Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tears to Come

Something I'm not sure I'll ever get used to is the cycle of hellos and goodbyes that come with living amongst a military community.

This last week was one of news for many of our friends here.  It's difficult to find a balance between feeling selfishly sad for having to hug a good friend goodbye, and being excited for the new journey ahead of them.  How do you say congratulations when your heart is saying, "Don't go" at the same time and mean them both?  It's strange, but it happens and it's happening now.

While a couple friends are still awaiting official news of where they'll be going from here, everyone seems to have a pretty good idea and all those places have SUN, so we're all happy for them.  Chris and I have been so incredibly fortunate to have found the friends we've had here, so when summer rolls around this year, there will be a lot of smiling through tear-filled eyes.

Congrats to Angela and Chad, who won't be separated after all, moving to the sunny state of Arizona.  Having been expecting to be apart for a year and basing life plans around that, finding out they'll be moving together must have brought a great sigh of relief to their home.

Congrats to Amy and Rick, who although will sadly be apart for some time, will at least have the comfort of knowing Amy and their kids will be with family and friends who can't wait to have them home again.  I'm sure it will be a comfort to Rick to know his family is being well cared for while he's working hard far away.  Amy and Rick are strong, wonderful people who can and will handle the up-coming separation with grace, no doubt.  It doesn't hurt that they've got two amazing kids to remind them of how great they've got it in the long haul.

Congrats to Diane and Wayne, who will be moving back to the South, where Diane feels at home.  Living only a few hours from her parents, it will surely be a joyous time for everyone, including their (now) 3 beautiful children.  And knowing that my dear friend will be a drivable distance from Chris and my family in Florida at least leaves room to imagine possible visits with them in the next couple of years.  Still, this will be my most difficult goodbye, as Diane has been one of those friends you don't find often, one from whom I've learned so much and one I know I'll always cherish.  But I was good today; I waited until we hung up to cry.

It's also likely that California will be inheriting another favorite family of ours, but we'll wait till that one's official to go into any detail.  What is for sure is that all of our departing friends will be leaving uniquely shaped holes in our hearts, and will be missed dearly.

So why do I feel the need to whine about this publicly?  I guess this post is a kind of emotional purging, with the hopes that as I am reminded to take full advantage of the time I am gifted with people I've come to call family, you will, too.  We have to say goodbye throughout life, whether due to moves, life circumstances, or death.  Remembering that all things change, that all things come to an end in some fashion is important, I think, because it keeps us from taking things for granted, these relationships and these people we love.  So I'll be looking for more opportunities to spend time with some before they leave, making more memories to hold onto when face-to-face get-togethers are replaced with Skype and the phone, as well as with the friends who are thankfully hanging around a bit longer.  The hugs will get a little tighter, and as the time nears, possibly a little longer.

Maybe one of these days I'll be able to say so long to a good friend without shedding a tear when it's time to go, but I kind of hope I don't.  I actually went back to an old post to find something that dawned on me then, and applies again now..."And never worry about the difficulties of goodbye, because between friends that doesn't really exist anyway." (from the post, There You Are, by me).

That's comforting, and realistic given the way the people around us travel all over and wind up with neighbors they shared a street with a decade before.  So that's what I'll be thinking about when the hugs begin this summer.

If I may quote from a good friend's blog regarding this same current happening, "Nothing replaces friends - our hearts only get bigger as we try to fill the void they will leave" (The Adventures of Nicholas Roy Leadbetter and Family, Sara Leadbetter).

I couldn't have said it better, Sara.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sunshine, Writing, & Newborns

I've recently become aware of the power of these three things in calming me down and lifting me up.  It's interesting that this is a new realization, as introspection has always been a way of life, but there it is.

I've heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, aka, Winter Depression, where even people with no history of depression can find themselves being tugged in that direction for lack of sun for extended periods.  And it makes sense, both psychologically and biologically, but I never realized how solar powered I really am.  I suppose being a Floridian transplanted to Tuscany, I've always lived in sunshine.  A cloudy day was never a big deal because the cloud cover soon blew over and the sun always reappeared.  Life in Germany is just as amazing, but far less sunny.  Winter tends to not just come for a visit, but unpack and act like it owns the place.  And whereas a white Christmas is gorgeous and fun, a winter that drags on for months (as in beyond Easter, like last year) gets as tiresome as any overstayed guest.  The skies seem stained grey, ever leaking rain, snow, or some variation in-between.  A day that allows for some unscheduled sunshine is a welcome, albeit, rare occurrence.

I wasn't aware of just how low I'd sunk with regards to my mood and overall feeling of well-being until this past weekend when the sun took over the sky for three straight days.  Not a cloud in the sky.  Nothing but bright, white sunshine and crisp, cold winter air.  It was like suddenly remembering how to take a deep breath again.  I found myself stopping to close my eyes and face the sun, whether I was cleaning up in the kitchen, walking Heidi outside, or just passing by a window.  It reminded me of how beautiful it is here, and of how much I love our home with all its many windows, perfect for showcasing brilliant sunlight.  When we were house-hunting, we did call this house Sunshine, after all.

By now, you may be aware of my love/hate relationship with writing.  As in a passionate love affair, I'm either brimming with excitement, eagerness, and lust or steaming with impatience, frustration, and anger.  But I'm happy to report that we've been in a really great place this last year, ever since I created this blog and made a commitment to spending more time writing, gradually nursing what had become a malnourished relationship back to life.  Daily writing led to a flame rekindled, a passion revived, and a heart relieved that it wasn't really over between us.

I began a new short story in November and all creative energy went straight to that until the completion of the first draft the first week of January.  What began with what I thought to be a clever ending for a three or four pager developed organically into a forty-six page piece.  I'm currently residing in the space between finishing the first draft and awaiting the first round of critiques and comments, most of which I won't receive until the beginning of February.  Not wanting to lose my focus in a new piece of fiction, I'm hesitant to start anything new or even dust off an old, unfinished piece, and so am experiencing a build-up of creative energy and drive.  And as a return to consistent blogging is one of my three very realistic writing goals for 2011, a minimum of one post per week, my hand is singing as I write this post at work while the kids are having Spanish.  I realize it's now the third week of the new year, and this is my first post of 2011, but it takes me a little to move into new habits.

The point is, finding a few minutes to sit down and write this out to share with whoever decides to read it is uplifting, eliciting no minor rush of endorphins through my brain and right back out my fingers. I'm so grateful for this outlet for what it's taught me, and will continue to nourish it, as well as my relationship with writing for as long as I've got words to share.

I like kids, always have.  And yes, babies are cute, though I prefer them once their personalities have had time to develop a little.  But I never fully understood why so many people seem to lose their minds over holding babies, especially newborns.  I thought about this because Diane, a very dear friend of mine has just given birth to her third child, their first boy, Blake Patterson.  If I love you, I'll love your children, so I was excited to visit in the hospital the day after his birth and again once they were all home.  I held him for a minute or two in the hospital, as I've held other new babies of friends and family, soon handing them back over for feeding, changing, or consoling, but the second visit was something different, altogether.  This little baby slept cuddled into me for an hour as I talked with his mother and grandmother, making immensely tiny noises and jerking slightly in his sleep.  As I held him, an amazing calm settled over me that I'm quite sure I've never experienced before.  Listening to him, smelling him, and feeling him there, so warm and so beautifully innocent was like a drug, and I say this with absolutely no exaggeration.  My body relaxed and my heart swelled.  By the time I handed him over for a change and dinner from Mommy, I had nearly convinced myself he was mine and I'd do anything to protect him.  And this is how I learned that a sleeping newborn is like a happy muscle relaxer.  My poor husband is surely aware of my intensified need to have one of our own.

But all in good time.

Driving home from work today in a minor snowstorm wasn't enough to dampen my high spirits, especially having spent some time reflecting on sunshine and writing and newborns.  It's always effective to be able to identify the origins of problems to better handle them in the future.  Writing is all mine, a baby is a want but not yet in the works, and sunshine is never a certainty here, but at least I've got a better handle on understanding the beauty and power of simple things.

And maybe I'll be buying a sunlamp sometime soon.