Somewhere in the Middle
Finding the middle ground has always been a hard thing for me. If I let myself eat two oreos, I am likely to finish the whole sleeve in short order. If I start cleaning out dresser drawers, the entire house will be spic-n-span in a matter of hours. I tend to be either overcome with gratitude for the love in our family or absolutely grief-stricken at what Virginia endures. (I guess if you’ve been reading my blog for a while this isn’t news to you.) Slowly I am beginning to live in the tension between these two extreme emotions.
Last night is a perfect example. Our downstairs air conditioner was broken, so we were all going to sleep upstairs. Wills was thrilled that Virginia was going to sleep in his room. I had taken the mattress off his spare twin bed and put it on the floor for Virginia so that if she fell off, she wouldn’t have far to go. Wills was having fun jumping from his bed to the mattress on the floor, over and over again. Eliza was sitting on the mattress and she could not stop squealing at his antics.
In the meantime, Virginia was having a total come apart. It had started with whining and by bedtime, she was all out screaming. Findley was home from work, but try as we might, neither one of us could comfort her. She was tired; she had been up since 3 a.m., but I never really know why she screams. The last few times she has gotten this upset, she has thrown up, so we took her in the bathroom in the hope that another rug wouldn’t be ruined.
So, there you have the two parallel universes of the Frazer house. Findley was sitting on the edge of the bathtub holding Virginia, gently rocking her, desperate for her to quit screaming. I sat on the floor holding her jaw so that it wouldn’t get stuck as she screamed. Every now and then, I would peer around the corner to check on the little two and I just had to smile. Wills was having a great time jumping from the bed to the mattress and Eliza couldn’t have been happier watching him.
I am called to find joy in the midst of suffering and to create a balance between the two. Somehow I have to share in Wills’ and Eliza’s joy as they play even though a part of me is weeping because I want Virginia to be included. I want her to be excited about a slumber party when instead she is struggling to live.
These situations present themselves all the time. Virginia lasts about twenty minutes on the beach because it is just too hard on her body. She ends up in the house watching a movie while Wills builds castles and looks for shells. It’s not fair, but there is no way around it. Wills and Eliza shouldn’t have to miss out because of Virginia, but it hurts when our family isn’t whole.
My all or nothing personality makes it very difficult to strike an emotional balance, but I must do it because the health of my marriage and the happiness of my children depend on it. The middle ground is the honest place to be because there I am dealing with both the sorrow of the fall and the joy of the redemption. To leave out either one would be to miss an essential variable in the equation.
When Virginia is screaming, I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend I don’t hear it, but that’s not a choice. It would not be tenderhearted toward Virginia or respectful of my own broken heart to stick in earplugs and skip down the hall and ask Findley what he wants for dinner. Nor can I get in bed and start crying and never get up again. That’s not a choice either.
So there I find myself, struggling to live life in the middle. At times experiencing pure joy, yet at other times allowing the sorrow to find a place to stay for a while. I used to think that eventually the pain of what happened to Virginia would go away. That if I prayed enough and sought enough wise counsel on how to best handle things, one day my heart wouldn’t break with the crying. But sometimes it still does and I have realized that is ok.
To be fully engaged in this world means that we all experience both deep hurt and incredible joy every day. We must strive to live in the tension between the two instead of barricade ourselves in one direction or the other.
A very wise friend introduced me to this verse yesterday and I love it:
“I am sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” 2 Corinthians 6:10 (NIV)
and I also really like the New Living Translation:
“Our hearts ache, but we always have joy.” 2 Corinithians 6:10