adult children, anxiety, awakening, identity, life, purpose

In Nature All Things Transform, Even People…

I woke up this morning thinking about my daughter.

She will be home after her exams in about two weeks. She is struggling. I always want to take the hurt away, find an answer… a solution. We’ve been at this a while, she has battled depression for almost 2 years now and all I’ve had to really offer is listening and understanding. Medication worked for a while but now seems to not be? Her stress levels are currently very high as she heads into exam week, this exacerbates her anxiety as well.

This morning I awoke with a renewal of hope. I woke up thinking of nature… thinking about how everything that is worth it takes time and nurturing.  Flowers begin as tiny seeds finding their way through rock and soil to meet the sun, they need water and light to begin to grow. They then form buds and gradually open themselves up into great beauty to share with the rest of us, all the while never doing this at the same time as the seed beside them.

The great enormous tree in our backyard began as a tiny acorn, finding ways to sprout despite all the adversity it’s faced. As a young tree it faced the wind and had to learn to stand tall, maybe changing form here and there to withstand the beating weather. But it is there now… with strong roots and providing shade and shelter to the rest of us.

The symbol I most thought of as I thought about my daughter this morning was the butterfly.  How the butterfly begins as a caterpillar… Haven’t we all felt like the caterpillar? The transformation and the morphing they must endure to eventually become the butterfly is inspiring. The interesting part to me is THE CATERPILLAR NEVER KNOWS IT”S HAPPENING.  They gradually go through natures plan, often very slowly, feeling undeveloped, feeling very unnoticed.

I saw my daughter clearly this morning as the caterpillar.  Not for it’s form or dullness… but for it’s desire, for it’s willingness to push on when all feels slow and unexciting. She is doing the inner work now to be able to fly off in grace and beauty… she is morphing and transforming right in front of me. I am so inspired by her strength and her ability to continue to smile when feeling such inner pain and turmoil. I am so proud of her and can so clearly see how today’s effort and strife will lead her to her transformation.

All of my children bring me such joy.  They are adults now.  I have such admiration for them, watching them take what my husband and I have instilled in them and seeing them apply it to their own lives, priceless!

“The butterfly is only beautiful because the caterpillar was brave.”  ~ Anonymous

adult children, anxiety, clarity, communication, expectations, family, identity, life, purpose, school

Taking Life One Day at a Time

So…. It’s Spring.  Spring of 2018, the weather in New England may not be saying so, but the calendar indeed does.  Spring is a marked time for new beginnings, a time to launch into our days with renewed energy and vitality after a long winter.  This has always been the time of year that I break free of my own version of winter hibernation and begin to stretch.  With warmer weather and longer days it feels natural to begin to feel and think “brighter”.

My two youngest children have been away at college and will return home for summer in 2 weeks time. Our daughter is half way through her junior year and our youngest son is completing his freshman year. If you’ve read my earlier posts you would know that this was my husband and I’s dreaded year of “empty nesting”. A major shift in our family dynamic, one of which has been shifting since our oldest son left for college over 6 years ago.  He has completed his college degree and has found a career path that he is delighted in.

We had a big celebration weekend this past weekend for our daughter’s 21st Birthday…WOW! What a milestone! We are enjoying our adult children so very much! With family time for us come discussion time…

We have been well aware that our two younger children have not found college to be as exciting and rewarding as our oldest son did. It has been a struggle. Our daughter in three years time has taken a semester off, transferred schools and is still just not feeling happy with her experience there.  She has made some good friends but often feels surrounded by negativity and feels she has no escape. Campus life just has not been fulfilling or rewarding for her. Our youngest son never really knew if college was right for him, he would throw around different ideas when he was in high school and not fully deciding on going to college until end of his junior year. He had mentored at our local elementary school as a Phys Ed teacher and decided to pursue that path.  College courses have proven difficult for him leaving him with feelings of frustration and often feeling like a failure. They have both shared with us that they do not want to return to college in the Fall.

This did not come as much of a surprise.  My husband and I have wondered if spending the money for them to just go through the motions and not feel fulfilled is the right thing for them anyhow. The feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction they’ve shared throughout their journey has left us to feel this may be best as well.  Our daughter has decided she will finish her degree online while working at building her new dog business.  She has a passion for dogs and has run her own dog walking business for a couple summers and would like to grow her business into something more.  She gets excited when she talks about this and it is clear it is the path she will follow for now just not knowing what’s around the corners up ahead.

This leads me to our daughter’s anxiety and depression.  It has flared up terribly in the last few months. I do feel a lot of it has to do with her age and not being able to “see” where she is headed, or what is around the next corner.  She is very often in a very heightened state of stress.  She has battled with autoimmunity with unexplained body rashes, sicknesses that can’t be explained, such as severely inflamed throat and fevers that test negative to strep or mono (she has been tested many times over the last 3 years) … it is always a result of high white blood cell count showing her body is fighting infection but no illness per se.  This is very unsettling.  A lot of what I have seen happening (sickness, weight gain, anxiety, depression, etc)  all seem to point in the direction of her gut health.  She has taken antibiotics over the years for these illnesses and I feel she may be way off in her gut chemistry.  My mission now is to get her home and begin healthy eating with the addition of prebiotics and probiotics and hope to get her back on track with her health and see if her other health issues iron themselves out.

Our son has also battled with major anxiety.  He was diagnosed with a mild form of OCD with his anxiety last summer.  My children do not “present” themselves as having these illnesses, they have always been active community members, good students and were top athletes in the sports programs they’ve been a part of.  Most of my friends do not even know we battle the way we do with these everyday struggles. I don’t know that I am necessarily keeping it a “secret” it’s just that often I just don’t feel like it is my place to tell their story.  It is their path, their journey and they should be able to tell it as they see it and as they wish when the time is right for them.  I have chosen to tell my own story of anxiety at the age of 46.

So here we are… Spring… new beginnings.  My son wants to travel, he wants to experience life! Our daughter wants to also travel, she talks about jumping on a plane and heading out to some sort of conference or dog trade shows… they are ready to “fly” in different ways.   One thing I can say with sincere positivity is they will be okay…. they struggle today because they are so in-tune with their inner selves that they feel everything… they want answers for what feels unsettling.  They are not drowning out what this feels like with drugs and alcohol, and to be perfectly honest with the decisions to not be on a college campus right now, I am clear that they don’t like seeing others doing this either.  I am proud of them and we support their journey!

“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.  – Arthur Ashe

 

purpose

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Fredrick Douglass

We seem to need a cultural shift.  The majority of families in society seem to be struggling so much. What do we do? How does the average person who can see this have an impact?

I work in a K-12 elementary school.  I am very blessed to work in the library, I am the library assistant.  I service every student and every adult in the building.  In all reality, this means I see everything! I see clearly the struggle of teachers trying to teach state standards to their students, many of which are unable to learn due to their own personal struggles, I see and feel the struggles of these kids daily.  I see administration and counselors working tirelessly day in and day out, often just to be scrutinized by staff for what they “didn’t do” or what they “should have done differently”.  I see paraprofessionals in classrooms supporting full-time teachers and often having inter-personal difficulties between them that there seems to be nowhere to turn for help.  I recently became the ESP representative in our building, sitting on the ESP Advisory Board, to try to help these issues.

The library is a quiet safe space, my students often open up to me, I am a listener by nature.  I enjoy my role and feel I have been placed here.  Our library class is considered a “special” on the kids schedule from Kindergarten through 5th Grade. We have most classes twice a week for 30 minutes. Often the kids are just coming in from recess, or maybe gym, and they walk into the library with unresolved social issues that popped up during their unstructured time out of their academics.  They may walk in bickering or whispering, crying or with noticeable tension, whatever it may be it feels to me to be a teachable moment. They want to talk about it, they want to resolve it, they want help with the way it feels.  The part that I don’t understand and see differently is that they are just shuffled through… “keep quiet, keep in line, come into class we are waiting on you now!”   There is no understanding of one’s feelings, no discussion to what socially just happened… just keep moving, push those emotions aside we have work to do!  I just don’t get that.  Isn’t that something we as adults need to also learn?  What then are we creating for these kids? More disconnect, no communication skills.  What is being taught to these kids about understanding their emotions and how to deal with them as they grow and have even more complex emotions?

We are the library, there is no grade given, there are no tests.  Yes, the literacy piece is undoubtedly important… but my point is, can’t there be 5-10 minutes if it’s needed to help these kids resolve some feelings?  Wouldn’t this be the time for them to be able to take a breath and feel the calm before shuffling along again? I get the lead teachers who need to push content during academic blocks, I get that wholeheartedly,  but I also think this is equally important.  I went to a library symposium recently and it is a fact that libraries are sanctuaries to some of our most vulnerable people in society.  Shouldn’t this feeling be taught to kids in the early years?  The feeling you get from your first library will last a lifetime. That is what I feel is most important in my job, creating an environment that’s bright, cheery, and a welcoming space for all.

The definition of school is an institution for educating children.  “Educating children”… to me that means the whole child, to support the growth and advancement of that little person.  Doesn’t that include mind, body and spirit?  If it doesn’t then I think we’ve turned the wrong direction somewhere along the way in education and may be contributing to some of our societal problems right from the start. Our young people have to be taught how to be people, not just succeed in academics, but succeed as people in a society!!

The school I am a part of does this better than many, I am sure of that!  But knowing that what we do is “better” than most and observing the struggle daily is very unsettling.

I see parents working hard… trying to do the right thing.  But they are having to make tough decisions between family and work just to make ends meet and pay the bills.  The stress that comes along with having to make these decisions leaves them exhausted and lacking patience for what their children need from them to succeed.  Who do we help? Parents, kids, entire families?  Do they even know they need help?  What are the steps communities can take to help?  Where in the world do we start?

I cannot reiterate enough that I see and feel the pain!  I see the hurt!  These kids are voicing it – asking for help!  I see kids at younger and younger ages understanding the dysfunction happening at home but feeling out of control of it themselves.  Imagine 6, 7 and 8 year old children knowing something doesn’t feel right and then living with feeling out of control for an entire childhood.  Those same young people feeling out of control of their environment become teenagers and then adults.  Coping skills and a full tool box of how to combat these feelings are so important to them when they are young.  Do we really question the human disconnect and lack of empathy of school shooters?  They were never listened to, they voiced all along what they needed and they were shuffled along through the halls and classrooms being “taught”.  What are we teaching?

The only motive I’ve EVER seen in a young child’s crying or misbehaving is the motive to be listened to, to be understood, or to simply be loved! Some of the children who act out most are those who need the most!

I was that child… because of my needy-ness I was taught to not like myself very much, that something was wrong with me for “feeling”… this carried over into my adult life and I have found ways to make sense of these things.  I have a loving supportive family, a dynamic husband who listens intently to my often crazy ideas.  But what about the kid who doesn’t have that support as they grow?  They continue to feel stupid, unloved, and misunderstood… What a horrible state of being to be in! Is this what we want to continue to create? I don’t.

“Listen to Your Children Now so They’ll Talk Later”

awakening, clarity, gratitude, husband, life, marriage, New England, purpose, seasons, Spring

The Sweet Sound of Wind Chimes

March is finally coming to an end.  The month of March in New England is just a miserable month.  Dreary, cold, long… but the anticipation of spring ahead keeps us going.

My husband has been putzing around outside a lot more these days with the extended daylight in the late afternoons.  He awakened the grill from it’s winter slumber and we have grilled out a few evenings this past week, what a treat!

Yesterday was my sacred Saturday morning, waking to silence and no commitments to run off to, just the quiet of early morning with my coffee.  As I sat reflecting on my week with sun flooding into the living room I heard a different but familiar sound… The sweet sound of wind chimes.

My husband had hung our wind chimes for the season.  I didn’t know he had done it… oh what a pleasant surprise!

There is surely something to be said for being grateful.  Knowing and acknowledging the simple things is a true gift.  It can change so much, just being still and listening… allowing ourselves to embrace what is good around us and not give our attention and energy to  negatives, this is gratitude.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”  ~ Melody Beattie

 

adult children, anxiety, family, identity, life, purpose

Getting here…

I am a mother. I am a mother with anxiety. I was a child with anxiety that grew into an adult with anxiety. I have children with anxiety. I feel like when I write this it is different than when I speak it.  When I try to talk to someone about having anxiety, I feel the average person questions it. It is a label, not an understanding.

I’ve been told when I’m in an emotional state over something that it’s better to push that feeling away and stay focused… “keep working and stay busy, that feeling will go away!”  What I know is that is called suppressing your feelings, not fully acknowledging what is showing up for you and not dealing with it. With all of my heart and soul I do not agree that this is good practice, those feelings are going to turn up some how some way! Sometimes in bad habits, bad decisions and even physical pain.  I like to deal with things head on ~ when they are directly in front of me, I don’t set it aside and pretend it’s not there! Most people I know don’t have time for all of this self reflection and dealing with it… it is all business and there is no time for feelings.

Until my children reached the age that they were beginning to feel crippled from this disease themselves my husband and I helped them without professionals. I would read and learn and teach them. We would practice breathing techniques and learned to find ways to shift their negative mind.  My sons anxiety has been evident and present since he was 3 years old. My daughter’s didn’t become evident and spoken of until she was college age when she developed depression along with her anxiety.

My story now is that I feel such new struggles with mine since my children have grown.  I believe motherhood may have given me a way to hide. My social anxieties were relieved with going places as a family and my focus could be on my children, not on me.  It helped me to feel comfortable and have something to “do” or someone to always talk to.  I have felt it get worse and worse as the kids don’t need me as much, but now, with them gone off to college and my husband and I learning to be just us, it is feeling scary.  I believe it may be scary for the average person but with anxiety it feels magnified. Horrifying really.

I wonder… How will I have a conversation and not have a way “out” -The “Excuse me… I’ll be right back I need to go help my son.”  and never return.  I always had an escape from what was uncomfortable. I am feeling like I should own up to something I’ve tried to hide most of my life.  Tell people, explain myself to others. Why am I so ashamed of this?  Why is it such a big reveal? Maybe it has already presented in many of my life situations and I’m the only one not facing it? It’s been a lifetime of feeling like this… questions, shame, guilt, ridicule.  All the things I have coached my children to not fall into the trap of, all the while trying to help myself.  The answer to why I don’t own up to it… reveal it… is because I have attempted to do so to some of my closest friends and family and there often feels there isn’t much understanding. Just blank stares with words behind the glare that feel uncomfortable. Because there are no words I make up my own. I can hear their words without them even saying them.  A childhood full of being told not to be “so sensitive”, that everything’s not always about me. Not feeling supported when I needed reassurance on things I felt I had done well.  I did need a lot of reassurance, school didn’t come as easily to me as it did for my sister. I loved art, I loved being creative, I loved drawing with my grandmother.  The things I found important and valuable were often not shared by others.  I honestly do not remember doing much right.

I am strange. I am different. I have known this for a long time, even as a young child. I most often felt misunderstood, I often feel those same feelings today.  I am a work in progress, aren’t we all? I live everyday to try to understand myself better and find peace in other’s perspectives. Forgiving for hurts I felt. I often share what I have learned with others who will listen. This makes me strange.  In a world of move faster and achieve greater things than the person standing beside you, I am SO different. I am not in any form of a race with any individual to get to any type of end point. I am on a journey. I believe that each situation I am faced with and each person that crosses my path has something to give me – maybe in the form of wisdom, growth, or maybe just joy.

I work with children in a school as my profession. I love children. I love the innocence, the truth and honesty they convey. I am brought great joy through a child’s smile.  I work as a paraprofessional in a school, my colleagues are lead teachers who want kids to perform well… achieve, achieve, achieve… I want them to be, be, be.  My love for the kids shines through everyday ~ some people embrace this and others do not. I remember being a struggling child. I came from a great home, a two parent household, my parents worked at home, we were taught respect, from the outside looking in I had no reason to struggle, but I was. I know now that it was my anxiety. I can remember testing in school… I would freeze up, I knew nothing, absolutely nothing. I felt so stupid. I still often feel stupid. That little girl is still inside of me… fearful, shameful, misunderstood.  I identify with children who struggle in this way. Being a paraprofessional I feel I have a unique opportunity to connect with children and be available to help them.  I work in our town’s elementary school library, after years of being there I feel it is my calling.

I have great empathy for individuals in pain. Not just people I know, but people I see in distress, I want to be able to help people who suffer.  It is programmed inside of me and I often feel if I know someone hurts and I do not aid in making it better than I have failed. I am often left exhausted over situations that I could never have changed or helped but spend so much energy on wishing I could have.

“As you grow older, you will discover you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”  ~ Audrey Hepburn

awakening, clarity, family, identity, life, peace, purpose, respect, responsibility, self esteem, time

I guess that’s why they call it work…

I have been in a working relationship with a difficult person for 10 years. I have attempted to look at this problem from so many points of view and perspectives that I have exhausted myself time and time again.  I am a fixer, if there is a problem I want to fix it. This one, there seems to be no fix. I have had to learn to “fix” from within.  This has been such a growing period in my life that I honestly feel as though this situation has been given to me. Like maybe I should even thank her for the struggle, because I am a stronger person for it.

I could call her names (I certainly have done that over the years)… she’s controlling, she’s heartless, she’s self-centered, she’s C-R-A-Z-Y!   What I’ve come to see and understand is that this doesn’t help me. Finding her faults and focusing on them doesn’t help me be better at who I am and how I conduct my work.  I have become stronger because I have learned to see my strengths and weaknesses through it all and work on them instead.  I cannot work on her… I cannot help her, I have to concentrate on helping myself.

Leaving was never an option. I absolutely love my job. I am very clear that it is my calling. I am very good at it, it is aligned with my passions and beliefs, and I will not give it up because we cannot get along.  I have been supported by my administration which has been a blessing. They see how valuable I am and I am proud of that.

My advice to people struggling with co-workers is to take all of it and look inward. Do not allow your ego to get involved. When my ego steps in and wants to take over it gets all befuddled. I need to stay focused and calm with my eye on my goal. The goal isn’t to beat her, be better than her, or to prove anything.  It is to personally have a good day, to do the job I am there to do and do it well. I have learned to leave my emotions at the door.  We do not speak about our personal lives to each other, we are strictly business and this works for us. I am such a social person that not having a personal relationship with someone I spend so much time with has been an adjustment, but with doing it I see it is for the best.

I do have to admit that I am in a new stage of life and it has helped me at work this year. My husband and I became empty nesters this year, our youngest has flown the coop and my home-work life balance is feeling much better. I believe I contributed to much of the “stuff” at work by having inner turmoil about not being able to be 100% at either place. I like to give all of myself to where I’m needed and I never felt fully respected for what I have had to give to my family over the years of working in this job.  I am on the other side of it now and my family is strong. My kids are succeeding, I have raised good humans and I am in my 25th year of a beautiful marriage. I pat myself on the back for where I am today and have also learned that I don’t need anyone else to do the “patting”, I know what I’ve done is right and I am stronger for it all.

As a mother, as a wife, as a daughter and as an employee I feel I have had to make my decisions day to day to where my loyalty has had to be. I will have to continue to do that and go forward having faith that it will feel balanced.  I plan to continue on this journey becoming stronger and better than I was yesterday. I’m happy with me!

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”  ~ Mahatma Gandhi

adult children, anxiety, clarity, family, identity, life, marriage, peace, purpose, raising kids, school, Uncategorized, writing

Ready to write…

It’s been a while. A while since I’ve been moved to write again. I have been doing a good job at looking inward and searching for a better understanding of me in the past few months.

I have been disconnected from FaceBook since May (9 months) and it feels refreshing. I do not do much social media at all. I am a new member of LinkedIn and I am enjoying it,  seeing other people’s professional accomplishments and other’s rooting them on for it, now that’s refreshing! We did away with cable and only use our Amazon FireStick for our TV, this has helped not have the news in our face.  I have a routine of doing a morning check of the news on my phone before work from sources that I have hand selected and of whom I trust.  This has been helpful in my daily life.  I was just feeling bombarded (literally!) by too much information.  I needed to set boundries and set limits for myself,  I find the steps I’ve taken have been helpful.

My husband and I are navigating the empty nest very well. We survived holiday break; getting first semester grades, adjusted social lives and the return of higher grocery bills. They have both now returned to the University, happy and ready for a successful second semester. We have settled into being just the two of us again and have adjusted to not hearing from them very often. It feels good to know they are out there navigating this big world without having to rely on us for much. They are doing great! Our oldest son is still very happy in his new career and is thriving in the business world. I guess it’s feeling more and more like I can breath.

Speaking of breathing… I began to meditate. This is something I’ve often thought about but have never practiced.  I am using the Calm App on my phone and it has been wonderful. I highly suggest it. It has helped to create space in my mind, I feel I am more at ease and have more clarity these days. First of all, I’ve never been able to let myself shut out the world. I literally put in my headphones and it is just me in my space for 20 minutes a day (10 min of meditation and 10 min of stretching).  I don’t know where or what anyone else is doing, it’s about me! This is an entirely new concept for me and it feels amazing! I feel as though I am on my way to taking better care of myself. I’ve done an awful lot of caring for others, but myself, not so much.

Which leads me to my husband having his surgery.  He had his second hip replacement  surgery in October. He is still doing all of his physical therapy and working hard at being back 100%… but can I just tell you, he is OUT OF PAIN!  The transformation is unbelievable! He is happier, he is stronger, he is more confident!  I am better because he is better.  I worried about him so much, he was always in pain. That is gone and we now take walks together, he wants to do things with me again… we are literally living a new life! I have to admit for almost the entirety of our marriage my husband has been in pain.  He has had 6 surgeries in a 10 year period and prior to his first hip surgery 10 years ago he suffered with the pain of his arthritis for a very long time.  He is a very young man for having been through all of this. He is only 53 and I am 46.  We have our sights set on our future now, he is healthy, happy and pain free.  I have been a caregiver to my children, my husband and anyone else who needed help for what feels like my entire life.  I am entering into the ME ZONE.  I am exercising, meditating, saying “no” when asked to join committees and boards.  I am feeling refreshed for the first time in a very long time. It feels simply wonderful!

There is something else that is different also. I need you to understand my husband is Superman.  He has worked to provide for us throughout all of his pain, he does not complain, he works a full day and then works around the house and maintains anything needing to be done… he is my hero.  Well, that being said, he is also my children’s hero. The disturbance and upheaval of our family from him being laid up over the years has taken a toll on myself and my children.  I have had anxiety since I was a child, but with the life we have experienced over the last 10-12 years it has flared up in new ways. The uncertainty of his surgeries, his recovery, his being out of work, the finances, his physical therapy, our car accident when he couldn’t be with us… the list goes on. This has taken a toll on my mind and my body.  I have been the one to care for him, I cared for the kids, I worked to keep his spirits up when he felt down about being laid up and not able to be the partner I needed. I was everyone’s cheerleader. I worked during this time also, trying to find the balance between my work and my home, this proving not to be an easy task.   Well, it seems we are on the other side of it now. He is feeling strong in body and mind, He knows what he needs to do to stay healthy and works hard at it everyday.  But in the meantime our two youngest children are battling with anxiety. They are both in college now and their doctor has told me that the trauma to the family through all of these unsettling times and not being sure of the outcome for their father being in and out of hospitals so often has played a big role in the people they are today.  They are fearful of the unknown, the “fight or flight” response is very real for them. Navigating college life and balancing their lives has been a bit of a struggle, but what I know from experience struggle brings strength and I have great faith in their ability to overcome these feelings of being out of control of their lives.  This is an unsettling time of not being able to see your future clearly and it is uneasy.  I do feel a lot of guilt due to my not being what they needed through out our family’s hardships. I wish it could have been different but what I know now is that I could not have controlled what happened to us.  We got through the difficulty and have persevered. They are seeing the end result of where the struggle has brought my husband and I and I know they will be ok.

Life is a journey, we often don’t know what’s around the next corner.  This exact notion has brought me great anxiety on the heels of many twists and turns, but I am also learning to embrace it. And with my husband standing strong beside me and loving me more everyday… I feel unstoppable.  It feels like we’ve climbed and climbed and have finally gotten to some sort of clearing in the trees and the sun is shining.  We can see the path ahead of us… we will just stop here for a while and enjoy the view!

“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” ~ Louisa May Alcott