As the summer break winds down for my family, I can feel the stress in my body building. Over the last six weeks I have crossed a few hurdles, but as the break ends, I still have things to bring to closure and new beginnings to get started. Now, if you ask me if I was a person who enjoyed change, I would answer no – but, if you look at my life from day to day, it would seem that I embrace change. Many days, I feel like two different people – the one who is doing living and the one who is watching gripped with worry.
On a day to day basis, my amount of worry and stress differs as most people does…I think. Most days I am that person who is doing the living. Last night, a woman in my class, who doesn’t know me well and is just learning my story, asked me how I do what I do. She asked about my family, being a single parent, working and going to school all at the same time. I gave my dutiful response…I learned to delegate, I’ve learned to say “no” to things, and, my house is usually a mess. In the simplest terms, that’s what I do every day to survive change. I was thinking about this exchange later and also thought – well, I’m going into my seventh year of doing this…I hope I’m getting better at it!
Even as I grow, get better at managing this changed life I have, and continue to become who I am to become, I still worry. I still let the stress get the better of me. All I have been doing the last few weeks is beating myself up about the things I haven’t done yet, those plans that haven’t come to fruition yet. I’m worrying about how things will pan out over the upcoming months…will I have passed my certification test, will I be able to student teach and not lose my job, will Ben go to reading class without torturing me, will Sam ease up on himself and his brother…will everything be o.k.?
And, I guess that’s the real question…will everything be o.k.? Will we be o.k.? This is the question that always bubbles up from the depths of my being. Even with six years under my belt, even with the ongoing success of our survival, even with the ability to express our loss in healthy ways, I still worry about “being o.k.”
Here’s the trouble with that – it’s kind of like “being normal” – every one has a different gauge. Families like mine, who have survived tragedy, have a different measure of “o.k.”. Some days, just getting up and moving is all we do – other days we have great successes. So, I guess when I worry, I also must remember that I have the ability to set the measurement. I can reframe our daily changes, work, and existence into successes. Even the most insignificant changes can cause so much stress sometimes…so, even if it looks abnormal to an outsider, it is possible to be our “o.k.”.
I don’t think this is exclusive to grieving families though. I think even before I was on this journey, I would measure my family against my perception of other families and cause myself great stress or worry. Were my kids like other kids? Was my home like other homes? Was my success similar to that of my peers? If grief has taught me anything, it is that everyone is different and moves and grows at their own pace. I don’t know if it’s the grief alone that helped me stop measuring my changes against other’s changes – it could be maturity too- who knows? But, today, I’m going to give myself a break.
Today, I’m going to embrace my successes of the summer and celebrate. I’m going to cast worry, comparisons, and change to the side and reflect on our successes…me finishing two classes, Sam participating in swim team all summer and Ben mastering his backstroke with his ears in the water…it may seem like small beans for others…oops, there I go comparing…but for us, it is one more indicator that we will be o.k.