Have you ever noticed how we tend to be creatures of habit for many areas of our lives? We do it with what we eat, what we wear, what we do with our time....sometimes it is so comfortable that we slip into autopilot. For some areas of our lives, though, there can be things that produce anxiety, and lots of it.
For me, this time of year is one of those areas. Those of you who have been reading my posts here, or who know me in person (and what kind of roller coaster ride my life has been the past 20 years), know that this time of year has perennially overwhelmed me. Part of it is from the incessant commercialization of our Christmas season, which detracts and distracts from celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus. The other part of it stems from the dysfunctional feel of my family dynamics. Participating in extended family gatherings became increasingly stressful over the years as my children grew older, to the point where I just wanted out of it all. I didn't want my family's internal problems to be the reason everyone else's fun took a nose dive. I longed to be like so many other families who enjoyed being with their relatives who also enjoyed being with them, celebrating with food and fun and time together. I longed to be the house where everyone would want to come gather, where I could do my Italian girl thing in the kitchen and love on everyone with home cooked food, etc.
But this year, when the annual email circulated among my sisters & I, regarding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and gift giving parameters, one of my sisters challenged my knee-jerk reaction of dreading the topic. I'm glad she did, too, because for me, this year of 2015 has been one of many changes. My journey with Jesus isn't restricted to just this year, but my faith has certainly grown. I changed up my health & fitness habits in June. It would be more accurate to say that I created health & fitness habits when I purchased my first challenge pack & began a Beachbody workout program. That change transformed me in multiple ways, and it motivated me to become an entrepreneur & join their coaching community. More change. It's scary and exciting at the same time.
Fast forward to early fall, and my special needs son moved out. He didn't just move out, he moved away to begin his life outside our roof. A 15 hour car drive away. A huge change in the family dynamics. A tremendous leap of faith in a number of ways.
Now here we are at the end of November, and I just cooked Thanksgiving dinner where only 1 of my children was home for the holiday. More change. My son will not be here for Christmas, either. So many things have changed, so why not my knee-jerk reaction? Why not choose a different path that replaces anxiety with peace and joy?
So, that is what I am choosing to do this year. I am choosing not to let this time of year overwhelm me anymore. I am choosing peace and joy. I am acknowledging and accepting that change can be a good thing. It's not always bad. I am going to focus on why we celebrate Christmas and not worry about the commercialization, because I can choose my participation level in that. I am not going to stress anymore about not being able to host a big family gathering. Perhaps one day I will be able to, or maybe I won't. But why not choose peace and joy in the here & now? That is the whole point Christmas is the celebration of the birth of peace and joy!
When I was growing up, I used to feel like an outsider. That I didn't really belong, and I didn't know where I fit in. It was like I needed to live on the Island of Misfit Toys from that classic Christmas special that used to come on t.v. every year when I was a child.
Thankfully, I grew up, and although it still took me a long time after that to become comfortable in my own skin, I was still sort of an outsider in that I was not sure who I really was, not sure what I dreamed about, not sure what kind of goals I had in life.
But now, I know that being a "misfit" is part of who I am. It means that I am unique & quirky. If you were to ask my daughter Alice, she'd tell you that she often informs me "Mommm! You're so weird!" or, "Mom, you're such a dork!" But that doesn't get my feathers ruffled; it makes me laugh! Because I have embraced the misfit in me, I can embrace those remarks. My usual response to my darling daughter is something along the lines of "yeah, but I am comfortable in my weirdness!" or "yeah, but I'm YOUR dork!" Then I think of something else to say or do that is even weirder, just for fun and giggles. I am super blessed to have a strong bond with Alice that has allowed us to have a lot of fun together at an age where it is not so common to have that with your teen. Believe me when I say I know what a gift I have in that!
Misfits have freedom, too. Misfits don't feel pressured to conform to fit in. They don't look for outside opinion to validate who they are as people. That is something I was overly concerned with when I was growing up. Now? Not so much. The only opinion that truly matters to me now is what the Lord thinks of me. I am far from perfect but try hard to live in a way that honors Him. I also know that my mom is watching over me from heaven, so I try to honor her in everything I do as well. Misfits are free to be themselves, and unless that means being a serial killer, terrorist, or demon, it is a good thing. People who are worth having in your life will love you and accept you no matter how low or high your "misfit" percentage is. I confess that I rather enjoy when my goofiness compels my daughter to call me weird.
So, never be afraid to be you. Be unique, quirky, weird, goofy and silly. That is what makes you a misfit and makes you special. It makes you real, and it makes you worth knowing. We have more fun, too!! This world needs more quirky, weird, goofy and silly if you ask me. If you need me, I'll be on the island playing with my toys!
I used to wonder how and why other moms with kids would cry when their child went off to preschool, went off to kindergarten, off to middle school, high school, graduate, etc. I never understood it because my reality was so different with a special needs child. By the time kindergarten arrived, my son was more reluctant to get on his first school bus than I was to let him get on it. No tears, just a "see you this afternoon!" He was the one with the tears.
Oh, my tears came, and often, but they were tears from stress, from being overwhelmed with not knowing what to do with my circumstances, the strains of his needs, especially when they were undiagnosed. Tears from hearing a doctor tell me she thought he needed to be locked up like a criminal at age 5, when all he really had was a substantial fear of doctors offices ,dentist offices, shots, etc. Tears from a preschool who didn't know how to handle his emerging needs. Tears when it took a 2 week mental hospital stay at the age of 7, to get a diagnosis. Tears from seeing countless times the phone would ring and it was school, and I just knew I wasn't going to want to hear what they were about to tell me about his conduct. Tears from seeing the stress rippling through my family in a destructive way. Tears from home visits from the police department, the crisis intervention officers. Tears when I thought there was nothing left. Nothing good.
But today, I watched my 21 year old son leave for the airport to move back to the only place we've lived where he felt happy. He made this decision on his own, decided where he was going to put his life together, and I let him go. It is all up to him to make it work. I am too far away now to pick him up if he falls down. He gets to do that for himself now. I am proud of him. He's made a bold, brash, brave decision and I have put on a brave front. It is only partially a front, which I was forced to acknowledge today when I had to let my declarations of peace with his move and declarations of "I'm fine" find substance. Seeing him leave this morning, knowing he was not going to be home for Thanksgiving or Christmas for the first time, was harder than I ever imagined. So, more tears. And the powerful, unexpected tears of my husband, whom I nearly never see cry.
So in this month for giving thanks, I say to God, Thank You. Thank You for sending me my son, even with the storms that came with his needs. Thank You for sending the tears 16 years later than I imagined. Thank You for letting me be his mother, even with the countless times I questioned Your WHY. I am thankful for Matthew and I leave him in Your hands, Lord. Please keep him safe and draw him back to You. Thank You for loving him more than I can.