Sharing Secrets, Support, & 500 Posts

Christmas Day 1986 - Cullene, Gene, & Elizabeth Harper

Twenty-five years ago today, I was newly married and in my last year at the University of Georgia. I was also newly pregnant in this Christmas photograph taken with my dad and step-mom, but they didn’t know it yet. Barely twelve days into the pregnancy, there were no tests available back then that were sensitive enough to confirm what I already knew.

I hadn’t planned on adding a baby to my goals for the new year and even though it was very early, I was already worrying about how I was going to balance being a mom with the career goals I had for myself.

For years when I looked at this photo, I focused on the briefcase I was holding and the memory of the feelings I had at the time. My excitement over their gift was tempered by my fear of the future. We were uninsured for pregnancy and were already living pretty frugally and I just couldn’t see how we were going to manage it.

I may have been smiling in this picture, but the secret growing inside me dominated my thoughts that Christmas and I worried that Cullene would sense that something was different about me.

That tiny bean of a baby became my daughter Miranda and it is largely for her that I began this blog in June 2008. From the time she was born I worried as many mothers do that something might happen to me and she would never know how much I loved her or who I was. That eased a great deal as she grew up, but when I choose to marry John and move to another country some of those feelings resurfaced.

I thought writing about my life here might be a way for her to see what was happening with me in England. I also hoped it might help to maintain and strengthen our relationship even though I was so far away.

‘Gifts of the Journey’ evolved very quickly into something more as I bravely wrote and made public those first bog posts. I found myself sharing many things I would have normally kept private. Thoughts and stories that while not as revealing as some might think, were huge leaps of faith for me as I posted things about myself that I worried might be too much.

Today marks my 500th post and it seems right to use a Christmas photograph that once made me think of things I was afraid to say.

When I look at it now I can see what I didn’t then. I was so fearful about the future that I missed my father’s hand on my shoulder and my hand touching Cullene. I missed how embraced and supported I really was, grounded by Cullene’s careful, nurturing nature, and braced by my dad’s belief in me.

Age and introspection have a way of clarifying things and I can easily recognise the benefits I receive from those of you who read my posts and are kind enough to support me through your comments. I may not always comment … I’m slow with email too, but I always, always, read and appreciate your thoughts and the time you take to share them.

Your interest in my words creates a lovely ripple effect in the pond of my emotional life and I am grateful for your continued presence and friendship.

Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate this day and thank you all for the gifts you share with me.

xo

The Gift You Keep

John Winchurch & Elizabeth Harper

John Winchurch & Elizabeth Harper

Reposted from original GOTJ

Six months ago, if someone had said, ‘ Elizabeth, 2007 is going to end a little differently than you’ve planned, but the new year will bring you an unexpected gift,’ my response might have been something along the lines of … right!  Over the last few years I’d had about all the unexpected gifts I could handle and frankly I don’t do very well when people give me things.

A gift can be a burden when it’s not something you want. I am talking about those kind of gifts that still have a price tag attached to them. You know what I mean … price tags like guilt, as in ‘Don’t you like it?’  Or those that may have a longer shelf life such as, ‘How come you never wear, use, or eat the things I buy for you?’

And because I don’t like to have things sitting around taking up space, I will almost always return something not right for me. Returning a gift is usually considered the worst offense. So given some of my experiences with people and gift giving why wouldn’t I think, ‘Gifts from the universe … no thanks, I’ll get it myself if I want it.’

After all my needs were pretty simple. I had the love and support of family and friends. My marketing position with a hospice organization was providing enough to fund the more creative life I envisioned as a photographer and I was in many ways building a life that was exactly what I thought I wanted.

Things weren’t perfect in every way, but who really expects perfection. With the exception of a less than desirable love life, things were pretty good. Nothing seemed unmanageable and for once it seemed as if I was driving the bus myself instead of feeling like a backseat driver in my own life.

Then on an important night to be out, I stayed in.

Home alone on New Years Eve, I decided to take a look at men on a UK dating site. What could it hurt to have a look? I’m in America and they’re way across the ocean. No problem there, right?  Plenty of time to correspond, get to know one another, take your time, move slowly, hey … developing a long distance relationship could be sort of like having a pen pal. No pressure I thought, in fact it might work perfectly for me because I was usually too busy to sleep, much less date .

And besides, I was absolutely not interested in serious relationship then.

Uh right … I find that words like that spoken out loud or not, seem to work in a way similar to a modern-day love spell. As soon as someone says, ‘I’m happy just dating,’ the man or woman of their dreams appears and dramatically changes the plan they envisioned for their future.

I hear stories like that from time the time, don’t you?  Now it seems to have happened to me. Just when I wasn’t expecting it, this perfect gift dropped into my inbox and into my life.

I think I’ll be keeping this one.