It’s been a little while since we let all of you sit in on one of our happy hour conversations. In this chat we explored the topic of transitions as each of us are STEEPED in change! Between my big move, Krista’s shift in jobs, and Sarah transitioning her 3rd child (who also happens to have Type 1 Diabetes) into kindergarten in the midst of undergoing treatment for her Lyme disease – we are certainly 3 therapists in major flux.
I (re)introduced the gals to a model of transitions by William Bridges explored in his book, The Way of Transition: Embracing Life’s Most Difficult Moments. Essentially he breaks down the experience of transition into 3 stages (we kinda like the number 3): The Ending, The Neutral Zone and The New Beginning. Listen in as we process these stages together…and laugh a little along the way too.
Featurette: A piece written by one of our readers. A small narrative vignette inviting us all to see the world from behind their eyes and hearts for just a moment. You can submit your short story for consideration here.
I have been binging on Anne Lamott. I read Operating Instructions when a friend mailed it to me while I was going through the new baby stuff in the very foreign country of Cambodia. I would get up in the middle of the night to nurse my daughter and not mind so much because I had a few minutes to read the hilariously crass words of another new mother. She wrote things most wouldn’t admit to, and honestly, she had worse thoughts than I ever had, but I could relate to so much of it, that I gobbled it up. I had no friends in Cambodia, no other mothers I could ask for advice. Just a great many dark hands touching my baby and holding her every chance they got, but not able to utter even one word to me in English. Operating Instructions, mixed with this very difficult start of our little family in a hot, corrupt country was a funny induction into motherhood.
This weekend I got time away from my now family of five, and I brought along Anne’s book on becoming a grandmother. Not that I am at all close to that stage, but I like her voice and I wasn’t in the mood for her fiction stuff. So, I feasted on Some Assembly Required with some voracity, and found having reached the end, two sentences that stand out. I think Anne is remarkable because she is terribly honest, and hilariously funny, so her anxiety seems survivable.
At one point in the book, she writes,
“We as parents have the illusion that we make our kids stronger, but they make us stronger.” – Anne Lamott
I try so very hard to make my kids strong and confident. I feel like that will help them escape a lot of the crap the world hurls at them; they will be able to stand up under it and smile even when things are tough. But as I lie on this hotel bed in the middle of the afternoon and enjoy my space, I can’t help but understand deeply what she means by this. I have been so exhausted with my parenting duties that I thought I could not possibly take another step, or cook another meal, or clean another butt, and then, the need arises and I just do it. I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and love the people entrusted to me the absolute best I can. I am really stinking strong.
I am quite brave also. I know this because I have moments where I fear the worst happening to one of my kids, or an illness befalling them, or perhaps even losing one, and I can’t even manage to hold the thought in my brain anymore, but I have to. I have to think through it, and rationalize my way back to sanity and realize that although we haven’t had any terrible loss or hardship, they may come, and I have to be able to face it. I will be able to face it. I know that. I have literally cried over things that have not happened. That sounds crazy now, but fear is like that, it takes hold and you have to push it back out to where it belongs. And because I am able to do this I know I am brave, and I know I can stand when something does happen. Don’t test me, but trust that I know it with great confidence. Just don’t test me, please.
The second line that caught my attention has a natural connection to the first.
“You love your kids way too much to ever feel safe again.” – Anne Lamott
I remember when I finally gave birth to my first daughter, as I already mentioned, living overseas, I realized once my water broke and we had to take a Tsongtau to the hospital that I may have been naïve about this whole thing. I really wanted to splurge for an American-style taxi, but none were around, so I managed to hulk my large belly onto the back of the converted truck.
But 28 hours later my daughter appeared blue and cone-headed. That scared the shit out of me because I had never seen a baby that new before, and didn’t realize it was perfectly normal after the hours she spent hanging out in my birth canal. It was almost instantly that I knew I was screwed. I mean really in trouble. Because I now had my husband, who I could not stand the thought of losing, and my daughter, who literally took me captive. I now had two people in the world that were living lives I could not control or protect indefinitely. They were at risk all the time. I was too but who cared about me now. I only had half a heart for him and another half for her, so they were all that mattered. Imagine how messy my heart and mind were when we added another beautiful little lady into our family and our handsome son. Five halves of a heart gets exhausting to carry around in one’s chest all day.
Therefore, I repeat, I am brave and strong.
My second born loves to say that same thing while flexing her little twig-like arms in an exaggerated strongman pose. “I am brave and strong.” She was right all along. Because I have a family, which I work tirelessly for, and I am able to hold them in the proper space that recognizes how much I love and adore them, while also knowing they are not mine to control or protect. I can only ever do so much; I have to let them go a little, which makes me crazy. That risk, though, is what makes the reward so much richer. The reward of seeing their smiling faces when I return, or holding them when they are sad, or celebrating with them when they are happy. It all goes together in one big messy life.
Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott
Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott