Radical Acceptance…

Anxiety. Panic. Fear. Worry. “What if”.

Anger. Frustration. Irritation. Outrage.

Depression. Sadness. Isolation. Hopelessness.

All of that, and then some, since COVID-19 crashed the party we call life.

I’ve cried every day since the world became a place you needed to hide from. Since the touch of the people you love could land you, or worse someone you love, in the hospital. Since we’ve braced ourselves for the news every day, knowing the snippets of already hard to find good news aren’t getting any easier to find among the number of new cases, mandates and the ugliness of humans. Since the only constants in our lives are a struggle for most people on their best days: change and things not going as planned.

And I’m not alone.

March 1st feels like a hundred years ago. C dealing with something tough was followed by J feeling buried under an avalanche. The talk of COVID-19 skyrocketed, both at school and home. (Awesome being a family of janitors when a health crisis hits.) Our niece was trying to get home from a study abroad in Spain. A teacher who influenced J, was facing the battle against a brain tumor. Then came March 5th. The loss of an incredible coach, father, husband and human slammed us into a wall. Within a few hours of the news of his loss came news that the Mama of one of J’s good friends had suffered a brain bleed and was in surgery. She’s lived with the effects of a brain aneurysm 20 years ago and her bleed happened as she and her husband, a paramedic and firefighter, were getting ready for his retirement celebration. While our community rallied around these families, we’d learn that a 25 year old AHS alum had lost his battle against mental illness two days earlier. The sunrises behind Anderson High School are breathtaking; during that week it began to feel like the clouds might block them for a really, really long time.

Regardless of your stance on public education, it’s hard to argue that schools set the tone in a community. So when the Governor, with no notice, mandates all schools be closed to combat the spread of a virus, the clouds hiding the sunrises you can’t help but admire or wait to see again become the sign of what you hope is just a really torrential and horrendous thunderstorm but quite likely are warning us to prep for a hurricane. Yesterday afternoon, our Governor issued a Stay at Home order; the near equivalent of “Shelter in Place – a natural disaster is at hand.” At least the hope for a torrential, but passing, thunderstorm was short-lived.

The boys started online school today. My Fave, along with all people who can work from home, have been ordered to do so. We still have many people cleaning medical facilities who continue to work but have a growing number who there’s a scramble to make certain they are taken care of. Getting my mother-in-law her medication daily, visiting for a bit and making sure she eats three times a day is now a part of our daily routine. Her worry in all of this has already been high; this will lift it to new levels. The boys’ ability to escape to a golf course and spend hours forgetting that life on the 19th hole isn’t quite as awesome as usual has come to an end (although there is serious work being done to get golf courses reopened as I write this). The family and friends whose livelihoods and health have been, are and will be affected is staggering. The effect on our local businesses owners is unprecedented and so hard to see. There’s growing expectation that school won’t resume this year and with it goes all the rewards and celebrations of Senior year. Also gone is a space for kiddos whose home lives aren’t a place filled with love, food, peace and the assurance things will be okay. There’s nothing about this that isn’t overwhelming and hard.

Cue a therapy appointment and a lesson on Radical Acceptance.

It’s basically “Expect the unexpected.” on steroids. Life will happen and it will happen in ways that will kick our a$$es and while we are down, might just kick us again for good measure; maybe even a third time just so we know what might be waiting when we eventually get up. Not just had a bad day, got a flat tire, spilled coffee on my favorite shirt, cracked my phone screen sort of stuff. More, throw you into an inferno sort of stuff. And you’re left with two options.

Option 1
Complain, throw a fit, throw things, throw up our hands and quit; hurt people we love, hurt ourselves, hurt strangers; excessively worry, try to control it all. We all know none of that is going to improve the intensity of the inferno, even though the epic awfulness of the circumstances totally warrants such a reaction.

Option 2
Accept it as totally sucking, don’t pretend it’s not awful; control what you can; look for the good, take care of you; be good to the people around you. Your energy might be zapped from continuing to put one foot in front of the other so there’s no expectation of you carrying a fire extinguisher but don’t you dare come armed with a can of gasoline.

Yes, easier said than done. I’ve gotten it wrong far more often than right but on those rare successful occasions, the semblance of calm was enough to make me keep trying . “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react.” is in front of us, just begging to be tested. We prove it right by doing the best we can in the current chaos and the one that’s inevitably waiting in the wings. My best will be something someone else needs; that need might be knowing I cried ugly but didn’t quit. (If that’s your need, I’m your girl.) Your best will fill another someone’s need. Emotional. Physical. Financial. Doesn’t matter. We all make a serious effort to accept what is and react in a way that doesn’t make it worse. Period. The dark clouds we aren’t sure are the result of an inferno or coming hurricane will clear. When exactly is anyone’s guess but they will. When they do, you’ll find me in the parking lot of Anderson High School watching an epic sunrise.

And without a doubt, I will be crying.

“…we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5: 3-4

2 words for 2020…

Welcome to March. Wait. What? How in the heck have we burned through 61 days of 2020 already? Where did they go? And how in he world have I no posted for 67 days? Wonder if needing just 9 days to decide my New Year resolution was dumb has anything to do with me not writing? Could not writing make it feel crowded in my head? Are there way too many words fighting for space in my brain and is that why I feel so exhausted? But what to write about? I’ve amassed 49 ideas “drafts” (and I use that term liberally) and they are all garbage. Since I have to start somewhere, my failed 2020 resolution seems to make sense.

For the last couple of years, I’ve ditched the concept of traditional New Year resolutions. They’re basically regurgitated year after year anyway: Eat better. Go to the gym consistently. Date my husband more. Read more. Journal more. I routinely end up in the corner with the 80% of Americans whose resolutions fail by the 2nd week of February. My gift of perfectionism is on hand to help me beat myself up every time I crash, burn and quit. Rather than an unoriginal list, I’ve switched to a 2-word resolution, inspired by a colleague who has become a trusted friend.

A little recap on the journey to the why behind the words I’ve chosen. I’ve spent most of my life in some sort of physical pain. A slip on some ice in 2011 would lead to a hip-to-ankle immobilizer, crutches, hours upon hours of PT, etc.  The more time I spent in the brace followed by recovering from 2 surgical attempts to fix my knee, the more the pain spread. A 3rd surgery would be to remove my kneecap and was a true last ditch effort. After 6 months of recovery, I tried to pretend like the pain that should have gone away did. Even went so far as to run a 15K, which was ridiculously stupid. Your kneecap is vital in the function of your quad and hip; all three are vital to running. It doesn’t help that Cincinnati isn’t exactly flat; the course I ran was more than happy to flaunt the hills of our beautiful city. Have I mentioned how dumb an idea this was?

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The year following that run would be filled with some of the most painful days ever. Days that made me angry and were so dark that suicide crossed my mind regularly. Steroids (a blatant no-no for bipolar Warr;ors) and a lifetime of pain killers (too much addiction in my family to have those around and insurance companies aren’t super excited to give mentally ill patients pain killers, especially in the age of an opioid crisis) weren’t viable options to manage my pain or to help me set limits on what could take up space on my calendar and still allow me to be the wife and Mama I wanted to be. My therapist at the time had done her Masters work in values based pain management. It sounded awesome and then not so much when she fully explained it. She gave me a list of 86 values, told me to pick 10 and then instructed me to only say “yes” to the things that fell within at least 2, preferably 3, values. Communication. Integrity. Belonging. Leadership. Faith. Compassion. Connectedness. Kindness. Perseverance. Respect. These 10 words were to become the measuring stick I would use to make any commitment that could impact my physical and/or mental health. They hang on the mirror in our bedroom and are the wallpaper on my phone. No escape.

I found myself needing more ways to put these 10 values into daily practice and serve as reminders to pause and consider them before saying “Yes!” Which brings me to my 2 words. Each year, I have very small, custom rings made with my 2 words hammered into them. I wear the current year stacked with my wedding band. When the year comes to a close, it moves to a bracelet that was my first Mother’s Day gift and I wear almost daily.

2018: Be intentional – an attempt to really stick to those 10 values and be intentional about committing only to what fell within them. Also to start shedding the stuff that didn’t. The “Yes” person in me found both equally as difficult.

2019: Get to – a plan to shift my mindset from focusing on all I was unable to do and find gratitude in what I was able to. I’d gotten bitter about the limits my EDS diagnosis carried and the things I still had to do that were painful and would typically continue to be. “Have to” became “Get to” for everything from grocery shopping and laundry to enduring a PTO meeting or a business dinner with My Fave.

As the end of the 2018-19 school year came to a close, bringing with it an end to a very involved four years at our middle school, my psychiatrist and I started to work through my “What’s next and who am I if I am not known for spending every waking moment at my kid’s school?” I’d always been busy. I like busy. Busy leaves very little time to think. Like it or not, come August I was facing a reality of 4-6 hours a day no longer filled with being at school, busy with all the outside of school tasks and driving J & C all over. “What am I supposed to do to fill all that time?” to which my psych replied, “Why do you have to fill it with something else? What if you didn’t fill all that time? What if you used a little of that time to just rest?” In November, my 2020 ring arrived.

Find Rest.

Ummm, yeah not wired or comfortable resting. And I suck at it. I mean I did fall off the wagon on January 9, 2020.  But I’m trying and the more I try, the messier it gets. I thought spending some quiet time with Jesus first thing each would be an excellent idea. Except it wasn’t; the more I tried to use that time to spend in rest, the “ickier” I felt. The more exhausted I was. The darker my days got. The more my anxiety reared it’s ugly head. I’ve had more crumbled mess on the floor sob sessions than I can count. I swear I’ve bought more Kleenex this year than I did all of 2019. We’re sort of in the bottom of the pit at the moment. The pit contains awesome moments like the one this weekend when My Fave had to ask the most dreaded question you can ask a Warr;or: “Do we need to go to the hospital?” They say that if you want to get under the skin of the enemy, just start giving Jesus a whole bunch of your attention. Whoever “they” are wasn’t lying when coining that bit of wisdom.

I think He knew how hard this was going to be for me and sent me some assurance I was exactly where He wanted me, courtesy of an email in early December from the leader of high school ministry at our church. He asked if I’d be willing to give a message on February 9th about how kids can find rest by simplifying their lives and being mindful about how they spend their time. To be clear, this leader had no idea I’d made “Find Rest” my 2020 resolution. He didn’t know the date I would give my message would mark the start of the 2nd week of February and it’s the week 80% of New Year resolutions fail. Jesus does not and never has done coincidence, y’all. His final, “I am the ultimate show-off” moment came the morning of my message.  I was listening to Judah Smith’s Churchome podcast on my way to church. In all honesty, I was rehearsing my own message more than I was listening to his. He got my full attention when he said, “Pastors talk most about the very thing they struggle with.” (Yeah, I know I’m not a pastor; logic still applies. Don’t ruin my moment.)  You win, Jesus. But to be clear, there is nothing remotely “restful” in any of this. 

Rest, it looks like we still have 10 months to find each other. I’m ready to try again if you are.

It’s a tradition…

A sure fire way to make Christmas the most un-wonderful, exhausting and dreaded time of the year? Work in retail. I’m certain restaurant veterans could say the same, but retail is where I spent entirely too much time during Christmas. So much time, that when the boys were younger, December 23rd rolled around and the Millers didn’t have a Christmas tree.

Yep, December 23rd. No tree. And Santa was coming soon. Yikes!

Kroger to the rescue – that year and every year since. Continue reading

Just don’t die…

image_80775643-afa7-4b93-9448-c0963076a08f.img_3285My baby is 15 today. I am not old enough to have a 15 year old. I am not sure how I blinked that much. I am not ready to let go of him needing his Mama. I am not sure how to loosen the white knuckle grip I have on the stage of parenting that I can see coming to an end. I am certainly not looking forward to the speed at which the next few years will fly. I am not at all prepared for his Launch and yet its target is in sight. I’ve been really emotional about Coleman’s birthday this year. He’s 15; it’s not really a milestone of any sort. Doesn’t come with any real “rights of passage”. Doesn’t evoke some new freedom. So it seems a bit odd that 15 would hit my in the face, and heart, the way it has. Continue reading

Who are these people…

I cried myself to sleep last night.

It’s not the first time in the last month or so and it won’t be the last between now and March, when the clocks “spring forward”. It sucks. It makes for crappy sleep which makes for a long next day. It makes clawing my way through the days, when psych meds just aren’t enough to make my brain believe that quitting life isn’t an option, increasing difficult. It makes it harder to not let the miserable people, who want to make others miserable so they aren’t alone in their own misery, get to me. It makes getting through the “get to” list of tasks, that requires me to juggle multiple hats, really hard to concentrate on and check off, making the next day’s list longer and leave me feeling like I accomplished nothing and hence am worthless and letting the people I do life with down. It makes me feel weak and pathetic and like the person who will in fact be driven into the ground because I care entirely too much. It makes everything more difficult and ultimately makes me feel like the two things I have as non-negotiables each day, I can’t possibly succeed at: 1) Be the person I was on purpose made to be by a Creator who me as a Masterpiece in His image. 2) Be the wife to My Fave and Mama, I believe He wants me to be, to the greatest gifts He gave to me. Continue reading

A new chapter…

jancoaStop me if you’ve heard this one before: Girl, recently diagnosed with bipolar, gets into a car accident and her injuries require finding a new job. Girl uses a temp agency and gets placed at Boy’s family’s company. Boy comes into the office to meet the new Girl one day. Boy and Girl talk for 2 1/2 hours. Boy asks Girl out. Boy shows up 2 1/2 hours late for their first date. To “end” their first date, Boy crashes at Girl’s house and never leaves. Continue reading