Monday, December 20, 2010

Vulnerability

I don't know how many of you listen to TED talks.  I've listened to quite a few, and I find many of them fascinating.

A friend sent me this one last week that featured Brene Brown.  This is absolutely worth watching.  It briefly gives the essence of the ability to connect with other people, and what keeps us from being able to do that.



If you enjoy this one, go ahead and watch this next one, which is the same speaker, talking about what happens to us and to our world when we refuse to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.



Vulnerability has been the theme of the last month for us, because things have become rough in our relationship with our son.  One event led to another and it eventually seemed best for him to live somewhere else.  Asking other families to parent your child involves a great deal of vulnerability.  You are open to judgment and gossip, and so is your child.   On top of that external vulnerability is the internal.  Self doubt and second guessing can keep you awake at night when you aren't already awake worrying about what ifs.  What if we can't find a place we are happy with?  What if he hates us forever?  What if we are making it impossible for him to grow into a healthy happy adult?

So, I didn't get much sleep for about a month and a half.  Neither did our son, I'm sure.  It had to be extremely difficult to not know where he was going to live and whether he would like it or not. 

There are a few things I've learned from this.  I'm sure there will be more as we go along, but for now I can already identify these things.
  • There is very little that can't be redeemed.  I think we are doing the best we can with the information we have, but even our best guesses will not be perfect.  God can take those things and use them, if we offer them.
    • There is pressure to make the right decision, whatever that means.  I cannot allow myself to believe that there is a specific right decision, and that it is my responsibility to find it or else terrible things will happen.  My responsibility is firstly, to find a place that is safe and nurturing.  
    • There is no perfect place, and no matter where he stays, there will be things to work through.  As we work through those things, if I can hang on to my ability to be vulnerable (my ability to live with risk and my ability to be truthful about my own strengths and weaknesses, and my ability to see and affirm strength in others) there is opportunity for healing in my relationship with our son---even if he never lives at home again.
  • Including others in the process in an honest and vulnerable way is invaluable.  There were points in the process where the doubts and the second guessing were beyond rational.  During those times it was hard to be a couple.  When one of us would feel strongly about working toward a certain course of action, the other would almost certainly lean in an opposite direction.  We experience our parenting differently.  We have different personalities.  The consequences of being wrong seemed too great, so the disagreements seemed oppressive.  It was a huge mercy to realize early in the process that this issue was too big for us.  We gathered four other trusted friends, prayed together, laid out our lives for them as honestly as we could, and made our major decisions together in that group.  The decisions made there could not be changed without going back to the group. 
  • Don't panic.  This one is hard, but important.  Chuck is pretty good at recognizing panic and could be the voice of reason.  Whenever we would begin to think, "this HAS to work because it is our ONLY option," Chuck could pull out of that and affirm that there is always another option.  Panic only increases the stress.  It isn't based on truth.  It makes it more likely that you will make a stupid decision.  Breathe in, breathe out, repeat.
  • Ground yourself in prayer.  I will temper that a little bit.  Prayer is usually a great comfort to me, but in this last month and a half I had a trouble making the time for it.  When I did make the time, sometimes it was good, but sometimes I could not let go of the stress.  In retrospect, I'm realizing that during that time, being grounded in prayer meant letting others pray for me and trusting in their prayers.
  • This is related to the last one.  Trust the process.  Trust that God can use the process.  A couple of times during the month we thought we had found a perfect place that our son would love.  Then things would change and what seemed certain was no longer an option.  As this happened, it was hard, but we had to stay open to this being part of the process.  
    • I don't have a fully formed theology of whether God causes/allows/controls all the details of our lives.  I do believe that God can use and redeem whatever we offer.  I don't believe that God chooses for anyone to hurt other people, but I do believe that God can and does redeem whatever we humbly offer him.  I don't know why it took so long to find a place.  I don't know if people said no when they should have said yes.  I do know that God is building things in us that are good throughout this process.  I have to trust that God can use the waiting and the disappointment in our lives just as surely as he can offer us a quick and easy solution.  That trust enabled me to honestly tell people that I did not want them to say 'yes' to us if it wasn't a good decision for them.  It made it possible for me to accept each 'no' answer without desperation.
  • Expect bad days.  No matter how much faith I have, this amount of stress is going to affect me.  There will be days I get absolutely nothing done.  There will be nights I don't sleep.  There will be times when I have no hope.  I had to accept those things as temporary and not give in to believing I would always feel that way.
  • Find ways to take breaks.  We ate out more.  We watched more movies.  We let people help us more.  If I can't stop thinking about it, I need something absorbing to take my mind off it.  Movies are OK, but when the house needs to be quiet, nothing beats a novel you can't put down.  I made it through four of the Harry Potter books in about two weeks when I wasn't sleeping at night.  Lying in bed obsessing over things I can't control is crazy-making.  Harry Potter is better.
  • Remember gratitude.  It is important.  My life isn't defined by my dilemmas.  Even this month there were sunsets, and geese flying across those colors completely oblivious to my struggles.  Many good people love me.  J. K. Rowling wrote seven books about Harry Potter.  I have enough to eat. There are many many reasons to be grateful.
  • Pray for someone else.  Anyone else.  Getting out of my own skin enough to pray for someone else brought perspective back.  It didn't have anything to do with whether they had worse problems than me---it wasn't about comparison.  It was about reality.  I need prayer, just like everyone else.  I can pray for them. 
With all that said, we have found a family that seems good to us and to our son.  Actually, that family found us, because after a month of looking, we had given up on finding a family placement.  We were beginning to look at other options.  Then this family called us.  Our son moved in with them last week. 

After the decision was made, Chuck and I took a couple of days to go to a favorite bed-and-breakfast.  We just relaxed.  Now it's time to get ready for Christmas!