april blog.png

(Trying to) Expect the Unexpected

[Thank you to those who reached out to me after the last blog post! I am thankfully doing much better, which is wonderful since the wild ride of 2019 just keeps going! We've been not really but kind of house hunting and ended up buying & closing on our new house plus listing & selling our current house over the span of less than two weeks. It's been a wild ride that we are so grateful for! And the ride keeps on moving! :-) ]

We're moving in mid-May and while prepping our current house to be put up for sale, I stumbled upon a picture of me and my oldest son in the hospital the day after he was born. In the picture, he is in my arms and I'm staring down at him--not adoringly, not smiling, not crying. Just staring, as though I'm not quite sure what to make of this little human who upended the "normal" that I was so accustomed to. While there is definitely a motherhood-specific path that I could go down right now (I've talked about my transition to motherhood in a few other blog posts), it got me thinking, in general, about unexpected changes or even expected changes that end up being different than our expectations. We've all been there. One day things are clear and the next day the fog rolls in. Some people crave change and roll so smoothly with it that it appears as though it wasn't a surprise to them or like they knew exactly what to expect when the change happened.

And then there's people, like me, who are still figuring out how to gracefully navigate transition. To be fair to myself, I have grown leaps and bounds in this area over the last couple years. It's interesting what a few notably difficult shifts will teach you if you allow it. Now, I'm not saying change is bad. Some change can be. But life, in general, is change--maybe not a string of monumental adjustment every year but still, things are always changing. I've noticed that I have two phrases that run through my mind on a fairly regular basis, both setting up residency around the time I became a mom.

1) It takes time to establish a new normal.

2) You don't know what you don't know.

I'm naturally a planner, a list maker, and in the past, I haven't left room for things to go off track. I was as prepared as I knew how to be when my first son was born and then it was just different. My heart didn't explode with overwhelming love and joy like I've heard some other moms talk about. I got there but it took me a couple months. And, this is slightly off topic, but I need to say it for someone out there who had those feelings, too: I am not abnormal or a bad mom for feeling that way. I know that I'm not the only one but I think there's an expectation of how we "should" feel and when you don't match that expectation, we think there's something wrong. Who shares a picture of their newborn on social media and writes, "Here he is! I love him but no, I'm not experiencing overwhelming joy." I love my children with everything within me, always have, but that doesn't mean there weren't some feelings I needed to initially work through.

It takes time to establish a new normal. You don't know what you don't know.

Three months after my wedding, my dad was diagnosed with incurable metastasized prostate cancer. When I received the call from my parents, I was twenty-two, standing in the kitchen of the house with the yellow counter tops and pink carpet that went a quarter of the way up the wall (who thought that was a good design decision???). It wasn't the first time I had been told that my dad had cancer but not only was this cancer more widespread than the first time, there are things your adult mind can comprehend that your eight year old mind can't--and thank goodness for that. Almost eleven years later, I can say that we've been blessed with great doctors, great medical treatments, and above all, a dad who has never lost his faith in God, his hope and his optimism in what lies ahead no matter the fact that his cancer can only be controlled and not cured.

It takes time to establish a new normal. You don't know what you don't know.

One expected change, one unexpected change, and I'll admit, those are pretty extreme examples but certainly the most life altering ones for me up to this point. One of my favorite bloggers, Kelle Hampton, wrote the following paragraph in a post about what she's learned from having a child with Down Syndrome. She shared it during a more recent time of me navigating change and it has stuck with me ever since.

"Life is hard. Just accept that.

So much of my devastation receiving Nella’s diagnosis was due to the fact that I got swept up in how comfortable and according-to-plan life was going that I expected it to stay on that path. We are not entitled to a life free of challenges, and clinging to a dream of ideal/easy/comfortable sets us up for incredible disappointment when the inevitable unexpected happens. In those first weeks after Nella was born, I read the words of Scott Peck and actually felt relieved—like I was given permission to stop fighting/grieving/analyzing what had happened and just accept that it was part of life. “Life is difficult,” he wrote. “Once we truly know that life is difficult—once we truly understand and accept it—then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” When I dream of the future now, I try to focus less on specifics I can’t control and more on the greater picture: I expect a life of love and fullness, and when I encounter the hard unexpected things in life, I will overcome them and use what I’ve learned to be better."

While Kelle and I differ in our spiritual beliefs, I find her words to be encouraging and comforting. No one is a promised a life that follows a smooth, straight path. When the ball dropped at midnight on January 1, 2019, did I think I would deal with a skin condition, hospitalization, and buying/selling houses ridiculously fast all within the first three months of the year? Uh, no. One hundred percent no. Was it all fun and easy? Absolutely not. But man, I sit here in utter amazement at how much I have grown in such a short time and how the me of a couple years ago wouldn't have navigated the last few months the same way. I would never willingly choose the bumpy road, but when we're faced with challenges, we can choose to fight or we can choose to run away. I haven't always chosen to fight but when I do, God reminds me why the fight is worth it.

And now my family is embarking on another change--only minutes from our current home, but a new house with new neighbors and new routines to establish. We are so excited for what is ahead but, like most new adventures, it won't come without a bit of discomfort and emotion, especially for a sentimental schmuck like myself. New isn't always bad. Life is change and when we learn to leave room for it, the more likely we are to discover that we have a great ability to use transitional times to grow into the person we are created to be.

Next time I post: My current home will be filled with packing boxes and upheaval and I'll update you on how I'm dealing with change. 😉