Mental Health Awareness: My Reasons and Resources

sunlight on tree

On a recent vacation, I handed a homeless man $10. My family shrank behind me, unsure the gesture was the right thing to do.

“What are you going to do? Give every homeless person we see today $10?” my husband asked.

“No,” I postured in defense.  “That was my last ten.”

On another day, I might give a ten I’m carrying, or a second half of a sandwich, or a bottle of water, or whatever I have in my car when I’m stopped long enough beside a stoplight panderer.

I can’t help myself. I see my dad in those outstretched hands.

My dad flailed on the streets for a time during the worst of his battles with mental health.

It’s a myth that every homeless person is afflicted with a mental illness, but the percentage is certainly higher than the general population. According to the American Psychological Association, “rates of mental illness among people who are homeless in the United States are twice the rate found for the general population (Bassuk et al., 1998). 47 percent of homeless women meet the criteria for a diagnosis of major depressive disorder—twice the rate of women in general (Buckner, Beardslee, & Bassuk, 2004).”

My dad was not the card-carrying type of panderer. If he had held a shockingly truthful sign, it would have read: “West Point graduate, disbarred attorney, father of four, suffering from depression, narcissism, and alcoholism. Need help.” 

My dad has his demons and my risk of sharing them with him are increased simply because we’re related.  In a 2010 issue of the YaleNews, Peter T. Morgan, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine said, “It’s been clear for a long time that children of alcoholics are at greatly increased risk for psychiatric disorders.”

If disorders are potentially genetic in nature, how far could the reach of mental health challenges go?

I’m a daughter of an alcoholic with a propensity for mood disorders. Ok. Awesome. It could be me. Any. Day. It could also mean the worry monster living in my daughter’s room is bigger and badder than I want to admit. Also awesome.

Mental health issues are all around us. The man who drove his car into a crowd of people in Times Square was hearing voices. A Florida man called 911 asking to be taken to a mental hospital to see his wife Taylor Swift. A recent teen suicide in Minnesota was painfully described in his obituary:  “An intentionally quirky boy who wore size 12 shoes but never grew a whisker; took his life in a bad moment in time.”

This past year, suicide and mental health crises touched too many people I love.

What do I do with that? What do any of us do with that? Do we snuggle up in a corner with our own worry monsters and hope for the best or do we arm ourselves with as much awareness as we can?

I hate monsters. Awareness it is. I have too many reasons to want to become aware and, chances are, you do too. You may think you don’t engage with or know anyone with a mental illness, diagnosed or otherwise, but chances are you do.

Nearly one in five Americans suffer from mental health issues over the course of a year.

That percentage is too high to be ignored. We have a responsibility to one another to learn all we can about the real life stories of people and their experiences. Thankfully, the mental health conversation is getting louder, but we need to continue to share and listen to the stories that will open our eyes and grow necessary awareness. 

Awareness is wanting to know what it looks like to walk alongside someone with mental illness so we are not tempted to retreat to the other side of the street.

RAISE YOUR AWARENESS

There are courageous battles being waged in households all over this country and there are books that tell important mental illness stories, pulling the curtains back from previously guarded windows. My most recent read:

broken-brain-fortified-faith-book-cover

 

Virginia Pillars’ book, Broken Brain, Fortified Faith: Lessons of Hope Through a Child’s Mental Illness, is a powerful memoir about her family’s journey  leading up to, during, and after her daughter’s schizophrenia diagnosis.  Virginia presents her pain, frustrations, confusion and intermingled hope with raw honesty. It is a beautiful example of how love and a deep-rooted faith can be powerful companions on the walk with mental illness.

 

 

 

OTHER RESOURCES:walks on the margins

 

In a past issue of Books Make a Difference magazine, I covered Kathy Brandt and Max Maddox’s co-written book, Walks on the Margin, about Max’s struggle with bipolar disorder. The book is an inspiring look at how awareness, treatment, and art moved him to a healthier place.

 

 

On my to read list is Mark Lukach’s recent release: My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward: A Memoir.my lovely wifeAwareness about mental health issues is an ongoing endeavor. Sometimes it’s a decision to stay on the same side of the street as the outstretched hand and other times it’s a decision to stop by the house of a friend who is struggling. A willingness to learn from the stories being shared, is a step in the right direction. We all have reasons to engage in the mental health conversation, and I’m grateful for those brave souls who start the discussion by writing down their stories.

National Alliance on Mental Illness https://www.nami.org/

 

Copyright Choosing to Grow 2017                                     www.meaganfrank.com                                        @choosingtogrow

Capturing Life and Love while Dying

Dan poster

My friend Dan died on Saturday. The news was something we had been anticipating, but it was heartbreaking nonetheless.

I met Dan two years ago, at the opening for that year’s photography show. I had gone to listen to a friend sing and I was drawn in to the work of the local photographers and to Dan, in particular.

There was something about him. A genuine passion for the pieces on the walls, an apparent care for the people who had placed them there, and an immediate engagement with me, a perfect stranger.

He invited my questions that day and entertained the possibility that I too become part of the group. I joined the following fall.

For two years, I’ve had Dan as a teacher. He’s taught me about photography: breaking photos into thirds, avoiding white corners, following sight lines, depth of field, and capturing light.

More than that though, Dan has taught me what it looks like to live life fully and to love others completely… not just when we are dying, but in every moment we are given.

Photography gives us a window into a person’s soul. We get to see  what captured their imagination for a moment. We have access to someone else’s truth. We get to ponder their focus and, in that, our own perspective has an opportunity to shift if we let it. Dan was a phenomenal photographer and an incredible teacher.

That’s what I told him the last time I saw him. I told him that my perspective is forever changed. Because he was willing to share his focus with me and others, I see the world in moments worth living and capturing.

layered spring raw file

I was thinking of Dan when I captured the photo I’ll have on display at this year’s show. It is called “Layered Spring”. The light and reflection caught my eye as I prepared to leave the library a few weeks ago. I couldn’t stop myself from walking across the parking lot and up to the water’s edge to catch the image. I also hoped that Dan might have been looking out his window at that moment because, from his house, an elevated view of this scene would have been possible.

The symbolism of this particular photo is appropriate too. I see all four seasons. I see wind, fire, earth and living water. I also see stillness and dark shades of still-present ice. I see the complications of full living. There is beauty, joy, suffering, pain, cycles, and an immediate moment. I love that I see that. I love that Dan is a part of the reason why I do.

I know when I told Dan that my perspective was forever changed because of him, he knew I was talking about more than photography. I know that because when I leaned in to hug him one more time, he whispered, “I love you,” and I believe that to be completely true. His life and his photos say the same thing.

Copyright Choosing to Grow 2017                                     www.meaganfrank.com                                        @choosingtogrow

 

 

Rallying for Life…as Women March

menom-march-button

“Those are the weird people in Menomonie,” said a teenaged girl, after my daughter explained that the group gathering at the University clock tower was getting ready to march.

I’m pretty sure my daughter was grateful I wasn’t in the crowd yet.

To be honest…I was scared to go.

I know the sentiment of many people in our community and I worried I would be misunderstood. I’ve never rallied, I’ve never marched, I’ve never been a physical part of any movement whatsoever, and I’ve watched and listened to the anger rising in this country because we’ve stopped listening to one another.

The details of the reasons I felt compelled to walk would be of little importance to the people who assume I’ve taken sides.

My husband and I had a bet about whether anyone would drive by and try to splash me, or yell at me or throw things at me. He said there would be honking in support and I said there would be angry yelling. We were both right. Plenty of people honked in support (for which sign I don’t know because there were so many), but there was anger too. One man revved his truck engine at a stoplight and another yelled out the window and flipped off the group as he drove by. There have been angry rants on Facebook since, and no doubt even posting this blog will move me to a new place in people’s estimation of me.

I truly don’t take offense to that young lady’s assessment that weird people were gathering, because she’s probably right. I am one of the weird people…practically everywhere I go.

What makes me weird is my inability (or maybe my unwillingness) to fully align with mary-poppins-mrs-banksa group.  I am a white, Catholic woman who believes in pro-life…for everyone…coaches a diverse boys high school soccer team in a Wisconsin football town, writes books, and runs a kitchen employing seasonal workers at the Colorado Renaissance Festival.  I would say I am a conservative Democrat/ liberal Republican. I work hard to love saints and sinners alike and I oscillate between the two camps on a daily basis. It’s complicated.

As a family, we occupy this weird space in the world, and there isn’t another family anywhere who is going to understand us. Maybe that’s why I am slower to judge the complications and uniqueness of each family and the choices people make, including the choices people made this past weekend.

I’m grateful to be alive at this point in history when it is possible to have the freedom to be so complicated…and to march for it. I marched on Saturday (with my Protestant friend who has been a staunch Republican…and felt strange surrounded by so many Democrats). Like I said, it’s complicated.

It was a rally for me from the beginning. Some who marched were there to protest, but I was there to rally around the freedoms  I cherish and to put into action my vow to defend those freedoms for every person. Every. One.

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The reasons I walked are unique and I have no doubt there were 2.9 million unique reasons any particular marcher felt the need to show up that morning. Unfortunately, reporters have to pick headlines and quick phrases to define what the march was. I wanted to write down, as specifically as I could, why I was among the marchers this past weekend.

  • I walked for my daughters. I wanted them to see I’m willing to physically show up for something I believe is important and I think all people are important. They both have incredible freedoms because they are American girls in 2017…I want them to know they have a right to celebrate those freedoms and they should always feel safe enough to speak up for what they believe.
  • I walked for those who’ve adopted children from around the world and who may not look like the little faces they feed.
  • I walked for my friends and family, and their children, who struggle with their freedoms because they are gay.
  • I walked for the women I know who have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused.
  • I walked for the stay-at-home dads who battle stereotypes because they believe in fatherhood and supporting the work of their wives.
  • I walked for my family members with disabilities and for those who are currently receiving government funding to live in assisted living situations. I want them to know I believe they deserve protections.
  • I walked for my friends in bi-racial marriages whose children have been, quite recently, targets of racism.
  • I walked for my friends who are public school teachers because I want them to know their talents and their services are valuable and worth defending.

Walking for women’s causes is complicated and many of the issues have only one thing in common: a woman cares about it. Not even all the issues I care about were represented on Saturday and many women I love didn’t feel welcomed or comfortable to march at all.

Several friends of mine don’t like the rhetoric reported by women they feel are in opposition to their beliefs. In a Facebook post that is making the rounds through feeds of women I know who support more Republican values, there were questions about the differences between the women who marched and those who didn’t:

In the post it’s written: I’m not a disgraceful woman because I didn’t march.

I completely agree. There is nothing disgraceful about the choices afforded to women in this country. That is precisely why I rallied. I didn’t protest. I didn’t carry a sign. I could barely bring myself to pin on the button, but I was compelled to show up and we each have a right to march or not…to carry a sign or go empty-handed.

Also written: You waste your time complaining about women’s rights in the US. You should spend your energy defending the rights of women around the world…those are places where women are really mistreated.

The marching energy was a rally cry…inspiring legs to keep moving for all people. It is true, American women have an incredible freedom in this country unlike anything afforded to women in the history of the world and with that freedom comes a great responsibility. My personal commitment is to remain responsible to both the vulnerable here in our country and to those suffering around the world.

Because I am a devout Catholic, I liken my march this past Saturday to that quiet walk I take every Sunday when I accompany the diversity of our church to the altar for Communion. I know there are vast opinions and philosophies from pew to pew, yet we gather each week around the guiding principle of love. Each relationship with Jesus is unique, each level of sinfulness personal, and we are asked to love instead of judge. Loving looks different for each of us.

My efforts to love meant I walked this weekend. I walked for the weird people who walked alongside me, and the vulnerable who couldn’t attend. I walked for those women who disagree with me and I also walked for that teenage girl who may never understand why I walked at all.

Copyright Choosing to Grow 2017                                     www.meaganfrank.com                                        @choosingtogrow

Daily Pilgrimage

bridge to winter.JPG

I’ve never participated in a pilgrimage, or at least not an official one.

This morning, I was reading about a pilgrimage that took place both yesterday and today. Despite the cold and snow near Chicago, thousands of observers made a pilgrimage to commemorate Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, Illinois.

Pilgrimages are a human symbol of our desire to end up some place holy. To physically move from one place to another. Until today, I had never really considered that maybe I am on a pilgrimage daily.

This morning, when I set out on cross-country skis for the first time this winter season, I had pilgrimages on my mind.

I started to think about the holy place to which I was trekking and I remembered gratefully the hundreds of times God has met me there.

You see, there is a wall that freezes into thousands of icicles this time of year that is along my ski trail. It is a holy place for me. It is quiet and peaceful and I stand in awe of God’s creation each and every time I find myself standing before it.

pair of eagles on pilgrimage.jpg

It is a perfect distance from my car, and if I’m lucky, I’ll catch a glimpse of one of the eagles that lives in the nest that is across the river.

The other thing I was thinking about while on my personal pilgrimage today was the instruction of a devotional I read over the weekend.

“Be surprised. Watch for Jesus in your life; watch for realities you don’t usually imagine.”

Each day I wake with an expectation of how the day will go. Sometimes I write lists I expect I’ll complete. Sometimes I jot those “to-do’s” as I pray through my morning. Too often I get frustrated when I seem so unproductive and when my list grows instead of shrinks.

In my prayer journal today, I jotted down those things I expect to happen, but I set out on my day with a new intention to embrace the unexpected…the surprises.

My first surprise of the day came on the trail.

I expected to see the ice wall today. The surprise came when I realized that the eagles I pray to see each and every time I am on that trail, were both perched at the top of a tree above the wall. Can you see them? Had you noticed them when you first looked at my picture?

We are all on a pilgrimage each and every day. We are journeying some place holy, on purpose, but God has so many surprises for us along the way. It could be a person who interrupts us as we walk through a store, or a child who asks for us to listen to an important story. God knows I love eagles, and he gifted me with their stoic presence this morning at the wall I expected to see. They were the surprise I thankfully noticed.

May your pilgrimage today bring you to the place you are seeking and with plenty of joyful surprises along the way.

Copyright Choosing to Grow 2016                                     www.meaganfrank.com

 

Rain Running:Tracking Life Moments

IMG_4816I ran in the rain yesterday. On purpose.

I hobbled home in a downpour. Because I had to.

For two glorious miles, I sucked humid air into my lungs, celebrated streams of warm rainwater on my face, wrung out my weighted t-shirt, and listened to the birds sing in the patter. I smiled the entire time. I rejoiced in how far I’ve come that a recreational run in the rain evokes complete gratitude. I relished the fact that fullness of life is possible in such simple, pleasant moments.

Two steps before turning around to head home, a shooting pain in my left calf, the leg that I’ve so carefully guarded because it still has an intact Achilles tendon, literally stopped me mid-stride. Staring back down the path from where I had come, I was in a new moment. A moment of pain, a moment of consideration about my new reality, but unbelievably still a moment of sustained gratitude. I’ll get to that later, because I did have to head back down the joyful path that had taken me there, but with painfully, slow progression.

Half a lifetime ago, none of what I experienced yesterday was possible.

When I was a senior in college, and preparing to graduate, I turned down an invitation to walk in the rain. What I believed about such activities was that it was useless. What was productive about a walk in the rain? It has taken me decades to learn what my college roommate apparently already knew: striving, achieving, and controlling is not living. Living is being present in a moment…no matter what that moment might be.

Maturity and children are responsible for chipping away at the version of myself that was too driven to live well.

I now gauge my progression through life on experiences that involve my kids too.

I told my sixteen-year-old yesterday, as I set my phone and headphones down on the desk, that I was leaving them behind because I didn’t want them to get too wet.

“I’m headed to the stop sign at the end of the path, so at least you know where I was running if I get abducted,” I told him.

He smiled, amused, and then went back to watching whichever show he had pulled up on his phone.

Part of the joy I experienced the first half of my run, before pain interrupted my thoughts, was the recollection of another rain run I had nine years ago.

Nine years ago, my children were six, four and one. We were planning another move, from Menomonie to Woodbury this time, and my husband was already in Colorado for his six-week spring stint. I had had one of those days and all I needed was a good, hard workout. By the time I got the kids to bed, it was lightly raining and, when I looked outside, I decided I was in need of a cleansing run.

The decision to run around the circle road just outside our townhouse was a selfish one. I needed independence from the responsibilities of children. I needed a moment to myself. So, I ran. I ran around and around the circle, glancing at the front door of the townhouse each time. I was drenched and filled with endorphins by the time it was done. I bounded in the door and what stopped me in my tracks that day was the immediate visual of my worried six-year-old on the phone with his arm around his scared younger sister.

“Oh, she’s right here,” he said and extended the phone to me.

“Hello?” I breathlessly answered.

“Yes, ma’am, this is the 9-1-1 operator. Your son called us because he couldn’t find you.”

“Oh, I’ve just been outside,” I said, “I’m right here.” Panic replaced my runner’s high.

“Well, we’ve already dispatched a unit to your home, he will be there in a minute or two.”

I managed to adequately explain to the officer my son’s seeming abandonment was a misunderstanding and the disheveled nature of a house littered in moving boxes was totally normal. The situation must have looked as desperate as I felt in that moment. I was a young mother still striving to be productive and willing to traipse my family around the country to achieve something I have since discovered is too elusive to actually attain.

So, yesterday, as I stood dripping at the end of my path, I reached into my pocket for a phone to call my newly-licensed son. I could still walk, but it was a struggle with a fully-cramping calf, and I thought it would be easier if he could drive to pick me up. It took me a moment to realize, I didn’t have my phone.

My slow and methodical walk back in the pounding rain gave me time to enjoy how far I’ve come. I may be outrunning the abilities my body once enjoyed, and my kids may no longer see a brief absence as an emergency, (actually no one even really noticed how long I was gone yesterday) but I am finally in a place where I can gratefully experience the moments I’m given. No matter whether the moment is filled with joy and smiling or pain and grimacing, life’s moments are meant to be relished.

If I could go back to the college-version of myself I would tell her to go walk in the rain. And to my future self I want to tell her: run if you can, walk when you must, and when time takes from you the independence to do either on your own, find the people who will stand or sit with you in a rainstorm.

 

(for those of you wondering…it’s just a calf cramp…I should be fine:))

                     

Copyright Choosing to Grow 2016                                     www.meaganfrank.com

Weeds are Growing in our Woods

woods“You know what’s growing in your woods, don’t you,” our affable neighbor said quietly as he stood paused at his bird feeder that sits in a cleared area of the land between us.

I had ventured over to that side of our yard to do some cleanup in the unusually warm weather.

He and I had already exchanged pleasantries and I was somewhat nervous he would bring up the rather large tree that had fallen from our side of the woods onto downed trees on his side of the woods. I was certain our tree had taken out a bunch of his trees during the hidden summer months and we were going to have a talk about that.

“No,” I looked up from the bag of leaves I was filling, “but I’m guessing it’s not good?” I smiled genuinely, hoping I didn’t appear anxious.

He walked gently over to the edge of the woods on our property. The property  I had been meticulously manicuring for the past several weeks right up to the line of woods where he now stood. I had been leaf blowing, mowing, raking, leaf blowing some more, mowing again, and admittedly pushing some of what seemed like leaf litter into said woods.

He waved his hand pointing over a swath of ground and said, “All of that green foliage…that’s buckthorn.” I looked in the direction he was pointing and all I saw was green foliage. “It’s invasive and you don’t want that.”

For what I had considered about the woods, I had admittedly paid little to no attention to what was actually growing there. All I knew was that the woods could blanket the “lawn” part of our yard with more leaves in one day than I think I saw in my entire childhood in Colorado. The woods provide great shade in the summer, fun hiking days all year long and, no matter the day, they seem the perfect haven for the birds, squirrels, deer and turkey I love watching.

“Oh my gosh! I had no idea. ALL of that green is bad?” I looked deeper into the woods realizing that there were a lot of shrubs still clothed in vibrant green and a stark contrast to the dulled and muted autumn hue of browns and maroons.

“Yep, it gets just about everywhere, and it is tough to fight. I’m not really an ecologist, but I know it screws up the wildlife.”

I was immediately saddened that I hadn’t been fighting the fight I should have been.

I apologized profusely, got advice about battling the botanical beast and continued to survey with my eyes the war I was going to need to wage for the rest of the time my husband and I live in this house. War with something, up to that point at least, I had no idea was even growing in our yard.

OUR MARRIAGE ACCORDING TO PLANTS

THE YUCCA FACTOR

yuccaThe very first home my husband and I owned was situated at the top of a hill in the arid, high desert of Monument, Colorado. Spectacular views of the mountains, but not much in the way of plants. A pair of small pine trees grew on that lot and practically nothing else. It was a familiar landscape for me, but unfamiliar and boring for my Midwest husband who had been accustomed to blossoming plants by the lakes and vibrant northwoods.

“You mowed the yucca plants?” I yelled at him as he rolled our battered lawn mower into the garage.

“Those things will not mow down,” he said as the mower hummed to a stop and he and I stood looking at the frayed and mangled remnants of the yucca plants in our backyard xeriscape.

“They’re not meant to be mowed down.” I said with resignation, “They are plants that grow here.”

“Oh,” he shrugged, “I didn’t know that.”

Yucca plants are spiky and resilient, but admittedly not the prettiest plant on the planet. My husband’s tendency is to cut ugly to the quick and start over. I like to sit with ugly a bit longer and determine what I’m meant to learn.

At that point in our marriage we were trying to figure out how to let even unattractive truths flourish. We had to acknowledge the naturally occurring plants, before we could create fertile ground for anything else.

It was in Colorado I had to choose to grow: through our marriage. It was on the backdrop of sandy hills covered with spiky plants that I desperately needed something to grow…or at least to learn how to let things grow the way they were meant to.

With a number of fits and starts, we started a conversation about how we would both grow best and our transition to the Midwest began.

THANK YOU FOR MY BOUQUET OF DANDELIONS

Our yards here in Minnesota and Wisconsin have been home to plenty of naturally occurring plants as well as the purposeful landscaping of the families who lived in those spaces before us. I learn about a new plant every year.

Our Woodbury house needed major dandelion maintenance, yet we were at the point in our marriage when children required more time and care than I could possibly devote to deweeding my front yard.

I was tempted to craft a sign to post in the front yard: “Don’t mind the weeds…we are growing children” but I didn’t have time for that either.

BACK TO THE BUCKTHORN

This new phase in our marriage is a tricky one. We seem to have the yard in order. We’ve learned to maintain the landscaping, our children are of age where child labor is considered appropriate, and I am proud of our lawn. It’s manicured and it looks like we care about it as much as we do.

On the surface I suppose our marriage is similar. We’ve got the children toting and schedule coordinating down. We have worked out the rhythm as we move in and around each other through a year. It’s very easy to let the marriage run on cruise control and ride out the remaining years of our children being home. The problem is, if we ignore the buckthorn growing in the woods, we will soon be overrun. It chokes out other plants and an inattention to marriage maintenance does the same thing.

woods 2

Maybe it’s age issues. Maybe it’s battling through self-worth or lifelong goals. Maybe it’s tackling fears or pursuing joy. Without intention, I’m not sure we really ever know the truth about ugly things that have a chance to grow when they go unchecked. Ignoring the maintenance we need to keep doing at this point in our marriage is easier than pulling out buckthorn that only he and I (and an observant birder next door) knows is there. It’s not a quick fix, and I’m fairly certain there will always be buckthorn. Making a decision to continue to pull it out is our best chance to encourage anything beautiful to grow and flourish. It’s in our best interest to start now.

We’ll have enough time to sit with this ugly and work through cutting it down to the quick together. What an advancement in our marriage!

Copyright 2015  Meagan Frank                           Choosing to Grow

http://www.meaganfrank.com                                             

 

Past, Present, and Planning

peak trainI’ve started three separate blogposts in the last few weeks but I’ve run out of time to finish any of them. I have an unbelievable desire to write regularly, but with increased activity through the summer, my time to write has decreased dramatically. I think I sense the squeeze of past, present, and planning, and whatever energy I would have for writing has leaked out into the lives of those around me. At the end of the day, I have no words left to share.

*************************************************************************

Walking up the hill to our upper kitchen with Middle Sprout the other night, I was stopped by a bar wench. (yes, they actually call themselves that) She was curious about my writing. “What sorts of things do you write? What are you working on now?”

I laughed and said I am not able to do any real writing right now.

“Writing is like breathing for me, and I have been gasping for air much of the time I’ve been in Colorado.”

The other bar wench who was listening to our exchange piped in,  “It’s got to be hard to write in the bus with so little space and all of those people.”

I acknowledged that truth and continued up the hill, but the more I thought about it, the more I know that the bus is certainly not to blame for my lack of consistency or my assuredly unproductive writing habits.

Middle Sprout walked thoughtfully with me for a few steps and then said, “Mom, you should go to a coffee house or something. You definitely need to breathe.”

She’s right, and I want to show her that I do that. That I prioritize my needs enough that I can keep breathing…and thriving. What an extremely important lesson to teach my almost 13-year-old. It’s important for all of my kids to see my investment in myself and I’ve admittedly sucked a little at that this summer. It’s likely why I was introduced to my inner bear. (see previous blogpost) I am generally better about prioritizing for my needs, but I think this summer what may have become more important are the needs of those around me.

So, I’ve thought quite a bit about the reasons my own breathing has taken such a backseat this summer and I’ve concluded I’m wading in a pool fed by three tributaries.

PAST

When I come to Colorado I am confronted full force with childhood demons and challenges I wish I could completely abandon. Hard emotions get easier and easier to navigate as I get older, but there is still energy expended there. I feel a sense of love and obligation to my family and to the friends with whom I’ve maintained lifelong relationships. There is, however, a cost to remaining committed to the past that shaped me.

I’ve watched my life in passing scenes on the hills of this site too. The beer guys transported kegs and plastic cups from site to the reception for our wedding…I carried our first baby up and down hills in a backpack …I lost our second baby by miscarriage after walking the grounds…Middle Sprout’s arrival was cheered with Huzzah’s when her dad managed to get back on site the day she was born on the last day of the show…I waddled around fully pregnant with Little Sprout while pushing a monstrous double stroller…all the Sprouts have been knighted and princess dresses and crowns fill drawers in our home…the big sprouts have learned to work out here and memories of driving practice will likely include some of these backroads. And our recent summer of camping experience has happened on the grounds of this Festival.

It is now both my past…and the past for our kids.

PRESENT

Now that we’ve converged at this present place, I’m struggling with what that really means. The Sprouts are all under the same roof and living with our singular family rhythm. When I look at the present clock too closely, I have to acknowledge that time is running out. Next week I’ll have two teenagers and in the fall they’ll all be in double-digits. By next spring we’ll have a driver and what might have been subtle shifts in responsibility will be a full-fledged handoff.

Of course there is the present reality of my upcoming 40th birthday in August too and despite my efforts, I cannot seem to ignore the symbolic milestones that come with that.

My Choosing to Grow philosophy is dependent upon living in the moment and celebrating the present. It’s honestly taking almost all the energy I have to live up to my own expectations.

PLANNING

And then there is the planning. I have built my life around planning and I’ve painfully learned the lessons of thwarted plans and increasing disappointment evidenced in children’s eye rolls at my efforts. As my teens have grown, my plans have simply needed to adjust to become “wait…wait…and wait some more for their plans to develop.” (rides here…money to go here, etc.) It has impacted me enough that poor Little Sprout does not have my best energy for planning. There was a point this summer (right around the arrival of the bear) when I literally threw in the towel for any more planning.

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I have come to believe that planning is necessary but it needs to be more about hope and faith than about control.

I plan to pray fervently about putting planning back into my routine.

The Fourth Dimension of MOTHERHOOD

I want our kids to know that motherhood is certainly multi-dimensional. Mother has a responsibility to herself and it serves as a model to her children. But motherhood is more than just teaching children how to be strong, independent, balanced and confident because they see that modeled behavior. It’s more than being a woman who knows what she needs and makes the effort to achieve her own goals at the cost of something else she also needs…relationship with her children. Motherhood is about something even more and it looks an awful lot like sacrifice.

I’ve spent too much of this summer being flat. I’ve been frozen without dimension because I let myself become too overwhelmed and it paralyzed me. I wanted to feel productive and important. I am at a critical phase in my life; sandwiched on all sides by past, present and planning pressures. There is a dimension I need to embrace, however, and the plan is to employ it immediately in order to legitimately refocus: LOVE.

Love transcends time and place, pain and pressures. The love I need applies to all parts of my day and my life. I need to be better at self-love, to be intentional about love for those from my past, for those who traipse across my day in the present, and for all those for whom prayer and planning are necessary to build hope.

As I try to finish this blogpost I just dismissed Middle Sprout to give me just a few more minutes of space. Space I have neglected to ask for this summer and, seeing the welling tears of hormonal disappointment, possibly the last time I will ask for this space while the Sprouts are snuggled in so closely. There is sacrifice in motherhood that piles up in pictures of their childhood. My choice is to be present enough…so I can love them back with everything I have right now…all before we have to make real plans for them to go.

***Despite my internal struggles, I have managed to get the kids out and about for some fun adventures. Pictures of ziplining and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo with Little Sprout can be found on my website. ***

Copyright 2015  Meagan Frank                           Choosing to Grow

http://www.meaganfrank.com