unwillingly aware

I am aware now that it is possible to smile and even laugh while my soul screams and writhes in agony.

I am aware now that there is no point in second-guessing every decision I ever made, because nothing can be changed now.

I am aware now that I will second-guess every decision I ever made, anyway.

I am aware now that a body cools very quickly after death, no matter how tightly you wrap blankets around it and no matter how much you snuggle it against your body and no matter how many hot tears you shower over it.

I am aware now that I never truly understood what pain felt like, or what despair did to a person, or how much pain and despair I would be willing to take on in exchange for my child’s life.

I am now aware that it doesn’t matter what I’m willing to take on.

I am aware now that there are no exchanges.

I am aware now, and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it.

via Daily Prompt: Aware

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Day 29 – What friend/family member are you grateful for?

I am overflowing with gratitude for my friends and family.

This year I’ve learned that real family holds one another closer in difficult times. Family members give of themselves to strengthen each other. Families make sacrifices, and some of those sacrifices suck, plain and simple, but family members don’t harbor resentment over doing what needs to be done.

I’ve learned that friends are people who touch your heart and make you smile, even though you hardly see them because life is so crazy. Friends start off as complete strangers, but your days are brighter once they become part of your life.

I’m grateful for the kindness and support I’ve received from family, friends, and strangers. I’m grateful to know that my children are safe and happy with their father, grandparents, and aunt and uncle. It’s been an extremely difficult year, but also a very eye-opening year of growth for me. I’m now able to more clearly see the goodness in this world.

Day 27 – What small thing that you use daily are you grateful for?

The small thing that I use daily that I am grateful for is my embroidery.
 
My mother had shown me how to crochet and knit, but always with so much criticism and unraveling what I’d done wrong and restarting again and again. It just wasn’t enjoyable.
 
Cross-stitch and needlepoint are very simple, but can be tedious as it is just the same stitch over and over. Counted cross-stitch is more challenging; unfortunately, I am too much of a perfectionist to allow mistakes and I’ve given up on more than one project because I’ve miscounted and had gotten too far before I’d noticed. I couldn’t bear to continue knowing there was a mistake; I couldn’t bear to rip out stitches and redo hours and hours of work. I do enjoy cross-stitch and needlepoint if the design is something I’m attached to.
 
I particularly enjoy crewel, because there are a variety of stitches that are used in any given design. I used to check out books from the library and practice stitches on any random fabric.
 
Embroidery is cathartic for me. I focus completely on the next stitch, and then the next, and the next. I run my fingers through the silky floss or the fuzzy yarn as I separate out the strands that I need. I enjoy the many shades of colors and the methodical push and pull of the needle through the fabric. And while I’m focusing on all of this, my other thoughts and worries continue to whisper in the background but I’m able to intentionally disregard them for the time being.
 
What do I do with the completed pieces? Nothing, really. Stick them in a bag and put them away, and move on to the next project. It’s the process that helps me, not the final product.

Day 24 – What challenge are you grateful for?

I don’t know how to answer this. When I hear “challenge,” I automatically think of my baby’s health issues and spending so much time in the hospital and being unable to be together as a family doing normal family activities, and I don’t feel grateful for that challenge. I want my baby to be healthy, or at least have the ability to manage his health conditions to keep him out of the hospital. I want the ability to take each day for granted, even though I shouldn’t. I don’t want to wonder if this will be the last photograph I take of him smiling or wonder if he will make it through the entire day without a trip to the ER. I want to be able to plan for family vacations and camping trips and not worry about getting more than a few miles away from the nearest hospital.
 
But that’s all beside the point, the point being that I am supposed to describe what challenge I actually am grateful for. My best answer is that I am challenging myself to learn as much about MIRAGE syndrome as possible, and I’m doing this by trying to connect with as many families as I can. We have six strong, amazing, precious little fighters now who share many similar experiences but who all fall into place at their own unique points of the MIRAGE spectrum. The more we share with one another, the more we can learn about our own children and how best to get the help and treatment they need. That’s my challenge, and I’m grateful for getting to know other families. I am grateful that there ARE other families, and that my son is not fighting alone.

Day 23 – What tradition are you grateful for?

I’m thankful for our traditional Christmas Eve panic when my husband and I stay up way too late moaning and groaning over why we waited until the last minute to sort through and wrap the gifts and wake up way too early to the excited voices of the kids in the morning.

We barricade the door to upstairs with a chair ever since the year our oldest child came stumbling down with eyes glazed and rolling in the sockets, in a chickenpox fever-induced delirium insisting that Santa had already arrived and Christmas was already here.

Some years we imbibe a little; other years we don’t at all. Some years there is music in the background; other years the soundtrack of the evening is just crackling paper, zipping Scotch tape, and snipping scissors.

And bickering. There is always bickering between us, every single year, but it’s delightful and always heavily punctuated with giggling. We bicker over wasting paper (I always cut it too small for what I’m wrapping), and we bicker over who lost the scissors, and who lost the tape, and who lost the pen, and whose turn it is with that roll of wrapping paper.

We always end up with uneven piles, and so we take from one child and give to another so that everyone has approximately the same-ish number of gifts to unwrap and no one feels like the least-favorite child.

We try to stuff the stockings and can never figure out how we end up with too much stuffing — kind of like when I try to fill and fold a burrito, I drastically overestimate how much filling I need.

We place the presents under the tree and take pictures of our craftiness. We gaze at the lights and the gifts and talk about how happy the kids will be. We give each other a Christmas hug and kiss, since by now it’s well past midnight and officially Christmas, and then we go to bed for a few hours’ sleep before the kids wake up.

And when we hear them, we look at each other with our sleepy, droopy eyes and we smile sleepy, droopy smiles, and we snuggle together under the blankets while we listen to the kids Ooh and Aah over their stocking loot.

And it is beautiful. Every year, it is happy and peaceful and cozy and beautiful.