Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Fly On My Wall - it's just...Differenter

Littlest: Mom
ma? Why are you making all the grown-up candy first this year?

Me: Because I want to send some to my friend, and he's far away.

Littlest: oh…Okay…..Wouldn't you be happier if he lived here?

Me, laughing: No, pumpkin. I don't want him to live here. Then I'd have to see him all the time.

Littlest, confused: oh. You don't want him to see him all the time? Doesn’t he make you happy?

Me: yes, he does.  But no, I don't…I wish I saw him more, but not all the time. I like being alone and I like spending my time with you guys and my friends...I don't want to fit in time for him too.

Littlest: You talk to him every day...

Me, smiling: not every day, but yes, most days. But talking is way less time consuming than him actually being here. Does that make sense?

Littlest: yeah. It's just..differenter...

Me: yes, it is.  But differenter is good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

guilty pleasures

Guilty pleasures.

Are they things you’re supposed to feel guilty about enjoying?  Am I supposed to feel guilty that I eat ice cream of breakfast?  Or that I read tawdry romance novels?  How about adoring all things Alice in Wonderland? Ooh, I know! How about counting down the minutes until the kids are in bed?

Are those guilty pleasures?

Because they don’t make me feel guilty. At all.

All those little likes add up to the whole of who I am.  Every little one. Makes me me.  I am not ashamed of who I am. So why should my likes and dislike make me feel guilty?

Because they’ll know.
And they’ll judge.
And they won’t like me.

Instead, pretend. Pretend I like sportsball, that I always adore my children and want to spend every moment with them.  Then. Then, maybe they’ll like me.  They’ll accept me and I’ll have friends.
Yay. Friends!

I don’t sport.  Shall I pretend to follow sportsball, just so you’ll find me interesting? If you don’t find me interesting without my liking sportsball, well, then, we’re really not going to be very good friends then, are we? Do I really want to be friends with someone for whom sportsball is so important that they won’t want to be my friend if, *gasp* they found out I don’t care who wins?

Why do I want to spend time with people that I’m afraid to be myself with?

I’m going to be judged.  Might as well be judged for being me, not for pretending to be someone else.

Own it.
Just own it. I did.

You’ve spent your entire life being you.  You have likes, you have dislikes. They’re part of what makes you interesting.  Why would you want to associate voluntarily with someone who doesn’t like you for you?

Stop pretending.

Own it.
Just be you.

In order to find the people who belong in your life, you have to be you.  If you’re constantly hiding the you, or pretending to be someone slightly different than who you are, you’re not going to be happy.  You’re constantly going to be striving to be something you’re not.

They’re gonna judge. Be judged for who you actually are, not who you think they want you to be.
Just stop trying to be liked.  Stop caring what other people will think.

Be yourself.
Be who makes you happy. Spend time with people who make you happy.
The rest will come.
Trust me.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sharing Space - untitled

My Amy wanted to share a bit of my space again.  More about My Amy, and a list of her posts here.

Dear Boss,

You asked me the other day if I regretted taking this job. I laughed it off and said no, of course not, but it was a question that gave me pause. That word, regret: it sits heavy in your mouth, like sand weighing down the bottom of your shoes. Formally, it means ‘a feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over something that has happened or been done’. So do I regret being a caseworker for the better part of 2 years? Do I regret being at the agency for 5? That is a consideration of enormous proportions.

This has been the hardest 19 months of my life. I have lost sleep, hair, some liver functioning, and the majority of my social life. I have gained 40 pounds, a
penchant for whiskey, a shoulder that is frozen due to stress, and an 
cynicism. I will never look at the world the same way again. Like you said today, nothing surprises me anymore. Not the beatings, the domestic violence, the physical pain people inflict on each other; not the abandonment and the narcissism and the emotional trauma that our parents deliver to their children—not a bit of it surprises me, and I so wish it did. Swallowing my own feelings when looking into the face of a sobbing child or parent on the worst day of their lives and knowing that I am the catalyst of that grief has broken a part of me. Watching relatives walk away is beyond comprehension; I have learned to surrender to the ‘mutant logic’ and be grateful that I can’t understand it better. There is no way to stay removed; as hard as I have tried to shelter my heart, each moment bites through me like wind on the coast. The bureaucratic red tape is enough to make me bang my head against the wall daily. Wrangling attorneys, court reports, psychological evaluations, appointments, teachers, CASAs, and angry, bitter relatives is overwhelming; navigating our court system gives me a stomachache and so many times the quick changes bring headaches and tears. The what-ifs and should-haves and if-only-we-could have eaten me alive as I was afraid they would. 

This has been the hardest 19 months of my life. But hard is not without merit. Yes, I have learned that people can be terrible to their children; however, for every parent who hurt their kid in a million different ways, there was a cast of thousands in the wings waiting to soothe those little hearts. The community in which I have been immersed is fighting the tide daily, and though I don’t think there is any turning it back we are at least damming it up. I have learned how strong addicts in recovery are, and that the capacity for second chances is immeasurable if a person works hard enough. There are parents and relatives I have been lucky enough to work with who showed me that there are those who can come back from the edge. And I feel privileged to have learned at their feet the lesson that sometimes is the best thing their kids can see: Mama screwed up. Big time. But she’s not giving up. In an even more poignant light, the parents who give their kids up because they know they can’t give them what they need demonstrate a whole different kind of courage. I have yet to work with a parent who doesn’t feel the harm they have done, who isn’t angry with themselves for the pain they’ve caused, who doesn’t want the best for their child. I have yet to work with a parent who doesn’t love their child whole-heartedly. 

I am not disappointed about the work I did personally, nor about the work our team does on a weekly basis. There’s no grief over the intense bonds formed with our coworkers. We know each other’s lives and hearts. The bonds forged in struggle are the strongest and that is so evident in the unit you lead with an open heart and courageous soul. I have learned to ask for help in ways I never knew possible. You taught me that to be openly vulnerable is the best way to discover how much support you truly have. Tonight I am overwhelmed thinking about how much I will miss all of you and how very sorry I am that I don’t have anything left to give you all. If there is grief it comes from the knowledge that while I am making the best choice for myself, I am letting you all down. I wish above all else that I could have found a way to genuinely balance my work life and my personal life; perhaps then I could stay. The way we care for each other is nothing short of remarkable and I was so lucky to work alongside you all. I have nothing but utter respect for you, and I have learned so much more about humanity and heart from our motley crew than I dreamed was possible. You have walked me through the hardest days of my life. 

And oh, my children. Our children. They are ours. How could I possibly wish that I had never met them? They sparkle. Even in their most broken-down moments, they have a capacity for recovery and wholeness, one that rolls me, astounded, every time. They have taught me about sharks and trucks and resilience and ballet and joy. They are my grace. I am thrilled to have gone to their parent teacher conferences, shepherded them through upheavals, held them when they were scared or sad, and celebrated the small triumphs with them. I am thrilled to have brought them birthday presents, taken them to lunch, heard about their favorite part of school, and been if only for a moment or two the voice they each deserve. Knowing their need for as many safe and secure adults in their lives as possible, it was my pleasure to be one of those people for them.There is a part of me that wants to stay, if only to discover who they will become and how far they can go. Of course, as they age and move out of our system, we won’t ever learn that. I wish I could be at their 16th birthdays, their graduations and their weddings. This world we live in is one of hardship but it is also one of hope. They are that hope, and I genuinely believe that some of my kids will make it. Some of them will be ok. Not being there to see that is a sadness I will carry with me. Yes, their safety and happiness is our job. But more than that, it is our passion. This is no ordinary job. This is not your typical 9-to-5. I can’t think of another line of work in which you can watch your heart walk around outside of your body as you put everything you have into kids that are not yours. 

When I moved those kiddos last week, I was terrified. You know. It’s always terrifying. Walking into their new home, they clung to my hands. Cooper* hid behind my knees; Claudia* snuggled under my arm. For the first half hour, I couldn’t leave Coop’s side. Little by little they relaxed; after all, this is one of the best foster homes I have ever placed kids in. By the time I left, two hours later, they were happily unpacking, chatting, and running around the house. Still, when I said goodbye, they wanted long hugs and little kisses. I reassured them I would see them tomorrow and that they were going to have so much fun with their new foster parents. Claudia burrowed into my arms. Amy, she said. Yes, sweetheart? She sighed. I love you so much. The foster mom stared at us. I love you too, missy. So much. 

This is not your typical 9-to-5. 

There are many, many choices and moments in my life that I regret. Not one of them has been in the last 19 months. How could I possibly regret this work? There you have it.

Thank you for giving me this chance to find out how far I could get, and thank you for not holding it against me that I can’t go any further. 


*Name changed