Yesterday was my 42nd birthday. I woke up around 4:30 and snuck downstairs in the dark. I had my coffee in one hand and my expectations in the other. Having observed Desta over the past several years of birthdays, I knew this one would be no different. I used that dark hour to process how I’d feel if what I wanted for my birthday – recognition and peace – was disrupted. I had a plan.
As we all know, sometimes the best laid plans often turn awry.
By 6:30 am I was in tears and holed up in our room. I could not face my youngest and I just wanted to head to work. Despite my early morning resolve, I could not hold it together.
For those of us with children from hard places and wounded hearts, holidays, particularly birthdays, bring out the worst emotions. Add in anxiety and ADHD and the circus has just come to town!
I spent the better part of yesterday morning in tears. How could one child create such chaos? As the day moved on, I started getting texts and calls from dear friends. They spoke words of life into my soul. I started believing again that I am not the sum of my daughter’s behavior or words. I chose to believe that this was my day, a day to celebrate me.
The day did not end well. There were more words. I chose to head to bed early, letting go of this day and resolving to begin a new one tomorrow.
As I’ve reflected on yesterday, I have come to realize this. Ultimately at the end of the day, what I want for my birthday is validation that I am enough and what I do matters. My dear sweet husband sent out a few SOS texts to friends in my life, asking that they call me and encourage me. I had started to buy the lie that I didn’t have community, that I didn’t have people who really cared.
I love how CS Lewis describes this loneliness in Screwtape Letters.
Create loneliness in your victim. Make each of them believe they don’t fit in. I don’t care how old or young they are. Make them believe they have no friends and that no one loves them.
Keep their eyes on people around them, because if they can only lose sight of the One who loves them with perfect love, we can pretend we’ve won.
If only it could ever be true.
I needed to be reminded that I do have people who are on my side; I have friends who “GET IT” in all ways. They are living this in the trench life too. They know the deep hurt the wounded and the wounder both feel.
For those of us with children who look normal on the outside but have currents of pain running through them all the time, we can easily sit in the space of shame and isolation.
It’s humiliating to allow my child to speak that way to me in public (never mind that it’s actually the combination of red dye with medication that is causing the havoc). It’s lonely to always feel like we need to leave early or just not go because of the potential fallout that will happen if we do show up. There are moments of deep anger and yes, resentment that I have to once again forfeit something I want for the greater good of the family – and to keep peace (which is often replaced with loud rage and frustration).
Yet, at the end of the day all this mess is the stuff that falls between birth and death – it’s called living. It’s the living part that makes us who we are. It’s the mess and the scars and the tears that eventually, if we allow it, make us stronger and compassionate.
So while my 42nd birthdate wasn’t too great, in fact it pretty much sucked for most of the day, this 42nd year is already teaching me lessons that I’m thankful I have a chance to learn.
PS I realized as I was working on this post that I didn’t take one photo yesterday. I’ll let another day’s photo represent.