Thursday, August 23, 2012

Life in the buckets: Moving on and staying put

Do you ever have days where you're not quite sure who you are anymore?

I have days like that. Well, I guess I know WHO I am. I'm just not sure which VERSION of me I am.

I kinda feel like there are two parts of me. Two equally valid parts. BOTH are me.

So, Exhibit A:

  • I'm super excited for my business. I'm a postive-minded, forward-thinking business owner who loves her team, loves her industry, loves her company. I devour personal development books. Few things get me as pumped as the privilege of leading others to the life of their dreams.

  • I cherish my family. Most days, I love being a mom. My favorite part of my day is mornings where my daughter is snuggled up beside me, and I read beside her till she wakes. My second favorite is cuddled up beside her at night, reading books -- trying my hardest to read them like you would hear on an audio tape. Sometimes I throw in an English accent -- ESPECIALLY if I'm reading Angelina Ballerina. Nothing like practicing a squeaky English accent to keep up on my acting chops.

  • I have so many moments where I DO feel content. I feel the warmth of the sun. I snuggle in my hubby's arms. I see the joy in my daughter's eyes. I just drink in moments where I just know that LIFE IS GOOD.
Exhibit B:

  • I feel stuck in my past, specifically the recent past. I wonder when I will feel normal again. I wonder when the sadness will pass. Sometimes, it's not sadness -- sometimes it's anger. I wonder when I'll ever feel like I just BELONG again. When will I be 100%?

  • I see pregnant women and I can't help but feel so jealous. Then I feel guilty for being jealous. Then I'm angry I have a reason to be jealous to begin with. So then I'm jealous, angry, and guilty all at once. Yuck.

  • Sometimes, the good things to come feel very far away. Pregnancy feels very far away, and trying to conceive feels hopeless. I have a hard time picturing a happy picture. A healthy pregnancy. A healthy baby. That dream feels like grabbing at smoke, and having it slip stealthily through my outstretched hand. As a matter of fact, sometimes Olivia feels vanishing smoke.

  • I have many moments where I feel so DISCONTENT. I can see only the bad. I see a never-ending mess I need to clean up. Negative pregnancy tests. Olivia's empty crib sitting in Maddy's room. And I just feel like LIFE SUCKS.

So my big questions for my counselor this week were:

1) Is this normal?
2) Are you SURE this is normal? Because this certainly doesn't feel normal.
3) How can I be two things at once? Feel two things at once? And be authentic at the same time?

And in case you were wondering, here's what she said:

1) Yes it's normal.

2) Yes, I'm SURE it's normal.

3) You can defnitely feel more than one thing at one time.

Think of it like having your feet in two different buckets of water. Before your loss, you pretty much lived in Bucket 1. You were optimistic about the future, you had lots of success in your business, you were looking ahead with lots of positive expectations.

Then you lost your baby. You jumped with both feet into Bucket 2. You were consumed by grief. Everything you experienced went through the filter of your loss. You lived life because you had to. But really, at this point, everything was just about your loss.

Gradually, keeping one foot firmly planted in Bucket 2, you started dipping your toes back into Bucket 1. Then, in time, you began keeping one foot in Bucket 1 and one in Bucket 2 at all times.

It sounds to me like that's how you are living right now. You are living through two experiences at one time, and that's confusing. Sometimes you're going to put both feet in Bucket 1. Sometimes you'll have both in Bucket 2. And sometimes, you'll just be living with both hope and sadness, joy and despair, faith and frustration all at once. Sometimes you'll be moving forward, even while part of you holds on to the past.*

Her bucket analogy really made sense to me. And made me feel so much better about . . . well . . . how I feel.

Being REAL is important to me. So it gets really confusing when I'm full-on business person, excited and happy -- or just full-on friend, wife or mom -- and suddenly, I realize I still am stuck in Bucket 2. Sadness comes, and I can't wish it away. A pregnant woman walks by, and I struggle to remember what I was just saying because something in my gut just feels like it was punched. Maddy mentions Olivia, or wishes for a baby, and I try to keep the tears away.

And there I am . . . trying to be both happy and sad . . . authentically . . . at the same time.

She asks what it will take to pretty much get back into Bucket 1.

"Oh," I respond. "I'd love to have a healthy baby. I'd love to expand my business. I'd LOVE to help some women promote and see more success. I think I could be more happy then, and be able to get back to Bucket 1 more."

But then she reminds me that finding wholeness will never come from those circumstantial things. It has to be something more. Something deeper.

And it's true. I really need to just focus on Christ right now. He alone can make me whole, even as I know a little part of me belongs in heaven.

And in the meantime, I've got to live with the dichotomy.

So if you hang out with me, forgive me if I slosh a bit and get you wet. I've got my feet in two buckets. And it's a pretty messy way to live. But I promise, I'm doing the best I can.

*This is the best paraphrase I can come with from my counseling session yesterday, not her exact quotes. I'm good -- but not THAT good. ;)


  1. OMG! The Bucket analogy totally makes sense. I think that has become my new normal. Although at times I think I have 3 buckets - 1 foot in bucket 1 and 2 respectively and then a hand in the third with the first being my old normal when we were expecting to be a family of 5; bucket 2 being the current normal with the loss of AJ - a son, brother, nephew, grandson; bucket 3 - being a combo of bucket 2 with the realization that not only did we lose AJ, we lost the possibility of a "rainbow baby." So that is another version of my new normal. Well written Rachel as always. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Love this! I feel this way often and it's definitely confusing.