So my year of being AK47 has come to a close. Which is fine, since I'm pretty much anti-assault rifle, as well as any other kind of gun. I'm square like that - don't judge.
What it's like to be AK47" post from a year ago, I noticed that although I wrote what I was thankful for, I designated the year as "one of the hardest of my life."
Guess what? This year makes last year look like a walk in the park.
BUT! But, dear readers, before you click away thinking this is going to be another one of those morose posts from yours truly, give me a chance. I'm trying to do the whole "silver lining" bit here. And I will say that though this year has been extremely challenging on almost every level of my being, I believe I have learned more and grown more than probably any other year I've been alive. And that doesn't include the few extra pounds from what is apparently premenopause, which is the least of my problems right now.
Maybe this is the wisdom/experience you acquire with age. Maybe it's "that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Maybe it's a little of both, with some open-mindedness thrown in for good measure. Maybe that's why I'll look back at the "Year of AK47" with mixed feelings - somewhere between "hate" and "great," wherever that is.
So here's what I've learned. And like with every self-help article you may read, take what you need and leave the rest behind. Works for me, anyway.
I've learned that family is first.
|Last year's birthday card from Mom.|
My mom's illness seemed almost like a cruel ploy to bring our family together, something that had always been of utmost importance to her. She often lamented and lost sleep over our petty sibling fights. She sent emails and kept calling even if the response was sometimes lukewarm at best. She knew in her heart that in a crisis, each and every one of us would be there for the other.
And we were. When Mom got sick, we came together as a family and began to realize what she had been trying to drill into our heads all our lives. Family is important. Family is for life. Family is what you have when you have nothing else. And for the last months, weeks, days and hours before her death, she had just that - family beside her every single day. And some of us remain close now, for the most part - almost clinging to each other because we get it now, and we know we owe it to Mom to stick together.
I've learned that parenting truly means LGLG.
I got so sick of hearing that phrase, "Let go and let God." What the hell is that supposed to mean? Let go of WHAT? I'm not letting go - I got this. I can FIX this myself, thank you.
No, I can't. Which is a realization of which I'm still coming to terms. But, on a cold day in February, I let go. I turned my son over to God. Not without second-guessing, mind you. Not without remorse, regret, and a lot of tears. But deep down - deep down in that place you try to squish when you want to believe something the way you want to believe it, I knew I did the right thing. I knew I did a very brave thing. And in "letting go and letting God," I not only did the one thing that I believe saved his life, but I think I may have saved mine as well.
I've learned and grown right along with my son, and have a completely new perspective on my life as I know it versus my life as I thought it would be. I understand even though I may not accept, and I accept even though I may not understand, if that makes any sense at all.
For the record, don't think I'm good at this every day. Sometimes God and me, we play tug of war. Well, at least I do. He basically just stands there and holds the rope - WITH HIS MIND. Because he's God.
He just sits there patiently waiting and I say, "Screw you, God. You're not moving fast enough. I don't have the patience for this. I've been waiting to see the results of me letting go and letting you and I'm just not seeing them. So let me just grab this away from you because I am SURE that I can turn this around faster than you can." Yet every time I do that, I'm blinded by worry and uncertainty and what-the-hell-do-I-do-nextness. So I meekly reach for the rope again and tell God to go ahead and pull me over the line.
Sidenote: I heard a great thought from someone just the other night about worry. He said, "Worry is almost admitting to God that you don't trust Him." Good point. Very good point.
I've learned how to communicate - better.
But through the village of individuals whom I've had the pleasure to meet over the past year, I want to say to you - I have learned from all of you. Across the country we've converged to help one another, teach one another and comfort one another. And I've learned so much.
Like how to validate someone's feelings instead of trying to change them or give them reasons why they shouldn't feel that way. So instead of saying, "Don't be silly. You're not hopeless." when someone says, "I feel so hopeless!" you say, "I hear you feel hopeless. That's an awful feeling. Tell me more about it." And then if they do, listen. Because by the time they've talked through it, they might have helped themselves with their own problem, or at least found a way to get to a solution that's best for them, and not just necessarily what you might tell them to do.
Sure, you can offer insight if you want, but if YOU'RE not feeling hopeless, you don't have the answer. And the answer is different for everyone. Sometimes, we all just need someone to listen. And validate. Especially kids. While you want to make everything all better for your child, your best bet is to listen and help them work it out themselves. By fixing everything, you do a huge disservice to your children in a world where people don't generally give a shit about what's going on beneath the surface of your bitchy resting face - and your kids need to learn that sooner rather than later. Especially if they have bitchy resting face.
I've (sort of) learned that it's not (completely) my fault.
I've learned that no matter how awesome of a parent you try to be, it's not necessarily your fault if things don't turn out the way you planned, or wanted, or dreamed of, or hoped for. (And yes, Mom in Heaven. I do realize I'm ending these sentences in prepositions. It's for effect, OK?) Oh, I'm still definitely working on figuring out that not everything that my child is or isn't is not my fault, and I still blame myself for a lot of crap. But I'm getting better at realizing that I did the best job I knew how to do with what I had, and at some point the ball is in my child's court.
In that same vein, I've learned that relationships end for a reason, whether they be my doing, his doing, or by mutual agreement. I've spent waaaaay too long beating myself up over what I should or could have done differently when in reality, I did what I thought was best at the time. And though hindsight is 20/20, I venture to guess that if I had to do it over again, I'd probably do the same thing.
That sucks, and I'm not saying I don't still spend countless hours rehashing what I could or should have done differently. But I think what I'm really thinking is this. "I wish I would have been the person that would have been OK with all that. I wish I could have been the person for whom that was enough. I wish I could have been that person who was SO good at communicating that everything was out on the table with no margin for error." But regretfully, I am not that person, so the cards fall where they may and I move on and try to do better next time.
I'm learning to just keep going.
I haven't mastered this yet, but I'm more cognizant of the theory, and it's making more sense. I just read a great post entitled, "Work Like You Don't Need Money and Love Like You've Never Been Hurt." In a nutshell, it basically reminds us to quit letting the past define our future. Life isn't fair, sometimes it sucks, get over it. Do what you do because it puts a smile on your face, not because you get a big fat paycheck at the end of the month even though you're miserable. Do what you do because you truly believe it's your best option, then don't look back at all the other choices you could have made. Nobody's looking to be in love with life every single day, but if you can look at yourself in the mirror and be OK with the person looking back at you, you're more than halfway there.
This passage from the article sums it up best:
"It’s not because you’re paying for your earlier sins; you’re just living and things are just happening. You can try to control as much of your life as possible, but you will always be left with countless variables of uncertainty. So what does this all mean? I’m still trying to figure that out. The way I see it right now, it doesn’t change a damn thing. You’re still going to want what you want. You’re still going to dream the dreams you dream. You have only one choice: keep going."
So I can sit around lamenting that it seems like it's been one thing after another this past year. A long relationship reluctantly put to rest, like a dog that you didn't want to have put down but knew it was suffering too much. You know it was for the best, but you still miss it.
An unspeakably unfair end of a journey with the woman who brought me into this world. A journey she nor my dad deserved, but made me realize all too late that beside every Superman is a Superwoman. And grief that doesn't follow a timetable because six months later you will burst into tears when you hear them sing "Sweet Caroline" at Fenway Park, because that was her favorite Neil Diamond song.
A parenting nightmare that turns you into "that parent you never wanted to be." Crying tears of such such extreme sorrow and frustration and loss, then tears of utter joy when you see your son standing at the top of that hill in the middle of the woods, dirty from head to toe but with a white smile that's bigger than you've seen in years and striking, clear blue eyes. And all you can do is run to him as fast as you can, grab his face and repeat over and over, "You are so beautiful. You are so beautiful." Yet also knowing that your journey - and his - has just begun.
Life is messy, and you just have to keep going. Try to find a little good in every day, and try to find someone who does the same, and makes you feel like you want to keep going even when you don't want to for yourself. Try to live your life somewhere between hate and great, even though you'll have those two extremes every now and again. They're OK. You'll learn from both of them. But the real meat of life is what's in between hate and great. For me, maybe that will be 48.