After James’ death I started reading a bunch of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness books. I forget which book, but in her study of happiness she started assembling some revelations and resolutions. One of them was that goals need a mental start/reset date, the most common being New Year’s Day. However, in order to not wait an entire year, we need to start creating our own reset dates. A new school year, a new month, a move, a job change, all of these can help us mentally get into a new state of mind to accomplish a goal or create a habit that we know will improve our lives.
This was ground breaking for me when I first read it because before that I had been working with two mental start dates: New Year’s and New School Year/Birthday (which are one in the same for me having a late August birthday). Thankfully after reading that, I relented and expanded when I can start creating new habits. I started utilizing the first of a month or even Monday as a start date to create or improve upon habits (working out, my Project 333, more consistent scripture study, etc).
I was thinking about this a lot this past month because I realized that James’ anniversary is a mental start date for me. As the date approaches I get slogged down mentally constantly thinking about how I am doing. Am I processing it enough still? What am I doing to heal? Am I living a life that James would be proud of?
These questions weigh on me.
I so badly want to be changed by James and sometimes I want to rush and force that changed. I want a transformation a la Beauty and the Beast. I forget that to become the person I want to be through this life experience, it takes consistent daily change. As Emily Dickinson says, “Forever–is composed of Nows.” What I am doing now is all a part of what my eternal story will be.
I am proud of the path that I am on. The level of self-awareness of my weaknesses sky-rocketed after losing James and I have been consciously working on turning those into strengths. I am trying to be a better friend. I am trying to be a more present mother. I am trying to be a more loving wife. I am trying to be a more sincere follower of Christ.
I am trying.
Sometimes it feels like a wrestle with God, sometimes it feels so incredibly hard and frustrating because I find myself falling into weakness, sometimes I wonder if it really is worth all this effort.
The other morning I came across an old bracelet that was given to me in the weeks following James death at a M.I.S.S. support group. I only went to the group once, but I hung onto this bracelet which reads, “one who soars.”
It is intended as a way to let those around you know that you have a child in heaven. I remember wearing it in my early days, rubbing the words along my wrist with the my thumb. How I desired to feel my heart lift and soar, to be done with the weight that accompanies loss.
I didn’t wish for the finality of death, but rather to be free from the work of grief. I wanted that quick fix, that transformation into a soaring swan, breaking shackles and shrugging off the weight that consumed me. However, the weight doesn’t leave. Nothing is shrugged off.
Instead, I have grown used to the weight. My heart and mind and spirit all have become stronger carrying this loss. My desire to grow and change because of James keep me moving forward and upward. The soaring? The soaring looks so much different than I had imagined. The soaring comes in moments of pure and true connection. Playing and laughing with my children. Hiking with my husband and noticing the way sunlight plays through the branches casting a heavenly glow. Going to the temple and feeling in tune with Heavenly Father and grateful for trusting in His will and seeing the blessings that have come because of it.
After seeing that bracelet again, I realized that it is the effort, the trying, that provides the muscle and momentum to soar.
Each year as James’ anniversary approaches, I reset and figure out what needs to be readjusted and realigned. I try to find that balance of prioritizing my faith and family while pursuing goals and habits that contribute to my self-care. If you haven’t noticed, my writing habit dropped off a bit this summer. I found I wasn’t really missing it as I soaked up the summer days with my children and utilized exercise as my main form of self-care. After self-reflecting however, I realized that my creative muscle is just as important to me and no one is going to force me to use it but myself.
I am the only one who is going to carve out the time, to make the effort, to pursue what I know to be good for my mind, heart, and spirit. What is needed and necessary is different for everyone and is different for us as we grow older and transform through the experiences of life, but I never want to lose touch with the effort, with the trying.
Pushing myself to grow so that I may soar.