Not Obviously Sad

I was looking at photos recently (again with the photos), and I came across some photos from April 29th, 2017. To anyone else, the pictures are not obviously sad: 


To me though, these pictures were a bit of a gut punch. 

This was a walk we took on a late April day, after torrential rainfall flooded Ellison Park, right where we used to live. We walked through the ravine behind our house and then tried in vain not to get wet feet as the ground where we came out, near a party pavilion, was pretty well saturated. There was a strange beauty in the trees reaching up out of the pools of water, new leaves that pretty chartreuse that doesn't last. The flowering trees were bursting, and the park's roadways were lined with them. 

What you cannot see in these cloudy day, flowering tree flood photos is what we were doing on that walk. 

Over the course of looping around the park and taking in the spring beauty, we made our decision not to renew our home study. This is the moment where our parenting quest effectively ended. 

We had already placed ourselves on hold from any profile calls since my emergency room visit and subsequent anxiety attack and breakdown at school. That was hard, but Bryce did it and held firm even when our case worker said, "Are you sure? I'd hate for you to miss an opportunity" even though Bryce had just said IF THEY CALLED AT THIS MOMENT IN TIME WE WERE NOT IN A POSITION TO MAKE DECISIONS AND DEFINITELY NOT IN A GOOD PLACE TO MANEUVER AROUND POSSIBLY GETTING PICKED OR LIKELY NOT GETTING PICKED. If you tell someone that even if there was literally a sure-thing profile opportunity, the state of physical and mental health was so precarious and it probably wouldn't be ethical to place at that moment, you'd think people would listen. But, Bryce didn't fall prey to the "what if you miss your one moment" thought and insisted that they take us out of the running, and that was the second to last time he spoke with our case worker. 

Our home study was up for renewal for June, and we had to make the decision to say that we had hit our ENOUGH. This walk, this beautiful spring walk, was tear-filled and terribly difficult. These photos were my brain breaks. I would see something beautiful and need to pause the conversation to capture it, so that I could breathe and step away, even for 30 seconds, from the end-of-a-journey decision we were making. 

I forgot how pretty the pictures are. 

This walk was followed by the last call, the one Bryce made saying that we were going to proactively take ourselves out of the game prior to our home study expiring. We didn't want to find ourselves in a position where we'd be pressured to renew, because we absolutely had had enough. We could not take any more heartbreak and needed to move forward to enjoying the life that already existed, instead of living in a horrible limbo for a ghost life that didn't materialize and took pieces of us in the haunting. 

I love this last picture, a fern unfurling out of the dead leaves on the trail through the ravine back to our house. Our decision was made, and while we both cried and it was sad, there was relief in the decision. It wasn't the final final decision, but it was the most definitive one so far. We had been coiled tight in anticipation of something that just seemed never to work out, but now we could unfurl and expand into a new existence, different from what we'd imagined but filled with so much possibility. 


These photos have beauty and pain all at once. Looking at them I felt sad. In writing about them, I feel the power of what happened after -- the transformation that continues to be a work in progress. The pain of the dream lost, but the beauty of a new start and knowing, looking back, that we had no idea just how wonderful our life could be after the utter rending of the life we'd wanted for so long. How awesome that this happened in the spring, a time of renewal and new beginnings. What a beautifully strange mix of honoring the grief and the sadness while also celebrating just how far we've come in four years. 


  1. This is a very powerful post. I remember reading about this time period when it was happening. It's hard to believe that four years have passed.

    Your beautiful pictures are in stark contrast to what you and Bryce were going through at the time. And that last pic? The unfurling fern symbolizing the opposite of what you had been: "coiled tight in anticipation of something that just never seemed to work out." How can something be so heartbreaking and so magnificent at the same time?

    Anything I write will pale in comparison to what you have shared here. Your writing takes my breath away. Thank you so, so much for sharing. "In writing about [the photos], I feel the power of what happened AFTER." Just beautiful. Breathtakingly beautiful.

  2. What an amazing post, Jess. The restorative power of the beauty that allowed you to have just a little break from the strength of the emotions you were going through is such a great example of what helps us heal.

    Your last paragraph is so perfect. One day, I hope you will no longer feel the pain of seeing these photos, but will still feel the power of that day and will feel enormously proud of yourselves and what you did and why you did it. Beautiful, Jess.

  3. Dear Jess, yes, I know how exhausting is living in a horrible limbo for a ghost life that doesn't materialize.
    I am glad that you walked a long way in four years.
    Wishing you all the best!

  4. I remember your posts from that time. I remember your resolve, your sense of enoughness. I love how, here, you have juxtaposed it with the healing influence of nature, how it was the background to your innate (as in "nature") sense of knowing yourselves, your groundedness. Simply exquisite.

  5. I have a few photos like that in my collection! The fern is the perfect metaphor. Was it really just four years ago??

  6. How are you not a writer (seriously)? I'm so late in reading this, and remember when you were going through this. Such beautiful pictures on such a tough day. I can't believe that was 4 years ago.