Someone has got to stop me. And by someone, I mean myself.
The spending, the mess, the eating. They are all out of control, and I have had enough.
May I start by unloading on you about the spending? Somehow since Tage has died, we have managed to throw our budget completely out the window. And that’s saying something, because Josh is a Budget Nazi – like a no-we-cannot-afford-for-you-to-buy-three-postage-stamps kind of Nazi. I have joked that if he should die before me, I will be sure his gravestone includes his name, the dates, and his most common saying: “We’re gonna be tight this month.”
But apparently, even grief can screw with a Budget Nazi, and we have both jumped eagerly into the purchase of outrageous amounts of suddenly “necessary” items including new electronics, new furniture, a new gaming system (something I said I would never let in my house), and the re-flooring of a room in our house which apparently had some mold, so now it has become a financial monstrosity.
I remember when my mom died, my dad did the exact same thing. He bought new clothes, TWO new computers, had some dental work done and then had the entire driveway repaved. At the time, I remember thinking he had gone completely mad, and now apparently so have we.
I asked Josh why he thought we were purchasing all these “necessary” things that had never been necessary before, and he was right. He chuckled at our new-found lavishness and said sincerely, “I guess we feel we’ve had no control over our circumstances for the past few months, and now in grief, we are trying to grab a little control of something, somewhere.” He’s exactly right. We also agreed there is a part of us that just wants to feel better, and for a couple moments, as we’re looking at the brand new whatever, it does feel good. But it doesn’t bring Tage back, and it doesn’t make it hurt any less. So what are we doing?
And then there’s the mess. My house is disgusting.
If Josh is the Budget Nazi, I am the Clutter Nazi. I could write a whole post on my love of The Clutter-less Life, but to make my point, let me just say that my friend, Candice, who has known me since we were five, never lets me forget a day she helped me clean my room in middle school. She watched me abhorrently as I mindlessly tossed loose coins into my trash can because I wasn’t sure where to put them, but I knew they were cluttering my dresser.
Now I just give my change to Josh or hoard it so I can buy some postage stamps.
Our home has not seen a vacuum or a dust rag or a toilet brush in weeks. Dog hair covers the floors more thoroughly than the carpet, and the liquid soap that has crusted to the sides of the sink shouts “Unclean!” whenever I walk by the bathroom. I made a pretty design in the dust on the end table yesterday, and the pile of clothes that has mounted on my bedroom chair is beginning to resemble K2.
I like to blame it on the fact that due to the re-flooring project, there is a couch on end and other various pieces of furniture in the middle of our living room and constant dirty shoes of contractors making dirt trails from the garage to the living room, so it would be silly for me to clean right now. But, as to why our bathroom is a mess? Like our spending, I blame it all on the grief, too. I’d rather spend my time thinking about Tage, or trying really hard to not think about Tage, than cleaning.
And then there’s the eating. One of my good friends, who is also grieving Tage, has lost weight. Could I get some of those genes, please? And then Josh decided he wanted to eat better, and he lost weight while we were away in Mexico at an all-inclusive resort! Who does that?!
Cue Molly. I am an emotional eater. And I have always had to work on not over-consuming. I started exercising regularly in college and discovered I felt a whole lot better about a whole lot of things when I did, so that’s been motivation to keep at it. However, no one would ever describe me as “tiny” and only once have I been called “small”, and that was in comparison to pregnant people. So, there’s that.
But I can honestly say, that 99 percent of days, I’m okay with my body. For some reason, a glorious gift I suppose, I have never been one to obsess over my size. I’m okay with being just “healthy”. (Lest you think too highly of me, I do obsess about plenty else. Clutter, for example, at the expense of enjoying my company at times. Just call me Martha.)
When I was pregnant with Tage, I wasn’t concerned about gaining weight, because I knew I would work on losing it at the appropriate time. I was, however, very concerned about stretch marks. I was stretch mark-free until about 8 months along, and then they suddenly appeared; but since there was absolutely nothing I could do about them, I just had to accept them and focus on trying to get that baby out of me.
A few weeks later in March, I was drying off after a long over-due shower, and saw tiny Tage sitting in his bouncy seat on the floor looking up at me. I looked back at him, and then I saw my stretch marks in the mirror. I told him, “Well, Tager, these will be my constant reminder of when we were buddies, the closest possible buddies, as I got to carry you in my tummy.” And I meant it. I would choose to cherish them. I would choose to look at the stretch marks as a the reminder of the greatest gift I’d ever received, and even when he would be a thirty-four year old man with babies of his own, I would see those stretch marks and remember the time I held him so close to me, our hearts beating together. Safe, and together.
Jump to nine months later, and I found myself standing in front of another mirror. Dozens of swimsuits surrounded me as I tried to find one, just ONE, that would work for our trip to Mexico. Trying on swimsuits is the worst possible thing a girl ever has to do, but here I was trying to get a piece of elastic material to fit over my squishy post-baby body plus the weight I had gained since Tage’s diagnosis.
I had been slowly losing the baby weight, little by oh-so little, but at least I knew I was trending in the right direction.
Until that horrid day in September changed everything.
Now here I stood, in front of a mirror, beholding the squish and the stretch marks, preparing for a trip we were taking because our son is dead. None of the suits seemed to fit right, and I kept having to ask my friend, Monika, to get me larger sizes.
I peeled off the twenty-seventh suit and took a deep breath. I looked up at the mirror and into the eyes of the woman staring back at me. Her face was sad, and her eyes showed signs of deep grief. Puffiness, wrinkles, no mascara, no joy.
There was a knock at the dressing room door from Monika who had more suits for me. I cracked open the door and peered out.
“I just have to say one thing,” I told her quietly. And then a knot formed in my throat and tears pooled in my eyes. “It doesn’t seem fair that I have to buy a swimsuit for my post-baby body, but there is no longer a baby in my arms.”
Monika paused. Her eyes were kind as she looked into mine and tears pooled in hers. “I know, Honey,” she said. “It isn’t.”
And so here we are, with very little control, and a whole lot of mess.
Gosh, grief is messy. It has wreaked havoc on us in the physical sense (our finances are in great need of restraint, our house is in great need of cleaning, and my body is in great need of some self care), and it continues to destroy us emotionally, when we expect it and when we don’t.
There is no timeline on these things, no one right way. But I know I don’t like the feeling of the mess.
And so, it’s time. I need to give myself some grace, yes, but I also need to give myself some order. We need space. Clean, organized, welcoming, comfortable space in our home. We need a little less Frappucino and a little more fritatta. Some healthy order in the rest of my physical life might help me have the energy to face the disorder I feel in my emotional life.
I’m going to slowly take the steps. One of those steps meant asking my sister, Ellie, who has been living with us, if she could find another place to live so that Josh and I can have private space to messily grieve without the concern of another. She graciously understood.
Another step is getting this floor project moving along so we can put our house back in order. And then, I will need to clean. Big time.
We have also decided we are done spending. That’s not to say that I don’t still think walking into Pottery Barn with some money to spend isn’t the best therapy. It is. And I will argue that to the death. But it’s time to get some healthy order going here.
And I am done eating like a maniac. (No explanation needed.)
I read Bob Goff’s story in Love Does about how his dad patiently taught him how to use a gun when he was a boy, and when he was looking through the scope of one of those guns one day, he pulled the trigger not knowing there was a bullet inside. Because of the way he was holding the gun, he took the full recoil to his eye. When he came to, he noticed his shirt was drenched in blood, and he was pretty sure he was going to get spanked. Then here comes my favorite part:
“Through my bloody eye I could see my dad standing over me, distraught but determined. He scooped me into his arms and got blood all over his shirt. He carried me away to the hospital, and the doctors stitched me up. I was sent home black and blue but looking very manly.
“…Sometimes, things can go horribly wrong and we end up flat on our backs in a blood-soaked T-shirt. I don’t think God is mad at us when that happens. He knew when He made the world that there was going to be some pain and people were going to get hurt–whether they did it to themselves or others did it to them…Still, it’s hard for me to see Him enjoying the pain when we fail.
“These days, the view of God I hold on to isn’t Him being mad because I’ve missed the mark. It’s the one of Him seen through a bloody eye, scooping me into His arms, getting blood all over His shirt, and carrying me away to get healed” (excerpts from pgs 107, 108).
God doesn’t make messes. He made control and order and loving boundaries. Yet, if we ask, He is eager to jump in with us when we make messes or when the world has made a mess around us.
He doesn’t shame, He just rescues. He’s not afraid of our messes. He’s not appalled by our messes. There may be consequences that come, but even then, He sees the big picture.
He has a plan for the mess if we surrender it to Him.
So, here I am sitting in my very messy house, my hair is three-days old dirty, my eyes are puffy, and I’m over-weight. My heart is in shreds, and I have absolutely no idea where we are going from here.
But as I look through my puffy eye, I see Him scoop me up.
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young (Isaiah 40:11).
Yes, I’m safe with Him. Tage is safe with Him. And He will carry us through this crazy mess.