Monday, August 16, 2010

Shouldn't monuments be bigger? (deep thoughts)

...and more important than this?

A cupcake in a jar. With a single candle in it.


Shouldn't rites of passage come with more fanfare?

The simple act of people in a family singing Happy Birthday around a swimming pool does not seem grandiose enough for a major life event.


Does it?

I'm not sure.

But on Saturday night most of our children gathered at our house for a simple birthday party. With hotdogs and homemade coney sauce. Fruit salad and raw veggies and dip. All finished up with dive-in movie entertainment.

And everyone had a great time.

I swam in silky black water while Willie cavorted on the big screen. The sky was studded with stars. Little girls voices piped across the water like a musical interlude in the passage of time. My son's remarks made us all laugh.

We ate popcorn out of plastic cups as the gentle waves from the rafts rippled around us.

And everyone had a great time.

And after they all left and we cleaned up the leftovers I went back outside for a moment.

The hot stillness of desert air in August wrapped around me like a hug.

The pool rippled with reflected stars and memories.

Words written by Fulton Oursler most clearly defined my emotions, “Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves - regret for the past and fear of the future.”

I allowed those two thieves to rob me of my joy for a long time.

A few years ago, though, I decided I would no longer let those emotions control my life.

And I let them go.

I recognized that some things were totally beyond my control, no matter how strong I was, no matter how determined I was, no matter how much love I had to give.

And I let them go.

Letting go of control is harder than you think when you are trying to save someone you love.

When you are trying to let go and not manage every moment, it is easy to imagine each crisis as fatal. Each phone calls becomes a eulogy. Each silence the sound of a mortuary.

But here's the thing, really. Even when you aren't trying to control and manage things, they still play out the way they are going to play out. With or without your influence. With or without your permission.

We try and try to fix things that are, perhaps, not fixable.

And since all our energy is focused on things we cannot control, we lose ourselves in the frustration of never finding success. And the worry that soon our fears will become reality. And, yes, sometimes they do. Sometimes things go horribly and terribly wrong and there is still nothing you can do to change that.

But to save myself, I had to let go.

Last night was a celebration for our youngest daughters 27th birthday.

On our journey with her through the hell of addiction, we have faced down death, defeat, incarceration, sorrow, heartache and pain.

We struggled to control a situation that was not ever ours to control.

And we failed.

Dismally.

Over and over again.

On Saturday night we sang Happy Birthday, quite badly I might add, and celebrated her courage in fighting her way out of her personal hell...16 months sober.

A lifetime in many ways, the blink of an eye in others.

But, for now, this is enough.

It is enough to remember her happy laughter in a swimming pool filled with people that love her.

It is enough to remember that by letting the problem go, I opened up a lot of space to find even more joy in the things that make me happy.

As I was looking at these pictures today, I thought of the emotions that used to rule me.

How could I be happy when our daughter was homeless?

How could I find joy when her life was misery?

How could I love myself when my parenting hadn't saved her? When my parenting had possibly been the thing that caused her to go that direction?

All those emotions were wrong for me. Totally and horribly wrong.

Regret for the past and fear of the future.

Horrible truths for many of us who deal with self-destructive, abusive and cruel people.

But I am here today to tell you, this doesn't have to be your truth.

It doesn't.

I really do wish this monument could be bigger.

So you could see it and know that it is OK to care about yourself. And that it is OK to smile and be happy and to feel joy, even when the person you love is unhappy and suffering and miserable.

It won't make you a bad or heartless person to let go. It won't make you a bad parent.

Regret for the past and fear of the future won't change a thing.

It will only rob you of today. It will steal your joy. I will make your heart full of senseless pain.

And then how will you be able to truly enjoy a vanilla bean cupcake with raspberry preserves and my Grandmothers delicious wallpaper paste icing?


Just some deep thoughts for a Monday...

...while I'm off on this intellectual tangent.

Sigh...

post signature

60 comments:

Kat said...

This was such a perfect post Jenny. I felt like I was there, this was so beautifully written. The realization that we can't control everything is such a hard one. I'm dealing with some of these same issues myself right now. And finding that little spot of joy that is present every single day if we only look for it is my goal now. Hugs, Kat

Ms. Anthropy said...

I'm still trying to reach this point. I'm not there, yet. Happy Birthday to your daughter and here's to her sobriety!

Quilting in My Pyjamas said...

I dont know how you knew that I needed to hear this today Jenny.

I often repeat some words you emailed me a while back to get through the less than stellar days. You cannot possibly know how much comfort they have brought me.

Thankyou for this post as a reminder of those words.

Tonia @Chic Modern Vintage said...

WOW, when you sometimes think that you are the only one in the world. We all at one point or another try to control something that we have not control over. Our family has a similar situation with my brother, and it it upsetting when you can't do anything about it...but we pray each day. Thanks so much for this post.

5thsister said...

Congrats to your daughter's sobriety. May God continue to weave wonders through your life journey.

mub said...

I think this is such a hard lesson to learn, but it's invaluable in being able to lead a happy healthy life.

My heart always feels a little sad when people say "How can I be happy when there's so much going wrong in the world?" Being happy doesn't mean you don't care, and I think it's essential to be happy if you're going to try to make the world better!

Cheryl said...

As a double-winner in the rollercoaster of addiction, I felt this to my core.

Happiness is a choice. Letting go is the best we can do most days.

Congrats to your daughter for 16 mos. Some folks never make it that far.

Aunt Amelia's Attic said...

A totally lovely and wonderful and inspiring post!

Thank you!

I'm so happy for you!

Gentle hugs...

Terry said...

I love your funny posts, but I love your serious ones even more. You have a way of getting to the heart of the matter. Happy birthday to your daughter and congratulations on her 16 months of sobriety.

Jeanie said...

You refer to "deep thoughts" and I know this message came from the depths of your heart as well as your mind. You shared it beautifully.

June Freaking Cleaver said...

Congrats on your daughter's success...may she continue to progress in her journey.

I only have one of these thieves in my life - the fear of the future.

I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about The Boy - and I expect I'll continue...unless he gets his bipolar/autistic self together and can successfully navigate through life.

This is my one job that I may never be fired from.

Even when celebrating birthdays (as we also did on Saturday evening), I remain ever-vigilant regarding The Boy.

Busy Bee Suz said...

I am so happy for the success that she is now living; and for you too.
I just can't imagine what you all have been through...Hugs Jenny!!!!

Viki said...

Congratulations to your daughter on being 16 months and that she's on the other side. It's tough to let go.

Julie Schuler said...

I was watching "No Country For Old Men" last night and a man leaning against a fence tells the woman who invited him over for a beer that he's "looking for what's coming."
And she answers "No one ever sees that."
Congratulations and Happy Birthday to your daughter.

Susan said...

Thank you for sharing, I needed this today.
I love the way you write, I could read and read it all day.
Makes me think about my past.
Thanks again,
Susan

Tina said...

This was great. You could have been writing about my brother-in-law, only he's still stuck in his hell and his parents are STILL enabling him. But The Engineer and I have let go of trying to convince his parents that tough love is best. He's their son. We are not responsible for fixing him. Maybe one day they will figure out that they aren't either. I wish your daughter all the best. And she can have my cupcake :-)

Tina said...

P.S Love the new font.

Jessica B said...

Such a heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing... congratulations to your daughter for her accomplishment, and sounds like she had a very Happy Birthday too. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a mother care so much.

Meri Wiley said...

Hiya girlfriend,

Happy birthday to your daughter, happy birthday to you. May God bless you and keep you.

Love ya'
Meri

My name is PJ. said...

You should be standing in front of groups and giving this as a motivational speech - that's how good it was....and important too.

Nancy's Notes said...

Happy Birthday to your dear daughter! What a wonderful post Jenny!

Have a great week!

Nancy
Nancy's Notes

Pixie said...

AN amazing post from an amazing woman! Thank you for sharing everything I try and tell myself...I haven't learned to let go all the way but I'm getting there!

Happy Belated birthday to your daughter and congrats to her on her 16 months!

*HUGGGGGGGGGGGGGGS*

Ace said...

One of my favorite sayings is that "life is what happens when you're busy planning something else." It reminds me to stop trying to control life and make it just "so" because it will happen no matter what. I just need to learn to enjoy it as it comes.

Linda @ A La Carte said...

Jenny this is such a special post. You and I have had discussions about life and how hard it really is and letting go and moving on. This post means so much to me and I am so happy for you and your daughter! Thank you for your writing and putting into words such amazing thoughts and feelings.

Lorrie said...

You know how when someone is talking and you're nodding your head and listening and you think you have something you want to say in response - well I read the first part of your post about the birthday celebration and thought I'd respond with how just being together is the best way to celebrate, fancy dancy doesn't matter. Then I kept reading and my heart contracted as I saw myself as a woman who wants to fix everything and can't. I'm learning, like you, to let go of things I can't control and find the joy in small moments of everyday.
And in the end, celebrating together is what's most important - the love of family is a strong bond.

Lorrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deborah Ann said...

Thank you for the deep thought of the day!

Sarah said...

Jenny, you have an incredible talent for expressing deep thoughts. I find your blog addictive. :-)
Hope your week continues with lots of happy thoughts! ~ Sarah

Sue (Someone's Mom) said...

The one thing we learn if we have had a troubled child, is to appreciate each of the good things as they come. I well understand the "letting go to save yourself" concept. I also understand how wonderful it is when the happy moments start to show up with more frequency.

I am so proud of your daughter for working on her recovery. I proud of you for understanding that it isn't your fault or yours to fix...I hope the happy moments continue and that the pain will eventually be a distant memory.

Pat Tillett said...

Several items in there worthy of congratulations. This was a fantastic post. You all had one of those days that will stick in your memories forever...
thanks for sharing!

{ L } said...

Beautifully said Jenny...thank you for blessing me with this today. And the cupcake in a jar was ADORABLE! :D

Sue said...

You said it all, Jenny.
Every bit of it.
Perfectly.

Many hugs to you
and your courageous daughter...

=)

Sue said...

You said it all, Jenny.
Every bit of it.
Perfectly.

Many hugs to you
and your courageous daughter...

=)

Marlene said...

Are you sure you aren't a psychologist operating in stealth mode?

Hugs to you....and to your daughter. xoxox

sissie said...

So sweetly said and so heartfelt.
It's so hard to tell others of the dark secrets we keep involving our children.
I am happy for you that you have been able to reach the point of letting go. I'm not there yet with my son and maybe someday I will be able to let go. It's not the same as what you have faced with your daughter, but nevertheless it has held onto me and consumed me.

I pray for your daughter's healing.

hugs
Sissie

emily wierenga said...

oh Jenny, i'm so glad you stopped by my place so i could find yours... i am your newest fan. i love your poignant words. the way you love through your posts. bless you.

The Words Crafter said...

I don't know if I can see clearly enough to write, but I'm trying....this post has moved me to tears. Regret and fear. As a child...there were so many things, and they leave scars. The biggest is believing what I call The Great Lie (encompasses many things, actually) and as a result, I am often my own worst enemy. I sabotage myself in a variety of ways. I'm going to have to re-read this over and over...thanks for it.

And I am so happy for your daughter and your family. Very happy.

Theresa said...

Oh my sweet friend! First of all, congrats on your daughter's milestone with both the Birthday and staying sober! I am smiling for the fun you all had and my heart is happy that things are better with you daughter!

Love to you and her! HUGS!

Jen said...

Congrats to your daughter! she is SO lucky to have you for a mom...thanks for sharing this story! God's blessings to you and yours!

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Jenny, Congratulations on putting all this truth out there where it can help others. Also for the tough decision you made and for your daughter's 16 months of sobriety. A huge monument would be too intimidating...a cupcake and some laughter are much more accessible.

ain't for city gals said...

I'm thinking her monument is the biggest and best one ever...her family's love...

Jennifer said...

This was a great post, Jenny! So happy for you all!

Deb said...

Jenny...it took a lot of courage to write this post..good for you...

noexcuses said...

This post was incredible! And, from reading the comments, you touched a great number of us! Thank you for opening your heart and allowing us to see inside.

I believe that letting go is the best thing to do, but when I've spent their whole life so far promising I would always be there for them, I feel like I'm being a hypocrate.

Thank you for writing this deep, thoughtful and touching post.

Pondside said...

I don't believe that there's anyone who wouldn't be touched by the subject of your blog post. Happy Birthday to your daughter, and a big thank you to you, for reminding us that it isn't always possible to fix, arrange, cure or orchestrate life - we have to learn how to just be with whatever is.

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Unprocessed1 said...

Good stuff, Jenny. I needed to hear that today. You're the best!

Carol said...

Happy belated birthday to Angie...she is a LEO...she is strong! You are amazing! You know you are! ;)

Christy said...

thank you - giving up the control you don't really have is so flippin' hard - I have lots I want to say but can't - wonderful post Jenny!

Lourie said...

Your words are powerful and spot on! COngrats to your daughter for her 16 months of sobriety. That is wonderful.

That cupcake looks devine.

jfb57 said...

Really thoughful post Jenny! It was a big monument because you have shared it with hundreds of us!

Beth Zimmerman said...

Jenny,
Maybe there are many moms who will read this who will believe you wrote it for them. I am one of them. Thank you! We are in the battle right now and it has been stealing my joy. I have received several reminders lately that I can choose to be joyful even when circumstances conspire to make me unhappy and I do so choose!
Thank you!
Beth

Beth Zimmerman said...

Jenny,
Maybe there are many moms who will read this who will believe you wrote it for them. I am one of them. Thank you! We are in the battle right now and it has been stealing my joy. I have received several reminders lately that I can choose to be joyful even when circumstances conspire to make me unhappy and I do so choose!
Thank you!
Beth

Linda Medrano said...

God bless you and your family Jenny. You have been through a lot. I'm glad your daughter has gotten her life back from the beast that held her. So many of us struggle to "fix" things for others, when the only people who can truly fix things is themselves.

Chatty Crone said...

Oh Jenny - thanks for opening up and sharing this part of your life with us. I will never forget this.

You do the best you can and then you have to let go and let God take care of the rest.

I have learned that all too well - and it is a lesson you have to learn over and over again.

Love,
sandie

Chatty Crone said...

Oh Jenny - thanks for opening up and sharing this part of your life with us. I will never forget this.

You do the best you can and then you have to let go and let God take care of the rest.

I have learned that all too well - and it is a lesson you have to learn over and over again.

Love,
sandie

Chatty Crone said...

Ps Glad she came home.

Melinda Cornish said...

thank you, thank you, thank you......

Jo said...

oh you are just so beautiful Jenny .... thank you ... and hugs, big hugs .... great big hugs

Sumi said...

This was a lovely touching post.I totally understand how difficult it is to be so open about your personal life and I respect you even more for having the strength to do it and that too so beautifully and with so much dignity.I love love love your writing.