Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Tale of Two Climates

What a week this has been!

I submitted the hardest paper of my life in December, and I've waited almost every day since then for feedback from my professor. He was so helpful all semester, and I fully anticipated feedback within a few days of submission. Time passed--and so did Christmas, then New Year's--and I still hadn't heard anything. Final grades were being issued on January 8, so I knew I'd find out at least my grade on that day, and I hoped grades would update at midnight Boston time--which they did. Brad snapped this picture as I was getting ready for bed at 10:01 pm on January 7.
I worked harder for that grade than any other in my life. I knew I'd left everything on the table and that I couldn't have done any better.

I got an A.

And I couldn't stop smiling and squealing for almost an hour.

But I'm glad it's over.

(A few days later I got feedback on my work. I will be forever grateful for Dr. Shoemaker and what he taught me about critical thinking and writing. That class was a life changer, and that can't even express how I feel about the experience."

It's been a big week for my Hyrum as well.
 He was ordained a deacon on January 2, and the next Saturday, Brad and I took the boys to the Gilbert temple to perform baptisms.
There's nothing like the excitement of these young kids and their first time in the temple and passing the sacrament in church. I'm really proud of him and his attitude about life. Can you believe how tall Micah's getting? This picture makes him look taller than Brad, which he isn't yet, but he's close!

This girl left us to head back to college.
Lily had a rough time last semester. School was hard. Life was hard. The cold was hard. Everything was hard. But she went back up to Rexburg with a new attitude and firm resolve. She's FaceTimed me a few times, and I love the difference in her attitude and commitment to school. I just know this semester will be her fresh start and the time when the real Lily Jane will come bounding out to take the world by the horns. Love her and her desire to succeed and work hard.


And this girl.
This girl told me, "Mom, you're my comfort human. And Cleo is my comfort animal." I was flattered, especially when she told me (through tears) that the reason she can't stand to be away from me is because "You're the best human in the whole wide world." She has a hard time going to bed anywhere but home or if I'm gone, but she's doing so much better lately. I know she's working hard so she can spend a week at Grandma Tucker's house this summer. If she keeps this up, she will be ready! She made this cute bag at Activity Days out of bandannas and insisted Brad send me a picture of her wearing it. I'm proud of her and how hard she's working to go to sleep at night and learn some independence.

Why would she be calling me and sending me pictures?
 Sunset over Cape Cod

. . . because I'm finishing up five days in Boston for my latest class--Boston before the Revolution.
I've spent hours in lecture and writing two papers. The best/worst was walking ALL DAY yesterday around Boston, going to museums, historical societies and historical sites. It. Was. COLD. And not just cold to the AZ visitor. It was 20 degrees with a breeze. Even the native Bostonians were complaining of the cold once the sun went down. Miserable but awesome. Is that possible?

We had lunch in a Charles Bulfinch house on Beacon Hill that is owned by the Colonial Historical Society. Charles Bulfinch!
We casually ate hoagie sandwiches and clementines among the 17th-18th century paintings and antique furniture with "Please do not touch" signs pushed aside. When asked why we were allowed to eat in the room (I felt like a little kid in the good room of the house with a glass of grape juice), Dr. Allison offhandedly commented, "Well, I'm the vice president and I have a key." Wow. Just wow. That is a moment I'll never forget.

Our professor knows his stuff. I can't believe how much he knows and how he seems to have an answer for any question.

I also learned to ride the T like a pro--way easier than NY's or Paris's subway system, that's for sure. See me in my coat, scarf, and ear warmer?
Notable moments from this Boston trip besides lunch in the Bulfinch house:

Seeing Copley's paintings in person at the Museum of Fine Arts. So much better than a copy. Samuel Adams is my hero.

Meeting a History teacher from Chandler who shares my passions and shared some of his teaching insights for when I return to the classroom one day.

Using my Harvard ID to study in Widener Library.
This was the moment of the trip for me.

I swiped my ID and walked into the library as a Harvard student. I sat in this room for almost five hours writing a paper.

It was such a surreal moment. I wrote a paper while at Harvard. What??

Every time I come to Boston, I have at least one moment where I cackle under my breath and send up a silent prayer of gratitude that I get to live this dream. I love every second of every experience and every class. I realized during this trip that I only have 18 months left in this adventure before I finish my degree, and then these moments walking the streets of Cambridge with a backpack and academic purpose will end.

I'm going to savor every moment.

And I have five classes and one more trip to Boston this semester, so that will be a lot of savoring.

I love my life.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Ringing in the New Year, Denton Style

Happy New Year from the Denton Sanatorium!
We aren't that festive or exciting around here on New Year's Eve, but I did plan a few Minute-to-Win-It games. The kids liked them ok, but then Brad upped the ante when we finished playing a kid version of beer pong.

After an unsuccessful round on the table with $20 prize, Brad made it more challenging and more rewarding. He placed the Solo cup on the floor, gave each person one chance to stand on a chair and try to bounce the ping pong ball into the cup from 12 feet away.

Prize? Benjamin Franklin.

After four or five of us unsuccessfully attempted the new challenge, Tucker landed the ball in the cup and I wish this moment was on video! And immediately after him, Karli's brother Troy landed a second ball in the cup!
Brad was nervous at this point, thinking he would be bled dry by the end of the challenge, but thankfully for him, there were only two winners. I don't think Troy had ever held a $100 of his own. Not bad for five seconds of work!

On January 1, we headed north to the cabin. (Tucker's family plus her two youngest siblings, Ben and Makayla, and us with our three youngest. Lily, who lives in the land of ice and snow while she's in school, opted to stay home and clean the entire house for a small fee. I quickly agreed to that deal!) Snow in the AZ mountains is unpredictable, and when the forecast shows a snowflake, we desert rats quickly comb through the snow clothes and drive 90 minutes for a few hours of winter.
 The snow level was lower than I've ever seen it as we drove up--snow-capped saguaro cactus and the desert grasses bowing under the unfamiliar weight of heavy, wet snow.
 It was beautiful.

My boys inherited their teasing from their dad. While I was asleep, the family started a snow fort and tried to build a sled track down our driveway (not enough snow for that, unfortunately). Brad incessantly pelted everyone with snowballs or tackled  people to the ground to whitewash them.

Finally, the boys took it upon themselves for a little revenge. Brad didn't stand a chance against his three biggest boys (with Hyrum egging his brothers on from the sidelines).
 Micah landed the lucky shot . . .
 . . . which landed right in Brad's face. He may tease a lot, but he takes it when the kids dish it right back at him.
I love this picture. And I love this man and the family and life we've created together over the last almost thirty years.

Although the snow wasn't deep enough for a proper bobsled track like we've built in the past, the kids still had a great time sledding down the hill . . .


. . .  and making actual "snow" cones.
Summer is a great time to head north and escape the heat of the Valley, but winter and snow are my favorite times in the pines of central Arizona.
 Especially when surrounded by people I love.


The best part? After frozen pizza and quickly straightening up, we drove back to the Valley and were all in bed by 9 pm.

I may have said this before, but I love the cabin.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

2019 Word of the Year

I changed out my necklace early yesterday morning.

The family was all sleeping after our New Year's Eve late night, and I was alone.

I stared at the shiny newness in the small black box before removing it.

I briefly held 2018 and 2019 in my hand, and in that moment I reflected back on all the changes that came in 2018. Huge unexpected changes and small pivotal moments. My star necklace with my peridot birthstone had become so comfortable, my goals so manageable, and I felt satisfied with my efforts.

But I couldn't fasten the shiny new one around my neck, not just yet.
I feel like this every year when I change my necklace. I spend a long time planning a new word and ordering just the right accessory to focus me for the year. When it arrives, I can hardly wait to remove it from its packaging and fasten it around my neck, but I always force myself to wait until the morning of January first. However, when the actual moment comes to remove its predecessor, the new necklace greets me as a stranger, feels alien and uncomfortable in my hand, and I question this new move forward, hesitating for just a moment before proceeding.

I changed things up this year, choosing gold over silver, and I already question that decision, along with the choice of shorter chain. It doesn't hang quite the same as last year's, and it bumps unfamiliarly against my collarbone. And it feels . . . heavy. What does that mean?

So many questions. But the questions aren't negative or oppressive. They hold mystery and anticipation, a hefty dose of excitement paired with a tinge of fear of this unknown 2019.

The word I chose for 2019 is grow. I want to change this year. I feel the windows of opportunity closing around me, knowing that I have less than nine years with kids still living at home. Then our lives will really change. Brad wants to go on missions after that, and I want to be in that place as well. But right now, I still feel like there are so many things left for me to do and not enough time to do them all. I don't feel almost 50, but I know 50 will come this summer whether I'm ready or not.

I want to do so many things. I want to be the person I always think I am but fall short of so often. I want to be active and healthy. I want to be spiritually strong. I want to serve others. I want to slide into home plate at age 80, knowing I gave life the very best I had in me.

So this year, I'm going to grow. Grow in all areas of my life--in commitment and effort and love and service and spirit.

What does 2019 have in store for me?

I don't know, but I'm ready to find out.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Best and Worst, 2018 Edition

2018 was the worst year for posts in the ten years I've been blogging.

Ten entries for the entire year.


It made me sad when I looked back over the year and saw how many memories I missed.


I've found writing outlets elsewhere--between working the first few months of the year and then going back to school nearly full-time in September--but I missed preserving the small family moments.


So.


One of my resolutions for 2019 is to blog once a week.


And I thought I'd end 2018 with a quick roundup of the best and worst of the year.



Just like past years, I wore a necklace every day to remind me of my goals. One thing I did differently this year was setting eight smaller goals that I recorded in my planner daily. 

In addition to my goals, I also kept a journal of my daily moods, recorded nightly. 

This I found quite interesting as the data accumulated. I can look back on the colored boxes and try to recall what made a day amazing or what made it awful. Certain stretches of time are easy for me to remember what happened (April and May of 2018 were two of the hardest months of my entire life and June was spent mostly in Italy on my trip of a lifetime), while others are impossible to recall.

 I for sure will do this again in 2019, with some possible adjustments to my mood categories. 

Now for the best and worst of the year.



Habit best/worst
Worst--Picking Diet Pepsi back up again. I gave it up for Lent, and although the Lenten period this year was the hardest of my life, I didn't drink a single drop, even for weeks after. Then I began to drink one a week, one every other day, and now I have a few a week. My goal is to kick this habit for good this year.


Best--Learning to like water. I've never liked water. That's the truth. But this year, I started drinking 20-30 oz. before 9 am each day, and I found my body really liked it. Who knew? Now I'm convinced.

Book best/worst
Worst--The Shadow Lands by Elizabeth Kostova. One of my all-time favorite books is her Historian, but this new one was really a let-down. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Save yourself.
Best--Just Mercy by Bryan Anderson. This non-fiction work describes Anderson's mission to save wrongfully convicted murderers on death row in the poor South. It was a perspective changer for me, and I recommend it completely. Be prepared for your convictions to deepen or to change on the death penalty. Really provocative read.


Family best/worst
Worst--Lily in jail. I didn't post anything about this on my blog, but I did post much of the drama on Instagram and there was a Facebook battle . . . and an interview on the news when she wasn't allowed to walk at graduation because of her senior prank (harmlessly locking up the school overnight with a few padlocks, chains, and a bike lock). Much of the issue surrounding her time in jail was repercussions from the principal and my firing, and that made it even harder for me to understand. She missed her high school graduation (and her seminary graduation and banquet) and spent four hours in a holding cell, but in the end, all charges were dismissed and she only had to pay about $65 in fines. Forever she will have a great story to tell, and I'm starting to let it go. Finding forgiveness in my heart for Lily's poor treatment was harder than finding forgiveness for my own, but I'm there. It's all behind us now.

Best--(tie) New babies and girls' trip to Utah. Caroline Belle Denton joined our family in June, and we have two new grandbabies on the way for 2019. Nothing makes me happier than my little grandkiddos. I had a wild idea in November to get all my adult girls together for a quick weekend, and we ended up spending a few December nights (all five of us) in a Salt Lake hotel room, eating way too much, staying up way too late, getting pedis and home face masks and enjoying the time together. I hope this becomes a frequent weekend away for these girls I love so much and count among my best friends.

Exercise best/worst
Worst--Injury. I got back into running for the first time in years, and I was loving every second back on the road and the canal. My right foot hurt for a while, but I kept at it, thinking it would go away. It didn't. My doctor performed a series of treatments on it in May, and it was fine, but then it got worse. After an MRI, I found out I had torn my plantar fascia and that this wouldn't be a quick recovery. In October, the doctor debrided it then did a platelet injection. After a few weeks of physical therapy (which did help me heal but also gave me tendinitis on the side of my foot that I'm still fighting), I'm slowly but surely getting back to the canal. I actually speed walked the distance of the canal on Saturday! Small victories.
Best--Plowing through anyway. I reluctantly retreated to my stationary bike in the basement, and while it's not the same as 5:30 am laps around the neighborhood, I did maintain some level of fitness. Another small victory.

Mothering best/worst
Worst--Eve and Santa. While there were other, private moments where the worst came out of me as I mothered my children, Eve and Santa was pretty bad. You can read about that here.
Best--Learning to let go. You'd think I would have learned that lesson years ago, but 2018 ramped it into overdrive. I love the adults my kids are becoming, and I see they need me less and less as time goes by . . . and that's just as it should be. Plus, I got my little kids a dog, and Cleo fills in those moments when a mom doesn't have the answers. 



TV best/worst
Worst--Kid TV. Seriously. It's mind-numbing. I walk in the the room and after two minutes of unoriginal, catty, sarcastic dialog, I want to turn it off. And often, I do. What has happened to kid TV? 
Best--This is Us/Survivor. These are the only two shows I watch any more. Survivor has been a family staple around here for over 15 years, and we still love to watch it as a family. This past season was especially interesting. And I became a This Is Us fan when I made Lily's graduation quilt. I love all the characters in this show and how relatable their lives are (except for Kevin the movie star). I watched every episode available in a week (first binge watch of my life) and now I can't wait to see what happens next to the Pearson family.
It was months late because of the crazy circumstances surrounding her graduation, but it's filled with so many memories.


Personal best/worst
Worst--Losing my teaching position at Heritage Academy. Not getting my contract renewed for 2018-19 school year was devastating to me. I lost a job that I treasured and daily contact with people I came to love dearly. 

What made it worse is that this lesson wasn't a one-day experience. It lasted from the first interview with administration in February, through a surprise meeting and ugly mudslinging and accusations in March, an unexplained escort off campus in April, and refusal of administration to allow my attendance at school events or even graduation in May. Just thinking about it all takes me back to a place I don't like to dwell. Lessons learned: 1) I can't force anyone to forgiveness (and reaching a place of forgiveness myself takes time--but I did get there, eventually). More important was 2) Even today, I would still stick up for my values and defend those who needed defending. So even though this was by far the worst thing that happened in 2018, I wouldn't trade the lessons I learned from the experience. So there's that.

Best--Harvard. Last year at this time, I never thought that a second master's degree was anywhere in my future, but I am in a truly happy place right now. I love school. I love thinking and stretching and learning and changing and growing. I love it. I love how hard it is. I love how easy it is. I love everything about it. And it looks like I'm on track to receive ALM (Master's Liberal Arts) with a concentration in American Literature in May 2020. I feel more like myself when I'm buried in textbooks and writing assignments and research than anywhere outside of mothering my family, and I'm so thankful I found the Extension program and that Brad supports me getting a third degree. It truly makes me happy, and I'm so content being the student again instead of the teacher. For now.

Overall worst
1. Losing the job I loved. I loved every moment I was in the classroom. I loved grading assignments, creating tests, and writing lesson plans. More than anything, I loved my students. 



I wanted their horizons to expand and their writing to improve. When I lost that, I lost a big part of who I had become, and it took months to work through the fall-out, refusing to allow others' perceptions to define me. 
2.  Helplessness to fix others’ problems, illnesses, hang-ups, hate. I've always been a fixer. The most important worst that I experienced in 2018 was the realization that not only can I not fix others, I need to find a way to be ok with my inability to change them. Whether it's acquaintances or bosses, sometimes I can't affect their perceptions, even when they're incorrect. I can't change them, even if it's hurting me or someone I love. That's their job, not mine. It was a tough lesson. In addition, I learned I can't fix those I love. I can be a shoulder to cry on. I can be there to pick up pieces or apologize for my actions or even stand just off stage behind the curtain as the tragedy unfolds. This was the hardest lesson of 2018, and I know it's not over yet.


Overall best
1. Italy. Brad took me on my dream trip to Italy in June, and it was all I ever imagined. I shed tears at the foot of Michelangelo's David and Pieta. I stood in awe beneath da Vinci's Last Supper. I walked the tower of Florence's Duomo and the galleries of Uffizi. I wandered the Colosseum and the Roman Forum and ate gelato till my sides split. It was incredible, but the best part was spending two weeks away from my corner of the world with the one I love best. The longer we're married, the more I love him and need his comfort, counsel, and conversation.

2.  Learning that progress isn’t in perfection, it’s in persistence. In September, I realized that I had unintentionally collected data on myself--my perseverance and my lack of it. In 365 days, I only had two perfect days all year long (the first was in July!), but the perfect days didn't measure my successes of the year. I got better in most areas and know I need to improve in two others. I even missed ten days in April and May, but that didn't derail me for the rest of the year. A few years ago, I would have abandoned the project completely, but I didn't this time. That's change.

I don't know if I will maintain this same system in 2019, but I do love having a detailed analysis of my efforts at improvement this past year.





There you have it. Most of 2018 summed up in one quick post. Tomorrow is a new year, and I'm ready.


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Farewell, Santa (Or as I Like to Call It: Epic Parenting Fail)

When I say that Christmas 2018 was beautiful and nearly perfect, I mean it. The weather, the food, the gifts, the spirit--everything.

Except for our drive home from Brad sister Amy's house Christmas night. And what occurred will join my list of "Worst Parenting Moments Ever." It may be close to the top of that list, to be honest.

Brad and I have been playing Santa for 28 straight Christmases. Eve is nine years old, and Brad thought that this would be a good year to play our Santa finale. We discussed letting them in on the joy of Santa and the Christmas spirit, and decided he would be the one to tell her (and Hyrum, although we were pretty sure he knew), but we never determined a time frame of when to broach the subject. This was a huge mistake, it turns out.

Unfortunately, because our Santa's workshop experience on Christmas Eve went soooooo late and soooooo long, and because Tucker had also helped with setup for a video game, the adults at the Sanatorium were less than careful in the discussions of our Christmas Eve antics. Hyrum picked up on the slips fairly quickly and would make veiled comments, seeing if we would take the bait, but we played it off for the rest of the day.

Until we were driving home from Amy's, that is.

I can't remember exactly what I said, but my comment made it impossible to cloud the origin of a Santa gift. This time, Hyrum piped up.

"What? Is Santa real?"

I didn't know how to react.

I mean, I've been protecting Santa's identity for almost three decades now, but was it time to step out of the witness protection program and fess up?

I looked at Brad, and he didn't start talking. It was getting awkward, so I finally said, "Santa isn't real."

Just like that.

Flat and cold and unfeeling.

How could I do that?

The silence.

Then, the quiet sobs from the back corner of the Suburban.

With those three words, I broke my baby daughter's heart and ruined her perfect Christmas.

It was awful.

We still had five minutes in the car, and Brad and I voiced some drivel about "Christmas Spirit" and "Santa is real, if you believe" but the hole got deeper and deeper, and Eve's shattered dreams hung over all of us like the igniting Hindenberg.

It got worse.

I don't know which of the kids started it, but someone started to laugh.

And that embarrassed Eve. Everyone but her knew the truth about Santa, and not only had she just learned he wasn't real, but they were laughing at her. In the kids' defense, I think they were laughing because of the awkward situation, but that's not what she thought.

When we got home, everyone else got out of the car, and I climbed into the back seat next to my brokenhearted baby. My baby who no longer holds any vestige of baby beliefs in magical beings who circle the globe on Christmas Eve bearing perfect gifts just for her.

In that moment, all I wished is that I could take it all back. That I could conjure the Santa magic for her again and keep it for her forever.

Instead, we snuggled in the back seat for ten minutes as I answered all her questions. Occasionally one of my responses would trigger a fresh round of tears and sobs, and I would squeeze her tight again.

"Mom, I wanted him to be real." I know, sweetheart.

"You bought me this watch?" I did.

"I'm so sad." Me too, Dolly. Me too.

"The girl next to me at school told me, 'I DON'T BELIEVE IN SANTA!' But I told her that I did!" (I had no response for that one. What could I say?)

"At least I got one last Christmas" (This was followed by a body-shaking sob, and I could barely hold back my own tears.)

Wow. I thought the birds and the bees talk had been hard with her (which, ironically, occurred earlier this week). 

My sweet, trusting, believing, happy, green-eyed blond baby--sitting next to me on the seat with tears streaming down her face. 

And I had done that to her.

How could I?

I know it was bound to happen sometime, but did I have to be the perpetrator? Shouldn't it have been some kid on the playground? Not her mom!

I was crushed, almost as deeply as she was.

This morning she showed me what she wrote in her new journal, and it salved the wound a little, but this is a parenting fail I will regret forever.

Farewell, Santa. Thank you for 28 magical Christmases at the Denton Sanatorium. We will miss you.

And I wish with all my heart we could have extended your magical visits at least one more year.



Beautiful Christmas

It was a nearly perfect holiday.

Heidi's family was in Idaho, but the rest of the kids were home for Christmas. Karli sang in our ward ("Gesu Bambino"), and it was spectacular.

I decided to try something new this year, and we had our big family dinner on Christmas Adam. I really liked doing that. It made Christmas Eve and Day less stressful, and we could sit around and enjoy. Plus, Eve set the table. I loved watching her primp that table and make it beautiful. She's growing up, my girl!

After dinner, we joined Brad's sister Amy and her family to perform some Christmas carols at the local rest home. This is the fourth (?) year we've done this, and it is such a blessing for our families. Some of us are very talented while others of us are support staff, but the residents are always so happy we are there. I'm indebted to Amy for taking the initiative each year to set this up and plan it.

Christmas Eve started early for me--up at 5 am because I hadn't wrapped a single gift! Then Micah and I headed on some last-minute errands for last-minute presents and last-minute tamales (worth waiting 30 minutes in line!).

Then we were off to the zoo. We've gone to the zoo on Christmas eve for at least 12 years, and I love it. It uses up most of the very long Christmas Eve day with time together burning energy running through the zoo in the gorgeous AZ December weather. This year was busier than most (our secret must be getting out!), but it is still virtually empty and stress-free. Even my bigger kids like this tradition.

We used to do a pinata every Christmas Eve when my older kids were little with my aunt and uncle and their kids, but it's been a while since we've done one. And Micah was the official pinata buster, may the record show, even though there is no photo evidence of his mighty swing!

Kids opened pajamas (the 27th year in a row I've made pjs for my kids) and Tucker took his family home for their own Christmas Eve. I love that they are establishing traditions in their own home with their family.

After living in this house over 11 years, we finally installed a projector and sound in the basement. The installer had a medical emergency and couldn't finish the sound, but the projector worked, and we gerry-rigged it up so we could watch life-sized Buddy the Elf on the wall. I don't know what it is about this movie, but it will forever be my favorite Christmas movie.

And by 8:30, all kids were sequestered upstairs and elven magic began.

Almost four hours later (sigh!), Brad, Ben, and I had a foosball table and a punching bag stand assembled and ready for the morning rush.

We loved having Ben and Makayla here for their first married Christmas morning. Our crew is getting smaller and smaller every year, and I don't know how much I like that, so I'm happy when our ranks are bolstered by visiting adults.

It's so strange how I stress over each present and each child, but in the end, it's not the presents that matter, but the time together and the spirit that comes from giving to each other. My kids took a special interest in sharing gifts with each other this year, and that brought me an extra dose of joy.

After hours spent figuring out the new Nintendo Switch, intermittent naps, and a quick walk thrown in, we spent the evening at Brad's sister's house with a light meal of sandwiches, another walk, and peaceful time surrounded by most of our kids and now our grandkids.

It truly is a wonderful life. Here's hoping your Christmas 2018 was just as beautiful.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Opposite of Hate Can Be . . .


My soul has blistered with hate these last few weeks, an intense hate that both overwhelms and surprises me on alternating days. Hate bubbles to the surface quickly and unbidden, before other more rational emotions can take control.

Not only does my soul bear hate blisters, it's also trying to recover from a deeply inflicted wound.

While I wish I were weathering these injuries better (and faster), I do see progress. The problem with the wound is that I'm not completely in control of its healing. I flush it out and smother it with soothing balm and bandage it, and then it scabs over and I feel better--for a day or two--until events outside my control rip the healing scab away, once more revealing the gaping hole beneath.

It's not as deep as it used to be, but nights like tonight still hurt. Nights where I'm unkindly and unnecessarily punished, purely out of spite.

These types of wounds only heal through effort. Prayer. Mindfulness. Discussion. Sympathy. Daily Focus. Work.

And also, as I'm finding out, through forgiveness. Forgiveness of someone who neither seeks it nor feels they need it takes gut-wrenching, character-building work. I am very far from a place where I feel I've reached complete forgiveness, but I am a little closer now than I was a month ago. One path I've found to this hard-to-access forgiving section of my soul is the path of compassion.
Compassion for myself. Compassion for countless innocent others tangled in the situation without their consent. And hardest of all to find--compassion for those who need it most and warrant it least. This is the life lesson I have to learn these days, and the only path available is the rocky one before me.

It's still going to be a long journey, but God only expects me to keep moving towards forgiveness, and the wound may take months to completely heal. I have to be ok with that.

But the blisters . . . I refuse to let the blisters take a permanent place within me, even with hate consistently being slung in my direction.

The salve for these blisters comes from a surprising source. The opposite of hate in this situation isn't love, ironically. At least it isn't yet. The opposite of this hate is actually . . .

Pity.

Pity soothes the blisters these days. I don't know if pity will be the final salve, but it lessens the pain as the blisters disappear. Maybe one day that pity will be replaced with some more admirable quality, but for today, it is enough. The blisters still erupt just as quickly, but they no longer burden me for days, and the flare-ups are increasingly less intense. That's progress.

I have taken the high road in this. I have nothing to hide and nothing of which I'm ashamed. I tell the story unabashedly withholding no detail, and this process surprisingly generates even more pity within me.

Two wounds. One constant and deep will take time to repair. One quick to emerge is becoming easier to tame.

Baby steps. But baby steps forward.