Monday, January 3, 2011

The Smog

Right before Christmas, we got some really challenging news. Life-altering news. Like smog, it darkened the skies, made our eyes sting and caused our chests to periodically ache. This smog made it really hard to see the lights and the tinsel. It made us, for the first time, "get through" Christmas.

This news has nothing to do with our children, our marriage, or our health. Thank God for that.

However, this news cuts deep and hurts like hell. I will not be writing about the details of it here, because the person involved values his/her privacy almost above all else. This will probably be the most I will ever share.

But understand---it's always there, like a balloon filled with lead pellets, sitting right on my chest. This new reality has altered me, and made me rawer and kinder. A partial list of things that made me cry over the last week include:

1. Joel was eating vanilla ice cream. He turned to his father and cooed, "Daddy, I'm so, so happy!!" OH ,if it could always be that easy.

2. Any commercial made by Folger's ever.

3. Owen and Joel stood on either side of my fifteen-month old niece. The patted her dandelion-fluff hair, and cooed, "Love you, love you." She darted her eyes back and forth and laughed out loud. The tenderness of this nearly tore me in half.

The smog caused the uglification of my landscape, but it also illuminated the things in my life that contribute to the pollution.  I have been carrying around pettiness and jealousies in a battered old backpack for years. Each hurt feeling and inability to forgive pinched my shoulders and rubbed my back raw.

When I heard the news, I finally, finally put the fucking backpack down. I'm not suggesting that this terrible thing happened so I could get over myself. But I'll take it.

People, there's just no time for that.

I have discovered, already, that free of my backpack, I can use my strength instead to feed, putter, listen, and prepare. I can hold my babies as long as they let me, and recognize that there is nothing mundane about a child in your arms.

I now recognize that while there are days that I want to retort, "Fuck you," when the perfectly nice waitress at Olive Garden wishes us a Happy New Year, I still believe. I still hope. I still am convinced that there is nothing on Earth that will keep me from basking in God's love.

Do I want things to go back to how they were? Yes. Desperately. I don't like the fog. It hurts my eyes, my lungs, and my very spirit.

But the clarity I've gained---it is perhaps the greatest Christmas gift of all.

So tell me your stories, friends. Are you in the smog? Were you in the smog? What helped you see the light?


blueviolet said...

Having been there, I can understand what you're talking about when you see the positive effects of the bad. I never would have had the perspective on things I know have if it weren't for slogging through hell first.

noisycolorfullively said...

I've been there. I find that the more time I spend in the quiet and stilness, the clearer things get. Those are my deepest moments with God. My mind is free to wander and process and think. My heart is open to grieve, to heal. In the quiet I can journal, or paint, or create, or build and busy my body while making my soul still. Those times are the very best for clearing the air. I pray you get a chance to clear the air around you, friend.

Sonya said...

I've been there aswell..I would get pissed off that the world continued and didn't stop while I needed to grieve..but there is a plus to that because you are forced to continue on aswell..even when you don't feel like it.
I hope the smog clears for you.

Caution Flag said...

I suppose most of us know the smog well. Sometimes I can see it coming and get ready, but sometimes it just comes on so quickly that there's no running. Life has crazy surprises. I'm glad your smog has been cathartic. What a wonderful choice you've made to allow it to be that way :) Hope things get a little easier each day for you.

Eternal Lizdom said...

I imagine most of us have been in some sort of smog at some point.

What gets me through? My faith. Turning it over to God, putting my faith in His plan, praying for comfort and guidance, working to keep myself open.

And I'm going to pray for you.

(Florida) Girl said...

Gosh, we had a tough go around this Xmas too...though I have been keeping the details private out of respect for everyone involved.

Time and acceptance has helped me, as well as the trickling in of good news from other places and people in my life.

Shell said...

I'm sorry for whatever it is that you are dealing with. But, impressed that you are able to see the good through it. I really struggle with that.

Muliebrity said...

We have been in a smog as well with my FIL's illness came to our attention at Thanksgiving and we are his primary caretakers. Living in the smog is different than you think it will be.

Mel said...

Been there, so sorry. Mine involved death, divorce and chilhood baggage that rocked our family into bits, and shook my sense of self and reality to the core. Still picking up pieces, though the haze has lifted a bit lately. What helped me most was focusing on the kids, on what they needed, trying to keep unpopped the happy bubble of childhood for as long as possible. They are so much more resilient, or maybe they're just oblivious, but their smiles and hugs got me through. I still cry at the drop of a hat though. Commercials, songs, pictures, stuffed animals - doesn't take much to start the waterworks.
What I struggle with mostly is fear and dread, while I know I should embrace acceptance, but that does not come easily to me, nor does faith in anything other than the random blessings of this life.
Yes, to the clarity. Everything gets distilled down into the essentials. I struggled with my social life for a while after my foggy days - idle chitchat left me mute and depressed, but I am working on connecting in meaningful ways to those who truly matter in my life.
I wish you better this year, at least sunny blue sky days with smiling children that heal your soul. For a book/website that I found very helpful, try by Patti Digh. Great perspective stuff, and the book is both spiritually and visually stunning.
When all else fails, hugs. Hugs help keep you tethered to the world.

Joann Mannix said...

We had a "get by" Christmas too. The health of my mother-in-law blanketed us in worry and disbelief and sadness. We have since, received encouraging news, but just like you, there was this clarification, this sudden bright light that shone down on the sadness and let me see so many things clearer than I have ever seen before.

One of my resolutions for the New Year is to walk my path on this Earth as a kinder, better person. Life's too precious and too short to be bogged down in bad.

I send blessings and good wishes and prayer your way for your bad news and the people involved. Stay strong.

Erin said...


I love you.

I have been in the smog. I think my smog never totally leaves me, but I do experience moments of lifting, clarity, and lightness. So I feel as if I understand where you're coming from.

And you know what? we both used the word "fuck" in our posts today. Even saying that may help you feel better (but not in front of O & J, right?!).

I am here if you need me.

tsonodablog said...

Hi Nancy;
I'm the crazy woman who is cheering you on in your early morning writing adventures. Erin RT'd your post and I adore Erin so here I am. My eyes are filled with tears for you, but not sad ones (well maybe a little bit), but rather happy ones, and why? Because of this SMOG, you have seen your way to a new level in your life, and though it may not feel good right now, it will make a big difference and soon.
You asked if we'd ever been in a FOG/SMOG? Fourteen years ago I thought my son (then 14, now 28) was dying of cancer. He had been diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma. We got a second opinion before putting him on Chemo, and then a third....sent samples to the Mayo Clinic. Lo and Behold, he had an entirely different disease, Chondroblastoma, which is treatable and non-life threatening if monitored. But back to the fog part. There was a 3 week gap in-between the 1st and 3rd diagnoses, and the FOG was so thick for me, I could not breath sometimes. I won't fill up your page any further, but my message is that I did grow stronger from it. I don't know what would have happened if the 1st diagnosis had been correct, and I don't want to know or think about it.
Your writing is lovely. I look forward to returning.

clearness said...

We had some smog settle down on us the Wednesday before Christmas. Joey will have not one but two surgeries. First one to put in an Eight Plate in his growth plate. Second one to remove it after whatever the dr thinks is broken is fixed.

Looking forward to 2013 being the first year Joey goes surgery free.

Formerly known as Frau said...

I hope the smog clears soon and your spirit is whole. But when something good comes from bad things ya have to wonder ....why or just embrace. ((hugs))

Cheryl said...

Hugs to you, Nancy..

Daffy said...

Smog doesn't EVEN begin to describe it...I don't know that I even have a word for it. However it is more evident than ever before that life is all about perspective and attitude and choice. The choice is in how you deal with what you are faced with. There ARE blessings should one choose to look hard enough for them. The smog has blinded me from frienships that at first I thought I would miss dearly but have come to realize would've only hurt me more. In loosing sight of certain things, people, relationships, situations in my smog....I also found blindly the steadfast support of those I didn't need to 'see'. Regardless they were there, giving, loving, feeding, supporting and hoping when I couldn't....and they still do. In the moments when the smog clears I find that they are actually the arms that helped hold me up. I think of all that I would've missed had I allowed the potential suffocation of the smog- the fear, the heartbreak, the sadness- take over and I am enternally grateful.

It has been an interesting journey through 2010. Many that were on my same path have chosen alternate routes because they haven't yet been faced with situations that give them pause...forcing them to reevaluate just what is important in life and to as you put it "get over themselves".

I am sorry for your smog but thankful that you are able to find the blessings in it.

michelle said...

See the miracle?!? See the magic?!?

We are the blessed ones for whom the smog illuminates.

Love this post


adrienzgirl said...

It's always in the darkness when the lights that shine the brightest in our lives show their importance. They are always on, but in the sunlight we think we don't need them. When the sun sets and the darkness rolls in and seems to be smothering, that's when those lights show us the way. They show us that even when we don't remember that we need them, that we do.

I hope you forget where you laid your backpack so that you can't pick it up again. Sometimes those old backpacks are so comforting. Like that special worn in pair of shoes, that should've been thrown out years ago. You know those shoes...the ones we walked 10,000 miles in the wrong direction in? and hugs to you. Christmas is over this year, and thankfully 2010 is put to bed. While I have witnessed true miracles this year, I have seen some of the darkest of times for friends, family and loved ones this past year. I am looking forward to a better 2011 and wish that for you as well!!

Ms. Moon said...

Here's a story for you:
Once, when a friend of mine was dying, she attended the very difficult breech birth of a friend of hers at the birth center where I worked. After the birth, I found my friend lying on the sofa in the front room of the birth center. "Sue," I said, "are you okay?"
She was crying.
"Yes," she said. "I am. I just realized how much garbage we carry around which is not ours to carry."

Ash said...

My MIL's battle with stage 3c ovarian cancer almost 10 years ago. She's a 9-year survivor.

Oh, and that pesky PKU diagnosis.

I feel sorry for the inexperienced who cannot see it as clearly as you and I. But sometimes it takes living through it to get over yourself.

Hugs to you my friend. And your entire family. You guys are in my prayers.

Snuggle Wasteland said...

Nancy, you are such a treasure. You don't ever stop growing and learning and becoming a better person, do you? I've always thought you were pretty fantastic to begin with but there you go...and you share it all with us.

I continue to think of and pray for you and your family.

Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

Smog comes and goes in our lives, but when I look back on those gray times they never seem as horrible as when I'm in the midst of it. That's been the strange but beautiful experience of my life so far.

I hope you had your family are able to find easy joy again soon when your smog passes.

Megan said...

Smog sucks really bad. But rainbows can always shine through.

(Too smaltzy? I was scared of that.)

StarTraci said...

Leading up to Christmas, the smog was suffocating me. I had a series of events that I allowed to knock the wind out of me. But after Christmas, a couple of mini-miracles came into my life. These did not change the smog but allowed me to breathe a little deeper and wait for the moments that allow me to see a little more clearly.

I don't know what threw smog into your life and I don't need to. What I do know is that you are surrounded in love and that can buoy you in even the deepest cold waters or thickest smog. You will remain in my prayers as wil lthe person for whom you worry and care.

All my best for a better 2011. May God bless you and yours.


Nichole said...

May the smog clear quickly so that you may see the sun.

Hugs to you...

Bethany said...

love your heart, mind, writing, soul work, vision....

Cat said...

I was in the smog. It ended when it ended. There was a kind of resolution that I seized on and decided that it couldn't control me anymore. It may sound silly, but a quote from Labyrinth really helped me. Slightly ellipsed to cut out goblin city references...

"Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here... For my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom is as great. You have no power over me."

So yeah, dorky but it helped remind me that the only one with true power over me is me.

tulpen said...

This is gorgeous.

For me, the smog comes and goes. At random. When it does descend, I assume it is for a reason, and let it be. I always trust that it will go away, and it always does.

LB said...

I love reading your stuff. It always helps me to keep things in perspective. This post is no exception.

Steph(anie) said...

The smog landed in my life almost 2 years ago. And like you say, the perspective is really something.

formerlyonlyamovie said...

I missed this. Am mired in smog and fog of unbloggable, which is how 2011 announced itself here.

This is beautifully said.

I love that you can look through the prism in a different way. It really is the best way to get through life.