Tuesday, November 19, 2019

It's My Party

It was almost a year ago that I found myself in the lowest place I have ever been. Fighting for hope, suffering from PTSD and PMDD. Angry, sad, tired, hopeless...all the time.

And since almost a year ago was the year I turned 40, I let it that milestone pass me by.

No big celebrations, no parties...I even told my husband the best gift anyone could give me last year was NOT to pick up the phone and call me because I didn't have the energy to talk to people and pretend I was happy it was my big day.

It felt pointless.

And now, with only a few weeks left until I turn 41, I don't look back and regret that decision. I wasn't in a good place to celebrate. It would have felt disingenuous. I didn't know how to celebrate myself because I wasn't sure I liked who I was at that point.

Since then, life hasn't necessarily gotten any easier. Currently, we are in the midst of a big health crisis with one of my kids that has him out of school and me unable to work much. It's been exhausting and hard and confusing and we still aren't close to answers.

I can't imagine if this had happened last November.

BUT, the fact that I have a job, the fact that I can look back on this year and see the huge risk I took in going back to school, in completely changing careers, makes me feel hopeful. And proud. And joyful. The new life I chose this past year is helping me tackle this newest challenge. Not perfectly, of course, but my foundation this year is so much sturdier.

Dang it, I accomplished something this year, against all odds. When I announced I was going to become an EMT, a number of people in my life were like "But how? When? And...why?"

They weren't wrong or unsupportive to ask it because they knew the complexities of our daily challenges.

And the thing is, I didn't know how we would possibly make it happen. What I did know is that it was exactly what I needed to do to choose new life, to boldly declare something would change, that something good and new would happen.

I had to dare to dream when it felt like there was nothing practical or possible about making the dream happen. Which meant that I had to risk failure. And for me, failure never seems like a reasonable option. In fact, it seems completely out of the question.

But I had to risk it to be able to get better.

And here's the thing. I didn't get perfect grades like I did so much in the past. I had to be satisfied with doing "fine". Not amazing, not poor, but fine.

I passed my class, I passed my registry and I nailed down a job. It wasn't easy, it wasn't quick and it took a tremendous amount of sacrifice by my family.

But when I am on that truck, I truly feel that I am exactly where I need to be. I feel like there is this moment of clarity...that the injustice and pain of the world that so consumes me enables me to focus in on this one person's crisis and I can be their person, just in that moment. I can offer grace. I can look in their eyes. I can treat them with dignity. I can hope for them when they are hopeless.

And that has been life-giving in ways I honestly couldn't have imagined a year ago. Helping deliver a baby in the back of an ambulance, standing quietly with someone who has just lost their someone, sweating as you work to think critically and bring someone back from the dead, maneuvering the streets with an emergency strapped down in the back...all these things are chaotic and beautiful and terrifying but they are life.

So as I stare at 41 coming so soon, I want to celebrate it. Not to replace turning 40. But to declare that turning 40 ended up being a really good thing. That as much as some things have been impossible this year, as much as we are in the thick of a really hard fight right now, God is with me. I have an amazing squad of humans who have cheered me on and made me laugh and loved my kids and brought us meals this last week of crisis. I have a husband who, quite honestly, could have done much better than me but sticks by me. I have an evolving faith that is growing deeper in its understanding of grace and love and sacrifice. I have so much to be grateful for.

I don't know exactly when or how, but if you are local and you want a chance to laugh and dream and, quite likely, dance, you are invited. To a 41st birthday celebration. No gifts necessary, just your presence, your hope, your humanity in whatever messy form it might be in right now.

I don't know what it will look like, but I'm confident that Jesus is ready to party with us.

Friday, October 4, 2019

The Treasuring

I have a little less than one year left before my youngest one heads off to kindergarten.

Which means the number of Friday mornings we have left for just the two of us are numbered.

I think he knows this, even though four year-olds aren't great at the concept of time. It's clear, though, that he wants to get every possible second of joy out of these mornings together.

This morning we decided to just lay low with a lazy day. We made smoothies, we played basketball, soccer, football and legos. We snuggled and read books. It didn't hurt that the weather finally decided to act like fall and we could enjoy the outdoors without sweating the whole time.

I was able to treasure it.

Which is pretty huge for me.

As a one on the enneagram, my brain tends to be going a mile a minute. I can simultaneously be writing an email in my head, lamenting the injustice of the world, planning the meals for the next week and reminding myself what I need to do to pack to be ready for my 4 am shift tomorrow and still be playing with my child. But when my mind is racing like that, I'm not fully there. I know that about myself. I have a tendency to feel urgently that I need to be accomplishing something. Checking things off lists. DOING. Making something better.

So to be able to play with him all morning, to see the huge dimple grin on his face, to laugh alongside him when we both fell down trying to dribble around each other and to do it all without worrying about what I wasn't accomplishing...that is a rare gift.

Just last week a friend of mine messaged me after a particularly impossible day with her daughter. Apparently it was some kind of national daughters day (and no, I cannot keep up with all the "holidays" these days) and she finished the drama of the day by turning on facebook and seeing post after post of people making loving and generous proclamations over their female offspring. And it was like salt in a wound, because she just couldn't do it right then. We lamented together. This parenting thing is the hardest role we've ever played.

And just a few days later, when national sons day(really? is this new this year?) came along, I was in the thick of it with parenting a child who was having adverse reactions to a drug, being sent home early from school for behavior issues, another one who ate something requiring a long call with poison control and a number of other significantly challenging issues and well, I was done. There was no treasuring of parenthood. No smiling pictures of us to post. I felt, like my son so eloquently put recently when he couldn't be nice to his brother, that "I only had mean words in my mouth." I knew that to post anything that night would be disingenuous. Not that I don't love my kids. But some days, oh man, some days...this road with SPD, ADHD and ODD is LONG and HARD and TOO MUCH.

The thing is, the longer and harder and "too much" things feel, the more I disengage. I let my brain race. I just get through the day accomplishing what I can to keep us all churning. The homework, the dinners, the job, the doctors appointments and therapies, the scheduling and sports. But I don't enjoy the parenting. When the hard moments vastly outweigh the good ones, sometimes I am so distracted by the recovering that needs to take place, I miss the actual sweet moments.

So, today I am grateful. Things aren't necessarily easy yet. But it was this moment of grace, where I was able to leave my lists to the side and just engage him. He loves quality time, he loves when his mom or dad just stops what we are doing and make him the center of the moment. Those moments are hard to come by when you are the youngest of three.

So, we played. We played and laughed and chased and tickled and cuddled and read. And as he sleeps upstairs and we wait for his older brothers to come home, I feel thankful for the gift of it. And hopeful that we can have more Fridays where I make the choice to see him and to be the kind of carefree mom he needs me to be sometimes.


Thursday, September 5, 2019

Pressure

There's something I need to confess. Two things really.

First, this has been weighing heavily on me for awhile but it's time to publicly admit that I bought a running fanny pack and it's everything I thought it could be and more. I can only assume that at some point I will throw full caution to the wind and embrace it for all personal carrying needs. And that my 12 year-old will officially hide when he sees me in public.

Second, this kindergarten thing has got me feeling crazy, but not in the way I think many other mamas are feeling. I don't have any sappy or weepy needs to curl into a ball. I didn't stare out the window all morning or look at baby pictures or stalk the school playground to check in on him. 

I went on a long, exhausting, exhilarating run, the kind of run that clears your head and brings things into perfect clarity. 

About 10 minutes into it, I realized that I have been a perfect mess for the last week and I realized why: these past two years since my son started to have really significant trouble in school, since we had to pull him before he got expelled from preschool, the specialists, the therapists, the prayers, the tears, the rage, all this has led up to the moment of truth. 

Can he and will he be able to handle...scratch that, THRIVE, in Kindergarten? 

No parent wants his or her child to just get by. To be tolerated and then talked about behind closed doors of teacher meetings. No parent wants that child to be labeled or to have low expectations put on him. I have seen the people who expect the best from him and I have seen those who have diagnosed him on their own (without credentials to do so) and basically made us feel like failures as parents. I've met doctors who believe me and others who question my honesty. Those who want to medicate and those who want to heal- and yes, I've learned there is a HUGE difference. 

There is only so much that I can control about what happens to him. We had spent weeks leading up to this day: we had prepped him for goodbye, prepped him for getting on the bus, tried to get him to go to an event for rising kindergarteners to practice getting on the bus to no avail and he had finally, excitedly, woke up ready to do it. He was out waiting for it 20 minutes before it should have come wearing his adorable little kindergarten label and a huge smile.

It never came. 

When that bus didn't show up and my happy, excited, passionate child started to let disappointment and nerves creep in, I got angry. We had to change course. After ALL the prep and conversations, the bus wouldn't be taking him in after all. And for kids like my son, that one thing can literally be THE thing that undoes the day. That tanks the mood. That starts the tears or anxiety or defiance.  

My husband explained the change in situation to my sad boy and he willingly, miraculously got in the car. I watched them drive off to school with my heart in my throat. Not because "my little boy was heading off to kindergarten and wasn't he just a baby yesterday" but because of all the what-ifs. All the ways I still don't know if he is ready, if his teacher will be able to handle his challenges and get the best out of him. If he will rise to it the way I know he can. 

I watched the phone, waiting for it to ring. I paced. I snacked. I ran until I couldn't breathe. 

In truth, I put a ton of pressure on myself for his success today. 

Have I done everything I know to do? I think so. 
Is it probably everything that can be done? Nope.
Have I failed him along the way? Absolutely. 
Have I likely been unwittingly rude or snappy with a medical professional? You bet your patootie. 
Has the system been frustrating to navigate? Of course it has.
Do I have any control over how this day goes? Not at all.

And there's the rub. I have done my part. 

He made it to day one. We all did, with scars to show. 

And right now, as I know he is heading into his last hour and a half at school, I can't help but wonder how long this feeling will last. When will I be able to breathe? To rejoice in having at least made it to day one? Will there be a moment the scars start to fade a little? Or will there be a fresh battle to fight yet again? 

I can't answer these questions and I also can't spend all day asking them. Putting that much pressure on oneself is utterly exhausting, but I often don't know how to do life any differently. I really am trying, despite what it looks like. 

I am hoping he will walk off that bus this afternoon with his gorgeous grin and chatter away about all the good that happened today. 

And I'm hoping by the time he does, I'm ready to greet him with a smile of joy and hope and help him get ready for day two.