From Fear to Joy

This has been a season in my life where it has been difficult to put pen to paper and process the world around me. Which is ironic because my world is literally smaller than it has ever been. My physical world consists of the several rooms in my home, and the deck in my backyard. That is it. This confined space has been my whole world for over a month now.

Now, my physical surroundings are limited, but the things on my to do list have grown and the emotions I am experiencing feel larger than life. This surreal imbalance has made it feel difficult to sort through everything and be able to articulate something cohesive, let alone a message that could potentially be encouraging to someone else on this journey.

I felt anxious that I would have nothing to say, no clarity on the current situation, and nothing helpful to say. I am not certain that I will type next will be helpful to anyone (If I am being honest). But my prayer is that you would be able to raise your hand and say, “good heavens, me too.” Or for those of you who may have more colorful choice words may say something else that sounds a bit more enthusiastic, because that works too!

My breakthrough came this evening after my first official “mama meltdown of the quarantine” that occurred at 4:53 pm (which my child with a photographic memory pointed out and I am guessing he will remind me for years to come).

To say we had a stressful past few days is an understatement. I heard my three-year-old start talking back for the first time, I heard my five-year-old son have multiple extrovert-induced meltdowns and I battled with our seven-year-old over online schoolwork and his sensory seeking behaviors. I felt the green-eyed monster of envy glaring at my husband as he left for work and I stayed stranded with the four children again. I juggled meetings, navigated working full time at home, I refined our homeschooling routine, sat for social worker visits, attended virtual therapy appointments and confronted the most extreme behaviors I have ever had in my home with our daughter. I dealt with her fears, her past and stood toe to toe with her trauma as I stared it down wild-eyed refusing to let it have the last word in our home.

All the while I kept a regulated voice, I stayed collected, I utilized the strategies I teach other foster families professionally, and I made sure that everyone’s needs in our home were met. That is until 4:53 this evening, and I became completely unglued.

I yelled at my husband, even though I knew it wasn’t justified. Then I lost it collectively at all our kids and to top it all off I started to cry. Anyone who knows me understands I am not a sad, sorrowful or empathetic weeper. When I cry, they are red-hot angry tears that swirl with fury. I went downstairs to compose myself and I let the angry tears fall, trying to make sense of my emotions.

Now I don’t tell you all this to embarrass myself, make you feel sorry for me or to sound dramatic. I share this to pass along one of the best things I have learned in the past two years with trauma-based education in hopes that it helps you in this season too.

Anger is a secondary emotion to fear.

So, if that is true, if angry tears flew from me with vengeance, then I was bound to get to the bottom of what I was so afraid of. What was the fear driving the “first official mama meltdown of quarantine?”

I don’t journal so I made a list in my head and it went something like this:

  • I am anxious our three oldest are missing out on months of valuable education, and my homeschooling is detrimental to their overall progress academically (homeschooling is not my cup of tea to put it gracefully)
  • I am fearful I am not accomplishing professionally what I need to and not truly being an asset to our agency in a challenging economic climate (how on earth do you get work done at home with this many children in your personal space?)
  • I am worried that not having time together or a chance to go out will put strains on our marriage (the sweatpants for me, and not shaving for him aren’t helping anyone out if you get my drift)
  • I am scared that our children will have terrible sibling relationships after all this because of how annoyed and frustrated they are with one another (that is if they even survive this and don’t create our own Lord of the Flies experience)
  • I am nervous that my husband could lose his job or have his hours drastically cut and the financial implications that has (we have learned the elderly folks don’t tend to tithe online)
  • I am sad at the thought of not flying back to see my family because of travel restrictions and wonder how on earth we will survive the summer if this continues (a little help from Nana is all we need)
  • I am weary because I am insecure that I don’t have what it takes to keep going on like this with no relief and end in sight (the other introverts out there hear my cry)
  • I am insecure that even though professionally my role is to train foster parents, what I teach others felt like it didn’t work in my home… Making me a hypocrite (those who can’t do… teach)
  • I am grieving and frightened at the newfound level of loneliness I feel without community, seeing dear friends and fellowshipping at church or small group (I never realized how much I need a cup of chai tea and a conversation with dear friends)

 

I am scared this pandemic is changing our entire way of life and I am struggling to be joyful for the things I know to be true. I know that God is good, I know that we are healthy and safe right now, I know that we have a beautiful family, and I know this is time at home with family is a gift and someday I will miss it. Yes, there are things to be grateful for, there are blessings all around me. However, I am afraid my loneliness makes it difficult to focus on those blessings which inevitably causes me to get angry, cry and erupt in an out of character way.

Anger is the secondary response to fear. To get through this hard patch and move forward to healing I too must do what I ask my daughter to do every day. I need to practice what I preach to our Seven Homes foster families, which is simply this. When parenting children from hard places you must name their emotion before you can tame their behavior. We call it “name and tame.”

I am angry because I am fearful in this season of uncertainty. Maybe you are too… Anger is a normal feeling, but it is what we do with that anger that counts. The example I set at 4:53 was a bad one. I yelled, cried and I spoke from my raw emotions rather than setting the example as the controlled and regulated and safe adult.

What I am learning is simply this. We all are scared right now; we all have raw and frayed emotions. We are all tired and maybe even a little lonely. Today, I had to sit with angry tears and acknowledge that I am imperfect, I am inadequate, I am flawed, I cannot do it all and I am going to miss the mark more than I may get it right, especially under these unique circumstances. The reality is this my physical world is small right now, but my emotions are real because my fears are BIGGER than ever.

We are all scared. It is ok to admit that. To name our fears, to admit we don’t have control over most of them is the only way to surrender and move towards letting them go. I assure you, although my “mama meltdown” was unpleasant for everyone, the clarity and humility that resulted was refreshing to my soul. I am scared, it’s a time to be scared. But it is also a time to not let the fear and loneliness take over how I respond. Tonight, I realized that one of my biggest fears is navigating the intense loneliness that this quarantine has brought and when I acknowledged that fear I found comfort there. I realized that other moms are walking this same path and more than likely feel just as scared and alone as I do. I pictured them shouting out, “good heavens me too” in response to this article. Then I thought of the fun, colorful choice words some of my other friends use to let their anger out. The thought of sweet, gentle mamas I love letting out a colorful word to express jovial agreement with enthusiasm made me smile. With a momentary peace in my heart and smile on my lips, that moment allowed my fears and anger to release so that joy could be ushered back in.