Saturday, December 31, 2011

Choosing Your Word

A homeschooling friend who, like me, parents two special-needs children, writes:

"My mother has had rheumatoid arthritis for 25 years. I'm slowly going down that road but I'm fighting it with everything I've got. My brother has already been diagnosed."

How I live that sentence..."I'm fighting it with everything I've got."

I have a strong family history of anxiety disorders--mainly Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which my Peter has. My brother, several cousins, and my mother, have related driving phobias. They must take an anti-anxiety medicine to use freeways. My maternal grandfather had agoraphobia and quit working well before retirement age.

At least five times in the last ten years, I've come close to needing an anti-anxiety med myself. Each time, I fought the pull of my genes. Not me. Over my dead isn't going to happen to me.

In early December we went to a hospital building for Beth's eye appointment. Upon our entry a piercing fire alarm begin, continuing to terrorize the occupants for twenty minutes! Someone told us it was a test, but the longer it went the more anxious my Mary felt. She cried and even when it stopped, she couldn't calm down right away. Following that by a couple weeks, we were exiting the library and the door alarm sounded. We went back to the front desk but the librarian waved us on, telling us we were fine--the alarm's just being silly, she said.

Those two incidents were catalysts, apparently, for latent anxiety in my Mary. I had seen definite signs for a few months, but now it seems inevitable--unless, like me, she's up for the fight. If it persists beyond age 7, she could go the way of the family genes.

My Peter had a similar catalyst at age 3.5, when we were at a fire safety fair and unwittingly participated in a mock fire alarm set up in a portable building. It traumatized him and became the catalyst that awakened latent anxiety, which persists today.

Lately there have been times I could have curled up in a ball and just cried and cried. Beth's condition plays with my emotions--good one day, bad another day, good for five days, bad for three. It cruelly bounces me between hope and despair, even though I see signs of God's plan in her life, and in her condition.

She needs me. I'm nearly always there for her, remembering how scary and awful chronic pain must be to a three-year-old child. However, as I've spent more and more time with her, I've continued to try to do all the other things I used to do, including writing on this blog. My dear husband reminded me recently, "Your life isn't like that of most moms. You aren't required to do what they do."

He wasn't putting me down in saying this. Rather, he reminded me that mothering two special-needs children means my life must look different. Less is more.

I read recently that mothers who stay at home full-time report more depression and health problems than mothers who work part-time. Part-time work is healthier, if one believes the article, than full-time motherhood or full-time working. It didn't cite this, but I suspect chore monotony is the greatest contributer to depression. Doing the same chores over and over, and reminding our children of the same things over and over, lends a perceived pointlessness to our daily existence. Faithfully and steadfastly serving a family is not pointless to God, of course. The pointlessness is only a perception of the moment. Most of us fully understand the importance--and eternal rewards--of our home endeavors.

My blog and the online friendships I've enjoyed are that healthy "part-time" dimension in my life, though they take up fewer hours than a traditional part-time job, thankfully. They keep me engaged intellectually, the same as reading does. Intellectual engagement is pretty important, it seems, to balance those ten thousand sweepings of the floor, and the ten thousand pick-ups of a husband's socks.

God designed our minds. We needn't feel guilty about needing something more, as long as it remains secondary to our primary endeavors--loving our Father through worship, Bible reading, and prayer time; nurturing and discipling our children; encouraging and respecting our husbands.

You've heard of choosing a word of the year? Ann has done it for the few years I've read her blog. In order to continue to fight anxiety, my word of the year must be balance. Yes, I need to write. I need my online friendships. What balance will look like isn't quite clear yet. But God knows. I needn't try to figure it out on my own.

As you wrap up your year, think of your own life. What word is the Holy Spirit whispering?

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