This isn’t a real blog post, but it appears to be real life.

I spilled cheese sauce down my front tonight, and I’m still wearing the dried, crusty remnants as I type. I should probably change, except I feel this is symbolic of my life right now, to be covered in goo and grime; also I’m tired, and I don’t want to try to find a clean shirt. We’re friends, so I already know you don’t care. Besides, I smell delicious, like the call of the wild if the wild was made of cheddar cheese.

The past couple of months have tried to kill me, friends. Not just by throwing cheese sauce at me. I’m at a loss, in fact, for adequate words to describe all that’s whirling around us. I cannot corral my thoughts well or form them into comprehensible phrases or an actual theme for a blog post, but I’ve decided, contrary to conventional wisdom, that the lack of words is a crap excuse for not writing, so I’m putting on my big girl pants today and crawling out from under my covers and thrusting a straw up from the depths of the Drowning Waters to try to suck enough oxygen to write something. Anything. Anything true anyway, which is my commitment in this space. I have no idea how this blog post is about to go, but here I am anyway, making an effort, and I’ve decided that counts so I’m giving myself credit even if this is a train wreck.

Ready? Here we go.

I am quite sure these days I am failing at All the Things, and even though I definitely, for sure, absolutely do NOT subscribe to the idea that we have to All the Things well All the Time, I do like to do Some of the Things well Some of the Time. Hell, I’ll even take doing One of the Things well On Occasion and high-five myself for it in the mirror because my standards are low, which is a darn good survival skill if I do say so myself, but right now I’m rather certain I’m doing Almost None of the Things and that the things I am managing to do, I’m doing Poorly.

 

I mean, I’m drinking coffee every day, so there’s that. ONE THING I’M ROCKING. Otherwise? Not so good. Like momming and wife-ing and friending and working and writing and cooking and cleaning and sleeping and waking and cleaning cheese sauce off myself? HAHAHAHAHA! All have fallen by the wayside.

IMG_0544My oldest boy child is suffering these days. Special needs + mental illness + being 16 are tough rows to hoe, man. We’re on the waiting lists and seeing the specialists and adjusting the meds and trying — trying — be kind and loving and steadfast and set up the bumpers and boundaries this kid needs to survive and thrive, but there’s always that voice in the back of my head, and sometimes the front, that says I should’ve done more, worked harder, been better prepared, more proactive; I should’ve seen the struggles coming and headed them off at the pass. I should’ve seen the invaders landing. I should’ve pulled this kid to higher ground. I should’ve been attentive and focused and not distracted. I shouldn’t be moved by the tsunami of this struggle. I should’ve done more paperwork and insisted on better interventions. I shouldn’t have spent any time — and I’ve spent loads and loads — wishing he would be magically better. I should have been tireless in my efforts to help my kid instead of what I am, which is tireful. Chock-full of tired. And sorrowful. And sometimes frozen. And although I know I would be kindness itself to another mama in my shoes and offer her only grace and a hand to hold in the dark, it’s the hardest thing of all to be kind to myself while my child hurts.

Also, I spilled a half bottle of bourbon in my car. Not because I was drinking while driving, though, so I’m counting that one as a win. I’d shoved the nearly full bottle in the back of the car, returning from a beach weekend; the cork popped, the bottle spilled, and my car smelled like a distillery for days. Wafting bourbon smell all over town like a fruitcake on parade. My shirts smell like cheese. My car smells like booze. I’d say that shows how far we’ve fallen except I’m pretty sure both are improvements over the usual smell of things around here, so maybe we’re not doing so badly, after all.

Also-also, we totaled our minivan two weeks ago. And by “we,” I mean Greg totaled the van and NOT ME. HOORAY! I asked Greg what happened but he didn’t really say. All I know is that the tree won, and the van lost, and no one got hurt, and I have learned SO MUCH about marriage during the past 20 years, y’all — SO, SO MUCH — that I didn’t ask any follow-up questions, and I’m letting it remain a mystery. Upon further consideration, I’m taking back what I said above about not wife-ing well. I’m pretty much the best wife EVER.

Also-also-also, I quit my job with Medical Teams International. I love my job because I get to work to improve the lives of mamas and daddies and their babies who don’t have the pleasure of whining about first world problems. No minivans to crash or cheese sauce to spill. No enormous pile of clothes to dig through. No access to psychiatrists for mental health. It’s a real perspective-changer, friends. I quit my job, though; it was necessary because of everything happening right now in our lives, and it’s a relief because we need me focused on us, but it breaks my heart. Blerg, friends. Blerg and grarg and I wish I could do All the Things and do them well. Reality’s a real kill-joy, you know? Reality is a party pooper.

Also-also-also-also, my 9-year-old kid got a mosquito bite on his balls and he was furious with me for refusing to apply the anti-itch cream for him.

Also-also-also-also-also, the same kid got a splinter on his tongue.

Also-also-also-also-also-also, don’t ask me how either of those things happens. I have some thoughts but dwelling on naked fence-licking feels counter-productive at this time.

Also-also-also-also-also-also-also, my oldest baby is leaving for college next week. For college. NEXT WEEK. Which is wild and weird and wonderful.

Abby is ready, and I feel strangely ready, too. Both happy and sad that the years flew so swiftly, even if there were moments I was sure would last forever.

IMG_1050She and I got matching tattoos last week. Lotus flowers — the national flower of Vietnam, the country of Abby’s birth — which grow out of muck and mud and yet, somehow, pull strength from the mire and reach for the sun, all ethereal beauty and delicate wonder.

We adopted Abby a thousand years ago, in a time I can hardly remember, and she made me a mommy. It’s impossible for me to believe I didn’t grow her inside me, and it feels both right and necessary to have her symbol etched in my very skin, like the stretch marks I wear on my belly for her brothers.

Did you know the lotus sinks below the surface of the water every night and waits in the muddled darkness for dawn to come so it can resurface and begin again, filled, as it is, with relentless hope? It does. This flower breaks from muddy mess over and over and blossoms knowing it will sink again for sure.

Beauty in the darkness. Magic in the mess. Relentless hope. Muck and mire as a place to grow things wild and wonderful. The inevitability of dawn. And abiding love embedded in it all.

I hope I’ve given her the knowledge of these things.

In truth, that’s all I have to give.

And now, not knowing whether any of this makes sense or is the jumbled mess I fear it is, I bid you adieu, with more tattoo pics below. Because what I hope for Abby as she launches, and what I hope for my man-child as we seek help and answers, and what I hope for myself as I lay down one job so I can focus on the others, is what I hope for you, too. Beauty in the darkness. Magic in the mess. Relentless hope. Muck and mire as a place to grow things wild and wonderful. The inevitability of dawn. And abiding love embedded in it all, etched in our skin and our hearts.

Sincerely,

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
40 comments
  1. Beth,
    You are so real, and so empathetic. I have struggled for months with anxiety and am trying to lotus pose myself out of the muck. Some days it’s easier than others, but I have a new mantra – I’m just ok, and that’s okay! I feel like Jack Handy or something. lol Just ok is a lot better than it could be, and we don’t have to be awesome every minute. Your posts are so awesome, thank you forever for sharing with us. Cheese sauce and all. 😉

    1. “I’m just okay and that’s okay” I like that
      Thank you

  2. Beth,
    You are a star- supporting your family with so much love. You sound like an awesome mama to me! Please don’t second guess your decisions about your son. You could have gone the opposite route and taken him to a million specialist appointments with the same or a similar issue cropping up. Only run more ragged and pulled in even more directions (take it from one who knows). Life gets hairy and we all love you!
    Nancy (who ALMOST made it to your retreat until life and one of my special needs kids had other plans!)

  3. I gotta admit, I teared up towards the end. you ARE doing it all. You ARE doing your best. You ARE making a difference.

    Your daughter is GORG!!

  4. Thank you so much for this. 3 weeks ago, MY 15 my year old special needs kid wondered what would happen if he swallowed a couple of magnets – a 4 hour surgery and 5 day hospital stay later, he now knows. And my fear for his future – the future of a severely ADHD kid who is probably on the autism spectrum somewhere – is overwhelming at times. And I am so tire-ful and sorrow-ful, and i am so grateful right now that I’m not alone.

  5. Beth, thank you for sharing your heart and real life with us all, you are so brave and I can see God sending you reinforcements at just at the right time…praying for you!

  6. When all your bourbon spills, come on over to our house and help yourself. Literally and figuratively.

  7. Disabled (differently abled?) children are hard. My 31-year-old bipolar, ADD, ODD son just moved back to Washington after spending 2-1/2 years with me in Florida. My best friend is just starting the teen struggles with her 14-year-old child who has no official diagnoses (yet), but is pretty much a mirror image of what my son was at his age. She was supposed to come to South Florida this weekend to help me move (she lives in Central Florida), but her baby was banned from church camp after he threatened to kill the youth minister, and then he was supposed to come here with her, but at the last minute, decided to go bonkers over not being allowed to go to church camp, so she couldn’t come. In short, we feel your pain. My best friend has been through a lot of therapy for her own issues after being raised in an abusive home. When we were younger, she allowed her parents back into her life, and I asked why? And how? And she said she learned in therapy that they were doing “the best they could with who they were at the time.” I thought that was such a wonderful thought – and so freeing. Because I’ve had a myriad of doubts over my lifetime on what I should have done, how he would be better off if only I had (fill in the blank). But I WAS doing the BEST I could with who I was at the time. And, Beth, I know in my heart that you are too. You are doing the absolutely best you can. You really can’t ask anymore of yourself. And know that there are others out here with you who have been where you are, we feel your pain, and we are supporting you with prayers.

  8. My 9 year old kid on the spectrum is being a cat these days. Because being human is too hard. He’s overwhelmed and he’s regressed socially and underneath he’s frustrated and afraid and I feel so useless. 🙁 I try to get past the meows and get him to talk to me. It’s really rough. Sometimes I feel like just meowing back, and curling up in a kitty pile if that will make him feel better, to see if I can at least get a purr…. 🙁

    Hugs across the Divide, Beth. Hugs across the Divide.

  9. You’re winning at making me laugh out loud when you’ve just made me want to cry. I wish I had words of comfort. Oh, and maybe a magic wand. Thank you.

  10. Oh Beth, I am failing at ALL THE THINGS also. *phew* So glad that I’m not the only one, though it doesn’t really make me feel any better about it (sorry). My daughter is looking at college while dealing with a chronic health problem; I planted Too Much Garden (Again); our kitchen remodel will never, never, never be finished; Our place is being taken over by Hellish Weeds (they are a thing). Thank you for this post. Thank you for rockin’ the coffee. I think that’s probably the only thing I’m winning at these days, too.

  11. Hang in there Beth. It may get worse, before it gets better, but it is so worth it. A sick friend needed to move some things 1500 miles, so I volunteered. Meanwhile, another sick friend was undergoing chemo and needed me for support. So torn I can’t be in 2 places at once. So I drove and drove. It’s very peaceful driving thru the mountains listening to YOUR music or NPR. Eating when and where you want. And now, at 7 am, I sitting on my son’s porch listening to a beautiful chorus of birds, the stress and strain of pulling a trailer thru unfamiliar mountains and strange big cities is gone. There is a reason why you’re struggling the past few months, I’ve missed you, but have faith, something beautiful will come of it. Prayers for all.

  12. Yesterday, I attended a self-compassion workshop. So many of us are so hard on ourselves. We judge ourselves for having depression/anxiety/sadness/imperfections, which only makes us feel worse about ourselves and more depressed/anxious/sad/aware of our flaws! It’s a tough cycle to break – I know. Talk nicely to yourself, write things down to give you a little perspective, be kinder to yourself, ask for help (lovely husband/counselling/friends/family/church). Breathe. Yoga class somewhere nearby – will help to soothe your body and mind? Switch some of your coffee (not known as a mood-soother) for camomile tea? As all the other caring comments say, you have to look after yourself first.
    xo

  13. At 16 I was a special needs kid who hit bottom. Barely survived the year. It was extremely hard on my parents who wondered what they did wrong or didn’t do. We made it through. I graduated high school then college and am now mom to a high schooler. You will make it through this difficult time; you may be battered at the end, but you will be alive. Prayers as you all struggle right now.

  14. I am so grateful for you and your words!

  15. You ARE a lotus flower. Hugs.

  16. I relate–well not with the exact same issues but with the mess, and the self-chastisement, and the parenting, and the sinking and rising, and, and, and. My oldest should be leaving for college but is not through with high school yet, and I wonder how much is my fault for pushing too hard sometimes and not enough at others. One child struggling with depression and suicidal tendencies. Husband dealing with chronic illness. Big changes at work that will affect me. Worries that my youngest is getting overlooked because of the drama surrounding everyone else….

    But, laundry eventually gets done. There is food in the cupboards/fridge. We have moments of fun, and equilibrium, and normal. And my predilection for optimism forces me up out of the mud and the muck every morning (well, most mornings). I never knew that was like a lotus. I thought it was more like a dandelion weed that pushes bravely up to the annoyance of those who wish it would disappear. I’ll be a lotus, and I will wave at you through the dark.

  17. My husband crashed my car (not too bad, broken mirror), and I didn’t ask him if he was playing Pokemon go while driving. So I count that as a wife win. You are doing more winning than that.

  18. Thank you!! That’s all I can say. Because typing more will make me cry again.

  19. Besides getting a tattoo with your daughter ( which is AWESOME), what are you doing for YOU? Just you. Remember that thing on the airplanes, when they tell you to put on your oxygen mask first, then help the person next to you? What’s your oxygen mask? I know it feels counter-intuitive, since as women & moms we’re conditioned to take care of everyone else’s needs first, but if you don’t take care of yourself, you will not be able to take care of your family. Said with love. No judgement. Rest. Meditate. Get a massahe. Just take a walk by yourself. Whatever it takes, once a week, for you to choose YOU before anyone else. I know it’s hard. I’m terrible at it. But when I DO it, everything gets easier.

    Your stuff is way harder than mine. And I’m sure someone else’s stuff is harder than yours. But that doesn’t mean your stuff isn’t HARD to YOU!! Don’t be so quick to judge yourself. You are doing the best you can, with what you have, where you are (Teddy Roosevelt).

    Waving at you on the dark. Sending big hugs.

  20. Beth,I wish I could say I can’t relate! But truth is a relate on every level more then wirds (no words)could ever express
    Take care of you and keep waving in the dark..I’m here!

  21. I just had the conversation with my 16 yo where I apologized for all the things I feel I should have seen, but didn’t. ie 2 months ago (!) he was diagnosed with a multitude of things. And I am sorry and sad and angry, but that doesn’t change anything. So, there was the too honest I royally screwed up conversation. Except he thinks it’s all cool. I mean, he knows he’s broken in some fundamental ways, but he’s working his way through the best way he knows how. Only his working through means being done with high school and finding his place in the grown up world before I was ready (will I ever be?). This was a long way of saying, thanks, your words are powerful for this mom.

  22. This resonates so much. Not the mosquito bite on the balls part, but all the mess. And all the unkind words to oneself. Love you madly.

  23. 1. The picture for this post on Facebook fooled me, I definitely thought Abby was preggers.

    2. I bet Greg crashed the van cause he’s secretly playing Pokemon Go (it’s totes dangerous, trust me)

    3. I’m praying so hard for you and Ian and your family right now. I know God doesn’t answer prayers based on merit, but you’ve earned so much peace and grace that I’m sure only a fraction of it would suffice.

    4. Sending you all the love I’ve got (which is a lot).

    5. Do you have a Patreon account, if not, you should.

  24. Beth, I love you! I love you for being honest and real and letting me (and the rest of us) that it is okay to wave from under the covers in the dark while we have cheese sauce on our shirt. (There was a stretch this summer that I wore a shirt that had some sort of food I dribbled on my shirt because chewing and swallowing is a tough skill for me on certain days and I wore that shirt for 3 days because it was comfy!) Thank you for being real and at the same time giving us a botany lesson. You rock my friend, you rock!!!! 🙂

  25. This was so needed tonight. Thank you.

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