Grateful tidings at Thanksgiving
So, the post I had in mind to write for this Thanksgiving was going to be really great. I was going to tell you about my daughter's first trip to residential treatment and what a nightmare it was, how the treatment team let us down, and how they basically kicked us to the curb like a pile of garbage. I was excited to tell this story because I was going to put a positive spin on it. I was going to tell you how that unfortunate event taught me an important lesson, which is true. It did teach me an important lesson. But here's the other truth--it fucking sucked. I trusted the person who recommended this facility, but came to learn that the employees there did not place a high premium on safety or security. The reality is that I will have to live for the rest of my life with the knowledge that I put my daughter, at her absolute most vulnerable time in life, in harm's way. I will have a hard time forgiving myself for that, even though there was no way I could have known what would happen in the care of people who were supposed to be helping her.
I will tell that full story someday, and probably soon. It really is important because it's a lesson I'm eternally grateful to have learned. And if it didn't involve additional pain for my daughter, I would be beating my chest and crowing to the stars. I learned that one person can make a big difference. One person can, in what is otherwise considered the black hole of the medical "system," make a huge difference. That one person was me. Sometimes, when we're completely powerless to help the one we love, knowing that we have someplace to turn if something goes wrong can be the only silver lining in an otherwise devastating situation.
So, if this is all true, what's the problem? Why not go ahead and write that post?
Because here's what's also true: I'm having a damn hard time of it right now. I've been deliriously out of sorts for weeks now. It's not pretty, and I don't want to lie about it or cover it up or ignore it. If I want this site to be a safe place to talk about times when they're tough, I've got to put my money where my mouth is.
I've been crying a lot. I sit in front of the television and cry at images of abused children. I cry at images of abused animals. I cry at images of terrorism, and I even cry over the episode of "SVU" when Elliot's pregnant wife and Liv get in a car accident and the wife, stuck in the demolished car, goes into labor. I've seen that friggin' episode about 50 times. It's a TV show. It's fake. She's not really pregnant, she doesn't really almost die, and that's not a real baby. Maybe those are real firefighters and maybe they used a real car to cut the actors out of, but that's all that's real about that. I even cry at football. And NOT because I don't like football. I LOVE football. Football rocks my world. Way to go Broncos! And don't, just don't, get me started on witnessing Lindsay Wagner's cameo on "NCIS" last night. That might turn into its own blog post.
Recently, I've been falling down the hole of shoulds. I should be working harder. I should be making more progress. I should be feeling more gratitude (after all, I have a mountain's worth of stuff to feel grateful over, and that's no joke.) I should be getting more exercise or any for that matter, and I should be cutting myself more slack. I should be more content.
For a little while, my better thinking self "won." I put those shoulds aside. I stopped feeling guilty about watching TV--it's what I do. It's what I've always done alongside of being diligent and taking care of everyone and everything in my sphere. I tried to pay more attention to creativity. I remembered my healing work, and spoke to myself like I speak to my loved ones. I connected with a couple of friends and tried to take some naps. I scheduled doctors' appointments and actually went.
Those activities are all important. They're healthy. They're what I've strived to embrace over the last several years since Olivia's diagnosis and our journey to recovery.
Here's the other truth: I'm miserable right now, and I have no idea why. I am astounded and humbled in the face of the cyber bookclub and the depths the participants have decided to share here in these first couple of weeks. I had hoped, had hoped that we would be willing to drop our shields and to connect on this level, but I wasn't sure. It's so hard to go there in this type of forum, but we have. Thank you all so much. My daughter is doing great. Unbelievable, in fact. She faced opposition and adversity over the last several weeks that would bring an NFL linebacker to his knees, and she faced it with grace and dignity and wherewithal that I can only imagine having. She is--bar none--the most inspirational person I know. We have a roof over our head and food to eat and my husband has been killing himself at work these last couple of weeks to make sure we can continue to have these things. I am one lucky lady. And yet. . .my new go-to behaviors aren't solving the problem of why I'm crying which might be as simple as my sadness, at this time of year, over my parents' deaths and Olivia growing up: No more snow angels at Grandma's, no more milk and cookies for Santa, and no more little girl dreams.
I've resorted to calling upon a few tried and trues. I'm drinking a little too much. I'm eating a little too much. I'm isolating a little too much. These behaviors, I know, don't solve a thing. What they do is numb my mind. Sometimes a numb mind is a very nice thing, indeed. I know enough to know I numb the good along with the bad, but sometimes that's a small price to pay.
This is, I'm coming to believe, a part of the process of living a wholehearted life, of practicing mindfulness, of becoming the person I was meant to be. It doesn't happen overnight, and old habits die hard. I think that's exactly the way it's intended to be. If we want more compassion in our lives, we have to start with showering it upon ourselves. First, we have to know what it feels like not to have any, and, boy, do I know how it feels not to have any for myself. I want more compassion in my life and in this world. A little compassion goes a long, long way--I've seen the reality of this during our journey to recovery time and again. When all else fails, I remind myself the road to change is paved with compassionate thoughts. It is also paved with acceptance, and I accept that this is the place I'm in right now. Therefore, I remind myself that I'm enough. I'm doing the best I can. I'm learning, sharing, and growing. And I'm right about all of these things. Tomorrow (or a few days from now or maybe next week) this difficult time will have passed and I will have been kind to myself. I will get back on track.
I'm not sharing this for you to feel sorry for me. Quite the contrary. I'm sharing because I know I'll be just fine. I'm doing what I need to do even if I don't fully understand it right now. It took me a long time to figure out feeling bad is as important to feeling better as feeling good is. (And yes, I figured that out the hard way and before Inside Out was released. Wish I'd seen that as a kid!)
So, for this Thanksgiving, I wish you all a peaceful day. If the holidays are a tough time for you, please know that you are not alone. I wish you compassion, and I wish it to myself, too. I wish you joy-filled family time. This holiday season will remind me that the difficulties--like wrestling with feelings of insufficiency--are as much a part of the journey to authenticity as the good stuff. One does not exist without the other, and for that knowledge, I am thankful.