what i want to say about journeys

my dear daughters,

this blog has had a mixture of posts--realizations remembered, moments documented, poems published, pictures displayed--mostly in helping us (your parents) figure you two out.  we have been discovering our {Real}--YOU!  this journey through parenthood has been wonderful, albeit, at times, darn right difficult.  we definitely love this journey though and have braved many unknowns and new discoveries.  we try to get inside your worlds to see these things through your eyes.  we celebrate the newness of what you do, who you are becoming; and at the same time, tearfully say good-bye to stages of infancy and that familiar new part of your lives.  as it was all such a surprise with sophia, the milestones with audrey have been just as thrilling to witness.  we look at sophia as this pioneer of a child with all of the new experiences she leads us into:  starting school, friendships, discipline in the "i need to consult the experts" kind, and so on.  our family is now complete with her, audrey is seens as our brave discoverer:  climbing on things we thought were "safe", interested in the parts of a cat that her main pet-friend lacks (a long tail, short ears), wandering away looking at the beauty of flowers, and so on.  and in all of this, we continue in our journey learning about what can't become unreal:  the reality of raising these precious children who will always be loved.

as i write this post, we are about a month away from leaving doha for the summer.  we've nearly completed 9 months here.  and there is much victory in that statement, but there is still some sadness as i recount this journey--leaving pittsburgh to arriving in doha; living in doha and now looking at taking a summer break from doha.  but i wanted to record for you what this journey has been like.  not only has it been one of exposure of our weaknesses as humans, we have also been enhanced as humans by this experience.  and through this we have come to know you both in such a more unified way, beautifully intense way, it causes us to savor these past months much more so.

i've decided to write this post, in all of its honesty because of the loving, wise, medicinal-like words from a friend who wrote me a note a month into our life here in doha while i was having a very blue-time:

well, grief is real. and change is real. allow yourself that. 

Just... how do you want to manifest that grief?
i feel like you are holding yourself to some unrealistic midwestern standard about being fine on the outside and shoving down all the feelings.
what would you want to tell audrey and sophie 25 years from now when they are facing big life changes about honoring your grief while honoring the opportunity of the present?
you are a wise and capable woman. you will figure it out. it's a season.

i will try to put something in writing that will help me when you, children, face big life events.  and so it is...

moving has been difficult.  it has been raw with emotion, sadness spilling over at the slightest remembrance of those we left in pittsburgh and the familiarity with where we came from.  we have battled sickness in and out of our family these past 8 months, everything from slight food poisoning, mild colds, teething, sinus infection-induced temporary hearing loss, flu, fevers, to sophia's second febrile seizure.  this has been exhausting.  we have done so much of this alone with little support.  we have rotated through on who gets to sleep-in longer based on the severity of the sickness.  we have felt isolated as we've turned down social-outing after social-gathering because our bodies needed rest.  i, your mother, have tried to keep things normal as much as i could.  all of my emotion has been used to keep you safe, to keep you secure, to keep life together.  i am beat.  your father has been running for far too long.  he is tired to the bone in ways only doctoral students may understand.  all the while teaching classes, finishing his dissertation  and supporting me and each of you in such a kind-hearted way.  my children, this has been brutal at points.  we have all felt it.  on every side.  we are in a sort of ragged state.  and as i recount this all, i am pouring out tears, feeling the freedom to release these truths as a way of telling myself that "i have been strong.  we have all been strong.  it's okay to not be so strong anymore.  we've reached a place of completion.  a year of completion.  victory!"  exhale.

with all of that said, and laid bare (see, your mother is a frail human being with emotions--ha!), there has been...TRIUMPH!  incredible triumph.  and i think that's what i've learned.  with the depth of grief and sadness and difficulty, there is an equal measure of accomplishment, beauty, conquest.

it all felt like this:  ...carrying our life's possessions on our backs, we set out on foot not looking back, not knowing what lay ahead, and crossed a foreign land.  we fought dragons and swam through swamps.  we braved hurricanes and held on tight when the wind was fierce.   we grabbed one another's hand each new morning and took one step at a time up the steep mountain through the bare desert...

but it was more like this:  ...we found the grocery store and bought familiar foods along with being okay eating foods from india, the uk, australia, and everywhere else in the world.  we drove our car in the thick, crazy-infested traffic in the city (and have survived, praise God)!  we are making friends from all over the world (this has been amazing)!!  sophia, you have almost completed your first year of school--that is no small thing.  audrey, you too have almost completed a semester at creative child.  ben has submitted his dissertation--the final thing--and now has that grand diploma showing that it.is.finished.  he has taught 4 classes over this year and has received many positive remarks from his students.  we have visited the beaches in this area multiple times.  we've traveled to another country (the UAE).  we have driven to parts of this city and country on our own, have gotten lost many times over, and have been stuck in traffic more then we'd like.  we know families in our compound well enough to have them over for dinner and to have regular play date spontaneous encounters.  we have found a church to worship at and each time we go, i still tear-up at the beauty in the diversity there (age, culture, color, ability).  that is what heaven will be like--amen!  we have made this villa into a home.  we have (maybe not literally) grabbed one another's hands each morning and set off to live that day.  we have done that together.  i have fallen more deeply in love with this family and have been more connected with this group of people over this year.  we have depended upon one another to such a strong sincere degree, knowing we were in this together and that we'd make it through.  we have taken adventures in the desert dunes, purchased alcohol and pork (ha!), tried new foods, walked through the souqs, have grass in our garden, ridden on camels, heard a multitude of languages, and have done more then just survive.  we have lived.  here.  in doha.  we moved half-way across the world, and this is where we live.  this is our home now.  you, my children and my husband, are my home!

so yes, there has been grief.  that is real.  there has been hella-lotta change.  that is real.  but we have done something that not many do--we have chosen to spend some time living abroad, out of comfort and security.  but i find that there have been so many wonderous things on this part of the journey.  and i want to honour this part of our lives by not forgetting the good.

my words to you dear children about journeys...they come in all forms.  the physical to the emotional.  we discover many wholesome things about ourselves and the ones we love and we also admit that we are limited and we also allow ourselves to feel the complete spectrum.  be present in the journey.  love more fiercely the ones you journey with--they are your everything.  remember that God is before you, beneath you, behind you, above you, and right by your side along the way.  honour the journey.  go for it!

oh so much love,
your mom