Friday, February 26, 2010

Little people go out to play, or: The sun breaks through for a minute

When the sun breaks through the seemingly ever-present Oregon clouds, the little people (and their Little People) go out to play.

The ground may be too wet to set up a proper town but the front porch dries quickly and, unlike Rome, this city can go up in minutes. Perfect for in between sideways showers.

I love how everyone loves the Little People. When my brother and I were small, in the 1970s, my brother used to pack his peep-ul in his pockets everywhere we went. I was his unofficial back-up caregiver, I suppose. I'd help him search out a missing mommy or a wayward redhead boy. Today my 11- and 9-year-old girls are happy to "help" the 2- and 5-year-old girls play with their Fisher Price sets.

Next week we are visiting a new specialist at a Portland children's hospital for Sarah's continuing pain management and - breathe - a possible new diagnosis to add to her list. So I am glad the sun came out, if only for a moment, because I was looking for that rainbow promise.

Sometimes it seems as though the burden is too heavy. Sometimes over the past year and a half I've been socked in by weather, unable to navigate by sight and certainly without adequate instrumentation. I have found my Pollyanna inner self challenged into something more akin to Nellie Oleson ("it's not fair!"), my metaphors stretched beyond what words should try to do.

Financially, like too many of our neighbors in cyber and real life, we have been stretched. And that's putting it mildly. I have always been a frugal person, long before cheap was chic. But this! Owning an engineering and surveying business in this economy is juggling firesticks, folks, as client after client declares bankruptcy. As development and even public improvement spending dwindle in the face of uncertain or unattainable financing, so does our ability to employ people and pay the insurance and electricity bills. This causes some stress on either end: work that's ordered but won't be paid for, work that's anticipated and for which employees are retained but then never comes through.

And did I mention I used to be a real estate agent? Never mind that it was so far out of my comfort zone as to cause physical illness: it was an income. Emphasis on the "was." (And therein lies one of the small blessings of this economy.)

But at least we have our health. That particular phrase burns like hydrogen peroxide on an open wound. Sarah's brave march against a dozen-syllable rare disease may just be, as one acquaintance said in an attempt at comfort, Sarah's particular cross to bear, but it's horrific as parents to feel as helpless as we do. It was wonderful to be told that she doesn't have one of the lurking demons of childhood illness that we all know and fear: leukemia. But a half-dozen wonderful specialists aren't there when she can't sleep for the pain at night or when she cries silently and asks quietly whether she'll ever again be able to run with the other kids.

In fact, no one is there at those times but our family and our God. It feels a little lonely. I'm pretty sure I hit a low spot recently when one of Sarah's wonderful specialists, a mom, physician and all-around fantastic human being, hinted at me through telling her own story that there might be an element of coddling contributing to the cycle. Or maybe she was just sharing her experience with her son. But I took it personally and then where did I take it? To my family and my God. Briefly to my obstetrician, who instructed me with wisdom beyond what he could have known from my admittedly pregnant-hormone breakdown to rejoin my yoga group and my community. But did I take these issues to a friend? Not really. I wouldn't want to burden anyone. I wouldn't want to appear less than grateful for the abundant blessings my family receives. I wouldn't want to pour salt on anyone else's wounds.

I have felt alone, and lonely, in facing the trials of the past couple of years. This defies logic, as feelings for me so often do. I'm not alone at all. I have a wonderful, large family and friends to call when I feel like chatting or even whining. I have people dropping by ad nauseum to my house-that-was-a-church-and-never-stopped. And I don't fear being alone; I relish it. But sharing my burdens, my particular crosses to bear? Not so much.

Last weekend I attended a women's retreat. I must say, those two words put together would ordinarily cause me to quick-like-a-bunny make a solo reservation at the Sylvia Beach so I could have a previous obligation (to myself and solitude, I guess) at the ready when invited to spend a weekend in the company of dozens of women. It's just never sounded restful, or conducive to learning or growth, to me. In fact the last women's retreat I was roped into attended I stayed for a couple of miserable hours and then left in a hurry for a trip to Powell's bookstore and my favorite phone- and tv-free book hotel. I sent a text message to my husband about my defection. He, knowing me all too well, texted back, "Good 4 you. See you Monday."
But this last weekend was different because... because... because I have been begging God for a friend (or, not to be greedy, a few). I have been heartbroken over the losses in our tiny village. First our favorite friends moved 12 miles away and ended the daily coffee breaks and walks. Then our favorite pastoral family moved away and started their plans for international missions and ended the play dates and moments with tea. The final blow was when the economy forced a third favorite family from our road and our hearts to move across the country.
I was alone and lonely. And then I went on a women's retreat and regained my sense of community, my sense of belonging to a group that carries one another's burdens. At a remote mountaintop former ranger station about three hours from home, I made friends. I went quilt-shop hopping. I took naps. I read. I had the best latte of my life. And the sun broke through for just long enough to set up a little village of my own.


HP said...

sniffle, sniffle.

Barb said...

Maybe I should try a woman's retreat.

I'm adding my prayers to your family's, and to God's, for your Sarah.

QuiltedSimple said...

Im so sorry you all have been in a rough patch....I'm thinking of you and sending good thoughts your way!

Anonymous said...

Hi, sweetheart - I'm so delighted to meet you. What a beautiful family. I will pray for your baby and those who love her. Can't imagine. I hope we'll get to visit often, looking forward to catching up on your older posts. Be well.