Being Sensitive With US
Awwww, 2 cute bears….and a sweet, sensitive, SHORT message….I am tempted to end it right there!
But, then I would not have the benefit of allowing the process from the week to sink in. Writing is the time it takes to filter all the richness and nutrients from my weekly focus, and plant them firmly into my emotional memory, filling the scarred and rigid pockets on the surface of my heart, with smooth, pliable, and strong softness….which is addicting!
It feels good to figure stuff out, get to the bottom of the trench and realize you are still you, just a little muddier, a little wiser…nothing a good, hot shower, and lots of loving care cannot fix!
So that leaves me where? Picking up where I left off, wondering how to clean everything. Specifially, How to be Sensitive To US, the us of family, the us of how I define myself by the people who are closest around me, the big….messy….US.
My family lives in a constant state of change. Our dynamics swell and shrink, whirl and crash, lay quiet and run wild, contingent on who decides to live within our walls, and who decides to live elsewhere.
WE are in a different world than the one I remember as a child. Living on the farm, my attempt to leave home when parents made me mad, did not give me everything I demanded, and gave structured rules to my adolescent floundering, resulted in the typical ‘run away’ scene that gave me a chance to act out the images seen on cartoons, of the hankie tied to a stick and slung over the shoulder.
Romantic as that seemed, storming down our rural driveway, that twisted and turned, up and down for a quarter mile, leading to a gravel road that, after an hour or longer of walking, would eventually lead to town; where was I actually going to go? With my yellow skateboard tucked under my arm, an oatmeal cookie stuffed into my pocket, I sat down after coming round the first bend of the lane, out of sight of the house, and waited to see who cared I was gone.
Dad eventually came driving down the drive. He saw me in my best crossed-legged pouting position, cookie already consumed, and my skateboard propping up my elbows, to help hold up my disgruntled face. He told me to ‘git’ home, and I did, probably to eat a few more cookies, but also because I was that kind of kid. I would kick dust and raise a fuss, but I ultimately did what I was told to do.
In blended families, many options exist to run away from your home and never look back. That happened 4 and a half years ago with my middle son. It feels like a lifetime has happened since then. It was so painful, so frightening, so frustratingly helpless, and the hardest aspect was remaining sane, while all hopes of his return were being ripped from my constant anticipation.
As he progressively got farther and farther from our reach and influence, I got more and more desperate to grab onto him and never let go. Calls in the middle of the night from police, calls from him cold and starving, calls from strangers trying to help this teenager oddly out of place in a vulnerable environment, drove me straight into the clutches of depression. I want to talk more about that, but not this week. This week is not about ME, it is about US.
Hubby and I had done all the research, were proactively engaged in therapy for help in navigating the potential challenges of our new US, gradually adding more levels of relationship between the kids and with each other. In total, we took 2 years to fully blend our lives, the first 6 months of that focussing on whether we really liked each other, before even introducing the children. That was likely what saved us from the gloomy statistic of second marriages not lasting more than a 2 year period, but once we did, our relationship would be predicted to succeed. Happily, we are into our 8th year together, our 6th year blended, and our 5th year of marriage. WHOOPPEE!
Feels good to be US! And then again…. not so much. In light of the US that once was in my first marriage…..this US rocks!
Yet…here we are…not really rocking. We are rolling, though….rolling through each day, holding on for another sunrise, another chance to create a day worth living, no matter how we feel and who is under the roof.
Now that 2 sons have fled, one has to think….is it US? What are WE doing wrong?
Too many rules or too many talks?
Too many activities or too much involved?
Too worried or too not worried?
WE have had more than 4 years to contemplate why first boy left, and slowly evolved our parenting into almost an opposite looking version. You would think that this transformation of philosophy and approach would severely diminish any similar incidents from occurring. It did not.
WE changed, and it did not work. Second boy still left. Second sting for US. US is broken, US cannot be good, US does not rock.
More days than I care to remember, have felt like we are hanging on by a thread, clinging to a faint glimmer of hope, or almost loosing a grip on reality. But as I looked around this week, I also saw laughter, love, patience, romance, encouragements, support, teamwork, problem-solving and general shenanigans. We also had one daughter return home. Then it dawned on me…..
I have been the one labelling messes as failures…..old ‘language’ my brainwashed mind used to help process the information necessary to survive domestic abuse. All must be pristine on the outside, or AJ failed and suffered the consequences.
I also remembered this week, one very significant moment early on in our blended family days, that started turning my twisted definition of messes. Hubby was sitting with the kids while I was giving a public performance. Drinks and dessert were being served, which was a perfect reason for my children to want to sit with a man they were just getting to know. My youngest girl, 7 at the time, ended up spilling her juice on the table, chair, and herself. All 3 kids turned pale-faced, looked horrified at this man mom left in charge of them, and held their breath to brace for the wrath about to be poured out upon them. My breath also left me, for an instant, as I watched this event unfold from the stage. Hubby very lovingly took her by the hand, sat her in his chair, while cleaning up the mess and immediately gave her another drink without so much as a blink. It really did not matter. WE spill, WE slip, WE wreck, and I must finish this forgotten lesson now.
Messes are NOT failures.
I can live with that. But if we are not failing in this mess, why does it hurt so much? I thought pain was a sign of something, and when it happens inside this family, it feels like a mistake. Something is very, very wrong, to be feeling pain on this scale. But the same things that broke through my awareness to be present in the mess….joy, support, shenanigans….are also present in the pain, we just need to be okay with all of it. Pain, pleasure. Hurt, humour. Sadness, smiles. It all belongs on the spectrum. If US is hurt, balance it with some humour. If US is sad, infuse more smiles. If US has pain, increase the pleasures…and that is what has kept US going….
Pain is not a MISTAKE.
US is here so WE are not alone in the pain and mess. WE may not be any better, stronger or wiser, living through our messes and pain, but we know without a doubt…what will not kill US.
And I love US for that.