You Are Not Alone

“Life is slippery. Here, take my hand.”  

-H. Jackson Brown Jr.

*I feel like I’ve written this before. Have I? I have, haven’t I. Welp, even if I have, it feels timely to hit this up again.*

Hitting rock bottom hurts. Have you ever been there? How many times? Am I the only one who seems to carry a frequent flier card to this destination?

I wish we could pull our feet up under us and sit staring at each other across a couch and have this conversation. Face to face. There are so many of us. There have to be.

I refuse to believe that I’m the only one who sits in a pit so often.

Time can drag on, too, until I remember the only way out is up. Then again, I can wallow at the bottom like I was born to.

Tell me I’m not alone. Because I can confidently state that you are not. Alone.

And when the pit is deep, it can feel bleak. And when it feels dark and disheartening, I can get numb.

I don’t know about you, but once numbness creeps in on me, even music hits different. If I can even hear the music at all. The worst is when the music stops altogether. Sadness slides in. Depression deepens. And sometimes, the music just stops making its way to my ears.

Or worse, to my heart.

If I sit with the pain and the hopelessness of it all and allow myself to just feel all those feelings, one of two things happen. Positively, I will eventually, once again, realize rock bottom is not where I’m meant to stay. Negatively, I burrow down into the angst and allow it to snuff out joy.

When you feel like you are hovering with one step hanging right over the edge of that rock-bottom pit, what do you do? Especially this hot minute as routines have gone haywire and security seems out of reach.

I’m no therapist.

But, I have been fortunate enough to interact with a few amazing ones over the last two decades. Here’s a little something to work with when you feel like you haven’t got squat to work with. It’s a little of what has helped me in the past and is helping me right now:

  • Find something, anything,to be grateful for. Anything. Say out loud to anyone, or no one, what that thing is and how grateful you are for it. (The other day, for me, it was the ability cry. Seriously. I just needed to know I could still feel. And the crying felt cathartic. And I was grateful.)
  •  Look, really look, for something to laugh at or about. Anywhere. Then do it. Laugh. Whether it’s for 5 seconds or five minutes. (I was able to search through my phone for memes that made me laugh. Once I got started, I was able to feel like climbing a step or two up from the bottom of my latest.)
  • Tell yourself that you are not alone in this. Anytime. Say it. “I am not alone in this.” (I had to repeat this to myself a couple dozen times in the shower this past week.)
  • Call, or text, someone. Anyone. It doesn’t have to be someone you are related to or even close to. Just connect with a human to let them know you aren’t doing okay. And if you have no one to call, please call a hotline. Here’s one: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
    Here is another one: SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Helpline, 1-9-800-662-4357.

Most importantly, know that there are so many of us struggling. Isolation is the worst thing for a pit dweller. We struggle to keep hope near.

Please! Please remember…

You are not alone.

You are valuable. To me. To others you may not even know. To The One Who Created You.

You are worthy. Of love. And time. And attention.

You are able. To keep struggling. To climb up. To find joy.

You have help. From professionals and volunteers. From family, or friends, or even acquaintances.

You are not alone.

 

 

Preferable

It’s time to write again.

Because, quite frankly, there’s nothing else to do.

The two extroverts in the house are dying a slow death. The two introverts are thriving. It seems as though there should be a perfect balance to the family dynamic with that two plus two combination. There isn’t.

I’ve cleaned every surface that can possibly be cleaned. I’ve cleaned out almost every closet and shelf that exists in this house. Discipline has been enforced and promised for the minor squabbles that keep breaking out amidst all the Stir Crazy that is setting in within these four walls.

Each human is organizing their schedule for the pending remote learning reality we are all facing. Workspaces have been designated. Playlists have been curated. Movie cues have been arranged – by genre. Books are sorted and stacked in the most desired reading order. The pantry has been raided, sufficiently, thank-you-very-much. Exercise DVD’s are standing at the ready from all said raiding.

A 2,000 piece puzzle is currently spread out over the expanse of the dining room table. Every family member takes a stab at it at some point in the course of the day. Sometimes, we even sit and tackle it together.

Riveting information, I know.

Spotify has introduced me to more new music genres than I ever cared to know exist. Did you know that in addition to House music, there is also Tech house, Deep house, Tropical house and heaven-knows-whatever-other kinds of house music?

Netflix, Hulu, and PrimeVideo keep alerting me to shows/movies I might like. I’ve decided they don’t know me quite as well at they think they do.

My Amazon cart reminds me that I still have 48 books that I’ve saved for later, should I blast through the current 35 I have waiting for me on my nightstand. “Three down and 80 left to go,” I’ve taken to telling myself.

My meme game is strong. I’ve been flexing those social media cruising muscles and finding plenty to lift.

This self-imposed period of isolation has introduced more choice into my life than I ever wanted.

Too much, really.

Choice is exhausting.

A blinking cursor seems less overwhelming than deciding which pantry snack I’m going to have to ration today.

These aren’t even real problems, people.

Having no toilet paper, or food for your hungry kids, or job because your place of employment has been closed for the immediate future – those are real problems.

So, maybe I’m more overwhelmed because I’m faced with the realization that what I’m going through mentally doesn’t quite rank up there with Things to Be Worried Over, after all.

Blowing off a little steam on the page, or screen, seems a preferable outlet for my anxiety over this pandemic than another household chore, snack, movie, or book choice (Although, really, are there ever enough books to be read? Correct answer – no.)?

For now, anyway, the blinking cursor is definitely preferable.

Yes indeedy.

 

 

 

The Other Side

Dear Sweetboy,

It’s hard to be a teenager. We get it. We used to be adolescents too. Shocking! We know.

Having a younger sibling can make navigating this teenage journey particularly challenging. Especially when they do annoying things that cause you to seek refuge in your room for some much needed alone time. And, it gets you nowhere when your sibling is literally holding up her iPod and blasting Adele’s “Hello”, from the other side of your door.

And singing along with All The Feeling.

And every decibel available to her voice box.

Here’s the thing – you’re good at turning her annoyance into a game. We see you making her laugh so she no longer wants to pester you. You don’t realize it, but we notice you beginning to take challenging situations and turn them positive. (See? Singing “You Gotta Think Positive” worked!) You will need this skill every single day, the older you get.

You’re already making choices as a teen that give us reason to believe you will be one amazing adult. And that makes dad and I hopeful for your future.

We know the world is telling you that you need to charge down the hill now that you’re on the other side of childhood.

But, hey… don’t do that.

Give yourself time to grow up. Slow your roll every chance you get. One thing leads to another more often than you can even imagine. We don’t want you to get going so fast that it takes a crash to slow you down.

Rolling along will expose you to Evil. So, when you bump into Evil, because you will, remember to cling fiercely to any joy you can. That’s the antidote to Evil.

Fight for your joy, Sweetboy.

And be cautiously optimistic.

We desperately want to keep you from becoming jaded about the joy to be found in life because there is so much joy to be found, son. Despite everything going on in the world that we could stay angry and disheartened about, and despite the bad things that happen to us and around us, joy is still out there waiting to be found.

If.

If you’ll just do you and be kind.

Stay in your own lane, but be willing to reach across the lines and help anyone who has fallen down in the lane next to you. Do this as often as possible. It helps build bridges.

And relationships.

And joy.

Be kind even when it doesn’t make sense to the watching world. Eventually, this too will build bridges and relationships. And joy.

And when life seems out of control, or people seem out of their minds, or both? Shout out to God.  He is always there, ready to help. His ultimate goal for you, son, is to make you more like Him and help you find and spread joy while you are here on this earth.

Find the joy and chase it, Sweetboy.

It’s there.

On the other side of childhood.

Yes indeedy.

Love,

Mom & Dad

 

Eating in Fear No More

We recently moved.

And, by recently, I mean last summer.

What I really mean is, we bought some new furniture pieces and rugs to go with the new house style.

What I more honestly mean is that my children eat like wild hogs after a 10 day fast.

These days, I eat most meals in fear. Mostly, that macaroni and cheese will end up strewn across my newish rug. It’s not my fault that a cream based color scheme worked best. Nor is it my fault that even Annie’s Mac-n-cheese still uses a yellow bordering-on-neon-orange in their cheese sauce.

And if it’s a dinner with any sort of red sauce involved?

(((shudders)))

Dinnertime now consists of a steady stream of reminders to use a napkin, wipe something up, or not hold your pizza cheese-side-down. Not to mention the constant refrain of “Lean in. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL CLEANLINESS, lean in!”

These offspring of mine are probably the messiest eaters I know. And I know lots of messy eaters. I’m eyeing you, Ahab.

Please tell me that I am not the only one for whom dinnertime is a major source of frustration? Clean up often consists of locating apple sauce from far corners of the house, deciphering the cause of the red Florida-shaped stain, or determining the original source of the stick.

Once I found a splattered patch of applesauce on a piece of furniture that wasn’t even in the same room as where we eat most of our meals, though, that was it! At that point, I knew it was time to enforce some rules. Applesauce on the TV? Unacceptable!

There’s nothing like new furniture to force my parenting hand.

In an effort to get through these dinner times with as little whining (or wine) as possible, I instituted a new dining policy. This sounds fancy. And fun. Like something you’d see posted above the entrance to a restaurant at Disney World. Right? (It was a hard sell for the sweetkids, too.)

No matter, I was forging ahead with my dining dictums, anyway. Yes indeedy.

Once we covered the new “no eating on the couches until you’re 21” rule (and, who are we kidding? By then, hopefully, they will have moved out. And they can ruin their own dang couches!) we moved on to the Big Three. Unlike This Is Us, these did not refer to sibling characters that I long to see develop and grow. They do, however, refer to the top three eating offenses.

 

  1. If you spill it, you clean it. I’m the only one allowed to cry about it.
  2. When you finish it, you clear it. Bonus points for clearing everyone else’s, too.
  3. If you break it, you buy it. Making a mental note to check piggy banks to make sure they can actually afford to “buy” anything.

As you can imagine, there were many cries of, “But, they are just accidents” and, “What if it’s just a mistake spill”?

No matter. Hope wells inside of me that someday soon, I will eat in fear no more.

With my children.

Without spinach being found anywhere other than between my teeth.

Or, you know…they’ll move out.

Whichever.

 

Why I Don’t Write About Autism Anymore

I almost titled this, “We’ve Still Got It!”  Sorry, a little autism humor.

I haven’t written much about Autism, in this space, lately. There’s a reason for that.

There was a time when Sweetboy was newly diagnosed and I needed to write of the devastation I felt at receiving the news that our child would face challenges more than your average bear. I needed every letter of the alphabet to deal with All The Feelings as they poured over me like a deluge.

So, I wrote through them.

Then came those times when I wanted to celebrate his victories and make note of every challenge he was able to overcome and highlight the achievements.

So, I wrote about them.

But, that Sweetboy is now fast approaching his fourteenth year. And you know what? He doesn’t want me to write about him here anymore.

Part of being a good story teller is knowing where your part of the story ends and another person’s begins. He would like to take over ownership of his story. And, to me, that is a grand new adventure!

I can’t wait to watch it unfold! I’m finding the beauty in watching my son, my Sweetboy, own who he is and choose to move forward from here on out.


Does that mean that Autism has no place here, anymore?

As if that could ever happen!

It does mean that I choose to honor and respect the wishes of this man-child. If he wants to share a story, you can be sure I’ll be making space for him to.

It’s all a grace, this parenting thing. And to parent a child with Autism is truly layer upon layer of grace. Daily. Hourly. Minute by agonizing minute.

But the joy of seeing your child continue to progress… there is nothing greater!

To those of you in the thick of the diagnosis, or the thrill of the achievement, warrior on! We are rooting for you and praying for you and loving on you from afar.

And always will be.

Yes indeedy!

I’ll Tell You What’s So Amazing

What’s So Amazing About Graceyou ask? Sweet Moses! Got a year?

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There are some questions we humans don’t even realize we have percolating in our hearts. That is, until we are confronted with the monotony of day-to-day living and we begin to wonder what else there is out there.

Right?

Have you hit that wall yet?

Because, I remember that wall.

It hurt.

At the time I slammed into it, I wasn’t interested in answering The Big Questions. I was, however, interested in scaling those walls. For some reason, I never chose the easy way. Skinned knees and a bruised heart were what met my attempts to climb it.

And author Philip Yancey is genius at distilling answers to life’s biggest questions down to the studs. What’s important?

Love. Love is always the most important.

And once Love found me, I became consumed by the Grace that came with it; both taken in and given out. Considering myself a sinner, and chief among them, I couldn’t get enough of God’s undeserved but freely given grace.

Yancey was the author who famously penned,

“God loves people because of who God is, not because of who we are.”

Indeed!

If you haven’t heard that yet, I’ll give you a minute. Because, truth.

Nothing, and I mean not a thing this side of heaven, will be able to keep you from God’s love and grace, once you want it. It’s like discovering a devil dog dispensary. Once you know it’s there, you can’t help but go back again and again.

And, in this very year, where election politics and race politics and gender politics are tearing at peace like a dog after a bone, I find so much of what Yancey wrote in this book to be a comfort. And a reminder.

“Politics draws lines between people; in contrast, Jesus’ love cuts across those lines and dispenses grace.”

I want to keep cutting across lines, like Jesus did. And I want others to keep cutting across lines toward me, too. Despite writing this book fourteen years ago, the problems Yancey calls attention to – the human problems we all experience – remain the same.

“Religious faith—for all its problems, despite its maddening tendency to replicate ungrace—lives on because we sense the numinous beauty of a gift undeserved that comes at unexpected moments from Outside.”

Lots of us feel “outside” an issue, these days. Grace reaches the hand across and says, “Love,” instead. I’ll tell you what’s so amazing about grace, it’s the outstretched hand.

I like that very much.

I need that even more.

And I always will.

Yes indeedy.

Well well well, this is the last book. I missed yesterday as our sweetgirl came down with a nasty case of Strep. But, I appreciate the grace to finish. If you missed any of the other books I named in this Best Books Ever series that I wrote for the Write 31 Days Challenge, click the button below and check them out. And thank you for hanging out with me (almost) each day in October. 

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Please, Just Don’t

Forget about truth being stranger than fiction, truth is way funnier. It almost always is. And Jean Kerr wrote brilliantly about her truth as a mom. Originally a playwright, Kerr also wrote magazine essays. She parlayed those into books. And she sure had a keen talent for highlighting the laughter in the mundane. I like her style.

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Please Don’t Eat the Daisies was, for me, a perfect example of how our lives are the perfect material for any piece of art we have the desire to create. Whether it’s the feelings that accompany the varied life circumstances that are universal, or the cast of characters who are almost always by our sides (again, universally), a mom-writer will never be short of ideas if they look down about 20 inches to the nearest child.

The thing about humor writers like Betty Macdonald, Shirley Jackson, Erma Bombeck, and Jean Kerr is that they inspire me. For any woman desperately seeking time to mother, wife, and foster a writing career, these women modeled a way. They just took family-life experiences and mined them for gold.

Life is messy and parenting is tornado-level messy, but with quotes like these, I feel mollified when I must loudly proclaim things like, “Don’t lick the mirror!” Because, ew! And please, just don’t.

“The real menace in dealing with a five-year-old is that in no time at all you begin to sound like a five-year-old.”

Truth? Yes indeedy.

Enjoying the books I’ve chosen in my Write 31 Days Challenge series of the Best Books Ever? Missed a few days? Click the button below!

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