Strong Enough

March 30th, 2011

One phrase that has always irked me is “God never gives us more than we can handle.” Like many cliches or aphorisms that are meant to address grief, trauma, loss, depression, anxiety, stress…it falls so far short of meaningful or helpful that it should be buried in our culture’s language graveyard. It’s among a category of sayings that trivialize pain instead of addressing it or letting it be. Like:

He’s in a better place.

It could be worse.

You’re overreacting.

Can’t you let that go?

And my favorite:  That happend to my cousin (friend, neighbor, college roommate)

So I was happy when I read something similar, yet fresh and different in this month’s edition of Poetry. From Anna Kamienska’s “Industrious Amazement: A Notebook: Each of us has strength enough to bear the misfortunes of others.

We can’t really tell anyone, in their moment of suffering, that they’ll be okay. Even if we know it’s true, it isn’t fair to say so. And it doesn’t make sense to say “at some point in the future, whether in 30 minutes or 30 years, you’ll be okay.”In the “Land of Not Okay”* things feel different. No one wants to stay there forever, but in the moment when they share their particular suffering, when they present you with the opportunity to bear their misfortune, don’t tell them it’s okay. Let them be. Let their suffering be. Allow them to be in The Land of Not Okay.

It takes strength to bear another person’s misfortune. Not because you’re supposed to shoulder the whole load. Not because you need to live as if their misfortune is yours. You don’t need to (and usually can’t) carry much of the load. But it DOES take strength to let them be. To work through the awkward silence after they’ve told you how they feel, and let go of any mode of language that wants to sweep things under the rug or move too quickly to “fix” the problem. It takes strength to enter into their misfortune by understanding that you can’t enter into it– the experience is singular and fundamentally uncommunicable.

*The phrase is from one of my favorite bloggers, “Just Jen”

The Second Day of Christmas

December 26th, 2010

I bought two hundred bulbs in October to plant before the frost. I don’t know anything about bulbs, but I had this idea that through the winter I could think of them hibernating in the ground, preparing to bloom. Then in February or March the first ones would poke out of the snow and cheer me up. I picked out early spring blooms (snowdrops, hyacinth) , middle of spring (tulips, spring star), and late spring (bluebells, anemone). Then I got involved in the semester, in missing Nick, in caring for Ian, and never took the time to plant them. Just today I saw them in the corner of my shed when I took out the trash amidst a true blizzard. Too late to plant them. But next year. And as compensation, the snow is lovely (dark & deep) and cottony-quiet. We have a foot so far. Ian and I watched it fall from the big upstairs window, but we couldn’t go outside. He woke up last night with a high fever and it’s been up and down from 100 to 104 for almost a day now.

I wanted to go out and make Christmas visits, and go to the store to get some lights to put on my tree. But there’s more time for that. Today we stayed in, Ian clinging and crying, and I gradually accepting that nothing would get done. Except the most important things, like washing his bottles, reading books, holding him close while he fell asleep. My sister in law (who lives upstairs in this 2 family home) watched him while I took a shower and did some yoga. Not half bad for a sick day, but it was tedious and hard and my back is hurting. Now I’ve tiptoed away to write this while Ian is sleeping in our big bed with the dog, who has started sneaking under our covers in the middle of the night because (I suppose) his comfy dog bed isn’t good enough. In a few minutes, I’ll go into the bedroom and perform our nightly ritual of telling the dog to get out of the bed, then dragging him out of the bed. Then Ian will cuddle up in the crook of my arm and I will listen to his breathing that sounds like the purring of a cat because this cold he has is in his lungs. After a while, the dog will get back in the bed because he knows I can’t drag him out once the baby is in my arms. He’s no dummy.

Domestic rituals, domestic work. They never end. Our lives proceed from them.

There is a blizzard outside. Cold fingers and toes. We probably won’t be able to go out for at least two more days, maybe more. We’ll see what the third day of Christmas brings.

Dear Readers,

I know many of you have fostered or adopted sibling groups in the US. We have great need here for families who can adopt brothers and sisters so they aren’t separated. And many of you are in the process of adopting sibling groups internationally. There are so many little families waiting for parents in this world!

The following message, which a friend of mine sent to me, is about two Polish sibling groups. If any of you are currently working on the Polish adoption process, take a look at this message.

“My friend Anna Maria, who adopted 3 polish children 10 years ago has been asked by the Servants of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Czestochowa to help get the word out that there are 2 different sibling groups of four children each they are trying to find homes for.  They ages range from 2-9. These nuns who run the orphanage do not want to see the children split from their siblings.  If you all know anyone who might be in a position to adopt a sibling group from Poland, please pass on this information! Anna Maria’s number is 703-203-2901. She is here in the U.S. and does speak polish. If anyone is seriously interested, Anna Maria said she would be glad to talk to them. The Directoress’ name is Sr. Alina Syliwoniuk. Her phone number is (011) +48(0)34-324-67-51 Dom Malych Dzieci Home of small children (Orphanage)im. E.

Bojanowskiego E. Bojanowski ul. sw. Kazimierza 1 1 St. Casimir Str 42-200 Czestochowa 42-200 Czestochowa”


Picture Problem Fixed

August 1st, 2010

Thanks to everyone who told me about the problem with pictures loading on the blog. Nick fixed it (I’m glad one of us is good with programming) and now you should be able to see all the pics.