Monday, September 8, 2014

Fight, Flight, and Failure

Years ago, within the early throes of my youngest son's autism, I received an email from someone I had been very close with my whole life. We had drifted apart some, due mostly to the fact that I had poured my every waking moment into my son and his diagnosis; and I take full responsibility for that. The letter stated that she couldn't stay silent any longer, and outlined all I had done wrong in recent years in our relationship along with all the ways I had not been there for her.

In what I feel was probably the first mature thing I'd ever done in my life, I did not respond in the way I wanted to. I could have countered each point with how wrong I felt she was. I could have outlined myself all the ways I had been there for her. I could have defended myself, but I did not. Instead, I responded that I was sorry and that I would always love her.

And the person walked out of my life never to return.

I received a similar message from someone else two weeks after my dad died.

Up to that point, 2014 had been rough on our whole extended family. In January we lost the love of our lives - my dad's mother, whom we had grown up just down the street from. In April my dad was diagnosed with metastatic brain cancer and was given less than a year to live. In May my mom's brother died very unexpectedly.

When I received this message, I had been trying to help care for my dad (who had been diagnosed just four short months before), along with my two boys on the autism spectrum who were reeling from this new normal in our lives. I had been trying to help my mom, from an hour away, as well as spend as much time as possible with Dad before he left us.

He ended up taking a quick, sharp turn for the worse in August and died within seven heart-wrenching days - much sooner than anyone had expected. During those seven days, we also had to pull my youngest autistic son out of his school and search for another education alternative. While watching my dad die. In the midst of Dad's death, funeral, etc., I was trying to work with my son's new school daily trying to complete his enrollment status to get him started and keep him from falling further and further behind. It was the last thing on earth I wanted to be dealing with. Actually all of this was the last thing on earth I wanted to be dealing with. Ever.

Also during this time, my aunt (Dad's brother's wife) also took a turn for the worse with her pancreatic cancer. She died three weeks to the day after Dad. Her funeral was in the same room Dad's was. She was buried right next to Dad's freshly-covered grave.

I have tried, to the best of my abilities, to keep all the plates spinning, all the balls in the air without dropping anything - without anything crashing into the ground and shattering. I can't let my mom crash. Or my children. Or my husband. Or my home. Or my job.

But when life gets ugly, your world gets small. Suddenly you are living on the essentials only. I haven't volunteered at my church for years. I haven't been able to do a single Bible study. My friends *never* see me and I mostly communicate with them via text or on Facebook. My laundry is piled up. In the words of the youngest dude, "Our house and yard look like the one in Jumaji." The inside of my house looks like a frat house during pledge week (not that I know what that looks like).

Autism sucks. Disease and illness and dying suck even more. Do you know what else sucks?


This second message I received was not as long as that one years ago, not as defining; but basically informed me of how I wasn't thinking at all of how my dealing with my father dying and my autistic child's most recent crisis was negatively affecting this person. The person let me off the hook because that was what I wanted anyway, wasn't it?

Most people feel like a failure at some point in their lives for one reason or another. I mostly live there because people who have to deal with special needs will drop the ball on something, sometime in favor of dealing with their child's needs and putting them first. It's going to happen no matter what. When you've got more than one child with issues, it happens even more often. Priorities shift on a dime. You are only one person and can only be in one place at one time, and have only one set of arms and one set of legs. You can only carry so much at once, which is why you often see me in constant motion doing three things at one time and going back and forth, back and forth. I joke about my ADD, but the foundation of the matter is, I'm constantly terrified of dropping one of those balls for fear of the result - and a lot of that fear comes from receiving that letter years ago of how inadequate I had been for that one person.

Give me 28 plates to spin in 3 different places at the same time, and something's going to fall. And furthermore, those watching me perform this circus act should expect it, because it's only logical that one person cannot be everything to everyone all the time.

But I'll be dadgummit if I didn't do it again - get told off about how I'd failed yet another person with all my spread-too-thin-ness.

After I commented this morning that, between fight or flight, I didn't have much fight left in me and flight was imminent, my sweet, good friend told me to go read Exodus 14:14, which says:

~ The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm. ~