Monday, October 2, 2017

red lantern.

We woke up to more tragedy today. Bullets rained down on concert goers in Las Vegas last night. It's a new layer of raw disbelief and painful grief for this country. We are on fire and flooded. Some lack clean drinking water and others are strung out on opioids. Kneeling is seen as an assault on patriotism while white supremacy by torchlight is called complicated. We are simultaneously isolated and at each other's throats. Lord, have mercy.

I am a person who feels things. I feel the weight of PTSD renewed in a political climate that validates rape culture. I feel the responsibility that comes with privilege as a middle class, straight, white person. I feel the stress of parenthood in a social moment that aches for a new generation equipped with courage, empathy, and kindness. I feel the power and urgency of the gospel so that I often sound idealistic because I am - I believe in the Kingdom of God in our midst. It's annoying and exhausting and awesome.

This week I have received the same compliment from several people: They express gratitude and wonder for my effervescent personality and optimistic energy. I usually joke that I am caffeinated. And I mean it when I say I get life from joy and challenge at home and at work. But if we linger a bit longer, I might tell them a little story like this one:

I do not come by this joy all on my own. I am an Enneagram Eight, which means I tend to challenge systems for the sake of independence and justice, which requires stubbornness and endurance. My greatest fear is being harmed by or at the mercy of another and I do what I can to stay in control. I'm in good company with Mae West, Ernest Hemingway, Martin Luther King Jr., and pretty much every dictator in modern history. I have a Seven-Wing, which means I like to be in charge, but I'll try to make it fun for everyone involved.

I had some mom guilt after working so much this weekend, so I got home early to make dinner and do laundry before picking all the kids up today. I made sure to wash superhero shirts and Solveig's favorite pants. I walked the news media line, trying to stay informed about the Las Vegas shooting without becoming consumed. I prayed at the bus stop and handed Jasper's driver a handwritten note, thanking him for taking such good care of our kids after school each day. Salaam.

The kids ran off together to color when they got home, but as the storm clouds rolled in, so did the whining and shoving. Yesterday's headache returned while I grilled shrimp on the stovetop. They forgot that they all like shrimp and gave me a hard time. I added more asparagus just to spite them. By the time we sat down to dinner it was pouring outside. But their attitudes were louder than the rain and I had to bow out. I gave Matt a sympathetic look and whispered, "Just ten minutes," as I stood up and put my rain jacket on. I admit, I relished their confusion as I slipped outside into different sounds.

Sometimes Zoloft and a good attitude isn't enough. I am grateful for medication that makes the boundary between me and the world's offenses a little less porous. It's the difference between me crying at the dinner table and taking ten minutes outside, hopping over puddles, breathing deeply, and stopping to notice that a few maple leaves have turned a brilliant red.

When I left, Jasper was red with anger about so many things: having been scolded for decking his sister, writing a few numbers backwards on his drawing, and the amount of asparagus on his plate to name a few. He self-describes this feeling as "red lantern": tear-soaked cheeks and a face raw with anger, frustration, and embarrassment. I found a leaf that looked like "red lantern" and I carried it for awhile.

My thighs were getting wet, but I stopped at a lending library. I am trying to get back in the habit of reading novels and just finished one last week. But instead my fingers found a copy of Jasper's favorite book as a toddler, "I Love You Through and Through". The binding was wobbly in a familiar way, so I opened it up and, sure enough, there was still a dried booger on the first page. It was our copy. It found me and my leaf. I tucked it into my jacket and headed home.

When I got inside, Jasper mumbled a slightly more than half-hearted, "Sorry". I surprised him with the leaf and explained why I brought it home for him. His face warmed with gratitude and then he asked about the book. The once whiny table was now hushed while I held the pages up for all to see. "I love your happy side and your sad side. I love your silly side and your mad side." Jasper moved to find my lap.

"Mom, can we keep this book forever and ever?" Of course. No one wants our booger book. But it seems to want us. We'll keep it forever and ever.

I share this story because it's Mental Health Awareness Week. Maybe you don't have PTSD or feel better on a drug like Zoloft, but you do need to take good care of your mental health. You deserve to feel safe and loved and free to take that walk around the block in the rain. And, when you do, you're more likely to recognize someone else for their red lantern moment. Your earned and honest effervescence will embolden you to tell yourself and them what we all need to hear these days: "I love you through and through...yesterday, today, and tomorrow, too."

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