My Heart of Many Colors

It's strange how one day can change your whole life.  But that's how it is, isn't it?  One day you're sixteen, the next you're seventeen.  One day you live in Colorado, the next, you live in Oklahoma.  One day you are single, and the next you are married.  One day you are just you, then in an instant...  the second you see that little blue plus sign, you aren't just you anymore.  In that moment, you are forever changed.  You will never be the same again.

One day I was a sister, and the next...  I wasn't.  And now for the first time since I was seven years old, I am an only child.  It feels so wrong to say that, surely it can't be true.  I don't remember how to be an only child.  I don't feel like I ever really was one, I was just a big sister waiting for my little brother to show up.

We say a lot of things to people in hard times.  Things will get better.  God is in control.  Everything happens for a reason.  When you are the person standing there, with the broken pieces of who you used to be scattered around your feet...  Those well meaning phrases are nothing but air.  There is no peace to be had in words, they are so empty that it is almost laughable.  If you have ever really, really lost...  then you know what I mean.  If you don't, well...  good.

But here's a little secret.  And they don't tell you this when you're mapping out your future.  When you are picking out what college you are going to, what you want to major in.  No one bothers to tell you this when you are excitedly leaning over a glass cabinet in a jewelry store picking out an engagement ring.

Life.  Happens.

Good.  Bad.  All of it.  Just...  happens.  Not necessarily because you deserve it, but just because it's life.

It happens.

Life happens.

It happens to me, it happens to you.  And no amount of preparing, of planning, of deciding what your future will be like, can change the things that can't be changed.  There are some things that will come that you cannot control.  And these things change you.

Max was playing with play doh yesterday.

As his Mom, I'm careful to remind him to put the yellow in the yellow tub, the white in the white tub...  Don't mix the colors.  But he isn't so careful.  He just wants to play.  And a ball of yellow and blue streaked play doh plays just as well as a ball of pure yellow play doh does. The only difference between the two, is that the one with the blue streaks has been played with.

I started thinking about this in terms of my own heart.  I started my life as a pure, bright yellow ball.  Every meaningful experience I've had has added another color.  And once that color has been added to the ball, you can't take it out.  It's part of the whole now.  Not all of these other colors are bad, in fact I'd say most of the things in my big, semi-yellow ball are pretty great.  I married Chris. He brought a different color to my life, and I will never be the same.  I'm so thankful for that big, orange streak in my yellow that grows as we do.  Then there's the boys.  Lucas blue, Max red, Harrison green.  They've changed me.  Changed my heart.  I'll never be quite the same person that I was before they were part of me.  And I wouldn't want to be.  I like my big, messy, multi-colored ball of play doh.  It means that I've lived.  If you are so busy keeping your life pure from change, protected from the unknown, from mixing colors, it just means you've been keeping your play doh safely in it's tub... you haven't ever enjoyed it.

But sometimes, things happen in your life that you wish hadn't.  Keeping yourself safely in your tub, not getting your colors mixed cannot stop life from happening to you.

Your sister battles cancer bravely.  Valiantly.  You know she will beat it.  She has to.  She fights, and fights...  and looses.

The pregnancy you've waited for, dreamed about, ends in another miscarriage.

Your husband is sick.  So sick.  And no one knows what to do.

You hear the words abnormal cells and your daughter's name in the same sentence for the first time.

Your best friend doesn't pull through.  You think she will, you know she will.  But she doesn't.

Your baby brother takes his own life.  He takes himself away.  Without permission, without your blessing.  He is gone.  The loss leaves a dark ribbon through your many colored ball, leaves a clouded place in your heart.  You can't pinch out the dark spot...  It's part of you now.  It can't be changed, can't be forgotten.  The oppressive weight of this new reality makes you feel like your ball of play doh has been destroyed.  Smashed flat, with no hope of ever being anything else ever again.  Unrecognizable.  You can't get up, and you don't want to get up.  You want to stay smashed.  Being anything else but broken is unthinkable.  You don't have what it takes to be anything else.

But here's another secret.  A secret that only the old people who love you best will tell you...

You do have what it takes to go on.  You will go on.

A couple of months ago, I was talking to my Grandparents on the phone.  I'm not completely comfortable discussing my brother with them...  I just love them so much and I can't stand to hear sadness in their voices.  But there are times when that just can't be helped.  My Grandpa said to me in a very soft voice, "You'll get over this."  

Coming from anyone else, and out of context, that sounds like a really horrible thing to say to someone who has just lost a loved one.  But it wasn't from him.  I knew what he meant.  My Grandpa has seen a lot of life.  Things weren't always rosy for him...  This is a person who ran away from home at fourteen, jumped a train and rode it across the country.  A man who joined the navy when he was seventeen...  and was later presumed dead when his ship was sunk and he was missing in the South Pacific.  He has seen a lot of things, a lot of hard things.  He has lived.  His ball of play doh has got to be one of the most colorful ones out there...  And he told me, You'll get over this.  He didn't mean that I will forget, or that I can go on and pretend that this never happened.  Pretend that I never had a brother.  He didn't mean that this will ever go away...  He meant that I won't always hurt this much.  That my anger will fade.  That my life will continue.

My life will continue.

I will always be different from what I once was, the colors of my heart are forever changed.  But...  I'm still nothing but a lump of play doh.  The same as when I started.  And I can still mold a beautiful life out of that.


JoElla said...

So beautiful. And full of so much meaning for myself as well. Thank you for writing this. ((hugs)) Love you, sweet lady. Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written my friend. I love you to the moon and back again. -Tore

Lib Perry said...

So profound...so beautiful...so needed today...

StringGirl said...

Tears for the truth. I know.

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