Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Beauty of Looking Back

There are those in the world that caution against looking back.  And I see the wisdom in that counsel... usually.  I understand that dwelling on the past hinders your movement forward.  But here's the thing, these last few days, I've learned the beauty and the value of letting yourself look back.

This last weekend was General Conference for our church.  Basically, it's a televised conference (from Salt Lake City) in which our church leaders speak to us.  For those of us fortunate enough to live in areas where we have access to cable, satellite or the internet, it usually means we get to have 10 hours of church in our pajamas :)  For me, this weekend, it meant two days straight of having everyone home and 10 hours of trying to get kids to stay quiet.  It was a glorious, albeit long, weekend.

Conference was great.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining in the least about that.  And my kids were great and I love them, sometimes it's actually fun to have everyone together for more than a few hours.  But I realized something this weekend, our family, my marriage, me, my kids, my relationships with my kids, my brother and my relationship with him, all of it is still a work in progress.

At one point on Sunday morning, Bruncle was following my around the house as I was trying to get a few chores done, and I was getting very frustrated.  Mamas, I know you get the frustration and near claustrophobia that can come when little bodies are constantly following you.  You know, those times when you lock yourself in the bathroom just to have a little space, a few minutes of reprieve.

And those times, you know every single time, when the phone rings and then, and only then, do the kids want to talk to you.  You get what I'm saying.  Sometimes as the mama bear things like personal boundaries and privacy are shot right out of the water.

Sunday morning was that time for me.

Now magnify that little body of a toddler following you everywhere, those tiny hands under closed doors, that tiny chatter voice trailing along behind you.  The form of a six foot, 230 lbs, fifteen-year-old man-child is slightly more... well, everything.

I try very hard to have patience with Bruncle's healing, developing, maturing, learning process.  I do.  And usually, I feel like I'm doing a pretty good job.  But Sunday, I was finding it very taxing.  Every time I turned around I was stepping on his toes, bumping into his shoulder... with my face... and tripping as I tried to correct my course.  For nearly an hour, his deepening voice chatted on about pokemon, football, silly youtube videos and said 'Hi' about 400 times.  Seriously.  He says 'Hi' a lot.  Every time he reenters a room or restarts conversation after a slight pause or if I have had my back to him and turn to face him.  I love this boy!  I do.  But, like all mom's know, having a constant shadow can make you want to run for the hill screaming, begging for freedom.

I was trying very hard to get a grip on my building aggravation.  I was taking deep calming breaths, and doing my best to keep smiling.  Part of what was bothering me so badly was that it had been quite some time since Bruncle had followed me so incessantly.  It had been a few months actually since the last time he was so aggressive in his attention seeking.  Eventually, I did say, "I am going to the bathroom now.  And then I'm going to sit quietly in my room... alone... by myself... for at least 10 minutes.  Then I will come back downstairs."  And I turned and did my best not to run up the stairs.

And as I enjoyed my ten minutes alone, by myself, in my room, my mind began to play our life in reverse.   My frustrations swelled as I remembered how frequently he used to "cling to my skirt tails".  I remembered that exactly one year ago, he had his first stint in a mental health outpatient program for severe depression and anxiety.  And that only 10 months ago, he had done his second stint at a different facility and for twice as long.  I reminded myself that two years ago, my children and I were packing our bags and saying our goodbyes in England, leaving my husband behind for an unknown amount of time.  I reminded myself that at the airport in London, Bruncle stood at the bottom of the escalator that the rest of my children had already raced up, panicked, crying and yelling his refusal to get on.  I was panicked too, my four small children were at the top of the escalator, I couldn't even see them anymore, and somehow I had to get a 350 lb. crying boy to comply with my demands that he too get to the top.  He wouldn't budge.  After a few minutes--all I could spare before I raced after my children--his panic was still raising and I had no help in sight.  So I did the only thing I could, I took his bag and added it to my two, then I took him forcefully by the arm and pulled with all my might as I stepped onto the escalator.  He wailed and clung to me all the way to the top.

In that moment of that memory, I realized WE HAVE COME SO FAR!  He has come so far.

That little flash back, that little reminder of what was behind us, what we had already overcome, instantly assuaged my irritation.  I was able to go back downstairs and listen to his chatter and feel his breath at my back as I worked and be fine.  More than that, I was able to enjoy it and be happy in that moment.  Looking back actually made it so that I could be present with him and enjoy his company.

I've also had the pleasure of parent/teacher conferences this week.  Those conferences have given me more opportunities to look back and see where my children were a year ago, six months ago.  And because of that, I am more fully able to appreciate and celebrate where they are right now, today.  Thing 1 and Thing 2 have had a long journey towards learning to read.  It was just over a year ago that I wrote a post about the woes of their learning curves and the emotional consequences that followed.  Their resource teacher, who I love and adore, reminded me this week that even last March (as in like seven months ago) they were barely reading and now they are at a 2nd grade level and moving and progressing everyday.

And even as I have contemplated this week where my kids were a year ago, two years ago, my thoughts have turned inward and I have remembered where I was one year ago.  In bed.

When Bruncle was admitted to the first outpatient behavior health program, I sent him to stay with my sister for nearly a month.  I was at the tail end of a year without my husband... and, at that point, we still didn't have any conclusive answers about when he would be home.  I was attempting to homeschool my children.  I say attempting because although I had been doing so for three years, I must admit that those last few months before my husband and I followed the promptings of the Lord to send them back to school, I was a wreck.  I was worn through the bone.  And the icing on the cake was the resurfacing of hidden memories that took nearly two years after the death of my father to finally show themselves.  I was in a mental health crisis of my own and I was in bed, nearly all day, every day.  My house, my world was caving in around me.  I couldn't stop it.  I felt totally helpless, hopeless, worthless.  Even now, when I go to take a nap, my kids will sometimes ask if I'm actually going to get back out of bed later.  Oh, how that hurts my heart that they have memories of me like that.

Looking back, I want to reach out to that woman in her three-days old pajamas... ok, let's be honest, her five-to-six-day-old pajamas... I want to reach through time and space and hold her.  I wish I could pull her out of bed and hold her hand and help her regain her life.  And then I remember, I already have.  I lived through my worst days, my darkest hours.  I reclaimed my life.  I got out of my bed and faced the world and my fears and all the demons in between.  I did that.

When we look back and see the mountains we've already crossed,
the rugged path we're currently on doesn't seem so bad, nor do the mountains ahead of us.

Sometimes the most beautiful thing is found in looking back.  For it is with eyes made anew that we then observe the present and, then, with remembered hope and courage, we can blaze our trail towards the future.  Only when our looking lingers to living in the past is it a danger to us.  Dare to look back.  Dare to see how far you've come.  Dare to believe in yourself, your spouse and your children.  Dare to embrace and enjoy each moment as it happens.  Dare to love your journey.