For full disclosure purposes, as I am posting today, I am sitting comfortably on my couch in a kid-less house (can I get a Hallelujah?!) However, I wrote this post last Wednesday and well, just haven’t posted it until today. They say the days are long and the years are short, but is it possible that the days both feel so short that you have done nothing except break up misbehaving toddlers all day, AND feel infinite AT THE SAME TIME? Well this tardy post can, in fact, be the scientific proof behind that theory. Regardless, read on….
Today, I’m spending a couple hours sitting on the banks of a creek in Mooresville. The day is perfection, sunshine, light breeze. The leaves are slowly beginning to fall, finding their way into the water, destined to flow wherever this creek leads. There are crickets and birds chirping, an occasional jet taking off from the nearby airport roars overhead. But, it’s stunningly peaceful.
I have spent hours at this park. I come here often when Elena is in therapy at the nearby Jackson Center. Surprisingly, it’s a ridiculously great park. There are several playgrounds for the kids, miles of trails, woods, meadows, this beautiful creek flowing through the middle of it. I run here. I sit here. I’ve brought the boys here. I organize a lot of my thoughts here.
Though today presents quite a contradiction for me. The external doesn’t match up with the internal. Isn’t that such a weird feeling? When you find yourself in the most remarkably peaceful place and in your head, your thoughts are roaring?
This ebb and flow is pretty typical for me. I go through times where I feel like I have a handle on life and other times I feel like life has a hold on me. Lately, the latter is true. I’m certainly not busier than the next person, but where I struggle is that sometimes I feel like my busy is so consuming mentally, physically and emotionally that it begins to break me down. Specifically, there is just so much to manage with Elena that I easily get overwhelmed. I’m not going to bore you with my to do list but I wear so many darn hats, simply with her, that it makes my head spin. I’m Mom. Advocate. Educator. Doctor. Therapist. Scheduler. Taxi driver. Feeder. Pharmacy. Bather. Dresser. Cleaner. Lifter. Kisser. Insurance Expert. Hair brusher. Stylist. Equipment Specialist. Communicator. And about a million other things. Caregiving is all consuming for me all day, every day. And sometimes that just wears me out.
When I get overwhelmed, my immediate reaction is to shut down. I play my Scarlett O’Hara card, that I’ll think about it tomorrow. Tomorrow turns into next week, then into next month and so on. The problem with this is, when it comes to Elena, I AM her voice. If I don’t do it, if I’m not on it, if I don’t make it happen, it doesn’t. I am tasked with being her voice in this crowded, unfair, busy world, and somedays, that is a real burden. After all this, then kicks in Mom guilt, exhaustion and fear.
Fear, the biggest liar of them all. But, to me, the realest of them all. My mind starts thinking ahead to forever. This is my job forever. I am her voice forever. I am her caregiver forever. This job carries on forever, no vacation days, no sick days. Forever. Is this sustainable forever? Can I do this forever? And then I’m terrified.
Now, let me Asterix that previous paragraph by saying, while those feelings are 100% real and (please note) make me really vulnerable for saying them, I simultaneously feel gratitude and privilege at those same tasks. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but anyone who has ever been a caregiver to someone they love, surely can understand my struggle between burden and privilege. Elena is my heart and it honors me to love on her daily and be her voice, but that road ain’t easy, ya’ll. And when I have only lived this journey a miniscule amount of time, the decades ahead , the growing into adulthood, the everything-I-have-no-idea-about can be incredibly daunting and often causes a paralyzing fear.
But, what I have learned in the last seven years is that yes, fear is a shitty little liar (apologies for the cursing, but I really needed it for emphasis). Even worse, is that I know that and still give it control over me. I’ve learned that the first tool to combat it is admittance. Once I recognize that I’m overwhelmed and scared, I can prepare myself for battle. Our life with Elena is a fluid process of learning, living, loving, grieving, frustrating ball of heartache. It’s not a something-that-happened with a nice little bookend to mark the beginning of the trauma and the end. The same feelings are cyclical. They go away for awhile and then pop up way down the road. I guess if I was really digging deep, I’d call it grief. I don’t think I’ll ever stop mourning what happened to our family and the life that I fully expected to have. Yeah, it goes away. I’m all cool and reflective. And then in some way or another it pops up again to make me remember that my expectations were shattered. You remember? My grief bubbles.
Fear is a real loser, though. When I stop and think what I have survived, the murk that I have waded through, I kick myself for even letting fear get the best of me. That overwhelming feeling I get when life gets too hectic? It’s fear. That feeling I get when I’m not sure what is going to happen next? Fear. That nervous feeling I get when I don’t feel like I’m doing enough, am organized enough or involved enough? Fear again. It’s all lies. Told you, fear is a liar.
Alright prepare yourself, I’m about to get all metaphor-y up in here. So today, among all this beauty and peace surrounding me by this creek, I’m declaring myself free. I’m going to ignore the occasional overhead roar of the jet engines and let all this beauty sink into my soul. I’m going to listen to what matters around me, the lovely sounds, the whispers of the wind, not the roars that are loud but merely temporary. I’m admitting that these fears I feel, these real and present fears, are invalid and conquered by promises that have already been made to me. I will remind myself that I have lived, been wrapped up in, surrounded by these promises And they are true. They are my armor. The roles that I must play are just roles, they are not who I am.
This is forever a learning process for me. Even though at times, it feels like I’m making the same mistakes and the same feelings bubble to the surface, they are always quelled once I’m reminded of the truth. My life is a constant push and pull, ebb and flow but also, abundantly full. It’s necessary for me to stop and take stock of the stillness, beauty, joy, peace, goodness and faithfulness when the roars of my head become too loud. I’m certain that I’ll have to remind myself of this about 20 more times just this week, but I’m glad to be a work in progress. I’m glad the struggle can remind me to where I’ve been, what is true and whatever lies ahead is nothing to fear.
Ok done with the metaphors. And done writing, as the rocks making up this beautiful creek bed I’m sitting on have officially become uncomfortable and I have a cramp in my leg. In short, fear=lies and His promises=truth. Good, we’ve got it.
2 Corinthians 12:9
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”