Birthday Remembrances

Beatrix would have turned 3 today.

Mike’s sister put this together for the funeral, but due to technical difficulties, it didn’t show during the service.  I wanted to put it up here, but it took awhile to figure out how to post it on the blog, and it just seemed like strange timing.

I thought today would be appropriate, so we can remember together.

I’m off to the lake.

 

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Planning for the Hard Days

I had a really incredible birthday.  Mike and I went for an all-day kayak trip, and it could not have been better – the distance we chose was challenging, the weather was nice but not too hot, and the wind was mostly at our backs on the return trip.  The next day I got to go see Walk off the Earth live.  With a friend.  For free.  I can’t say enough about what an incredible show they put on, and how awesome it was to see them live.  Watching their videos this year has made me laugh, renewed awe at what creativity can do, and given me some hope that I might be a person again someday.  And so, in the midst of fun songs, I found myself weeping with awe and gratitude to be 10 feet away from this live performance.  This celebration felt like a fitting way to mark the end of this season of intense grieving.

That said, we have some hard days coming up soon.  Next week is Beatrix’s birthday, and a few weeks later we will mark one year since her death.  We have been trying to figure out what we should do…  We know that we can’t just ignore these days; we can’t just pretend it is like any other day.  We have to get through the days, somehow.

I didn’t want to be on the move again until after her birthday.  There are such a variety of ways we could mark the day.  It felt weird to celebrate the day as a birthday – that would just be too sad.  I found a good, long kayak trip nearby that I am planning to do that day.  Mike is going to have lunch with a friend.  Then Mike suggested we get an ice cream cake (we LOVE ice cream cake).  And we have a dear friend nearby, whom we have a tradition of going for ice cream with, who is going to come help us eat it.

On the anniversary of her death, we are going to be on the move – in northern Ontario en route to Pennsylvania.  We have some friends there – who are due to have their own baby shortly after (their story is somewhat interwoven with ours; you can read more here).  Mike has played board games with him – both in real life and online.  He is a good friend: wise, kind, and sensitive.  We didn’t want to impose too much given that baby could come any day, and we wanted to be able to have our own space, so we splurged on a place nearby.  Its a really beautiful area, with lots of water.  So I’m going to (you guessed it) spend the day kayaking, and Mike is going to play games.  We’ll have something to do with our time, and be surrounded by beauty.

The next morning we’ll get up and move on – to be part of a DTS team debrief as they return from outreach.  And a few days after that, we’ll be arriving at our next temporary home in Pennsylvania.

I don’t know how we will feel when these days actually come – but we have tried, together, to figure out what it is we might need and make provisions for that.

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.

 

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!