13 January 2009

one through one hundred.

taking a deep breath before diving in. there's a long swim ahead, a seemingly endless list. it's okay though. i like lists. i like accomplishing things and crossing them off. sometimes i even write something on the list that i have just completed, just so i can put a line through it and have a visual record.

i was talking to a friend yesterday about how the list will probably always be there. there really is no such thing as being caught up, because there's always something else to be done by the time you reach the bottom. i can't imagine a time when i'll sit down and think to myself, "i have just finished everything. there is absolutely nothing left to accomplish. what should i do now? hmm..."

my current list includes the not-so-thrilling tasks of laundry, cleaning, exercise, and organizing Eli's closet. it also includes working on pieces for an upcoming art show, making a gift for a friend's birthday, and writing thank you notes. my list is always a combination of creativity and maintenance, it seems. i don't mind either one and appreciate the balance.

of course, the list itself is squeezed in between time with my two-year-old and my husband, preparing dinner, and all the things that i don't put on the list because i won't forget to do them and they happen every day.

i know that simply (or not simply) being in relationships is more important than anything my lengthy list could demand of me. sometimes i forget that, or i merely get distracted by all it takes to keep life going. i think we all do. we move along just getting things done and suddenly realize we haven't had much connection with the people around us; we've been rushing past them for days. one of my goals this year is to be more cognizant of that, to focus more on friendships than i do on making sure the floor is swept.

between a conference with Dan Allender that we recently attended, and a mom's group yesterday where similar topics were reiterated, a i feel like i've been in Marriage College lately. most specifically, i'm learning about some differences between men and women that i had never contemplated before, and also realizing the importance of understanding my own story and how that plays into being a wife and mother. that's a process that can't really be dissected formulaically. it just takes walking through it and being more aware, i think, and less afraid.

so i suspect this will be a "thinking year," whatever that might mean. i'm curious to understand my husband better, and myself; to embrace my child in all that he's discovering; to dig into the deeper layers of my closest friends and some books i've been too intimated to crack open, a new place to write, and the elements it takes to make a home that i've been keeping in a closet. this is worthwhile work. i'm intrigued and eager to get started.

03 January 2009

begin again.

In my estimation, this new year is off to a pretty good start. I just put the first roast chicken of 2009 into the oven with garlic, lemon, and a stick of rosemary--the only non-brown plantlife on our porch. The chicken reminds me that we are settling back into a routine of familiar things. And we've seen many friends since returning from a holiday vacation in Pennsylvania that brought a very good end to 2008. At home, we've spent equal time resting and being productive. Aside from the general cleaning, laundry, food replenishing, and un-trimming the house of its tinsel, we also finally got around to decorating Eli's room with a gallery of prints I've had set aside. He still lets me rock him to sleep some nights (an indulgence I know won't last forever), and it's nice to have something to look at by the lamplight while he drools sweetly on my sleeve and drifts off...

We're only three days in and I'm optimistic, as I think back to days behind and look forward to plans for the three-hundred-and-sixty-two before me. It occurred to me, while sprinkling herbs on the chicken, the way that we measure our life in years and mark them as good, bad, difficult, or worth repeating. Jeremy, the history major, says this last year was one of his hardest, mainly owing to the physical and mental challenges of home-renovation, coupled with transitional changes for us as a family. For me, it was definitely transitional, but also filled with a great deal of joy and creativity. I've relished piecing together this home bit by bit, watching Eli grow into it as he simultaneously grows out of his size four shoes. I've painted a lot of walls and produced a lot of art which has been gratifying work. I've sold my first paintings and seen long-forgotten things through a toddler's eyes. (Also, I do not dislike change as much as my husband, and I know his labor this year was far more painstaking, so it's easier for me to regard the time as well spent.)

In some ways, they've all started to run together---the years---into a giant collage of events, some significant, others less so. There was the year I taught myself how to knit. The year we went to Europe. The year we had a baby. The year of the unfortunate eyebrows. The year we got all that snow and people abandoned their cars on the highway.

I know, as I glance at my life backward, that 2005 was my hardest year by far, and sometimes I feel too much altered by the experience of watching my father die up close. Many days I see myself still trying to get back to who I was before, or maybe it's forward; I'm not sure. But to be entirely candid--because possibly this is a year of being even more honest in my writing--I can pinpoint when it happened, on an afternoon that October while sitting alone in the driver's seat of my dad's truck in some Houston parking lot. I had just left the hospital for the day, couldn't bring myself to drive any farther, and knew in that moment that I would never be the same again. It was scary to witness a change like that so sharply, to know that you are being scarred deeply and permanently by such aching beauty with no way to escape it. It was the moment something inside me grew up for the better and that some selfishness was lost, but with it, any lingering innocence too.

When I created this blog just two months before, I had no idea what was coming. Instead, I was grieving the loss of a favorite city after the hurricane. Maybe not grieving. Weighing. I had called my dad to see what he thought about the whole tragic thing. A few weeks later, I was in the produce aisle squeezing avocados when he called me back with news that felt much like the blindsiding unknown of that earlier storm, only standing alone in the center of it.

It is funny the way that we mark our lives by years, and our years by adjectives of what they meant and how we feel looking back on them. I know that for some, 2009 is already a year of heartache and disappointment. I know that for me it is marked by a hope for continued recovery.

Little things are reminders of what is true. Like the chicken in the oven. Good friends who are not afraid to have a fight at your table because they trust you enough. Kids for your kids to grow up with and bake pretend cookies in a cardboard oven. Provision upon provision, in spite of doubt. Hard work and the fruit that comes of it. Memories, and the empty blank slate of a year that holds the promise of being filled, come what may.