“What do you do to relax and how do you know once you’ve achieved relaxation?”
Simple question, right?
I was sitting in a circle with maybe a dozen other people. All of us parents of children who have vision impairments among other ‘different-abilities’. For once, I didn’t feel vulnerable sharing pieces of me that I tend to tuck away until the time is right. We were all together for the annual Visually Impaired Preschool Services (VIPS) Family Retreat in Louisville, Kentucky. Lola was over at the Respite Camp and I was excited to be working at the Retreat as a VIPS employee. And while I am indeed an employee, I still and will always be a VIPS mom. Just as the other parents and caregivers in attendance, I’m always seeking out new information, looking for reliable resources and hoping to connect with other families who have lives that somewhat mirror my own. We share many of the same struggles, the same worries, the same defeats. But we also share momentous triumphs, epic inchstones and an uncanny ability to take life one day at a time. My superiors know how important Retreat had been to me in the past and so when I wasn’t presenting, I eagerly attended a segment on relaxation.
So back to the question.
“What do you do to relax and how do you know once you’ve achieved relaxation?”
There were two people in front of me. Both of their answers were eloquently spoken and both of them appeared to have the ability to relax.
Oh shit, it’s my turn.
Quick think of something.
And I began to spew out a line of BS about how I feel relaxed after I’ve worked out. OK — so that’s not entirely a lie. I do feel better after I’ve worked out yet I don’t know if its relaxation or just blowing off steam from the week.
So I continued to blubber up some sad excuse of what relaxation is to me and found myself tripping over my words.
Why didn’t I just say something simple so my turn would be over?
Why can’t I think of something to say?
Do you know why?
Because clearly I have no idea about what it means to relax.
And just like that it hit me — I’m one wound up woman.
I began to tell the group that I had made most of it up. It’s not that I lied because those closest to me know that lying is not part of my character, but I explained that I wasn’t sure I could remember the last time I felt relaxed. That being a mom, a wife, an employee, a pet owner, a cook, a maid, a chauffeur, a therapist, an insurance negotiator, a doctor (OK, I may just think I’m a doctor at times), a friend and all of the other hats I wear on a daily basis just doesn’t give me much time to stop and take a deep breath.
And with that — everyone chuckled and most agreed that they could relate.
In that moment, I realized just how exhausted I really am and suddenly I wanted to cry. Not just for myself, but for the other parents in the circle who shared similar stories to mine. We were all exhausted. We were all in that circle for a reason — we needed to take a breather. And so that’s what we did. We were asked to participate in a short meditative practice, but for many of us — it proved to be cumbersome for us to let our worries float away.
I tried to let my mind slip into a world where there were no thoughts or concerns. But every time my mind would start to drift to a peaceful place, a thought would take over whatever meditative state I was almost in. Afterward we were supposed to tell a partner how we felt and while I felt a little bit lighter, I began to wonder if I just can’t meditate? But we would try again — only this time we would lie on mats.
Come on Meredith. Just relax.
So I shut my eyes and I pushed the invading thoughts out of my mind. No more would I worry about Lola as she was fine over at the VIPS Preschool. But was she OK? Was she having fun? Was she behaving? I explained what her seizures looked like right? I wonder if she’s had any? They’d get me right? Oh Lola, I hope we get them under control.
Again no more would I worry about Lola. Or Sebastian. He was fine with his daddy. I mean I hope he’s OK. I wonder if Rob got any sleep last night? Did I remember everything in the hotel room before we checked out? I wonder what my mom is up to? This man’s voice is so soothing. Maybe he can make us a CD? I hope the Retreat families are enjoying themselves.
Seriously? What the hell is wrong with you?
How can I ever relax if my mind won’t let me?
And so I finally let go.
Come back to the breath.
I repeated this over and over and over again until I finally felt it — relaxation.
And not just a little relaxed. I felt the strands of my muscles releasing, I felt my breath slowing, I felt as if my body were floating over the mat, I felt like I hadn’t felt in a very long time.
I felt relaxed.
For a long time, I laid there. My mind tried so hard to take over, but the simple suggestion, come back to the breath actually worked. And boy was it needed. Not only “achieving relaxation”, but also coming to the realization that our life is indeed a bit complicated. Hearing others say they had felt relaxed for the first time in months or even years helped affirm this simple fact — our lives are different than most of yours.
While we strive to live a life that’s normal the truth is, our normal is different from most. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, unwanted or unfulfilling because it’s not any of those things. I love our life. I love being a wife and a mommy. I love all of the little parts that make our life, our life. But our worries are different.
Our little girl has faced many challenges and there’s a chance she will for the rest of her life. She’s doing amazing, but she has worked hard to get where she is today. And life keeps throwing her curveballs. The most recent is the return of her seizures and trying to get them under control. Every time we think she’s finally responding to the medicine, one seems to make its way to the surface. As she seizes, I see her in there. She has been having cluster seizures so she’ll snap out of it for a moment and then I lose her again. But when she comes to, she looks at me, perhaps for answers, and yet there is nothing I can do. I am helpless. I’m her mother and my job is to protect her, but this is one battle I don’t get to fight for her. Instead, I am in constant contact with her doctors to try to figure out the right medicine, the right dosage, will the insurance company cover it? They’ll cover the name brand, but not the generic. Well the doctor called in the generic, so they’ll have to call in the name brand. Now we won’t be able get it until the next day. But she’ll run out before then. She’s having seizures. We need this medicine. We’ll figure it out for you. Please because she’s having seizures. Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it.
Don’t worry, people say.
If I didn’t worry, I’d probably be able to relax.
Don’t worry about things you cannot change, they say.
But it’s my daughter and she’s my world. I won’t ever stop fighting to make her life better. I will figure out a way. I won’t ever give up.
Don’t worry, people say.
But I’m a mother.
I get that every person on this planet has “their stuff” that they deal with in life. No matter their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, social status, whatever. Everyone has something they are dealing with and quite often, it’s probably much worse than what you’re going through. I try to always keep our problems in perspective. Lola could be regressing, but she’s not. Lola could have a terminal illness, but she doesn’t. When I see her climbing on the table for the eighteen billionth time and I just want to scream from the absurdity of the day, I try to remember that there’s a parent out there that would give the world to see their kid climb on furniture. We’re very fortunate for Lola’s health and her abilities. Yet we’re on the other side too. I hear people complaining that their kid asks “why” every second of the day. Well, I’d give just about anything to have a mutual conversation with my daughter. Or when a parent says they wish they didn’t have to read the same bedtime story 10 times every night. Well, I wish my wiley Lola could sit still for the 5 minutes it would take to get through a book. “Oh my God, should I put her in jazz or ballet”, I overheard a mom say. What I wouldn’t give for Lola to have after school activities rather than another therapy after her already long day at school.
Our life is normal to us, but it’s messy. I love our messy, but I also need to find a balance.
Through this blog, you see the good stuff. You see Lola progressing and you see her infectious smile that can light up a room. You see an engaged dad who is adored by his children. You see a baby boy who is effortlessly developing at lightning speed. You see a mom that generally has her shit together. You see a happy family. And we are that. We are a happy family. But there’s a lot that goes on in the background. There’s a lot that would make you look at me and you’d get why I couldn’t come up with a good way to relax. Most days I’m OK with the fact that I’m pulled in 20,000 different directions, but I got bitch slapped with my own reality and sadly, everyone in that room saw it in slow motion.
I’ve let you in on our secret.
We’re not as together as my one blog post a month suggests (insert sarcasm). We live a messy, crazy, exhausting life, but it’s ours and I’ll take it. Certainly there are some days I just want to run away and hide, but what mother doesn’t? Special needs or not. But since my epic fail at relaxation, I’m trying to take a deep breath and embrace it all. Just as I embrace the moments when Lola says mama and just as I embrace the quiet minutes when Lola does actually want to look at a book and just as I embrace the pure joy I feel when I see her beaming smile as she rides her horse at hippotherapy. Clearly I’m shitty at relaxing, but I’m trying my hardest to keep it together for everyone else. I question if I’m failing at it every single day, but in this moment I’ve got this. Lola’s doing good, Sebastian is awesome, Rob and I are deeply in love and we’re a happy little
Now I’m going to go practice returning to my breath before I use it to tell my daughter to get off the damn table again.
I’ll leave you with a few pictures of our crazy existence…