No. 2 // All The Feels
Like most teenage girls, I spent my adolescent years feeling emotionally volatile in the way that I found it exceedingly hard to control where, when and how hard emotions would hit and, for me, that meant that they tended to combust at just the right times. Non-stop laughing attacks with friends in the middle of chemistry class. Lunchtime meltdowns over silly boyfriends. Sassy & sarcastic retorts to my parents during a well-deserved lecture where I should have been contrite. The typical teenage stuff, to be sure.
But as an adult, there's an expectation that you get those Emotions (the capital "E" kind) under control and under control I did. To the surprise of maybe everyone I grew up with, I transitioned from a dramatic teenager into a rather logical thinker as a mid-thirties business owner.
Getting from Point A to Point B to Point C is my jam and something I truly get a lot of happiness and satisfaction from - especially in the difficult & stressful situations. (Nerd.) It's a quality that allows me to think fast on my feet and one that comes in handy on the time-warp that is photographing a wedding day and on slower, business-filled, regular days in the studio, alike. Life, of course, is punctuated by various emotions but the adult-version of Melissa can honestly tell you it's is a rare situation when I let negative emotions control my actions. (Happy emotions are another story. Put an N'Sync reunion on the TV and you'll see what I mean.)
So, when, within two months my beloved grandfather, rather unexpectedly, passed away and my mom was diagnosed with cancer and underwent major surgery to remove the tumor during the busiest & most stressful wedding season I had yet to experience in my eight years of business? I adjusted and dealt in the only way I knew how to in my adult life. Compartmentalize as much as possible to survive and get from Point A to Point B, no matter the cost.
When we found out just a few months later that after 3 years of trying for a baby that something was amiss and biological children were unlikely to be in our future, I did what I felt was needed to survive that next task, that next wedding, that next thing; despite the fact that my heart felt like it had shattered into a million pieces, been run over by a steam roller and then flung out to sea - never to be able to be made whole, ever again.
I genuinely don't write these things to say LOOK AT HOW STRONG I AM; really, it's just the opposite. Compartmentalizing didn't do anything for my ability to grieve each of these loses and heartaches but, instead, just added a ticking time bomb to those emotions.
Because that is where I positively fell apart.
I told myself I could hold it all together until I had time to truly grieve these things. Keep it under control until I could give grief a can-do attitude and process through the emotions of a 4 month period that positively ravaged my heart and arrive at the other side; a happy, grateful gal with the full, complete life I was used to seeing.
Turns out, grief doesn't work that way.
I don't know if it was movies or tv shows or my own limited knowledge of the human brain that set unrealistic expectations but grief, for me, was never linear. I wasn't moving from Point A to Point B like my logical brain had learned to operate from. I didn't transition through the stages in any version of the order you can see on any website on grief; rather, what actually happened was a total, head-first dive into both anger & depression, all at once and over everything.
When one day, months (and months) after the diagnosis, Matt kindly, softly and in the most gentle way a saint of a man who had put up with a disaster of a wife for far longer than any man should ever have to, asked me if I was ok? It genuinely was the first time I realized I wasn't.
THAT is grief to me.
Instead of acknowledging and feeling each those "stages" individually and then moving on - I ended up stuck in the middle of two very powerful emotions that played ping-pong with my brain. They infiltrated who I was, down to the core of my soul and affected every action, every non-action and everything in-between.
And the most deceptive part of it was the story I was telling myself.
I had truly convinced myself that I was fine. That was making it. Surviving. Thriving, even. I outwardly said nice things about how God has a purpose and how we were finding ours. I told everyone I was fine. I blamed my lack of interest in things that had formerly brought me joy as a priority shift. I overlooked obvious and flashing warning signs and I didn't even realize it until I was knee-deep in depression.
(Also. Really. It just needs to be said. Matt is a real-life hero. The way he navigated his way through his own grief and then helped me through mine is something to be marveled at and brings me to tears every time I think of his strength in my utter weakness. THAT is truly a man of God, right there.)
It took doctor's visits, a massive reality-check of truly trusting Christ in a way I had never before, honest & real conversations about really impossible and ugly feelings with both Matt and close friends alike and, frankly, the passing of time for me to start to feel like myself again.
Now, here, on the other side of it all, I still have days where I find myself adrift in emotions I thought I had worked through. Sure, some days I sail through the hours; high on life and love and the many, many things that bring joy. But other days, I still feel like I'm navigating a landscape of emotional land mines, off balance and on my tippy-toes, and I have to remind myself - yet again - that grief isn't linear. And that getting to another stage doesn't mean I won't find myself right back in those same emotions that consumed me the first time (albeit slightly easier to recognize and navigate).
I think in some ways, they will always be a part of me; a piece of my history. And yes, sometimes I still deeply feel them but not in the way that, even just 9 months ago, would have felt like my world was imploding with every new step.
We get a lot of questions asking how we are. How this adoption process is going. How we are feeling. Most days, my answer revolves round the to-dos and where we at in the process itself rather than the emotional side of it but the honest truth of it is that we are still taking things week by week, and sometimes, just day by day.
It is truly thrilling to be making progress towards starting a family. After years of feeling thwarted in advancement towards something we desperately longed for, every little step we complete, form we sign and approval checkpoint we reach is entirely rewarding and encouraging in and of itself.
And as we hustle to put everything in place to officially become a waiting family by the end of 2017 and walk into the unknown waiting period, those are the pieces I want to hold tightly to. Knowing that every day is another day that gets us closer to a baby. If that is 60 days or 365 days or 1,090 days; all of those numbers carry purpose and at some point, will have an end.
So, where are we at emotionally? Really?
We're excited. We're nervous. We're joyful. We're terrified of the unknowns. We're guarding our hearts. We're scared to say or do the wrong thing and lose a potential match. We're anxious. We're aching. We're ready to give ourselves completely to a baby. All of those things. All of the time. And all at once.
But most of all, we're hopeful. Ready to be parents. Ready to enter the next stage of life. And entirely hopeful that happens soon.