I don’t think it’s possible to describe the darkness, and the loneliness that comes with it. It creeps in very unexpectedly sometimes. And sometimes I can see it coming a mile away.

Regardless, it never fails to show up.

I am completely disoriented in the darkness. Everything hurts. The pain is self-inflicted sometimes. And sometimes it slips in through the cracks in my very carefully crafted shield.

Regardless, it is always present in the darkness.

It makes me sick. It makes me mad. And in the darkness, in the moments when I am most honestly myself, the insignificance of it all suffocates me.

Maybe that’s the best way to describe the darkness: Suffocating.

Regardless, I just want to start breathing again.

What do you do with your blog when your life falls apart?

I spent a lot of time this year asking myself that question. Do I go back and edit? Take it down completely?

I don’t know if there’s a right answer. So I decided to just start writing again and have faith that the rest will take care of itself. I didn’t really intend for that to happen on New Year’s Day, but here we are and today seemed as good a day as any to start again. Please forgive the banality.

My life has been turned on its head since I first began blogging. Not to say that’s all bad. In a lot of ways I am starting to feel more myself than I have in years.

Maybe it’s because I’ve had to ask much harder questions of myself this year than the one this post posits. Questions about what really inspires me, what lights me up. What I can’t live without … And what I can live without.

Who I can be, and what I can do, and why.

And the scariest part of all the questions aren’t the answers, but the fact that for the first time I’ve had to supply the answers for myself. I’ve had to trust myself to know best.

I think I’m doing all right so far.

My most important accomplishment in 2014 was surviving it. I don’t know what will come in 2015, but I’m hoping for healing. For peace. And for answers.

For me and you, dear reader.

One Hell of a Year

The greatest lesson I learned in 2013: Be careful what you wish for. I wished to learn to overcome.

I had to laugh in looking back at my obligatory new year’s post from 2013. It was all about learning to overcome challenges, to rise to whatever occasion life had in store, etc. And looking back I understand why I was in that frame of mind: 2012 was rough. But it was nothing compared to what 2013 had in store.

Don’t misunderstand me: Nothing from 2013 in any way negates the lessons learned from 2012. I still have the greatest friends and family ever. I’m still auntie to the cutest kid on the planet. But seeing God’s plan unfold now … I know why I had to go through all of that. I know 2012 had to be tough, because otherwise I wouldn’t have been prepared for all the crap to come in 2013. I wouldn’t have been able to overcome what was coming next. I guess that’s how life works, but even at 30 (I mean … 29 again), it’s sometimes a hard pill to swallow.

I didn’t write a new year’s post this year. I wasn’t sure I had anything positive to say at all, and there’s enough negativity to be found on the Interwebs without my contribution. And I’m still not at the point where I’m going to share too many details … Please forgive me for that, but if you are a regular blog follower you will soon understand why I can’t.

But there were highlights in 2013. There were moments of joy, and peace, and awesome. And for those, I’m thankful.

Yellowstone National Park | January 2013

Yellowstone National Park | January 2013

Golden, Colorado | April 2013

Golden, Colorado | April 2013

Mooseheart, Illinois | May 2013

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota | June 2013

Grand Tetons, Wyoming | July 2013

Fox Island, Washington | September 2013

Flye Point, Brooklin, Maine | September 2013

Whitefish Lake, Montana | October 2013

North Platte River, Casper, Wyoming | November 2013

I don’t know what adventures 2014 has planned for me. I do know it’s already looking like one hell of a year. Stay tuned.

Fighting a War Within

After a 6-month blog break, I’m not really sure the best way to start again.

Tell a bad joke? Recap of the last awful 6 months? Post a random but adorable picture of my dog?

I landed on, “just start.” So here goes. Let’s see where it takes us.

The last 6 months have been hard. Really hard. Like, not sure if or when I’ll come out of this, hard. And the one person I’d like to talk to about it all isn’t here anymore.

I am adrift. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I am struggling in my personal life, with my professional aspirations and current direction (or lack thereof), and in pretty much every outward way.

Now the war begins within too … Again.

If you, dear reader, have followed this blog closely for a while, you may remember that I have something called Graves’ Disease. It’s an autoimmune disorder with which I was diagnosed in 2007. I won’t go into detail with the battle so far, except to say that the only conclusion I’ve come to about autoimmune disorders in general through it all is this: Autoimmune disorders are bastards. Lying, cheating, sneaky, miserable, depressing, maddening bastards.

That never go away.

Just when I think I’m making progress with one symptom, another one sneaks up to replace it. Another doctor. Another round of tests. Another diagnosis and the pills that come with it.

This is life for someone with any range of autoimmune disorders. And if you have one, you probably will get more. And then the cycle repeats again.

And I am soooo over it already.

Today I had a specialist very enthusiastically tell me that my eyes look great – no problems – and therefore the vision problems I’m having PROBABLY aren’t related to the Graves. Which is good news, kind of, except that it doesn’t fix anything. It eliminates one possibility, but doesn’t give me answers. More doctors. More tests. And probably more pills to follow.

So now I have to choose how to wage war. On myself. On this disease. On everything it is doing to me physically. On every lie it’s telling me about myself and the world around me.

And I just don’t know where to start.

Why a Grown Woman Needs a Teddy Bear

Don’t tell anyone this, but in one week and one day I will turn 30.

And tonight, I found myself curled up in my favorite comfy chair with my teddy bear.

Yes, in 30 years I’ve gained a lot but also had to let go of some things. I outgrew the high-top sneakers and neon spandex of the 1980s (thankfully). I ditched all my old prom dresses because I’m (honestly) never going to be able to fit into them again, and even if I could, where the hell am I going to wear a prom dress at 30 anyway? And I finally got rid of my cassette tape collection just 6 months ago, before undertaking our most recent move. It’s important to note that I haven’t had a working tape player in probably 10 years.

Tonight, I had to let go of my grandmother. She was by far the most influential person in my life. She was the example of faith and family. She taught me love, kindness, forgiveness, and the value of laughter. She was there when I was born, and for every significant milestone since. She was my biggest fan, my strongest supporter. We’ve played thousands of card games together in 30 years. We’ve taken trips, danced, sang, read books, baked, shared ideas, crafted, planned events, planned shenanigans, sat on the back deck drinking tea and wine (though not at the same time). She was my best friend: The first person I called when anything happened in my life, good or bad or insignificant. Tonight, all I wanted to do was call her and talk to her and cry with her, and have her tell me she was sending a hug through the phone and that everything would be OK because God has it under control.

But I couldn’t. For the first time in 30 years.

Thankfully, I’d kept that teddy bear.

When I was probably 7 or 8 years old, I was camping with my grandparents at Echo Lake in Montana. Camping was one of their favorite summer activities; a passionate pastime that they were thrilled to be able to share with my sister and I. One day my grandpa took me out fishing. Now even as a kid I wasn’t a huge fan of boats and open water, so we fished from the shore. This particular day grandpa sat on a tree stump next to me on my little fold-out fishing chair.

Turns out, somehow a whole bunch of battery acid had made its way onto that tree stump. Grandpa’s jeans were ruined. But my grandma never wasted anything, so rather than throw the jeans away she came up with a plan.

It just so happens that my teddy bear was the beneficiary.

Grandma decided that the teddy bear I carted everywhere (“Whitey Bear” is his name, in case you were wondering … And no, it’s not racist, he’s white and I was 4 when I named him so lay off) needed some clothes. I mean, that bear went everywhere naked, and that was just darn indecent! So we spent the day making him jeans and a jean jacket. And despite now being a couple of decades behind in fashion, he’s not been naked a day since.

The photo is my grandparents and I when I was maybe 3 or 4 years old. My grandmother put it in the frame for me after it was taken and I’ve had it by my bedside ever since. The back is broken and taped up, but I’ll never get rid of it. Whitey Bear is too cool for school in his homemade jean-jacket.

Tonight as I sat crying and holding onto that little teddy bear, I looked around my house and realized how deep her influence really has been. There is literally no corner of my house, or my life, that doesn’t reflect her life and our relationship. Her dining room table (her mother’s before her) now sits in my dining room. The hope chest she and my grandpa bought for me when I graduated high school sits in my living room, filled with memories we’ve all made together. Her picture (and normally my teddy bear) sits on my dresser in the bedroom. I have clothes she’s given me, notes she’s written me, photos we’ve taken, souvenirs she’s brought me, pie plates and dishes and silverware from her kitchen … My desk where my computer sits right now was first part of her house. I have an angel on the visor of my truck that says, “Grandchild, please drive safely” that I’ve had there for at least 10 years.

I do not even know who I would be now if she had not played such an active role in my life.

There really is no good way to sum this up. It sucks, and it’s hard. What makes it harder is that we almost shared a birthday. One week from today, she would have turned 77. One week and one day from today (on her mother’s birthday), I will turn 30. I will be back in Montana for our birthdays this year … The first time I will celebrate without her. I think Whitey Bear may need to make that trip with me.

Grandma and I last fall.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4