2011 brought unbelievable heartache for many of my friends. There are travelers who left the road this year and won't journey on with us. My grandfather was among them. I have to acknowledge that pain because it spun around me so often this year; I was very aware of it--the shadow--the shape of things to come. For us--I mean the tiny molecule of life that is Rachel + Jonny--we were given the gift of abundant life. We went wandering through the dawn of this new life together, open door by open door.
Here are the 2011 awards for the Brown-Strange household:
Favorite Child: J. Chai
Best New Artist (to us): Fleet Foxes
Drugs of Choice: Jolly Ranchers chews, Kombucha tea
New Skills: play therapy, growing kombucha, breastfeeding, birthzeal
Best Relationship Enhancement: re-creating famous dates of the past, walks and hikes, slow dancing, playing with baby, roadtrips
Noteworthy Vicios: facebook, birth stories, blogstalking, League of Legends, staying up until 4 most nights
Most crazymaking hellbeasts: the bedbugs that plagued us for most of the fall.
Most Embarrassing Moment: tied between lighting my bra on fire in my mother in law's microwave and accidentally alerting the neighbors by screaming for help when Jonny and I were playing around in the backyard
Unexpectedly Awesome: Closer friendships with siblings and their spouses. Law & Order SVU. The songs from Team America. Co-sleeping.
Joyful and Triumphant: The arrival of Chai! and his kick-a homebirth, graduating with my MSW, getting hired at the FSTC as a part-time therapist, Jonathan's acceptance to the Advanced Standing MSW program at the University of Utah (SO PROUD!)
During August, in the third level of interviews for my job, Stuart asked me what I'd learned about myself with having my first year of marriage+ being pregnant in grad school + having my first child all in the same few months. I said that I couldn't really say that it was some harrowing experience that I'd had to overcome, because it was mostly just a joy. What did I learn about myself? If I'd had my thoughts collected, I would have said, I learned that I could really be happy! That I'd found myself brightly delighted with marriage and my baby, not the drudgery and lost identity I feared. I have my "bright companion" to thank for that. I know I won't be lost as long as we are together.
This year will always be special because I brought my son into the world. It is the greatest thing I've ever done. I learned so much from the day I birthed him, it was a triumphant and overpowering moment of strength and vulnerability that quenched thousands of fearful moments of being lessthan. But I didn't know him then. I had no idea. I didn't understand. I loved him, I adored him and wept over him, but I didn't understand that he was Chai. I remember looking so bewildered at the grayish otherworldy frog in my arms. Now his smells and sweet sleepy motions are as natural to me as my own breathing, his hands that pat my face as he nurses and all his quick and slow smiles. I love that little boy so much. I love his daddy. I'm so glad for all the time we had together this year. Almost seven months together. This summer was so vibrantly beautiful. It wasn't that adjusting was never hard--I remember those evenings when Chai howled for hours and we white noised, sang, rocked, swaddled, endured--but at the same time, the rough patches were brief and we had these glowing magical hours where we just marveled at him and enjoyed each other. I learned from Chai's birth the same lesson I've been piecing together all my life--pain comes in stages, and in between there are moments to breathe and laugh and feel alive and excited by the great adventure that life is. To look around and fall in love with the people around you.
2011 was intense, but kind. I thank God for every beautiful moment we lived free and safe and happy. You never know when one of those things might be compromised. People always talk about not taking things for granted, but everyone always does--you can't fully appreciate the depth and breadth of anything while you have it in your arms. The meaning and power of it swells in its absence. Nevertheless, my "theme" for 2012 is three words that a wise sage once said are the secret to happiness (also a Mason Jennings song, very good Mason!):
BE HERE NOW.
And here to finish the year off are a thousand pictures!
Songs of 2011:
Team America Soundtrack
Hurt--Johnny Cash/Julia/Laura Lowe cover
The Cave, Mumford & Sons
Little Lion Man, Mumford & Sons
King & Queen, Okkervil River
New Friends, Yo Gabba Gabba
I Believe, Book of Mormon Musical
You and Me (but Mostly Me), Book of Mormon Musical
Turn it Off, Book of Mormon Musical
Balloons, Yo Gabba Gabba
The Boxer, Simon and Garfunkel
Somebody Loved, the Weepies
Autumn to May, Peter Paul & Mary
Battery Kinzie, Fleet Foxes
Helplessness Blues, Fleet Foxes
Tiger Mountain Peasant Song, Fleet Foxes