Running in negative 14 degrees and watching your spit freeze in mid-air…weird, right? A few days later, running in shorts and short sleeves, in January, in Missouri…also weird.
The word ‘weird’ has been thrown around a lot at my house lately, and in my head.
During a conversation with Ally just after Christmas, it occurred to her that there were people living in her other house (her dad’s house) while she wasn’t there. “Weird.” She said.
After the first day of being back at school, “Hey Ethan, how was it having Miles (new step-brother) in your class?” “Weird” was his response.
Seeing my kids’ new step mom also in the drop off and/or pick up line each day…Weird. Even weirder…being out for a run on Thursday afternoon and knowing that she was picking them up instead of me.
It has occurred to me that we use the word weird, when we aren’t really sure what other word to use.
Yesterday Brian and I bundled up and went over to brave the cold at Castlewood to get our first look at the post-flood version of our favorite park. Driving in was certainly weird, as I kept telling him various places that I had seen pictures of that had been completely under water. Even the spot we parked in had been submerged just a couple weeks ago. There were still remnants of puddles in lower lying areas, but for the most part, the ground was dry. At first glance, things appeared normal, but that eventually changed as we went deeper into the woods.
We hiked up Lone Wolf Hill and walked along the bluffs. The height up there allows for a good overview, which also gave the appearance of things being mostly back to normal. When we approached the stairs, I mentioned to B about a picture I had seen of the water being way up into the massive staircase. Hard to believe, especially since the water has since receded into the confines of the river banks. As we sat for a moment at the bottom of the stairs, watching a red-headed woodpecker just overhead, an older fellow came by and said, “A couple weeks ago, you would have been sitting under water right there.” Weird.
As we went through the tunnel that goes under the train tracks and popped out on the other side by the trail that runs along the river, I started to get my first glimpses of the changes that had taken place. To the average person who had only been there once or twice, I’m sure those changes wouldn’t have been noticeable. But to those of us who have made this park a second home, they are glaringly obvious. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but there was a time when I felt more comfortable being lost in the woods out there than I felt in my own house. Weird.
“Woah” I said when I noticed how the massive erosion had washed the rocks from beside the train tracks down over a signpost, almost covering it. And again when I saw that part of the trail was now completely gone. Vanished. Weird.
We turned right to head out into the flats to see how far we could get before we might be forced to turn around due to mud, or possibly still flooding. The tiny, little, almost invisible stump that B tripped over about a year and half ago, injuring his rib, was still there. However, if he were to fall the same way now, he would have ended up in the water. The path had eroded and narrowed considerably.
B kept pulling sticks out of trees, sticks that had likely floated into the tree branches weeks before. We came across a pile of saw dust, evidence of someone with a chainsaw clearing the path of some of the bigger obstacles…entire trees that had floated down the river and been deposited in a new location. As we got to the flats, we had to climb over a tree to continue. Shortly after that we decided to turn around and go back along the river. When we got back to the stairs we ran into my friend Lara, we talked briefly, but we started getting cold standing still, so we parted ways knowing that we would reconvene at the tri club party later.
As we continued along the river, familiar places looked totally different. From where I am sitting right now in my house, I can see a picture of my kiddos framed and hanging on the wall. It was one of the first pictures I had taken to fill my new home. It’s the 3 of them, smiling, sitting on a huge downed tree right by the path B and I were on. That tree is now almost completely gone. As I noticed how different the trail looked, I thought of that picture, and it made me kind of sad.
“This is so weird.” I kept saying, trying to wrap my mind around the fact that this was even the same place. “New territory to explore, new trails,” he said. I smiled. While that’s true, there are parts of Castlewood that are almost unrecognizable to me now because of the changes that have transpired. There were parts that the old brush had been completely washed away, and parts that looked more like a tornado had gone through depositing so much debris up in the tree that it looked like a fort.
I’ve been struggling lately with the unfairness of the world. Having lost 2 friends to cancer, less than three weeks apart, who knew each other, I am having a hard time accepting that their children will have to grow up without their moms. And when I think about how weird that my kids have another mother figure in their lives that isn’t me, what I am really thinking of is…it’s not fair. Now, I don’t want to be someone who whines all the time about ‘It’s not fair’, but the reality is, it’s not. I say to my kids all the time when they are unhappy about the fairness of some situation that parental line, “Sometimes life isn’t fair.” No one ever promised us that it would be fair all the time, but sometimes what we mean when we say something is ‘weird’, what we really mean is…it’s not fair. It’s not normal. It’s different. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be. And honestly, when we realize that, it hurts. It hurts a lot.
So, what do I do with that? How do I navigate the unfair? Sometimes I grieve it, sometimes I call it weird and keep on moving, sometimes I have to look a little deeper to figure out what’s really changed. And what do I do with the weird? Well, I cry when I need to. I hug B and my kids, sometimes more than they probably want to be hugged. And I just keep doing the best I can with it, until the weird becomes the new normal. And I remember that even though the trail is still in the same place, there was no way it was always going to look the same. Some of the same little details are there, some of the big things are now missing. There are some places where someone paved the way by clearing some of the larger obstacles and there are some places where the path has narrowed and made the trek significantly more challenging. But I’ll climb over things, or swing from vines (yes, I actually did this yesterday. B shook his head at me, but I laughed despite hurting myself) and I’ll do whatever I need to do to get back to where I need to be.
Fact: I am the old wife. There is another who has taken my place in that role. Also fact: I cannot ever be replaced in my more important roles. There is some truth to the saying ‘Out with the old and in with the new’, but if you didn’t know what it looked like before, how would you even know it was new now?
Just like Castlewood, I have weathered the storm and I am not the same as I was before. But this won’t be the last storm, and I will be forced to change again. The old plus the storms equal the new. And just like B said, that gives us new territory to explore, and new territory equals new experiences. I am being refined in the fire, and being made new.
So now what? Is it weird that I find myself wanting to be friends with the new wife? Maybe. But wouldn’t it be even weirder if I didn’t want to forge a relationship with the other person who will be nurturing and helping to raise my children? The other person who is listed as their emergency contact? The other person who has the word mom in her title? I think so. But maybe I’m just weird.