A Dose Of Reality

We have a picture in our minds of how life is "supposed to be". We graduate high school, on to college, have a career, get married, have kids and live happily ever after, right?! What happens when life doesn't go that way? You do everything you can to avoid bad relationships, but they somehow find you. Or the company you worked so hard to get into goes through mass layoffs and you find yourself without a job. How do you handle it?

I have three daughters. My eldest just started high school and my twin girls, jr. high (Lord, help me). Like any other parents, we did our best with raising our kids to be normal, healthy, God-loving girls. We are not perfectionists by any stretch, but we have encouraged our kids to do their best in school, respect others, play team sports and grow up to be strong, confident women. My husband and I are a great team, we have stable careers and live in a nice neighborhood. The life I dreamed of was coming to fruition, right?! 

When my oldest daughter hit the pre-teens and her behavior changed. Shocking, yes, I know. As with any girl with hormones changing, we thought nothing of it and chalked it up to puberty. We did the best we could to maintain a zero tolerance policy around disrespecting her family while gently teaching her the best ways to maintain her anger, fear and confidence issues. We experienced difficult days, happy days and everything in between. But as time went on, it got worse, not better, despite our tireless efforts to partner with her through these difficult years. 

One day as my daughter and I were in the kitchen, I just blurted out an observation (to be honest, I vaguely remember this, but my daughter remembers it well) "I think you might be dealing with anxiety". By this time, this monster had followed us for 2 years without being identified or understood and usually resulted in punishments for yelling and/or being disrespectful. As soon as I said the word anxiety, my daughter took it upon herself to do some research and felt like she identified with many of the symptoms that she read about. I knew that she had dealt with difficult friendships and bullying, and that she rarely got invited to birthday parties or any social functions that may have been normal for a jr. high school girl, but I never made the connection that there could be something bigger and more sinister at stake. 

As time has gone on, I have found myself sharing fairly openly with friends about her (and thus, our) struggles with anxiety. As someone who does not suffer from it, I am doing everything within my power to learn as much as I can in order to equip her with the tools that she will need to manage herself when she's triggered. But this is the first time that I feel like I'm facing something bigger than me and I'm needing to rely on our faith, other people's experiences, and my strength as a coach and a mom to persevere. I have been prepared to set aside everything I've worked for in this past year in order to prioritize helping my daughter. This is by far, the most difficult thing I have ever been through; being a mother who cannot help her child and my heart is with the millions of moms out there with struggles much larger than this. I have made suggestion after suggestion about what she can do, but as they say, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink". This is something she has to decide to do on her own, and it's a daily struggle. Through the years my heart has broken every time I have heard of my friends' daughters being invited to all the usual social activities of a normal 14 year old girl and mine sits in her room dealing with anxiety. The only reprieve she's had more recently comes because she says she "puts on a mask" in front of others and it has helped her make friends. As much as people try not to judge a book by its cover; it happens all the time.  It's one thing to teach adults that you don't know what a person is going through until you walk in their shoes but teaching compassion and acceptance of others to a bunch of jr. highers? Easier said than done. 

Lesson learned

June 1, 2018: 8th grade promotion. A day I have looked forward to for a very long time. A day I get to stand next to my daughter and celebrate with her. Celebrate the blood sweat and tears that went into getting her this far and preparing her for high school. People are standing around, taking family pictures with all their smiles and flowers and my family?! Standing in the corner, trying to console our out of control crying and hyperventilating 14-year old daughter who just wants to leave as quickly as possible. I made the biggest mistake by looking at Facebook and all of our friends posing for proud-moment pictures with their families and friends. My family? No photos with the beautiful lei we bought her, no photos with her among her happy friends holding their promotion certificates. I was crushed and deeply saddened for her.

As time has gone one, we've all learned what we're dealing with and perhaps we are beginning to gain some traction. She has learned coping techniques that are helping her manage in stressful situations. Now that she is in her first few weeks of high school, my prayer for her is simply this: She does not allow this to define her and that the kids at school can see past a girl who may seem a bit off at times, and perhaps approach her with compassion and curiosity. It takes a diamond in the rough to do something like that, but as with every special lady, she deserves diamonds. 

 

Peanut Butter and Jelly

I have shared this story with a few people through my coach training and it has grown in significance as I have retold it, so it's time for me to be vulnerable as much as I expect that of my clients. Here goes:

I struggled with confidence in my life when I was young as much as the next person. Looking back, as difficult as it may have seemed at the time, I had the same self-doubt, fears and feelings of loneliness as any other person. But nothing could have prepared me for what I would face in the future.

After going to college and getting married, I set off in my career in Public Relations, despite having gone to school for Psychology. I felt a bit directionless, but was okay with knowing I had a job and a work ethic to see me through. My husband and I hadn't decided whether or not we wanted children, so my career WAS my direction. Life threw us our first curve ball when the tragedy of 9/11 happened. We had only been married 11 months. My husband had just caught a plane to New York the night before. I was home alone when the phone woke me up at 6 a.m. It was my husband who said "turn on the TV, the phones are about to go dead here, just know that I'm OK... I love you." CLICK. When I turned the TV on and realized the devastation that was taking place, my mind almost instantly changed about having children. Same for my husband. We realized that there was more to life than getting up and going to work to earn money. Fast forward 2 1/2 years, I gave birth to my first daughter. The joy she brought to our lives and the way our marriage was enriched was overwhelming. I never knew I had so much MORE love in my heart to give. 

A few years later, my husband's job moved us to Texas. We learned shortly thereafter that we were pregnant again. This time, we learned that we were expecting TWIN girls. Due to the high costs of child care for 3 children under the age of 3, we decided that it was best for me to stay home. Nursing twins for 12 months is no easy feat - MAD respect to all the moms out there who have done that for a year and longer! During that year, I began to feel the weight of trying to keep up with life. And THAT'S where it began...

I LOST myself (ha ha, I mistyped LOVE instead of LOST there... coincidence?! I think NOT!). I began to think that constantly doing for others was what I was supposed to do. There was little time for myself, despite having a supportive husband. People always say that a day can take forever, but a year goes by in a flash. My days felt like they lasted FOREVER and the phase of life I was in would take a lifetime! I'll never forget being on my knees sobbing when my twins were 5 months old when I called a friend and asked "when does this get easier"? I felt incredible GUILT for feeling that way, and was conflicted by wanting the babies to hurry up and get older so they could start putting their OWN shoes on and feeling the need to cherish each and every precious moment of toddlerhood. 

Fast forward 4 years. We were living back in the Bay Area due to a job transfer for my husband's work. We were back among our childhood friends with family close by. It was a blessing, but life got busier with keeping up with the pace of seeing friends and family and with kids getting older and beginning extracurricular activities. I had found a job with Care.com that allowed me to work from home part time. I was overjoyed and remember thinking "Wow, there are so many women out there who would kill for a job like mine where you get to stay home, raise your kids AND earn a paycheck (albeit, small)". I would take the kids to school, come home, pour myself a cup of coffee and settle in to my same green chair, day in and day out. My job took little to no thinking and didn't challenge me at all. All the while, the GUILT in my head would tell me "think about how LUCKY you are to be able to earn a paycheck from home" but I was dying inside from the MONOTONY my life had taken on.

One morning, I was in the kitchen making a PEANUT BUTTER and JELLY sandwich for my girls when my husband came downstairs and said "whatcha doin'?" My response stopped me in my tracks "oh, just making a PEANUT BUTTER and JELLY sandwich... that's WHAT I DO". In that moment, I heard my disdain and resentment and thought to myself "SHAME on you for letting yourself get to this point. What example are you setting for your kids?". While that WAS my wake-up moment, I still didn't know what I wanted to do with my life or how to change it and began to put pressure on myself to figure it out. Going back to work didn't seem like an option yet. I stayed in that job for 7 years, slowly dying, until one day... 

I was having lunch with a friend who told me that she had hired a Life Coach. I asked her what that meant and what kinds of things they were doing together. As she was telling me about it, I noticed myself sitting on the edge of my chair listening intently on what she was saying. By the end of that conversation, I said to her "THAT'S what I want to do! That sounds awesome!" A few months later, I quit my mundane job that was sucking the life out of me, enrolled in CTI (The Coaches Training Institute) and began my year-long journey training to be a certified coach. 

As I sit here now, having just gotten the news that I passed my written exam, I'm 1-hour away from coaching the required 100 hours and all my paperwork is turned in awaiting the date of my oral exam, I look back on my journey and I have met SO many people who have been through something very similar. It is SUCH a common tale for people to get sucked into the conundrum of being grateful for what they have, being afraid of change, and putting everyone else first in their lives. I don't mean you need to be selfish, but you DO need to take care of yourself. You cannot be at your best and successful in all aspects of your own life if you're not truly happy. When you are living your best life, you will EXUDE positive energy that comes from living your truth and your relationships will be more fulfilling in return. EVERYTHING changes for the better. I have grown EXPONENTIALLY as a person. I LOVE life, I LOVE people, I am running my own business, and have a spring in my step again. I have celebrated with my clients, and I have cried with my clients, but all in the name of honoring their OWN growth and transformation. Stop and notice things in your day that fulfill you or give you a moment's pause. Mine was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; and it changed my life!