Wednesday, February 15, 2012

365 days without dad marks my return to the world

It was one year ago today that I held my dad's hand as he took his last earthly breath. And I'm sure all you who were with me through it are saying the same thing I am. A year, really? Crazy, I know.

It's been just shy of six months since I kinda fell off the face of this virtual world we share. So, are the two connected in any way? Of course. Is it so much more than that and a bowl of grits? You bet. I'm not even sure where to begin, but I have a feeling this story may span more than one post. I'm not sure I can get it all out at once.

As I sit here reflecting on the last year, and most vividly the last six months, the one thing that calls out more loudly than anything else at this moment is love. It just so happens to be overwhelming me right now. And yes, ultimately that is a good thing, though it has taken a heck of a lot for me to get there. I'm sure there is some fancy literary term for starting with the ending and then going on to tell the story from the beginning. I'm too tired to google it, but that's what I'm about to do.

So, love. I found it in the truest, deepest form in the most unexpected of places. How did it affect me? In so many ways, because it's not just one kind of love. It's completely multi-faceted. It was total happenstance that two incredibly life-changing events took place for me at exactly the same moment. I knew it would rock my world and shake my foundation, but as I ran head first into my 'new' life, I had no idea how.

I wanted to think I was ready for it, that I was ready for anything, but I soon discovered I really wasn't. I've been going back and forth about how detailed I was going to get here. Those friends who go way back know that opening up personally here was a challenge for me at first, but eventually become therapeutic at a time when that was what I needed more than anything. So, while I could probably write for six hours straight and share every day of the last six months, I'll give you the cliffnotes version. You still may want to settle in with a cup of coffee, as most of you know I have a tendency to ramble. A little…

At first, my 'disappearance' was sparked by the phase of training my husband was about to begin at the time. The 'men in charge' like to dig up dirt to make the hell more hellish and while we've always been smart and secure in that aspect, I figured better safe than sorry. He also left for the field at this time and was gone until this past weekend, so I had lots of time to sit around by myself and think.

Now of course I wasn't just sitting around by myself, I was going going going 24-7, in typical Nicole fashion, but ultimately, something just wasn't feeling right. I do think a huge part of it was suddenly withdrawing from something that was my life for so long, but the rest of it was the continual sinking in and final settling of what I had gone through the last couple years and what my life was now. It's been a year and there's rarely a day that passes that I don't stop, for at least a moment, and think how surreal it all feels. Some days I forget that I'm not in Ohio, until I go outside in early January in a sundress and sandals or I see paratroopers falling from the sky while I'm running at the lake.

I can't pinpoint the exact moment that it began, but one of the biggest things I've been struggling with is my sense of purpose, I guess you could say. In general I just had this overwhelming, burning desire to do something more, be a part of something bigger. I know that part of it has to do with being right up in the middle of the military hub of the universe, but it is more than that. I had and have a few things that I'm thinking about, but one of the hardest parts about it all is realizing that it's not something I can figure out and jump into overnight. It's quite a process of mutually deciding with my husband what will work for both of us and internally debating between how much time and effort I not only have to put into something, but want to put into something.

For example, I'd love to be a combat photographer for the Army until my husband retires and we build our dream art barn and hide away with 50 acres, 50 goats and no other people in sight. However, do my husband and I want to be getting shot at in different countries until then, seeing each other for maybe a month out of every year for the next 10? Probably not. Example two, I'd love to be a doctor, and if I could wake up tomorrow and start doing trauma surgery, I'd totally do it. Do I want to be a doctor bad enough that I'll spend the next 15 years training for it? Not a chance. I could go on, but I did say cliffnotes, didn't I?

So where does that leave me now? I'm not sure. Here's what I've been doing in the meantime…

Running. An old part of my life since renewed. It was October 17. I had such a crazy, insane, stressful day that I felt like my head was going to explode. So, I decided to run and run I did. It was dark, it was raining, it felt awesome. And that was the beginning of that. I hadn't run in over 15 years and never thought I would again. My goal for 2012 is to run 500 miles. A broken foot on Christmas Eve has made my progress pretty slow, but I'm getting back in the saddle and hope to be on track soon.

I've also been volunteering with the family group for the training school my husband is in. This is something I began when I first arrived and have continued to growth with and enjoy. It keeps me very busy, and in it's own way, is making a difference in people's lives. It's given me the chance to meet some amazing people who have changed my life and has taken me places I never expected to go.

I'm learning to speak Russian. It's the language my husband was assigned, so I didn't just randomly decide I had to tackle the Cyrillic alphabet, but it's fun and interesting in it's own unique way. He had a super charged course that made him fluent in six months while I've barely begun the first of six cases, but I'm getting there and I'm not giving up!

Most excitingly, I finally had the chance to take up metal smithing! This is something I've wanted to do for years and while I unfortunately no longer have the perfect, custom-built art barn to do it in, I have the time so am taking advantage of it. I found an amazing local artist who teaches at the community college and have since had three courses with an awesome group of people. Right now, my kitchen island is sufficient enough space to whip up my creations and I'm very excited to share them with you all soon.

I've started to attend church and go to a couple bible studies each week. My spirituality has been an internal struggle, if you will, for most of my life. Every time I've had a resurgence of interest, I never had luck finding the right path. Turns out one of the first people I met here ended up being the one I had been waiting for to lead me down the path. Something clicked in a way that it never had before, and I couldn't ignore that. It's definitely still a journey for me, but there's no doubt I'm finally going in the right direction.

I'm also playing my flute with the church orchestra. Something else I haven't done in over a decade, but it's kind of like riding a bike and is all coming back to me quickly. Easter will be my first performance, wish me luck!

Possibly most rewarding, I'm going to volunteer with the local hospice organization. Honestly, I'm about 50/50 right now as to whether it will be amazingly fulfilling or utterly depressing, but I feel like I'm the kind of person who can do it, so I have to try. Tomorrow is my orientation and training, I'm nervous, but I'm also excited and I'm going into it with an open mind and an open heart.

I've also been considering becoming a paramedic. I'm still pondering this one. While I do think I would love it and the training is realistic in both time and cost, the truth of the matter is this — there's a good chance that in 6 - 10 months from now, I'll be living on 30 acres of land in Nothwestern Tennessee with a field full of goats and chickens, canning more fruit than I know what to do with and catching dinner in my pond. And that might be enough for me. I have a tendency to absorb the energy of what's happening around me and right now, there is a heck of a lot happening around me. When that changes, chances are so will the way I feel, to a degree at least.

My current hope is that all these things I'm getting my hands into right now will keep me busy enough in a positive, enjoyable way and that volunteering with hospice will fill the part of me that wants to do something meaningful. At least enough to get me through the months ahead until my life, once again, takes another turn.

In regards to my shop and my blog and all of that. I'm back, and so happy to be here. I've missed you all so very much and there has been many times when I wanted so badly to just share all I was dealing with or just a random moment, but I'm sure you can all understand both why I couldn't and why I needed to hide away from everything for a little while.

All that and I've barely scratched the surface, but for tonight I'm going to wrap this up. It's been a long day of ups and downs and a bubble bath is calling my name. Thank you so so much to all of you who were supporting me unmeasurably without even knowing it. Just knowing I was missed and thought about got me through many days and nights. I can't wait to catch up and hear what you've all been up to! More soon…

love ~ nicole