Walk With Me-Twelve
When I sit and think back over my life I’m surprised at those times when a simple question changed the course of my life.
Sitting in church one day a friend of mine turned around and asked me, “Do you ever worry about Josh when he grows up?”
Without thinking I said, “No. I worry about Richard. Josh is protected and loved and taken care of. I have a huge family. I trust them to make sure he will be safe. Richard, on the other hand, will grow up and be independent and on his own. He will have to struggle and work and face all the trials and tribulations that life throws at him. I can’t protect him from that and I wouldn’t if I could”
I was always conscious of Josh’s dependence on me. I didn’t want to be another crutch. I tried to make sure that he could do things without me. I didn’t want to cripple him emotionally but I got blindsided. In my attempt to give him freedom, I somehow lost mine.
With Josh being bused to school, for the first time in more than ten years I had actual ‘me’ time. But what did that mean?
In addition to directing adult and junior choir and leading adult Sunday school class, I joined a women’s group that met once a week. One week, the leader handed out slips of paper to us and directed us to write down ten things that we wanted in our life.
The rules stated that we could only write down things that affected us individually and we didn’t have to limit it to what we could afford. Money was no object. I stared at the blank paper and experienced an epiphany. I couldn’t write down anything that didn’t involve a husband or children. I’d lost touch with my own dreams. I couldn’t even remember them.
I was profoundly shocked to realize how disconnected I was from my own inner being. Slowly, I searched through my life, reaching back to childhood. What had I loved? What had I wanted? What did I desire? What made me laugh?
I traveled back to the age of four when I desperately wanted a horse. I remember sitting on the front porch one night beside my father and telling him I really, really wanted a horse. He laughed and told me that if I built the barn he would buy the horse. I spent the next day building the only barn I could manage. It wasn’t very big and it was made out of cardboard boxes. I was deeply hurt at my parent’s laughter when they saw it. But I wrote down horse on my list.
And I wanted to live in the country so I put down I wanted a couple of acres. Slowly, I wrote down items. That simple exercise gave me a lot to think about over the following weeks. Taking care of a disabled child encompasses so much more than just feeding, clothing, and nurturing. I had a house that was in a state of chaos. A husband, another child, I was responsible for so many things that seemed to come way above me. I prayed long and hard for answers. The response I got to prayer was, ‘Put your house in order.’
Put your house in order. Not an answer I wanted to hear. Did God mean that literally? When I looked around my house, I had to admit it certainly needed cleaned and organized. Did the house mean me? I spent a lot of time trying to figure out answers.
You’d think recognizing a problem would fix it but I found out that habits are hard to break. Everybody was used to me doing for them. I have a problem asking for help. I grew up in a family of strong, independent women. My dad worked long hours and wasn’t often home. My brother is five years older than I am and he was grown and gone before I entered high school.
I got used to being the one who did things. Gutter clogged with leaves? Up I’d go onto the roof to clean them out. Faucet needs shut off for winter and turned on for summer? I’d cover my head with a scarf, put on a long-sleeved shirt, tape my pants legs shut and crawl into the dark hole to shut it off. Get locked out? I’d climb through a window to open it. I never questioned when a job needed doing. I just figured out a way to get it done. But the jobs that needed doing were piling up and I was being buried.
I wish I’d asked for help. Demanded help. Screamed and nagged until I got help but I didn’t. I had identified a problem and once I saw it I had to fix it. I started by what I call working in the cracks.
Slowly, I started to pull time out of the day that I used for me. I began to dream again and find ways to move toward those dreams. I guard my me-time like a hawk. I learned how to compartmentalize segments of the day.
I began to understand that taking care of me isn’t a selfish thing, its self-preservation. The more I became me, the greater energy and care I could give my family. Anger and resentment and sadness would take a back seat to confidence, satisfaction, joy in learning creating an eagerness for living, all positive additions to the family dynamics.
And a surprising thing began to happen. Those items on my bucket list? They began to happen. I wanted two acres. We bought ten and a half. One horse? I eventually owned six. The cardboard box? I built a real barn with real box stalls. I remember standing inside the barn shortly after it was completed inhaling the smell of new lumber. Bright new gravel lined the floor and I stood there, looking around and felt my Dad’s presence. I built my barn and I’m absolutely positive he was laughing with me. It’s a joyful thing when you accomplish a dream.