People always ask us just how we do it. How do we get through moments that scare the crap of us? How do we take steps forward when we really want to run away? How do we face things head on when we want to duck for cover? How we push forward? How we have faith? How we keep going? Keep living? The answer is hope; and a heck of a lot of support. Sometimes I take deep breathes to clear my mind. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I work out. Sometimes I completely fall apart. Sometimes I rise above. But all of the time; it is the love and support of other people that push me through.
Too many times to count I find myself in the kitchen after the kids are in bed sighing a big sigh of relief. Relief that we survived another day. Relief that they are in bed. Relief that I get 2 hours of adult time. Relief that we overcame the obstacles of the day. Just two weeks ago I found myself in this exact scenario and my husband walked into the room. I asked him “do you ever find yourself sighing the biggest sigh at this time of day?” He answered in his cool, calm way “every single day.”
Look, I know we are not alone. I know that parents all around the world have this same feeling when the kids go down. When they have survived the day. As parents so few of the moments in a day are their own. So few of the moments are filled with the things that are just for us. We live our lives for our children. We cook for them and clean for them and work to provide a home for them. We worry about them, we console and guide them. We prepare them for the world ahead. We put our needs on hold to provide for our kids. And because of all of this, sometimes we sigh in relief when they are in bed for the night. We sigh. We linger for maybe just 1 moment and relish in the survival. And then we start the preparation to do it all again the next day. We make lunches, we clean the house, we make schedules, we fold laundry. We do these things because they are a part of our schedule. They are the routine we have adopted. And we do them because they need to be done. And so, we do all of these things. And sometimes we are tired. And sometimes we wonder where we will find the strength to push on. And sometimes we cry. And sometimes we hold it all in. And sometimes we just cannot hold it in any longer. And in those moments we reach for our touchstones. You know, the people in our lives who help us through. The people who give us strength. The people who do not judge us or question our feelings. The people who understand our struggle; understand our survival. The people who forgive us for being less than perfect.
I did not understand just how much truth was behind the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” until recently. Dude, it takes a VILLAGE to raise a child. Like, a whole, fully populated village. As a parent you learn just how true this is. And depending on your parenting journey; some may realize this sooner than others. And so, you build your village. You fill it with your touchstones. You fill it with the people who are on your team. You remove the people who are clearly “not” on your team. You build your safe place in the middle of this village. And you stay inside. You become a part of the village And, it becomes a part of you. You do this because you have too. You do this because without it; it would be too much to handle bear.
We built a village. We filled it with our touchstones. We built a team. We removed the people who were not on our team. We built a village because we had to. The thing about being in the village; is that is happens very naturally. It happens because it was meant to happen. When your life gets off course you realize that there are 3 types of people (1) people who will ride the storm no matter what (the touchstones), (2) the people who will always have the best intentions and will do their best when they can (your team) and (3) the people who just do not get it. There is only room in the village for the first two types. And believe me, I wish that I had time in my day to sit down and talk to all of the number 3’s. To explain to them exactly what I am going through. To give them the tools and the strength to “get it”.
These 3 types of people present themselves very quickly once a storm hits. Things that were a certain way…seem different after the storm. And all at once the people in your life are sitting in front of you in 3 very specific; very different categories. And so, you build your village. You grab on to your 1’s and 2’s. You praise and thank them for coming with you. And you say goodbye to the number 3’s. Sometimes you say this without words. Sometimes that is just easier. They know…and you know. So you move forward. Safe in your village. Thankful to the people who have made the journey with you. Thankful in ways they may not know. Thankful in words you may not always speak as clearly as intended.
And so now, today, this is what I say to my village….
Thank you. Thank you for coming on this journey with me. Thank you for forgiving my imperfections as I navigate something I am struggling with. Thank you for allowing me to struggle. Thank you for holding me up when I cannot stand. Thank you showing me kindness. Thank you for loving me. For loving my family. Thank you for seeing past labels. Thank you for validating my fears. Thank you for what you say. Thank you for what you do not say. You are in my village because without you I could not bear this journey I am on. Because I felt your love and support so completely; that I knew your place was with me. Because I need you. Because in some way I know you need me too; you want to learn from me and this journey I am on. Because I want to share our journey with you. Because I can see that you want to share it too. For all of these reasons and a million more…thank you.
We all build our own village over time. It is a survival tactic. Ours went up fast and furious. There was a time that I felt trapped by our life; by our diagnosis. A time when we hibernated because it was easier. A time when I did not know how to feel safe out in the world. I do not feel like this anymore. Today, I know that the support we have built goes everywhere we go. It is all around me. I know that in a moment of weakness you will grab my hand under the table and squeeze it when someone says something ignorant. I know that you will help me escape when I need an out. I know that you will divert attention away from the things I cannot let other people see. I know that you will keep me safe. Will keep us safe. I built a village because I learned that everyone does it; for a million different reason in a million different ways. I built a village because I am stronger now. Strong enough to say that I cannot do it on my own. And thankful every single day that I do not have to.