Sometimes You’ve Just Got To Retreat
There are only a few things I dread.
One of them is the phone tree.
You know… when something bad happens and you have to call everyone in your family, plus your friends and tell, then re-tell what happened. I hate that. Maybe it’s because there are nine kids in my family… maybe not. Maybe it is exhausting even if you are an only child.
When Lucy was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at nine months, I was done. Prior to that I had really tried to just put on a brave face and pull up my boots and manage whatever it was I was dealing with. People would offer to help as I juggled a deaf three year-old, and a 9 month-old baby who continually arched away from the person holding her, her head thrown back and hollering.
“No, thank you,” I said, time and time again “this is my life. I do this every day and I need to be able to do it with or without help.” (Though I rarely did it with help.) These words almost became my mantra… “Thank you, no. This is my life. I need to be able to do this with or without help.”
Then, one day… I crashed and burned.
I couldn’t be strong, not for another minute.
I was curled up, in the fetal position, on the floor of our apartment and I could not stop crying… no it was more like wailing… I couldn’t stop wailing. I called Aaron at work and told him, “You have to come home. I can NOT do this!”
I couldn’t imagine one more day, let alone many more years, of being strong AND brave AND responsible AND managing it all. It was just too much.
But I learned something that day, yes, the day that I was completely leveled by the thought of cracking open a can of soup and making a grilled cheese sandwich for Leah, I learned that sometimes you don’t have to be brave or pull up your boots and tromp through the waist deep mud. I learned that sometimes you’ve got to retreat.
Go to a safe place.
Lick your wounds.
Gather your strength.
Not only is there nothing wrong with retreating… it is necessary at times.
I watch my friends, especially the ones who have kiddos with special needs. I can’t help but note when they refuse help and assistance. As I meet families who are struggling with unexpected circumstances I let them in on my secret- “It’s ok to retreat.”
Sometimes it is “RETREAT!!!!!” like you might imagine hearing called out on a battlefield, when things are not going as expected or planned.
The last few weeks have been tough. Aaron and I lost a very dear friend. I did end up in the fetal position, crying, more than once… my head pounding as day after day my brain cycled through accepting and completely rejecting the fact that our friend is really, really gone…and sure enough just last week I was once again confronted by opening a can of soup when I realized it was 3:00 p.m. on Saturday and I had not even fed my kids breakfast.
The day before the funeral, my sister found out that the baby she had been carrying, at 18 weeks, no longer had a heart beat. I could hardly cry. I had nothing left.
I’m not Wonder Woman or Supermom.
I am just me.
And I am sitting here pondering how sweet
and exquisite life is.
Sometimes, I need to be reminded to take my own advice… and retreat.
~In loving memory of our friend Jed Arveseth