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Work Around Your Abyss

I recently read Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection.  It triggered a lot of soul-searching.  It led me to the realization that I define my self-worth based on how well I do things.  Thus, I feel very positive about myself while I am at work.  I am a productive employee who meets expectations in all areas. 

The problem is I am not a productive wife or mother.  Being a mother, especially to a preschooler and child with ASD, is so overwhelming.  Most of the time as a parent, I feel frustrated, anxious and hopeless.  This has produced a wife who is too emotionally and mentally exhausted to contribute much around the house.  My husband does all the cooking and laundry at our house. As a wife, I feel lazy, ashamed and like a burden.  So while I love being at work, I feel like I am crawling out of my skin at home.

And it’s all because I define my self-worth based on my level of productivity.  And I have no idea how to stop this.  For me, it’s like the facts are in.  My employer is highly satisfied with my performance.  If polled, my husband and children would likely say they are not.  I’m mean, bristly and short-fused.  I’m inattentive, unaffectionate and unhelpful.  I can rationalize that these statements are mere conjecture, and even if true, not true all of the time.  But even when I can mentally grasp that, I still can’t get those feelings out of my heart.

But today I read this:

 “There is a deep hole in your being, like an abyss.  You will never succeed in filling that hole, because your needs are inexhaustible.  You have to work around it so that gradually the abyss closes.

Since the hole is so enormous and your anguish so deep, you will always be tempted to flee from it.  There are two extremes to avoid: being completely absorbed in your pain and being distracted by so many things that you stay far away from the wound you want to heal.”

Work Around Your Abyss – Henri Nouwen

Now I feel like I have a road map of sorts.  I can see that I have let myself become completely absorbed by my pain at home and it has paralyzed me.  I can also see that I have pushed myself so hard at work that it’s allowed me to avoid the pain of ill-defined self-worth.  I need to understand this abyss of mine.  What led me to this place?  What purpose has this torturous self-worth served for me?  Why is it so hard to settle for good enough?  I don’t know the answers to any of those questions yet, but at least now I have a place to start.  Going to work around my abyss, trusting that someday it will close.

My Kid is Not a Brat

My kid is not a brat. He has Autism and ADHD. We have made a few parenting mistakes with him, but we have not raised him wrong. The biggest mistake we made was not advocating for a diagnosis and services early enough. Vaccines did not do this to him. Both his older and younger sisters are neurotypical. They were both vaccinated and have been raised in much the same way that Caleb has been. It is an insult to hear people blame my son’s behavior on poor parenting or vaccinations. I would rather have a child with ASD than a dead child.

My son wants what every other kid his age wants. Namely, friends to play with. Except he is hard to play with. He is focused exclusively on dinosaurs, the solar system, vehicles, Lego and coloring pictures of any of those things. He carries around stuffed animals with him. He still wears a pull up. He has major meltdowns if he is misunderstood due to his speech impediment or if he is asked to transition from one activity to another without enough warning. He physically lashes out if people are too close or the environment is too loud. Oddly enough, he has no sense of personal space and is constantly trying to hug, kiss, snuggle and otherwise touch everyone he encounters. He is also the loudest human I have ever met. He still puts just about everything in his mouth. He struggles to get dressed on his own. He only eats around 5 foods and will only eat with his fingers because he does not have the dexterity to successfully eat with silverware. Needless to say, he isn’t exactly the kind of kid other children his age are begging to play with.

There is a little boy in his grade that lives on the other side of our fence. There’s even a gate between the two yards. Lately, the kids at that house have been telling Caleb he can’t come over. They might be legitimately busy, but my protective mama bear can’t help but think they just don’t want to play with him anymore. Caleb stands at that gate every day, staring and begging to come over. Then they say no and he starts screaming and sobbing. Then they really don’t want him to come over and play. My heart breaks every time. Yesterday, it broke enough that I sat with him in my lap and we both cried together.

School starts on Tuesday. We are fighting tooth and nail to get him special education services. We are starting an intensive therapy called ABA that will hopefully address some of the struggles I mentioned above. We are also hoping that this year he will make some friends, that he will have someone to play with at recess and that he won’t get kicked off the bus. We are hoping this year, he will somehow miraculously turn a corner and that around that bend he will find happiness instead of tears.

Why it Matters to Me

I have had some people, especially family, ask why what’s going on with the current presidency matters so much to me. They say their 401k is doing great and that’s what matters. Besides, they say, what’s going on with the border, what’s happening with race relations, what’s happening with trade – none of anything that’s going on for people that are different than me makes a difference in my life, so why does it matter?

Here’s why:

I am a follower of Christ. I believe that what Christ says about how we are to treat the poor, the refugee the stranger and otherwise disenfranchised is gospel truth. Christ commands us to do this. Therefore, it matters to me. I believe it should matter to all those who profess to be a Christian. It deeply troubles and confuses me when fellow Christians view the status of their 401k to be more important than how others are being treated.

The things the current president says also deeply trouble me. The things he says are vile, racist, sexist and bigoted. Some may say that he’s just calling it like it is and they like it. But it is so wrong. It is not something a Christ follower should say or condone. Again, it deeply troubles and confuses me when fellow Christians view the status of their 401k to be more important than what our president says.

Another thing that deeply troubles me is that our president is in denial about what is happening to our climate. There are more floods, fires and other extreme weather events than ever before. The Amazon rain forest is burning down. The icebergs are melting. Coastlines are being swallowed up by rising ocean levels. This is real. Call it climate change or whatever you want but it is happening. Protections for wildlife are also being stripped away. God called Christians to care for creation. It deeply troubles and confuses me when fellow Christians view the status of their 401k to be more important than fulfilling a duty that God gave us in the first few chapters of the Bible.

The only Christians who support our president right now with whom I can find common ground are those who are anti-abortion. They believe lives are truly at stake. I have come to find some respect for that position because I too believe lives are at stake. People are actually dying because of our president’s words and actions. The dignity and respect we should have for all people as Christians has apparently become optional for so many followers of Christ and I just can’t wrap my head around how this happened.

All of this matters to me. It does affect me personally because the marginalized are so close to my heart. They are who I serve everyday as a social worker. These people matter more to me than my 401k. As a social worker, I am ethically, and in some ways legally, bound to have my priorities aligned in this manner. As a Christ follower, I am biblically commanded to have my priorities aligned this way.

And it truly scares me when I see the opposite as true to other Christians.

My Week in Haiku

If the morning sucks
I wear my t-shirt that says
NOT TODAY SATAN.

Usually it helps
But on Wednesday it didn’t
Was a cluster f***

Beds bugs are awful
And creepy too when they are
On my client’s shirt

Said hard things to Dad
We used to fight all the time
Now it’s truth in love

The psych ward can help
But when you have to go back
To real life it’s hard

She was so anxious
I hope I helped her calm down
Will find out Monday

Smoking is quite bad
So I put a patch on my
Left arm hope it helps