John Michael is frequently out and about with me since he is the only one in the family who likes to go the "food store". John Michael lives for trips to the food store. Recently he started a game he calls Always There. He noticed that by the time he got unbuckled and climbed out the door of the van, I was there to open the door and get him safely out. He remarked, "Mom, you're always there. I'll call this game Always There and every time I go somewhere with you, I'll look for you and I know you'll be there because you're always there." Since then, every time he hops out of the van or climbs up onto the sidewalk and sees me there waiting he smiles and says half to himself, "yep, always there."
I've been absent from life lately, as evidenced by the dearth of posts on this blog. I've been focused entirely on our household and little else. Things have been hard here - in a doing-really-good-but-hard-work sort of way. Adora is growing and seeking new boundaries and stretching her wings. Tad is deep into rediscovering himself now that he's no longer a priest and is trying to reconnect with his focus in life. His sessions with our therapist have been intense. JT has been struggling with self-esteem issues triggered by Math Blues. His response to that struggle has been intense. We have a complicated adoption in the works which is about to require a lot of time and attention as we do a rush job on a homestudy. And my body is busy gestating while my mind and my heart are sorting through all of the above business and trying to hold it all together. In the midst of it all, I've spent my own share of time in the therapist's office, this time to attend to my needs instead of those of our children. My own inner child is getting a work out too.
As I've discussed all the various issues of hurting and wounding children - whether it be my husband, my own children or me - our therapist points again and again to how God grants us what we need to make it through traumatic experiences. When children experience trauma they are ill-equipped to handle, they learn to keep themselves intuitively safe. They devise all sorts of methods to distance themselves from the pain - they detach, disassociate, learn to hum in their heads, develop intricate imaginary lands, write stories, paint pictures, daydream...And somehow they survive. It is our therapist's contention that all these things are God-given gifts. Yes, God allows children to be hurt and abused and wounded - it would not be a loving relationship with humanity otherwise - but He also gives children the ability to survive, to make it through childhood to safety.
In my own reflections, I've been pondering the idea of being "weak" versus "strong". In all that I experienced that was traumatic in my childhood (and there were many experiences) I survived by doing all I could to prove to myself that I was "strong". Strength, to me, became a measure of survival. The stronger a person, the better able to survive. Unfortunately, my strength became a weakness as well. I was so "strong" that I alienated almost everyone I came in contact with. What friendships I managed to forge over the years fizzled after a while. I was too intense, too judgmental maybe, too something for others to be comfortable around me for long. I've mellowed over the years and now have a lot of wonderful, meaningful friendships but I had to learn to accept some weakness in myself in order to do so.
I've come to see that the strength I gained through my childhood did not come from me. It came from the One who created me. It was His gift to me to see me through the pain and the struggles of life. I'm safe now. I'm no longer drifting in a sea of pain. I don't need the same safety nets I once did. I can learn to embrace my own weakness but even that weakness will become a strength because it, too, comes from the Source of Strength. So I've been looking back and forth - between my childhood and my present and what I see is that God is Always There. Just like John Michael's game, I, too, can smile when I get off the bus and see Him standing there. When I step off the sidewalk into the unknown of my weaknesses He is quietly standing by to give me a hand down. He is, always has been and always will be Always There. Sometimes it takes the wisdom of a 5 year old to really get it.