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I’ve never felt very comfortable admitting or expressing anger, even with my own family.  I am much more likely to share sadness or sorrow than to allow someone to witness my anger or take part in a confrontation.  It somehow, just seems more acceptable for a “nice” girl like me.  So, when my girl and I continued to struggle with epic power struggles earlier this year and my own anger got the best of me, I decided that it was time to approach a counselor to hone my parenting skills.  “I just need to learn some new tricks,” I told myself.   My counselor asked if I was familiar with the book Parenting With Love and Logic, to which I chuckled, saying that yes, I read it in graduate school, before having kids.  I even wrote a research paper on Love and Logic because I thought it made so much sense!  But after having my own children, I tossed most of what I learned out the window, as it just didn’t seem to work…

Desperate to restore peace in my household, and in my soul,  I humbly purchased another copy of Love and Logic and began reading it again, one chapter at a time.  Once again, the essence of the book made sense.  When our children feel valued and loved, even when given logical consequences, they are more likely to treat us with that same value and love.  I began trying some of the strategies with my girl and experiencing positive results.  I reported improvements to my counselor.  Things were getting better, BUT I still felt this gnawing anxiety squeezing at my heart.  Why?

So, we began focusing on the anxiety itself.  Relaxation.  Breathing exercises.  Meditation.  And then my counselor suggested that we try something called “brainspotting.”  She explained that it is a somewhat new technique that is being used to treat victims of post-traumatic stress disorder.  I wondered how it related to me, as I had not experienced any sort of trauma…at least, nothing that I would have labeled as trauma.  The premise of this technique is that even though we may have intellectually moved through a traumatic event, the energy can sometimes remain trapped in our brains and continue to affect our bodies/behaviors.  In a nutshell, brainspotting involves following a pointer with your eyes until you feel a more intense feeling in your body and then focusing on that point and going with the feeling, recounting whatever comes to mind.  It sounded pretty “woo-woo,” but I figured I would at least give it a try.

During the first few sessions, I half-heartedly followed the pointer, skeptically recounting various memories and wondering how this was going to relieve my anxiety.  And then I noticed that after these sessions, the pressure on my heart would subside for a few days before returning again.  I felt peaceful.  Maybe we were on to something.  But really?  What kind of trauma had I experienced?  “Life itself can be traumatic,” my counselor would say.  And then during one session, as my eyes followed the pointer, they reached a place where I felt like my heart might explode.  And the memories poured-out in tears.  The day the word autism was said in conjunction with my boy’s name. I could barely speak.

Without going into all that had taken place around that time, I will just be honest and say that the first few years with my boy and girl were so very hard.  My husband and I had overcome infertility only to be catapulted into a virtual nightmare which I tried to hide from the outside world because this was supposed to be the most joyous time of our lives.  I  felt guilty for complaining and did not want anyone to see my boy’s unexplainable meltdowns that I felt I should be able to control.  I remember crying-out to God in despair at times, but for the most part, I stuffed my feelings and tried to focus on the positive.  Everything was under control.  I was surviving.

That said, I am now realizing that I never truly grieved that time in my life.  I suppose as therapies were put into place and my boy began making good progress, I didn’t want to look back.  And yet, my role as a mother remains much more involved than the layed-back hippie dreams of motherhood I had imagined.  While I know that I am wiser and more compassionate because of these experiences, I need to acknowledge the hurt and pain of all that we went through.  The struggles that we continue to face head-on alongside our boy each day.

And just because I admit that I feel angry or cry, I can still love my boy with all my heart and believe that God created him for a very special purpose.  As I heal in the days ahead, I look forward to living with my whole heart.  Not one that is squeezed with anxiety, trying to hide pain, but a heart that is free to be honest, vulnerable and joyful, all at the same time.

 

 

Squealing with delight, my boy and girl pounce, tug and push on their Daddy’s arms and legs, determined to show him their strength, to break-free of his hold.  From the kitchen, I watch this wrestling match play-out in the middle of our living room floor.  My husband’s tiny opponents keep coming back for more until he surrenders, at last,  from the exhaustion of grappling with squirming legs and sharp elbows.

I wrestle, too.  Only, instead of rolling around on the living room floor, I wrestle in my head, with God.  I wrestle with the sudden loss of a dear aunt just days after Christmas.  Death is a natural part of our life here on Earth.  But how do we fill the hole in our souls when we lose a family member who treated us like her own children?  Driving several hours just to attend the birthday parties of my little ones,  sitting with my boy and girl on the porch swing on long afternoons, and taking extended walks together along the surf’s edge each summer.  How do we adjust to the absence of this small, but mighty lady?  The quirky aunt who captured our own hearts as small girls with her signature style and undivided attention?

My family and I, we move through the motions.  And then, my girl falls ill just days after returning my beloved aunt to the earth.  As sickness often does in families, my boy picks-up where my girl leaves-off, ten days later.  I spend these weeks nursing ailing bodies and hurting spirits.  And, I wrestle.  Just as Jacob wrestled with God.  Bless me Lord, just as you blessed Jacob.  I will not give-up until you give me a blessing!  (Genesis 32: 26)

Weary of struggling, I write in my journal, trying to work my way-out of this wrestling match.  I check e-mail, my eyes pausing at the title to Stephanie’s blog post – Remember to Breathe Out.  I remember to practice breathing in grace.  But, have I breathed out, lately?  Have I breathed out the sadness? the anxiety? the isolation?   And then the familiar words come to me:

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you.  – Psalm 55: 22

“Breathe out your worries to make more room for my grace,”  He whispers to me.  I surrender and the wrestling match is over.  I am blessed with a peaceful heart.

In loving memory of Suzanne P. Carrington

January 12, 1945 – December 27, 2011

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