Sunday, January 21, 2018

Life's Not Perfect

Graphic from Malavika Suresh blog post 
I was thinking on the tagline I wrote for this blog some 12 years ago. Yes, 12! "Life's not perfect, but it sure is fun."

Not perfect indeed. My goal has always been to write about the ups and downs of life, not just the niceties. There's been one subject I haven't shared so much, because I respect my now 14-year-old's privacy. But her diagnosis of severe anxiety disorder has turned our family upside down, in ways not written about here.

This fall, she began to attend Southwest High School, our local public high school, for her freshman year. The school is two blocks from our home. I always imagined my kids going there, our home becoming a stopping off point for friends after school, a safe place for teens to gather.

Instead, after four days there, her anxiety was at such an all-time high that she could no longer muster the strength to physically leave the house. If you have ever witnessed someone having an all-out panic attack, then you understand when I say she could not physically go. This is not a matter of obstinance, will, or being spoiled. Her brain was functioning in such a way that going to school would have been bad for her health, and unpleasant for everyone around her.

So she stayed home.

Within the week we had found an option of MPS Online, the online education arm of Minneapolis Public Schools. She began taking classes online, staying home all day to work on the lessons.

But her anxiety would rear its ugly head throughout the week, despite having removed the trigger of being in a school. She often did not get a full 5 days of classwork in, which meant that as the weeks went on, she fell further and further behind. This had the added benefit of increasing her anxiety.

There's so much more, but this isn't about Lindsey, this is about our family.

In October, after nearly a month of online high school, Wayne and I began discussing how to best help Lindsey, and he floated the idea of my staying at home.

I surprised myself by not jumping at the idea. I mean, my workplace was not perfect, none are, but I have worked my entire adult life, and I really liked my job. I was given full rein over how I chose to fundraise, I got to write, my teammates are experts in their areas, passionate and driven. Plus, it was incredibly flexible with the demands my family had made on my time. I mean, what more could a fundraiser need in a job?

I had begun working at home Mondays to help Lindsey get her week started, and we discovered that Mondays were always Lindsey's best day. She got up on time, she ate healthy throughout the day, took her supplements, had a productive school day and took decent breaks (meaning walking the dog instead of playing a game on her phone.)

This idea began to grow. My husband the conservative accountant began running the numbers. Is this possible? Miraculously, it was. It was possible.

I wanted to stay at my job through the end of the year. After all, at a nonprofit, that's when all the fun stuff happens! I could not let my team down by leaving them during our busiest time of year. I gave my notice the week after Thanksgiving and gave them a month to become accustomed to the idea that I would not be starting 2018 with them.

And in January my new life began.

I can best describe the change in a single incident.

My youngest child is always ready for school nearly an hour before she needs to leave, so she can have some time to relax. One morning she and I are in the kitchen. My hands are around a mug of coffee and I am listening to her tell me about something that happened at school.

I inexplicably began looking for something to do. Surely it wasn't right that I was just sitting there, listening? There must be some task I should be doing. Then I The most important thing I could do at this moment is look her in her beautiful gray-green eyes, give her my full attention, and listen.

So I did. And I realized that it had been days — days! — since I had looked her in the eyes. What a sad statement on the busyness of life.

Yes, life is not perfect. But I am grateful that our family is in the position to make the changes we're making, to make it a little better for everyone in our family.