About a year ago, she was skipping along, busy as a bee, marching to the beat of getting things done and getting ahead. She believed the new year held possibility and promise like every other year.Why wouldn’t it?It was the start of not only a year, but a whole new decade.She was excited.
But right after her big party in her new house with all her friends, an ugly monster came.It came and gobbled up all her normal, all the rhythms that held her and rocked her and told her that everything was okay.
Days went by. MUNCH. Weeks went by.MUNCH MUNCH. Months went by. MUNCH MUNCH MUNCH MUNCH MUNCH.
The monster kept devouring her normal. But not just hers. The normal of everyone around her.It ate up bank accounts and dreams and businesses and celebrations and hugs and peace-of-mind and worst of all, it gulped down lives.
She tried really hard to stay upbeat and hopeful and to “look on the bright side,” but it didn’t really work very long.
She was sad.
One day, she figured out that she had to do something about it.But what?What should she do about her sadness?
She could take Vitamin D. She could binge watch TV. She could eat a cookie. She could work in her garden. She could pretend the monster wasn’t there. She could make a grateful journal.
If that helped, maybe then she could tell all her friends and family to do the same.
After making her “what-should-she-do-about-her-sadness” list and checking it twice, she tried hard for a really long time.
Guess what happened?She was still really sad.
Oh no!What should she do?
One morning as she was swallowing her Vitamin D for the 282nd time, she thought of a great idea!
She was going to STOP doing some things. They weren’t working anyway, no matter how hard she tried.
So she STOPPED making the monster smaller than it was. She actually said the word “monster” out loud. She told her friends and her family that it was scary and horrible and that she wanted it to go away.
That was really hard for her. She liked talking about rainbows and butterflies and happy things.
But it was really good for her too. She felt like she was finally telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help her God.
She also STOPPED trying to rush really fast to “happy,” even though Joy was her middle name and she had been told her whole life it wasn’t good to be sad.
She looked right in the mirror and said, “You are allowed to be sad right now. That’s the best thing to be when you lose a bunch of stuff that’s really great.”
And then she took a shower and cried for a long time.
That helped a bunch and she figured out that now she could START doing some things too. She had time and space (like more than ever before).
She STARTED to talk, talk, talk. To her friends. To her husband. To Jesus. To a counselor. To her journal. She got her sadness outside of the inside of her. She gave it really carefully to those who loved her and who she trusted to hold her all safe, like inside-her-heart safe.
She also STARTED to listen, listen, listen. To her friends. To her husband. To Jesus. To her kids. And guess what she found out. They were all sad too. Just like her. She was not all by herself. How about that?
The story is not over yet (even after 324 days) and sometimes, the woman still eats cookies, binge watches TV, and pretends the monster isn’t there.
But more often, she cries.And prays.And talks.And listens.
How did you feel, LITTLE ANT, the day your world was turned upside-down, the day I moved the huge rock that your whole little life revolved around and was protected by just so I could build a rock wall to line the fence in my yard?
How did you feel?
Maybe you felt…
CONFUSED. You were scampering along, working hard to take care of your family, happily doing what you were supposed to do. Suddenly, you found yourself exposed to a world you’d never known. Maybe you asked yourself, “What the heck just happened? Why oh why?” I don’t blame you. I would feel the same way.
Maybe you felt…
ANGRY. I know you did because you bit me, at least three times. I felt it sharply under my pants just moments later. You know what? I would bite me too. Maybe it was all your little self could do to yell, “THIS IS NOT RIGHT! SEND ME BACK TO THE WAY IT WAS!”
Maybe you felt…
OUT-OF-CONTROL. After all, life as you knew it had just changed forever. All those systems that you had put in place to make your little life easier and more predictable blew to bits. Your formula for how the world works and works well was upended, to say the least. When I ventured back to check on you, I saw a whole bunch of you just scurrying around, looking like you didn’t know what to do next.
Maybe you felt…
AFRAID. Who wouldn’t? I sure would. Would some giant ant-eater come out of the woods and gobble you up? Would your life ever look remotely the same as it had before the rock was taken away? Would your ant family be okay with this new normal? Would you be able to find another rock?
Maybe you felt…
SAD. Some of your family and friends were just taken away from you, some never to be seen again and some that you don’t know when you will see again, eat with, play with and work with. It’s just horrible, my little ant friend. Just horrible. It’s not really supposed to be this way and I’m so sorry what happened is putting you through this. I would just stop right now and cry the tears that are rightfully yours.
Maybe one day, LITTLE ANT, you will have a whole new world, one where you will be working, taking care of your family, busily at peace and full of new adventures. Yes. I bet it will happen soon enough.
But for now, my new found friend, I get it. I get you.
I’m with you and I AM you, more than you will ever know.
I angrily pleaded, shouting in my mind, WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME ANYWAY?
His gentle answer surprised me.
You have it all wrong, backwards in fact. It’s the question I’ve been waiting to ask you. What do YOU want from ME? What do YOU need? As a mom? As a wife? As a friend? As a woman? As a human? What do YOU need today?
Really, Jesus? Really? Cause I have a whole list. You ready?
I’m tired. Tired of holding it together. Tired of the extra work. Tired of the mental load. I NEED STRENGTH.
I’m confused. Not sure what to do in this new normal I find myself in. I NEED WISDOM.
I’m irritable. Emotions flying off the wall and out of my mouth. Cranky. I NEED PATIENCE.
I’m sad. Sad that so much good has been taken away. I’m really sad. I NEED JOY.
I’m afraid. It’s scary out there and even here in my own head. I NEED PEACE.
I’m discouraged. Everywhere I turn, it seems like bad news is being shouted loudly. I NEED HOPE.
This time around, His gentle answer did NOT surprise me, because it’s been buried deep in my heart for SO long, just waiting to emerge.
I’ve got all of this IN SPADES for you. Truth be told, I AM ALL OF THIS.
I am STRENGTH. I am WISDOM. I am PATIENCE. I am JOY. I am PEACE. I am HOPE.
There is plenty of ME to go around. I will give YOU all that YOU need today, because what YOU really need is ME.
Meet Susan Bernstein! She is a wife to Eddie (married over 20 years), mom to three growing, young men (Brandon, Blake and Jordan) and a kind friend. Susan is a dog-lover, a very organized stay-at-home mom (she jokes that she spends half her life at the grocery store), an amateur photographer and an aspiring writer! Susan is loving, smart and brave. THIS WILL BE A HUGE TREAT FOR YOU PARENTS OUT THERE (no matter what your age and stage)! I hope you enjoy!
“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” (Denis Waitley)
I would suspect most people don’t cry when looking through a Bed, Bath & Beyond catalogue. Last night however, I found myself doing just that. As I studied the various organizational and space-saving items they sell to help one fit their belongings into a 14 x 14 foot dorm room, the tears just started flowing. I couldn’t believe that in one short month, I’d be packing my oldest son up for college. My mothering mind wondered if he’d have everything he needed, but deep down I wasn’t too worried about shower caddies or desk lamps. My concern was more for friends, support, and wisdom…things they didn’t sell in that catalogue.
My husband noticed my tears and came over to hug me.
“You ok?” he asked me for probably the millionth time this year.
“Yeah.” I exhaled and sighed.
“It’s not that I’m upset about him leaving,” a fresh sob forming in my throat, “It’s just that he’s never coming back.” And the floodgates erupted once more.
It hits me at odd times that our family of five will never again permanently reside under the same roof. I beamed proudly during his graduation ceremony without shedding a tear. However, I had to pull myself together in the aisle of the Hallmark store as I shopped for a card and gift just days prior. I choked back the tears as I chose Dr. Seuss’ Oh The Places You’ll Go, realizing he was about to begin a new phase of life, and it wouldn’t include us.
I knew in my heart the day would come. I mean, isn’t this what we plan for as parents all along? None of us have children and secretly hope that they’ll live with us when they are 40, right? The fact that they leave means we actually did something right as a parent! We raised a child strong and independent enough to survive on his own! Isn’t that the whole point of this parenting thing? We spent untold hours teaching them the value of hard work, integrity, and the need for sunblock. We had heart-to-hearts about taking the high road when betrayed by friends. We battled fears, real and imagined, late into the night, and steadied their shaky steps when they entered the unknown territory of a new school, team, or social circle. All the pep talks, time outs, chore charts, and consequences have paved the way to this moment. Leaving might actually be the Super Bowl event of parenthood, a time to fold our arms and smugly proclaim, “I rocked this parenting thing out of the park!”
Not exactly. Yes, he’s a capable, intelligent and (somewhat) responsible young man. He drives and makes decisions and can even vote or join the army if he wants to. But is he ready? I remember asking the same question when I left him at preschool a blink of an eye ago. He cried and cried for me, and I was sure I was doing him irreparable harm by leaving. It’s funny, because my heart hurts in the same way now. Except he isn’t crying anymore. He’s on Facebook meeting incoming classmates and looking for a roommate. So, he probably is ready. But am I?
Parenting seems to be the most selfless profession out there. After you’ve done all you can to love, nurture and raise this tiny little person, you need to let them go. As a child, my son believed everything I told him. Now, he forms his own opinions, and he is influenced by a myriad of voices over which I have no control. Our children aren’t mini-clones or younger versions of ourselves. They actually have their own unique identity. They will think and believe and do what they decide, and we are now on the sidelines, watching. We silently cheer them on and pray constantly that they will have victory. We are most definitely now on the bleachers watching their game of life, rather than next to them in the huddle.
As I prepare to release my son into the world, I will shop for all the things he needs for his new “home.” I will buy fluffy towels and warm blankets, plenty of Command hooks and microwave popcorn. He will leave packed up with all the essentials, including 18 years worth of unconditional love. I will watch with wonder, excitement, and a fair amount of sadness, as he leaves us behind and begins his life. He has a story to write, and he will write it his own way, on his own terms. I will always be a part of that story, but just one part, the one loving him from afar and praying that God protect him and put good, loving people in his life. And I suspect, for a few years at least, I’ll be the one helping to pack and organize him at Bed Bath and Beyond.
How great was that?! I just want to thank Susan for sharing her heart with each of us! If you are interested in reading other parenting blog posts by me, the Dolly Mama, click on the links below: