About 9 months ago, I wrote this blog about how I usually find myself on the kitchen floor when bad things happen. In the past 9 months, I have found myself on my kitchen floor so often I should probably just camp out and have my mail forwarded. And it has become dirty and ugly and cold and dingy with all the tears I’ve shed.
My elder son was hurt and my little world was crushed. My Scott was diagnosed with stage IV cancer, which has left us on a roller coaster that we can’t seem to get off of. We’ve had to experience firsthand the frustrations of the foster system. And now Jason’s grandmother has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. All while dealing with the day to day stuff like jobs and migraines and husbands writing dissertations and kids who won’t poop and kids who need surgeries and dogs and just keeping my kids fed & alive. To say we are exhausted is a vast understatement. We are spent in every single area of our lives; physically, emotionally, financially, cognitively, relationally, and spiritually. I have become a pro at navigating airports and highways alone with 2 kids in tow. I’m pretty sure my kids think their daddy lives in an iPhone screen. I’m pretty sure my kids think BeBe & G-Daddy’s summer home is a hotel in Philly. I’m pretty sure my kitchen floor is the dirtiest one I’ve ever seen.
So what does a person do when they can’t seem to get off the floor? When they’re down so much that it becomes dirty & cold with tears? When it just seems like they’ll be down there forever and need to have their mail forwarded?
Here are a few things that I have learned about surviving days upon days on the kitchen floor:
1. You just keep going. Even when you think your legs will buckle if you try to stand. Even if you’re shaky and unstable. Even if some days all you can do is just survive. There’s no other option. You have kids that depend on you. You have a husband that depends on you. You have family and friends that depend on you. So you just put your big girl panties on and keep going. You just do. You just keep clinging to God and His promise that the night will not last forever. Morning will come. New mercies will come. Help will come. Just. Keep. Moving.
2. Know your limits. I like to think I’m a super human. That I can do everything and be there for everyone and still have time & energy for the things that matter most, God & my family. I wrote this blog a while back about how I have a problem with saying ‘no.’ But I’ve learned that it’s ok to say ‘no.’ It’s ok to back out of things you previously committed to. Obviously, don’t make it a habit to bail on people. But life happens. We can’t plan for everything. Remember that keeping you and your family alive comes before all that other stuff sometimes. It will wait. Or someone else will come along who is better equipped to handle it right now.
3. Surround yourself with incredible support. I have been so blessed with the most incredible friends. They love Jesus and they love me. I can say anything to them (seriously, anything) and they know how to love me through it. Some of these friends live close by and have brought dinner to my family when I could barely breathe let alone fix an entire meal. Some of these live far away and have just listened to me cry and yell and wonder out loud if all of this crap is really worth it. And you know what? They have never once said “God never puts more on us than we can handle” or “God works everything out for good” or any of those other ridiculous things we tell people when they’re just fighting to stay alive. They listen. They cry with me. They love me. They give me a drink. Or several. They pray for me. And they never judge me. Everyone should seriously have friends like mine. But you can’t have mine. I need them too much.
4. Have a super amazing husband. This goes along with the incredible support one, but my husband is such a rock star that he deserves his very own bullet point. I realize not everyone has a husband or even has a significant other. This does not mean you’re doomed for failure – simply refer back to number 3. I am mentioning mine because without him, I’m quite certain I wouldn’t survive some days. This guy. He’s pretty awesome. Some days he annoys the crap out of me. But he loves me beyond what I could have ever hoped for. When Jud got hurt last year and I was a flipping mess and could not even speak a complete sentence, he rushed home and handled everything. Like it was his job. When Scott was diagnosed, he told me to go and stay as long as I wanted. And has told me that several times since then when we’ve gotten not so great news about Scott. When I was (literally) in tears because I was exhausted and just needed a break, he gave me some of his graduation money to go away with my girls for a weekend. When his sweet, sweet grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he went to be with her even though he had only seen his family for less than 24 hours. And when all I could muster up for dinner was cheesy garlic toast, he ate it without complaint. He is so incredibly selfless and I’m so blessed to have him in my life.
5. And finally. Remind yourself of truth. So often when tragedy strikes, we just want to return to the time before it happened. We want to return to our pretty little lives before they were all messed up. We are quick to focus on all of the terrible awful things and forget about the little graces that we’ve been given in the midst of the dark. I almost uttered the words (and maybe I even did), “I want to start this entire year over” the other day. And then God quickly reminded me that we wouldn’t have Caleb. My big brother wouldn’t be getting married in a couple of months. I wouldn’t be having a new niece in a couple of months. And a million other tiny graces that we have experienced daily. And even though this has been the worst year of my life, as I was crying out to God in the shower the day we got the news about Grandma just begging Him to give my family a reprieve, I looked down at my arm where I have “Romans 8:18” written as a permanent reminder. This is not where it ends. This is not my home. Though I may think my kitchen floor has become my permanent residence, it’s not even close. The suffering we experience here on earth is not even in the same realm as the glory we will experience in Heaven one day. Hallelujah.
And as a counselor, I could not write this post without also mentioning that it’s ok to ask for professional help if life really gets unbearable. Mental health professionals are trained to help and would be honored to walk through your pain with you. Please don’t suffer alone.