Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve. It's supposed to be a momentous time—changing over to the new year. And I suppose I do find myself reflecting on this past year and the changes I want to make in the new year. I'm not making resolutions, though. Instead, I'm looking at the stories I tell myself and asking which ones I might want to rewrite.

I know, of course, that I want to rewrite any that begin with the assumption I'm stupid or incompetent about or can't do something. I know that I want to rewrite any that set limits on what's possible for me. I want to rewrite any that say I can't have love or happiness or prosperity.

I find myself thinking about all of this now because very soon I will be going back east to see my son in his new environment, in the group home. I know that it's important to think carefully about what I will tell him about this big change in his life, the story I will help him create for himself.

What are the stories you tell yourself that you might want to rewrite as we enter this new year? I'd love to know and to know what happens when you rewrite them.

Sending blessings and safe and gentle ((((((hugs))))))),

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bittersweet Time of Year

Usually I love this time of year. Yes, there are some childhood memories that aren't pleasant from this time of year but there are more of those memories where Christmas would remind my parents of who they wanted to be. At least for a short time my mother would remember that she wanted to love and make us happy. My father would grin as he brought in and set up the tree. We would go sledding or out to the slopes to ski.

This somehow feels different not having my son with me on Christmas. That's been true for several years now but....this year feels different. Because now he's in the group home and it feels like he's more distant than he was before. That makes no sense, I know, but...this year as I wrapped his presents and even now as I write this I find myself crying, grieving the loss of how I wish things could be.

I haven't begun my Christmas cards though the packages have been sent out. And I spent this morning with my daughter as she searched for the right present for her brother and dad. We made plans for her to come over for Christmas eve and I was reminded how lucky and blessed I am that this is possible. Of course, knowing that she might switch graduate schools and leave the area is another potential loss and one that hits hard on the heels of my emotions about my son and the group home.

Don't get me wrong. It's a wonderful group home. And I know it's a chance for him to grow up in new ways that could make his life easier. And if another graduate school will be better for my daughter I will be happy for her. But it will be a loss in my life to have her go.

It cheers me up to see my tree, though mind you it's a challenge getting my dog Sophy to understand the round things on the tree are NOT balls for her to play with! cards will go out late, but that's nothing new. I'll cherish the time I have with my daughter on Christmas eve and Christmas day. I'll talk with my son over the phone. And I'll acknowledge the anniversary of my father's death on Christmas eve by lighting a candle and remembering the times he was able to be a good father. I'll remember, too, the hurt that caused him, in turn, to hurt me—a reminder of why it's so important to find ways to love and accept ourselves so that we do not repeat the harm our abusers did.

A mixed bundle of emotions, this time of year. I suspect it's that way for most people.

Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

10 Honest Things

Mile191 has been kind enough to give me an award. Thank you!

With this award I'm supposed to list 10 honest things about myself.

1) I'm a coward. It gets better all the time but my first reaction to something new is to be scared. I always have to take deep breaths and reset my thinking before I can do them. The good thing is that once I do them, I have more evidence that I can do things and I don't need to be scared.

2) I get impatient with my kids. I want my son (who has Down Syndrome) to realize that if he followed rules, his life would be easier. I wish he had all the freedom in the world to live the way he wants, but that is not his reality. I get impatient with my daughter when she goes in circles worrying about making absolutely sure she makes the right choice about anything. The irony is that I know this may be at least in part due to watching me do that as she grew up.

3) My house is nowhere near as neat as I'd like. It's far better than when I was married but it's not at the level I'd like it to be.

4) I love playing video games, especially games like Zelda.

5) I hate cold weather and ice and snow. I grew up in a cold climate and my ancestors are from cold climates but....I'd much rather have warmth.

6) Even though I have a lot of published books, there are times when I don't feel like a “real” writer. The one thing that helps is that most published writers I know also have those moments of self-doubt.

7) I hate confrontation. I suspect I always will.

8) My dog gets to sleep on my bed and I feel safer having her in the house.

9) I wish I could spend more time with my kids even though I know the greatest gift I can give them is the freedom to create their own lives.

10) I believe that deep within us is the courage and resilience we need to heal. I believe that by reaching for moments of joy in our lives, we nourish that courage and resilience and in accepting ourselves we have the best shot of becoming the people we want to be.

And now I'd like to pass the award on to:

Clinically Clueless
Jumping in Puddles

If, that is, you want to play. And I'm sure I'm forgetting people I really should add to this list.

Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Stories, pt 2

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. I think that especially in times like this it's important to stop and list what we're grateful for. It's a tangible reminder to ourselves that even in the midst of chaos or trouble, we do have moments of joy, things that do—or could, if we let them—make us smile.

I've needed that reminder this past week. Today it becomes official—my son's move into the group home. And it's a good one. I was very impressed when I visited it—and I kept expecting to find things that upset me and was surprised when I didn't. He will finally have a chance to learn the social and behavior skills that could make his life easier and happier.

Still, it's a big change. And my son is scared. And it's hard to separate my emotions from his on this—even when I know in my head it's the best possible thing for him. Nor does it help when my ex-husband starts obsessing over who will have the right to handle our son's money (SSI, any paychecks, family gifts, etc.) because his fears trigger old patterns for me. We're telling ourselves stories, each of us, and it isn't helping.

I'm pretty sure this will be good for my son. He tells me the place is nice and he likes “hanging out with my guys.” They have lots of activities and seem sensitive to the needs of each resident. But he's scared. So I reassure him it's normal to feel scared when there's such a big change but he's loved and it will feel like home soon—if he lets it. And that he can and should tell me if there are problems. With luck, I'm giving him a story that will help him adjust. One that leaves room for him to let me know if there are problems.

I couldn't sleep last night and realized around 2 am that part of what I'm feeling is guilt—that I couldn't give my son everything he needed myself. And I realized that perhaps I've been punishing myself for that “sin.” More stories. Stories about what kind of mother I “should” be and stories about how I should treat myself if I fall short.

The irony is that by doing so I made myself less resilient and I had less energy to do things that might make the transition easier for my son. I realized that if I did things that made me happy, I'd probably be over my cold by now and I'd have more energy and more creativity with which to reassure him. And I'd be happier. Win win.

Which took me back to the story our culture tells us about life—that we have to suffer if we make mistakes, that we shouldn't be too happy, that if we fail to meet expectations we have no right to be happy, etc. At least, that's the culture I suspect many of us grew up in. And I know it's false. In my writing classes and coaching I teach that finding the easiest way, the way that brings us joy is actually the most effective. That's true in writing and it's true in life—even if it did take me way too long to figure it out!

When we are happy, when we accept ourselves, then we can be open to feedback and advice. When we are happy, when we accept ourselves, we are likely to have the energy and desire to help others—and to be able to accept them as they are. When we are happy, when we accept ourselves, then we are most likely to be able to be the kind of person that best fits our values, to live our lives in good and honorable ways.

But somehow I forgot. Not consciously but on the level I didn't realize I was making these assumptions and creating the sense of guilt for myself. As I say so often, IT IS THE ASSUMPTION WE DON'T EVEN KNOW WE'RE MAKING THAT TRIPS US UP. I'll make a conscious effort to do things that make me happy and focus on the good things in my life. And remind myself of all the reasons this change in my son's life IS a good one. Not that I'll stop checking with him that everything is okay and letting him know he can tell me if there's a problem. But I'll remind myself of all the reasons I came away from the group home knowing what a fabulous opportunity this is for my son. I'll try to notice the stories I'm telling myself and let go of them—especially the ones that don't serve me (or my son) well.

Here's hoping all of you are able to see the blessings in YOUR lives and find ways to be happy—every day! Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),