Turning A Corner by the Scandalous Grace of God
The bulk of my blogging centers on the time in my life as a Parent Crisis and the healing process. Today healing that has dangled in front of me for the past year entered my grasp for some real soul replenishing.
“You turned a corner Jessie. Good for you. I’m proud of you.” These words caused tears to well up in my eyes, my skin turned blotchy pink, and I attempted to graciously accept the love.
My ever-proud brother called me to tell me he felt proud of me. His approval of my writing venture validated years of turmoil seeking authentic recognition. More than anything he understood the premise of my writing: to give others someone to identify with. I type out complicated feelings hoping these densely packed emotions help someone else find a pathway to healing. Maybe I can show someone through my chronicles turning a corner is possible. That parenting in crisis isn’t forever.
My brother doesn’t mince words. He speaks directly with little room for interpretation. He leaves emotions and ego at the door most of the time. Imagine my surprise to receive a call not asking about the latest “drama” but to congratulate me.
In full sincerity he stated, “You are in independent person. You value being independent.”
“But you can’t be independent right now?”
“No. I can’t.” To strike out on my own seems nearly impossible. I tried and ended up in a friend’s basement.
Bankruptcy. Yes. Savings. No. Debt to income? Let’s not talk about that.
He followed wavering between statements shrouded in the form of questions; qualifying that I must show painful honesty.
“Congratulations Jessica. You’re getting stability. Your post about the haircut moved me. I remember that time. I texted you because I couldn’t talk. I cried.”
I wept reading his text a week ago. My heart heaved reading his words:
I am so proud so so so mother fucking proud of you. I cannot stress that enough.
My response: Whoa. Really? (I sat stunned).That means the world and then some to me.
Him: Without a doubt. Scream to the Heavens Jessica. Yell at the top of your lungs. Release your pent up emotions.
I didn’t know what to say or how to feel so I cried. I needed the catharsis. Maybe he did too.
Why does all this matter? This moment signaled a tremendous healing for the two of us. And progress.
During my most wounded time I pulled far away from my family. They kept distance too, yet I felt an obligation to stay away. In my younger years I represented success despite the circumstances; I excelled in activities, academics, and my career. The singular event of choosing to leave an unhealthy relationship with my infant steamrolled other events that proved massively hard to cope with. My family tried, but due to compassion fatigue they lost their ability to keep pace with my emotional needs. I don’t blame them.
The financial burden of divorce and custody exhausted me mentally and physically for years (it still does just differently). My family and loved ones had to watch this constant drain on someone they love. This created a deep shame for me--- I couldn’t be supportive for them, send gifts at holidays, or pitch in cash for an event. I used to measure my success by those factors alone; mostly, by how much money I contribute without needing it back. That simply isn’t the life I live anymore. Money cannot be my only criterion for successful contributions to my familial relationships. And while I desperately want to serve as a “successful sister” it’s ok I’m not.
I’ve fundamentally changed since my days of looking for validation from family. Divorce isn’t the only catalyst for this transformation. I walk in shoes soled with fragments of my soul cushioning each step (everyday steeped in pressure); to know my brother sees this or appreciates the challenges provides all the validation I need. Becoming a parent in crisis shaped me to fear survival mode. That is how I elect to measure my success now—am I surviving? Am I ok? Am I drowning?
Survival mode turns the thinking portions of your brain off and my brain has felt the impacts of trauma. The neurons don’t light up the parts of your brain structure you need to make sound decisions and to feel security (CDC information). This demonstrates Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. The pyramid model shows the most basic needs like shelter, food, water etc must be in place before any other levels can really take root for self-actualization. The higher portions of the pyramid can only be met when the bottom categorical needs are fulfilled. Often we associate children, the homeless, or those in the depth of poverty with struggling with having basic needs met. But trauma can threaten the simplest needs—my family recognized the trauma of my past prevented stability. Prevented healing. Prevented me from working through serious PTSD.
Key moments in my initial journey as a single parent took place in survival mode. My life revolved around my child and managing the basics alongside deep legal bills. Survival mode is synonymous with limited optimal choices. And a choice must be made. My child needed me to make choices. So I chose legal bills over creature comforts, extra toys, or family vacations. We learned to appreciate the fine art of peanut butter and jelly. We moved in with a boyfriend I didn’t love. I loved the idea of being loved….I broke that man’s heart by leaving a year later.
I changed jobs because no one cared about #Metoo then. PTSD meant I attended work daily having panic attacks and crying in the bathroom. Workplace harassment didn’t matter when we spoke up. I loved my profession but it triggered me daily. So…. my brain stopped lighting up.
I am 35. I have a degree I don’t use conventionally.
I work for a non-profit.
I have few friends and cherish the connections I have.
I carry baggage with my baggage.
But “I’ve turned a corner.”
I feel less angry about all this. I work hard, I love parenting and I collaborate with some incredible people for Footprints. It started as a playgroup but it’s so much more.
My brother asked me, “What does this thing DO for you? I know it helps people. But what about you?”
That’s exactly what it does for me. It helps people.
This venture gives help in a way I didn’t get any. It replicates some of the help I did receive. It gives love and support from across the phone screen or during a visit to our playtime. It welcomes all parents, not just moms of toddlers.
My selfish self wants to keep this thriving—to maximize the potential. This endeavor can help those denied assistance or told to stay in the unhealthy scenarios because it’s easier than figuring out independence. Single parenting and parenting in crisis isn’t for the faint of heart.
Losing stability and security crushed me. But getting it back, with people like my brother lovingly witnessing the transformation, fuels my ability to hope. Things are far from perfect.
Bank account. Zero. Custody case. Stalled. My weight. Let’s not talk about this.
My heart--- the glue, tape, staples and strings of healing keep it together. I know how to tighten the pieces together and how to ask if I can’t.
By the “scandalous grace of God” I am whole and wholly present in this journey. Someone is in my corner.