the whole story

We painted. For hours. It was our anniversary and the two short dudes were staying with Nanny and Bapa. Painting may not sound like a very nice way to spend a day celebrating six years of perfect wedded bliss, but there we were. (Actuallly, we like to work on house projects together when without the kiddos. We talk, we boss each other around, we take our time.)

Anyway. We were painting the kitchen and taking turns observing out loud how annoying it was that the paint didn't seem to want to be on the wall. Or maybe, it was the previous coat of paint that was trying to shirk off the new and better, brighter color. We rolled and rolled and brushed and brushed and the paint put up its fight, acting all see-through no matter what amount of paint was being slathered over it.

Of course, this was an analogy to me. There I stood, arm going up and down and back and forth, remembering the last six years of our marriage and how different I am now and how hard I fought the changes. Ryan asked me (not because he wants this, but just for kicks) what I thought our life would look like if we hadn't had kids, at least not yet.

I said that we would not have changed, grown as people, in the specific ways that we have. And then he said, I'm pretty sure we'd be having a nice time, but with something missing all the time.

Now, I'm talking about our individual journey here. It's not that I believe that every person needs to have kids in order to start to grow up. I don't think that. A person can grow in a million ways. It's just, in our story, our Miles and Asher play the part of new paint.

There is such a stark contrast in the before and after lives of having children. We went from a soft beige to a muted lime green, just like our kitchen. And what we were made of, from before, made it impossible to take on the new vibrant color easily. Our new skin, it needed smoothing and time before we could get comfortable in it, blanketed in lime. We have spent so much time with gaping holes of beige always opening up like old wounds. Most likely because they are just that, heart injuries that need healing before covering.

What I realized last night, while rolling paint across a glossy wall that refused to cooperate with its new satin finish, is that I've been just as impatient with myself and my process as I was being with the day's task.

I was glossy beige before my boys came along, you know? Pale with years of self, so much I'd never tried on. And it was as if I was drinking to keep that particular sheen, to stay the same, to fight the growth that rolled over me again and again. I was terrified of being changed entirely, comfortable in one part misery, two parts angst. So there was no other option for the power that is greater than myself, a higher power I like to call God. He had to drag me through a process that would bring me from a fiercely self-centered child to a woman on a journey through adulthood, brighter and never without the pale child underneath, but maybe even more attractive, glowing. He did that for me, not against me but despite me because he loves me, that's what I believe.

In her book, Drinking: A Love Story, Caroline Knapp writes, "In a word, alcohol is what protected me from growing up."

Alcohol was glossy paint for me, repelling the hard and good things of a grown up life.

I suppose a person needs to really feel the changes that life brings on its own terms, in order for them to stick. I spent so long repelling those changes, kicking and screaming my way through detour after detour, off-roads I dug up with my heels as I went along.

Some people accept the responsibilities, the roles of adulthood well, taking it all in stride and making up their minds to be 35 because, well...they're 35. Others of us feel too inept and broken to fully realize our space in time and life.

When that's the case, it takes us a while longer, but we're getting there, friends. We will go from a pale cream color with a glossy protector, to a subtle muted lime that knows its worth...we'll get there. It will be hard no matter what, but certainly easier if not kicking and screaming and detouring and beige.

I never would have dreamed that being lime could be this good. But it is, as I slowly step my way through this new space and time.

Hello, my name is Heather. I'm an alcoholic, but that's not the whole story.
Hello, my name is Heather. I have, I am, a pale child underneath this glow, but that's not the whole story.
Hello, my name is Heather. I'm trying on lime green and seeing it isn't half bad, but that's not the whole story.
Hello, my name is Heather. I am loved like a deep red and I know grace that is a flowing and endless ocean blue. Those are the only colors of life I know will always remain. And that's the whole story.

22 clicked right here to comment:

Mary Nevin said...

beautiful entry, especially the end, brought tears to my eyes :) thank you for your inspiration :)

~beautyandjoy~ said...

Oh girl - as usual - insanely beautiful. I love the Knapp quote, too. Whew.

The mad woman behind the blog said...

You expressed this sentiment so well. And as always, you spoke to my soul.

Casey Freeland said...

What a beautiful end to this post.

Our whole store, each of us, is where we really reside, what is really happening in our lives and what is really important, what is precious and beautiful. I love it. Thank you.


Casey Freeland said...

I meant story, of course. Sorry... :)

Blair@HeirtoBlair said...

The last bit is so perfect.

Lee Vandeman said...

well hell yeah sister. I too am in love with the last paragraph and your last gorgeous line rushed up through my blood and into my soul giving me goose bumps. Being loved like deep red....that's where it's at.


Robin said...

The end brought tears for me too. Especially the red and blue.

Wendi@Every Day Miracles said...

Could I love the way you bare your soul with your words nay more? I think: no.

Kazzy said...

Great analogy. What could we use for primer on our souls?

wendy said...

Beautiful analogy.
you are such a good writer Heather.

Now, whenever I paint, I'll think of this.
and wonder about the colors
the constant motion of arms going up and down
the extra coats.

and know, that is is only part of the story

Annette Lyon said...

So true. Motherhood has, in large part, made me who I am today.

Grace {Formerly Gracie} said...

Are any of us ever a complete story :-) I too find it hard to define myself (or my life) in a very specific terms.

This a wonderful post and congratulations!

Corinne said...

Oh Heather... so good :)
Especially that last bit...

Amy Whitley said...

I love how you make me think (and applaud your beautiful imagery) with your entries even if I can't relate to the alcoholism. Because whatever our particular challenges, the result, the growth, the lessons, what have you...are universal.

Ann Imig said...

This is a beautiful post, Heather.

Cynthia said...

What a gift! I love the way you view the world and find meaning.

Now, about the paint, you can't put a latex paint over an oil-based paint or it won't stick. Next time, prime with Kilz THEN paint. I've painted half my house in the last month- and I sure didn't get NEAR as much out of the experience as you did!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Cynthia that priming would work wonders. You could probably work that into your analogy, too. :)

There are days when emotionally I resist being a grown-up even as I go through the motions of being one. Or times I just can't believe that I really truly am a grown-up, in spite of all the grown-up-like things I do. I don't at all regret choosing this life and wouldn't really give any of it up, but at the same time I frequently wonder if I really can chew all that I've bitten off. I mean FIVE kids! With their endless needs! How does anyone just settle into that and not sometimes want to just run away--not from a lack of love, but just a lack of, well, a lack of capability and capacity, I guess.

Becca said...

Perfect. Beautiful analogy. Thanks for sharing this.

Jen said...

I am loved like a deep red and I know grace that is a flowing and endless ocean blue. Those are the only colors of life I know will always remain. And that's the whole story.

love that!!

Anonymous said...

If we really look, if we allow ourselves opens to the possibility, we really are so much more than we think aren't we? You are a beautiful woman! Congratulations on your annivesary.

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