I took this image on a recent photo shoot in Newport Beach. There is a tunnel with all of this great, inspiring graffiti and this one always stands out to me. Life is beautiful but I think this is missing something.
I see more. I feel like life is too much more to be simply classified as beautiful, like the fact that not everything is beautiful, and there is suffering. Like how lately my legs feel as heavy as bricks, like any step (literal or metaphorical) I take forward takes every ounce of effort, like I am moving through vaseline, like there is just too much to get done.
We have a lot going on in our home, an undiagnosed special needs child traversing through teenager-dom. It is not easy. Every day is a struggle for her, and thus, a struggle for us. For our typical children. Every day. I don’t talk about it very much here, it seems counter productive, like whining, and it certainly doesn’t change things. But that is our truth. We handle as best we can the meltdowns of an almost sixteen year old every day. The notion that most children leave home to make their own life somewhere around the age of eighteen is a painful, throbbing, cyst of a reminder every time I look at her. That clock is ticking. Eighteen is so very close. Yet, Mckenna won’t be able to leave. If she does, we will have to plan for it. Place her somewhere. That idea alone can paralyze my thoughts – I can hardly look at that or let that in, but it is getting easier for me. I can shine a penlight on it and gradually the penlight will become a spotlight and I will know what path to take. But, our choices are care for her at home or PLACE her somewhere else. She will NEVER be able to be responsible for herself. The responsibility of knowing we are her only care-givers FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE is incredibly sad and incredibly daunting. It’s not something you really think about when your two year old is diagnosed with something no one knows what to call. But there it is.
After posting about thinning the herd, I went directly to Facebook and culled more than half of the people I was connected to there. I didn’t have a big list like some of my friends. I think my number was just over 300, but still. I went to Twitter and did something similar. I went through my bookmarks and deleted any blog who made me feel not enough or irritable, instead of inspired or connected. Then I took about two weeks to collect my thoughts and see how it felt. A week in, I culled more people. This process was tricky because I didn’t want to hurt feelings, and dropping people on social media can and does hurt feelings. But at the same time I HAD to do it. I had to. I had to cut out some of the noise in my head. I can no longer give so much energy to it, when I have so many more real, in my face things to give my energy to. (See above.) Do I miss some of the people, of course I do. But I hope to be able to stay in touch in other ways, and I hope their hearts are soft when they think of me. However, if Facebook was the only means of keeping in touch, (which doesn’t take any real effort), than perhaps we don’t need to keep in touch. That’s all I’m saying. The process has freed me up.
(If you related to my thinning the herd post, you might also want to go read ‘How real do we want to be?‘ by Andrea Scher. This is a great blog entry and summarizes a lot of the same feelings that I had.) Hopefully I will make time to write more on this later. I want to.
Summer has ended and GONE BABY GONE are the lazy days of no routines and no obligations. School and people and carpool traffic and paperwork and rules and easily a thousand dollars out the door for four kids and all of the crap they need and blah blah blah blah blah. Not my favorite. We all go through this transition every year, and every year it is rough on me because I don’t like to accept the change. Making it more difficult this year is having four children in four different schools. Three of them start at the same time in the morning, and only one of them can walk. I can no longer get everyone ready and out the door on my own, so Jeff and I wake up together in the morning and share the responsibility. This is my silver lining. And now that we have gone through the process for a few days, I can see that this makes it easier than it has ever been. He has taken over Mckenna and breakfast, and this helps me focus so much more on what the other kids want and need. Healthy lunches, last minute signatures, personal styling, a quality connection to Mom before leaving for the day. By taking over Mckenna, Jeff has given me the gift of being able to be there for the other kids. Silver lining number two: the two of us attempt to wake up at least fifteen minutes before anyone else, to enjoy coffee and someone on the record player, and the drowsy silence of a new day together.
New, earlier school end times have cut a HUGE chunk out of my work time, and so I am getting used to that. I always work a lot in the Spring and Summer, then slow things down in the Fall while we get used to school again. I don’t like the hustle of clients getting last minute Christmas card photos anyway. But it’s another transition I must go through. Compared to the last few school years, I lost two hours a day to productive work time. I am now in the car from 1:30-3:30 picking up kids after school. (Once the kids are home I don’t work, at least at the computer.) Those two hours of empty no thinking driving time, dealing with cranky people who are often impatient and mean in the safety of their cars, makes me want to SCREAM. AT THEM. OVER AND OVER. I feel like I lose brain cells every day. Like big huge scoops of my brain are falling out my ears as I drive the same streets back and forth, back and forth. I am kind of sure that pretty soon I will be okay with our new schedule, but for now I just don’t want to do it.
I am positive I need to adjust my attitude and focus on my purpose, I just don’t always know how to do that. This is why I have a weekly therapy call. I have a feeling my therapist will take great pleasure in helping me figure it out this week. Thinking about it, I can’t decide if she is going to tell me to grow up and be an adult and take care of my responsibilities with a good attitude because it means I am not dead, or if she will say this is a hard transition and you need to give yourself time to recuperate from Summer. Or both? This is why I talk to her once a week. She always gets me back on track. Especially during twisty times like this.
What I do know: Mckenna is alive and we are alive and for that I am grateful. If we were dead and gone we would no longer have the chance to feel the joy or the suffering in life. I don’t want to be walking dead, shuffling through my days, avoiding the pain and thus, the joy and everything in between. I want to take it all in, accept it, and be glad to have it because I am here.
I really want to be here as long as I can.
Life is beautiful but life is also full of suffering. And we are damn lucky to get both. And that is all I wanted to write underneath this graffiti in Newport Beach.