My 9/11 story.

Most people remember where they were and what they were doing when they first got the news of the 9/11 tragedies. I remember. One hundred fifty miles north of the World Trade Center, I was driving down the highway to train my successor for the job I quit a month before. I had no replacement job; my new title was Stay-at-Home-Mom. My sons were ten and fifteen.

I was starting a new life of hope and promise when so many others’ lives were shattered. That day made me realize how grateful I was to have woken up to my priorities before it was too late.

I quit my job because Matthew—my fifteen-year-old— was having a painfully slow recovery from the damage caused by his brain tumor, diagnosed four years earlier. I needed to focus on him, focus on healing our family, and focus on healing myself—physically and emotionally—from the ordeal. My career came last. Or it should have, but it didn’t always. 

My position had been Student Assistance Counselor in a K-5 elementary school. I taught lessons on feelings and problem solving and decision making, and ran support groups for sad or angry or floundering students. I loved the kids, loved the job, but the job didn’t always love me back. Too many needy kids needed me too much. After nine years, it sucked me dry. My sons and my husband got the dregs of my energy and attention, whatever was left after I gave at the office. 

It’s too complicated to explain here how this imbalance happened; someday, you’ll read about it in my memoir. Too many Americans have much harder stories to tell today, and I don’t want to grandstand.

Today, I hope we can remember to focus on our priorities before a crisis or tragedy strikes. And if our world crashes down, literally or figuratively, I hope we find ways to grow as we heal.

It’s a good day to remember. I will.

The irony of “Why I hide my truth.”

It’s ironic that my essay, Why I hide my truth, posted today at The Sunlight Press.

The irony is that yesterday, David and Goliath duked it out within me about that very thing–sharing my truth when I’m most vulnerable. Goliath fought to keep truth in; David fought for its freedom.

I’ve been battling chronic health problems now for over four years. Some days are better than others; yesterday was not one of them.

Most days, I’m able to offset the discouragement of my physical symptoms with the joy and purpose of writing, and simple pleasures like reading on my porch swing. Yesterday was not one of them. I was a hot mess.

I hate asking for help. I hate bothering people. I hate that I might be perceived as needy. I hate exposing my raw feelings, and yesterday, they were rawer than beef standing in a field, mooing.

But I know that this journey I’m on, to write the story of my difficult motherhood, made more difficult by my son’s brain tumor, is intended to help me to grow. The universe is challenging me to break free of my old habits. If I don’t, my pain will not have been worth it.

But old habits die slower than a hosta in poor soil. Yesterday, I scrolled through the contacts in my phone, and saw many friends I could call. How blessed I am. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t reach out. So I put my phone down and cried even harder. Then I felt worse, because I knew what I needed, and it was so simple, but I was too afraid.

I knew The Sunlight Press essay would post today, and I thought, Have I learned nothing from this process? I understand better why I hide my truth, and writing is a wonderful outlet, but sometimes, Goliath must fall at that very moment, not weeks or months later. Sometimes, David has just one shot, and it’s now or never.

I believe our greatest fears are our greatest opportunities for growth.

So, with a deep breath and a prayer, I did it. I texted some friends, who called me right back. I cried, they listened, and I felt better. I even laughed. The physical pain remained, but the emotional pain went poof, like a cloud of dust in Golliath’s fallen wake.

New habits take practice, and sadly, I’ll have many more opportunities to learn. I expect each time I reach out, it will be a little easier. And each time, I’ll have good fodder for my writing.

 

 

Thirty-two years ago…

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Thirty-two years ago today, when I became a mother at 7:32 PM, on Wednesday, August 13, 1986, I had no idea of the difficult road ahead. No parent-to-be knows for sure what to expect in their new role, of course, but there’s a continuum of “typical” and there’s off-the-child-development-charts “unpredictable.”

If you’ve followed my story, you know where my motherhood experience fell.

I thought I was ready to be a mom. I had loving role models in my parents, I was an attentive big sister, and I babysat as a teen. I had a supportive husband, a fulfilling career, a cozy house with a crib, and a changing table stocked with onesies, cloth diapers, and blankies. I took my prenatal vitamins and shunned alcohol and attended LaMaze and breastfeeding classes, and read every page of What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

I was prepared for a typical child. And I expected to be a perfect mom. Matthew and I were neither.

But we’re resilient. Matthew’s recovery from his brain tumor, diagnosed when he was 11, is profound–unpredictable in a good way. Every time I see him, I think he’s smarter than the last time, and the last time, he was reading The Communist Manifesto. 

He’s one remarkable human being. I am so blessed that he is here today so I can wish him:

Happy Birthday, Matt.

Love, Mom