This. is. hard.

It’s become very hard to write these updates on Gaga’s progress post surgery. If I tell you exactly how things have been it will scare and worry people, it might even hurt their hearts to hear and I sincerely don’t want to cause anybody any pain. But the reality is, for the first time in my adult life my mom doesn’t see herself as strong. We have known no one stronger. We get why she feels the way she feels, given the circumstances. Of course we can’t completely sympathize because we haven’t had open heart surgery and have not felt
sick for the better part of the year. But I know what it feels like to know deeply that I am strong but despite knowing that, to also feel weak.

I feel that way right now. Monday was my first day officially back at work. We had an all staff retreat to kick off the school year. In a normal year and under normal circumstances I usually enjoy this retreat and get bits of goodness to help build me up through the school year. This year while sitting at retreat and listening to people reflect on something that we had read together I just couldn’t hold it together.

I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t stop crying and I felt the overwhelming urge to run…to get the hell out because the ugly cry in a room full of 100 people was not something I was interested in participating in at that moment. So, that’s exactly what I did, I left. When I texted my husband to tell him what I had done and what had happened he promptly texted back “I’m proud of you.” Typical Bryan, he always knows the right things to say to me and when to say them.

I replied, “Why are you proud of me? I just walked out.”

He said “I’m proud of you because you knew what you needed and you did it and that’s really hard.”

He was right about one thing.  It was hard to walk out. On one hand it was hard because I don’t want to let anybody down.  On the other hand, walking away felt weak, and I am not weak.

However, when I walked outside and I sat against our schools brick wall I realized that that morning was the first time I’ve been still enough to process what the last few months have been like for all of us.  It’s the first time I’ve allowed myself to listen and it’s the first time I’ve really cried. 

And you guys…I had a good cry.  An ugly, noise producing, knock you on your ass cry.

In the the last three months I’ve just tried to be strong for everyone. Strong for my mom, strong for my sister, strong for our kids, strong for my husband, strong for all the other people that rely on me, strong for all the people who love Gaga. I guess in being that person, what I realized Monday, was that I never gave myself the opportunity to feel weak, to be sad, to be angry…simply just to feel. 

With all of this emotion came the judgment of allowing myself this weak moment.  I’m not weak, not even a little bit.  But…I am tired. I’m exhausted actually. I’m emotionally drained. I’m worried. I’m stressed. I’m overwhelmed. I’m all of those things and a little bit more, but…I’m not weak.

I’m not weak because I walked into that building today even though everything in my body told me it was the wrong thing to do. I’m not weak because I get up every morning and go to the hospital even though every time I park my car I’m afraid of what I’ll find when I get in there. I keep putting one foot in front of the other and when I am home I truly try to be present for our kids even though my well feels empty.

So yeah, I am strong, I’m strong as hell. Why wouldn’t I be, I was raised by the strongest.

The hard thing to reconcile with is that I am all those other things as well…all at the same time.  Walking into St. James Monday taught me a lesson I wasn’t totally prepared to learn. I do need some stillness and I do need to feel all the things that I’ve been feeling and feeling them doesn’t make me weak. In fact, it makes me a badass, like the woman who raised me.

Bottom line…it’s ok to not be ok.

It is my prayer that GOD gives my mom some peace because she hasn’t had that for a really long time.

I want my mom to live many more years.  I want her to have years of memories with our children.   I want my mom to remember just how strong she really is.  I want to see her beautiful smile that lights up her whole face, especially her awesome green eyes.  We haven’t seen that person in awhile and that has been hard on all of us.

The thing that struck me overwhelmingly while sitting there Monday listening to people share their heart is that even though many people have one BIG thing going on in their life, the little things don’t go away while that’s happening.

So I still have a 6-year old waiting for me at home that has zero interest in doing his school work with anyone but his Gaga who misses both her and me as I’ve been gone much more than they he’s used to.  I have three 11 year olds and one 9-year old that are old enough to understand that mommy’s been gone a lot and Gaga is still not home and that’s concerning to them.  I still have a house that needs cleaned and a plumber that needs to come out to fix a toilet situation.  I still have groceries to buy and food to cook, a kitchen floor to scrub.  I still have lesson plans to write and board meetings I need to attend.  I still have a fundraiser to plan and a volleyball season approaching.  I have to manage our family calendar and make time for the other people in my life. 

All those things are still there when the poop hits the proverbial fan, as it has now for all of us.

On top of all the responsibilities of life there are the disappointments that you feel in every day life.  The friends you wish had called or texted and who haven’t and for me, the overwhelming feeling like I’m failing everybody because I’m only able to do so much in one day.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that I’m not alone in those fears and those worries and the focus on those everyday nuances of struggle becomes lessened when there’s a bigger thing to focus on. Right now that bigger thing is our mom. And that bigger thing is challenging. And that bigger thing is not making things easy on us.

It is hard not to be consumed with anger when you’re in a situation like the one we are in right now. Angry that this is happening in the first place. Angry that she’s not getting better. Angry that we feel pulled in 12 different directions and feel like we can’t fulfill any one thing to the best of our abilities. Anger that we don’t understand GOD‘s plan and that his revelation of it is slow and uncertain. Angry that a person we love who has suffered a great deal of hardship in her life has been given this additional cross to carry.  Angry.

All of these things are part of everything that is swirling around my head.  They are the things I am feeling right now but I haven’t had time to feel them. I haven’t had time to express them out loud yet.  Monday taught me that I needed to do all of that.

Monday also made me realize all the gifts that have come out of this difficult situation.  I have experienced profound gratefulness and gratitude during this time amidst all the struggle.  I have grown in appreciation for my husband Bryan, even though I already knew he was pretty awesome.  He’s been absolutely amazing.  He hasn’t one time complained about how often I’m gone, he cooks dinner, does the laundry, cleans the house, works full time and still makes sure things are as fun and “normal” as possible for the kids.

The kids have grown in compassion and responsibility during this time. They understand that things are hard for us right now and they have become more of a see a need fill it kind of people. So they have done more dishes, they sweep the floor more often, they help with laundry and they even try to get Fletcher to do his school work.  They ask each day about their Gaga and we have honest conversations about how this has been hard for her.  They have grown closer to GOD as I know they lay in their beds and pray for her healing.

I’m profoundly grateful to have a sister to go through this with.  I know I could not do this without her.  I know we are a good team and that we have each other’s backs.  Always. 

I am incredibly grateful to know how loved our mom is.  I get so many texts a day I couldn’t possibly keep up with them.  Ever, but I try. 

I am grateful to know how loved we are.  To the friends who have just showed up with food (GOD bless you) to the ones at work who have helped me with some of my responsibilities there.  We have good humans in our lives.  We are so blessed.

It’s OK (or at least it’s what I’m telling myself) to feel all the things I’m feeling right now, the anger, the disappointment, the sadness, the feeling of being overwhelmed…all of it is normal, it’s healthy even.

BUT what is not OK, is to not allow myself to feel them, and I learned Monday morning that that was exactly what I have done for the last few months. So, I needed that time at retreat, even though I didn’t want it.  I needed it and then I needed to process and come and sit and put all my thoughts on paper because that is where I do my best work.

If any of you are Brene Brown fans, I have recently become a huge fan of hers.  I love her honesty and her ability to demonstrate vulnerability. I think the ability to be vulnerable is scary as hell, but it’s always something I’ve been pretty good at. I’m not afraid to tell people how I feel. I’m not afraid to feel how I feel even though sometimes it backfires on me. I’m not afraid to share about the hard times in my life with other people so that maybe I can help them go through their own.  Being that person is who I am at my core and I don’t apologize for being that way. But, I haven’t been myself these past few months because I haven’t allowed myself to be vulnerable, I’ve tried to be perfect.

Brene Brown says this about perfectionism; perfectionism is what we need less of in our lives, what we need more of is self compassion. Read that again.

I guess that’s what I’m trying to do or what I guess I need to do, is to grant myself some more self compassion, cut myself some damn slack and realize that I’m doing the best I can for everybody in my life, and the best I can do…is good enough. 


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