Boundaries

There are days when I feel incredibly broken… and I am tempted to believe that this is just my life now – that only being capable of doing very little is the new normal.

But there are times when I stop and look back, and I try to consider myself objectively.  In those moments, I am amazed at how far I have come, and at the healing we have experienced in a relatively short time.  Some of the reasons for this are still outside my ability to explain, but there are a few ways of living that have helped along the way.  They are mostly habits that were already in place that have become all-important for me this year.

The first one I want to talk about has to do with boundaries.  In particular, having to do with social expectation and interaction.

I walled myself off pretty closely for a few months.  I kept in regular contact with a very few trusted people, seeing them in person or talking on the phone so that I wasn’t isolated or lonely.  I didn’t go to gatherings or public places where I might run into someone I knew.  I kept in touch with most people through email: which I checked and answered when I was up to it.  I spent time only with people I knew were in a place to be sensitive to what I wanted to do or talk about, and didn’t need anything from me.

I needed to protect myself – I have been very fragile.  Many of the people we know are amazing, kind, generous, wonderful people.  We also interact with a lot of people who are less than whole, or who have their own needs and troubles.  (I’ve struggled with how to put this into words, but I expect that many of you will know what I mean.)  There is a kind of interaction where the other person is taking something – where they come with their own need or expectation and want me to meet it.  Someone needs me to receive or comfort them in a certain way.  Usually I have the emotional resources to either choose to give, or choose to respond in another way that handles that person with care.  But in a weak place, I’ll either just let them take what they need (out of an empty tank), or say something to get that person to back off (probably a hurtful thing).  Both of these reactions have a cost, and I haven’t wanted to pay it.

Another reason is the added anxiety that comes with social interactions – you have no idea what other people might say or do!  They might be engaging, insightful, and kind – or ignorant, complaining, and inappropriate.  Or anywhere on the spectrum in between.

Plus, as an introvert, social interaction is tiring for me, so I rationed it pretty carefully.

In December, I started expanding those boundaries slowly.  Every once in a while, I stretched too far and need some recovery time.  I’ve protected the boundaries fiercely, saying no to a lot of things I would normally want to do (and some things Mike really wanted me to do).  I’ve listened very carefully to what I feel I can or can’t do.  I’ve put off making plans or commitments until I think that I can follow through (I know myself, once I have said I will do something, I’m not likely to back off).

And I’ve seen huge change over the months in my desire and ability to be out with people.  We’ve had remarkably few interactions where people have said ridiculous things.  (I did just about yell at a woman I had just met – she kept asking questions about the details of “what happened.”  It wasn’t the questioning, but the total lack of kindness or compassion in any of the questions that really bothered me.  However, I remembered my deep respect for our mutual friends, and just kept quiet.  I’m counting that as a win.)

I’m still trying to guard my time pretty carefully.  There are a lot of amazing people on the West Coast, that I really want to spend time with.  But I know how desperately I need to rest and recover after the last few months of intensely pouring out – and I want to be energized heading into the next season.

Although I think boundaries are generally a good thing, I’m not a huge fan of living in a defensive position.  But for this season, to protect time and space for healing, it has served me well.

 

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Long-term vision and short-term plans

We’ve come to some decisions about the next steps in our journey!

Long-term, we are planning to remain with YWAM Canada.  We have some vision for what we will do, but we are letting that develop slowly.  We are aware that launching into these ideas will be a significant challenge, and we know that our perseverance and hope are not up to these tasks yet.

We are planning to return to Rwanda at the beginning of next year – our visas expire in March 2019, so we will be spending some time in Rwanda before that.

In the meantime, we have been considering what to do.  Although we are not up to big challenges or responsibilities, we are able to serve someone else’s project for a while: to spend our days working and serving without having to carry the burden of vision and leadership.

We set out some major and minor parameters for what we wanted (meaningful service, opportunity for growth, and emotionally safe/healthy people we could work closely with as we continue to heal, a space of our own where we wouldn’t have to set up house, etc.), and then laid out the options as we saw them.  We asked questions and sought advice from people we trust.

And the outcome was somewhat unexpected!  We have good friends in Pennsylvania who have been working towards starting a church for several years.  In September, they will be launching… so we talked to them about coming in August and spending the fall and part of the winter helping them.

One of the hangups was housing – but someone from their sending church had a tiny house, and needed a place to put it – putting it in our friends’ driveway will give us a space of our own to be in, while still being nearby to do all the daily things we want to be available for.

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We also wanted to take this chance to see if there is anyone out there who would be interested in supporting us financially, especially over this next year.  As YWAMers, our income comes from people who are interested enough in what we do to give dollars towards it.  It is much easier to raise support towards a specific vision or project, and right now we are without those things.  Some of our previous supporters have been supporting us specifically because we have been working in Rwanda, and we want to release them with our blessing.  However, it is certainly much more expensive for us to be living in North America!  So: while one-time gifts are certainly welcome, we are hoping for people who will support us monthly for the next year or so, while we are serving through this transition time.

If you are interested, you can find practical information here.  If you have further questions, you can also feel free to contact us.

We are really looking forward to this next phase.  It feels good to have a decision made, to know that we will be staying in one place for a few months, and we are certainly excited to be working with people/a project we believe in!

Toast

The last few months we have been labouring towards a goal: the beginning of healing for YWAM Canada after Beatrix’s traumatic death.  It has marked us as an organization and many of us as individuals.

The culmination of this trip was last week in Calgary, where leaders from across the country gathered together to work on what the future directions of YWAM Canada will be – starting with the topic of “healthy grief.”  Mike and I shared our story.

We have been extending all of our mental and emotional resources towards this, and knew that we would be exhausted at the end.  We planned to have a good rest in July, to be able to recover.

We also had planned to arrive in Calgary a day early to have some time and space to prepare well for this emotional work.

But…

Just before we left Saskatchewan for Calgary we got a call that Mike’s Uncle Pat was in the hospital in Regina, and all the family was coming.

I don’t know how to talk about these people in a way that will help you see, but this is a family that has showed up for us again, and again, and again.

One of these cousins took our wedding pictures when our photographer cancelled last minute.

One of them hosted a bachelor party for one of Mike’s friends, because Mike realized at the last minute that none of the local groomsman had planned anything and Mike didn’t  know of a good local venue.

Aunt Betty Ann hosted a fundraiser for us in her business, even though she wan’t sure if it was a good business move.  (Come to think of it, I hope that’s not why M.O.M.’s is closed now? 🙂 )

And Uncle Pat was always really close to Mike’s dad.

 

So we went to Regina instead, and spent the day and a good chunk of the night at the hospital.   Patrick Tallon died around midnight.

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We slept for a few hours, drove to Calgary, and hurriedly tried to finish our preparations.  We spent a lot of our driving time trying to figure out exactly what we wanted to say, and how we would say it.  (And carefully backing off every time we started to get tense, recognizing that this is hard and we were exhausted.)

 

It went really, really well, beyond even my hopes.  I tried to cram in every bit of awesomeness that was possible in the days we had there – and might share more at another time, but for now I’ll just say that we accomplished a lot, talked a lot, and slept only a little.

We left early to get back to Saskatchewan in time for Mike to lead prayers for Uncle Pat’s funeral.

Given our lives, we are so glad we have been able to be in Saskatchewan this week.

And we are so sad.  (This is an understatement.)

And we were already at the end of our physical and emotional capacity, so we are toast.

But we are headed towards a rest.

Music on the Road

I have so many things I want to tell you about.  I have so many thoughts and experiences from the last couple of months that I want to share with you.

But not yet.  Our time has been so rich; has been so amazing and good.  And so exhausting.

We’re taking a rest soon, and I’ll get a chance to develop all the bits rattling around in my brain.  For now, I thought I could just give you a sense of where we are at, from the music that’s been feeding my soul along the way.

As with last time, some of the songs are more about the lyrics, and some are more about the emotion of the song.  Enjoy.

My Therapy Kayak

I always wanted to like canoeing, but for whatever reason the skills elude me.  This has led to multiple canoeing experiences memorable only because they did not go well AT ALL.  But the first time I was in a kayak I knew I had found a sport I loved.

I have had it in my head for a while that at whatever time we move back to Canada, I would like to take up kayaking.  When we found ourselves here last fall, it seemed like a good idea.

I had to find a kayak that I would actually be able to use, so I bought an expensive one that folds up into our trunk – and then began learning how to use it.

One of the things that happened after Beatrix’s death was that my back, shoulders, and neck hurt so much.  This has happened to me under stress for as long as I can remember, but since August I have had muscle pain on an unmanageable level.  Massage helped – but I found that after about a week, I was all tied up again.  It took me a while to realize that after I started kayaking, those muscles didn’t hurt anymore.  (Well, that’s not entirely true, but instead it was the satisfying ache of well-used muscles.)

Another thing I found was it was actually so much better than going in to see a professional counselor.  (For me, in this context.  I think in many circumstances it can be a really helpful thing, so I don’t want to seem like I am making any sweeping statements.)  But I often came back after kayaking having come to peace with some issue.  It has given me space, time, and beauty, to help work out my healing.  (Actually, most of my blogs have been inspired while kayaking.)

Having a physical challenge (e.g. I’m going to paddle to that island and back), has satisfied a need I have.  Especially in this season of producing nothing, and often feeling like I am making little progress, achieving tangible goals has been a balm.

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Harrison Lake, BC

I can’t say enough about the beauty…  It’s impossible for me to describe in words the healing power of being immersed in natural beauty.

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Harrison River –  photo credit to my brother, Ed Wig

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Deep Cove, Vancouver

I also feel ridiculously privileged for all of the rich experiences I’ve had this year.

I kayaked on the east and west coasts of Canada.

I kayaked on the Harrison river in October – and so in addition to experiencing the salmon run, I saw several otters and dozens of bald eagles.

I kayaked through an eerie morning fog in a salt water marsh in the Rachel Carson National Wildlife reserve in Maine.

I kayaked out to an island in the Saint Lawrence Seaway.  (This one didn’t go at all as intended.  Instead of a beautiful, peaceful paddle, it turned into a memorable tidal experience.)

I’m planning to get out on Lake Superior next week.

These things all sound incredible when I talk about them this way.  I’m grateful.  However, (as with most things), I have found that just getting out regularly on a nearby lake has been the most important thing.  I’ve been trying to break it down so that I can explain it, but I find myself at a loss to describe these mysterious encounters with Creator and Creation.  It is good.

Hard Days

Mother’s Day just passed.  We were with friends, and it was also their anniversary – we celebrated both important things together.  (And since Mother’s Day has never been a huge deal to me, it wasn’t this time, either.)  (I mean, Mike & I cooked supper with the kids, including a shopping trip.  Our strategy was divide and conquer: Mike looked around with the 2 girls, while I kept the baby in the stroller and actually got the food.  The baby fell asleep in the stroller as we were walking around the store, and so everyone was making such sweet faces at the two of us, and wishing me Happy Mother’s Day.  It felt a little like I should have been feeling sad, but I was just enjoying the whole experience.)

Today marks 9 months since Beatrix died.  It is also the 40th birthday of a dear friend…  and her nephew Jonathan was born today, 2 years ago.  Jonathan’s parents, Amiss & Marieth, got to spend just a few days with him before he died.

So I’m crying this morning.  Mourning our lost babies.

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There are more hard days coming – Beatrix’s birthday in July, and then the day marking one year since her death a few weeks later.  (I’m not sure what to call it – “anniversary” should be celebratory).

For me, the emotional work is usually done ahead of time, as I pray and ponder the implications of each day passing, remember what has gone before, and try to decide what to do.  As of now, I don’t know what we will do for those days; how we will spend them.  But I know this: they will come, and they will pass.  And I know this: if we face them with as much courage as we can muster, we will receive comfort, and the days that follow will be easier because we’re not deflecting the pain.

The last time I did this…

We did it – 26 hours of travelling all in one stretch.

I really like to drive all night, once in a while, when the situation warrants it.  You get to visit, listen to music, listen to teaching, and put a lot of miles behind you.

The other night I heard this bit that I wanted to share with you – move it forward to around 26:30, then listen for about a minute until he finishes the story. (click here)

For those of you who know me, especially from my younger years, you will laugh and think, “of course she likes that.”  (Ahem, mom.) But I think it reflects something that we desperately need in our discourse right now.

 

Anyway, we had a very long way to go.  This is by far the longest stretch on our journey with no one to visit on the way.  Our original plan of where to stay didn’t work out, and I resented paying for a hotel room when we would just have a very short sleep (or to take the trip over 3 days and pay for 2 hotels), and I wasn’t particularly concerned with seeing all the landscape.  It worked really well because a couple areas could have been really difficult to navigate since I’m not really used to city driving.  Our route took us right through downtown Chicago – but at 1 am instead of at 9 am, so it was fairly simple.

The other reason, is that this is one of the “last times.”

The last time we drove all night was a few days before Beatrix died.

We were camping with my family, just for a couple days, and we wanted to get every moment out of that that we could.  And then we were headed to an event, a lot of miles away, that we didn’t want to miss any of.  Plus, travelling with a toddler for hours and hours on end isn’t really fun for anyone – and we wanted to have a bit of good family time, just us, in between things with large groups of people she didn’t know well in strange locations.  SO:  We laid her down in the tent, then watched some of the meteor shower with my cousins and my parents.  At about midnight, we transferred her to the carseat and drove as far as we could while she slept.

Once she woke up, we stopped at almost every town.  I think it took us something like 13 hours to put 6 hours of driving behind us.  But we played at parks, we picnicked, we spent time playing with her, and generally took it easy.  (I mean, Mike and I were up all night, we needed to go easy too.)  By the end, Beatrix was really tired of travelling, too.  When she didn’t want to listen to any of the kids music she usually liked, we just put on music we liked and sang loud along with it.  (I remember her bewildered smile.  She wanted to be grumpy but couldn’t resist participating when her parents were having fun.)

It was a Really Good Day.

There are a lot of things, that the “last time” I did this was with Beatrix.  I’m pretty sure I’ll never eat corn without thinking of her – but I like corn, and don’t want to give up eating it because it holds memories.  So I ate corn when it was put in front of me shortly after her death.  And I decided to enjoy the taste, even though just the sight of it made me want to weep.  (And so what if it does?  Nearly everything makes me cry.)  If there is too long of a space, between the time of memory and the time of doing it again, then it becomes too hard, too difficult to face, too difficult to change when the “last time” I did this was.

So now, I still have that sweet memory of driving through the night, and seeing the meteor shower, and then having a really happy day as a family.

But the last time I drove through the night was across the US on the way to see good friends.