My new identity has been solidified over the last few years. I’m a special needs mom, a nurse mom and a caregiver to my two sons born with Spina Bifida. Our situation is uniquely complex and well known because it is rare to hear of two biological kids with this level of disability in a single family. I am open with my journey and I now have a message I can share.
Among the darkest and most difficult situations a mother can endure- I choose joy. This is my message. I laugh when I’ve been in a pediatric ICU for weeks. I joke when my child is faced with his 12th surgery. I throw in humor during 5 am rounds with a group of neurosurgeons. Do you want to know how I can live in this paradox?
I CHOOSE TO BE SAD.
I preach a lot on “Choosing Joy” yet it suddenly occurred to me that I’m not revealing the entire story. You see, when I was pregnant with Miles and learned of his life limiting diagnosis, I cried in my pillow for weeks and could barely feed my oldest son that was 16 months old. When faced with Caleb’s 6th and most serious brain surgery right after his first birthday, I stayed in bed, ate lasagna and watched reruns of “My 600 Pound Life.” When I began losing friends that were close to me, I sulked and vented about it for months to loved ones.
These stories aren’t cute or glamorous. They are real-life, nitty-gritty truths to watching my children suffer and going down a road I would have never chosen. Yet I realized, there is no emotion I can feel that God hasn’t felt. Pain, jealousy, anger, anguish, joy, love- God created all of these and He knows exactly what they feel like. I don’t have to feel ashamed of being a human being that feels deeply. I don’t have to push down the true and raw array of emotion that bubbles over and create an uncomfortable situation.
I choose to feel my feelings.
And let me tell you. This takes practice.
In all those times I was weeping in my pillow, my husband would try to drag me out of bed for a sandwich, a Target run, a shower. “Let me have 3 more days,” I would tell him. “I just need to feel sad for 3 more days. After those days, I promise to choose happy.” He would wipe my tears and let me be. When those 3 days were up, I would drag my pathetic and worn out soul to the shower, pull together and CHOOSE HAPPY.
I don’t mean faking my way through it. I mean putting on the fun New Orleans jazz music, inviting friends for brunch, taking a tap class and living in a real state of joy. Life doesn’t always give you the perfect ingredients to just quickly mix together a nice little Joy Stew. It’s often missing some key ingredients.
Healthy children? Nope don’t have that. Staying out of the hospital for more than a month? Ha! Nice try.
But are there meat and potatoes? Loving family? Yep! Roof over my head, food on the table? Oh yeah!
Ok. Then there is enough to make a choice.
I still have my little “sad days.” I have been known to announce it to the room. “It’s a sad day guys! Don’t expect much from me. I need to feel this one out. Bring mama some bon bons. Tomorrow I’ll be happy again.” I play the gloomy music, draw the curtains and cry the ugly cries.
This amazing thing happens when those emotions are let loose. It is so much easier to CHOOSE JOY! A weight is lifted. There is a new awakening. You are free to feel the emotion God wants to see you in so badly. Your authentic self. For me- it’s silly, it’s giddy, it’s slightly cynical humor, it’s light hearted and free.
We all need an outlet. I’m not overly emotional in public but I can be my true self to a few people. I use writing as a therapeutic outlet to release pain. Some people are incredibly private and some are an open book but we all need a safe place to tell our story.
If it’s a sad day in a dark room, a spouse or friend, or an entire room- just let it out. See what happens. Give yourself permission to not have it all together. But then….drumroll…..
LET IT GO.
If you need a day to be sad, a week, a month- do it. Give yourself enough time to have healing.
And then, choose the happiest life imaginable.
Yep, I’m a sad mom. I’m a happy mom. I’m a child of God and He is dang proud of me. One more thing, once you are done choosing sad, come on over to a dance party at my place. All are welcome.