Birthday Revelations

I turned 30 a few weeks ago.  For years I can recall family and friends wallow in sadness about leaving their twenties behind; about how everything would so different. Gone would be the days of pulling all-nighters and slacking off. Although that is exactly what I did the night before my birthday, and I paid for it many days over.

It seemed that turning 30 was the official mark of adulthood; no more screwing around. Then there was this lingering expectation that people around this new age would have their lives in order at that point. I was genuinely puzzled by this.  Who made these rules? No, seriously who?  I have a few questions. I expected to feel something similar as my twenties came to a close. But I didn’t, which makes sense because I have never mourned the passing of another year.

I was excited for my birthday, and I would tell me friends that “I am going to own my thirties.  They’re going to be some of my best years.” They would look at me with disgust for my eagerness to reach a new decade, wondering how I could feel excited about getting older. For the past ten years, my life shifted and transitioned more than I was ever prepared for. There are many things from my twenties that I am not proud of, but there were also invaluable experiences that I am so grateful for. Within those years were monumental, life-changing moments that shaped me into the woman and person I am today; the good, the bad and everything that falls between.

The months leading up to my thirtieth were very challenging.  During those months, I spent a lot of time focusing on where I was at in my life and what I wanted to doing that I already was not. I was facing big, ugly stuff and overcoming endless hurdles. Challenges that forced me to dissect many smaller facets of my life. Which led me to this blog, this place I hold so dear to my heart, and how it became one of the main areas I devoted my mind to during that time. And it is funny because I spent basically zero time blogging while this was all going on.  I’ll explain.

Since I started blogging, I have genuinely enjoyed it.  It has been the gateway to my scattered thoughts and has healed my worried heart many times. Blogging was something I never thought I would do.  Hell, I was not even real positive about what a blog really was until I had Tessa.  But here I am, nearly six years later, pouring my heart into my little piece of internet real estate.

If you have been a dedicated reader here, you know that much of what I write about or to is Tessa; the motivation behind the blog.  I had not experienced the lows of writing until I learned that my blog was ticking some people off.

Hmmm…maybe I am a real writer after all…

Things were said and assumed about me and my character; but it wasn’t until my thoughts and words were being used against me or shared negatively in other blogger groups or posts as examples of how not to write or rather what not to write about surfaced, that I stopped writing. Fear of opening my heart, sharing too much, saying the wrong things and having my words policed in other forums held me back. I retrieved from blogging and withheld my desire to journal until I could figure out what I was ever really trying to say in all of this writing.

I know that it is impossible to please everyone and that is not the reason I write in the first place.  I am a big fan of a little idea I like to call don’t like it, don’t read it.  However, I would be lying if I said it didn’t make me think about things. So bravo haters, you win.

Dr. Seuss always gets it right.

I had a lot of “come-to-Jesus” talks with myself.  Perhaps it is not my place to share things about my daughter’s life with the rest of the world the way I have been doing it.  Does this make me a bad person?  Does this mean my character is flawed? I don’t really think so. As a mom, I was simply reacting to what my heart felt like it needed and wanted to do. And selfishly, I needed lots of healing and blogging provided that for me.  Especially before, during and after my daughter’s battle with leukemia.

As my blog grew, I caught myself writing just for the sake of writing; hoping to meet arbitrary deadlines. Most of the time I was trying to promote advocacy and inclusion for my daughter, but I walked straight into seriously unfamiliar and rocky territory.  All I wanted to do was shout out to the world, “Love my kid and accept her,” but–if I am being honest–the world doesn’t owe me or her that. Clearly my intentions have been misunderstood a time or two. In advocating for her, I somehow put boundaries up around her without knowing it.  We do not need to prove anything about her, nor does she of herself.

I guess maybe it took confronting myself through ugly times to reevaluate the end goal here. In these revelations, I have decided to shift the tone of my blog. Down syndrome and cancer have held a huge place in our lives, but they aren’t our entire lives.  There is so much more to me than those two things.  It took a lot for me to realize that I can write about other things, too. For instance, I can go on about how I shamelessly pin things about raising chickens on Pinterest (there is some interesting stuff out there by the way).  Or I can talk about the exhaustion of being a working mom or about health and fitness.  I can spill for days on the perks of country living or my daily struggle with anxiety and PTSD. And that is exactly what I plan to do. Who knows…maybe a new blog name in the future.

There will still be days where I talk about extra chromosomes and cancer and how they have impacted my life, but I will not apologize for my personal feelings or experiences regarding either because I do think it is okay to speak for ourselves and share our stories.

The day before my birthday, I walked to the Georgia Aquarium in downtown Atlanta while on a work trip.  I paid $43 (ouch) to walk around the aquarium by myself and watch the animals do their thing, trying to get plenty of pictures to take back to my girls.  There were at least twenty different elementary schools there with their students, and I looked like genuine creep taking a selfie with a penguin…but YOLO!

While I was there, I sat down in a massive viewing room. I thought a lot about the direction I hoped my blog would take and what I truly wanted to write about in the future as I stared into the big blue wall of water. I also thought a lot about the direction I hoped my life would take, but fully accepting that my plan is already in place. I am really just along for the ride. The rest of the aquarium was rather noisy, but I sat among the crowd in total tranquility as an enormous feeling of gratitude washed over me.

Turning thirty showed me that I do not exist because of the approval of others. It opened my eyes to the idea that I can feed my soul in more ways than one, and that the most meaningful relationships I will have in my life are happening right now. Most importantly, it provided me with fresh perspective and the chance to wipe my slate clean once more.  Cheers 30.  Let’s do this!

Random Reflections

It has been a wild last few months from moving to a new place in the country, a school change for Tessa, juggling the weight of our workload, traveling and making necessary lifestyle changes. All of which contribute to this transitional phase in our lives right now.  Some days are better than others.

But at the end of every day, my heart is full and my faith is constantly restored. It feels good to find contentment in change…finally.  After a long period of heartache and chaos that came into our lives without warning, I am certain that this adjustment was the right move for our family.

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We are healing and growing from our life experiences; gaining perspective along the way.  None of which happens in a day’s time.  And none of it happened immediately after we were no longer confined by a disease that held my daughter–and our family–captive.  In the process we face hardships and frustration and we learn hard lessons.  Recovery is a long process.  When treatment ends, it absolutely does not mean that it is entirely over.  We are never going to be free from this.  Never.  Every single day it remains with us…not because we choose it that way, but because that is just a part of it. This is something many people struggle to understand, and I would not expect that understanding either from another point of view had I not experienced it myself.

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Where I once shook my fists at God, demanding an explanation, I now have peace; appreciating the road less traveled because it has opened our eyes to other things in life that we may have otherwise missed.  It also gave us the chance to really realize our dreams after all was said and done.  To have the opportunity to chase them down and live them out without justification.  It has not been easy. These dreams have been met with resistance on several ends, but I am learning to let it go.

We battle self-doubt, fear and all kinds of what-ifs; but we let it go.  When others use words or actions to try and reduce us, our achievements and even our happiness…we let it all go.  And you know what?  It is amazing how freeing it feels to do so.  To literally not give a damn about any of it; to stay solely focused on what we have going on and to know that nothing can break us down or hold us back.  Because I can’t control how, when or if negativity will approach us; but I can control how I react.  That is the mantra I roll with.

The best thing I do for myself is to spotlight my own dreams, not someone else’s; by living freely each day for myself and not in spite of anyone or anything else.  Life is incredibly short and extremely fragile, and it can change in an instant.  Knowing that, I cannot allow my energy to be exerted on things that only add unnecessary weight on my mind and heart.

We know where we have been and we know where we want to go.  Our feet are steadily planted in a path we are choosing to follow–for the first time in a very long time.  We are days away from the anniversary of the day that changed our lives forever–Tessa’s leukemia diagnosis.  The significance of this day is not lost on me.  I will struggle on that day and the days that surround it; I won’t even lie about that.

As we head into the season of giving and gratitude, this landmark occasion serves as a good reminder for me to pay attention to the present; to look past the trivial things and soak in all that is good and well; recalling how things could have been very different for her…and for us.

Give thanks.  Life is good.