Late Autumn

The sound of my own whining is getting to me. As I look out the window over my desk, the trees are bare, save a few last straggling hangers-on, the wind is whipping the fallen leaves in eddies and whorls, and a forlorn tricycle has been left stranded, forgotten, in the middle of the yard.

It’s a adequate snap-shot of my inner-life.

Yesterday, I noticed people out putting up their Christmas decorations, and for a few minutes, I was puzzled- why would anyone decorate this early? Perplexed over the date for a few seconds, I realized Thanksgiving is next week- and it’s me, not the world, that’s off. What this also means is I have another dupioni dress to make before next Wednesday, and I thought I had a lot of time. I hate those dresses.

Thanksgiving this year has been entirely handed over to the capable and loving hands of friends. For the first time in my life, I realized I am dangerously close to the end of my proverbial rope. Admitting it is the hardest part. Thinking about the Thanksgiving spread and the work it entails, work I usually enjoy, I felt I was drowning and couldn’t breathe. Friends to the rescue- when I confessed my panic, they took the whole thing from me and all I have to do is show up. That’s love.

Being this close to the edge is like having a tattered, antique velvet purse hanging around my neck. In the old, fraying bag is all my pain and hurt and loss and anger and stress and fear from this year, and I wear it everywhere I go. People around me see it, but they don’t know what’s in it. The raveling edges and straps leave me in constant fear it may break, and all my messy secrets might spill on the floor for all to see, laying me bare and raw.

People talk about the holidays- I hug my purse tighter, and put on a smile. People talk of sales and Christmas shopping and gifts they’ve already bought- I feel a small hole in the bottom of the sac give a little. People talk of donating time and money to the children in need- and I hope they don’t see us in line- and my purse feels heavier. Fundraiser fliers come home from school with the kids, and I crumple them quickly, wishing I could stuff them in my purse, too. Emails come in, asking us to adopt a family, help the needy, contribute to a team, sponsor a marathon, and my purse slips from my shoulder, landing like lead in my lap.

20 thoughts on “Late Autumn

  1. What a well crafted post, thank you.

    Until yesturday I hadn’t moved a centimeter towards Christmas. Years gone by I’d have most of my shopping done by now. But this year I’m remembering that last year I promised myself it would be ok to let some things go because next Christmas I’d be well, everything would be recovered and normal again. Now here I sit farther from that dream than last year. I’m thinking you might feel the same.

    Thank God for your friends to huddle round.

  2. For years I dreaded Christmas. We were too poor for it to be fun. Christmas sucks for a lot of people.

    But every year I’d donate some gift(s) to a foster child, somehow, and we always ended up with more blessings than I could have thought possible.

    Hang in there.

  3. So what happens when it drops, breaks, tears wide open?
    What happens if people do see you in lines you’d rather not be in?
    Can you get to a point where that would be okay? Fathomable?
    Three of my childhood Christmases consisted entirely of other people’s donations to our family. And you know what, they were great. Even for my poor parents who were hating life all December.

    Leave a little wiggle room for some miracles.
    Say yes to every offer of help. People won’t offer if they don’t really want to.
    Don’t feel like a burden. There are blessings on both the giving and the receiving end of service.
    I’m dead serious, every offer.

    Once you get past the dupioni nightmares (and don’t ever offer to make another one again…. make them choose an easier fabric) try to focus on giving what you have to give (which I KNOW you feel isn’t much) to the people it will mean the most to. By and large, this will mean spending time with your family creating positive experiences and memories. And that’s not only the best kind of service, it’s also the kind they’ll actually remember years from now.

    Sometimes we have to be torn down to the very last participle before we can be built back up again. Don’t hang on to any hangups that make you feel worse. Let it be okay. It’s not a time to be proud or to dwell on wounded pride. (PLEASE don’t take that the wrong way and run with it). Just give all the baggage you’re feeling to the Lord. He’ll be happy to take it for you. Ask, in faith, for the grace to handle where you are right now, then act in faith that your prayer will be answered.

    You are not yet as Job, you know. (D&C 121&122) Nor do I suspect you’ll get to that point, because you have a lot of stubborn friends like me who aren’t going anywhere.

  4. You are loved by many, many people, Tracy. I know that doesn’t help handle the blow of another solicitation to help those who are where you are (of feeling the stigmatization of people’s unintentional condescension), but it’s true, nonetheless.

  5. Even in your pain and frustration, you are an amazing writer.

    My wish for you this holiday season? Peace. Just enough tranquility to breathe through each second of each never-ending agonizing day. Enough hope to cry over your bleeding fingernails – realizing at the same time that those bloody fingernails signify that you haven’t yet given up completely! Enough faith to know that, despite how it feels, God has not forsaken you.

    I cry with you because I have carried this purse in a different color. It is indeed a burden too heavy to carry at times. The strap does indeed fray almost to the point of ripping apart.

    I have told you before about my mantra “enduring well enough for now.” That epiphany was the knot at the end of my own fraying rope, when there was nothing left to do but let go and free-fall… Even when I’m struggling not to drop my bag, I am **at that moment** enduring **well enough for now.**

    Pay attention to Em. Her advice is fundamentally important to internalize. What IS wrong with the purse tearing and spilling?? I just hope it happens in the home of a friend instead of the middle of the street. You need to share more of this burden with your closest friends. Trust me, I learned the hard way that it will help you survive when you open up even more and allow others to truly help you through this. It is okay to allow someone else to carry your bag for a while!!!

    What a gift that your friends are taking the Thanksgiving trauma from you. They are wonderful to carry this burden for you – to take this particular stress out of your bag!

    What a blessing to have such friends – in person and online. Know that you are loved.

  6. Beautiful comments from everyone. The problems that you are facing are intensified by the holidays (and that it has been almost a year). During our low point, I always felt this heaviness and worried about my children at Christmastime.

    Em’s comments are spot on, her memories were still great and your children will remember great things as well. There is love in your home and you will get through this. I am so sorry I cannot do more for you, but know that the day David gets his new job will be one of extreme elation for all of us!

  7. You made me think back to the 5 yrs as a single mama… I tried to donate, but it was so meager. I was in line filling out applications at the Salvation Army hoping for gifts for my little one and food to make it look like we had something in the cupboards. It was hard… and today, I am thankful for that lesson. Money is tight, and we’ve had the discussion about what Christmas is, what it isn’t, and what this year will be. Health concerns fill our thoughts…

    Fremember- help comes in all forms, don’t be sad that you may have to use it, be thankful it’s there- and that you can use it. Being in the system I certainly saw my share of people who abused that system. I am so grateful to know that there are many more people who are wonderful people who really need it….

    Do a session, sit in the Celestial Room and cry, pray, and find some sense of peace. It *IS* out there, I know it is… please don’t give up…

  8. I’m crying right now – remembering last Christmas – remembering the feeling that I just couldn’t handle it for one more second. You expressed this so vividly.

    I know the point of your post wasn’t to solicit advice, but I can’t resist (I’ve turned into my husband apparently – trying to fix it for you) – throw up a tip jar and let your internet friends, who clearly love you, help you bear the burden just a little bit. Don’t deny them the opportunity to serve someone who really could use a little help. And if that feels too scary, at least throw up ads. If you’re getting decent traffic (and it looks like you are), it’s definitely worth it.

  9. I am so sorry life is so difficult for you right now.

    Not sure if this helps but please try to realize that being poor is nothing to be ashamed of. It is not your FAULT. I know it is not easy to change your mindset. Of course it is much more fun to have money, to buy gifts, to treat yourself, to give to others. But not being able to do so is nothing to feel guilty about.

    There are so many things to be that are much more shameful than being poor: being thoughtless, greedy, mean etc. Try (and I know this is hard) to rid yourself of feeling guilty. And there are still many ways for you to give to others (by listening, encouraging, helping in small ways).

  10. Great advice from everyone. But…

    I’m where you are Tracie in not wanting to share your ‘burdens’. You are taught in the church to be self-reliant, don’t murmur like Laman and Lemuel, fake it til you make it and all those sorts of things. When things get this dire it is hard to drop all of that ingrained facade.

    It is more difficult, to me, to be served than to serve. It feels wonderful to serve someone else, soul expanding, pat on the back kind of happy. It feels helpless, out of control, vomit inducing, and worthless to be served. Not that the people that serve you do anything to inflict those feelings but it echos through your head, “It is better to give than to receive.”

    Not saying its right, just saying it is.

  11. I wish I had some deep and sage thoughts to share with you. Something that would touch your heart, ease your stress and wrap you in peace.

    I’m coming up empty.

    Well, except to remind you that you are loved. In more ways and by more people than I bet you could ever imagine.

  12. To clarify my advice… Tracy, you already know how to share your burden. You blog about things and feelings that I have never been able to let go of enough to blog about myself. I dance around the topic of the past 4 years being the toughest of my life, but I never write specifics. It’s painful to put that in black and white. I guess what I meant was to build up to the point where it becomes easier to allow your friends to do MORE of the type of help you are receiving this week with your Thanksgiving miracle – which you wouldn’t have if you hadn’t opened up a little more than usual in conversation with your friends.

    Jendoop is right about the challenges of the ingrained self-reliance and “better to give than receive” concepts we are taught to believe in and uphold. It is what it is. But I also see a big difference between murmuring and finding certain life experiences challenging.

    Just remember that there can be no giver without a receiver… and no receiver without a giver.

  13. Thank you for your post – for being honest. There is no shame in being poor – although it’s easier to say than do and believe. I grew up poor, and had many a Christmas solely from other’s generosity. I loved it as a kid (had no idea of guilt about poverty then). And I’m still glad now that I had those Christmases – not for the specific gifts I received, but for providing an opportunity for someone else to serve. Of course, I was just the kid, not the Mama….

    Maybe for this Christmas try and find non money aspects to focus on. Not just the Christian aspects, although those are important too. No, I mean does your city do a lighting of the lights to begin Christmas, or candy windows downtown or some such celebration? Those are free and fun for memory making. Or any free concerts? (Local University tend to have stuff) – I know you have little kids, but I’m sure one of your local friends would love a concrete way to help you, by giving you and David a night out together through babysitting. Stuff like that.

    Enough with the mediocre advice. Over all, just thank you for the purse analogy, and we’re all still praying for you.

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