Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wherever You Go, There You Are

And so, despite the fact that I am seated in a cushy lounge chair near the pool at a lovely resort in Kauai, life is still upon me.  I had no illusions that time would stop or there would be a brief window of ultimate peace while I went away and, to be honest, I am relieved to be contemplating my challenges in such a glorious place.  During my younger years, I would have been honestly surprised that coming to such a place for a vacation wouldn't instantly put on hold any angst or difficulties I was experiencing, but I know better now.

Lola, despite the sun and relaxation and pretty much 24/7 access to a body of water in which to swim, is struggling mightily with her SPD symptoms.  Transitions are hard for her and this absurd cliff-dive from regimented school days to completely structure-free summer days leaves her adrift every year.  No matter how much I try to impose predictable mealtimes or down-time in the middle of the afternoon it seems that the lack of scheduled activity pushes Lola to a place of discomfort in her own skin. She fights to put a name to what she is feeling, unsure of what it would take to make her comfortable. She doesn't acknowledge hunger or thirst until it is far past the point of no-return, she flits from activity to activity, immersing herself in one or the other at some point in an effort to simply shut out the entire world around her.  

Yesterday she sat by the pool playing games on her iTouch until the battery died. I sat nearby chewing in the inside of my lips in an effort to leave her be, hating the glow of the screen on her face on such a glorious day. I wanted to ply her with a beach walk or a dip in the pool or a shopping adventure and couldn't seem to discern whether it was because I thought it would be better for her to get up and do something or because I hate the notion of her sitting still playing video games on a sunny day in Hawaii.  Predictably, she melted down in the afternoon, hot, thirsty, hungry and weepy and I berated myself yet again for not knowing how to help her navigate this move from school to summer.  I feel as though it surprises me anew every year and I have yet to feel like I am surmounting a learning curve. Instead it looks like a series of dashed lines all on the same plane, interrupted by the blank space of the school year.  But the transition from summer to school is just as difficult and disruptive, the Monday mornings fraught with tears and hysterical pleadings to help get SOMEthing right - her hair, her shoes, the seam on her jeans - me knowing it isn't those things at all but unable to convince Lola.  

And yet, the vacation is giving me some solace as well, if only in its distance from 'home.'  My mother's husband has been in the hospital since before we left, first fighting a severe infection and then undergoing two surgeries with prospects for a third today.  The solace is that, for me, setting boundaries with others who are struggling has never been easy but this, the fact that I am a five or six hour flight away from sitting by her side and the knowledge that both of my siblings are close by, means that I have artificially imposed boundaries.  I am learning to empathize and have compassion and hold space in my heart for her as she deals with her fear and the logistical challenges of running his business and their life without dashing in to fix things like I normally would.  

The first book I read on this trip was Anne Lamott's "Some Assembly Required" and while I highlighted many, many astonishing bits of wisdom in it, one keeps coming back to me as I check in with my mother via phone every day.  "If it isn't my problem, I don't have the solution."  While that may sound callous, the truth is that I don't have the solution. I could run around giving advice, searching for answers, talking to doctors and nurses, holding my mom's hand and generally making myself feel better because I have the illusion of "doing something," but in the end, what is going to happen is going to happen regardless of whether I am there or not.  I know that offering my mother love and comfort over the phone is better for both of us - we will end up not resenting each other's lack of boundaries - and the outcome will be the same.  

And so here I am.  In this lovely, lovely place with my family, warts and all.  And I shall rub sunscreen on those warts and go forth to enjoy the day, knowing that what happens is all part and parcel of this life of mine and I feel pretty damn lucky.    

7 comments:

Dee said...

Dear Kari, so much here to respond to and so I'll be brief. Be gracious to yourself with regard to Lola. This sounds trite--but Rome wasn't built in a day and many, many builders needed to do the work.

With regard to your mom, again be gracious because you are not the savior of the world. For most of my life I felt I had to have the answers. I had to step in and save the person and the situation.

Then someone pointed this out to me and used the term "savior syndrome" and I realized that was true.

I've become such a better listener since I stopped trying to always have the answer. Previously, I listened with divided attention--one part of my brain poised to hear the words, another part planning what I could respond so as to solve the problem.

Now I've found that most people appreciate the listening fully and are able to find their own answers. Often I would underestimate the ability others have to find those answers. No more.

Peace.

chris said...

You are so very aware of your children's struggles or potential struggles. It is a gift, even though it may frustrate you that you don't have the solution for prevention at all times. I think that once they fully realize your empathy and understanding, they will realize how important that alone is and always has been. This understanding fits for your mom's situation as well. You are wise to be supportive from a distance, while allowing yourself that border.

Carrie Link said...

Anne Lamott nails it again!

More Aloha. Less of everything else.

Wanda said...

Say hello to the islands for me! Take yourself for a walk on the beach--and one of those umbrella drinks (with or without firewater). Aloha nui.

fullsoulahead.com said...

Your little one is lucky to have parents that recognize her needs and honor who she is. I hope you all had an amazing vacation!

Elizabeth said...

I love the honesty of your posts, of your reckoning with your life, as it is. I found the paragraph about NOT being with your MIL the most revealing and wise -- thank you for articulating those thoughts and how you "got there." I can extrapolate them into my own life --

Deb Shucka said...

I love the wisdom in your words, and the peace that comes through as I read. I think one of the best things about vacation is the heightened perspective it gives us on so many things. Love the Ann quote. I've put off getting the book, but I think it's time. I hopes the rest of your trip was wonderful, and that your homecoming was, too.

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