Folks, I meant it when I said that I wouldn’t be staying away forever. So here I am, back at the art of writing on this blog.
Between a whirlwind submission season (more updates to come), the predictably unchanged post-election American landscape, and the stubbornness of some challenges in my personal life, I’ve been feeling like I needed a return to writing “just for fun.” The result of that feeling is this post. Then it’s back to temporarily orchestrated silence on this platform for me (for now).
How have you all been since we last caught up? Well enough, I hope? Which is to say: safe from harm, loved and protected, fed and housed, and adequately represented or otherwise making your voices heard to ensure that is the case?
Admittedly, I’ve been … struggling of late, despite being able to answer affirmatively to the question above.
See, springtime is usually hard for me.
For a variety of reasons.
It’s when we should have welcomed our first of now three lost babies. It’s when I’m still very much recovering from what I believe is a nasty case of Seasonal Affective Disorder (New York in February is my particular breed of Hell). It’s also when I get the familiar itch to move, which of course we never do. It’s … well, I guess for me, it’s a season of stagnation.
Ironic, because so many people associate it with rebirth and beginning anew.
Luckily, I have a husband who helps me move through this struggle each year with a well-timed refresh.
Usually this entails some project or other at our suburban home.
Last year, for instance, we repainted the dining room, installed a new walkway, and finally put in a water filtration system because water in New York is not as clean as they want you to believe. (Do your research!).
There may also have been something in there about roping Hubs into replanting our front lawn because we’d had an unfortunate infestation of an invasive grass species that kills all existing grass in favor of patchy, crunchy beige tufts interspersed throughout your lawn. This was … not great for the outdoor oasis I needed (we all needed?) in Spring 2020. Needless to say, it had to be rectified. And so it was … two sore backs, two sunburns, and a non-existent weekend later.
But guess what?
As a result, this year we’ve gotten to take on some exciting new projects, like installing a white picket fence and planting some intentionally-placed flora (as opposed to the “whatever grows here, grows here” method of our past four years at this address — and we suspect, many years before).
And guess what else?
If I am especially “well-behaved” (read: when we save additional funds, because neither of us are anywhere near perfect and let’s normalize that conversation globally, please), Hubs and I also plan to make a previously languishing part of our property an actual garden, perhaps with some raised planter beds and a small courtyard + firepit/conversation area.
If this is all sounding very 2021, then yeah … we know.
Meanwhile, can I let you in on a little secret?
The fire pit isn’t my favorite part of this plan.
It’s that we are finally getting things planted! Things that I can take care of, things that I can nurture, things that I can watch grow and hopefully flourish as spring turns to summer, summer to fall, and fall to “Dear Lord I hope they make it through our New York Winter.”
You see, living childless-not-by-choice in a home so very far from my own is really freaking hard.
Anyone else out there understand this? For now, let’s just say that I needed these new living things in the worst way. There’s something powerful and restorative about their presence. I relearn this lesson each spring, but somehow it hit closer to home at the start of this one.
For one, plants teach me patience and adaptability. The wind blows? They sway. The sun shines? They grow.
For another, they provide a very real reminder that family is what you make it.
Hubs, Dog, and me? We are a family.
Now we have more than a dozen new family members to care for. And the feeling of peace they inspire? It points to something really important: we make our lives whole by what we, the existing members of our family, do.
Sure, we’d’ve loved to have human children by now, and to have been in a different space altogether, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find happiness and wholeness right where we are. Yes, even if what we want takes a long time to materialize. And especially yes if it never does. Because it might not and we have to learn to be okay with that. That’s just life.
I forget that point too often. Much, much too often.
Which reminds me …
At some point late last year, Hubs asked me what I wanted from 2021.
In a considerably darker place then, I told him that it didn’t matter, because what we’ve wanted has never been a predictor of our success in reaching or achieving those things.
Yeah, I know. That was a big feeling. But it’s so important to talk about these things!
If you are reading this in a similar place of despair, please please please know that you are not alone. And, in case you need to hear this bit specifically, children do not make a family. Neither do spouses or partners. A family is what you make it. Sometimes that family is biologically linked and sometimes that family is chosen. Either way, that family is beautiful. You are beautiful. And however near or far, you will always have a home here.
Hubs was quick to remind me of that concept before he rejected my original answer. To this, I quipped that I wanted more peace and quiet, more justice in the world, and entirely too many children … again, not that it mattered. Which of course it did and still does. But that’s how grief is sometimes. You mourn futures as much as pasts and presents.
Now we’re 1/4 done with 2021 and somehow I still have no updates to share on those desires or goals. Yes, that sucks. A lot. But I’ve also still got Hubs. And Dog. Hubs and Dog make it all worthwhile, whether or not a better update ever merits announcement.
I came to that realization again (for the umpteen millionth time) late the other night. Standing in front of our refreshed garden, I reminded Hubs (read: me) how happy I was to be in this place, to be financially and emotionally capable of adding more soul back into our home. And these new additions, so bright and full of promise, they symbolized a kind of rebirth that I wasn’t certain I’d felt in years.
Hubs handed me the garden hose from around the corner, preparing me to water our new family members into rooted wellness. I felt my Early Springtime Grinchyness begin to fade ever so slightly. Then I softened my response from months earlier:
“Hey, you know what we have here?,” I asked.
“What’s that?,” he replied.
“We have entirely too many children!”
“Even if they’re not the ones we planned.”
“Even if they’re not the ones we planned.”
Of course, he was right. We certainly didn’t plan to be childless at this point in our lives. We also didn’t plan for our country and the world to be this violently, viciously, and vehemently divided. As a matter of fact, we didn’t plan for any of this. But we can still plan how we choose to recover, refresh, and ultimately respond to what we’ve been handed. For us, that starts with a garden east of the city where we met, that starts with taking care of the “entirely too many children” we have been blessed with.
“See, life isn’t always so bad,” he offers.
He’s right again.
In fact, I’m feeling better already. I hope you are too.
Regardless, here’s to your days ahead. May they be filled with continued healing and wellness in these challenging times. And amidst all our efforts to grow and improve, please don’t forget to look for the good things, too. We’re out here trying right alongside you. And for now, we’re looking at a dozen or so reasons to believe. Reasons to believe in all of it.
Until we meet again.
North by North Carolinian
Full concept and content by Ryan Vale McGonigle