Gains and losses

Here’s the thing about being FINE FINE FINE in the face of a steady stream of stress: Eventually, something breaks.

When those people came into my house and broke the soap dish off the wall yesterday, maybe if everything else was dandy that wouldn’t have been a big deal. But there’s a lot going on, and so many changes happening, and as a result, it was a big deal. It was a very big deal.

I broke. First I was angry and indignant, as I repaired the tile last night, and as I tossed and turned in bed, trying to sleep. And then this morning, as I tried to pry open the tube of caulking and it squirted everywhere and I needed to start getting ready for church, I just sat on the edge of the tub and wept.

When Otto and I dated the first time, and it ended, I went into a dark place where I couldn’t see my future. I had no career, which was troubling on both financial and personal levels. I couldn’t see finding a partner for my life, having failed so spectacularly with both my ex and the man I felt fated to be with if there was any such thing as fate. I had friends and family and was grateful for them, but felt like a burden, a black hole of need and hopelessness. I had no idea how to proceed. I didn’t know where I was supposed to go.

I eventually figured it out. It took a while, but I found my way. I got my freelance business going. I remembered who I was, who I wanted to be, and that life was for enjoying.

(And if you believe in that fate stuff, you might even say that was part of what I needed to do to get back to a place where Otto and I could be together, but that’s a whole ‘nother, separate, story.)

The past year has been full up with blessings I still can barely believe. I’d be hard pressed to count them all; some are easily quantifiable and nameable (hey, I think I’m getting married this week) and others are not. And I’ve been getting through the annoyances of things like having people traipsing through my house with the sheer, mainline joy of knowing that soon—very soon—I will be waking up with Otto every morning and having more than The Learning Channel to keep me company in the evenings.

What happened this past week, and it really did start before the soap dish was ripped off the wall, was that a small part of me crept back into the dark place because it is dangerous to be happy.

When you love people, when you allow them to become indispensable parts of your life, they will leave a hole behind if they leave you. And by “leave you” I don’t just mean packing up and taking off, I mean anything that takes them out of your life. There are a million ways that can happen, and the end result is the same: Loss.

“You’re not allowed to die,” I tell Otto. He chuckles and assures me that he’s not planning to. Not many people are planning to when they die, anyway, so I don’t find that much comfort. But neither can I seem to find a way to communicate to him that fear is poking tiny shoots up within me, that it takes root in the most unexpected ways. And how do I talk about this without sounding ridiculous? I am not having doubts; I am not any less thrilled and excited than I’ve been; I’m just scared, too, because life holds no guarantees.

We had a death in the family this week; maybe that’s what started it. Too young, too soon. Not someone I was close to, but a reminder that life is short. As I absorbed this news and vowed to appreciate my circle of the world, more bad news came down, this time closer to my heart, harder to compartmentalize.

In the meantime, people continued to come and go through my house, a reminder that this is hanging over my head, a reminder that although I am excited about the life I am moving to, I am about to leave behind my life here.

“Let’s talk about moving,” Chickadee says to me at bedtime, and I ask what she wants to know, what I can tell her today. “You’re sad,” she observes, rather than answering. “Are you sad about moving?” No, I am not sad about moving, exactly, but it is possible to be happy and sad at the same time, to see both the positives and negatives of something all at once. “I’m happysad about it, too,” she says, patting my arm. I hug her tight to me and breathe in the scent of her hair.

It’s a perverse luxury, this, to have a life full enough to be able to see loss—both real and threatened—in the stark relief against so much bounty. I know this.

At church today my prayers felt jumbled; I prayed for others while my tears fell for me… or was that the other way around? It was hard to know. The crack that had been working its way in all week, with the various events prodding it, opened up and leaked out all that dread, all the unbearable fear that is the flip side of loving and being loved.

There’s grace in there, I’m sure of it. For me, to stay here and strong in the good without being washed away by specters of loss; for the ones weighing on my heart with crises that make my worries seem laughable; for all of us who are listening.


  1. Anna

    Wow…I’d give you hug right now if I lived closer.
    I don’t really have any good advice…just the hug.

  2. ThursdayNext

    I’ve been lurking for a while. I realized a few weeks ago that we’re on a similar schedule for major life changes. The same day you are getting married, I am graduating from grad school. I’ve been living long distance from my husband since we got married a year ago, and on Monday I am moving to a different state. I’ve had the unexpected shitty parts, too, like a reader who decided on my third draft that I’ve got some major revisions to do, including more data collection. Different shitty parts than yours. But I just wanted to tell you that I’ve been amazed at the similarities between what you write about and my own feelings lately. I have so much to be joyful about, and also so much to be stressed about. It’s an odd place to be, being happysad. And even though I know it will all be okay in the end, it’s still huge right now.

  3. ChristieNY

    I have been on the edge of my seat, logging in each day to see what pretty Mir is up to and how the year of living changerously is playing out.

    Your culmination of happysad feelings with a heart bursting for a million reasons is, a beautiful chapter. Because, you are preparing to begin a new family, a new role in life as a wife, with a new house, in a new place, so many uncertainties and yet, SO many constants.

    Home is where you hang your hat, my dear, and I can guarantee that wherever you go, there will be four, pretty little coat hooks to hold three hats beside yours.

    Your heart just had to burst to make room for all the new happiness it’s about to be filled with.


  4. Angel

    Mir, I’m sorry for your loss.

    I understand what you mean about fear poking holes….my husband is away on a business trip and I had those very same fears tonight, down to the prickling. We have 2 family members who are having serious health problems and that fear is hard to beat down.

    Hang in there.

    Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!

  5. becky

    fear is not easy. nor fun. it’s good to see that you are trying to deal with it, rather than let it control/ overtake you. when you have so many things coming at you, from so many sides, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. you are in many thoughts and prayers, mir. death always makes us stop and fear the worst for those we love the most. take it one day at a time and try to enjoy what you can right now. i wish i could say something funny or witty. all i can do, though, is offer you support, and virtual hugs.

    did i mention you look pretty today?

  6. Lady M

    You’ll make it through, my friend. The house will sell, and you, Otto, and the children will be happy together in Georgia.

  7. Fold My Laundry Please

    Like all things in nature, there is an ebb and a flow in life. I know it doesn’t help much when your stuck in the ebb part, but just take comfort in knowing there is a whole internet of people out here that are sending good thoughts and prayers your way. We love you, Mir! And you are so very, very pretty!

  8. SheBear

    “…I prayed for others while my tears fell for me… or was that the other way around? It was hard to know.”

    Oh, my dear Mir…don’t you see? Each tear *is* a prayer, if you offer it up to Him!

    Blessings and peace to you…You are right about the grace. It is already there, filling up that crack just like that tube of caulk. Even if you can’t see it at the moment. Trust Him. He’s already fixed it, and I’d say something about the Lowballers not being able to break it, but I think I’ve already used my quota of corny metaphors.

  9. sophie

    Tears of relief for yourself, and for how far you’ve come since those dark dark days. Tears of acknowledgement of how well you’ve coped and how well you will continue to cope whatever life throws at you. And tears of gratitude for the year of living changerously.

  10. Heather

    I’m so sorry you’re having a rough go of it right now. You and yours will be in my prayers.

  11. cce

    So much joy and pain and grief and celebration all woven together in tiny, complex strands.
    Sounds like a good night’s rest will do you some good; distance and perspective is only possible through pause.
    May tomorrow be sunny and bright and relentlessly hopeful.

  12. Amy-Go

    Happysad. Wow. That’s just right.

    You’re pretty.

  13. Momsy

    simply beautiful.

  14. Ei

    Thank you, Mir. You are lovely for sharing. (And pretty…of course also pretty.) Anyway, I needed that, so thanks for taking time out of your busy changerous schedule to deliver it.

  15. Brigitte

    My thoughts always seem to find the dark clouds (even when there is only a dark speck or two) and linger on them, running in endless rabid circles around the bad stuff.

    I’m glad you can pull out enough to see the comparative view of others’ troubles to yours, anyway (even if it doesn’t change how you FEEL), and that you are kind enough to keep us all in the loop (I sure as heck would be letting everyone hang until at least a couple weeks after the wedding!).

  16. Joshilyn

    Yes. Exactly. You are brave and true.

  17. Sara

    You are right about the grace. It is sufficient. Breathe it in. Rest in it.
    Thanks for saying so well what so many of us feel but can’t express. You are a gifted woman.

  18. Judy.

    You are not letting the dark corner win. Even if a part of you wants to escape to it, by putting it out in the light… it helps destroy it. You have people who love you and want the best for you (and I want to take Chickie home with me… I love that girl!)

  19. Sheryl

    Life, it’s coming right at you. Big hugs.

  20. dad

    There will always be a ying and a yang. Welcome to life. Fragile as it is, it’s magnificent!

    Remember that you don’t ever really leave anything totally behind. You just push it into a section of your brain reserved for lower priority concerns where it is digested. If that didn’t happen eventually your mind would fill up and your head would explode. I hate it when that happens.

    And in case no one else has told you, what you have going for you trumps all those annoying distractions by a a bundle.

  21. Megan

    I’m not going to share my story, because this isn’t the time or place – or what you need to hear. It’s just… being on a different side of this… it’s good to be reminded that the reason for the sad is so unimaginably bigger – so vast. And Mir, it’s worth it, all the sad, all of it – it’s worth it.

  22. MomCat

    Your writing is a blessing and I’m grateful. I wish for comfort to come to you, Mir, during this unsettling, happysad time.

  23. Andrea

    I have too been in that happysad place, and also in relocating. Wish I could give you a hug, but I think I live too far south of you. And I know EXACTLY what you mean when you say “fear is poking tiny shoots up within me.”

    I think it sounds healthy that you are so aware of ALL of your emotions, and not just stuck in the sad/dark place. It will all work out.

    You are loved….and pretty!

  24. Heather

    Mir, you’re almost there. Hang on tight because the good will far outshine the bad for you very soon.

  25. Bob

    I wrote something recently about how much I was hating being a grown-up right now. It was mostly about responsibility, the not wanting of. Not wanting to have to make decisions. I think maybe this is another aspect of being a grown-up: facing up to things. To change, in the largest and smallest sense. The change of no longer having someone in your life, the change of marriage and moving.

    I could say that change is inevitable, you might as well face up to it – but you know that. That isn’t the point. Change is unsettling. There is a restfulness in same-old, same-old. If there is no change, there is nothing to worry about.

    But change is positive too. You can’t do new things, meet new people, have new opportunities without change. It is change that brings about growth. But you know this too.

    I guess I all have new to say is that despite the changes in your life, there is the constancy of those that care for you. Maybe not always the same people, but people non the less. For someone such as yourself, there will always be people. I am part of those people. But you know this too.

    I just thought I’d remind you.

  26. Meramoo

    Mir, did you mean to change your RSS feeds so that the whole posts show up in the newsreader?

    Change is scary, even if it’s a good thing. I ditzed around for several years, not making any progress on my Master’s thesis, because I was too afraid of going back to work and not being good enough. I’ve finally mostly gotten past that, but ack it is scary putting myself out there again.

  27. Randi

    It is always darkest before the dawn, Mir.

    That being said, you’ve got a hell of a dawn breaking over the horizon!

  28. jenn2


  29. Lesley

    God bless you, Mir. Congratulations on where you’ve been and where you’re going.

  30. Katrina Stonoff

    Oh, this is lovely. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your honesty on these pages.

    I struggle with the poking-holes fear too. I’m almost more comfortable when things are rough because then I have less to lose. I try to channel my fear though–use it as a reminder to cherish every single moment.

    This morning my &*%$# little doggy woke us all up at 6 a.m. barking at the cat (yes, our cat; the one that lives with us). I put her outside and went back to bed, but my kindergartener woke up and wanted to crawl in bed with me. I snapped, “Go back to bed!” And he went, but he said, “I just wanted to snuggle.” I knew I wasn’t going back to sleep anyway, so I called him back.

    As a result, I had 30 precious minutes of holding my two little children (Girly Girl joined us), who are growing up much too fast.

    Yes, I’m fearful. And yes, I’m grateful. If I wasn’t afraid, I don’t think I’d know to be so appreciative.

    Hang in there … Otto’s on the other side of this particular darkness, and waking up every morning with him and going to bed every night with him is going to be just as soul-satisfying as you suspect.

  31. Stephanie

    You’re gonna make it. We all love and believe in you.

  32. Aimee

    I know what you mean about that fear. I’m a whole continent away from most of the people I love and care about, and there are days that backs up on me and I just melt down. That fear won’t always be right at the surface, though. It won’t.

  33. hollygee

    Remember to take slow, deep breaths. A lotta them.

    Hugs and pats and congrats to you, Otto, Chickie and Monkey.

  34. Cele

    Mir, our lovely Mir, yes we all feel like we own a special piece of you, because you give to us freely and with the genuiness that is Mir all the lovely and tattered parts of you to cherish and hug. I hope you have a better day, I know you will have better tomorrows. And just think, in less than one week you will have all the stress that is a wedding behind you, and it will be all photos and lovely memories.

    As Stephanie says, we all love and believe in you.

  35. Beth

    I can’t add much to the wonderful words others have shared so far, but I can say one thing:

    Cherish yourself. You need it and deserve it.

  36. Liise

    Chocolate Chip Cookies…Im jes sayin.

  37. Jan

    You know, stress is stress, whether it’s good stuff or bad stuff.

    You’ve seen the stress scale ( ), right? Notice that getting married and getting fired are at the same level. Some of the items don’t even distinguish between stuff gettin’ more good and stuff gettin’ more bad (for example: Change in number of arguments with spouse/life partner).

    I hope you find a church you can connect with when you move — it sounds like that’s an important way for you to keep connected with yourself.

    You’re on the home stretch with the wedding at least! Five days from now, you’ll be Mrs. Otto!

    Take care of you.


  38. Sophie

    I guess that because my dad died when I was nine, I’m prone to jump to the end of the story and mourn my losses before they even happen. It’s a great way to make myself crazy when no one else is around to help me do that. I also like reading the last 10 pages of a novel as I’m also starting it. I just like knowing that everything is going to be OK.

    So, your description of how your feeling today sounds familiar. To that end (so to speak), friend of mine gave me this quote to nudge me a bit: If you are really careful, nothing good or bad will ever happen to you.

    Good luck on Friday and a big congrats from me! I’m thinking of you and yours.

  39. Caren

    I’m sorry. Things will be better soon. I am sure of it!

  40. The Other Leanne

    That’s the risk we take when we open our hearts, and the wider we open up, the greater the capacity for both joy and sorrow to enter.

    Faith means letting go of your attachment to the outcome. Yes, bad things, sad things, terrible things can happen that we have no control over. But whatever you might someday face, you will be okay and so will everyone else; your souls will be safe. Your experiences have already taught you that, haven’t they? The faith-based life trumps the fear-based one every time.

    So your faith was shaken a little this week, and the Black Dog came to lie at your feet. It’s probably normal to let him in just as you’re about to make this huge commitment. Now tell him it’s time to go out the way he came in; you have no fear with which to feed him.

  41. Heather C.

    Wow, Mir, that’s so well said. I have felt the same way, that it is somehow dangerous to be happy. That the other cosmic shoe will drop. And also to have that knowledge that your life is blessed because you can be unhappy about things that others wouldn’t even think to complain about.

  42. Lucinda

    I love your writing because it reminds me so often of the complete fullness of life–good and bad–and all the emotion wrapped up in it.

    The Other Leanne said it very well. When our blessings overflow, it can almost feel like we are drowning. It’s ironic and confusing of course. But by opening up to that intense happiness, we open to the fear that it could all disappear and the only way to get through that fear ( I know it well) is to simply have Faith. The kind of faith where you just let go and let God take control. When you do that, you not only find happiness but peace as well. I pray you can find that peace.

  43. mcewen

    We’re listening and many of us hear.
    Best wishes

  44. wordgirl

    It’s hard to articulate feelings when they’re in a big tangle like so much yarn. Writing about them is a good way to get at them one thread at a time.

  45. daring one

    You know you write beautifully when the dark is creeping in? Just keep remembering this will all be over soon. And then the next thing will begin but there’s something refreshing about it being the next thing and not this same thing hanging over your head. You’re moving on and there are good things in store for you Mir.

  46. Heather S.

    I can see the happy side and the sad side to….Chickadee said it best happysad

  47. meritt

    Ahhh yes… my ‘melt down’ when we were moving and I had been living away from my husband for 2 months, trying to sell a home with 14 ‘shows’ in 2 weeks and I had 3 children, all under the age of eight….

    I burned a pan of cookies and bawled my head off on the living room stairs as if someone died.


  48. Jamie Lee

    Someone else commented that it’s always darkest before the light. I think that’s true. Sometimes, it feels like you have to do a little unidentified grieving before moving on to the next big thing. I’m sorry for your loss and all the stress. I am sending more of the virtual hugs offered up by your readers. And I think I’ll have to agree with Liise about the chocolate chip cookies…sometimes it’s the small pleasures that pull us through.
    Hang in and take care.

  49. Kira

    I love you.

  50. julie

    I thought Lil Daughter would surely die before she was three because she was such a perfect baby. I “knew” God would want her back. We made it past three and I breathed a sigh of relief. Then all hell broke loose with her health.
    She’s 20 now and we both appreciate everyday more because of that experience.
    The fear never goes away. You just get better at dealing with it. And, you DO get better at it.
    This is stress manifesting itself. It will all be better soon, very soon.
    Hugs, Mir. You Are Very Pretty.
    Oh, and I So Heart your Dad

  51. alice

    Cele said it so well:
    Mir, our lovely Mir, yes we all feel like we own a special piece of you, because you give to us freely and with the genuiness that is Mir all the lovely and tattered parts of you to cherish and hug.

    Thank you for continuing to share those lovely and tattered pieces – to the extent that there are vibes in the world, know that there are some powerful good vibes coming your way from all of these posters, plus all of the lurkers.

  52. Krisco

    Oh Mir. You express it all so well. We totally understand.

  53. David

    I do so enjoy your usual tongue-in-cheeky way of dealing with the maddening world of life on this here Earth. Perhaps that’s the very thing that makes it so poignant and impactful when you wax introspective. Bless your heart, Mir, and Best Wishes for the future.

  54. Jen

    Holy CRAP! Now that’s good writin’.

  55. kate setzer kamphausen

    Dear Mir:

    People in Chicago are praying for you.

    Also: Leonard Cohen says, “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

    Gerard Manley Hopkins says, “The Holy Spirit broods over everything/ With warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”

    May there be more light, wings of light, in your dark place this week. Love to you.

  56. Dorothy

    I hear you loud and clear. I remember being upset with myself after I got married and again after I had the little angel for opening myself up to the possibility of such hurt if anything ever happened to them. But then, I can’t imagine life without them.

    Having that consciousness, though, that awareness of both the frailty and strength of relationships, is what life is worth living for.

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