My daughter sits, sweaty-faced and tear-streaked, allowing me to stroke her hair as she breathes in one-two-three and out four-five-six. The stress-induced panic attack has crested and peaked like a wave, and now we’re left on the shore, panting and exhausted.
I am awash with guilt. Is it my DNA? The encoding in her cells that makes her vulnerable to this time-stealing, life-sucking disorder? Or is it the result of the choices we’ve made for her? That’s still our job as parents, after all – to make decisions for our child until she can make the big ones for herself. And then she says something that freezes me: “I wish I was one of those kids who didn’t have to deal with this. Who wasn’t so difficult. Why do I have to have this?” It’s hard enough being 13 years old. Now it turns out she’s got extra rocks in her backpack, and she doesn’t yet have the muscles she’ll need to bear the weight of them. All I can do is hold her close. I tell her, “Everyone has something. I promise you. Those other kids, their lives aren’t perfect, either. This is just what you’ve got.” She’ll never be alone in her struggle, not if we can help it, but she’s the one who has to endure it. Which blows, utterly.
Sometimes, you don’t get to choose the rocks you have to carry. You make do with what you’ve got. How do I get where I need to go? How do I figure out a way forward? What do I need to heal? These are annoyingly difficult questions to have to ponder. There’s not even an IKEA diagram.
Your unchosen burden can lead you to discover hidden resources. Resolve and ingenuity you might never have found if you hadn’t had to dig for it. Because here’s what I know to be true: making do is making. It’s rewiring. It’s jerry-rigging. It’s discovering. It’s becoming your own spiritual MacGyver and putting your soul back together with chewing gum and paper clips, if that’s what’s available. You do it all the freaking time.
Here are some questions to get you in the gratitude space:
- What have you learned about yourself through adversity?
- What skills have you developed to cope with challenges in your life?
- How have you surprised yourself?
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Until next week,