Gathering Strength

We are getting close to the final quarter of what can arguably be the named the strangest year of all time. No need to rehash it, we’ve all lived through it.

Unless you’ve moved to a cave on Mars, you already know we are in the most contentious political season of our lives. Anyone who knows me well, knows I have opinions and I love to discuss them with anyone who shares them or opposes them but do not fear…that’s not the point of this blog.

In fact, it’s the opposite. I’m noticing a fatigue and I’m compelled to discuss it.

It makes me think of when my kids were little and they’d gather around me on the couch…always touching me, grabbing my arm, curling up under my legs or in the crook of my arm. My mom would smile and tell me that my grandmother always said when her kids did the same thing that they were “gathering strength.” As if they could actually siphon energy by their mere proximity to us.

I think most parents would acknowledge that it felt many times as if this was precisely what had occurred as our energy reserves were usually spent by the time the day was done. And as tired as we were, the parental instinct would willingly allow us to pour into them whenever it was needed. We will drain to an empty shell if necessary. Raising littles is hard.

As our kids get older the demand is different…less physical and more mental. As they mature, we find that they start to gather their energy from outside sources and there are days where I strangely miss the former times where I had total control over where they were and when they would be there. Somedays, I’d love to have all three curled up around me on the couch like this picture.

More often than not though, I find myself enjoying the changes that come with children who are growing older. Despite my age increasing as well, the independence they find brings more relief than sadness.

That recognition has allowed me to note a recent internal empty tank recurring and I remember the feeling all too well. Rather than endless “why’s?” or dirty diapers or middle of the night awakenings as the source, I find this fatigue after reading headlines or social media posts from friends, I find my eyes scanning through “news” source after news source digging for truth…an elusive endpoint these days.

Do you feel tired too?

I know you do. I see it everywhere. In my husband, family, friends, patients and strangers.

We.are.all.so.tired.

I know we’re pacifying ourselves with a November 3rd date to find some relief but I think if you really dug in we’d all admit that there is no way we’ll get relief that day. No matter the outcome.

A few days ago I was talking with some friends and we were discussing “new driver worries” as our kids get their licenses and how the sound of them pulling into the garage after being gone brings a sigh of relief that they are home safely again. My friend, whose husband is in law enforcement, said she likened it to when she laid in bed at night and heard her husband un-velcro his bullet proof vest when he came home late after his shift ended.

I don’t know about you, but that image (or auditory file), just gutted me. For her, for him, for their children, for all of us.

And it made me even more tired.

And at first, angry…angry at things I’d seen posted online. Angry at people who I love that seem to be “getting it wrong.” It made me imagine all the things I’d say to them if given the opportunity to explain what they were missing.

But then…before my emotions took over, I decided to play my own devil’s advocate. I asked myself…

“Seriously Suzy, If _____________ was standing in front of you. If you hadn’t seen them in years. If you just happened upon them…what would you do? Be honest with yourself. What would your exact reaction be at the moment you saw them?”

And I felt my own eyes fill with tears because person after person’s name that I put in that sentence allowed the same exact reaction from me.

“I would gasp in the joy of seeing them and hug them immediately. COVID and all. Mask or not. I would be thrilled to see them, I have missed them so.”

Well…to be completely honest: 95% of the people I put in that question gave me that reaction.

5% of the time I say this…

不不不不不 If 2020 made us appreciate anything more than humor I don’t know what it is…except maybe toilet paper. 不不不不不

Back to my point though…

Why am I so angry about their opinions when I love their hearts? I love who they are and the role they have played in my life and the time we spent together or continue to spend together.

In the words of my patient from last week who is also my facebook friend…

“I thought about cancelling my appointment because I hate your politics so very much but I love you so I still came.”

This made me laugh but it also solidified my thought process that we need to remember that we as humans are capable to have our opinions but also to not BE our opinions.

At our core, what we ARE is human beings and children of an Almighty God and no matter WHO lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave next year, HE is ultimately in charge. I can take great comfort if I just remember that fact.

So my plan, for the next few weeks, is to hear my Grandmothers words and…

Gather Some Strength

How?

I’m limiting social media exposure because let’s be honest, as good as it can be, and it really can be good…right now, it’s a toilet bowl. Strike that…it’s a porta-potty at a marathon race. If you’re a runner, you know what I mean, if you’re not, just imagine thousands a people revved up on endorphins and stimulants before a race…it’s not pretty.

I’m reading lots of books. Fiction, biographies, self-help, anything I can put in my hands that makes my brain work.

I’m watching my kids play sports, go to dances, and complete in person schoolwork–things I will never take for granted again.

I’m praying. Again…I know who is ultimately in charge of it all.

I am remembering that this country is great. Really, really great. It was an idea of freedom that allowed us to rocket to greatness. It will not be broken. My youngest recently had to memorize the preamble of the Constitution of the United States of America. It is such beautiful document.

However you do it…gather your strength. Prepare you hearts for the outcome. But ultimately, remember why you love the people who are agitating you the most and remember that they too are simply gathering strength for the days to come. Let’s all have grace.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It’s not about the ceremony. Or the cap and gown.

One of my favorite units in childhood PE was bowling.  In my tiny town we actually went to the local bowling alley and got to play on real lanes.  I love the math of bowling…no idea why.  It’s kind of like diagraming sentences–I feel actual joy when I imagine getting to diagram sentences.  I know, I’m off topic…and also a little nerdy.

Back to the bowling alley.  The place smelled of cigarettes and stale beer.  I loved every bit of it.  We were allowed to bring a few dollars and could buy a pop and candy bar from the bowling alley attendant after we bowled.   One year I remember drinking a bottle of Mountain Dew and eating a caramel Twix while noticing that one of the lanes was set up for little kids.  They had “gutter guards” set up so the ball would never fall into the gutter…just bounce off the edge and continue rolling toward the pins. Obviously I’ve seen this set up since then but for some reason whenever I think about bowling, I think about that bowling lane.  I remember thinking how nice it looked. How much less stress…how lovely to bowl in a lane where you were guaranteed that the ball would reach the ideal spot.

I tell you that story because for some reason I cannot stop thinking of that mental image lately.

You see…I have a high school senior. The end of her senior year just evaporated before our eyes.  We had a handful of REALLY COOL STUFF on its way and it just became liquid and slipped right through our fingers and we’re all just standing around looking at our empty palms trying to come to grips with what we just lost and how fast it happened.

Lets talk about loss.

Yes, I’ve read the articles where everyone discusses that these kids don’t understand real sadness.  They are reminded that there was a generation that had to miss the end of their senior year not because they were forced to be inside their homes, safe, well fed and wifi connected but because they went to serve in a World War.  Good Lord that must have been terrible.  I simply can’t imagine the magnitude of worry, sadness and loss that generation and it’s parents must have felt.  I could never take away that it must have been the worst kind of  horrible.

I also know that for anyone who remembers such a time, it must be a struggle to hear parents and their kids complain about not being able to go to prom, fear not getting the chance to walk in a graduation ceremony, have a senior skip day, etc simply because they were told to stay home.  And to be honest…its true…the two situations can’t be compared.

Trust us…we have spent a lot of time talking about perspective to our kids. Those articles haven’t been lost on any of us.

But here’s the part that I think some people critical of the emotion behind this loss might be missing.

As parents, we have NO FRAME OF REFERENCE to guide these kids through this.

Not because we don’t understand disappointment or change of plans. We get that and we’ve piloted ourselves and them out of those situations before.

At least for me, it’s that when these kids have thing after thing stripped from them they look to us to realign them…like the gutter guards.  They are certain that, like we’ve always done, we will route them back to the middle of the lane and point them towards the endpoint where they were headed all along.

But every time my senior gets another event cancelled, postponed, or changed to a “VIRTUAL option” (DEAR GOD THAT HAS BECOME LIKE A DIRTY PHRASE) she looks to me and asks

“How will this work?  What will it look like?  Will this get to happen? Will I get to do that?”

 

And we have no answer.

Because just like them, we have never participated in a GLOBAL FREAKING PANDEMIC before either.

Every single solitary day something changes in OUR world too and we’re forced to learn on the fly, adapt our work worlds, our home life, our social lives in ways that we never imagined, nor were we even remotely prepared to do because no one told us the world was going to close up shop for a few months this year.

Please know, we desperately want to do what we’ve always done.  Allow the ball that is our child to bounce off of us confidently and realign because we have the answers based on our life experience to easily get them back on track.  We want to remind them that the end point and the goal is still straight ahead…they just need to get back in the lane.

Oh how I want to be the annoying parent saying to my kid…

“Trust me, I went through something just like this and here’s how it turned out. You’ll be fine too.”

But let’s be honest.

We can’t.

We can hope and we can assume based on charts, graphs and scientists who tell us that eventually things will look “normal” again…but we have NOTHING to fall back on with certainty and as parents…this fact is rocking our worlds.

It’s not that we aren’t sad that the images we have built in our minds since day 1 of kindergarten are being altered or will simply remain in our imagination of what we thought they would be rather than being able to have them realized as actual memories.  We are. We’re really, really sad about it.

Some of us want the recognition that our super academic kids have earned through really hard work and some of us simply want the finish line for our less than academic kids because they worked just as hard.

We have a thousand reasons to want to watch these kids walk in the traditional cap and gown.

But I promise you that the fear, anxiety, sadness and weight of our emotion is based in a complete inability to guard them from what we don’t know.  We mourn the loss of the ceremony but even more so the loss of how we planned to launch them into the next phase of their lives.

We are unable to guard them from this because there is no parenting book, blog or Pinterest board that is titled… HOW TO EXPLAIN TO YOUR KID THAT EVERYTHING THEY THOUGHT WAS COMING IS ABOUT TO LOOK REALLY DIFFERENT AND WE DON’T HAVE A CLUE WHAT DIFFERENT IS OR HOW LONG IT WILL LAST AND OH YEAH…NOTHING WILL PROBABLY EVER BE TRULY THE SAME AGAIN.

No stress.

So, if you’re tired of hearing from the senior and their parents…I beg of you… give us some grace and maybe a Mountain Dew and a caramel Twix.  We gotta figure out how to direct these kids out of the nest without the guide rails we thought we had just a few short weeks ago.

Class of 2020… CONGRATS to each and every one of you…especially you:

Avery Jayne Lake

1T5A9917

 

 

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