dischord. If every piece of a stained glass window was the same there would be no image to behold. It is crucial that we allow individuality and the tensions that exist from that to develop in order for a healthy society (and I would argue a representative government) to function properly.

Father’s Day

June 15, 2014 § 3 Comments

To bear your own pain is one thing. You know how to manage your own pain, but to see someone else hurt is often much more difficult.
I didn’t know how to prepare Justin for this weekend, and so perhaps I let the words stick in my throat. Part fear, part knowing, and the rest helplessness.
Frustration that I should be done with school (I wouldn’t have been, even without Wright – I was planning on hanging out until December) and working – and were I – I’d be able to scoop him up & steal him away to Bermuda or the Keys for the weekend. Not be here trying to figure out if we want to go out to Montauk for a night or Rockaway for the day…
I want to protect him from the hollow achey feeling, the irrational sense that American media is trying to remind you what you’ve lost, the even more irrational sense that social media is entirely immune to your wound and armed with balloons filled with salt… I want to steal his phone, change his alarm and let him sleep through tomorrow. I want him to never have to wake up on Father’s Day and remember…
But if he does. I hope he remembers that he fought with me about how much he should be able to talk to my stomach once the baby could hear so that she could recognize his voice equally – since he was at work all day. And how mean he was to me about coffee – because rules are rules for a reason. And how we listened to songs and dreamed and changed our plans and our hearts got bigger and once your hearts get bigger they can’t get smaller. And even before it got scary we loved her to the moon and he was the most incredible Dad. And after it got scary he fought for her, and he held on for her, and he protected her, and he was brave for her – even though it meant this would all hurt a lot more. I hope when he wakes up that’s what he remembers – because that’s what we have. So much more capacity to see the facets of a stone than we did before.
Father’s Day isn’t always happy, but it’s always here.
There’s no way around pain but through it. One step. One moment. One ‘holiday’ at a time. So today we celebrate our fathers for the ways they’ve stood with us always, and my UK – you’ve read his celebration.
And I celebrate Justin for the father I saw in him. I especially raise my heart to him for the father he was May 2. More loving and courageous than I ever could have imagined. And every day since, I admire a respect him more.
To all the men out there that are also Fathers in difficult and non-traditional ways – may you feel deeply loved, understood, and celebrated today.


June 12, 2014 § Leave a comment


Taken by the amazing Mary Caroline Mann

Taken by the amazing Mary Caroline Mann

I let him pick the song, he chose Angel Flying Too Close to The Ground. We wept many times before we danced to it so we wouldn’t that day. Justin often says about the amount of tears shed around my wedding that he married me, he didn’t murder me… We are a very, very close family. You might take the previous post and the previous sentence and consider the amount of conflict we have that produces this kind of affection.

I was 11 when UK met me, 15 when he got me. The last 4 months have been the hardest of our lives, and the most precious. I would also say over the last three years as the landscape of our family has shifted, I have seen a different – more fierce and more fragile – side of his heart. This is quintessentially Irish. Quintessentially Brooklyn Irish… I don’t really know how to separate Brooklyn and Irish, so that’s kind of the limit of my expertise.

We’ve spent a lot of time over the last few months sitting next to each other in silence, crying in public, quietly communicating expectations or blocked goals in raised whispers in public spaces, far too much time in hospital waiting rooms… I begged AM & UK to come last month and then told them not to. Once they were here I would tell them they could leave and then ask them not to go. Despite feeling helpless and likely somewhat concerned for my sanity (pure speculation) – they would come every morning and if nothing else, help me mark another minute off the clock, or give me someone to sit in unbearable silence with beside myself. UK has spent a good portion of the last 4 months sitting and watching the women that he loves hurt and he’s responded with overwhelming love, kindness, compassion, thoughtfulness, and care (AM is doing fabulously – they went for a 10 mile bike ride around the lake yesterday.) There are few men in the world that are so tender and so fierce. He’s been applied love for Justin and I and there are insufficient words for the ways that we feel loved by him.

I guess it just goes to show that you can spread your wings, but no matter where you build your nest, you always need your parents. Even when there’s nothing that can be done, “Love’s the greatest healer to be found.”

Happy Birthday UK – you’re one of the best. In the words of Willie Nelson, “I’ll love you ’til I die.”

Conflict Management

June 10, 2014 § 2 Comments

We’re on a bit of a countdown around here.

In two days it’s UK’s birthday. Although, he’s already been to see the aliens, so I am not entirely sure how we could possibly celebrate him in a way that could top UFOs.

On Friday there is yet another medical situation in Boo’s family – they seem to come like the waves lately.

On Friday it’s 6 weeks since we said goodbye to Wright, which seems impossible.

On Sunday, it’s Father’s Day.

One week from today Justin’s sister and her husband celebrate their 7 year anniversary.

In 12 days it’s my Dad’s birthday.

In 15 days it’s Boo’s birthday. The last in his early 30s.  Don’t think I’ll let that pass mercifully.

In 16 days Haley and I board a plane for Milan and she’s going to ease me gently into my symposium in Bologna.

You may be asking, what the heck are you going to Italy for again? I am going for an academic symposium on conflict prevention, resolution, and reconciliation. At the end of the program I will be certified in International Conflict Management.

I am sure any of you that have lived with me or been in a small group with me are rolling your eyes. I believe in conflict. Healthy conflict.

I believe in tension. Healthy tension.

As any of you know that have lived life with me in any sort of intimate way, I believe that intimacy breeds conflict and conflict breeds intimacy.

I grew up in two families that were very conflict oriented. Some healthy, some unhealthy. Unhealthy conflict is pretty easy to identify, it generally produces no greater intimacy in the relationship. There are reasons for this, and ways to prevent it, and I will provide a detailed layout for interpersonal conflict in this post – it’s not for the faint of heart.

Healthy conflict is not fun. Nor easy. It does not always end in a perfect friendship, but it results in greater intimacy, even if the intimacy is one of greater knowledge of another person that results in a decision to step away from the intensity from the relationship for some length (short or extended) of time.

I don’t trust a relationship that isn’t one of hard truth. If someone can look at me and say, “What you are saying, what you did, how you are acting…is hurtful to me…” then I know innately that I can trust them .

People who fear conflict often also fear rejection, “If I say my feelings are hurt then they will be mad at me…” “They won’t understand…” Or some other sundry of reasons.

There are also rationalizations, such as, “I am sure they didn’t mean it that way…”  Unfortunately offense has likely been taken, and few have the capacity to truly let go. These offenses often gather until they overflow, or worse come out in passive aggressive jabs and barbs at an unknowing recipient. That recipient unfortunately cannot use psychic powers of discernment to figure out why they have become the butt of aggression for something someone has convinced themselves they have ‘let go of’ until they have ‘had enough’ and explode with a laundry list of harbored (let go) offenses.

There are even others who simply can’t be bothered when offended, you offend them, they write you off, apparently on the one and done spectrum of “tolerance of offenses.” These people are not likely those who adhere closely to the “do unto others principle” or they are perfect.

So what do we do? What do peacemakers do?

Well there are all sorts of options.

There are organizations like Human Rights Watch that do something called Naming & Shaming. This is something that they’ve developed for conflicts that are relatively cyclical – I won’t name any nations, but think Hatfield & McCoy kind of epic – wars so old that tracing their origin and weighing their fairness is next to impossible. So this organization publishes EVERY attack and says, “Hatfield blasted McCoy today – 3 dead.” The intention is to shame Hatfield and hold them accountable for their actions, the problem is that it isn’t always accurate, and it demands retaliation keeping the cycle going, rather than throwing a stick in the spoke. So I wouldn’t use this tactic for conflict resolution, privately, nationally, or globally.

I would generally start with stepping back and trying to get a view of the landscape. Jerry Brotton wrote a book on the history of the maps, one of the most profound things that he said was, “Cartographers cannot help but betray their own centre of gravity.” For example – here’s the world map most American’s grow up learning:

world map topo smaller

On 7 December 1972, one of the three astronauts on board the Apollo 17 was able to capture a photograph of the fully illuminated face of the earth – from which Arno Peter’s was able to draw the first absolutely accurate orthographic projection of the earth (1973 © ODT Inc.) – let’s observe the difference -

Arno Peters's world map on Gall Orthographic Projection

We cannot help but betray our own center of gravity, the key is to remember that we are seeing the world from the top perspective despite the fact that reality is the bottom.

Betraying our own center of gravity most often finds form in a lack of awareness regarding our own behavior. A belief that you are ultimately right – THEY are the problem NOT YOU, the belief that you are better or somehow superior to the other person (whether you are able to admit this to yourself or not), believing you already have the solution to the problem (there is no reason to have conflict if YOU already have the answer – you will be impossible to negotiate with – you only want to win), and all other forms of pride. Defensiveness. Inflexibility. Habitually justifying away every circumstance with reasons or excuses and an inability to see the multitude of circumstances that create a big picture (this happens often in project management)… And so on and so forth.

One of my professors always tells us when we’re writing a paper or when we are negotiating policy, if we already know the answer then we have already failed. The goal is to go in with a hypothesis that can be disproven, with a question, with something that has facets, depth, and angels. The goal is to navigate it from every side, learn it from every angle, and be willing to change it, die to it, the goal is not to write a paper you already know the answer to… You get the point. It’s the same with conflict – you only have your perspective at the beginning. The GOAL is to GAIN perspective. YOU HOPE YOU’RE NOT RIGHT. If you are offended, you DON’T WANT TO BE RIGHT. You hope you are wrong. You may not be, and you should be prepared for that also.

So when you’ve got your perspective right, your center of gravity is shifted, and you’re ready to go in as an equal – then be sure you are able to articulate your issue. This is not the name and shame game of Human Rights Watch (don’t go in finger pointing), though facts are helpful.

Be able to articulate, “When this factual thing did happen, I felt this way.” Notice I didn’t say, when this factual thing happen, I ASSUMED (or jumped to the conclusion) you meant this and you MADE ME feel this way.

We are not victims, nor are we hurdlers and we have no need to go jumping to conclusions.

Our center of gravity should have allowed us to take the facts of a situation, place them in a sieve, shake all of our pride and assumption off, and take responsibility for our own action and emotion. “I felt this way, I understand that this is my perspective…”

Never leave it there – take the next step. Just stating the hurt is akin to handing someone a tool and then not explaining how to use it.  You are identifying a specific incident, but not identifying the real issue…

For Justin and me the issue might be avoiding conflict, but the real issue is trust – let’s trust each other enough to have genuine conflict.

Don’t focus on the branch, deal with the root of the issue, or you’ll spend your life hacking at branches.

Here is the biggest key to moving forward in healthy conflict and tension, a solution that benefits both people.

In the past couple of years I have begun asking myself if conflict is worth it, is the person willing to work toward a mutually beneficial solution?

You can only ask this question if you’ve had a lot of conflict with someone.

People that it may not be possible to have meaningful conflict with at this moment (but may be at some point):

People unaware that they are betraying their own center of gravity, or worse – people that truly believe they are NOT in fact betraying their center of gravity but believe that they are perfectly compensating despite being smack dab in the middle of the map…

People who are simply not able to be mutual. These are people that require that you always meet them where they are… emotionally…practically… intellectually… for dinner…

People who perpetually posture as the victim, and tend to be the martyr in every situation. No matter what the situation is, somehow they have been wronged.

My Mammaw was like this (my mother is), you would ask her how she was and she would answer, “Oh I’m alright I guess…” while telling us that she was “blessed she didn’t have to work Sunday despite having to work Saturday – there was just no one else to do it.” This was her attitude in conflict also, she would just take it, poor her – despite often being the source and initiator of the conflict.

Until a person is willing to take responsibility for their life, “I am great, I am alive, I could be dead!” – “I am blessed to be off Sunday, I offered to work yesterday because no one else volunteered, I am glad I have a job!” – or, “I quit my job, I was sick of being forced to work Saturdays…” It is unlikely they will be able to say, “You’re right, what I did was wrong and I am sorry – how can we move forward?”  It is likely they will only be able to tell you what you did wrong… and the ability to be something other than the victim is crucial to moving forward in conflict.

You should be able to, in good faith and with mutuality, discuss ways to move toward the future – without contention.

You may be in a temporary holding pattern, where you need some time to step away and think or re-evaluate. But, for the most part, you should be able to see that you’re committed to the future and at some point you can come back to the table and move the issue forward.

Moving the issue forward will involve being specific about the issue. This is the issue (the root, not the branch – getting caught up in the minute details can bog down progress.) “When this happened, my perception was, and it hurt me.”

If a person needs a specific apology for a specific issue, then that should be articulated, however, if they need an apology for 15 specific issues (that become a theme) then it is suggested they back up and gain center of gravity, identify the root of the issue, and re-enter the conversation. In moving forward, each person should be prepared to concede something.

The myth about win/win is that everyone gets 100%/100% – that’s a statistical impossibility.

Negotiation is give and take, as is conflict. In conflict, each person should be prepared for their perspective to shift – this is where I didn’t see how my behavior was causing this effect, or where my perspective or my perception was false (WRONG, INCORRECT). We should also be prepared to change, or improve the situation for someone else – we should commit – out loud to altering our behavior – immediately – in a way that will improve the situation. Our apologies should be specific – and not general. Apologies and forgiveness should be like introductions – specific to their issue and not at all interchangeable. When you apologize – say exactly what for, take full responsibility, don’t blame shift (I’m sorry YOU felt that way – just own it – my actions resulted in your hurt feelings) and when you forgive do the same, I forgive you for hurting me – no contingencies.  Hopefully that handles it, but if needed lay out an action plan for things that cannot be changed immediately. If we require action from the other person, we may REQUEST, not demand it.

Conflict requires follow up. The next day, a few days later, a week later, and a month later.  Relationships must be tended. They aren’t like succulent plants that can be watered once a month and left in the scorching sun to survive no matter what. They are hard work, and they aren’t for everyone.

Finally, what about forgiveness when the apology never comes? Or worse, the apology is insincere, or the behavior is ongoing…

This goes back to being a victim.

I would love to change people. LOVE. I don’t understand people. It’s the hardest part about politics for me.  The law was written with a lot of ambiguity and people try to make it really black and white. It was written with compromise and the democratic process in mind, and we’ve robbed it of its beauty.

We can’t change people, people won’t be changed.

You can be all the mad and all the hurt you want, it won’t do you a damn bit of good.

The thing is that you can forgive people without excusing their behavior or their actions. Once you’ve exhausted your communication options with them, in the words of Elsa- Let It Go – and I don’t mean ignore the issue – I mean step away from the hotbed.

If you’re interested in working through something, and no matter how hard you try the other party genuinely is not, you can’t make them.

Forgive them, hold your boundaries, love them in an appropriate manner, but move on.

They are not going to change, so there is no use in wasting your energy, frustration, communication, or emotion on something that is not ripe for the moment. If you’ve communicated, asked for what you needed, and exhausted the situation then forgive without being apologized to and move on.

Believe me, you’ll feel 100 pounds lighter – and honestly – you’ll be free of an exhausting relationship. If it’s supposed to, or when it’s ‘ripe’, it will come back around and can be dealt with when both people are ready.

I am sure that International Peacekeeping follows these exact same rules – the ones that I used navigating years of high school girls at camp and then college girls’ relationships, international team dynamics, and then global tensions with the institute for cultural inquiries. Talk about a hotbed – I think high schoolers were the worst…

I probably don’t even need to go to Bologna, I kid. I kid.

The longer I am married the more I realize we all need a daily refresher on dealing with conflict. Despite a cognitive knowledge of conflict I fail at it profoundly and often in various relationships, but I love learning, and I love genuine relationship.

Authentic conflict is always worth it. Just like training for a marathon, the hard work is done long before the moment of conflict…


Time Ticking By and Life Rafts in the Flood

June 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

We are managing more normal things. Laundry. Cooking. Studying is back in the rotation. I’m trying to be better about responding to texts & answering the phone.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Robert McNamara’s interviews in the documentary, “The Fog of War.” The truth is that we don’t really know ‘how we are.’ Surely in a year we can look back and know more about what was going on in these moments when we can’t see an inch in front of us because of the fog, we’re simply still ‘in it’ too deep.

Lately what rolls around in the deepest places of us is a thankfulness. A gratitude that’s deeper than words or emotions for those who have been willing to step into the trenches and walk through the darkness with us.

Grief is an uncomfortable, difficult, dark, place. It is ugly, painful, and overwhelming. It is all consuming.

There are no answers or easy fixes. There is no feeling better at the end of the day.

It is not a place where you get to be selfish or surface, or bullshit around things. To enter into someone’s grief is to let go of yourself – we know because we feel so consumed by our sadness that any capacity we once had to pretend or keep up appearances for the sake of making others feel ok about themselves is gone. All of our energy is required for survival.

I feel like so many of you have sent life rafts or been beacons of light in the foggy nights – you have come into the darkness at risk to your own emotional safety – without thought of yourselves. For that there will never be adequate words to thank you for the courage to step into the muck and mire with us; To say again and again to us – this sucks, it just sucks. To call and call again to say that you love us – just to make sure that we know and don’t forget – to assure us that no matter how we FEEL we are not alone. You have been lighthouses beckoning us toward true north, no matter how confusing the fog is to our internal navigation.

I can say without a doubt that one month ago was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Physically it was harder than any marathon I have ever run, and emotionally it makes the previous 37 years of my life look like Central Park. But we’re here, we’re still breathing, we’re getting up, we’re ‘showering’, we’re holding on to the life rafts that have been thrown to us. One breath, one moment at a time we will make our way.

The magnitude of our loss feels more acute today than it did May 2 when maybe we didn’t fully grasp it, and it feels scary to think of what that means for when the shock wears off and this all really settles in, what’s really happened, but somehow a month has passed. When we didn’t think we could survive one day – it’s been one month. One hard, horrible month.

When we were in California, driving along the coast, we listened to this song – held hands – and cried. I am reminded of it again today. It is more real today as I think of Justin and how we’ve clung to each other for life – and become more united than we’ve ever been. I think of those of you that have jumped in with us to this darkness. We’ll get to daybreak eventually, thanks for being life rafts or sending salad(s) bowls, buckets, and basins to help us bail out of the flood.

Excerpts from Snow Patrol, “The Lightening Strike”

These accidents of faith and nature
They tend to stick in the spokes of you
But every now and then the trend bucks
And you’re repaired by more than glue…

Slowly the day breaks apart in our hands
And soft hallelujahs flow in from the church
The one on the corner you said frightened you
It was too dark and too large to find your soul in…

It got cold and then dark so suddenly and rained
It rained so hard the two of us were the only thing
That we could see for miles and miles

And in the middle of the flood I felt my worth
When you held onto me like I was your little life raft
Please know that you were mine as well
Drops of water hit the ground like God’s own tears
And spread out into shapes like
Salad bowls and basins and buckets for bailing out the flood

Real Life Living

May 27, 2014 § 4 Comments

Thanks for all the anniversary love. We realize that we’ve spent 3 anniversaries in NYC now… Even before we moved here we were traveling here so much (mostly for Justin’s old job) that we ended up here on our 2/9 anniversary. 😉
The truth is we thought our anniversary was Thursday, then realized it was Friday, and the restaurant we love to eat at at the club was closed for the holiday weekend. As we realized this we got emergency alerts warning us of flash floods all night… We re-routed to our neighborhood for dinner.
Per usual we had a pretty strong day and felt a lot more sad that night. Neither of us have been sleeping very well…
This is kind of the real like reality of almost a month later. We have gotten random messages – some from family – one telling us that we know it’s hard to hear but we need to start asking ourselves what we were meant to learn from this… Another telling us they supported our decision to terminate our pregnancy…
Here’s the deal. We’re kind of over trying to make sure everyone understands and trying to be understood. It’s actually really exhausting to manage everyone else’s emotions & perceptions. The truth is that we don’t actually care whether people think we are handling this well, like the way we are handling it, feel like they are not getting enough attention in their own lives as a result of our “ill-timed” life event, feel as if we are communicating with each individual well enough, we feel certain we’ll fail at all of these tasks in one way or another…
It’s not that we don’t care for others or their lives or their current life stress – it’s just that this is actually a pretty big life stress and I’ve tried every way possible to acknowledge ANY and ALL other kind of stress others experience. I think it’s ok for someone who just delivered a still born baby at 5 months to wallow a little. Even THREE WHOLE weeks later. Sorry to sound snarky, but this world moves quickly by, and I think that even Justin and I tend to underestimate time.
For example. It’s easy to complain about work. A friend who returned two weeks ago from an island vacation was grumbling about work stress & vacation time – despite having just spoken with us about planning a trip this fall to Europe & the Middle East. That’s a lot of breaks from work – that much time away from work would stress anyone out!
We’ve travelled more (together – one trip) this year than we have in our 5 years together – and even we feel ourselves grumbling! We were also just in Long Island for a night Mother’s Day (although I feel like you should get to leave NYC to call it a vacay.)
Yes – we’ve been combining ‘business’ with pleasure – attaching trips to other events – but that’s the stage of life we’re in! I’ll spend most of my time in Italy in an intensive program – it would be foolish not to take advantage of the time there – especially at the cheapest time of year for travel!!!
My point is, much like we lose time perspective on travel, it’s easy to rush people through heart break because of our modern time ‘perspective.’ “We’re still thinking/praying for you.” It’s not that we don’t appreciate these kind words – it’s that there’s something in them that leaves us with the sense that we should be moving on with it by now.
What’s the right day to take the sonograms down off the fridge? What point did you start referring to your child in years and not months.
I’ll take them down then.
How’s that for getting on with it.
When should I stop crying?
Did you cry at your child’s kindergarten graduation?
Refer to them as a baby a years after they had teeth, ate solid food, and ran (much less walked?)
Then I think three weeks is pretty reasonable to still feel attached to the loss of our baby.
I know that this sounds a little harsh – but I’m not just speaking for myself or for Justin. I’m speaking for all of those working through loss or sadness that feel rushed along by a world that’s grown used to a high speed, instant gratification, quick solution pace of life.
That’s simply not the way a heart works. Hearts just don’t heal that quickly. Not from hurt feelings, not from loss, not from sadness, or fear – or whatever your battle is.
So yes. We ‘celebrated’ our anniversary.
We’re still struggling to do our laundry. To manage normal social function. To sleep. To encounter pregnant women and newborn little girls. We can’t handle stores with baby sections. Three weeks later we’re still recovering. And that’s just going to have to be OK. We’re giving ourselves all the way past Wright’s original due date to feel punched by this. In the opinion of the experts it will be well past that before the burning pain of what could have been will pass. Every day that makes more sense to us.
Does that mean life can stop?
Laundry has to be done. Thank you notes have to be written. Dinner has to get cooked. Exercise must be done – baby weight doesn’t lose itself. Preparation reading for Bologna has to start. We can’t quit life. But we don’t have to pretend we are as we were. We aren’t and we won’t be.
There is no Instagram filter that can make this prettier. It sucks. It will for a while.
It won’t feel this tearful forever – and we don’t expect the world to feel the same as we do.
However, it will likely be a long, long time before we want to answer the question, “How are you?”

21 Days

May 23, 2014 § 3 Comments

21 days.

From my birthday to our anniversary it’s actually 22 days but therein lies May 2nd and that, this year, has made all the difference.

My birthday.


Mother’s Day.

Our anniversary.

Normally these are such fun days of May. This year we’ve kind of stumbled through them.

However, our anniversary feels like something we can hold on to.

For the last couple of days we’ve been talking about how you pull from a deeper well of love, a deeper well of appreciation, a thicker and more ripe silence in these moments of life.

These are not rose colored glasses. These are eyes tired from crying, bodies aching from labor, minds weary from racing, and beings exhausted from restlessness – and yet in the dark we still reach for each other because we are there together.

We have said that we couldn’t have known on that day four years ago when we vowed for better or worse what worse would entail.

I am the kind of woman who knows there’s a solid 2-5% chance that greater darkness could come, so I don’t dare chance hoping these are our darkest days…

I also don’t dwell on what could come. We have so little control over what happens to us in this life, our control rests in the realm of how we respond.

Justin and I have spent a lot of money investing in our emotional health. Emotional IQ is kind of a hip word these days, but we learned quickly in our marriage that an emotionally aware person married to an emotionally unaware person is a tough combo.

I’ve watched Justin do a lot of hard work over the last few years to grow in awareness emotionally – he has learned a lot about himself – but it’s been most powerful to see him become sensitive to those around him.

Never could we have imagined how much we were being prepared for this moment.

Much like a marathon, the miles you run the day of the race matter so much less than the miles and miles and miles you’ve run in training.

The love, communication, tenderness, fierceness, care, encouragement, ability to grieve, and partnership I’ve experienced in my marriage over the last five months are because of the incredibly hard work that was done before we reached this moment, and in particular the hard work Justin has done.

On this day, when I normally talk about love and flowers and sunshine and what a lucky woman I am I feel compelled to say love is really hard work & that hard work is really worth it.

I also feel like I’ve never loved the man that I married more.

He’s stronger, braver, softer, more steadfast, more tender, more vulnerable, more real, far more funny, harder working, incredibly courageous, more loyal – so loyal, he has better boundaries (he almost never works past 8:45 – at the office – and NEVER works on Sunday – DAYS – anymore – wink), Lord knows the man is better at saying no, he’s more himself than he’s ever been – and I’m more in love than I’ve ever been.

Life threw us a curve ball. At first it was the softest, most beautiful curve ball we’d ever seen – and then it shattered the glass house we’d built to pieces.

But as we’d always hoped would be the case, we grabbed a tent, and ran for shelter and found that shelter in the firm foundation we hoped and prayed we had. Even in this moment, when we feel like we are free falling and will never hit solid ground – we are hand in hand – we found each other in the darkness and we recognize that (in itself) is a gift beyond measure.

I have seen in my husband over the last five months such beauty.

I caught a glimpse of fatherhood, a father whose heart is to protect the ones he loves, a father who loved celebrating the ones he loved, and the devastation of a father who has loved and lost… He has been tested and tried and I have seen his heart more pure and true than imaginable. I’ve been endeared to his devotion to our wellbeing, to his own selflessness for our sake, and to his sensitivity toward the fragility of our situation… I have been moved by his love toward and for us – even the depth of his grief at our loss has moved me.

For better or worse. It could always be worse. So, so much worse – and for so many it is.

However, in the midst of the very worst we’ve known, even in the last 21 days when I’ve felt as if my heart was literally breaking – I’ve never known love more tangibly, and I’ve never loved another more deeply.

I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

21 days. Friday to Friday.

Happy Anniversary Boo. We thought today would look so different – no champagne, and lots of pink.

We couldn’t have known when I walked through that grassy pasture how right the words would be -

“It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter…

It feels like years since it’s been clear…

It’s alright…”


No neatly tied bows.

No perfect packages.

But we know that Love always wins.

Here’s to hoping, love.  Here’s to hope.

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