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Questioning Everything ~ part II

Searching within yourself is a healthy step in maturing, this I believe. But what happens when digging deep, finding the things you have to work on personally, are all only part of the puzzle in healing?  What if you feel wronged and you want to set it right?  I question if I’m what I’ve heard referred to as a “right fighter”… am I afraid to be wrong? Am I not looking deep enough inside of me to see all the faults within myself that led me to feeling this way?

Our family has been through a lot in the last 9 years.  I am well aware that it is all relevant to what one would consider “a lot”.  But no other person can judge what “a lot” is to another.

It began with hip surgery.  My husband was in constant pain with severe arthritis in his hips and knees.  As a young family I can recall the five of us being on a trail in the woods when he would just stop mid-trail and cling to a tree. The pain was unbearable by the time surgery rolled around, but he would trudge through work and life with a smile on his face, pleasing his employers, his children and me, his wife, on a daily basis.  Surgery, for me, was a hope for better days.  This was my first experience with any type of surgery of a loved one and it was terrifying. The young mother of 3 children and a husband going under the knife.  My husband can often be a rationalist, he thinks of real things that ‘could’ happen in every situation and applies them and worries about them. I work very hard to keep him positive and seeing the bright side of things, keeping hope and faith at the forefront, but this takes exceptional energy in often high stress times.

We made it through his hip surgery fine. His rehab was difficult, but we made it through, learning things about ourselves and life with every moment.  The time my husband had to take off of work was trying, he is not given medical time so he had saved up his vacation time to have the surgery done, allowing no time off before or after the surgery for his own relaxation.  We embraced this and tried to find joy in having him home even if it did consist of countless trips to physical therapy, cleaning the incision and multiple daily ice treatments.  As a family we worked together to make it all okay.  He returned to light work after about 6 weeks recovery. We had scheduled the surgery for August as I work for our local school district and have the summers off. I did have to take the first few days of school off in order to continue his care at home, this was 9 years ago and a brand new position for me at the time.

Fast forward two years and my husband has been cleared for all athletics on his new hip. He heads to open gym during the kids February school vacation week for some pick up basketball.  I am home making dinner. My oldest son calls, the fear in his voice instantly frightens me. He says I need to come right away, “it’s dad.” I arrive to find my husband on the floor and the ambulance on the way.  What had just happened would not become fully clear to us until in the ER room when the word “surgery” came out of the doctors mouth.  We had felt we were finally in a place of normalcy since his first surgery, he was established again at work and was becoming strong after all his physical therapy to build up the muscles in his leg.  What had happened that day was a ruptured patella tendon. The patella tendon is the elastic tendon that connects the knee cap to the top of your tibia (shin bone)… this tendon had ruptured, completely ripped off, let go… his knee cap was floating in his upper thigh. The pain was excruciating but the look on my husband’s face when the doctor told him this was a disabling injury and would require surgery to regain full knee function, that was hard to watch.  We were looking at another surgery with being completely immobilized after surgery for 2-4 weeks and then he could begin “toe touches” bearing only 50% of his weight for an undetermined amount of time. Individual cases vary after surgery, we were told for a full recovery we would be looking at approx 6 months. Neither one of us knew what to do with this news, it was devastating. Yet, staying positive and finding the bright side we knew he had a fixable problem, we had a light at the end of the tunnel to focus on, the tunnel was just feeling   r e a l l y   long.  We would be okay.

I did not return to work that year. Between all the travel, taking care of the kids, being my husband’s home health aid, and all the other responsibilities that come along with just raising a family through a tragic situation I could not return to work.  We also had a dispute going with my husbands employer about the insurance and his time off to recover.  They were not going to support us through this financially and we had a good case showing that even though this did not happen on the job, that it was caused by “jumper’s knee” also known as “trucker’s knee”… caused by wear and tear to the tissues of the knee of years of jumping in and out of trucks.  I presented them with all of this not intending to make a threat, but to help support our family through a difficult time when in fact my husband had dedicated 20 years of service to their company without as much as a sick day.  After weeks of negotiations and hard work to plead our case, they heard us and they ended up giving him full pay and kept him on the health insurance.  I was continually supported amazingly by my school community and both my husband and I were supported fully by our family and our entire community!! It was a difficult recovery, but we made it through.

We were on our feet again, literally… back to work, normalcy was on the front door step.  The difficulty plagued us with the fact that my husbands hard earned 5 weeks vacation had to be used up yet again for health reasons, so he was constantly working it seemed… either working at home or at therapy to get better and strong enough to go back to work, or working at work to prove himself loyal again.  Either way it was work.  Summer came and he was due for a routine physical.  His primary doctor referred him to have a stress test on his heart in the coming weeks, we were pretty naive to what this meant at the time. Just a referral to see another doctor… well, we went off for this test and by that night he was admitted into the hospital for surgery on his heart.  He had blockages in his heart that needed repair. It all happened so fast. Fear and anxiety set in again. I could not return to school at the start of the year as this happened the week prior to my return. I missed the first few days of school. But we got through it.

Fast forward one more year… recovery from his ailments were all on schedule. He was doing well and we were all moving forward.  It’s summer again, August, me and the kids are on summer vacation from school.  My husband has no vacation time due to having used it and still trying to earn it back.  I decide to take the kids camping with some friends, they deserve to get away. My husband was scheduled to join us for the last weekend we were away.  We had camped in New Hampshire with friends and then were moving camp down to Massachusetts to another favorite campground of ours for the remainder of the week. On our drive south we were loaded with camping gear. The job of traveling with my 3 children alone was taking a tole, I remember feeling discouraged and disappointed that after all we had gone through that we weren’t all deserving enough of my husband being with us on this vacation. We were heading south bound in the fast lane, I had pulled back from the rest of our group because I remember consciously thinking that I didn’t like what it felt like to caravan with others, trying to keep up and trying to keep sight of them felt like too much work.  The kids were all watching a movie. We were traveling at approx 70-75 miles per hour with heavy traffic moving at this speed.  All I remember is her sudden movement… the woman in the car next to me suddenly and abruptly grabbed her steering wheel and shanked her wheel to the left, forcefully driving the front end of her small white car into the front end of our minivan.  We spun sideways, hitting the guardrail to our left and veering off into the center of oncoming traffic. We were left sideways on the 3 lanes highway with cars lined up with nowhere to go, it was an absolute miracle none of those cars hit is broadside as we came across the lanes.  My children were amazing… my oldest son kept control and made sure everyone was okay.  For the most part we were all physically okay, they towed our van away and we proceeded with getting a rental van and on to the campsite.  My husband still didn’t feel he could leave work, due to still trying to build up trust and understanding with his company after his needed time off.  With lots of emotional recovery in the months to come, we made it through that one too!! This also happened in August, but I made it to work for the first day of school.

Fast forward two year, it’s August. Our oldest is away at college now, we have a new foster daughter who had moved in in June.  We were on the brink of a new school year. My husband gets a respritory infection due to trying to clean mold in our upstairs bathroom.  He got very sick and had a terrible cough. The excessive coughing led him to an inguinal hernia and needed surgery that summer.  He had a successful surgery and a pretty speedy recovery.  Just as he was getting better I began to have some stomach pains.  It actually began one night as chest pains that landed me in the ER.  My heart was checked out and I was sent home with inconclusive results.  I continued to have the pain for the next couple of days, I sat through school meetings for our foster daughter who would begin school at our high school in the fall with this unexplained pain.  I dealt with it until I couldn’t anymore… I returned to the ER one night when I just couldn’t bear it and I ended up in emergency surgery that next morning to remove my gall bladder.  I was only days from the start of school and had to miss the first two due to my recovery time. We made it through that one too!

That actually leads us to today. So in fact that story spans over a period of 9 years. We have honestly felt like we haven’t caught our breath in 9 years.  Right when we seem to… the next wave hits.  I would say we are pretty resilient. Through all of this adversity we have cared for three other children in our home besides our own.  We honestly have smiled through it all.  We have put our oldest through 3 years of college and are ready to send our next off this coming fall. We are proud of ourselves.

When I question everything … I mean that I have worked hard to look deep within me to understand where others are coming from in all aspects of my life. I try to find empathy and sympathy for the people I come in contact with.  Are they honoring me with the same?

Last year I was questioned at work by my supervisor (not my direct boss) for things that I felt were unfair.  Although, I’m sure she feels like her picking up the slack while I wasn’t around for all of those times was unfair… but isn’t the truth just that life is unfair?  Can’t we all just agree on that?  I was accused of  “taking advantage of her kindness”.  Taking advantage of her kindness??  Seriously?  I do not take advantage of anything! After 9 years of working together, I guess I felt like she would know me well enough to know that. I give 100% to whatever it is that is in front of me in that very moment. Most of the time that is my family.  I try to be helpful to those in need, I dedicate myself to projects that are driven by my passions…not everyone in my life feels like I give them the attention they need,  I have lost friendships due to this.  I have very strong priorities.  My family is and always will be my first priority.  I have loyalty to my job and my employer, I work hard every moment I am there, but when I cannot be there I wish to be respected for the reasons why.  I happen to be home sick this week with viral bronchitis, I have missed 3 days of work from school, I do not remember the last time I was knocked down this hard. All I feel is guilt.  I have allotted medical days that I am entitled to use if I need them, I have two scheduled for next week to take my husband away for yet another heart doctor appointment, this makes the timing of this illness for me even harder.  The other days used this year were for caring for my family members in ways of appointments or caring for them at home.  I have been agonizing over having to take this time off hearing my supervisors voice over and over in my head about taking excessive time.  I have never gone over my allotted days (with the exception of the year I stayed home for the remainder of the year to care for my husband) despite all that we’ve gone through.  I feel I deserve respect.

My husband and I work exceptionally hard at our jobs and in our family life. We are both faced with feelings of being “on probation” at work for things in our life that were out of our control.  I feel like this should be noticed, but does that make me a “right fighter”? It bothers me daily that I am accused of things that I have not intentionally done ‘to’ anyone, they were just unfortunate circumstances that led us to today. Shouldn’t others try to see things from another’s point of view? I have learned this in my own life and I really wish others would also.

adolescence, awakening, family, identity, life, teenagers

Questioning Everything…

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These days I am questioning everything.  It’s amazing to me how in a moment everything we thought we knew isn’t at all what we thought to be true.  For me, it usually comes with struggle. When our world is turned on it’s side we are forced to see it differently.

My husband and I made a life decision to become foster parents two years ago. We had relations with the child we would invite to join our family, it was decided in a time of need. She was 16 at the time and a friend of our daughter’s, she had moved away after finishing middle school and would now move back to live with us for High School.  We were so joyous in our decision to help her, to accept her as our own into our family.  My faith is so deep, I often make decisions quickly with my heart knowing full well if I gave it too much time, my head and my intellect would see reasons for not acting. I act quickly and often blindly when helping others.

Well, here I am today, our relations with this young girl have been severed. She lives down the street and we barely have contact.  She turned 18 in November and things began to get harder. I believe both her mindset, as well as my own (and my husband’s) began to change when she reached this mark.  She moved out and got her own place a month ago.  It was a mutual decision.

I am guilty of feeling like I needed to teach her everything in the time we had left after she turned 18 (something I also felt I did when our oldest son was moving out to go to college). I am also guilty of going into this relationship feeling like I had a “window of time” to reach her and help her see the world clearly and know how to successfully move about it.  What I question now is do I know how to successfully move about it?  Who’s to say my way is the right way?  What I see clearly now is that when I would try to “mirror her behaviors”, like her therapist advised me to, I was slowly pushing her away.  Slowly pointing out all that was “wrong with her” (as she once stated it).  I was acting on the feeling that you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge. I felt like she needed to own her behaviors and face them as she was on the brink of adulthood. I had turned my parenting style into one of tough love, teaching lessons from mistakes made and teaching that you shouldn’t make the same mistake twice because then it’s a choice.  I am very supportive and loving and my husband and I thrive on respect. We are giving with the up most respect and feel we deserve it in return.  This method of parenting has worked for us.  We have three children, ages 16, 18, and 21. The difference is that we have taught them right from wrong since the moment they were born… We have built a strong foundation with them. I have always found pride in myself with my efforts and my abilities to be a good parent.  This entire situation has made me question the very thing that I’ve always felt good about.

I have no idea how to deal with this.  I am questioning everything! I am soul searching and trying to find empathy and understanding.  For two years I was the mediator between my family and this young girl.  Cheerleading for her and trying to get both sides to see the other.  Time and time again I was disregarded and disrespected for my efforts by her with lies, manipulation and deceit.  I felt I was beginning to lose face in the eyes of my own children, my husband had lost steam and I was holding on by a thread.  I threw out life lines to counselors and social workers. I began to draw at straws, I was hoping to teach some life lessons in respecting the people in your life who are trying to help you. My ultimate goal was to help her be successful in having a genuine relationships. I was putting forth my entire self for this mission while also trying to be sensitive to my own children’s needs and feelings, and being open to my husband’s opinions and observations of the situation.

Negative thoughts led to negative behaviors for her.  Turning blame elsewhere for mistakes she made. It came into view for me that the harder I tried the further I would push her away.  We were deep in the college process with both her and my oldest daughter choosing schools and making future life plans.  We had application forms, scholarship forms, tax forms, life discussions, money talk, you name it we were in the thick of it.  At the beginning of their senior year I had reached out for help, knowing full well from when my oldest son went through it that I would become stressed and overwhelmed with the process. I had a feeling focusing on two very different girls with different hopes and dreams would prove to be a challenge.  I was proactive and asked for help.  The State assigned her a mentor to help her with these tasks. I believe this may have been the first step in her feeling as though I wasn’t “there for her”.  I can guess that she felt pushed aside while I helped my daughter through her paperwork.  I did help her with any part of it I could, getting her essay done when she just couldn’t, she felt accomplished and good about it in the end. When she would share her confusion in the college process I would discuss it with her, I would create spreadsheets with what different schools she was looking at would look like, financially and otherwise.  I would share my frustration with her when she would begin the “poor me” spiral downward. I worked very hard to keep her positive and find what was good in a situation, she had a difficult time with me not joining in her negativity. Stating at points along the way to my husband and I, “you just don’t understand.”

With the college process and the many discussions of “real life” on the forefront for all of us, it put a strain on the relationship.  Prior to having to focus on college issues, life had revolved around what this young girl needed.  I didn’t necessarily notice what the rest of my family was seeing, as I was in the full throttle mode of trying to build a loving trusting relationship with the newest member of our family.  Traveling to Boston for doctors appointments, schoolwork, jobs, work study, IEP meetings, getting her license, the list goes on. My family was completely on board, they would ‘hear me’ and learn to find empathy for the reasons behind her behaviors. They supported me fully in my efforts to mentor her. This became more and more trying as time went on, the empathy and understanding can only last so long when behaviors continue and others are being hurt by words and actions. We were very open with each other and stayed strong as a family while learning how to include another. My husband and I would attend therapy sessions and use the time to vent and ask advice for how to handle what this was feeling like for our children.  I believe at this point our foster daughter began to feel the division amongst the family.  What I had attempted to create (a strong family unity) when this began was beginning to unravel as we learned to figure out how to help and support our foster daughter while also learning to nurture our own family needs.  We rarely shared any of our hardship with our friends and family.  I had read once when preparing to be a good foster parent that you should always shed a positive light upon the child so that they have the opportunity to form relationships and become close with others in the family. We honored this and asked our children to do the same, we kept our struggles amongst ourselves, along with the therapist and the social worker. Looking back I know now this was not best.  It may have been in her best interest, but it was not in ours.  She would use this to her advantage in the way that she would tell lies and share things with others that were untrue. As time went on this became very unsettling and began to dishonor our family.  Most disturbing was a meeting I had with her basketball coach, the meeting was to address an issue that had happened in the locker room after a game.  I went to bat to protect her and in that meeting I was told that she (the coach) had information of  “reportable things happening in our home”.  I had never been so flabbergasted, I felt dazed and honestly  afraid of what she was capable of in hurting our family to protect herself.  I immediately turned to our social worker and asked for help with this. After confronting our foster daughter, the confusion I believe now she tried to created had indeed been created.  She denied having said anything turning our thoughts to the coach using those words as a threat to protect herself.  The confusion and accusations were never resolved after months of requesting getting to the bottom of it, we got no support from the social workers or counselors. It was swept under the rug and her manipulation tactics were allowed to proceed.  Our relationship was damaged then and no one helped us to restore it.  She continues to tell untruths even today.  I believe now that we may have fallen prey to this manipulation when we opened our doors and our hearts to her.  My husband I do not believe many (or any) of the stories she told before her moving in with us or after.  This has been so damaging and discouraging.

The most difficult part now is knowing her struggle continues, that I wasn’t able to help her, and now having struggles of our own.  We were continually disrespected despite all of our efforts. I had worked diligently to teach her not to hurt the people who love her, to find it within yourself to show respect and honor relationships. She had relations with much of her blood family, I attempted many times to encourage their time together. I worked hard to find ways of helping to mediate those relationships.  I believe now that her perception of this was me pushing her away.  We have found out in recent times that she told friends we were “trying to get rid of her for Christmas because we didn’t want to buy her presents”.  (this was the second Christmas she was with us and the last.) There is nothing further from the truth.  We had planned family time for the weekend after the holiday without her because of all the stress and pressure at home with things not going well. Her grandmother had invited her to come there and I was working to make that happen, she did not want to go, and now claims that we left her alone with nowhere to be for the holiday. The twisting and turning of that story is only one of the many many times she did that to earn sympathy for herself and claim “poor me”.  My intentions have always been with her best interests at heart while also nurturing my own family.  I have the wisdom to know that she would need her family in her future, that the more relationships and connections she had going forward would only benefit her. I attempted that with not much help from her social worker. I pray that one day she can see my side of things.

I now question everything.  We don’t currently speak to one another.  She and my children still attend the same high school and the relationships are terribly strained. There is no resolve.  I have always been the type of person to meet things head on… never sweep anything under the rug… tell others how you feel… be open and honest… find understanding.  All of this is so different.  I don’t see how I can apply any of those beliefs to this situation? I have been told maybe there is no resolve? She feels the way she feels and I feel the way I feel and neither one of us can truly know how the other feels.  I know that I have an understanding of her hurt and her pain, her struggles, I have tried to alleviate those and help her see ways of mending her heart over the last two years…. What I’m not sure she understands is that my heart is now broken. I pray that one day when she is a mother and has a family that she may see my side of things.

My heart and my intellect intersect here and that’s the hardest part.  My heart knows that I gave her my whole self, I shared my home and my family, with her very best interests at the heart of it all.  I put my two children ~ strong, smart, honest, empathetic children~ on hold for two years to build something that was gone in a day.  My heart feels betrayed while my intellect knows that she has done it in defense mechanism, to protect herself.  I have read all the articles, I have full intellectual understanding for what she’s doing. But HOW… How do I go about protecting me and my heart, me and my family, me and my marriage, when she continually says hurtful things about us and cannot see what we attempted to do for her for what it really is? I have written her letter after letter since she left.  Most of them, after writing and reading them back, I realize I was writing to the 40 year old version of her, words and feelings that the 18 year old version would never understand.  I don’t feel like my words are productive to her right now. I have no words, there is no understanding.

I fight the feeling of being a failure to her daily, I am trying to heal. I want to be available to her, I do not want her to feel abandoned by me, but I don’t want to be artificial either.  I love her, I care about her, I want what is best for her. I am hurt, my family is hurt. I cannot make sense of this for myself therefore I have no way of teaching my children how to deal with all the emotions that this has surfaced.  I do not feel that any message would get through to her no matter how it was stated at this time.  I have shared a lot of words and conversations with her over the last two years and she perceives them in her own way and twists them into something different.  I feel like silence is best for now. I guess I believe that because I’ve used so many words in the past that maybe my silence will speak volumes this time.

My attempt at getting through this is to continue to look inward.  I know that placing blame for all that went wrong along the way will not help me heal,  I will steer my thoughts away from blame every time it creeps into my mind. I will pray for her strength, as well as my own.  I will try to live by my own advice.  I will continue to stay focused on my Blessings and live life with an open heart and an open mind. I feel changed through this part of my life, but my understanding is that this is how we grow as people.  I guess we often have to question everything.