Life is not easy. Especially when you are in a family of invisible illnesses and disabilities. It can be serious, funny and downright hard! But we make it. Just like everyone else. We just do it in a different style.

Monday, December 28, 2009

This Seems Appropriate

It seemed appropriate to update this blog at the end of the year.

So many of you Twittered, FB'd, emailed, wondering where I was and what happened to the Unique Family. When I look at the post list, I see I have not posted anything since July 25th. Looking back, maybe that was a pivotal month. At the time, it seemed anything but pivotal. It just seemed like the madness would continue until it destroyed us all.

But, I don't give up quite so easily.

So, today seemed appropriate to bring everyone up to date. Time to let everyone in on the last six months. Perhaps some might think that a blow by blow description would have been better. I tend to think otherwise. I think that hindsight is 20/20, and a mind in reflection can tell a story better than while it is going through it.

Today, is the end of a magnificent year. If you would have asked me a couple of months or even weeks ago, I would not have said that. I would have said that this year ranks up there right after the year both my parents died. I would have bemoaned this year as a catastrophe on so many levels; financial, emotional, marital. But in hindsight, I believe this was a year that confirmed the kind of person I am. Unabashedly, I am a giver, a nurturer, and a strong, powerful woman. I am smart, creative and funny. No shame or humility in these statements. You see, at some point in our lives, we should be able to look in the mirror and say, "Yes, this is who I am, and I like it." If you are still not able to do that, make 2010 the year you begin. I reached that point in 2009. This is how it happened for me.

If some of you are reading this for the first time, you may not know that I have several family members that need a lot of care. Some are more functional that others, but all of the Unique Family struggles to get through day to day life in some way or another. Whether it is autism, depression, chronic debilitating illnesses or mental illness, their struggle takes someone other than themselves to see that all is well. I am that someone.

Up until this year, I shrank from that role. Well, for my children, I accepted the role of mother and caregiver, but for my husband and my sister, I rejected the needs and demands. I wanted to be so much more than just here everyday, providing a backdrop for other people to exist. I remember even asking a therapist (my husband's) about how I could live the life I wanted and still take care of the people I loved. She had no answer at the time. Funny, how those kinds of answers can only come from inside yourself.

Most of the year, I continued to shrink from the responsibilities, the needs, the demands. Why couldn't these people take care of themselves? Why did I have to be the leader? When do I get to enjoy my life, the things, people and places I liked? These were the kinds of questions in my mind (and the reason I didn't write here for nearly six months). Waffling between outrage and compassion, I tried to find a middle ground that would satisfy my predicament. Only this last couple of weeks have I realized that it is not middle ground I need, but higher.

Let me explain. When I have to do something difficult, my first reaction is to find a fix; something that will make it better. Remember, I am a nurturer. I want it all to just "work out." But, this time, when the light bulb finally went off, it was not to do something easy or put a band-aid on it. The answer was to rearrange my entire life, take on new, more difficult roles, and approach life in a way that is totally foreign to me. I had to step into the role of leader.

Yes, I am a reluctant leader. I am a person who really likes the side-lines. I am a INFJ; introvert extraordinaire. I like to be the wind under other people's wings. I avoid the limelight. And, yet, 2010 brings me to the realization that a leader is inside of me, and unless, I stop fighting myself, I will destroy not only myself, but the ones given to me in this lifetime.

By now, I am sure you are wondering, what does that mean for the Unique Family?

In 2010, the following will happen:

1. I will relocate myself and my two children to Charlotte, NC.
2. I will not live with my husband anymore.
3. I will become a landlady, renting to my sister and a mutual friend and her two children.
4. I will relaunch my old company, An Extra Hand Services (AEH Services) providing office/project/event management to start-ups, sales and other entrepreneurial-minded individuals-both online and off.
5. I will become a partner in an event management company, called Pristine Events of North Carolina.
6. I will begin to speak publicly about my journey to leadership through the particular hardships I have been through: disability, single-parenting, dealing with mental illness and depression of close family members, including my husband and sister.
7. I will work on my Bachelor's program in Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship with a Leadership elective track.
8. I will continue to work with two direct marketing items that I believe in and love.
9. I will not rely on the government beyond my own disability income with the goal to one day tell them I don't need it.

These are all of the issues that were worked out in the last six months. Maybe it would have been a better story to have written every twist and turn, but frankly, it was too hard to write in the midst of it. There were wonderful highs, like the day my diploma arrived for my Associate's degree. Or, the day my oldest son came home with six straight As, and made the Honor Roll for the first and only time in his seventeen years. But, there were also many lows, like the day I told my husband that he needed to live on his own for his own sake and mine. The day I realized that my youngest son may only get a GED, and that is a very light maybe. The day my sister moved back in with me, and let me know that if I sold my home, she would return to the homeless system. The day we refinanced the house for the second time in three years, and still could not afford anything for the holidays. The two weeks with only $50.00 for food for five people. The weeks I washed 2-3 times a day because I couldn't afford deodorant. The month without heat. Standing in line at the pantry after getting yet another A in school. The constant dichotomy of sanity and mental instability, strength surrounded by profound weakness, love and loathing felt in the same day, hour, minute.

The mental and emotional anguish was not something I could put into words at the time. The memories now are hard to write about.

But, I want to leave you with this. The other day at the pantry, I picked up the Laura Day book, Welcome to Your Crisis. I brought it home, because I knew I was definitely in one. I went in looking for answers...and quickly became bored. Not that her work is not fantastic. It is a phenomenal book. The problem was within myself. Deep from within, a voice continued to hammer away at me. "You don't need this," it said. "You know what to do already. Why are you trying to find answers to questions you have answered long ago. Get up and do what you are supposed to do. NO MORE EXCUSES!!"

So, here I am; writing again. Hoping those of you who read my blog understand the reasons for the silence. This will not turn into some sticky, motivational platform. It will continue to be one woman's journey in this world. I just accept the road I must travel now. I hope you will continue to enjoy where I go and how I get there. I am happy for the company along the way. For it is the process that is to be enjoyed, not the destination. :)

Take care.