Doing a Happy Dance!

Brianna has been awarded her GED! She received a phone call last night from the testing center letting her know she’s completed and passed all the tests. The results and diploma will be in the mail soon. I asked her if she was happy or relieved and she said “very relieved.” The scoring took quite a bit longer for these last two tests and Brianna admitted she was growing more anxious with each passing day. “I’m finally done with high school,” she said, almost as if she didn’t believe the moment was real. I had to wonder how many times she’s dreamed of this, longing for it to happen.

Today I feel like dancing, like shouting to the entire world, “She did it!” I’m in awe of the overpowering joy I feel in my heart. This has been such a long journey, with so many ups and downs, twists and turns. Maybe now Brianna will believe in herself.

I’ll admit there were many times in the last five years when my belief in Brianna faltered a bit, but I never gave up hope. I truly believed she would reach this milestone. My only doubt was not “if” but “when.” At twenty years old Brianna is long overdue this achievement but the joy in my heart is so great that I really don’t care. It’s done!

Truth be told, this was just as much a learning journey for me as it has been for Brianna. I coached, mentored, encouraged, disciplined, prayed. I tried every conceivable idea I could think of. “You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.” I struggled with powerlessness. I berated my parenting skills. I can’t count the times I wondered what I should have done differently—that number is infinite.

I don’t want to minimize the efforts of my other daughters, but the fact is they followed the “traditional” path through high school; one even finished early. Each daughter made me so proud with her achievements. But Brianna’s journey was not traditional and so great a challenge. She made so many bad choices and had to overcome them all before she could reach the finish line. The goal for each was the same—finishing high school—but Brianna’s accomplishment seems so much greater. To each her own.

Finally I can take out my big marker. Way to go, Brianna!



What I would do over…

I would have

  • known my mother better. There are so many questions I’d like answered. What did she like the most about being a mother? What was her most frustrating moment? Her saddest? What memory did she treasure the most? If given the opportunity, what career would she have wanted?
  • not argued with my dad two months before he died.
  • found a better way to communicate with both my parents so I could hear the words “I love you.” They signed birthday cards “love, Mom and Dad” but I don’t remember hearing the words. And I would have found a way to say good-bye before they died.
  • sought out relatives or other adults to be mentors in the absence of my parents. I was too stubborn and too determined to stand on my own feet, but I needed guidance and an elder’s wisdom.
  • paid more attention at school and practiced better study habits.
  • worked better at saving money throughout my whole life.
  • treated myself with more respect and dated better guys.
  • found other ways to communicate with my first husband in order to persuade him to seek help for his anger. I tried, but too late. And my message didn’t resonate. Maybe no message would have. I won’t say I would have married someone else because that would mean giving up my four daughters. I cannot imagine my life without them, in the past or present or future.
  • walked away from the marriage when my girls were younger. All that anger and abuse caused more harm than I understood.
  • worked smarter at being a good mother, using more effective messages to prevent daughters stumbling onto bad life paths.
  • made wiser career decisions.

What I have done, am doing, and will do…

  • told my children “I love you” every time  I put them to bed as children, and tell them every time I say good-bye now that they are adults.
  • answered any and all of their questions about my life, about their lives, about anything really. I have always done this and always will. If I don’t know an answer, I don’t make up one.
  • find ways to be in the lives of my grandchildren, even though we don’t live close to each other.
  • learn to accept my faults, to let go of guilt or shame I have for not being a better person.
  • learn to accept the faults of others.
  • strive to be a better mother, wife, friend.
  • communicate more effectively in all aspects of my life.
  • learn to count my blessings.
  • have prayed, am praying, will pray.

Coming to Terms

I’ve been in a funk for several months. About four or so months ago I decided to get in to a counselor and work out whatever was going on. After about two months, it was apparent to me that the therapist was just biding time, satisfying my need to talk to someone. I wasn’t any better or any worse for that matter but my depression wasn’t debilitative, so I declared the conversations done and didn’t go back.

My husband keeps telling me I need to get on anti-depressants, and I keep telling him I’ve survived worse without meds so I can get through this as well. I just need to figure out what “it” is and come to terms with it.

So for many weeks I’ve been in a contemplative state, just rolling things around in my head, awake and in my sleep, waiting for some sore spot to stick out so I can focus on it. But I’m growing impatient. Nothing is calling to me. And in the last few days I’ve come to realize that maybe what “it” is, is an acceptance of sorts. Am I like the Jack Nicholson character who steps into a therapist’s waiting room filled with people and asks, “What if this is as good as it gets?”

Call it a midlife crisis, call it exhaustion, call it menopause. It really doesn’t matter what name anyone gives “it”, the fact is I’m in a funk. And I just need to accept it and my life, as it is, and move on. And anyone familiar with Twelve Step programs knows very well that acceptance comes only after admitting the problem. So what is my problem?

There are two at the very top of the list. The first has to do with my youngest daughter who recently turned twenty years old. When Brianna was about fourteen she got caught up in a bad crowd and fell madly in love with a boy who showed her things she shouldn’t have seen. It set her off onto a downward spiral of poor choices and bad experiences with no apparent “rock bottom.” No matter what I tried, I could not get her back on the right path. And sometimes even I got sucked into the vortex of that downward spiral. The good news is that Brianna is finally on the right path, with both feet firmly planted. She’s not taking forward steps as quickly as I want her to, but the fact is she is moving forward. About two weeks ago she took the final series of tests to get her GED and this week we should get the results. I am confident she will pass; she’s still full of doubt. I’m happy she’s reached this milestone, but I’m still not satisfied. What I need to come to terms about Brianna is that her life will never be the life I dreamed for her. Yeah, I know. It’s her life and she gets to live it. And I just need to let go. If she’s happy, then I should be happy that she’s happy. Sometimes acceptance is pretty easy on the surface, but thick as mud underneath.

The second thing at the top of the list is the fact that I am a spoiled brat. Seriously. It’s a very tough thing to come to terms with. Back in 2008, my husband and I suffered a series of setbacks that were out of our control and cost us dearly financially. Prior to 2008 we were both living the dream. Life was grand. Now, life’s not so grand. But the fact is, every day I manage to put food on the table and every night we go to sleep in a nice bed in a warm and beautiful house. We have absolutely nothing to complain about. And yet I complain, and I whine, and some days I throw a pity party. This is not the life I had planned, not what I wanted, and a hundred steps back from where I was five years ago. And when I hear those thoughts pass through my head I yell at myself, “Shutupaboutit already! Geez!” I hate that I cannot get over this. I am so angry with myself that I cannot count the blessings I have. I am so frustrated that I get full of envy and jealousy. It’s disgusting. I’m disgusting!

It’s November and so many people are offering their “daily thanks.” I desperately want to be among them, but I cannot see the forest through the trees. Sue enough I can think of several things I am thankful for, but it’s kind of a “glass half empty” frame of mind. My whole life I’ve been an optimistic person and have always been able to see the positive and never lost hope. Why is my glass suddenly half empty instead of half full? I used to dream big dreams, but they became too painful so I quit. And look where it put me. In a funk. Is this as good as it gets? And if it is, how do I come to terms with that?