My ten year old’s body thinks it has a neuromuscular disorder. His nerves pretend to be confused so they don’t fire to his muscles properly. His calves have shriveled and his feet have curled to the point they needed surgical intervention.
That’s what we’ve been doing this summer; a surgery in which they broke his ankle into alignment, elongated his fascia and moved no less than three other ligaments or muscles from one side to the other, all in an effort to bring him more mobility.
Watching him writhe in pain wasn’t the worst of it (although I’ll be honest, I’m still a raw nerve ending myself from that one).
Having him non-weight-bearing for six weeks isn’t either. The worst of it is the recovery’s constant reminder that we aren’t merely healing a foot, we’re managing a disorder we spend much of our time trying to forget.
But I was okay. I had it handled. I’m a seasoned therapist and coach. I have the tools I need to manage my brain and quiet my mind, to live in the now, to not be driven by outdated neural networks, which want to drag me into fear and anxiety.
That was until my eighteen-year-old tore his labrum, requiring shoulder surgery and keeping him from playing baseball in college where he is heading in two weeks. I was fearing how this kid was going to feed himself beyond peanut butter and jelly, but now I’m wondering how he’s going to get himself to class and rehab, manage his arm in a sling, and keep his spirits up while watching his roommate head off with the team each morning to live the dream without him.
As I struggled to my feet each day, announcing inaudibly to an empty room, “I’m up! I’m up!” I wondered where the line is between grief and victimhood. Years ago, when Jaden was diagnosed, I laid in bed for three weeks with a box of tissues and my Netflix remote.
But now, I know that the thoughts I practice firing, the feelings I practice embodying and the person I practice being has a direct correlation to how all of this turns out; to the reality I am creating for myself, on a moment by moment basis.
The problem is, I’m not a rah rah kinda gal. I don’t believe in positive thinking, because it’s inauthentic and I am an authenticity enthusiast. That means if I feel crappy, I’m not going to pretend I don’t, and if you pretend around me that your life is rosy when it isn’t, we likely won’t get beyond acquaintances.
The problem with that though, is if I allow myself to wallow in sadness, I’m practicing a reality I don’t want.
However, the therapist in me knows that there is no way over or around grief; the only way is through.
You can see how confused I was.
Here’s the coping plan I came up with: If I’m experiencing grief, I let it in because pushing it away is only going to prolong the damn thing. I let myself read a book or lay around. At the end of the day when I tally my accomplishments (or lack there of), I write down that I loved myself.
But on the days the grief tries to morph into anxiety or fear or self-pity, I slap myself back to reality. The reality is, I am creating my reality, and if I want this crappy reality to stop, I need to think new thoughts. Here are some of my favs I practice:
“I’m so curious to see what lessons my kids will learn from the less than ideal hands they’ve been dealt,”
“I’m happy for the emotional strength they’re both showing, and the health we do have,” and
“This too shall pass.”
Lastly, I remember that it’s not so much what happens in life as it is how we handle it. If you happen to be in the midst of choppy seas, I hope this brings a glimpse of the lighthouse in the distance.