I've been musing on the idea of strength. If I've talked to you about this before, bear with my faulty memory. For those of you who don't know, Shelley is a therapist, and she works mainly with clients who have what they refer to as co-occuring disorders, in that they have problems with substance abuse and mental health at the same time.
In that vein, Shelley has been engrossed with the research of a Social Worker out of the University of Houston named Brene Brown...and strangely I have too. Her work deals with the idea of shame and vulnerability, and how the so much of who we are and the choices we make are tied up into those two ideas. (I HIGHLY recommend listening to her two TED talks that are on the splash page when you click through that link.)
I'm thinking of how vulnerable and strong Shelley has been through this whole process. Her entire life has been completely unraveled, much like one of her sweaters that she so gorgeously knits.
- She has a daughter who suddenly has brain cancer.
- She has to give her older daughter to someone else to raise for days/weeks at a time.
- She has to give up her job, that she has worked for over 10 years to establish herself.
- She has to risk losing her certifications, and being grandfathered into certain laws, due to giving up her job.
- She has to deal with an at-times flaky husband who has some serious boundary issues with what he shares with the world.
- She has to repeatedly ask for help from many people, acknowledging her inability to do everything.
- She has to accept all of the above as being normal for now and not let it overwhelm her.
...and she does all of it with quiet grace, at least most of the time.
She said to me that she was really envious of my "escape" to school most days, in that I get to have a different life. Her life is now Amelie's illness, with occasional gentle forays into other things. Of course I immediately get all "high horse" on her in my head thinking of how I'd love to not be working... but know that among all the insanity that is teaching 8th grade in my school district, she is right that I get to have an adventure that is denied her. Among all my daily failures and frustrations in doing something brand new after years of success, I am at least on my own adventure.
She is locked into shepherding someone else on their adventure. Not that there aren't immense rewards in all of that, because there are. But she's on Amelie's (unwanted) adventure, and has to see it through to the end, wherever it leads her and us.
All of that leads me to think about how vulnerable that must make her in a world that tells women that to be considered successful you have to have healthy children, be perfectly slim and have an immaculately crafted exterior, work at a job that inspires/heals/creates/makes the world a better place, and make an appropriately suitable home for your husband. She has basically had to give up her ability to make all of the above a priority.
On top of all that, she's had to embrace her emetophobia, and be strong as Amelie pukes on her at times. She has to embrace letting Amelie watch more TV right now than Anya watched before she was 4. She has to watch them pumping deadly, toxic chemicals in Amie's body while knowing that she was previously concerned about organic vegetables.
I say all of this as a dramatic and overwhelming love letter to Shelley, as I sit awake at 1:42am.
So, Shelley as you sleep the sleep of the overwhelmed and exhausted in your own bed... I love you for being able to embrace all of this with the spirit and energy that you have, and know that I am beyond lucky to have you to go through all of this with.