Two Events That May Catch You by Surprise

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I am officially dealing with a child getting ready to go off to college and parents who are older and in need of my help.  I cannot believe that my only baby sent off her first college application! It is definitely different from when I submitted my college applications. When I completed mine, it was after depleting bottles of white out on my electric typewriter and then saying a prayer as I dropped it in the mailbox.

Flash forward to 2014, my husband and I sat around her laptop, saying a prayer as we watched her hit the submit button. I had tears in my eyes. My husband did not–until he saw the application fee of $75!  The application fee definitely increased since twenty some odd years ago!

Having only one child had its advantages except that every one of her firsts is the last I will experience. However, I know she is so excited and looking forward to being on her own at college, so I support her.  Okay, so for me supporting her means that I announce at the beginning of each month-‘this is the last (insert month) you will come home to me after classes.’ She rolls her eyes every time. Well she better get used to it because we have several more months that I will repeat this mantra until graduation (not to mention if she keeps making that face it could stay that way).

At the other end of the spectrum, I am facing the fact that my parents are getting older and I will be getting more involved with their lives. When I was growing up I had a hard time picturing my parents younger and having any kind of life before I was born (I mean it all started with me, right?). But I also never thought about the fact they would get older. Well, I knew it in a sense, but felt it was years away so I didn’t dwell on it.

Similar to when my daughter was young and people would say, ‘she will be off to college before you know it!’ I politely smiled and thought—that is such a looong way away! At that point, I just wanted her to go off to dream land and sleep through the night!

As a new mom, I was so cautious about how to take care of her and worried I would break her somehow. I read as many books on child care that I could (always goes back to OCD about researching). I felt confident taking care of myself but a baby-totally out of my league at that time. I prayed for guidance.

Now, with my parents, I feel the same way. They have health issues they did not have before. So, there is more (yup, you guessed it) research so I know what questions to ask their doctor. But there are some things I just can’t look up and one of them is- how can I deal with this situation?

I am so afraid of missing something or assuming another. Is this the right way to care for them in this situation? Did I make the wrong decision? Did I sway them to what I think they should do when it may not have been what they would have originally chosen? I am praying for guidance to choose the right option.

It is a tough balance because they are still my parents and they are adults used to making their own decisions. Sometimes, I still feel like the ten-year old daughter and taking charge in that situation seems futile.

As I had mentioned in the past, my writing helps me to deal with my pain. The majority of time it is my physical pain. However, using bits and pieces from my emotional struggles to develop a character in my manuscript sometimes helps in finding an answer to a situation in my own life.  

Not only that, but writing in this way makes my rough draft more interesting. One way to do a plot twist is to have a character in the book that is found to be someone totally opposite of what they portrayed. It could be a secret that has been kept for many years as in my manuscript, THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM. Or it could be that someone essential in assisting the main character unexpectedly becomes ill. So, instead of the main character counting on that person to help, the main character must do a role reversal.

Now, I just have to pray that I can figure out how the main character will deal with this role reversal….

I would love to hear how you may have dealt with any of these events and if they caught you by surprise.

If you like my posts, please check out these friends of Creating through the Pain:

When is Enough Really Enough?

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We all have a time or two (or eight) when we wonder did we do enough? Did we do enough for a friend, for our job, or for our family?

This question plagued me most when my daughter was young and I received my diagnosis of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD).  As I tried to wrap my head around the reality of having RSD, my self-pity morphed into feeling sorry for my daughter.  I hated all the hospital stays which took me away from her.  How would this affect her later on?  Thoughts of what I wouldn’t be able to do for/with her made my head spin.  What would my limitations mean to her?

Shortly after my diagnosis, my daughter started preschool.  I was the only mom with a cane. I felt extremely self-conscious.  The worst feeling though was the exhaustion from the pain.  I dreaded that I wouldn’t be able to do what the other moms did. Now, I really had no idea what other moms did because this was only the first day-but did that fact stop me from worrying?  I think you know the answer to that.

My anxiety motivated me to push through painful physical therapy.  I learned to rest when she wasn’t home even if I really couldn’t stand to see the dishes in the sink or the balls of fur on the carpet (I swear my chocolate lab sheds enough fur to make 10 more labs in a month).  My energy needed to be reserved for my daughter and my husband. But being the Type- A person I am, I wondered if that still was enough.

When working on a rough draft, I want my character to desire something so badly she has to find the will to fight for it.  She needs to know or discover her strengths and how to use them.  She has to overcome her weaknesses. When an obstacle threatens to derail her and she is about to give up, I want the character to wonder did I do enough-is there more I can do?  Because of these questions, the last chapters reveal her success in obtaining what she desperately yearned to possess or that she discovered something better.  I want her question of ‘Did I do enough?’ answered with a resounding yes!

In my life I know there are certain situations where I may never know if I did enough.  But this week, when I doubted myself most, God blessed me with a glimpse of an answer to that very question.

My daughter will be running in the Second Annual Charlotte FIGHT THE FLAME 5k for RSD on November 2nd.  She set up a fundraising page on First Giving. On this site she wrote a paragraph about why she wants to run this race.  I would like to share a few sentences from her page:   “I would sometimes forget that not all moms walk with a cane or couldn’t always take their kids places or could only stay out of the house for so long, especially when the weather was cold and rainy. I thought my mom was just like any other mom…… I never knew just how much effort my mom put into just trying to seem as normal as possible. I had no idea just how strong she is. My mother is the strongest woman I know.”

If I never hear another word of praise directed at me again in my life this would be ENOUGH.

I would love to hear your moments when you caught a glimpse of the answer to your question-if you did enough.

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What are you waiting for?

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How many times have you been on hold? Sometimes it is a silent hold and you begin to wonder, did they disconnect me? Or you may be lucky enough to hear MUZAK for your listening pleasure. When (or if) they come back on the line, your eyelids have closed and you are about to let out a gentle snore.  But, have you noticed if the hold music just happens to be a song you like, it seems as if not much time has passed at all?

In this ASAP culture any amount of waiting seems to be too long. How many times have you zigzagged your mouse around thinking it would load your page faster? I have done it at least twice today. There was a comedian that did a joke about the pop tarts box. The directions, of course were to put them in a toaster. Yet, under that listed microwave directions. The big joke was who doesn’t have time to wait for a toaster?  Then again, some mornings waiting the last few minutes for the coffee to finish brewing seems like an eternity.

When I think about it, in writing a manuscript, the main character(s) spends a lot of time waiting to get to their goal. Obviously you can’t have them achieve it in the first chapter. You must develop obstacles that the main character stumbles over along the way. Their struggles move the story along-at least you hope it does.

Sometimes the inpatient waiting takes place even before you can get to writing.  You come up with this fantastic plot.  You have some inkling of your beginning, some middle scenes and a possible ending (or two). You just wish your writing fairy could zig zag your mouse and it would be finished. But that doesn’t happen.  Alas, there is no writing fairy (who knew?) and you have to go through the ups and downs of the writing process. Once you have finally completed your draft, you still  must edit, edit, edit, ad infinitum….

As hard as the waiting involved in my writing process may be, waiting for a sign of hope in my own life is so much harder.  Right now things are not the way I wish they could be for a loved one. I can see that there is an ending, but I can’t just jump to the end. I so badly want to be on the other side of this episode, but I know (especially because it has happened before) speed bumps loom around the corner and they will be painful. Only time can bring about a result and I have no way of knowing if it will help this person or not.

When I am having a pain flare up, I know that even though the pain will not completely disappear, eventually it will be a little less severe. I would love to just skip over this flare up and say ‘been there, done that’. Unfortunately, zig zagging a mouse over my leg and hands do not work (hey, it doesn’t hurt to try right?).

These flare ups can come on due to changes in barometric pressure or for no reason at all. But sometimes my flare ups come on because of the pressure I put on myself during times of exceptional stress. Because of that, I have not taken the time to let my body rest. So the flare up forces me to stop. While stuck in bed and having my mini pity party, it seems like my prayers have not been heard (the silent hold). But then I may receive a phone call from a close friend.  Or a wonderful friend stops by with a chocolate shake (my nerves may be in pain, but my taste buds aren’t)!  At that point I realize God heard my prayer after all.  He sent me these loved ones.

Sometimes the wait will bring about an outcome that is completely opposite from what I had envisioned.  Sometimes the wait will come at the most inopportune time. But,sometimes during the wait there are gifts of grace and of friendship.  And that is not a time you would want to zig zag your mouse over to get though it ASAP.

Have you had a time of waiting that gave you more than you expected?

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Two Steps Forward Six Steps Back

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Did you ever have a week or a day even when you thought “My life is going pretty good maybe now that I solved the problem, I can have some breathing room?” But instead you soon find that what you thought was put away nicely in a box wrapped with a bow has popped open leaving you clinging to the ribbon as you are hurled six steps back?  (If you grew up in the Eighties you may remember a song with the line “2 steps forward 2 steps back” I didn’t use that because I have found that in my life the steps backward are never equal and are usually at least three times worse. )

This has been one of those weeks when I realize no matter how much I can research, ( note to self for hundredth time OCD researching is not always the answer-I have found studies that prove this), no matter what I have planned– events take a turn, people let you down. It is as if I am in the Monopoly™ game (as the little dog of course-did you ever wonder who ever chose the flat-iron?)  But back to being in the Monopoly™ game –I don’t get to pass GO and I must go directly to jail. In the game, jail was a respite if I was down to $20 and couldn’t afford to land on a hotel property.  I would be safe for a few turns.  But it doesn’t work that way in life. So instead of seeking respite, I panicked.  Yup, and by that I mean either I was screaming in my car, taking it out on others, or paralyzed by fear.  This week I pulled a panic trifecta!

As a child, I had always thought, well actually I was told that I could restore certain situations. I could fight for a certain person and once he/she was safe they would see all I had done to help.  He/she would be grateful and never make the same mistake. Yet this was not the recent turn of events. So, I am left feeling like a failure and so worn that I have nothing left to give.

Interestingly enough, when writing a manuscript, this is precisely what we must give our main character. We need to induce fear in our characters either physically or emotionally. The more they stand to lose, the better. Characters need obstacles in order to have readers keep turning pages.

So, I am trying to look at my six steps back and use the gamut of emotions I have spewed to push my main character two steps forward.  This just might be a win-win process. The character discovers something new about themselves and it is cathartic for me, sort-of like a spiritual journal. When I am able to use my experience and emotions to broaden the scope of my main character I usually find this to be a source of comfort, at least for the time I am writing.  When I was writing The Last Cherry Blossom, I discovered that a turning point for my main character happened when she finally realized it was NOT all about her. She did not move forward on her own (not completely anyway) and she did not take 6 steps backward alone either.

At the end of the day or in this case my blog, I have to remember it is not about me. I had read in a dotMagis blog post that instead of asking “Why me?” ask “What will I do with this situation?”  Sometimes my answer is going back to bed, pull the covers up comfy cozy (with marshmallow crispy treats and chocolate on the nightstand at the ready) and call it a day. Other times asking that question gives me pause and I remember that I can do this with God, with family, and with my friends.  For a character in my rough draft it may take more time for soul-searching and many tries to get it right.

Just as there will be times when I can help someone.  But when I can’t, my feeling of guilt at some point needs to be displaced by love and acceptance of the people or situation I was desperately trying to fix. Once I come to that realization, which by the way is never immediate– usually many days in a panic trifecta stage.  But eventually I hope to realize that I did my best, I acted out of love, and now must find a new way to handle the way things are now.

Though frustration and doubt pave the path for anyone’s six steps backward, there will eventually be opportunity for a main character and yes, for us to leap two steps forward once again.  But, I suggest having marshmallow crispy treats or chocolate on hand, ’cause it may take a while…

What helps you deal with the time you take six steps backward?

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