Wednesday, October 15, 2008

thoughts on....

Sharing, Honesty, and Inspiration

I've had lots of blog-worthy thoughts bouncing around lately, but I've been struggling to try and condense them into something understandable.

Like so many thousands of others, I became aware in August of Christian and Stephanie Nielsen and the trials they and their family are currently enduring. I didn't know of her blog until their plane crash. I have tried to find words to express everything I've felt towards them, her blog, her example....but all I can seem to do is pray for them, cry for them, and think of them while I work out, beating up the treadmill and working out my various struggles along with my legs.

My workout has become even more mentally necessary lately. I've been quite emotional--mostly for hormonal reasons--but also just because I've an emotion-full person and tend to be largely affected by the surroundings of my personal world. That is to say--anything I care about affects me. And I care about a lot. I try to retain some measure of sanity by keeping my family as the priority, but darn it, sometimes there's too much to put on the back-burner. The back-burner gets crowded and some things get pushed to the front.

I am re-reading (for the third time) the Harry Potter books. At the end of book four, one part of the book had me riveted like never before--the part where Dumbledore is siphoning thoughts into the Pensieve. I guess that's how I've been feeling lately, that need to unload and organize and de-construct and cry and laugh and generally initiate some sort of catharsis. (After all, that's the name of my blog, isn't it?) And if it's creatively written, well, pin a rose on my nose.

So I guess I'm going to siphon off some thoughts/memories. Feel free to stick around, but also feel free to disconnect and go play at the park with your family. I understand the need for disassociation sometimes.


A couple of weeks ago, the Girls Weekend in Pleasant Grove offered an opportunity that had slipped my mind: A chance to visit my maternal grandmother (in Provo). (This is hard to write. I'm shaking a lot now and my stomach feels strange. I procrastinated with good reason!) My grandma was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer in the summer of 2005. We got the phone call a few days before Jaxon's birth, while my mom was visiting me, and for a couple of hours, we just cried and held each other on the couch, Reed patting and hugging us and saying, "Is okay. You sad? I give kiss. I give hug. Love you." With a prognosis of six months (?), there was this feeling of waiting, of cramming in all the loving words and visits and conversations possible in this short time left. But in a way that has been nothing short of miraculous, my grandma is alive--nearly four years later. In November of 2005, our family gathered in huge numbers for Thanksgiving, primarily for the purpose of gifting my grandma with a binder full of loving words, letters, and art from our family. I videotaped her opening the gift, because Phill was in Iraq and I wanted him to have some reference of my memories.

I can remember the hush that fell over us as she lifted out the binder with difficulty. How do you condense into a binder the love of a huge family for a tender, kind, righteous woman? The binder was 5 inches thick and bulging all around. There were many of us, myself included, who had not yet decided how to contribute. Later on that day, I interviewed some of my family members, asking them for little messages for Phill. Most of them went like this: Happy Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's, Father's Day, birthday....happy every holiday until you are home! But my grandpa's message was a little longer, a little more telling of his true person. He mentioned how we had enjoyed a beautiful day all together, mentioned the eternal nature of families, expressed his testimony. Then he said (and I paraphrase, but only just; his words are pretty clear in my mind) in reference to my grandma's cancer, "When she goes I suppose it will be terribly lonely. But if it is the Lord's will, I will submit." I remember wishing, aching, for that same ability to submit, to have complete trust that the Lord would make everything right. I still struggle to submit. I struggle every day to surrender and have the kind of trust and faith that brings complete peace.

As the last couple of years have worn on, my grandma has become a little less lucid, consumed bit by bit, by this illness. When I called her on Christmas of 2006, she asked how my girls were doing--and when I reminded her that I was Rachel, not Abby, she said, "Oh, yes, of course. I know that. I know you. You know I know you, don't you?" And as she becomes a little more confused with the passing of time, that question has again found its way into my mind, along with the quiet answer that yes, grandma, I stil
l know that you still know me. Nevertheless, conversations and visits are hard, because not only does her mind wander now, but her body has become so tiny, so weak, and her beautiful dark eyes sometimes look so lost.

So on my way north, it was with no notice that the words came to my mind, "You will visit your grandmother." So I called them, made plans to see them Sunday on my way home, and continued on my way.

When I stood in their apartment building Sunday, I found myself shaking with both nerves and excitement. My grandpa gathered me in his arms as I stepped out of the elevator, and I walked into their home. The last time I had seen grandma had been months before, so her appearance was a bit of a shock. Her soulful eyes, those eyes that can be so kind and also so full of thought, had become even more the most riveting part of her face. She weighs less than I do. Much less. But her hug was still warm, her hands were still soft, and her voice was still full of love and even recognition.
Yes, grandma, I still know that you still know me.

During my visit, I marveled at the way my grandpa talked. The way he managed to throw in details for my grandma to reference what he was talking about--"That reunion we had in June with the such-and-such relatives who are related to us thus-and-thus"--with no thought, in a way that made me realize it has become second-nature for him to do this now. Second nature for him to serve her. Second nature for him to care for her, to think of her, to remind her, to love her. And I marveled how not once during the visit did she forget Phill's name and his occupation. Though she often mixed up names of the great-grandchildren, and although she couldn't always remember which Boatright daughter I am, not once did she say, "Who?" when Phill's name came up. Twice, she said, "Please remember to tell him thank you for me. Remember to tell him thank you for his service."

I found myself trying to block feeling like I needed to say goodbye, trying not to say things in a final way, trying to pretend that it was likely that this would only be another visit. But something in me kept whispering that this was one of the last, if not the last. I tried to hold back tears, but found that they kept pushing up against my eyelids, begging to be let free. I cried a few tears when expressing my testimony and detailing some of the ways I feel I've been growing lately. I cried a little when mentioning how much I miss my sisters. But still, I fought the urge to say wildly, "Oh, grandma! I need you! I love you! I don't want you to go, I don't want to ever have to say goodbye!" And the feeling persisted, the feeling that I needed to express the most painful of those thoughts. After two hours, the time came for me to leave. I stood up to hug my grandma, intending to bend over and hug her as she sat nestled in her chair. But instead, she wanted to stand and hug me. As I wrapped my arms around her small body, her arms wrapped around me, and her hands gently began to stroke my hair. My wall came down, and the tears flowed free, finally with my permission and resignation. As she stroked my hair, she said softly, "Do you remember when you were little, and I would sit on the couch and play with your hair?" And I remembered a time when I was indeed little--I don't remember specifically, but it was in Washington, I was maybe 4, and I had just taken a bath and my grandma was running her hands through my hair, and telling me that I was beautiful. I'm certain she did that with all of us girls. Being soft and tender with us, as always. As she was doing now. I said, "Yes, Grandma. I remember." And then I couldn't stand it anymore and said, "Oh, Grandma! You are soft....I love you." That was all that I could say, that was all that made it out in anything coherent. But it was enough, it was enough that she knew specifically the aching in my heart, and she said sweetly, "I love you. Don't worry. It won't be so bad. It'll be alright." And with that, she couldn't stand up anymore, and she sat back down in her chair.

I don't know if that was my last visit to my grandma. I don't want to proclaim the end before it has come. But I said what I needed to say, and I heard what I needed to hear. I know my grandma knows me. She knows I am hers. She knows I love her. She loves me.


I've been thinking in huge amounts lately about what to share on my blog and what not to share. Some of that train of thought has started with my getting to know of the Nielsens through Stephanie's blog, and some of it has been the result of my considering the question "to share or not to share" as I think of blog-worthy topics.

I read an article (found under News on the Nie Recovery site), where her sister addresses the content of the NieNie Dialogues.
Perhaps the most important gift Stephanie gave the mom blogging community was the inspiration and motivation to be better mothers. In over three years of Nie Nie's posts, there was nary a negative word about her kids. How is this possible? "She was tired, and she had her days, but she figured that was a given," Courtneyexplains. "What Stephanie wanted to get across most was how enchanting motherhood was, and how magical it can all be. Sometimes people interpreted this as her wanting to portray herself as a perfect mother, but that wasn't it at all. She just wanted to give motherhood a good public relations makeover ... to show how beautiful children can be."

Which made me think about what I have posted, and what I will post. To be completely honest, there is a lot I choose not to share. Obviously, to have some measure of privacy in the very public forum of blogging, one has to pick and choose what to share. But I want to be perfectly clear when I say: The things I don't share are not withheld to paint myself in a favorable light. They are most often withheld for reasons of embarrassment, reasons of wanting to protect, or for the simple reason that sometimes I just don't feel like saying anything! So what Courtney says speaks to me. I too, have my days {OFTEN!}--as all of you do, and as all of you know, as I've expressed here and there. But I also want to be a happy voice, an inspiring voice, and sometimes for me to be an honest voice, it means I don't post anything at all. And sometimes it means that I share sad things or difficult things. Am I making sense?

I want to inspire. I want to be a good example. Just as I want to commiserate and be relate-able, and just as I want to be someone my friends and loved ones feel they can lean on and be understood by, I want to lift up others with my words. I guess what I'm saying is that I want to be authentic. If I post it, I mean it. And if I don't post it, I don't mean it, or I don't feel it post-worthy for the environment of my blog.

And speaking of wanting to inspire, wanting to lift up others, I conclude with my (hopefully organized) thoughts of Stephanie Nielsen.


I found out about her blog through someone else's, as is usually the case. I at first assumed this was just some sort of fad-ish following and figured it was simply a woman who had tons and tons of friends who happened to also blog.

Boy, was I wrong. Openly weeping as I read of the plane crash, thinking of their four children, and then beginning to feel close to her as I read her previous posts, I found that she was indeed a phenomenal woman, a veritable force in the blogging world, and a clear happy voice in the midst of it all. I found myself praying for her, praying for her children, and then praying all the more fervently for her sisters and family. I found myself doing what so many, many others were doing--feeling inspired by her words, energized by her example instead of intimidated and insecure. I marveled at the way so many are united in caring for her and her family; so many who are now thrilled at the chance to give back to her some small measure of what she has given.

I have no dream of having thousands of readers. In fact, the thought terrifies me. But I have every aspiration of being comforting, helpful, kind, amusing, and thoughtful with my blog. What started as a way for me to write has become my link to all of you, and quite literally a creative catharsis.

I think my blog just solidified its mission statement. :)


Heidi said...

You made me cry. Again. :)

Marie said...

Wow, Rae. You seriously inspire me. Thanks so much for sharing that, all of it. I loved reading every last word, especially that bit about your Grandma. Got me all teary.

Lara said...

I have so much to say about this post, and I hope I remember a fraction of it!

1. My grandma also had cancer, and lived several years longer than originally prognosed. She lived in California, and it was hard to visit her those years, but I did my best. I made sure she met Bria and when I was pregnant with Chloe I talked to her often, although she died before Chloe was born, and those last talks were often jumbled and I didn't understand what she was trying to tell me. I like to think that she was the one to give Chloe and Sophie a hug and a kiss right before they came to e
arth. I miss her so much.

2. I agree about authenticity. I strive for that. For me, it means to be real, even if sometimes it comes out "negative." I would hope that inspires people in its own right, but I understand if people choose not to share. And heaven knows there are millions of things I don't share on my blog. :)

3. I forgot the rest. I'm crying now anyway.

Kate said...

Thanks. I really enjoyed this blog. I too hope to make a difference through my blog and know that I still have a lot to learn about what I should share and what I could share. I always enjoy reading your blog. You are always inspiring to me.

Suzanne said...

I love your bog !! The part about your grandma made me cry, I know those feelings all to well, we went through that with Cody's Mom.
I too am careful about what I blog but mostly for safety reasons since my blog isn't private.
Sometimes I go back and read old posts and it reminds me why I blog, I would blog about what I thought were small things but in fact they aren't small but big and very important now and they are memories that I don't have written down anywhere else and reminders of my children when they were smaller, if nothing else I am grateful for that.

carajean said...

You are comforting and helpful to me! I think blogs, at least the ones I read, are heaven sent. They really help me realize that everyone else's life is pretty much just like mine!

QAIT said...

Rae, I love you.
I've been thinking of Grandma so much lately, and in the middle of your entry I thought "what am I doing? I need to call her now!"
I believe it was a prompting--one I've been getting for a while--and your blog finally gave me a swift kick in the backside. THANK YOU!
You're quite skilled at writing. I wish you did have thousands of readers because they could all learn so much from your example (I'm not talking now about blogging skills but your example of mothering).
I love you, Cracker! :D

Michael and AmyLyn said...

Wow, what an incredible post. I never realized what a writer you were! Talented in many artistic ways--thanks for that faithful enthusiasm!