The Hunt…

“Where are they?” I muttered. I looked over to see if he had heard me as I dug frantically through my purse again. Still no luck.

I walked back over to his car and looked in the seat I had just left. I checked the console, the floorboards, checked under his seats. Nothing.

I could feel my frustration growing, and I knew my neck was probably turning red in embarrassment by now. I had to pull myself together. It wasn’t a big deal, right?

Maybe inside his house? We had been in there for a while earlier. I walked back in, attempting to retain my dignity. I looked at the couch where my purse had been. Even picked up the cushions. Nothing.

Headed to the kitchen. Sometimes I like to set things on a countertop because it feels more like home. Still nothing.

He asked me where I thought they might be. “I don’t know! I really thought they were in the side pocket of my purse!” I could hear the exhaustion and frustration in my voice now. I needed to leave before I had an irrational meltdown from being so incredibly tired.

I retraced my steps. Retraced them again. And a third time.

Still no luck.

Now I was embarrassed. How and why I do these things, I will never know. But it was way too late right now and I knew that I should be heading home. He looked tired. I was tired. I knew that he had to work at 6am and I was scheduled to go to the gym with a friend at 4:30am.

I went back to the car. Looked through the middle pocket of my purse. Dumped everything into the seat. Nothing. At this point, I am considering giving up.

I looked back through his car. Still nothing.

I walk back over to mine. Look down at my purse and think “Well, maybe I just didn’t dig hard enough.” So I reach into the first side pocket. Nothing. I reach in the other side pocket…

There they are. My monstrous key chain was in the pocket I thought it was THE WHOLE TIME.

keys

I just needed to dig a little deeper.

Just like life. Sometimes we search and search and search for something. A relationship, a career, our dream home, our perfect friendship. Thinking that the great things, the beautiful things must be over there somewhere, or maybe just far, far away. So we search. We look. And in our searching and striving, we tend to overlook. We tend to see the times our kids misbehave instead of realizing that they are awesome about 85% of the time. We choose to move to another romantic relationship instead of figuring out how to grow through challenges together. We despise our work instead of looking at it as an opportunity. We dream of fancy houses and forget to love and care for our current home. And we keep looking for people to treat us “just-so” if we are going to be friends instead of choosing to learn from different perspectives.

But in reality, what we are searching for is probably exactly where it should be, exactly where we just looked, or where we originally thought it was, just waiting for us to decide to dig a little deeper.

Let’s go deep.

Love ya’ll.

Shannon Joy

 

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Posted in adventures, Advice, dreams, Family, Family Matters, Fashion, Feelings, Forgiveness, Friendship, Growth, Health, memories, Mental Health, My daily life, Organization, parenting, Uncategorized, work | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Heart Stuff…

Man, sometimes I wonder how people do the emotions thing. I am generally pretty mellow, but not last week.

I got mad twice last week. Like, really mad. Like, raise my voice and cuss mad. Like, the mad I always said I would never be mad.

And it wasn’t even over big things. It was stupid little things that didn’t really mean anything.

And I sat and I stewed on it. I said things I shouldn’t have. To myself and the other parties involved.

But it didn’t take me very long to realize that I wasn’t mad at the situation. I wasn’t angry at another person either. In fact, there was only ONE direction I could point my anger.

I was mad at me. If I really wanted to own the emotions I was feeling, I had to admit to myself that I was frustrated, disappointed and bothered by me… by my choices. By my mistakes.

I was mad that my house was a mess, yes. Mad that my kids hadn’t done their chores. Mad that I was later than I wanted to be. Mad that I “had to” miss my workouts to do other things. Mad that my ex kept changing things.

But not one of those things usually bother me. So why this time?

I took a few moments to really ponder what was going on with me. Sometimes you have to slow down to speed up and I knew the only direction I was going was backwards if I didn’t check myself.

And I discovered that I was angry because I haven’t been true to myself recently. I haven’t been loving myself very well lately. I haven’t been doing the things I know make me happy lately. Instead, I have been giving more than I should, doing more than I should and losing myself in the process. I have been expecting others to give to me, to love me, and to fill me up the way I was working so hard to do that for other people.

But that is like knowing I have a hole in my gas can, hoping someone else will come alongside me and patch it as I walk down the road with it dripping a trail behind me. All the while, other people are walking along the same road, at their own speed, lighting  matches and throwing them into the wind. Sure, most of them won’t touch the gas, most will fly in other directions, but should one happen to hit MY leaky tank or a drop of gasoline…. BOOOM!

It is no longer a bunch of little drops of stinky gasoline. Instead, my entire world blows apart.

And that is what I had allowed to happen.

If I had been proactive in patching up the hole in the gas can, the matches other people were throwing would never have had the same impact. They couldn’t break through if I had taken the time to make the repairs necessary or care for my tank in the first place and ensure that everything was ship shape.

I know the importance of self-care. And no, I don’t mean just getting my nails done or taking a long bath, although those can be really nice.

For me, patching up the gas can means cleaning my house before it gets too messy for me to think. It means I need to make menus and go grocery shopping on my set day, no matter how fun other things seem. It means I need to prioritize my kids and their well-being over anyone and everyone else so that I know in my head that I am doing my best possible job. It means listening to my body when I am tired and going to sleep. It means knowing my limits. It means locking myself in my room so that I can get some time in to process my world. It means taking time to read. It means writing. Every single day. It means learning more about myself, learning that I am indeed loveable. It means asking for what I want. It means letting people know when they do something that hurts my feelings. It means standing up for myself. It means saying no. It means making every effort not to overthink things. It means structure. It means routine. It means discipline.

That is what makes my world go ’round. That is what makes me happy. No, not in the moment. In the moment, it never seems worth it. After all, they’re just little things… Maybe they can wait til tomorrow. It’s just too hard and I am too ______ (tired, emotional, busy, fill in the blank) at that moment.

But if you have known me any amount of time, you have heard me say that “the little things are the big things.” 

It’s the little things we do, or don’t do, that build a great big world around us. And if the little things are shaky or they don’t serve us or they hurt us, then our great big worldview becomes unstable and inaccurate. And even though feelings aren’t facts, we forget that when the little things make it look so overwhelming.

So, here I go again. Making myself. Becoming better. Putting first things first. One foot in front of the other. Learning to love me. So I can love the world and the people around me.

Because honestly, I can only love you as much as I am willing to love myself. And you will only love me as much as I let you.

Here’s to some lovin’, friends.

Shannon Joy

 

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Waiting…

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

I sit in this office waiting once again. Over the last few weeks, I have thought about this visit constantly. I hope for good news, but I am prepared if there is none.

And I am going to be completely honest with you. I don’t like to wait. No, to be COMPLETELY honest, I HATE waiting.

It doesn’t matter if I am waiting for the unquestionably late doctor to call my name, my kids to get ready to leave or a phone call that was supposed to come at a certain time. When I have to wait, I really don’t like it.  Few things are LESS enjoyable than standing in that agonizing place where all my hopes and dreams look so far away. The place where my longing meets the questions of “how?” and “when?” and “if?” they could ever possibly come true.

Ever been there?

Yeah. It’s not fun.

There are a few things I am waiting for in this season in my life. Big things. Huge. Life-changing, impactful things. Things that can determine my entire life-direction and my children’s destiny.

And I am waiting. Waiting for answers. Waiting for breakthroughs. Waiting on other people. I feel like I am constantly waiting right now. And its painful.

Waiting.

I don’t think I am alone in the discomfort that seems so deeply engrained alongside the process of waiting. As humans, I think it is categorically acceptable to despise waiting.

We want instant gratification. We want the hard things to be solved by dinner time. We want to move on and not have to think about it anymore.

Why is that? I mean, if you really look at it, it seems that doing absolutely nothing should be easy… But it’s not.

But no matter how long, or how hard, there is a blessing to be found in every wait. That is what I am learning. As uncomfortable as it is, as daunting as it seems, I hold on to the scripture that says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14)

Waiting is like lifting weights. I recently started lifting as an alternative to running due to some health issues. And, oh-my-goodness, my muscles hurt ALL THE TIME. But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that by working those muscles, by making them sore, I am creating the physical body that I want for myself. I am getting stronger and healthier and giving myself a better life, even though it feels so uncomfortable in that moment, or that day.

And, as challenging as I find waiting to be, I know that I am growing through it. I am getting stronger and healthier and creating a better life as I increase my patience and endurance. As I learn to hope in spite of what I see in front of me.

It hasn’t been easy. In fact, I think that anyone in my close circle could probably tell you that I have been grumpy and tired and overwhelmed lately. It’s been hard. It’s been a struggle.

I have been so tempted to let hope slip away into the night as the months have passed regarding one situation and the years in another… but still, I find myself here, waiting.

So many questions unanswered, so many dreams unfulfilled. I long for healing, growth, and freedom that I have yet to experience. And I constantly ponder and wish that life, that God, operated on my timetable instead of His own.

Yeah, I know… scripture says, ” But they who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount with wings as eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

It sounds incredible. Glorious. Powerful. Run and not grow weary? I would LOVE to do that. Walk and not faint? Where is that in my life?

No, my discontented heart finds it ever so difficult to wait.

But I am finally beginning to realize that in the seasons of waiting, the precious time of being still when I want to be anything but, that is when some of the biggest heart-work happens. It is only in the desert I can discover my endurance. It is only in the wilderness that my fortitude can be revealed. And it is in the quiet that I find myself, I find my God, and I find hope. The peace that comes from knowing all will be well in the end. And if things are not okay, it is not the end.

Rest. Rest is the answer.

Sometimes I want to work so hard, I want to force the hands of the people that control things, I want to push for the things I so ardently desire… but doing so has led me down some twisted paths. Paths that were dark and dreary and hard to handle because I took the quick option instead of the right option. And EVERY time I have ever done that, it has been the wrong option.

No, my own hard work and striving can never bring about the lasting change that I desire. It doesn’t matter how many times I see the doctor or call the attorney or yell at my kids.

 It is only love, patience, relationship, and acceptance that can truly change me. It is not about how much more I can do. It is about learning to be content in the waiting. Learning from the stillness. Listening. Resting. Learning how to be.

I am so good being busy. Working, working, working. Conquering every area of my life that I find unsatisfactory. But it is only when I rest that my thirsty soul is satiated. It is only when I choose to let peace in that balance is restored to my striving spirit.

Yes, waiting is difficult.

But waiting is where we grow roots. And the deeper we are rooted and grounded, the bigger and stronger we can be. It doesn’t matter if we are waiting on a clean bill of health, custody arrangements for our kids, a healthy love life, or a clear, fulfilling career path… when we wait, when we are patient and continue to do the things we are supposed to do (even when it is oh-so-hard), we will eventually see the growth that comes from it. And it may not show up exactly where or how we expect, but it will be there.

Today, I am choosing to be adventurously expectant. To think of the wait as the path to a new and exciting place. The preparation for the biggest journey of my life.

Expectant. Hopeful. Confident. Excited.

That’s what I want to be known for in my season of waiting.

If you don’t mind saying some prayers, several seasons of waiting are coming to a close for me in the next few weeks . I hope I have grown strong enough in the interim.

And now, the doctor is waiting on me.

Love you all,

Shannon Joy

 

 

 

 

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Flash Fiction Friday – Manchester

Chapter 1:

Birthdays are the best! I can’t wait to see her reaction when she sees her gift!

I never really thought about birthdays much until I had my own child, my wonderful little Lyla. But when I looked into those big blue eyes the first time, I knew that I would celebrate every day of her life the best I could. Now, birthdays are a bloody big deal. And it seems the older she gets, the better (and more expensive) the birthday.

She isn’t so little now. Thirteen tomorrow! I will officially have a teenager. Where has the time gone?

Growing up in the Midwestern United States, birthdays were just a normal day with cake for dessert that night. I came from a simple family with a simple life. It was a good life, but I always wanted more. When I left for college, my parents were disappointed at first. They thought I should take over the family farm, marry a local girl and raise my kids on the family land, just like the last five generations.

But wanderlust consumed me and I knew I had to get out from under the shadow of that tiny town. So, here I find myself, in beautiful Manchester, with my lovely little British bride and our incredible daughter. I never realized my law degree would lead to all of this, but I sit back at the end of every day thankful that it has. I couldn’t imagine my life any other way.

manchester-england-2

Chapter 2:

“Happy birthday, my not so little one!” I hold out the card and she snatches it, eagerly ripping it open to read what I’ve written inside.

“Oooh Pop, I can’t believe you got me tickets! She’s the best!!! I’m so excited!!! I just hafta phone Nancy and let her know!!!” She squealed like only a thirteen year old girl can.

“Go ahead, my girl. I’m glad you like the tickets.” I smile at her enthusiasm. Her long blond hair swishes behind her as she bounces away to make plans with her friends.

She has wanted to go to an Ariana Grande concert since the first time the artist was in the UK. I am glad I chose something she will enjoy so much. With her being just thirteen, I wasn’t sure about letting her go, but her mum said she would take her, so I bought the tickets. No regrets now! I don’t think I have seen her this thrilled about something before.

“I think she was a bit gobsmacked, my dear!” Julianne squeezes my hand as she plants a light kiss on my cheek. Her voice is low and she is smiling that gorgeous, slow smile that I fell in love with the first time I met her. Although she is always a bit reserved with her emotions, I can tell she is really happy to see our daughter so excited.

“I know you ladies will have fun. You are a brave woman to take three teenage girls to a concert!”

She chuckles, “It’ll be well worth it, James. You only get to make memories once.”

That’s one of the things I love most about her. She is always looking for a way to live a more memorable life. Always doing something for someone, be it a new charity, a stray animal or our daughter and her friends. I have never met anyone so unselfish and kind. She has made my life worthwhile. Even on the days when I miss home and my family, I can’t imagine missing out on this life that we have created here together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Other Woman – Part 2

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post.

One of the first things I HAD to learn on this journey is that it is okay to not be okay.

I am not the only person who doesn’t have it all together. In fact, no one does. At least not all the time.

So that means, it is totally okay to not be okay. A little paradoxical, don’t you think?

But making changes will mean being uncomfortable, on purpose. Creating a better life might look a little messy here and there. Success is not a flat, straight, easy path. It has all kinds of detours and downfalls. It’s rough. It takes guts, courage, intensity and discipline.

Some things I have learned to ask myself when I am struggling with being “not okay” are:

How can I simplify?

How can I stretch myself a little bit in this area?

What is my priority here?

Do I need to ask for advice from someone?

Pain, discomfort… they will be here. They are part of our existence. No matter whether it is intense turmoil and suffering or just the small, daily annoyances that get under our skin.

Life will never be perfect or easy. And if you think “being perfect” or “having it all” is the answer to life’s challenges, you might want to grow up a bit. An adult recognizes that life is complex, that the depth of our world is determined by the challenges we are willing to face and overcome. Life is richer when we become victors.

And no one, not even “The Other Woman” has a perfect life.

In fact, 1 out of 4 women are on anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication.

Check out a few stats here and here.

It is hard to manage everything. We walk around feeling overworked, overtired, and our resources are overdrawn. Work, family, and household responsibilities don’t leave much time to refresh ourselves. Consistency and prioritizing self-care can quickly become a challenge.

But no matter what our challenge, there are at least a few other people in this world that HAVE faced it successfully. No matter how perfect the Other Woman looks, you can’t know her story unless you ask. Maybe she is one of those struggling depression, pushed to perfection by a feeling of never being good enough. Perhaps she struggles with disordered eating patterns. Maybe she can’t sleep because she is afraid of her nightmares and that is how she gets so much done. No matter what someone appears to be, we are all on this journey together. We are all just trying our best.

And the key to making changes is learning to accept your imperfections and mistakes. That is the only way you can grow and become closer to being the Other Woman.

I believe in you. Let’s journey together.

Shannon Joy

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The Other Woman

The other woman.

Image result for Confident Woman Silhouette

She is beautiful. Awesome. Everything I wished I could be.

She looks fabulous. Always so confident. She is completely comfortable with who she is.

She works out regularly, and you can definitely tell. Her outfit is always on point and she rocks her skinny jeans. Even after three kids.

Between her skin and her energy levels, you have to wonder what kind of juice she drinks in the morning, because you want some too.

She’s got it. Whatever it is, that’s what she has. Her life is totally, completely together.

And I find myself saying on a daily basis “I want to be The Other Woman.”

We all know her.

She might be an attorney, or a surgeon, or a manager, or even a stay-at-home mom. It doesn’t matter. Whatever she does, she excels at it and is fulfilled.

Her Facebook is full of posts with hashtags like #honored and #grateful and #blessed — and she means it.

And her arms – Yeah, she’s got those Michelle Obama arms too.

“Make me look like her. Please God.”

It might be a movie star, a woman at the school drop off line, someone in the grocery store or running the same trails you are, but she doesn’t look like she is drowning in her own sweat like you.

And in the drop-off line, you see her gorgeous, well-groomed kids jump into her shiny new car while you clear the clutter off your kids seats, dressed in whatever you threw on in your rush out the door this morning, just hoping that you look presentable enough for work.

And the thoughts invade your head…

Why does She have it all together, this other woman, when I so clearly do not?

The truth is, the other woman, really doesn’t have it all together. I know, I know because I have heard people say that I am the other woman. I have had long, heartfelt conversations with some of the “other women” in my own life.

And in their honesty and vulnerability, I realized that we are all the “other woman.”

I have seen one of my fittest (is that a real word) friends break down and binge on nutella and oreos, I have seen my fabulous rockstar friend struggle with an eating disorder, I have seen one of my most well-balanced looking friends drink herself into oblivion as a coping mechanism. I have heard them vent about heartbreak, about fights with their significant other, about the awful way they were raised, and about how they NEVER FEEL LIKE THEY CAN MEASURE UP.

Sound familiar?

My friend, it doesn’t matter what size you are, if you have six-pack abs, fake eyelashes, or if you workout daily… It doesn’t matter because “The Other Woman” doesn’t exist.

I have fallen into that way of thinking so many times. Talking in my Eeyore voice, “Everybody else is so much better than me.”

I mean, just look at their social media. Instagram and Facebook are full of fun people living extraordinary lives. They can handle their world so smoothly.

It seems like everyone else’s workout plans and diet plans help them lose, gain or have more energy so quickly and easily.

They have their life together. Everybody has everything you don’t.

It feels like you are alone, stuck with your particular problems. It feels like life is so much harder for you than for other people.

But honestly, my friend, there is no Everyone Else.

Everyone has reality, they have family, deadlines, stressors, age and metabolism issues.

Even Jessica Biel and Angelina Jolie can’t hide from the aging process.

Whoever your “other woman” is, I promise you, she doesn’t exist the way you think she does.

We are all human. That means we are imperfect, wonderful, and messy with hopes and fears and dreams. We hall have certain desires and neuroses and jobs and lives. Maybe kids or cats and dogs. All of us have family of some sort, good or bad. Everyone has a toilet that needs unclogging once in a while and no one can escape the little smile lines becoming wrinkles. Everyone’s alarm clock goes off too early, and most of us love chocolate chip cookies or ice cream a little too much. It’s called reality.

And here’s the thing. Nothing gets easier as long as you keep pretending.

Honesty and vulnerability are the only things that can improve your life.

Because it is only by being truthful with ourselves about what is happening in our world that we can change anything. We have to stop thinking that everyone else is more fit, smarter, stronger, getting it all done, has their life together, or is a good enough mom / girlfriend / employee, etc.  And when we stop thinking of everyone else and what they are doing, we give ourselves the opportunity to work on becoming our own version of The Other Woman.

You are capable of change. You are capable of getting in shape, learning a new language, achieving your goals.

You can regain control of your life and your habits. You can overcome emotional and physical issues. You can take care of your kids and still take care of yourself. You even learn to love yourself, body, mind and soul. And you can be proud of yourself.

Yeah, it might seem a little crazy and impossible. But it’s all about the “Slight Edge.” (If you haven’t read that book, you should definitely do so.) Making a big life change, becoming the person you want to be, is all about the small, consistent changes and support. It’s totally doable.

You have to know what you want and what you are willing to sacrifice to accomplish it. Six pack abs? You better be willing to give a lot of time to the gym, weigh and measure your food portions, and make your world revolve around it. Be a great mom? Give up some of those fun, me-time activities to build memories with the kids, don’t veg out in front of the TV, ask questions that make you uncomfortable. An incredible relationship with your significant other? You have to learn how to communicate, be consistent, be willing to compromise, learn their love language, do things outside your comfort zone, and put their needs ahead of your own without losing your identity. Want to have lots of money? You will need to give up your time, be disciplined and consistent, go through ups and downs and face a lot of failures.

Make sure your expectations are realistic in the fact that they match the sacrifices you are willing to make. Yes, the sky is the limit, but you will need to choose your challenges wisely. I read something once that said in the hunt for success, you must “decide how you want to suffer” because everything worthwhile will take some sort of sacrifice.

Once you have set your expectations, find inspiration from “The Other Woman.” If your goal is to have more energy, find someone who never stops and ask them how they do it. Or if you see that mom who has a great relationship with her kids, always seems to be having fun, and is never afraid to be goofy or messy, ask her if she has any advice.

That woman who still looks amazing even though she is 20 years your senior? Ask her about her workout and skincare routine over the years.

Anything you want in your life, there is someone out there who has done/is doing it. Find them, ask them questions, learn, grow, invite people in.

Focus on progress, not perfection. You need to have words like “I am doing a little better” or “this is just practice” dancing around in your head now. That’s when you will make real progress. You have to focus on the little moments, the stuff that works. If you workout for 5 minutes today after not doing physical activity for years, that is BETTER. If you set your phone down for 30 minutes to really focus on being with your kids today, that is BETTER. If you kiss your spouse a little longer than normal, or tell them how sexy they are, you are doing SOMETHING to move it in a positive direction, to make it BETTER. It’s the small moments, the things you are able to do TODAY that make all the difference.

Success is almost always built from putting small things on top of small things on top of small things… until they’re transformed into big things.

 The Other Woman knows this. So she implements small, daily habits to help her live a successful, fulfilling life.

And that is how she became that woman. No myth, no drugs, no luck. Just small, daily disciplines that are easy to do. Or easy not to do.

You get the choice. Today and every day.

So do I.

I’m excited about the journey and wish you all the best!

Shannon Joy

 

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Flash Fiction Friday- Love and Freedom

Her heart is pounding as she recognizes him.

Death. He is here. And he will carry her and her love away into the dark tonight. She knows this.

Her only hope lies in the idea that her beautiful Miriam will survive. Before they left, she used the last of their money to buy a life vest for her.  The smugglers demanded more, laughing at her meager offering, but she cried and begged, pleading with them until they finally agreed. That money was all she and Moad had left in this world, but if it meant that their daughter could live and be free, she was willing to do anything.

There was no money left for their own vests so now, her precious Miriam will turn blue, shaking in the frigid waters, while her caretakers, the people that love her most in the world, sink to their grave below.

There is nowhere to go but the black depth of the sea. Forty or so people are crammed onto a raft meant for a maximum of eight. Mothers and fathers cling to their little ones as they begin to realize that this moment, these moments, are their last.

As the waves crash around them, water begins to pour in over the side of the raft, pooling around their feet, so painfully cold it scalds. She tries to lift her feet away from it, one at a time, but as the plastic deflates, it clings with each movement, the suction a reminder that they are mired in a death trap.

She frantically reaches for Moad, seeing his dark brown eyes, blood-red now from the tears streaming down his cheeks. He pulls her in close and she can feel the goose-bumps on his arms, the tension in his jaw, every muscle taut. He shouts, his voice drowned out by the raging storm around them, but she knows what he is saying, “Ana B’hebbek, Noir!!”

She knows. She knows exactly how much he loves her. Enough to risk everything. Enough to bring them here, to the middle of the ocean, in hopes of a better life.

She lifts Miriam to her chest. Her lovely child, barely three, so small and beautiful, dark ringlets matted by water now, big brown eyes squeezed shut in terror while her mouth forms a gasping wail, blending with the chorus of the screams around them.

She pulls the child close, wrapping her into herself, hoping to provide some small comfort, if only for a moment. The wind whips them with a stinging spray, reminding her that she has no warmth to give, only the prayers that come spilling off her tongue.  She is praying, as hard and as fast as she can, that Allah spare her only child, send someone to find her beautiful daughter, someone to draw her from the water before her tiny heart freezes in her chest.

People are in a panicked frenzy now. They begin to mill about like sheep, each attempting to get closer to the middle of the raft. The first falls over the edge, creating even more panic and chaos. Another falls into the water screaming, clutching her baby to her chest. Time slows as she watches a man begin to slide, grabbing a teenage girl for support and taking her with him.

As she watches the woman in the water give way to fatigue, she realizes she must leave her Miriam. She will have to swim away to ensure that she does not pull her under as she drowns. She kisses the top of her sweet little head, then kisses her again and again. She tries to kiss the screams away, the terror etched on that beautiful face, she tries to kiss the tears away. She kisses her, hoping that she will have the strength to let her go when the time comes, hoping she will be able to stop kissing her long enough for her to float free. She kisses her, praying that she will not cling to her and drag her to her death below. Her prayers become more frantic, begging Allah to save her child, she has resolved her fate, but she begs him to save her child.

The raft is halfway underwater now. Bodies merge in her mind, one writhing, screaming mass that no longer has faces or names. They are clinging to the raft, climbing over each other, trying to pull themselves up, but only pulling it further and further under.

The water is up past her knees now. She sees a young girl, around ten or eleven, clinging to some of the plastic that is underwater. Her head disappears briefly, then she forces her way back up. The moonlight reflects on her face, her long hair cascading around her as she gasps for air.

That’s when she sees it. The girl is wearing a life vest. The same kind of life vest that is wrapped around her little love. She remembers now. She watched the girl’s father barter and beg for it from the smugglers, just as she did. They had fitted the girl right before putting the life jacket on her own child.

So why is she dipping below water? Why is she unable to float? Why is she clinging to the plastic, the only thing keeping her from a cold descent to death? Why is she sinking?

Why is she sinking???

She realizes, even as the question runs through her mind, why the girl will drown.

Her thoughts turn briefly to the smuggler’s faces, their wide smirks, their thieving hands wrapped around the last of her money, eyes black with greed.

She watches as the girl attempts one last lunge. Water fills her mouth as she tries to breathe. She sees the white terror of the girl’s eyes as her head disappears again, for the last time. Her arms waving, she sinks, sinks into the depths with the “life vest” strapped to her chest.

She realizes in that moment that there is no hope for her Miriam. They will all die, their little family. The man she loves with all her heart and the child born of that love. It will all be gone in a few moments now.

She reached again for Moad, feeling a moment of reprieve as she realizes that he is still her rock in all of this. She knows that she will not have to swim away from her Miriam anymore. She will hold her and kiss her all the way to death. Her daughter will drown in her arms, and she in her husband’s. The water is around her chest now, but she doesn’t struggle. There is no need, no sense in it. She accepts this last moment with tears as she leans into her husband and kisses her daughter for the last time.

She thinks of the children, far away. The children who are waking up right now, the children in their nice, warm beds with food waiting. The children whose mommies and daddies tell them stories, stories of a gracious, loving God of mercy who came to earth to save. They talk about how their child-God had to flee a wicked and violent king, how they ran to another country to escape slaughter. They are happy, they are at peace.

They don’t mention the color of the child-God’s skin, they don’t use the word refugee, and they don’t worry about Noir, or Moad, or their precious little Miriam.

No, as long as their children are fed and clothed, none of that matters. As long as their children are safe, everything is okay.

After all, the best kind of dying children are children dying far away.

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