Gathering up all my brave.

Dear friends,

For the last few weeks, I’ve been acutely attuned to the distressing situation that has unfolded a mere 90 miles away from me in Ferguson, Missouri. I’ve followed social media intently, I’ve devoured information on news sites, and I’ve given a lot of thought to what it means to me as a Missourian, as an American, as a mother, as a human who cares passionately about social justice and civil rights.

I’ll refrain from drawing conclusions at this moment about precisely what happened between the police officer and the young Michael Brown. There are ongoing investigations and I suspect we’ll be years down the road before we have anything close to “clarity” on how the particulars of the incident and the aftermath reflect on our system of policing and justice, not to mention our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But here’s what I know. Whether we acknowledge it or not, there are distinctly different realities of life in America based on race, gender, age, sexual orientation, education, wealth and geographic location. What one man calls justifiable force, another calls oppression and discrimination. What one man deems “justice,” another deems “just us.” Socio-economic factors create a unique “lens” for each of us and until we can view the world through multiple lenses, many of them foreign or possibly distasteful to us, we cannot begin to approach “truth.” To say otherwise is to ignore that evil and corruption thrive despite our best intentions, or to fall prey to the myopia that threatens to permanently disable our nation.

***

So it is through this dismaying, nay disorienting, perspective that I am saddened to tell you Mr. Mom and I recently received devastating news. We lost our lawsuit.

Our attorney sent us the judge’s verdict a couple of weeks ago with an email message that said “It will make you want to throw up.”

Not in the “gag me” way you might refer to when something is annoying. In the “fall to your knees and retch” way until you are hollow-eyed and certain the injury is mortal.

I haven’t filled in many of the blanks for you about the condemnation trial we attended in April. I honestly haven’t been able. I felt in my gut it didn’t go “our way” and I guess I wanted a few months of denial between what I thought was the reality of the trial and the resulting ruling from the judge. But reality gut-punched us recently and we still haven’t caught our breath.

Losing our case means our land remains inaccessible (except via a 10-mile hike through the adjoining national forest). It also means our family is responsible for the Unfriendly’s legal fees. If their testimony is to be believed, they have spent three times what we have. At one point in the trial, their attorney referred to one of our claims as “outrageous.” During a break shortly thereafter, our attorney whispered to me “The only thing I’ve heard in court today that’s outrageous are the fees their damn attorney is charging them!”

We will appeal the ruling. It is our opinion, and our attorneys’, that the judge ignored the instructions handed down from the Appellate Court. That she ruled in contradiction to case law. We won our last appeal when the prior judge contradicted case law, so who knows?

***

Late into the night when we first heard the news, when Mr. Mom and I lay in bed, silent, unable to fathom the future, financially or emotionally, I finally said this:

“Listen. I understand. I understand the inclination to become fatally cynical. To succumb to rage. To believe that everything you’ve thought to be true about life is a lie. I feel it right now with an intensity I cannot describe. I am angry and I am disillusioned and I want to hurt somebody equal to our pain.

But here’s the thing. Our loss represents land and money. Land and money. We are not angry or cynical because our child is dead through injustice. We are not suing because some big corporation poisoned our water and gave us cancer. We are losing land and money. In the meantime, we are managing to put our children through college and they are by all accounts thriving. We have a strong and loving marriage.

We are losing land and money. Let’s remember what we still have before we risk sinking with this ship.”

***

So, I’m thinking of Glennon Melton and her words of wisdom. I’m gathering up all my brave and trying to do the next right thing. It ain’t easy, believe me. I’m not nearly as kind and patient as I want to be. I have long stretches of despair and regret and bitterness. I’m clinging to a faith that love and hope prevail in the end, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. I’m limping on tender feet, hurt beyond words, unsure how one keeps from drowning in the tsunami of fear and trouble and worry that rises over us.

Still, I refuse to end with anything other than gratitude. Despite this very big thing that has gone grievously wrong for far too many years, so much has gone right. I know it. I see it. I feel it. And if I can gather up enough brave, maybe I can trust in it.

With gratitude {for, as always, the partner that makes this journey bearable},

Joan, who welcomes your good thoughts and kind words but asks that you not dwell on injustice. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that justice is in the eyes of the beholder and what feels like a travesty to us is heralded as right and proper by the Unfriendlys. Please don’t tell me how shocked you are or how unfair this seems. Life is ridiculously unfair to legions of souls every day, most of them far more afflicted than I. If you have anything to offer, offer us equanimity, in the belief we will rest in it, heal in it, and pass on more than our share to those around us.

Grappling with gratitude.

Dear friends,

I’ve been away for a few days.

Not away from home, but certainly away from my senses. From what I hold dear, including gratitude.

You see, Mr. Mom and I got some bad news earlier this week. As you might guess, it’s related to our mountain dispute. We’ve been trying to get our heads around this latest development, to understand our options — if there even are any — and what comes next. Frankly, though, we feel like we’ve been sucker punched and it’s hard to think straight when you’ve had the wind knocked out of you. The judge’s latest ruling unleashed a tsunami of heartache and regret and frustration and grief — and we’re standing dazed and battered on the shore while the remnants of our dream drift out to sea.

I’m not trying to be dramatic and I’m certainly not trying to foreshadow the conclusion to my weekly story — if I even get that far. Right now, I just feel silly and stupid and embarrassed about the whole thing. When I started telling the story in installments, I thought it would be cathartic. And, honestly, we thought we saw a light at the end of the tunnel and we believed the story would have a happy ending. (I foolishly thought I had a “keep your chin up, folks” story to tell. And how perfect is that for a gratitude blog?)  As things have unfolded in recent weeks, however, it’s hard to believe in the happy ending and it’s doubly difficult to keep writing a narrative that looks as if it’s about to break our hearts.

So the last few days I’ve swallowed hard and thought a lot about gratitude. I said at the outset of this blog that I aspired to cultivate gratitude in my life — to reflect on it and savor it and spread it. And in a way, I feel like I’m cutting and running on my promise to myself and to my readers if I can’t muster the courage or the fortitude to finish the story and to unearth something, anything from this experience to be grateful for.

Here’s the truth as I know it today: If you ever think you know what’s next in your life, you’re delusional. And if you ever think you have any control over it, you’re certifiably insane.  The business guru Peter Drucker said “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” I think Peter Drucker is full of BS. Life happens, and sometimes life sucks and sometimes it breaks your heart and sometimes it flattens you.

It seems to me the real test is — can you get back up? Can you walk through the rest of your days without a 10-pound stone of sorrow and regret in your pocket? Can you uncover something positive to dwell on, can you heal your heart, can you redeem your faith in this life?

That’s what I’m focused on right now. I’ll let you know how it goes.

With gratitude {for a partner whose admirable composure and stability has made a very difficult week bearable},

Joan

PS: I have a few more installments of our story already written. I’ll continue to publish them on Mondays until I run out of installments or run out of words.  In the mean time, I’m taking a little blogging break. Kate and I are headed out for New York City and I can think of no more restorative activity than mother-daughter bonding in the Big Apple. However, at a time when I’m grappling with gratitude, I can say without reservation that you, dear readers, are a source of support and encouragement and friendship for which I’m immensely thankful.

Too many words on my mental state at this exact moment.

Dear friends,

I don’t have the right words to describe how I’ve been feeling lately, so I’ll just take a ham-handed stab at it.

Teary. Jittery. Frustrated. Angry. Distraught. Restless. Blue. Pensive. To the tenth power.

I told Mr. Mom yesterday that I alternate between wanting to burst into tears and stab somebody in the face. (Actually, I think if I could stab somebody THEN have a good cry, I might feel a whole lot better.)

At any other point in my life, I might have called this feeling hormonal. (Sorry male readers.) But I’m pretty sure I’m not hormonal.

I’m pretty sure I’m freaking out. I’m pretty sure I’m flipping my lid because the beautiful young woman in the photo above is moving out.  I’m pretty sure I’m melting down because my mother card is being punched for the last time and I don’t get a new one.

I’ve been a working mother for all of my children’s lives. My own mother raised my children until Mr. Mom took over a few years ago. I have always known my days as a pinch-hitter were numbered. But I looked up not long ago and realized my number had dropped from triple digits to double digits. That’s right, Kate moves away in 79 days.

Seventy-nine days and I’m no longer the mother of a daughter who lives under my roof. Seventy-nine days and anything I wanted to be as a mother, do as a mother, is over. Seventy-nine days and my fate is sealed on what Kate thinks and feels and remembers about her time under my wing. I had my swing at the ball and now I have to go sit in the dugout. Forever.

The thing is — when you are a working mother, you can’t think about your expiration date. You do, of course, but you don’t contemplate it seriously because — damn — you’re just trying to get through the days, you know, with some sliver of your sanity intact. Maybe stay-at-home mothers feel this way, too. I would never know. And maybe their guilt and regret is every bit as intense as those of us who go to the office everyday and work too many nights and weekends and take too many business trips and miss too many school plays and sporting matches.

Maybe the lot of every soul born a woman and who later gives birth is to feel sorrow and guilt and regret and to second-guess every thing she ever did, including the pink lipstick that she insisted upon and that infuriated her daughter on dance recital day, as well as the moment she lost her senses and threw the remote control at the back of her daughter’s head and mercifully missed because she can’t hit a target to save her life. Maybe the lot of every mother is to live out her days convinced all she did was fritter it away and screw it up and believe there is surely a special hell for mothers. Especially neurotic, introspective mothers.

All I know is this mother misses every moment she didn’t get to have with her daughter even though she knows made a bargain with her partner and her end of the bargain included earning a living and now feeling this way is selfish and indulgent, like she wanted it all and knew she couldn’t have it all but is still p-o’d about it.

Hey, I didn’t say I was being rational.

And since I’m not being rational, please don’t tell me about how great it will be to transition to the next stage of motherhood. I cannot hear those words right now. I’m still having a tantrum over this stage coming to an end.

But if you want to tell me I’m normal, not psychotic, that would be appreciated. If you want to tell me this feeling, much like grieving, will diminish with time, then that will be appreciated, too. If you want to commiserate and tell me this transition in a mother’s life sucks big-time — whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mom — then I’ll give you an “Amen, sister.” If you want to hold my hand and cry with me, then come over soon, please, or at least before I get my ugly cry-face on.

Because let’s not compound the tragedy, okay?

With gratitude {for . . . I’m searching . . . I’m searching . . .},

Joan, who feels a little like Anne of the Thousand Days, only she had 7,000 and it’s still not nearly enough