A year ago was the last time I posted to this blog. I don’t think that 12 months ago I would have been able to wrap my head around life as I know it today. It feels like every time I stop to take stock of how much things have changed, there’s another monumental shift in our existence. Time feels like it passes interminably in the midst of toddlerhood, recovery, parenting. And then one day you catch yourself sitting in a warm stream of sunlight in a chair by the garden, tea in hand and the sound of chittering squirrels above you, and time to actually read a book, or think about things that require advanced critical thinking, or just sit in silence and breathe. It was nearly unheard of a year ago that I had space to just BE. And now, my cosleeping, nursing, needy, always-intense toddler in diapers has turned into a “goodnight I love you sweet dreams”-close the door and sleep for 12 hours in his own bed, preschool-bound, potty trained, weaned kiddo.
It’s amazing what sleep will do for the mind and body. It’s been 4+ years since I had an uninterrupted night of sleep (from a difficult pregnancy, through terrible night colic, and Patrick’s constant pain-filled restlessness). It’s only been 2 months of solid sleep for me, and every morning I wake up feeling like I’ve been drugged. As though my body has a taste now of what it’s been missing, and it wants MORE. Patrick feels it too, although he still tosses and turns with nightmares and near constant low level pain. He woke up rough the other morning and I said “You look like you’ve been hit by a car.” We spent the whole morning laughing. I expect that’s what 2 years of processing and recovery will do for you, return your humor. Rebuild your resilience.
I used to say my reserves had run dry. I had been running on empty for so long before the accident that when it all came crashing down, I had nothing to fall back on. So this past year has been about making deposits back into that account of resilience, independence, inner peace and confidence. Eating well, sleeping well, reconnecting with friends, being close to family, taking chances, being forgiving, filling life with gratitude. And little by little, I feel like I’m starting to be a whole person again. I’m starting to do things for enjoyment and passion, rather than the obligation or responsibility. I’m able to have conversations with people with genuine interest and a desire for connection, rather than shying away from contact because of how exhausting it could be. I just didn’t have any more to give. I know it’s not surprising that creativity is one of the first things to go dormant in a time of great anxiety and tension. But I’ve found myself starting to day dream again recently. Just a little. Enough to know that it’s still a part of me, waiting for when the time is right.
School started a few weeks ago, and I celebrated joyously by sending out two stories on submission. They were stories I wrote more than 4 years ago, but they were in relatively good shape. 7 days later, I got a wonderful and insightful response from an editor of an anthology with a rewrite request and very kind words. I can’t tell you how incredible it felt to get that email. I’ve been orbiting around the periphery of the speculative and science fiction and fantasy worlds for so many years, just dreaming about and hoping for a time when I would have more than 5 uninterrupted minutes to sit and write. Or when my passion for telling stories and writing would come back. If it ever would.
It’s been a year of starting over. We bought a house. Our very first house. And really, it was our very first HOME. This is the house that we first lived in when we moved back to Virginia. The beautiful home that we had such a hard time leaving when we moved to California. We scraped every penny and pinned every hope on the kindness of consideration of our former landlord, nearly begging her to consider selling it to us when she was ready. In our minds, being back here was the most perfect karmic return. We hadn’t dared to hope, moving back to Vienna, that buying this home would even be a possibility. We didn’t want to fall into the “grass is greener” trap of reminiscence. But we couldn’t let it go – that feeling of knowing that this was our home. Our block. Our neighborhood. The place where it all started fitting together for us as a family. Even now, sitting here at the dining room table, looking out on the sidewalk as kids walk to school and friends greet each other, it doesn’t seem quite real.
But it really happened. We are finally back home, here in this sweet little lucky house. We toasted champagne and strawberries back in May and joyfully ripped out every inch of carpet, every dust-coated ceiling tile, had every square inch of asbestos abated and took the house down to its literal bones. It’s a sweet little place, in need of just about every update imaginable in a neighborhood of multimillion dollar mansions. But we love it, just as it is. And we have time to dream about how to grow together in this little space, with so much love and friendship and happiness.
And so Patrick wakes up most morning and goes running in the woods, waving and smiling at everyone on the bike path. And the kids tumble out of bed and chatter about Minecraft or Mario or My Little Pony together at the table over fresh pumpkin bread and yogurt. And I wake up to the smell of coffee, groggy and a little sore from replacing the dishwasher, or installing a new toilet, or clambering about in the attic, or breaking up little boy disagreements, but ready for the day. I open the house wide on these first few cooler fall mornings, and let the sun and the sounds of neighborhood construction, and hollering kids stream into the house.
I know we still have a long way to go, but it feels like this year has been a year of laying the groundwork for life to move forward for all of us. Sean is in a new school for the gifted and is thriving with the challenge and a wonderful new teacher. Wyatt is back in school with a pair of very tolerant and kind teachers who are unphased by his intensity and tickled by his charisma. Patrick continues. I suppose that’s the briefest way of describing this phase in recovery. It’s not quite a plateau, not quite a stall out. It’s just a place of subtle shifts in the patterns of pain and relief. Where long weeks of interesting work both exhaust and stimulate him. Where days of jumping in the surf at the beach will hurt, a lot, but it won’t stop him from loving every minute. And I’m finding the everyday parts of life easier to manage, leaving space for rest and rejeuvenation. Writing, playing piano, planning a new bathroom, dress-up pretend with Wyatt, Wii battles with Sean, quiet evenings on the porch with Patrick.
I cannot wait for nights where my nose is chilly and the blankets are piled above me. And days where jackets and scarves are required, and leaves pile all around the house. And roasted vegetables in the oven. And the smell of apple cider on the stove. And knowing two years have passed since Patrick’s accident, and we’re okay.