Monday, March 18, 2019

A charge to marriage

One dozen years as Mr. and Mrs. Crozier! Remember our special day? How it poured down rain the entire day? (But why wouldn’t it? It was the middle of March, after all).

Remember how you beamed at me, when you turned around saw me for the very first time? If that wasn’t the look of deep smit, then I don’t know what is. 

We were kids, Graham, weren’t we? Kids dressing up all fancy-like and playing adult. Just look at how young we are!

Remember how one of my coworkers (who you had not yet met) was in the sanctuary helping with the flower arrangements before the ceremony? And she wondered who the kid was, beating out his nervous energy on the drum set. That “kid” was you, my love. 

When I think back to our special day, one thing that stands out to me is how I never second guessed. As a generally-anxious person, this is striking. You were the one for me and I had zero doubts about it.

I often try to find the words to describe our life together and always come up lacking. We have weathered some painful hardships. Like waves of a storm, our challenges have threatened to crush us as they crash against the side of our boat. We’ve rocked and thrashed around in the mess, some years wilder than others. We've blown a few holes and our vessel has undergone some damage. But do you know what makes me so, so proud? What causes me to fall more madly and deeply in love with you with each passing day? Instead of pretending the squall isn’t there, blasting through life as if nothing is wrong, we’ve acknowledged our storm and called for help. 

Could two people possibly be more different?

It's not every guy who can live with a sometimes-anal-retentive neat freak who thrives in extremely orderly environments, plans everything ahead, and who has no taste for the unknown. But you do. Your go-with-the-flow attitude remains (mostly) unperturbed by my complicated ways. You loosen me up and help me live outside the box. Life is so much more fun with you.

And not every girl could live with a guy who regularly loses things, lives wholly in the moment, and can’t keep track of time. But I do. My knack for organization provides stability and structure that helps you keep track of your belongings and gets you where you need to be on time. Life isn’t so chaotic having me around. 

There have been times where I’ve wondered how a girl with anxiety and OCD tendencies lands herself with a guy with ADHD (and vice versa). How do we not drive each other absolutely insane? In truth, we do, sometimes. Like the time a few years ago when I left for a few hours to take a much needed “sanity break” from the kids. I needed some quiet to relax and gather my thoughts. You and your dad were in “project mode,” gearing up to install board and batten in our entryway in my absence. Imagine my surprise when I came home to find construction dust everywhere, the hall only partially finished, and a new gaping hole in the wall of family room. I will never know what exactly went down that day, but partway through the board and batten project, you lost interest and decided to spontaneously remove the brick fireplace that you loathed instead, an endeavor we had neither discussed nor budgeted for. Needless to say, all the restorative relaxation that had occurred while I was away that afternoon vanished instantaneously.

Then there was the time when two of our towering arborvitae bushes that border the neighbor’s house began falling over, their roots unable to hold themselves vertically any longer in the swamp-like conditions that was our backyard. Again, I was out of the house “relaxing” and returned to find that not only had you removed the 2 plants that were leaning, you’d also assisted in felling the remaining 5 bushes that made up the only privacy barrier between our yard and the neighbor’s. Now we had a prime view of his gnarly mess of overgrown blackberries and unkempt backyard. Oy vey! Those were some rougher days that at least I can look back at and laugh about now.

You were in for a lot of surprises too. Being married to me must’ve felt at times like you were standing 8 feet from the end of a fire hose, tasked with the impossible job of collecting every last drop of liquid blasting toward you at full force. But the substance rushing out of the hose wasn’t just water, it was tears. Every time something in my life didn’t go according to plan, I struggled. Some of the time my upset was directed toward you. Some of the time it was directed toward someone or something else. But all of the time, you found it bewildering. I possessed So. Much. Emotion. And what was most baffling to you was that my level of emotion never seemed to fit the “crime.” It was hard for you to fathom how your arriving home late and neglecting to tell me or forgetting to take out the trash like you said you would should land you with a sobbing wife. 

From my end, these little “missed” interactions began to have a cumulative effect. It was really hard for me not to take these behaviors personally. I couldn’t reconcile how things were playing out. If I asked for something from you and you agreed to it, and then neglected to follow through, what did this mean? The only way I knew to categorize these confusing exchanges was to determine that you must not love me or you must not care. I couldn’t figure out why else this would keep happening. It was extremely painful.

From your end, you were trying so hard. There were so many expectations for you to keep up with and it overwhelmed you. You were not ignoring my requests intentionally. You adored me and so desperately wanted to please me. But it felt like an uphill battle. Keeping track of things was always something you struggled with. If there wasn't a reminder right in front of you, you would forget. You grew tired of being told you failed again and you withdrew. Who wouldn’t, when told perpetually the ways they don’t measure up? 

I didn't always want to have to remind you. It felt like it didn't "count." I wanted you to show forethought, that you were thinking of me and my needs. This became our vicious, awful cycle - you feeling overwhelmed and like you could never be good enough, me feeling unloved and unseen and confused as to why you couldn’t just remember to do the things we’d agreed upon. 

Oh my gosh did things ever get messy. There was so much hurt, so much confusion, so much defeat and sadness for both of us before we realized what was happening. It took us nearly a decade of marriage before we finally recognized and accepted the dynamics that were operating between us. Our brains are wired differently and we have a couple legitimate third parties operating in our marriage relationship. Symptoms of ADHD and OCD/anxiety constantly threaten to sabotage the bond that we’ve built. But now that we know to call out these symptoms and behaviors and name them for what they are? Oh the relief! We can get on the same team and fight against the symptoms, and no longer against each other.

The work that we've done in our marriage has been such a long process, one that we are far from being perfect at. But we're getting better, quicker at recognizing when we have fallen into our "cycle." It has taken two committed participants, each willing to step into the mess, flip over the rocks and expose the nasty critters hiding in the darkness beneath. We've fought a lot, cried a lot, and clung to each other even more. We drive each other mad sometimes but oh how desperately we need each other, to round out our sharp edges and find a middle ground.  

I am so, so proud of us. But we remain afloat. We have ridden our waves, clinging to the promise of hope for new mercies again in the morning. There is no one I’d rather have in this raft other than you, Graham. Happy 12 years!

Friday, March 1, 2019

Even the dead ends

I dusted off my seed starter trays about four weeks ago. I planted a handful of different flower and vegetable seeds and placed them in my new toy, a small, plastic greenhouse I purchased off of Amazon, and situated in front of my bedroom window. At first, it was almost as if the seedlings leapt from beneath the soil’s surface, as desperate as I to grow and rid themselves of the darkness they were experiencing below. They shot up toward the heat of the sun, stretching out for the light. Initially, the visual change I witnessed in my seedlings was invigorating and I felt elated. My greenhouse was working! After years of trial and error with starting seeds indoors, I was finally figuring it out. Over the past few weeks, the zinnias, nasturtiums, cosmos, tomatoes, peppers and sweet peas in my master bedroom have become my little obsession. I check those plant babies nearly as often as I do my own offspring. I am so desperate to see progress and to watch them flourish. At first, they all looked the same - tiny stems with two little leaves. Then, new leaves appeared, the plants grew taller, and they began to differentiate. The days when they grow in huge spurts are so rewarding and I feel like a plant magician. But rarely do these visible “big growth” days occur consecutively. The growth happens in fits and starts. Growth, followed by rest and absorption, and, I imagine, unnoteworthy root expansion beneath the surface. As their “plant mama,” I do my best to meet their needs. Some days, it’s easier to figure out exactly what those needs are than others. When the surface of the dirt begins to appear dry, when its color turns from rich, dark chocolate to milk, I know it’s water that the seedlings need. When a seedling soars vertically but grows so thin and “leggy” that it can’t even support the weight of its own leaves, I know it is light that it’s lacking. When a plant matures rapidly and then suddenly stops cold, a closer look usually reveals the need for a larger growing vessel, the tiny plastic tray capsule it began in now appearing cartoonish and ridiculous in comparison to the size of the plant. Until I give the roots more space to spread and expand, growth stalls. My sweet peas have grown so tall, they no longer fit in my greenhouse and I’ve had to relocate them to the desk in my office, where the ceiling is their only height limitation. They are currently winding their way up classy wooden kabob sticks that have been taped together because one on it’s own was not tall enough for the speed of their vertical pursuits. I’m anxious to get them outside but the still-present piles of snow in our yard serve as a visual reminder that perhaps such a move would be jumping the gun. Though the plants might appear ready for the great outdoors, the conditions of the outdoors might be still be too much for them. They still have a lot of maturing yet to do. I can relate a lot to my plant babies. Are you catching the many metaphors to life that are hidden in my words? It’s no surprise to me that Jesus often used plants as illustrations throughout scripture. Their growth parallels our own growth process as humans so perfectly. As one who is in hot pursuit of growth and healing in my own life, at times it is so frustrating to me how non-linear the process can be. Logic informs me that the best possible route from point A to point B is a straight line, direct and lacking in all types of funny business. Everything works together toward a singular purpose, nothing is wasted. Yet, if I were to map my own growth process, it is so far from straight and direct. My path looks more like the loopy zig-zag of a lost person, turning around in random driveways, trying to reach their destination (which they aren’t even fully certain of in the first place), without directions. Initially, I went to therapy to address “X” and here I find myself having to face down “T,” “U,” “V” and “W” before we can even begin to touch on “X.” It’s super annoying. For both my husband and I. I started to do this individual work because it was evident we wouldn’t make the progress in our couple’s work until I took care of a few of my own issues. As it turns out, “X,” wasn’t my only issue. It’s hard to be patient as we work through other struggles that feel like “detours,” seemingly unrelated to our original goal. Meanwhile, I have some big plans, plans that I feel were laid directly on my heart by God. Yet I’m running into all sorts of barricades. Why would He call me to something only to require me to weave my way through a maze of obstacles? At times I worry, did I mishear him, perhaps? Am I practicing avoidance? But if I were, wouldn’t I have a clear idea of what exactly it is that I’m avoiding? On other days, I feel motivated and ready. I want to get started! Shouldn’t I get started? I feel a lot like those sweet peas on my desk. I’m standing taller! I’ve made so much progress! Isn’t it time? But then I wonder, how are my roots? Are they strong enough to hold me up to withstand the gales of wind that will certainly blow my way? And is it the right season? Technically, it’s still winter. Perhaps I need to hold out for spring. Growth can be a lot like walking into a thick fog. We can’t exactly see what’s on the other side, but we believe that the heat of the sun is back there somewhere, burning off the clouds. We know the general direction we should be headed, but until we reach the other side of the fog, we just have to continue to put one foot in front of the other. We can make lists and do all the things and yet, the depth of the fog remains. We must march our way through its entirety. Fruit comes at harvest. It cannot be rushed. As a gardener, I’m learning that I can’t force my plants to do anything. I cannot speed their growth. I can only provide them with the things I know they need - fertilizer, water, and on sunny days, a prime spot in my south-facing bedroom window. As much as I want to hurry their maturation and see them blossom into their full potential at a much more rapid pace, I am at the mercy of their own process. I just have to keep showing up with the things I know will keep them healthy and then surrender and wait. I know I write a lot about growth. It will likely be my forever-message…until God gives me a new one. Until then, be encouraged. Slow forward progress is better than no progress. And even when it feels pointless, a walk down and back on a dead end street is good too. The path may seem indirect but we are building our roots, being prepared, receiving nourishment, practicing obedience. The Master Gardener has a master plan. And praise Jesus that I don’t have to be the one to decide when the time for harvest is right. For now, I need to keep showing up, enjoy all that is happening in the garden, and surrender my vision for His.

Friday, February 22, 2019


I came across a document this week when I was sorting through our overstuffed filing cabinet. It is two xeroxed sheets of paper, stapled together and taken from the pages of a lined notebook, the words written in my dad’s half-cursive script. 

The papers came into my possession sometime this past year, along with a pile of old mail that had arrived at their address. My parents were sorting through their own files and I stored it away for safekeeping and subsequently forgot about it. This morning, I had the urge to pull it out and take a closer look. 

Without a doubt, my mom and dad did an incredible job as parents. This document is only a tiny piece of evidence toward that end. Graham and I often talk about how they are some of the most intentional people that we know, how they put so much energy and forethought into raising my siblings and I, and also into always bettering their own relationship and marriage. One of their practices that I really admire, was their commitment to get away twice a year together, just the two of them. The first trip was always a true vacation - a week away for the sole purpose of connecting and having fun. Their second annual trip was a “working” weekend, where they would step back and take the pulse of our family. They would look at their relationship as a couple, their parenting, and how each of us kids were doing. Then they would devise goals for the year that would promote growth in each of the areas they discussed. (See, did I not say that they are some of the most intentional people I know?!)

I’m quite sure the two pages I found in my filing cabinet were the result of one of the latter “working” weekends. The paragraphs below were likely written in response to prompts found in one of the many parenting books they were reading at the time. I can’t read them without tearing up. The words were penned when I was 9 ½ years old, which feels particularly significant since our oldest turns 9 ½ on Monday. Though the handwriting is my dad’s, and I believe the content is as well, I know he would be the first to give credit to my mom for her role as the driving force in making these “working” weekends, and the precious fruit of them like the words that follow, happen.

Feb 1993


Descriptive Phrases - quick to catch on, driven, leader, controller, manipulator, perfectionist, needing reassurance, motivated, self-paced, savor of momentos and junk, tough, can bear pain

In her free time Kelsie would choose to 1) read 2) play with one other person (as opposed to a group)

She doesn’t like to be told what to do or forced to do something she doesn’t want to do. She also doesn’t like to be ridiculed in public. She doesn’t like things that take time.

Kelsie’s special abilities include her memory and quick learning skills and her leader qualities. She has a quick wit. She is a natural swimmer.

Without a doubt, she is a leader

When she grows up she wants to be a mother, but beyond that I haven’t heard her talk much. She would make a strong business leader, a lawyer, or president

Her positive character traits include a love for making things for others, her drive.

Her negative character traits are an insensitivity to others when she has personal gain at risk. She can be cold and unforgiving, tough to break. Her self-pity and her nagging can be annoying

I am thankful for her strong leadership and her ability to quickly grasp a new subject. I am pleased she chooses to read and grow in her spare moments. She is creative in the number of crafts and activities she dreams up. I pray that she would be sensitive to the hearts of others as she leads, that she would learn to lead more by inspiration, less by dictation. Also that she would have patience. 

I want to continue to provide her with subjects to explore through her reading. I want to help show her by example, and other means, methods of leading that are uplifting. I also want to develop her athletic abilities that she had recessed. Her quick mental ability and alertness combined with some learned agility could result in athletic competence. 

I want to help develop her sensitivity toward others. I want to help her learn better ways of seeking to get her way and to help her to control her self pity. 

I also pray that God would keep her on the right track. I worry about her rebelling her parents teaching and going the opposite direction. She has the strength to make a go of it on her own and is capable of getting herself deeply into the wrong course. I pray I would be able to give her the love she needs so she would not seek it elsewhere. 

Is anyone else sobbing right now?? It is difficult to express all that these two pages communicate to me, even today as his thirty-four-year-old adult daughter. To think so many of the qualities that make me who I am were visible to my dad at the ripe young age of nine! I’m struck by just how known I was (and still am) by him, a fact that brings me to tears. It is a tender and necessary part of our humanity to be known and understood. My dad’s descriptions of me are soberingly accurate (embarrassingly so, in many instances). Yet, simply being known isn’t enough. One must also receive love and acceptance. Even when he calls out some of my not-so-great qualities, I find the love and acceptance my dad has for me bursting it’s way through each of the lines.

Just yesterday, I was shuttling the kids around town and listening to the radio when “Known” by Tauren Wells came on. I’ve heard the song many times before, but yesterday my circumstances were just so to allow the words to really seep in. I snapped out of my driving daze and called the kids’ attention to the music. 

“Listen to what he is singing,” I told them. I wanted them to absorb the message too.

If I could only impart one thing to my children, it would be for them to grasp the unfathomable love God has for each of them, in all of their strengths and in their imperfections. I don’t ever want them to feel the urge to hide or cower in shame, but rather to live in confidence that they are “fully known and loved,” exactly how they are.

I can’t say I was thinking of my dad at the time the song came on. But as I sit here, it is clear that this tangible love I feel reading these two pages written by him, provide me the best possible earthly picture of the relentless, ravishing wholly-accepting love that my Heavenly Father has for me. If my earthly father knows me and calls me out with such stunning accuracy and still loves me, how much MORE am I known and loved and accepted by God. Now that really makes me weep!  

So, thanks, Dad, twenty-six years later, for these precious words that you penned. They speak love in ways I’m sure you never imagined. 

PS - I might not be president (yet), but I hope I’ve made at least a little progress in some of the areas you prayed would develop. :)

PPS - I think if you had laminated this document and presented it to Graham for him to review and sign off on before we got married, perhaps you would have saved him a lot of trouble. ;)

Friday, February 1, 2019

Fragmented time

My life as a mom feels like a long succession of fragments, short lumps of time, choppily strung together until a full day has passed. The transitions aren’t always smooth. There are a lot of awkward gaps. It doesn’t look like the average American work day in terms of productivity and time management.

First, there is that odd block of 30 minutes on school mornings where breakfast has been eaten and cleared, routines have been done, and we are essentially just killing time until we need to head out the door (thanks to kids who wake early plus a ridiculously late school start time of nine freaking twenty-five AM). I never quite know what to do with this time. Do I start a chore? Do I assign the kids a chore since their after-school hours are so fleeting and I want them to be contributing? Or do I let them play freely, since they have so few hours to do so? Do I just whisper prayers of thanks for the time and go hide in my room and read? Or should I pay bills or somehow spend time with the kids?

In the brief two-hour period, post-elementary school drop off, I temporarily become a “mother of an only child.” It’s enough time to do something small, but not enough time to venture far from home before we have to get back for lunch before afternoon preschool. Do we do something fun together? Squeeze in a quick playdate? Run errands?

When it’s errands we choose, we face the annoying 40 minute gap between elementary school drop off and the opening of the public library and Costco, two places we seem to need to frequent often. Do we go back home, take off our shoes and throw a load of laundry in the wash before leaving again on our errands? Do we talk the long way home from school and squeeze in a quick bit of exercise? Or do we drive around aimlessly for a little while and then pass the last ten minutes in the parking lot of Costco, grooving to Kidz Bop, so we can “beat the crowds” and be the first ones in the building?

After lunch, three days a week, I have the too-short blip of time, where all three of my offspring are at their respective schools. I can choose to spend this time in one of two ways – either relaxing or focusing on being productive. No matter which option I choose, there never seems to be enough time, and the two hours whiz by, leaving me dissatisfied and feeling as though I squandered my time.  

Next comes the awkward 20-minute chunk between the moment we arrive home from preschool pick up and the moment when we need to begin walking to the elementary school to get the older two. It’s just enough time to run one quick errand (if you take the “run” part literally) or perhaps empty the dishwasher to make the dinner prep hour a little easier.

After school, it’s practically dinnertime, because school gets out so late. But of course, the kids are “starving” and, if they are going to eat a snack, I need them to do it RIGHT THEN so they don’t completely spoil their dinner. So, I force them to bypass any neighborhood kids out enjoying the last hour of daylight and send them bee-lining straight for the table to eat a quick bite.

Then it’s time for homework. The only thing consistent about elementary school homework is that it is assigned with pristine irregularity (when the teacher remembers to put it in the folder), making it nearly impossible to plan anything for these minute-long afternoons.

If all goes as planned, snacks get consumed, homework is checked off (or not), and then the kids inevitably get distracted with some activity and forget that they wanted to go outside, leaving me with about 15 unspoken for minutes before it’s time to start dinner. It’s just enough time to start a chapter, but not finish, begin a board game, but not complete it, fold some of the laundry but not all. It feels vital that I use this time well, yet I lack a good definition of what “well” really means to me.

When I switch gears and focus in on dinner preparation, the kids naturally remember my existence and suddenly require my assistance in accomplishing the three individual tasks each are in the middle of. But by now, my rings are on the window sill and my hands are deep into a bowl of ground beef, massaging dried herbs, garlic and spices into the meat and forming them into meatballs. I exhale loudly, wondering why they couldn’t have possibly needed me earlier, when I had those 15 minutes to spare.

After dinner, we move on to the tasks of washing dishes and making lunches. It’s typically a family affair which means the kitchen gets messier before it gets cleaner, bread crumbs scattering across surfaces and onto the floor, surplus peanut butter gluing only a small percentage of them to the counter. When we have finished, it’s time for the littlest to get ready for bed, but it’s too early for the older too. We didn’t realize how good we had it when they were all small and bedtime was bedtime. Full stop. Now the girls want the times staggered, as they seek out independence and privilege, throwing down their “I’m older than you” cards. I really can’t argue because I know their elementary-aged bodies aren’t as ready for sleep as early the five-year-old’s is. So, now we have this unused 20-30 minutes, where one kid is down, but two aren’t quite ready to go, and we aren’t quite sure what to do with it.

Beyond the intricacies of the average day-to-day, there are also all the variables that shift, depending on what is on the schedule. There is the time spent waiting in the drive-thru line at the pharmacy or the time that passes when one kid has a before-school activity but the other one doesn’t, so you make grooves in the pavement driving the same route to school and back twice, with only 25 minutes in-between. Then there are the hour-long sports practices so close to home, just long enough that it’s hard to sit there and kill an hour, but too short to go home because you’d only have 40 minutes before you had to turn around and drive back again. There’s also all the waiting that happens at appointments, arriving early for check in, as requested, but then winding up with 15 minutes to burn in the waiting room.

My life as a mom feels like one long series of fragments of time (anyone with me on this?!?) And I don’t really know what to do with all these fragments. They make me anxious. I have a deep longing to be present, to fully invest, to start AND to finish, to check things off. It’s hard for me to do any of those things when I only have a 15-minute window. And so rather than trying, I make half-hearted attempts and end up squandering a lot of time.  

I used to think that the answer was to carve out more extended chunks of consecutive time, and I do this when I can, but I’m realizing that my time only seems to be growing more fragmented as the children age. We move from one thing to the next, to the next, with awkward lumps of minutes in-between. This challenge ain’t going anywhere.

So, what does that look like for me to be present and/or make the best use of my time when my moments are so fragmented? How can I invest in the now when I’ve got two or 10 or 60 minutes until it’s time to transition to the next thing? If you read this whole post hoping for some magical, quick-fix answers, sorry! I should have warned you that this was more of a “wondering out loud” sort of essay. I don’t have the answer here but for sure I know I want to quit squandering (which quite possibly is synonymous with “scrolling” – that dang smart phone is going to be the death of me!!)

Most likely the “answer” will involve making amends with my dislike of starting and not finishing. Perhaps the best thing for me to do would be to read a couple sentences of a book and then put it down. Progress is progress, right? And at least I got a second to read! Maybe I should go on more walks around the block. Just because it’s broken up, doesn’t mean it doesn’t “count” as exercise. Or perhaps I should take up tic-tac-toe (it’s fast, I think). Or just spend more time snuggling with whomever in my family happens to be nearest. I really don’t know. I’m sure it looks different for everyone, but I would so love to do a little online groupthink and hear how other moms out there manage their fragmented days. Please and thank you!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The hardest best thing

There was a time in my life when weeks like this one would have slayed me. Riding the roller coaster of therapy is brutal. Author Glennan Doyle writes about life being “freaking brutiful,” an intertwining of brutal and beautiful. That’s about how I would describe wading through the process of therapy. It’s freaking brutiful.

I used to think those in therapy were the ones most broken. Now, with three consecutive years of the stuff securely under my belt (plus all the “bonus” sessions with my kids), I realize how incredibly wrong I was. Therapy may be for the broken, simply because brokenness is synonymous with being human, but I believe it's those who face their brokenness head on, they are the some of the world's strongest. They are the bravest, the ones with the grit and endurance, the ones not just longing for healing, but going after it. They are willing to get down into the thick of the mess and do the hard and dirty work, the work that is brutiful.

They are the ones who are unwilling to stay the way they are.

And that, my friends, is beautiful. 

To those of who have gone before, I commend you. You are the definition of hardcore. To those of you currently in the trenches, solidarity! Stay in it. I'm (pretty) sure the "other side" of all this tough business is worth the work of getting there (if you get there before me, please confirm). And for anyone wondering if perhaps maybe it's time to do some work with a counselor, the answer is almost undoubtedly yes. 

It’s no secret that our family has been forking over a huge portion of our income toward this business of “addressing our crap” (also known more eloquently by most as “going to therapy”). It’s been one of THE hardest best things I personally have ever done, third only to marriage and parenting...which are two of the reason I’m in therapy…but I digress. 

Perhaps you remember back in the fall when I wrote about the struggles we were facing with two of our offspring? And then I boldly (stupidly?) stated we were “just waiting for kid three to show his cards” and then we’d get him enrolled in whatever form of therapy he needed? Why do I open my Big. Fat. Mouth? 

So we are 5 for 5 over here when it comes to therapy needs now...which is a perfect score, if anyone is keeping track (where do I pick up my prize??) When our third kid received his diagnosis, our pediatrician kindly made an attempt at consoling me by highlighting the hereditary nature of the various players in our household (OCD, anxiety, ADHD). 

“They are just like eye color," she told me. "No one is to blame. These things are inherited in the genes, just like tall stature or brown hair.” 


“Sorry kids,” are the only words of comfort I can offer the offspring. The genes be STRONG in this clan.

Though at times, addressing each of our specific needs has been challenging and overwhelming, I’m so grateful for the massive number of tools “doing our work” together has equipped our family with along the way. In fact, we now have so many tools, we had to trade in our tool belt for a full blown tool shed in which to store all these dang tools we-never-knew-we-needed-but-now-we-can’t-seem-to-live-without. And we are all the better for it. I'm super proud of us. I stand witness to some really amazing change and powerful areas of growth. 

Technically, as the mother and in-house transportation and sit-in supervisor for all the these appointments, I have been the “lucky recipient” of all sorts of extra, “free” kid-sized therapy sessions to supplement my own. Quite honestly, sometimes there are more take-home nuggets when they are presented at a grade school-aged cognitive level. We have a vast supply of amazing resources available to us that are helping our kids conquer their struggles at such young ages. What a gift that they get to obliterate their mental beasts when they are still tiny, before they grow and invade and take over their minds and tell them all sorts of lies, reinforced over decades. It makes me teary just to think that they might not have wrestle with their struggles to the degree their dad and I have. 

The kids' progress is easy for me to see since I'm one step removed as the observer. But my own progress? Though sometimes it's harder to identify, I know I am changing too. So, as this new year launches, it felt like a valuable exercise for me to take a minute and identify just a few of the many things this brutiful process has been teaching me. I also know that vulnerability can work as a powerful adhesive to bind us together. I am not alone in my struggles and so I'm calling them out aloud in case one of you whispers "me too." 

I will start first with the things that therapy has revealed that have been more painful, the things that perhaps, at first blush, I would rather not have known: 

I struggle with extreme rigidity.

I am a very black and white thinker. There is always a right and a wrong. Your side and my side. The blameless and the one at fault. (And for the record, usually he is the problem, not me, of course).

I continue to struggle with a list of OCD tendencies longer than my daughter’s (who has been in intense treatment for her OCD for 5 months and counting).

I have anxiety. Not a heart-racing, panic-attack or scared-of-heights form that we often think of. But more of the crippling thoughts kind where I am perpetually worried I’m not doing enough, saying enough, being enough. My mind often torments me.

Since I seem to be feeling particularly open, I’ll throw this one out there: I have a lot of sexual baggage. Like a lot a lot. To this day, I am still fighting against the sex-negative messaging of my past. This is originally why therapy was initiated. But, as I’m told is common in therapy, one thing led to another and we’ve had to peel back layer after layer after layer after layer to work on adjusting the faulty foundation before we’ve been able to do more focused work in this area. 

I struggle with anger. I identify wholeheartedly as a “Type One - Reformer” (and perfectionist!) on the Enneagram but it always made me frown a little to read that one of my bigger struggles as a “Type One” was anger. I’m not really a yeller, I thought. I don’t really feel like an angry person. Sure, sometimes I certainly lose it with the kids but I don’t rage like some people I hear about. Very recently, I have realized there are other forms of anger, not just the explosive, yelling variety most of us picture. There is also the slow boiler, the one who gradually and quietly comes to a simmer. She doesn’t even realize it has happened until she is so seeped in bitterness and resentment she could swim in it. This is the kind of anger I identify with. 

I keep tally. Of everything. Tit for tat. I’m gung ho about fairness and equality, when the scale isn’t tipping in my favor.

I do much better “coming to realize” my faults on my own than when someone else calls me out on them. When I am critiqued, I’m prone to deflection and blame-shifting.

I work with a distinct ceiling above me. I only take on what I know I am capable of (and typically only the things I know I will also be successful in). My husband has no such ceiling. The sky’s the limit! Rarely does he take on something within his current capabilities. He is ever game to phone a friend and call in for reinforcements when he wants something done and doesn’t know how to do it. This makes doing remodeling projects together impossible (so far). I always have to bow out because his process is so different from mine. But we are working on this! Let’s just take a moment of silence in honor of the fact that WE NOW AT LEAST ARE AWARE THAT THIS IS HAPPENING. This is big, y’all. Stay tuned...we might have a little endeavour coming down the pipes.

This is the just the short list of some pretty tough, hard-to-swallow realities that therapy has brought to my attention. But it most certainly hasn’t all been hard. There’s the beautiful too. 

My time in (all the) therapies has also revealed an entire host of things that I’m incredibly grateful for like that: 

I married a really amazing person. 

I am capable. 

I am resilient. 

People enjoy my company (I really want to delete this one because it feels conceited to say so aloud but after a lifetime of battling insecurities and wondering if I was accepted and desired anywhere, it feels significant to name. Perhaps my next step will be to name it sans disclaimer?)

I can do hard things. 

I can change. 

I am so much stronger than I ever realized.

I freaking don’t give up. 

I can sit in discomfort. And it gets easier the more times I do it. 

I am a good enough mom. 

My kids know I love them.

I deserve pleasure. 

It is OK for me to take breaks.

Self-care is not selfish. It is exactly as it reads - the act of caring for ourselves. I am a mess without it. 

I can have an area that I need to work on and it doesn’t make all of me a failure. (This one is still a challenge but I’m working on it).

Sometimes “doing the work” looks like sitting on the porch in the sunshine, reading a novel. Seriously!

I have a right to everything I feel.

I have a voice. And it matters. 

I think I might be a bit of a feminist - who knew?!

I have HOPE!!!!!

There is power in naming and recording, seeing where one once was, and how far one has come. Especially when things feel slow and arduous, and you can't tell if the needle is inching up the scale. Even when prone to despair, the exercise of making a list like this of “things learned” serves as a reminder of all the movement, no matter how subtle. 

This process, it's freaking brutiful.