The Joy Between the Lines

Wil reading

As much as I try to plan, sometimes, life grabs me by the collar, and says, Hey, sit tight! This needs to be one of those day-by-day things.

Oh, no, not one of those! I like to fly with a plan. This day-by-day thing takes time and patience. I’m not so good with that.

But, Life is always right. So, I do my best to listen. But, I’ve had to learn the hard way.

I remember, when Wil was just a baby, my friend told me about someone who had an older child with Down syndrome. My friend thought it would be helpful if I talked to her.

So, I gave this woman a call, and we had a great chat. We talked all about the joys of our children, the doctor visits, what toys and therapies were best, and so on.

She was very friendly, kind, encouraging…and forthcoming. Or so I thought.

A found out later, she intentionally left out some of the challenges I will encounter as Wil gets older.

Why would she do that? I was hurt, and I was a little scared. What was ahead of me? What did she think I couldn’t handle?

It was Life telling me to be in the Present, and not to get too far ahead of myself.

But, of course, I didn’t listen. I needed a plan!

Wil was so little, and there was so much I didn’t know yet. I wanted to be ahead of the game. I wanted to be prepared.

So, among other books, I checked out one from the library written by two young men with Down syndrome. They spoke candidly of their life, and I simply wasn’t ready for all that I read. All I could see were the challenges.

I returned the book, unfinished and tear-soaked. It was just too much too soon.

I read many other books, such as “Babies with Down Syndrome” and “Common Threads,” which is a book that contains stories from people who have had close experiences with individuals with Down syndrome. They are all very positive and uplifting stories. That was what I needed when Wil was a baby. I needed lots of reassurance and positivity.

I’ve learned, with lots of reminders, that much of this journey is one to be taken day-by-day. All challenges are not heaped on us at once. When a new challenge presents itself, we handle it. And in so doing, we learn and we grow. In this growth, we begin to see that there is joy that is hidden between the lines.

It’s the kind of joy that is discovered in hearing your child pronounce a single consonant they have struggled with for months, or having the oral strength to blow a bubble, or to keep their feet to the pedals to move a bike, or grasp a pencil in just the right way, or seeing your child’s friends clear the way on the basketball court so your child can shoot a basket.

So, Life, in its Wisdom, pulls us back from our big plans every once in a while, and snaps us into the present. That is what that kind woman I chatted with was trying to do. She wanted me to enjoy what I had in the Now, so I would gain the strong foundation I needed to go forward.

Oh, and as for that book, I still cry when I read it, but this time around they are happy tears.

I still see all of the challenges, but now I am able to read the joy between the lines.


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REMEMBER: BE FLEXIBLE WITH YOURSELF

Flexible

There was this girl, and one day, she felt like she was missing something, but couldn’t for the life of her figure out what it was.

There was nothing unusual about her day. It was full of the usual busyness.

She had three children involved in three different activities, she was training for a distance race, writing a book, teaching a few classes and training a few clients.

Yes, her life was busy, but it was of her choosing, and she enjoyed it.

Except for that day. What was missing?

She knew some days were simply harder than others, but she knew how to conjure up excitement and energy within her.

She focused on why she was doing what she did, what the outcomes meant to her, and allowed those positive emotions to flood through her. That was always enough to recharge her batteries and fill her with excitement and energy. But, try as she might, it wasn’t happening that day. What was missing?

She started to get upset with herself. Why couldn’t she get it together? Was she being lazy? How had she lost her excitement?

Her husband offered to bring home carry-out, which was a huge relief. One less thing. When he walked in the door, she gave him a big hug and just hung in his arms.

A tear streaked down her face, and she whispered in his ear, “I just don’t have it today, honey. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I love this life, but something is missing. I just don’t have it in me today.”

He leaned back so he could see her face, and said, “You have a lot going on. You just need to be flexible with yourself.”

That was it! That’s what she was missing.

She hugged him so tight, and whispered, “Thank you, that was exactly what I needed to hear.”

A huge weight seemed to lift from her shoulders. She wasn’t being lazy, she hadn’t lost sight of her goals, she simply needed to remember to be flexible with herself.

Her husband placed the huge tray of pulled pork he had brought home on the counter, and opened up the lids of bbq sauce. They didn’t grab plates or forks, they simply stood there, laughing and talking, picking up pieces of pulled pork with their fingers and dipping them in the sauce.

Her carefree, happy self was back again. She had back what she was missing.

That night, as she sang her son his favorite bedtime song, unknowingly, she peacefully fell into sleep next to him. She was woken by her daughters, kissed and tucked them into bed, and went into her own bed, next to her husband, and contentedly fell to sleep.

Her alarm went off very early the next morning, and she got up and dressed for a run in the cool winter air.

As her heart started pumping, the snow crunching under her feet, the sky big and black, she felt that familiar excitement flood her body again.

As she ticked off the miles, the previous day’s story ran through her head. She decided, when she got home, she would share her story. She knew, someone else was out there, feeling like they were missing something, and just maybe, they would stumble on this story, and receive the gentle reminder they needed, just like she did, to always be flexible with yourself.

SHINE ON!!!!

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One thing I’ve learned when you embark boldly on your own journey, is you are going to piss people off and you didn’t even mean to! You are loving life, going on your merry way, and BAM! They start firing their dysfunction at you! Whoa! Back the F* up and point that in another direction! That is not my dysfunction, that is yours! I have EARNED this life I have. I have gone through a lot of UGLY to get here. Everyone has UGLY in their life, and I’m no different. I don’t paint ugly things and call them pretty. Or, even worse, I don’t pretend they are not there, and blame others for my dysfunction. I have owned up to the ugly parts of my life and faced them. I have done the hard and dirty work of looking the ugly right in the face, and working my way through it, one step at a time. I have grown greatly from those experiences, and I know I will grow even more in this lifetime. I love where I am, because I fought for it, I worked for it, and now I OWN IT! I stand tall because of the ugly parts in my life, not because everything has been so easy. But, some people don’t want to believe that. That shine hurts their eyes because it means they have to look at those ugly parts within themselves and do something about it. So, it’s just easier to throw their dysfunction around and pretend they’ve been dealt a worse hand. I have seen people who have been dealt some very difficult and tragic hands in life, and they have faced those terribly ugly places and worked through them, and came out shining so bright, they inspire many around them. Now, that is the kind of light I like to stand in and gain life, energy and growth from! We all have the ability to shine, we just have to make the conscious choice to do so, and be willing to do the dirty work to get through the ugly parts. Once you do that, ain’t no one going to dull your shine no matter what they throw at you!

YOU EARNED IT, YOU OWN IT, SHINE ON!

Are You In the MY LIFE SUCKS LINE or the SINGING LINE?

christie 5

Why is it that we want to win the my day is worse than your day contest, but if we are bouncing around loving life, people look at you sideways like you are weird?

I find that very backwards. I mean, really, wouldn’t you rather bounce around and be loving life rather than walking around like Eeyore?

Yet, somehow it is more socially acceptable to be an Eeeyore than happy-go-lucky.

Let me give you an example:

I overheard two women in line at the grocery store who just ran into each other; “Hey, how are you?” “Ugh, I had no sleep last night, and now I have all this stuff to do.” “Oh, I haven’t had any sleep all week! And, I’ve been running everywhere!”

I stood there and listened to each of them battling it out to win the “My Life Sucks Even More Than Yours” Contest.

Energy surrounding people is no joke! Overhearing them, I noticed my shoulders start to slump and my high energy being sucked from me. I did not want to stand around these two energy suckers.

I started looking around, and noticed, a few lines over, the cashier was singing! Yes, singing! Not at the top of his lungs, just simply singing as he worked, clearly enjoying himself.

I said to these two women, “Hey, do you hear that? The cashier over there is singing!”

They kind of laughed and rolled their eyes like that guy was weird.

I smiled at them, told them I hope they had better days, and backed my cart up out of the “My Life Sucks” Zone, and moved on over to the singing guy’s line.

The second I left that line, I immediately felt lifted of the weight. As I neared the singing guy’s line, I found I actually had a smile on my face! That is something special right there, to actually be smiling while you wait in line at the grocery store.

I was surprised his line wasn’t the longest!

Once it was my turn to check-out, I said to the singing cashier, “Sounds like you are enjoying your day.” He smiled and replied, “I have a four hour shift, and I don’t want it to feel like four hours of work!”

Genius!

I have no idea how great or challenging his day was, and really, how exciting is it to check out groceries, one person after another, but he found a way! This guy knew how to celebrate life.

I have little doubt some people avoided his line because they thought it was weird. Singing while you work? Who does that?

So much of our emotions are tied in the way we perceive the events in our lives. And, we all have a choice in the way we perceive things.

Cleaning in our house used to be something we didn’t look forward to, and I wouldn’t say we jump for joy when we do it, but we now know how to make it fun. I pump up the tunes, we dance while we dust and vacuum. When the girls fold their laundry, they actually laugh and have a great time.

You can apply this to anything in life. Find a way to make it fun and enjoyable, put yourself in the singing line!


The Road To Enabling Recovery

christie 5

My name is Christie, and I’m a recovering enabler.

It is something that I work on every day, every moment, one step at a time. My first step to recovery was acknowledging that I had a problem. Most of us get to that first step with a breaking point.

My story is no different. My breaking point was 6 years ago, when my son was almost 2 years old. My son has Trisomy 21, in other words, Down syndrome.

When he was born, I had a huge range of emotions to work through. Friends and family around me also had a huge range of emotions surrounding this diagnosis. Some were happy, some were sad, some were angry, and some just stood there not knowing what to say or think. And, here I was in the middle of it all, trying to figure out how I was going to make everything ok.

Ahhh, there it is, spoken like a true enabler.

At the beginning, I was in enabler-recovery preschool. I was throwing out enabling behavior all over the place without even realizing it, and without any thought for the consequences. It was just how I was, I was just doing what I did. I knew my son needed a lot of attention very early on. I knew he would need therapy and medical care, I just didn’t know what kind or how to start. I had all these people around me with varying emotions, and I didn’t know how to handle it. So, I just plowed forward on my own. I called the schools and found excellent support, and my son was in therapy at 3 months old.

Wil and I zipped around to varying doctor appointments his first year including cardiology, endocrinology, ENT, Ophthalmology, and weekly general pediatric visits. I found a local Down syndrome support group, and surrounded myself with proactive parents, and soon became very involved myself. It didn’t take long to discover having a son with Down syndrome wasn’t so scary. It was busy, and it was challenging, but that little smile of his lit my world. I also saw first-hand how many families rejoiced in their children, and I found myself rejoicing in Wil.

Wil hadn’t changed, but he had definitely changed me in a short period of time. The problem was, not everyone was rejoicing at the same level around me. They hadn’t gone on all these appointments with Wil and me, hadn’t gone to all the support group meetings with me, and hadn’t seen Wil progress in therapy as I had.

Being the enabler I was, and protecting those from the struggle, I had also protected them from earning the rewards. As Wil got older, and I grew with him, the gap grew bigger, and the pain grew stronger. I finally hit that breaking point 2 years after Wil’s birth, and made a conscious decision to change.

I started talking to my son’s social worker about my experiences, and she identified my enabling behavior, talked me through it, and gave me some tools to help myself. I began reading lots of books(you can find just about anything you need in a book) and writing out my thoughts. I started to recognize the enabling behavior in myself and began making choices to change it.

It’s almost a lifelong habit, so I find myself doing it without even realizing it. When I do, I stop, and restart. I know I formed this enabling habit, so I’m very capable of forming a new, self-empowering habit. 6 years later, I’ve worked my way up from enabler-recovery preschool to 9th grade. In this travel from preschool to 9th grade, I’ve had to have some very difficult conversations with people. Some have been extremely helpful and resulted in growth for all involved. Some people just aren’t ready, or aren’t interested in going on this journey with me at this time, and maybe never will be. That is ok, it’s not my place to pave the road for another. If and when they are ready, they’ll know where to find me.

My name is Christie, and I am a self-empowerer. Every day I move forward, one self-empowering step at a time.


What’s so funny about?

funny about

“What’s so funny about?” Wil asked me this morning, as he was eating his breakfast.

Good question, Wil. He didn’t make a joke, he wasn’t trying to be funny. In fact, he was just sitting at the table eating oatmeal.

What is so funny about plain, old oatmeal?

It was in the way he was eating. He was so darn happy about his plain, old oatmeal.

The way he was smiling, wiggling around in his chair, and dipping in with such gusto, you would have thought it was a big old bowl of ice cream.

His energy was so high and bright, that I couldn’t help but watch him and giggle at his excitement over oatmeal.

But, it wasn’t about the oatmeal. It was because he was awake! It was morning! The day was just beginning! Let’s get this party started!

He didn’t say that, but I sure could feel it, and it was so beautifully contagious, I couldn’t help but feel the same way and start to giggle.

Isn’t that funny how you can just feel people’s energy and be carried right along with them?

Some people lift you up just by being around them. They are full of energy, life and smiles. They are excited about life! They don’t have to be rich, have immense talent, or have anything uniquely spectacular going for them, they just enjoy life for life. They have struggles, and obstacles, just like anyone else, but they find meaning in them rather than focusing on the darkness of them. They move forward with a lift in their step, and it’s so beautifully contagious.

And, then there are the Debbie Downers. It is very dark within their circle because all they focus on is what is going wrong, or how they were wronged. They are the energy suckers. Nothing seems to go right for them, their life is one problem to the next. They believe they have more obstacles and struggles than most, but in reality, they just are so mired in fear, that they don’t want to readjust their focus to move forward out of the fear. They may be very well-meaning people, but until they readjust their focus, they will always live in that fear, and only see how everything around them is wrong, and how wronged they are by others.

Most of us have been a little bit of both in different times in our lives. But, the moment we realize we are in full power of our focus and perspective, is the moment we learn the courage to work with our fears, and move past them, and enjoy life for all that it offers us to be.

The cool thing is, you don’t need more money, a better childhood, or anything other than the sheer desire and willingness to change your perspective.

It’s freezing rain here right now. The sky is dark, grey, and the clouds are really low. It’s not a very uplifting sight. My guess is, if I scroll down facebook there will be many negative and complaining comments today, simply because it is a grey day.

But, why do we live like that? Why do we allow something like the weather, that is completely out of our control, to control our own mood? We can not control the weather, but we can control our mood and perspective. It just takes a little time, desire and effort to change our focus to create a more enjoyable and fulfilling day.

When we feel dark, everything around us looks dark. We are what we focus on. Do you want a dark life? Focus on the dark and you are well on your way.

When we feel light and bright, everything around us looks brighter. The dark is still there, but we see beyond it, we find meaning in it, and it is seen as a growing experience rather than gloom and doom.

I am running 13 miles on this dark, cloudy, rainy day. There is no way around the weather. I could bemoan the fact that I have to go out in this, or endure 13 miles on the treadmill, or not run at all. And, hey, it’s not my fault, it’s the damn weather’s fault!

But, I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to take a lesson from Wil today. I’m not an over-the-top fan of running in the freezing rain, but I’m excited to be awake! I’m excited that I have the ability to run! So I’m going to lace up my shoes, crank up the tunes on my iPhone, and get this party started!

So, if you see me out there running and smiling in the rain, you won’t have to ask, you’ll already know what’s so funny about.

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