Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I Like My Life, Too

Photo: Jonathan & teammates waiting for tournament championship trophy

I'm happy.

Those are the words Jonathan spoke as we had lunch, just the two of us, at the local ice cream joint.

I'd asked him if he thought he might ever try school. Our 'to school or not to school' question has been asked of Brady quite a bit recently, what with high school just around the corner. But I'd never asked Jonathan.

"So, do you think you'll ever try school?"

Pause.... munch, munch, munch.

"I'm happy. I like my life. I like my life like this."

I like my life like this. So simple. So matter of fact. A healing moment in the midst of a lingering storm.

Tears sprang, of course. We all hope our children are happy, and we all need those reassurances from time to time that we are making the right choices; or even that "rightness" isn't really the measuring stick of choice. There are too many choices for one to be more right than another. But happiness... now there's something to measure a life by.

Sadly, I can't say I'm happy right now. I've donned the "let's pretend... let's pretend this hasn't just happened" defense mechanism in order to get through my days without melting into a puddle at every turn. I know it's not healthy; but it's survival. A woman I hadn't seen all year asked at a soccer game last weekend, "What's new?"

"Oh..... not much." It was father's day. I couldn't speak of it.

I forgot about a doctor's appointment last week, the third thing I've missed in as many weeks. Instead of calling, I mailed a card explaining what had happened, that I couldn't call and say those words. Those words choke me. They are soul-suffocating words.

And my mind has been playing wacky tricks on me, the grief clouding my usually spot-on intuition, and making me blush with shame as horrible thoughts dance at the edges such as "Why Dad and not someone else?"

There's a young girl who's giving me a bit of trouble in theatre camp this week. After several days of gradually deteriorating behavior, and after using all my usual tricks and pep talks and teacherly methods to no avail, I decided I'd speak - gently, of course - with her mother after camp today. Her father came (35 minutes late) to retrieve her instead, and let's just say I now know why this girl is difficult.

Shame on me, I know. That's not a nice thing to say, but this man used vulgar language within the first 6 words, told me all manner of things I'd rather not know, and was a 'close talker' and had me backing up for the 10 minutes he assailed me with his excuses for being late and his bizarre stories, too personal to share with the theatre director stranger. And while he yammered on, I stopped listening. My rational mind kept the "uh huh" and "I see" dialogue going, while my tired other self tuned out and visited thoughts like "My dad died, and this man......."

See? Shameful.

I've shed my skin and I do not recognize the person I am right now.

When new homeschoolers call me for support and instructions, I often tell them to relax, to de-school, to just enjoy each other for a while without worrying about curricula, schedules, or requirements. I tell them it will take a full year to completely adapt to their new lifestyle - just when you think you've got it all down pat, you'll have a bad week or two. I tell them they will "redefine their normal." They have no way of knowing what their new life will look like, and they need patience and openness and compassion to allow it to unfold and become real.

If only I could take my own advice.

I will... in time. Even though I've had thoughts of "what's the point?" lately, I know that if I can sit across the table from my child and watch him slurp a soda and tell me he's happy, I have my answer.

In time, I will like my life again. I will like who I am right then. When the fog lifts, and the road becomes clear, and I've arrived... I'll know.