Monday, October 15, 2012

Muscle memory

October arrived late this year. And by that I mean that the rain didn't start until October 13, after a virtually rain-free September. We have been spoiled with a glorious early fall here in the Pacific Northwest but now October has arrived. And, as my husband likes to say, rain is in the forecast from now until April.


I love the fall. I really do. I don't even mind the turn of season we've had in the last few days in which the temperature has dropped, the mornings are darker and as if on cue, the leaves seemed to have figured out they are supposed to start changing color and dropping. We went from indian summer to autumn in one very short 48 hour span of time and part of me finds it reassuring and lovely. We Northwesterners are accustomed to a change of season and it can almost be disconcerting when one season lingers too long, drifting into the next one. Although, I'll admit, we are less bothered when summer is the season that decides to hang around to close down the party. We may enjoy our four seasons but aren't afraid to admit our favoritism for the sunny months.

But I'm realizing that this year October couldn't come at a worse time.

The other night, Superdad and I were lounging together enjoying a rare moment of respite, watching Modern Family, and thoroughly relishing a 30 minute window where we intentionally opted to do nothing. As the credits rolled though, all of the duties of life came intruding back into my brain and I commenced a long, borderline whiny lament to my blessedly attentive husband.

Ugh. I just can't stop thinking about all of the stuff that has to be done in the next month, let alone this weekend. Tim still has that stupid science project to finish and, I'm sorry, but it really is a stupid project. Just give the boy a test- he'll ace it and I won't have to be drawn into the web of suffering. Jack is only about 1/3 of the way done with his Thesis and he still needs several outside sources which have been almost impossible to find. Not to mention the minor detail of those college essays he needs to write. I'm starting to think we can kiss any of the Nov. 15 early action deadlines goodbye, which is just great. And on top of all of that, I can't stand how disorganized the house has become and I'm getting close to throwing out every single thing we own and we can start living like hippies. And even though you know I love to organize things, love to get things whipped into shape, love to assist with filling out forms and managing deadlines- I can't seem to get my head around any of this stuff right now. I feel completely unmotivated and find myself wishing I could take a nap every single afternoon. What is up with that?!? What on earth is wrong with me??

Superdad just smiled sympathetically as I took a breath and allowed my rant to quiet and disappear into the air like a deflating balloon. He reached over, gave me a big squeeze and gave me the answer I'd been looking for in just three words.

Because it's October.

And he was right. I don't know why it still catches me by surprise every year that the seemingly innocuous act of turning a page on the calendar, and the inevitable arrival of fall weather should knock me off my game so significantly. It really shouldn't be a surprise anymore. But now that the other eleven months of the year pass so peacefully I get lulled into a fall sense of calm that this will be the year that October will feel like any other month.

Nine years ago, at the end of October,  I birthed, held and said goodbye to our tiny, too-small-to-stay, infant son and daughter. Our twins, Molly and Joseph, arrived too soon and left us too soon which is a story too big to tell in its entirety right now but has left us with a twist in our family tale that we never expected or wanted. And I'm learning yet again this year that whether I choose to make it so or not, October will always be their month.

I know that sounds sad. And, of course, it is a sad memory. But honestly, after having been given the gift of time and distance, October isn't about sadness anymore. That's not what it is. It's a quiet remembering, with maybe just a hint of melancholy. There is even some happiness in the remembering simply because most of the time now I don't give myself much time to go back to those feelings and think about what was, what we had hoped for, what might have been; most importantly the children we planned for, prayed for, wanted, loved and love still. In October I am forced to give myself that time, one way or another, because it's all wrapped up in the season, the weather, the pumpkins on porches and everything that is October.

But this year is hard because of all the pressing to-do's. Many of them aren't really my to-do's but they require my help, my support and a little guidance. They aren't the sort of things that can be put on the back burner to be dealt with at a later date.

You learn a lot when you go through something traumatic. Not that you want to hear that when you are in the midst of wading through suffering. In fact, I should be clear, you do not want to hear that when you are in the thick of grief. Ever. Those of us standing on the outside of someone else's experience of loss must resist the temptation to offer pithy platitudes or awkward attempts to find the silver lining. I beg of you. Inevitably, whether we want to or not (and I would venture to say that we do not), we will all learn the lessons that loss has to teach us, but they are ours to learn, in our own time, in our own way.

One of the things I gained through my experience was the ability to prioritize and to really examine who I was and what was important to me. I let a lot of responsibilities go during those months following our loss and one of the few gifts of grief is that people will usually let you. When I started to emerge from the thickest fog I had a unique opportunity, the chance to decide what I was going to allow back into my life and what I was done with forever. Nine years later, I can say that I am still very careful about where I choose to land and to what things I will give my time and energy.

So, now the challenge in the remaining weeks of October is how to find a balance. How to press through and get done what needs to be done, and how to recognize I may not be running at full speed so what then can be left until a later time when I have more energy to give?

What would really be helpful is some sort of time freezing technology. Something where I can freeze a few days here and there between now and the end of the month where I can give myself 24 hours to just rest, read, relax, reflect etc... and then rejoin the world of housework, home management, college applications, work duties, and school projects without having lost a minute.

Is there an app for that?

Can somebody get on that for me??

I carry you with me into the world,
into the smell of rain & the words that dance between people
And for me, it will always be this way,
walking in the light,
remembering being alive together.
~Brian Andreas


  1. I don't know that I would have understood this a year ago. Sympathized, yes. Understood . . . . no. But I get it and I feel for you and I hope you take care of yourself in this tender time.

    Who needs early admission anyway? And the science project is one of a hundred. If this one isn't perfect, oh well. Be good to yourself. Give yourself some grace. It will be November soon enough.

    1. Yes, I'll bet you understand the need to freeze time just so you can breathe very well now, Mindee. And I'm sorry that you do...

  2. Oh Lori-THANK YOU for sharing this with me. It absolutely sums up what my email was about and I am so relieved to know that this is not unique to me-that nothing is actually WRONG with me (I was actually wondering if, perhaps, it was time to see a Dr bcs I am craving sleep!) that it is just, well, October.

    It's amazing that still, after 9 years, it helps to know that I'm not alone.

    As always, wishing you peace and joy! April

    1. Thanks, April! And I too find it comforting to know that I am not alone or crazy either! Love hearing from you. :)