Friday, November 11, 2016

The Art of Remembering

Facebook and I are in the early stages of breaking up, I think. I miss the days of a feed dominated by cheerful pictures of people I love, baby announcements and news of big life changes. I miss the witty commentary by the jokesters in my life and the comical shares of funny things kids say. For a while there, embarrassingly, Facebook doubled as a baby book for my kids. It was easily accessible and served as a place where I could quickly chronicle their accomplishments and record all their hysterical antic on-the-go. Maybe that shouldn't embarrass me so much. Maybe it just serves as proof that I am a parent in the 21st century. 

I recognize that I waste away far too many hours of my month hopping down Facebook rabbit trails, clicking on this link and that before I realize what I'm reading really isn't serving a positive purpose for me. But I also recognize that though it can be at times illicit harm, it can also be a catalyst for something very, very good. More often lately, I find myself logging in to Facebook and making a beeline for the search bar where I will type in "on this day" in order to view all the other posts I may have made on this date in history. With the click of a button, 7 years of my past happening flash up on my screen - pictures of my kids when they were babies, short but oh so compelling bemoaning of how big my laundry pile was 5 years ago or how my husband was late coming home for work (ahem - sarcasm, people, in case there was any question). I do this ritual not for the sake of embarrassment, (though often I find myself mildly mortified to see what I thought was important enough to share with the whole internet world back in the day), but rather because I see the value and importance of remembering.

It is through remembering that we create context. 

This week has been bonkers. I know I say that all the time but this time it's for REAL. My kids have all been revolting in each of their unique and special ways. After nearly 5 days apart, my husband and I kicked off the week with a disagreement whose aftermath carried over and presented itself into most of our interactions ever since. Let's not forget about the election too, that has left everyone in the country reeling and a bit confused, to put it mildly.

Oh, and then the other small happening: I quit my job. 


After spending over a decade working in the hospital setting, providing nutrition support for preterm and sick babies, I made the decision to give my notice and hang my hat on a position that was very much a part of the identity I've created for myself for so many years (more on this later, I'm sure). I took a leap of faith and now we are wading through the tangled mess of rethinking our finances and trying to figure out how and whether we can survive without my access to a position that provides a guaranteed income. Fun times!

Not surprisingly, everything has felt so very, very heavy and terrifying this week and my husband and I have been taking turns hopping ungracefully between an attitude of cool, calm and collectedness to one that is panic-stricken, worried and unsure.

So enter the art of remembering. Yesterday, I didn't log into my Facebook account with the intent to peruse all of my personal history on the date of November 10th. It more or less just happened, as it usually does, merely out of haphazard habit.
The pictures that flashed across my feed gripped me instantly to the point that I was choking back tears. The first post was this one of me and my sweet middle child, three years old at the time, tender-hearted Emma girl. Adorned in a hospital gown, with medical equipment peppering the background, she is snuggled in next to me for a selfie, oblivious to all that was about to take place. I appear strong, un-jarred and collected, a facade if ever there was one. How does a mother EVER fully prepare herself for her precious child to be wheeled away by strangers and put under the knife? She doesn't, that's how.

All it took was glancing at one picture and suddenly I was there, the smells of sterility, back in the room where they prepped my sweet girl for surgery. She and I, cuddled together on the hospital bed, heads tilted upward toward the cartoons playing on the TV mounted to the wall. Graham was there too, standing at the bedside, overseeing, wrestling with all the emotions that come along when you are a medical provider who suddenly has to be provide FOR. The trust this requires is beyond that which can be summarized into words.

The anesthetist appeared in the room and cross-checked the identification band on Emma's wrist with the paperwork in his hand. He offered her a variety of scents of "sleepy medicine." Emma made her pick and then I blinked and in what felt like a matter of seconds, he placed an orange mask over her nose and counted down. 10, 9, 8, 7....

I should have looked away. What I saw next made me shudder, my child, suddenly morphing into someone so very foreign, the influence of drugs overtaking her body. I saw her eyes roll into the back of her head and then instantly the room became a bustle of activity. The team materialized seemingly out of nowhere, adorned all in blue, and swiftly wheeled her out the back door to the white lights of surgery. I didn't expect it to happen so fast. The rapid speed at which they worked could easily be mistaken as urgency. Was something wrong?

Sudden tears poured down my cheeks, a terrified mother having just surrendered her beloved child to a place unknown and unseen. We were escorted to the waiting room where I proceeded to fill the trash can with tear-stained tissues. I was a gush of emotion. The floodgates had been released.

I remembered how the weeks that preceded her surgery had put me on edge. They had been far from a cake walk. We were living with my in-laws, on the tail end of a very painful house hunt in a vicious Seattle market. After many failed attempts, we'd finally had an offer accepted on a house that was mostly* what we wanted but was technically beyond the price range we'd been aiming for. We were nearing our closing date when we were informed of a grave error in the paperwork. We fought for an extension, fought with our realtor, fought with the lender, fought with the broker, fought with each other. It wasn't our fault. It was simply another circumstance in that very hard week where we found ourselves completely at the mercy of the performance of others. The sellers grew leery and began to threaten to jump ship. Our escrow money was in jeopardy. We were supposed to get the house around Halloween but it had come and gone and we still didn't have the keys. 

In the midst of all the house stress, our daughter's surgery date loomed. I remember phoning our realtor, a man we didn't even know, a man whose singular interaction with us had been to escort us through this one and only house. I had had it. I was angry, upset at a major oversight on his part and though I knew he probably didn't have a lot of control at that point, I let him have it. I reminded him of our situation, told him it was unacceptable for our offer to fall through due to an error not our own. I told him my daughter was having surgery in the week that followed and that we expected him to make SURE that we had a house by then. And then of course I cried. To this stranger, to this professional, to this grown man, my voice wavered and the tears flowed. Actually, it's probably fair to say I downright sobbed. It was certainly not one of my finest moments but hey, it happens. Needless to say, he was rendered speechless. I'm sure phone calls with blubbering housewives were not a part of his usual work flow. But he rallied and offered some words of empathy and we hung up and I somehow managed to quit my crying by the next talk we talked. 
In case you don't know the way this story ended, we did get the house. We had to bump the closing date multiple times but we were eventually given the keys, 4 days before Emma's scheduled surgery. Her surgery went on without a hitch and she is now our healthy and adorable five-year-old kindergartner, who wows us everyday with her developing reading skills.

Our story ended well two years ago. It usually does. The process was hard and I may have orchestrated it differently had I been given a say but it all worked out and the stresses are but a distant memory. New challenges present themselves now and fear wells within me again. Were it not for the art of remembering, would I have recognized and taken a moment yesterday to savor God's undeniable faithfulness? Probably not.

All this to say, this art of remembering serves a valid and necessary purpose for us as humans. Though mentally reliving the hard times can be painful, it can also bear much fruit. In my case, the act of reliving reminded me so clearly of God's unwavering faithfulness to me and my family through the years. I had renewed perspective. I recognized with fresh eyes the incredible blessing of my children and my home. 

Seeing these pictures yesterday set in motion in me an attitude of deep gratitude and thankfulness that wasn't there before. There wasn't space for it because I was utterly consumed by the stressors of the present. 

In remembering, we gain perspective. 

Where are you struggling? What fears are bubbling from within, threatening to steal your joy, suffocating your faith? I would encourage you to take a moment today to stop and remember. Take a deep breath and let it feed your soul. Your memory might be difficult or it might be joyous, but I challenge you to see if riding the roller coaster of remembrance instills in you renewed thankfulness.

Kind of fitting for this month, isn't it?

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posted by kelsie