Feeling a little like this wild mint today. It’s ready to grow…as long as it has some cover. Ready to send shoots up as long as the warm sun bounces off the house. Mint is always early at my house. Cropping up between driveway cracks and near the sidewalk. Anything growing yet where you are today?
This past week is the time when I do some of the most difficult remembering of my year. I tried to tap it out here, thinking that it would help to explain my perceived melancholy. Instead it brought a deeper sadness, a more frequent ache as I thought over the words I had typed. I could not share those words with you; not here, not in this way. I also could not share the words when we were together because after thirteen years it seems that I should have come to more of a sense of finality, acceptance, peace even. I know those of you who will tell me that I could have said something, I should have told you how sad I am, and to you I can only nod and know that I would say the same. Yet there are no words.
There are no words to explain a thing that has settled into my very soul. It is an ache that I no longer feel, it simply is a part of who I am. It is a piece of the person I have become, I don’t mind it. It is a reminder that I can do the hardest of hard and come out of it alive. I tried to write “better” there, but I am only thankful to have made it through with my heart broken and my sanity intact.
I’ve been wondering about this a lot lately. How did I come through the most difficult ( I had to stop just now and wonder at this moment that I’m dancing around as truly the most difficult…there have been so many hard things.) time in my life with my mind in once piece? How and why was I able to put all of my pain and the shattered parts of my soul into tidy boxes and continue down the muddy path in front of me? There are those of you who would make jokes over how sane I actually am, but really, why is it possible for me to know this immense grief on top of the long list of other difficulties that make up my life and yet I carry on in a fairly “normal” way.
I’ve been told by a few different people lately that I should read about ACEs. Have you heard of this before? I hadn’t really known there was a name for it, but it would seem that”Adverse Childhood Experiences” are well studied. I dropped a graphic below so you can get the basics if this is as new to you as it was to me. I’m not going to tell you my number, but I will tell you that it was an alarming thing to put a name to. When I started looking into ACEs, I began to wonder how I came to this point in my life. When I look at the resulting negative factors of having grown up with a few ACEs in my life I wonder, why did I end up so well adjusted? I know that there are those few of you who knew me before my divorce who could point out that I brought some of those childhood traumas into adulthood. You could ask if I married to escape the dysfunction that was my childhood. You could even say that in having a divorce of my own I have dropped more beautiful children into this cycle.
You wouldn’t be wrong.
But…you wouldn’t be right either.
There is so much more to me than what I could underline and highlight as risk factors. That is ultimately what I am so curious about. Why do some people go through these experiences and seem to break under their weight? Why do others not? Even siblings don’t always handle the same stressors in the same way. This is something that I am curious about. Is there an inborn ability to withstand these triggers in certain people? Can a small percentage of the population go through childhood traumas and retain the ability to avoid the risky behaviors and mental illness that seem so common to those who go through these experiences? I am hoping to do more reading on this topic because as a person who has gone through some of these things I wonder.
The most alarming part of this should probably be that over 60% of the population has at least one. One out of eight people has at least four. Look over that list again, do you know which person/people in your circle are the one in eight? I am not naive enough to think that everyone in my friend group has a history with none of these experiences and yet I am not ignorant enough to think that all of my friends have some. So how does the general population walk around seeming so unaffected?
I suppose we are seeing that they really don’t seem so unaffected. There are so many people who struggle with anxiety, depression, much more. I don’t question that these things are real and I don’t question the way that people are coping either. Instead I find myself asking what have they gone through? Let me be clear, I have basically zero knowledge of this topic. I have researched very minimally at this point, but I want to understand the hope or resilience or fortitude that some people seem to have inside of them to overcome what they were exposed to as children. Where does that come from?
Over the years, before anyone gave me a name for it, I have thought that a person’s faith in God or some higher power may have been what allows them to carry on. I don’t currently trust that thought to be completely true. While I have believed in God since I was a very small girl there have been years of my life where any amount of faith was questionable at best. My behaviors at times would seem to point to the exact opposite of faith. Whatever that would be, denial I suppose. As I look at the times when my faith was strongest it was most certainly not when I needed to have the closest relationship with my Creator. While I do know that God is what has ultimately held me together, I don’t believe that my faith in Him or in His love had much to do with it at all.
I have asked myself if I managed all of the hardships simply because I had to. I was the oldest child, the one my mother expected to help the most or be the most responsible. Over the years I know that I let her down in that respect, but in my defense I would say that I knew when I could let her down. Looking at it now I can say that I knew because my own failings in this area came at times when she had the most outside support. I did not disappear when she was most alone or broken. A better question would be; how did I know this as a teen? It felt the same then as it does today. I know when she most needs me even still, and I know the support system that she has built around her is much stronger than it has ever been. As I read over this I can see what some of you might insinuate; asking why I need care for my own mother in this way. I will add it to the list of questions I currently seek answers for, and tell you that I simply do. Is it the typical first child belief that they are caretaker and controller-of-situations that made me who I am?
Is it something more? Do certain people have the sight in them to see the other side and how things should really be? Can a percent of those kids growing up with ACEs know inherently that childhood does not last and that they will have the ability to make it good on their own at some point. If so, where would that knowledge come from? A mentor? A support person? Peer groups? I so strongly want to understand, though I know it is likely any combination of factors. How can we give that knowledge or experience to other kids who are coming through their own ACEs today?
I also wonder how much worse it is getting. Children are now growing up with parents who may have been subjected to their own trauma and who are unable to handle it as adults. These parents are passing on some of that same trauma to their children, seemingly unaware of what they are doing. Is that why so many young people seem so ill-prepared to function in today’s world? If so, how can we help to break that cycle? Also, how can we give the young people the hope or fortitude or faith to trust that they can do the hard things that their lives will require of them? How can we quiet the gripping fear, the stifling depression, the overwhelming grief that some are dealing with? Is there anything to be done at all?
Like so many of the other things I write down here, I have more questions than answers about this. I can say that for me, very personally, I know that the struggles I managed from my childhood allowed me to make the most difficult decision that I ever had to make. I can tell you that without having gone through the ACEs that I did I would not have been the strength my family needed. Would someone else have stepped in? Probably. That choice though, knowing that she looked at me and asked what we should do…feeling the weight of it. I know how that event has shaped me, and without the previous hardships I would not have been able to make the choice, I would have been crushed by fear. From doing hard things I knew that I could do this impossible thing.
Why do some use the experiences as tools to get them through, while others see the same experiences as broken pieces of themselves? This is where my curiosity has returned to in this week of remembrance. This is where my mind has settled and what has kept me from falling into the very sadness and brokenness that I’m questioning.
I feel it necessary to profess that my childhood was good. I have almost exclusively fond memories of growing up. When I look at that list of ACEs I know that there were things about the earlier years of my life that should have, could have, made me look back quite differently though. And so I question. I will hope to know what it is that is in me that makes me see the years as overall-good. I will also be thankful. While I have struggled I have also been strong enough to overcome those struggles and I have thus far been able to manage…my life? my mentality? my emotions? what exactly I’m not sure.
This has been a bit rambling, even for me. If you’ve read through to the end I’d hope first that you weren’t hoping I’d wrap this up all neat and tidy and second, that whatever factors have made you the person you are today, you can see them as good. That you can see how hardships give us the ability to endure more hardship as well as an ability to more completely enjoy the good. Perhaps we can even see how much braver and bolder and stronger we are with each difficulty we overcome.
If you have recommendations for me to learn more about ACEs or managing trauma I’d love it if you’d drop me a note.
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If you’ve been around awhile, you know that I don’t like the over-scheduled, crazy-busy lifestyle. It stresses me out, makes me a bad momma/wife/human. I really work to avoid the hustle and the rush. I can’t help but wonder; if I have to work toward the calm, is it really calm though?
Lately I find myself feeling busy and rushed and chaotic all of the time. I mean, like, every day. There is always one more thing to do, one more person to care for…the things that I want to do, that I want to make time for rarely seem to actually materialize.
So I’ve decided the best thing for me to do is get the eff out. Like maybe we should never return from the campground. Can I do that? Please?
Okay, so maybe it’s not super realistic, but trust that that I AM working on it as my end goal. And, though it may take me a year (or more) to get right back to here, I’ll take the time. To all of you who ask me where we’ll be next week, next month, next season…I say, Who knows!? Why do I need to rush into it, rush to know what’s next? I’ll take the days to figure it out. I’ll sit with the choices available to me.
As I ease into this slower than is my normal Autumn, I am still feeling the rush a bit. I still don’t want to do all of the things that my children would like me to do. I am saying no to some of the activities. I expressed a little of my worry over this recently, but I do feel like by showing my children that they can say no to good things that they will be better equipped to live their best life when they are grown. Only showing them the exhausted side of myself does not teach them to care for themselves well.
Something I have not talked much about recently is my physical health and how deeply it’s attached to my mental well being. All of the struggles I have had in the past with illness, while physically a bacterial health issue (psst; this really helped me out.Garden of Life Women’s Probiotics), were directly linked to the depression that settles over my soul in the Winter. My optimism in taking this season at my chosen pace feels now, like it will help me stay healthier and closer to myself even when the cold is heavy and the darkness is deep. This trusting of myself is a good thing for my children to see. It shows them how they can really listen to their bodies and that what they hear has value and worth. They don’t have to look outwardly for their own peace or healing, it is within them. This said, I hope they will see the beauty in accepting and seeking help when it is offered or needed. That they can trust themselves to know when they need to accept it.
What do you do to slow yourself? Do you take the time that you need or do you feel like you must keep moving, keep making progress, that you must keep going? I know that I need to stop, I wrote a teensy bit about the full-stop recently and it has kept me aware of my rolling through all of the things that are meant to be breaks for me. How that is a disservice to myself. Knowledge is, truly, power and I know that by being aware I will begin to take better advantage of the full-stop. Even just sitting here this day typing out these words in the middle of a Sunday are proof that I can listen and do what I really need.
As I look at my week ahead I know that it is a busy one. Even my “stay-home” day is not going to be spent at home this week. There will be much going and doing and playing and celebrating and… and hopefully some stopping too. I’ll have to schedule the stops I think. Take time when I am done here to put the breaks into my days where I can anticipate needing them. Taking them too will be key, knowing they are needed is not enough in and of itself. The biggest thing that I do for myself is to deliberately schedule in the exploring time. Being outside fixes most of what is broken in my soul. Taking the time to adventure heals all that is left unmended. This week I can see where I will break to head outdoors, I will plan deliberately. Even though it means more work-packing lunches, ensuring proper clothing, searching for hats and mittens-once we get there the time will be fulfilling.
There are no shortage of excuses these days, as the dreary, wet Autumn lingers and pours depression into my very soul I know that going outside is what will overtake the sadness. It will become more difficult to force myself out, remind me if you see me though will you? If you’re wondering what we’re up to or where our adventures are taking us please ask those questions! It helps to talk about it, to know there will be escape at some point. This week though? I foresee the days holding long Autumn walks, growing ever more comfortable with the forests and wood near our home. Will you join me?
P.S. I found this trail guide recently and love it! We can’t wait to take some excellent walks if it ever warms back up!Take a look!
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Last night I was drinking rum, perhaps that explains a bit of this rambling. Perhaps not, it is quite possible that the thoughts have finally bubbled to the surface due in part to a vague suggestion. The idea that the young should travel -no, not should, but must- is not a new one. So often we send our recently graduated students out into the wider world in part because they need a job, but more so because they are at the perfect place to do the leaving. Nothing is holding them back, nothing is keeping them here.
What if you never left when you were young? Does the opportunity pass you by simply because you have children or are established in your community? Is the only way to successfully leave “later in life” if you are offered an amazing job opportunity? Why can’t freedom and exploration come at any point in life? Why do the repercussions seem harsher? Should children ever be uprooted? Y’all have been around long enough to understand where I’m at with these thoughts right? Good.
I’ve had trouble putting a solid feeling behind my desire for travel. I feel so deeply that it is no different from a desire to succeed or a want for love, but people don’t really get that correlation. In my alcohol-induced brilliance I came to the analogy of the blank page; not by chance mind you. No, it came about after a bit of a rambling from Bruce Springsteen that my sweet husband was listening to. (If you want to check out the song, you can buy it here from Amazon; Thunder Road (Springsteen on Broadway).
For reasons I will not try to fully explain, this image made clear my own feelings. The blank page is a perfect metaphor for so many areas of my life. Most obvious is right here. There is something about the clear screen of my computer that makes me want to fill it with words and ideas and emotion. The driving can not be ignored with this idea either. Taking the road less traveled, wandering the secret paths, heading out alone into unknown territory is the very essence of who I am. Not least of the pieces of me that could be defined by this idea, is my inherent desire to travel. To get away from the comfortable and explore the wild. I am not satisfied to simply vacation away my time. I want to fill notebook pages with the beauty and chaos I experience in the great unknown. The white-space I tend to leave on my calendar, the silence I am forever seeking, the ever-constant decluttering; all model my need for a blank page.
Are you still with me? I tried to warn you about the rum…
I’ll ask again; am I too late? Should I resolve myself to the darkness of Winter and stationary life? My littles don’t all want to move South where cold will mean 50’s, but friends will need to be sought out. Should we stay to ease our fears? My sweet husband sees the hassle involved with our current plan. Should we stay for our comfort? Though my mother does not yet know that we may pick up and drive away, I can tell you that she does not want us to go. Should we stay to ease her worry? If I would have recognized my gypsy soul at eighteen would anyone have questioned me when I packed a duffle and drove away?
That changes the question a bit doesn’t it? Why didn’t I ever pack that bag? Why didn’t I ever load up the car? There’s a secret truth here, something I will not share fully with y’all today. We can blame fear for now and it will suffice as an acceptable reason. Fortunately for me there is no actual limit, implied or otherwise stated that tells me I can not go now. Even though I am so far past that “ideal” age.
Quiet is important to me. Having my own space to be alone so that I can think, holds value to me. I also really love being surrounded by my people. Having them near me, in the same room, while they do their own thing helps me feel the love we have for each other. As I was making dinner last night it struck me how independent my kids are, yet how much they want to be together. These three are still young. I know their desire for space and privacy will increase in the coming years, but I am very grateful for how much time we spend together.
If you’re new here you should know that we unschool our youngest three kids; this means that I spend every waking hour (and a lot of the ones when we should be sleeping too) with my kids. I read this stat recently that sort of blew my mind. In the article I’ve linked from the Washington Post they are discussing how quality time with your kids is better than the quantity of time spent with your kids. The fact that jumped out at me though was that the average mother spends 13.7 hours per week with her child. That’s not even two hours per day!
I know that some of you who read here don’t homeschool your kids and I know that the opinions I throw out here randomly have a tendency to irritate. This is just one chart after all, is there any truth behind it? A simple Google search will answer that question for you, probably in the exact way that you’d like the question answered too. The data field is filled with so much information that it is overwhelming. I am certain that there are a lot of parents who work outside of the home and who traditionally school their children who spend more than two hours per day with their kids. I’m not here judging any individual, rather America as a whole. Why is raising up children in the way they should go so seemingly, unimportant? Do we simply believe that someone else can do a better job growing our kids? Do we lack trust in ourselves? This is such a mystery to me.
The number got me wondering though. My kids are home, in my care all of the time. So I tried to add it all up and here’s my number of hours spent with at least one of my children per day: 13.5 . While I didn’t subtract out the occasional Sunday afternoon where I sneak out to write or read a book in complete,utter, and blessed silence. Or the hour I get on Monday mornings when I head over to pick up my girl. I also didn’t add in the multiple middle of the night wakings, the mornings when my teeny is awake at five AM or the evenings when I read to my kids until 9:30. So in case you didn’t see that number, I spend the average American mother’s weekly amount of time caring for her children in one day. That means I spend 94.5 hours with my kids every week.
As my boy used to say, Holy Maca-Roni!
I would argue that stat again here, stating that there is no way that the amount of time I spend with my kids does not influence them at least as much as the quality of our time together. When you give all of your waking hours to your little people there are going to be great, enriching, educational times. They are going to learn who they are and who they want to grow into. They will learn your values, morals, standards and decide if they want to internalize those same ideals or not simply because they are in your presence. They will also be bored. They will feel that things are not fair. They will always want more even when you believe you have poured out every, single last drop from your own pitcher.
Even now, before six AM, my teeny has come to snuggle in next to me. Stealing my time with her sweet little wants and needs. Of course, you’d be right in arguing that all of those 94 hours are not spent specifically on the caring-for of children. At least you’d not be entirely wrong. I have a friend who says; “It doesn’t matter that the kids are off playing on their own and I’m washing the dishes. I’m still “on”, still listening to them play, noticing the cues, realizing they’ll want a snack soon…”. I would describe my mothering as exactly this; giving my kids the freedom to seek God’s will for their lives while I am “on” at a distance. I’m here, all of the times they need or want me, but I send them out to be themselves as much as possible. It’s important to me to note that I have also spent a lot of hours guiding my kids in being independent, or, maybe, allowing independence to be the result of our activities, is a better way of putting it.
In this intense amount of time that I spend with my kids I have worked hard to teach them to be quiet. Not just for my own sanity, but for theirs. I feel like so many kids in this time really have no idea how to be alone with their own thoughts, how to sit with their own boredom and search out their own hearts. I spent a lot of mornings teaching my little boy that first thing in the morning we grab a blanket and a water bottle and snuggle into a chair with a good book. Now he does this throughout the day as he recognizes his own need for a little down time. I am grateful for the time I sacrificed to teach him this skill.
My oldest little frequently slips headphones over her ears and tears through the pages of a novel. She has discovered the need of silence on her own. Living in the middle of bigs and littles I suppose one should expect that. Now that my teeny is four I have been working to lead her to the want of quiet. She is currently resisting in a way only she can. She starts talking three minutes after she wakes and she is loud and opinionated for all of the minutes after that, right up until falls asleep next to me. If she is not vocally loud, she is desiring of all of my attention in other ways that cause me to be constantly aware of her presence. This is not a quiet child. Not yet.
I will continue to coax her toward her own space, her own time. I will invest in this because I see the value of it. When my older kids sit down alone with books or games or Legos in the afternoon, I know they are resetting for the rest of the day. They are giving themselves a bit of peace in a world that has devalued this. We try not to use the quiet time up with screens, though it does happen occasionally, because the nearly 100 awake hours in our week offer up plenty of time for that. I try to remind myself that in teaching them to be still and quiet I am giving them a gift to carry with them always. Because we practice this regularly, I trust that they will feel the value of silence even after they have followed their own paths away from me. They will seek it out, fight for it.
There are times I feel like my house is so loud. That I must escape the constant clamoring for my attention. When I am aware though, and not completely overwhelmed, I see each of them sit quietly for a few minutes throughout the day. I see the peace wash over them as they do this. I am able to soak a little of that peace up myself and I am glad. For them and for me. After all, let’s be honest here; Momma’s really do just need the quiet.
Peace to each of you this day. May you seek it out. May it make it’s home in you.