Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Birthday...Sort Of

Today is a special day.  It is Angela's 14th birthday, but really only her 2nd celebrated.  Last year our nephew's death and our big trip back east for school kept us from really doing much for it.  I wonder now if it had been more normal circumstances if we would have seen the same reaction we are seeing right now.

Angela is profoundly affected this year, and her birthday is bringing up all sorts of difficult emotions, causing my heart to crack in places I thought was already kind of shattered...but I guess there are still some intact pieces that are up for grabs.

Last night there was a trigger that finally brought all of it out.  We were at our close friends' house, and Angela accidentally broke a couple of glasses.  Somehow they got knocked off the counter as she was reaching for something or walked by.  Huge chunks of glass created a mini-minefield right next to her sock covered feet.  All three of us adults immediately yelled to her "Stop!  Don't move!" as we were all worried she would react and cut herself badly.  She froze, and eventually we got everything cleaned up around her so she was free to move.  I could tell from her reaction that she was really embarrassed and uncomfortable, and I think we all startled her with our instant shouts trying to protect her.  She went off to sit in a chair in the living room, and I went in and hugged her, asking if she was all right and reassuring her nothing was wrong, that the glasses weren't at all a big deal but we had all yelled only to keep her safe.  She nodded and was quiet, but said she understood, so I left her alone a little thinking making a bigger deal out of it would further embarrass her.

A little later our friend, Jill, went inside to see how she was doing, knowing that since it was her house and her glasses Angela might need to hear from her that all was fine.  She returned to tell me all was not well, and I immediately went in to see what was up.

Wow, I was not prepared for what I found.  Angela was sobbing, and very, very upset...and it had nothing to do with the broken glasses.  How thankful I am that she feels comfortable enough not to hide from me what is going on inside her.  Her birthday is triggering a lot of things for her, leap frogging in all directions.  She opened the conversation with sharing that she has been very "angry in my heart" lately, and that everything everyone does is making her feel mad inside.  She often puts things that way, that she is happy in her heart or sad in her heart.  She said she knows it is not right and no one has done anything wrong to make her that angry, but everything is just upsetting her a lot right now.  She felt terribly guilty for her feelings about her siblings, because as she said "I love them all so much, all of them are, so good and I don't like feeling this way but I can't help it."  When pressed she revealed that she has been having very upsetting nightmares lately, involving  "some bad men" trying to kill Olesya in various ways.

No, we don't watch particularly violent stuff around here, unless you consider her latest obsession with old "Saved by the Bell" re-runs to be disturbing.  Well, that could be disturbing on a whole different level :-), but certainly nothing to bring this about.  The fact is, children who come from violent pasts carry it with them.  Period.  Sometimes it can't be escaped no matter how wonderful their current life is, and in fact, often finally feeling safe and secure allows those things to finally come out.  I sat there with her in my arms as she cried, and I softly questioned her about her dreams...did she recognize anyone in them, was her first mom in them at all, was her first dad in them, did anyone come after her in her dreams or just Olesya.  When she calmed down a little, we talked about her life long ago, about all that she saw and how helpless she had to feel.  I told her how helpless I feel right now, wishing I could have stepped into her life long before any of this happened so she and Olesya would have been safe.

That brought a new round of tears.

I asked her if her birthday was bothering her, just on a hunch, and her reaction told me I had hit another hot button.  She hung her head and her body heaved with great sobs.  We quietly sat there for awhile, just leaning into one another.  I told her that I was always reminded on their birthdays of all we had missed together, and so I felt a loss too.  She said in a whisper "Me too...I just don't want to grow up and leave you.  Why couldn't we have been together a long time ago?"


How do I answer that?  That God had a "plan" for two little girls to be lonely far longer than they needed to be?  That there was a "reason" for the way everything worked out?  That she and Olesya had learned things along the way that were going to be important later in their life?

Or was it simply because it was what it was, and there is no real answer.

Platitudes don't work well for me, never have.  Having an insightful, emotionally high IQ daughter like Angela means they don't work well for her either.  I lifted her chin, looked her in the eye and said "Sometimes life just stinks, and it hurts.  Sometimes bad things happen, not because God makes them happen, not so we can learn from them, and not because there is some plan that is laid out for bad and good for every person.  Sometimes, really bad things happen because our life here on earth is hard.  We all have wonderful things happen to us, and we all have terrible things happen to us.  We can't avoid it if we are human, it's part of being alive.  But you know what?  The good thing that is always true, no matter what, is that God is there with us through it all...not to stop it, not to make it all go away, but to help us feel less alone, to visit us and comfort us through other people, and to give us courage to make it through."

She stared at me intently, eyes filling with tears as she said "You always help me, God used you a lot when I was really alone."  I told her "I have a secret, God uses you in my life too, to help me feel less alone.  You know how someone will say something, and we look at each other and I know you totally get what is underneath it?  We don't have to say a word, we just know, because you and I are alike that way.  It makes me feel less alone to have someone special in my life who helps me feel more normal when things like that happen."  She finally gave me a quick smile and said "Why are we like that?" and I thought for a moment and replied "Because of the hard things we have been through in this world, because both of us have gone through very hard things...and someday you will see how you are stronger for it and God can use that to help others, just like God uses what we've all been through as a family together to help others when they read about all of us."

She gave that some thought and said "Do you think someday someone will be helped by me?".  I told her "I think lots of people already have!  For sure!  You are so tender, and the letters you write others are from your heart and really help others feel cared for.  You are able to put into words things that help others feel loved, and that is a real gift because you are so open with your heart.  Your courage to say things that are about deep feelings is what other people have a hard time doing, who are afraid to say certain words like 'love', or 'from my heart' or 'wonderful and amazing'.  You tell people how you really, truly feel and that always helps."

I then told her that I thought the time had come for us to look into getting some help for her, to help her work through all that had happened.  She was adamantly opposed to the idea, saying "Mom, all I need is you, you help me already." I told her that I was glad she felt that way but that the kind of help she needed was not something I had experience with, and I shared about how hard it was for me to get emotional help when I was going through the very difficult couple of years when Josh first came home.  I said to her "I was embarrassed and a little ashamed that I couldn't handle it, but I wanted to help Josh and I didn't want to take my anger out on him.  You are saying you feel anger at people you love, even if you are acting kindly toward them.  What you feel on the inside is important too, not just how you act on the outside.  Eventually, Angela, it will get harder to hold in that anger you feel and you will find yourself treating people badly even though your feelings really have nothing to do with them.  That's how people end up having a hard time keeping relationships together, because they bury their feelings and it comes out one way or the other.  I know, I have been there."  I then went on to say "And you know that special gift you have for just knowing how to understand people?  That will eventually be blocked or damaged by not dealing with this stuff you are carrying around in your heart.  It'll become harder and harder to see things clearly, because your own feelings will rise up and change how you view things."

It was growing late, and we had been holed up for quite awhile by then, so I told her I was going to give her a chance to pull herself together while I went back downstairs, and she could come down when she felt OK to do so.  We hugged each other tightly, and I whispered through her hair "I love you more than you'll ever know, and I have loved you and Olesya since the day I first saw your picture.  I don't know why, but I always knew you were mine."  She was quiet for a minute then whispered back in reply "I know, I felt the same way too but was afraid to hope for it because I knew it could never come true."  We rocked back and forth, gently swaying as I then said "Guess what, sweetie...sometimes dreams do come true, but they aren't always easy because real life still follows us.  That's OK though, because we will always have each other and can make it through anything.  And Daddy and I are never going to walk away from you or Olesya, ever."  Angela said "I know, and that feels good."

I pulled away from her and turned to make my way downstairs, feeling very much as if I had just been steam rollered.  Thank goodness it happened where it did and not at some stranger's home, for where we were I knew we were safe and supported, never judged.

Someday, I know this will all be easier.  I also realize that at the 2 year mark we are at a place where it is finally safe enough for a lot of this to come out now in ways it has yet to do, and that it is absolutely healthy and vital that it does.  However, it is harder than I can explain to wade in and out with your children through oceans of pain, trying to remain upright so you can help keep them upright beside you as the waves come crashing right over the top of you.  You hold your breath and hope you've gathered enough air in your lungs to make it until your head breaks the surface again, then you brace yourself for the next one coming right behind it.

Many would find it too hard, and I won't lie about it, it is hard.  I sometimes look at other families and for a brief moment wish our life was simpler, where the toughest thing we might face during any given week was a bad grade in math class, or being cut from the football team. It seems that is not the life that was meant for us, nor our children, so we all hold hands as we wrap ourselves in the heart of our family and do our best just to make it until the next wave appears.

As hard as it is, and as much as I sometimes wish it were easier, there is no one I'd trade places with.   After all, the greater the risk, the greater the reward.  Daily I worry, daily I doubt, daily I see how fortunate we are.  Interestingly, daily God visits us in ways I think others might miss out on, and THAT I wouldn't miss for the world.

For example, after having such a really difficult day with Kenny yesterday, on top of Angela as well as Josh having an episode of panic in the morning, Kenny gathers me up in a big ol' bear hug before he went to bed last night.  He said "Mom, can I tell you something?".  "Sure", I said.  He says, "You know, I was thinking this evening how hard it is to be my mom, because you have to watch me all the time, you are always having to help me do things the other kids can do easily, you always have to correct my speech, and I am always doing something that makes no sense.  If I had to be my own mom, I know I would be yelling at me all day long, and probably even beating me up because I would drive me crazy!  I realized tonight that I am really, really lucky to have you, and that you have waaaayyy more patience with me than I would have with me."

That was a Blue Ribbon moment, a God moment, and just what I need to hear to end my very hard day.

The other evening at choir practice I was handed a quote typed out on a small piece of paper, and was told that it reminded this person of me...that I need only change one word, the word "artist" to "Mom", and it would fit.  I loved it so much, and it too was the boost I needed to keep me going, let me share it here:

"The greater the Mom, the greater the doubt.  Self confidence is reserved for the less talented as a consolation prize."  Author Unknown

Well, if this is true (and how I hope it is!), then maybe I am somehow becoming Super Mom because almost hourly right now my Doubt-O-Meter is reaching ever higher numbers.  All I can do is the best I can do, and let God provide all that I can't...which is a lot.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"All I can do is the best I can do, and let God provide all that I can't...which is a lot."

Stuff that Doubt-O-Meter in the trash and reread that last line you wrote.

All any of us can do is the best we can. Through you and Dominick and others God has provided love, security, joy, delight, laughter, friendship, loyalty, opportunity, intellectual stimulus, lessons in life and learning, compassion, a deep grounding in faith, an open atmosphere for questioning, health care, nutrition,...and on and on.

Oh, yes, you have great challenges, and some may never be overcome, but all of you are learning how to work around them, making detours around the potholes of life, backtracking when necessary.

Now think about that blog entry where you talked about the values and life lessons you want to instill in the kids, the characters you want to develop. Are you succeeding? Absolutely, in spades! All you can do is turning out young people who will bring joy and light and love to the world. Looks like you and Dominic, family, support system, and God are doing an excellent job.

One of your cheerleaders,