What did I expect it to be like now? Better, I guess. Getting back out again, I hoped. New experiences? Maybe new friendships? I would really like just about anything but new surprises.
Guess what I get? The valley of suck still sucks five months into the journey.
I have learned from the surprises. Oh, my, yes, have I learned. I did not want to learn it all - not this way - not all at once but yeah. The valley doesn't care.
1. We're all different in our grief.
One of the things I secretly love is learning about people I'm on the journey with. I love all the extroverts and introverts and seeing how we handle it. We're all in different life stages, different priorities, and we're all different people. Of course we're all different - even pastors - we fight through the valley differently. It helps me learn.
2. The world changed while I was married.
When Heather and I dated, we didn't have cell phones, FB, and the internet was just becoming a thing. I'm not only learning how to do life as a single dad, I'm learning how to live life as a single man. I. Have. No. Idea. What. I. Am. Doing.
3. The right thing will set you off but I don't know what it will be.
Seriously, you aren't sure if the tears are gone or not. You feel like it is all making a bit more sense. BAM! I take the cat to the vet and start crying because the cat was Heather's buddy. I'm trying to cook dinner and find a recipe in her handwriting. AND HERE IS THE THING...THIS NEVER GOES AWAY. Yep, apparently what I've learned from others is I get to carry that one.
4. Everybody calls at the wrong time.
You thought it was bad before but nope, it gets worse. Just a heads up friends.
5. Your family gets stranger.
Admittedly, the Hagler clan here in Georgia is an odd bunch and we liked it that way. We were "TEAM HAGLER" and our motto has been Ohana (from Lilo & Stitch). Nobody gets left behind or forgotten. But our family is different. Heather is not forgotten but she is gone. Death parted our journies. Now we are three very different people fighting each other and fighting a world trying to tear us apart. We don't quite recognize TEAM HAGLER. It is strange.
6. You are alone.
It is just the way it is. Everyone's life goes on. Folks try and mean well and wish well but it can't be helped. Here in the valley of suck, my life goes on too, it just isn't what I thought. It never is for anybody.
7. There are a lot of mistakes you'll make and they will change you.
Oh, wow. Looking back over the months now, yeah, I've left a trail and the valley has left its mark on my heart and soul. Some have said to me, "Don't change," well, I've learned - I don't get an option. I have changed. I will change. I need to change. I must change. Period.
8. If you'll pay attention - God shows up.
Yeah, that paying attention part is what is going to trip you up, and quite possibly, it will be literal. One of my favorite stories in recent years is the story of a young disciple going to his teacher and asking about wrestling with the devil and the demons. The teacher said, "Oh, when I was younger I wrestled with the devil and we'd go back and forth." The student asked, "So you learned how to defeat the devil and the demons, then?" "Oh no," said the teacher, "Now the devil goes his way and I go mine. You see, now that I am older I wrestle with God. That, my disciple, is much harder." I thought I understood it when I first heard it. I was wrong. I do think I get it now. Learning the practice of Stillness has been a big part (see previous blog).
If you've read my writings on the valley of suck, you know I'm writing from my heart in a way I have never written. Some may even confuse what I write with despair or doubt. Don't. It is not. It is as raw as I can possibly give you. That last story does tell it best. All the Scripture warnings to "watch" and "be on your guard" are not always about the second coming of Jesus. The day may come you will find yourself wrestling God in the valley of suck.
Lord, have mercy.
Image used with permission: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/eye-surprised-1453026