I really was anxious about the carpool ride that was arranged to get to the Caregiver Respite Retreat this past weekend. I was desperate to drive, convincing myself that I probably needed 5 hours each way to decompress and even that the silence may help me more than friending. Turns out, I was so anxious about it that my breakup the carpool text never got sent. Then it was too late, these three were on the way, they showed up, we hugged quickly and I piled in.
As it happens, these women are a huge part of the incredible weekend I enjoyed. If I had skipped the drive up, the dynamic between us would have been different. Beyond that, I would have missed the laughs, the love, the strength and vulnerability shared in the seats of that overstuffed SUV over the course of a 9 hour trip that took us around 13.
We took wrong turns, we laughed through lunch but often we skipped sitting together at each meal or speaker because we know there is only so much time to connect with so many women. Time after time, we would come back together and our group of gals got bigger.
It was incredible to work a room with these moms, one would be laughing with someone, one would be leaning in as a mom told a story, one would already be helping with something and the last one might be found helping with dishes.
This retreat was everything I didn’t know I needed. I was able to sign up at the last minute and as told above, I said yes to the carpool. Once my feet entered that vehicle, I had relinquished control of all the things until I landed back on FlanaVille terra firma. Sure, I could give my two cents and make choices, but my direction, decisions and responsibilities would wait until I got back into the swing of things after returning home.
Prior to leaving, I was telling our social worker that I had this last minute chance to attend. I could tell she was proud but she quickly told me to consider a girls trip next. A trip where disabilities, strategies, mental health and all the pressures of it all wouldn’t follow.
The thing is, I laughed more than I cried this weekend. I healed more than I left with questions and I came to realize that the feeling of help coming lifted when I realized all you need is a 100 moms that get it.
I also reflected enough to see that my latest hurdle in acceptance wasn't about my daughter who has diagnoses like alphabet soup. We had that in the bag when the nurse handed me my daughter and congratulated me quietly in the birthing suite of my girl's birth mom.
My biggest accomplishment in acceptance has been to take the help. I have learned to accept an opportunity from a generous friend, a soft place for my daughter to land while we turned everything upside down this past summer, and I have grown to appreciate it.
Honestly, a “receiving a handout” mentality is gross and hard for me to get with, but accepting what I am offered and promising my own karma balance that I will pay it forward, sometimes doubled, removed the guilt of the gift lately.
Coming up with excuses because deep down, I didn’t feel worthy is a fine tuned specialty of mine, but I have been working on it. As a giver, there is nothing better than when someone accepts what you offer and skips away in delight, grateful for the opportunity. As a giver, I wasn’t always a gracious receiver even when desperate.
When I saw the doubt standing in my way for offering See what she needed this summer, I had to lean in. As I sat in a Starbucks with my dear friend Kris in May, I was desperate, depleted and scared that we really would have to go with a fit that wasn’t right for Seeley.
She held my hand, and I demanded that our new plan be considered. When it was granted as possible, I trusted she wouldn’t resent me for taking a break from caregiving while we worked on a major shift.
It all worked out this summer, despite my worries and at the end, if I could have had that energy back, I would have taken it swiftly. My latest chapter of acceptance is to say yes when help or fun is offered, to accept that sometimes I am in the place to give and sometimes I am not.
I also deeply understand that in terms of my heart, showing someone that an opportunity changed you, and that their investment in you was returned to the world with grace and good intention, then all can be balanced and gifts can feel like gold.
If someone gives you an apple, and you plant an apple tree in honor of the gift you received, isn’t that a great return on investment? I think so!
If a girl got the opportunity to go to a respite retreat and she set out to make the lives of others there more rich and whole, isn’t that a great return on investment? I think so!
Since May, the only help that is coming to our Ville lately, comes through moms that see our struggle and strength, our glowing hearts and our shiny girl. They know that once we have our footing, or even a chance to come up for air, that we will return the gift, the lesson or the tip to just the right families that need it.
Take the leap on the uncomfortable carpool, say yes to the trip, try a thing, find a mom and give her your number, you never know who needs support and what yours gives them. It just might change a life!
The More Than Project, thank you for hosting an incredible and inspiring weekend at just the right place. Moon Beach Camp - UCCI, thank you for hosting the most rowdy, relaxed, rejuvenated, and rambunctious moms of the north this weekend. We hope we left your space as stunning and rustic as we found it, I pray your supports under the porches hold more fun next year — because I have a feeling the party is about to get bigger. Finding Cooper's Voice, thank you for partnering with Advocate.Out.Loud - Amanda DeLuca, your partnership is a dream come true.
Final thoughts to a future Rach, or another mom in the struggle, try to remember this — you are worthy just like everyone else, accepting help stops the fear and starts the solutions and finally, if you are looking for help, love or support find the moms with the bourbon cherries & snacks and let them see you completely.