9.21.2016

a little less sensitive please, but a little more too

A few months after we moved into our home I walked outside to see Ty on a ladder drilling some lights above our bedroom window. "Motion sensor security lights" he informed me. He then installed three more around the property. We live on 2acres, so I felt like it was a good idea. Until the first night.

I sleep closest to the window, and now you know where this story is probably going. About 3 minutes with my eyes closed trying to sleep (this means Ty has been fast asleep for 90 seconds already), the light flicks on and I open my eyes. Burglar? Coyote?! I rush to the window and look outside to find, of course, nothing. I went to lie back down, and two minutes later the light is back on. Again, nothing.  And so on, and so on for the entire night.  I sleepily complained to Ty  the next morning that those stupid motion lights suck. The sleepless nights continued for a few weeks until our marriage was reaching a high stress breaking point. I was not getting any sleep.

During dinner one night, he mentioned, "Oh hey, I checked the motion lights and their sensors were  set on High, so I switched them to a lower sensitivity".  Basically, the lights were going off when the wind rustled the palm tree fronds too much or a moth flew by. I wish I was joking. My life was interrupted nightly by silly, small and harmless things.

Last weekend I sat and watched my sister in law open her baby shower presents. Oh! The cuteness. The little outfits, the matching bows, the adorable shoes! The shoes! The doodads, blankets and the watchmathingies that are all the rage, that every parent must have. And man, I sat there remembering that with our first baby did I have to have all of those things. I don't think I'm alone in this either. With your first child your sensitivity dial is set to HIGH, at ALL TIMES. Silly, small, harmless things keep you up at night! Everything must be perfect!! I sat there wondering where it comes from, and I realized, most of it has to do with ourselves. How are people seeing me through my child, by my outfit, my body, my car, my house, my new wallpaper?

Twelve years ago I probably spent hours picking out Lucy's first doctor's appointment outfit and making sure she looked as adorable as could be. Imagine my disappointment when as a first time mom I found out that your baby's doctor appointments are with them straight up naked in a diaper for the first year. How could the doctor see what a good parent I was without seeing the pink corduroy overalls with tiny embroidered edelweiss on them?  Writing this sounds silly, as I'm sure reading it, but ask any first time mom and she will have had an experience like this. Whether I liked it or not, I was highly sensitive and it was all silly, harmless, small things that were meant about ME.

Fast forward six years later to when we had our fourth child. I'm pretty sure my sensitivity sensor was on the lowest setting there is. I honestly could care less what other people were thinking about my parenting skills or how cute my kids looked most of the time. I have the pictures to prove it. Disregard this statement if family pictures, school pictures or a wedding are scheduled for the day.  But all in all the only things I gauged and monitored were things like, is the baby happy? Is he hungry? Does he have a clean onesie on? Not too dirty of a onesie? Sleeping enough? Sleeping too much? Is he reaching milestones? Does he smell like mold? You know. Important stuff.  The rest of my energy was spent on trying not to ignore the other kids too much and meet their needs at the same time. A juggling act that is still on constant demand at this house.

Then, there were the dark times. This is when I didn't have any sensitivity. I'd like to call these the numb years where I didn't wear pants (I wore clothes, just leggings and stretchy skirts and dresses, not actual pants with a button or zipper). My motion sensor was broken and already getting recycled in Taiwan by this point, leaving a gaping hole where it was supposed to be. Getting through the day was all I could do. I hated everything, everyone, myself. I was angry. Sad. Numb. But mostly numb and angry. I talked a lot about other people, it was one of the few things that made me feel better, picking on other people. I yelled at my kids. A lot. I punished myself with crappy food and not exercising.  I desperately tried new things or magical fixitalls in search of an answer, only to never find anything that could pull me out of the darkness for longer than a few weeks. This went on for longer than I'd like to admit. Years. I don't write about this very much on here, the courage has yet to show up at my door for something like that. Maybe because some days my grandchildren will read this? Hopefully not. But maybe someday I should write it exactly because they will read it some day? Thoughts for another time.

Now in my life I'm searching for the middle way as far as what I am spending my time paying attention to. I'm trying to hard to be a good person. I care about other people, I try to show that I care. I love my kids even though I'm sure I'm failing them, I still love them everyday and show it.  I take care of myself, a little more. My lifelong goal is to shoot for right in-between the sensitivity of :

HIGH 'overly and hyper critical of myself and others'
and
OFF 'straight up angry and numb'.

Somewhere right around caring enough about myself and others to wear real pants, but not caring so much that I'm screaming at my kids to put on the cute matching outfit or I'm calling the police.

I guess they call this balance?

I imagine in my future, and can see in my past, that the first time I do anything (like have a middle schooler, high schooler, college student etc), or venture into a new area of work or church service, my sensitivity monitor ratchets up a few notches. Slowly I'd like to say that I'm getting less and less prone to it getting put on HIGH, but it happens. I watch around me the mature and wise neighbors, family and friends that have been to many a rodeo. They are literally calm, collected, and peaceful about most things. LOW.

And Hallmark cards have it right. Because, if we really look at the grand perspective of it all, most things work out. All kids grow up. Hard things get easier. Good times happen. Grief becomes a manageable companion. And like it or not, happiness can be found in everything, if you look for it.

No matter how hard it is, every day ends, even the awful ones. Every morning the sun rises to a day with no mistakes in it. And just when you get comfortable there will always be milestones met, missed, and changes. My small life has been full of slow, painful beginnings,  sad, quick endings, and endlessly hard, boring and wonderful middles. I tend to really enjoy middles.

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