Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sacks of Sugar

This weekend wasn't perfect. I smacked my head on a dryer (again), I cried this afternoon, I worried.

But I also got to lift some weights this weekend, and I love to pump some iron. 

This year's been tough. Let's be honest, my twenties have been tough. Life is tough. 

The last number of weeks have brought with them several pieces of bad news, though good and laughter and Disneyland teacups have gratefully interrupted. 

A member of our church committed suicide, a young woman died within days of giving birth to her first child. A friend lost his father to cancer. A friend is battling depression. I'm battling depression. Gaza. Russia. No no no no NO! STOP!!

When I got news of the cancer death today, that was it. I had plans to exercise, then cried instead and made myself pick up the phone and call a friend. 

He listened, told me to take deep breaths. "We're going in circles, Bailey," he said, after letting me talk really fast, recapping multiple weeks of life. 

We managed to laugh at some things, as I laid out the details of my non-love life and everything else that is weighing on me and the world. I told him that I carry others' burdens, even of those I don't know, and it's not necessarily out of the goodness of my genuine heart but rather with a shade of anger, mad that I have to hear or see one more story of terror, heart wrenching agony, hopeless hoplessness.

He told me I still need to work out, that the evening's sadness didn't grant me a ticket out of doing something that can help buoy my mood, however small. 

(Though not the reason I had called him, I secretly hoped that he would tell me to exercise.)

"I feel like my life is just always calling someone and having them tell me to exercise, eat something," I said.

"Oh I don't care if you eat," the smart ass answered back.

"You've always carried around some sort of burden, or depression," he continued. "And yes, it does take maintenance [eating, exercising, etc.]."

I sighed. Eventually I hung up and put on my sports bra and when he called to check in I was trying to turn down the volume on the TV in the workout room and he yelled over the Disney Channel madness: "Call me back when you're done working out!"

Here I am, 9:24 p.m., done exercising, done eating, showered, typing this. Feeling better. 

I'm not going to get into a discussion right now about feeling bad and then feeling better and this cycle, because frankly I don't have the energy or the answer to that conundrum and besides, I have a story to tell, which is the best part of my weekend, which was this:

On Friday night after work, I went home to watch a partial episode of Dawson's Creek, to eat "puppy chow" and generally chill on my futon. 

Then I got up and drove to my friend's home to talk with her and to help her soothe her two-month-old twins to sleep. 

I haven't known this friend for long, but when we first met it took literally only hours before she invited me over to talk about faith, doubts, etc. It only took me literally hours later to ask for her prayer during a rough morning at work. It took her even less time to invite me over that evening after work to talk it out, to distract me from my woes. 

We have a connection. We're not identical, but we kind of get each other. Or at least like each other, which counts for a lot. 

When she answered the door Friday she was holding one of her daughters, in a brown floral onesie. We hugged and she kissed my cheek. 

I took in her beautiful babe, and the three of us processed to the couch, where I retrieved one of her tabby cats and for a moment we each had a baby in our arms -- the respective type to which we're each most adept. Mine purred but then eventually chirped and squirmed away, hers nestled quietly and then asked for milk. 

It was only a matter of time before the baby's sister started crying from the back bedroom, and we went down the hall and I met baby #2, who, her mother had informed me, was a little chubbier than the one I met first. 

I grabbed the one with bigger cheeks from the automated swing, and my friend and I bounced babies together in the bronze daylight, pressing through the slanted blinds. 

We sat on a couch with drowsy babies in our arms, switched when one cried for milk. I held one sister while Mom reswaddled the other. 

We caught up during and between diaper changes, disjointed but always returning to our last tangent of conversation. We whispered when our little friends were sleeping, talked a little louder when one was letting us know her thoughts on life, in the language of Wail. 

Occasionally we would leave the bedroom to talk with her husband or fetch water, and when the monitor issued a whimper we would head back to the infant sleeping chambers. 

As night came on, the room grew more dark, illuminated by the blue light of a white noise machine, the glow of a monitor, of an iPhone. I came to think of it as The Baby Cave every time we crept back through the door, eyes adjusting. 

My friend kept commenting on my willingness to hold the babies, how patient I was amidst all the fussiness. 

I assured her that I was loving it. 

I've actually spent very little time in my life with infants, or toddlers for that matter. Other than the spontaneous babysitting job or nursery volunteering at a church, I don't get a lot of baby time. Even with my niece and nephews, there must be jockeying for a chance to hold the little nuggets, as there are so many greedy aunts and uncles and grandparents who love our blondie babies and we all live so far apart and rarely get to see them.

My niece is already four and kind of past the being held in the crook of an arm stage, but last Christmas I got to have her in my lap for a whole church service and we cuddled on the couch while watching The Little Mermaid. I'll take what I can get -- but there still isn't a lot of kiddo snuggle time for the taking at this stage in my life. 

Which is why I loved holding the twins on Friday.

I don't want to shed my independence just yet -- if I don't watch an episode of Dawson's Creek every night after work, who will? -- but holding babies and reading to children can just be the best sometimes.

Time after time this weekend I picked up a wailing infant, a stranger to me who, minutes later, would be passed out on my chest, a globulus cheek mashed against a canvas of skin. A really tired person who just didn't want to sleep in the dark alone. And isn't that all of us? (The thing we need to practice is letting more people know our needs, letting out a squawk. Because as I'm finding, we all need to squawk. We all need a bounce and a cuddle.)

As the ache started to seep into my arms, I told my friend that the bouncing was a great workout. 

"Yeah, it's like lifting weights," she said. "Like lifting sacks of sugar."

Sacks of sugar they are indeed. Sweet, sweet sacks of sugar. 

Holding those babies was the best part of my weekend. I was grateful, though not in a rush, to drive home after my "shift" at the Baby Cave, to get a midnight snack at Taco Bell, finish my paused episode of Dawson's Creek. But after today's stacking up of sadness, and questions, I still think calmly of the sacks of sugar who blessed my Friday.

I'm not one to buy fully into the positive thinking approach to life, and I don't believe that happiness is a choice. I'm not convinced, because obviously I don't want to experience sadness, but I do. And I think that kind of simple thinking (choose happiness, be happy) can be detrimental to people who need more help than someone asking them to perk up. We're way too broken to be given elementary prescriptions.

But I told my therapist recently about the research regarding gratitude, how I'd read about people writing down things they were grateful for and how it increased their happiness. "I do believe that," I told her, with the same confidence as when I told my friend I was enjoying being with her babies.

I'm not real thrilled with the current method of my life of constantly weighing the good against the bad. It makes me mad, frustrated, helpless. But I told God on the elliptical tonight, "If you don't give up on me, I won't give up on you." I'm not really sure where it came from, but it came. (Others and even I myself wonder why I continue to attend church and commune with Christians while I have doubts about my faith and question its ability to comfort and heal me, but day in and out I don't plan to walk away, questions or no. What would I walk to? Something else that would bring questions, is my guess.)

So I wish, I really really wish I had more to offer you than to say count your blessings. Most of the time I believe my blessings are from above, like the fact that I more or less naturally know how to hold an infant, and how their little bums fit into our elbows, just like that. My journey is still hard, and I can't give you all the answers right this second, but I do hope and know that counting the sacks of sugar in my life and your life can help, during wandering times, sad times, bored times, happy times, calm times. Even if you can just count a sugar packet, count it.

I'll go first. Today's list:

I slept last night in a bed of freshly laundered everything -- pillowcases, sheets, blankies.
Two really great hugs from Abby at church. Natural, comforting hugs, like sisters embracing.
This dark nail polish looks great on my pale feet.
26 minutes of cardio.
This new Gold's Gym t-shirt I'm wearing, found at a thrift shop.
Phone calls with all of my besties in the past week.
My personal patio, that I've taken to sitting on daily.
The Frou Frou song playing on my Pandora right now.
The moment when I saw myself in the bathroom mirror this evening and looked just like my mom.

Do me a favor, Friends, please. Let people know your hurts. Call that friend. Cry. And then get on the elliptical and count your sacks of sugar.


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