The Year of the Broken Heart

2019 is on its way out, a new year and decade are upon us. Like so many others I welcome tonight’s changeover from 2019 to 2020… I welcome it with an open heart, wide arms and a brain that is ready for a refresh. 2019 has been a very hard year, but with it came lessons and gifts and experiences and a ton of changes and transitions. I had a lot of work and healing to do this year, and that will likely spill into 2020.

This year, like every year, I hosted an ornament exchange. It was very unplanned, almost on purpose, being that anything that could possibly have gone wrong this year that was planned did. Enter defense mechanism ‘don’t plan anything!’… very healthy way to handle these types of things. I had this plan of creating an ornament that signified my new role and all I have learned about the Red Cross. I sat for a couple of hours and manipulated the clay and nothing really worked, telling me that this idea for an ornament was not the best symbol for 2019.

broken heart.jpgI thought about this year and all of the trials and struggles, the creativity and stress, the love and loss, the transitions… the healing. My brain visualized a slightly imperfect clay broken heart, a broken heart that was mended and healing. The break is visible, but it is stitched and healing. That was 2019… the year of the broken heart.

I have shared about my littlest nephew and his broken heart… a tiny heart that has been stitched and recreated by the hands of a surgeon. His tiny broken heart has been through so much, and still has much healing to do. He is one determined little man, in all of his pain and struggles he perseveres and pushes the limits- teaching us to push on, reminding us to let go of expectations and circumstances we cannot change and honestly to continue to be here, right here in the present. His broken heart has mended relationships and strengthened faith for many. He is the beloved little man on the PCCC floor at Strong Hospital, the nurses love him and my sister and brother-in-law. He is here showing us all how to push through the hard stuff even with a broken mended heart.

Several weeks ago, I was driving to Utica with a new friend, we are just getting into our backstories and personal stuff (she had no idea what to do with ‘coffeed’ up Erin on a long car ride). I talked about the end of my marriage and Madeline, the last few years of life and relationships… I ended the conversation with my normal- “I am a hot mess and have some serious commitment issues.” She touched on some of her issues and told me she has trust issues, and it is hard for her to trust. I thought about it and acknowledged that I am still pretty quick to trust, maybe to a flaw. She looked at me and said “It should be backwards with our stories; you should have trust issues and I should have commitment issues.” We finished the day and conversations, and I am sure that statement never replayed in her brain. That statement, however, sat in my brain for weeks, warranting much thought as to why do I trust so easily and fear commitment…

I had always attributed my commitment issues to the dissolving of my marriage and the events around it… that doesn’t really make sense though. My commitment issues really lie in fear of planning into the future, fear of committing to connections for the future… more specific fear of the future, even looking days ahead. My commitment issues stem from my broken heart, my very broken heart. My heart broke on February 8, 2012, and it has healed and broken and healed and broken and healed and broken over and over since. In only 5 days I lost every single plan and hope and dream that I possessed, and I still haven’t processed all of the layers of missing her. My commitment issues stem from the trauma and grief of losing Madeline. I can trust people, probably far too quickly… but I can not commit to stay connected or build dreams and hopes and a future. You know what they say the first step is to healing- acknowledge the need to heal and change. Acknowledging my own broken heart, with all of its emptiness and the need to heal that and not fill it with fear of the future and planning. Slowly mending that heart with little stitches and lots of hard work. The year of looking at my own broken heart…

It was a doozy of a year… a year of broken hearts. Leaving behind familiar and safe, creatively problem solving far too many problems, trying to just laugh when nothing goes as planned and praying directly for health and comfort and support. Our broken hearts are healing, slowly mending… I know that they will break again, they will heal and need extra TLC- time and stitches, always a bit broken and scarred. Grateful for those broken hearts…

In the words of my steadfast and strong sister, Benson’s mama- May the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows… may 2020 bring health and protection and simplicity.

Welcoming 2020 with some laughing at an Improv show with some awesome gifts… I love laughing. 2020 will have more laughter and more planning, hold me to it. Toasting the past year and letting it go, and celebrating a new year, growth, healing, mending… honoring ‘The Year of the Broken Heart’.

Choose a ‘perfect just as it is’ Christmas

It’s Christmas time…but it really feels like short days, cold nights and bustling around. It’s Christmas time… there are piles and piles of memories and photos and traditions that remind me of the past, of a much lighter past. It’s Christmas time… the world looks so different than it did last Christmas, and the Christmas before… and the one before.

Growing up Holidays were not only fun and full, but they were reliable and safe. I loved that best. I always knew that the same Advent song would be sung at mass, that Nana would always deliver the soft and personalized towels, that for days before the holidays there would always be potatoes to mash and stale bread to break up at Grandma Connor’s and there would always be a kids table and a grown ups table… there were always multiple relish trays full of pickles. There were so many other ‘always’ in those days. I wished to create a sturdy and safe set of ‘always’ for my girls… but as I have learned nothing has quite gone as planned in this life.

It seems though that this life isn’t so full of ‘always’… not for the lack of trying. Who knows… maybe my girls ‘always’, their reliable and safe, is a series of different and changing holidays and traditions?

These years of missing Madeline, divorce, transitions… mixed with the normal growing up and taking on more responsibility have been really hard. 2019 has been a heavy year, for me, for my girls and for my family. Madeline died in 2012 and I reminded myself and others to enjoy days and celebrate time, because one tragedy, one crisis doesn’t promise that there will be no more in our lifetime. 2019 has been a year of little joy, reminders of what is missing and hurdle after hurdle after hurdle to jump… hurdling with a bum hip and broken spirit are particularly hard. We are here though… right in a cold, dark New York winter. It has only been winter for winter for mere moments, yet feels like ages.

This year is the first year ever that I will experience what so many I have known and supported have felt- Christmas with one of your special family members in the hospital. I am sure at some point in my life an Aunt or Uncle, or grandparent has been in the hospital… but that doesn’t feel the same. First Christmas’ are so special… squeezing your kiddos together for that picture (that no one is smiling in and one child is not looking at the camera while dressed in plaid or polka dots) is a right of passage. All through pregnancy moms look forward to those parts… and it almost makes up for the varicose veins and stretch marks. My sister and brother-in-law found out they were expecting last Christmas week, a blessing after pain. They continued life along with pregnancy, a challenge with two little dinosaurs, I mean kiddos, to chase, feed and raise… and then Benson came early. Soon after his birth he was diagnosed with HLHS, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome… and has undergone surgeries and procedures to create a heart that will work better until the next two surgeries and beyond. He is a fighter. He is here. Benson’s First Christmas will be spent with some amazing nurses and doctors on the PCCC at Upstate Strong Hospital. He will get little visits from his grownups, he will watch his little mobile, he will get mad when the nurses change his leads and bathe him along with mom or dad. My sisters, our kids and my parents will be minutes away chiseling away at Christmas 2019… swimming in a hotel pool, playing dinosaurs with Benson’s brothers and eating some sort of Chinese Food. Benson should be there too… but he is connected to the hospital, he is safest there. I will miss him while chasing his brothers… I will miss putting the fancy Christmas bib on him, watching my dad sneak him whipped cream and watching all his cousins get excited when he opens a baby toy. I wish he got to enter into a steady state of traditions… but alas that isn’t the plan.

I am working hard to create a script for my brain… about building up where ever I am, where ever we are, not focusing on where we should be. I remember Christmas being easy… but I imagine when I truly think about it, that the very first Christmas was full of pain, dirt and hay, creative things to swaddle a fresh baby Jesus in and great fear of the unknown and known. I imagine the first Christmas was chock full of hard stuff mixed with good stuff. I think the act of doing chaos and hard together and creating something a little dirty but ultimately ‘perfect just as it is’ is a good way to direct my brain and this Christmas. I am not one for plans… they never work out anyway, but I am one to make the best out of what is there. I will refocus my brain on the baby in the manger along with the baby in the hospital bed… because I know that the baby in the manger is caring for Sonnie, and us. I will refocus my brain on the positives, even if I have to really dig… I imagine Mary looking around the stable and thinking this is not the way it should be… but He is here, we are here- it is ‘perfect just as it is’ in all the messiness and chao and fear and knowledge. He is here…

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