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Challenge: Gratitude & Giving

Mamas, we know you're grateful. It's OK to feel bad too.

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Hello dear mamas! How have the past couple of weeks been for you? How have you been coping? Take some time to breathe and reconnect with yourself as we head toward this season of Thanksgiving. Give yourself permission to feel everything you need to feel, offer your soul grace and compassion, as we continue to navigate the difficult terrain of 2020 while now carrying the heavy load of the holidays, complicated baggage that can’t be easily contained, forcing us to hold little bits here and there and everywhere.

I say this, dear mamas, because I’m trying to offer myself the same wisdom and it’s not easy. As I was driving home from work the other day, lost in thought, caught in the complex web that is a mother’s brain, I was thinking about what I was going to write this week. Knowing Thursday is Thanksgiving, I told myself I should focus on gratitude and what I’m grateful for. But mamas, I am SO frustrated. I am SO tired. I am SO overwhelmed, not completely by life, but by the difficulties I’m having lately in reigning in my ego, that nasty gal in my mind that can’t take a hint and SHUT IT.

My oldest has been struggling for the past few weeks and his feelings that are too big for his 5 year old brain and body are coming out the only way they know how right now, through impulsivity, high energy, control seeking, rigid thinking, and task avoidance. It’s a clear message from the resistance – get me back to school full time, let me see my friends, end Coronavirus or suffer the wrath of a confused, anxious Kindergartner scorned.

Once a week, I spend my lunch break with him doing occupational therapy remotely. We sit at the end of a long, low table, side by side in child size chairs, squeezing in close, my arm draped on the back of his chair, our heads practically touching so we are both in the Google Meet frame. My son usually spends those 30 minutes actively avoiding writing his name, drawing shapes or drawing a person with 5 body parts. I usually spend those 30 minutes trying to be some kind of combination of cheerleader mom, firm limit setting mom and I got it together and can come up with all kinds of ideas to get her kid to settle and just do his damn work on the fly mom.

Together we are two halves of the same coin, both dysregulated and disorganized, just in different ways.

After OT is done and I’ve kissed his head through my mask, leaving him to have fun with the other kids in his pod, I walk the stairs back to my office, my steps heavy with shame and angst, my heart raw from the inaccurate and unhelpful thoughts that my failings as a mom have been on full display for the past 30 minutes. I feel tired and slowed down. I feel helpless and wonder how I can help my son accept all the support he’s been offered. I need to transition, get back to focusing on work, on the kids I support at school who do accept my help. Instead I sit down at my desk and look at the dammitt doll we pass around at school, worried that if I pick it up and use it I won’t be able to stop.

Sometimes I lay quietly with my son, in his room or mine, swaddling him in the safety of my arms, trying to get some of that good deep pressure into his big muscles, soothing and organizing his body with my own. He is a turtle and I am his shell, a place where there’s no school, no handwriting work, no little brothers, and no Coronavirus. Secretly I worry and wonder, how much more can I contain for him and for myself before my shell breaks?

But as I drove closer to home this week, thinking about what I would write, questioning if I could write honestly about gratitude with everything else I was feeling, I heard the gentle whispers of my soul reminding me that gratitude, just like my home, just like my family, is a dock I’ve tethered my soul to. It is a practice that grounds me, bringing me back to realistic and helpful thoughts. When I am lost in the choppy waters created by the angsty winds of life and ego, all I need to do is stop, look up and head toward that dock.

That doesn’t mean I stop feeling what I’m feeling or that I stop thinking what I’m thinking. It certainly doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be space within my heart to feel what I need to feel. Practicing gratitude, for me anyway, means that I can grab that 'Dammit Doll' and slam it against my desk until I bust a seam AND still recognize that I have an incredible life, that I am lucky to have my two little loves, that I am one lucky mama and absolutely thankful for my oldest and his struggles because he is forcing me to grow instead of crack. It means I allow myself to get lost for a bit in those choppy waters because I know I have gratitude to bring me home.

Dear mamas, I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving, no matter where you spend it and who you spend it with. I know that even if you feel a little lost right now, gratitude will guide you home too.

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