My mission this holiday season is to figure out what it is I am created to do, my destiny. I am comprised of several components none of which are defining.
I am a Mom. I have three kids that each have special challenges, some unique and some so very common. My eldest daughter is a bright, beautiful ten-year-old girl who suffers from Bipolar Disorder. I can tell you now that my special calling is not to work with mental illness. I read article after article on dealing with depression in bi-polar and the course of action and non-reaction that should take place. I repeat steadily to myself, “Julia, it’s an illness. She can’t help herself. Support her through this.” I say all of these things reminding me that being 10 with bi-polar and approaching puberty is a chemical nightmare. Still when I say, “do your reading kiddo” or “let’s get started on this project” and the anxiety kicks in and she starts scratching herself I feel myself begin to panic. Quick as a wink Olivia finds an outlet, typically her brother, that prevents her from moving forward. I try in a usually feeble attempt to solve this problem with some gem from my youth like “just ignore him.” Remembering how well that never worked I then start to try to control Cooper’s behavior losing sight of the original goal completely. Cooper, who is a delicious nine-year-old boy who battles with high functioning Autism and a healthy dash of OCD, completely side rails me and my own emotional issues start bubbling up, and anger kicks in. Feeling defeated I turn back to Olivia still scratching and avoiding her work but has now introduced topics like public humility at the hands of her music teacher or a fellow student who criticized her. Quickly my attention is re-directed to figuring out how to make Olivia not drop out of school because I am sure that is what is about to happen. In the middle of my daughter, Ruby who is a sweet but very stubborn six-year-old insists on doing some reading or spelling which takes another level of patients since a very enthusiastic Ruby is delayed in her reading and spelling. Okay, Julia praise Ruby, “honey good job.” A quick look to Olivia who is now breathing at a rapid rate, Cooper begins taking his clothes off and repeating irritating phrases to get the attention of his sisters. Olivia starts chasing Cooper, full mania taking over. Ruby usually ends up getting hit and screaming. Okay, Dr. Spock what now? I take one of two fantastic parenting routes; Screaming at everyone and invoking fear or walk away to the basement and do the laundry.
I am a Stage Manager in the theatre. I love the mix of people and the variance in the work. I can be working with a fifth-generation Stage Hand who could give you the untold history of the theatre during a slow pre-set one minute and the next minute laughing with a star who has come to Broadway to work those acting chops long since realized because of a successful sitcom. Mostly I enjoy working with good old theatre professionals. The dancer who is finally got a part that is character movement after hoofing their way through the chorus for years. The principal actor who is a team player and raises the bar at work to motivate everyone else working on the show. The stagehands that have family that they take any opportunity to brag about. The Company Manager who you see the gleam in their eye that this is just a stepping stone to Producing shows themselves one day. The House Manager who has heard every complaint about air flow and plumbing every thought possible. I could try to find a deeper purpose in my work and how I operate as a manager but those skills need to remain very fluid in the theatre since every show requires a different skill set. Once again not really letting me find that defining style. Not to mention that once again mental illness comes into play but in the case of the theatre professional, present company included, mental illness is actually a nurtured trait, we like to think of it as creative genius.
Perhaps I am living my destiny. Raising children that I hope one day will be happy functional adults and taking my part in a business that brings joy and the occasional lesson to the lives of thousands every day. Perhaps it’s not searching that I need to do, perhaps it’s just staying present and available that defines me.
Great post Julia – I love your honesty. Saw a great documentary once (can’t remember what its called!) about a single woman who ended up adopting 6 kids, when the documentary was made the eldest was 36 the youngest was 14/15. They were all sitting round the dinner table and there was a happy jovial atmosphere, the youngest was talking about being excluded from school, again, the eldest son ( who was 36) who the mother had just described in an interview to camera as ‘just having turned a corner – he’s just got his electricians licence and met a nice girl..’ was lecturing his brother in a kind gentle way about the benefits of staying in school and working hard. There was much laughter, so much love around the table.
I remember realising at that point that the only two essential qualities for successful parenting are love and staying power, beyond that there is no wrong or right, success or failure, good or bad. Its true that having kids made me want to be the best person I could be – but that person is never going to be anyone else but me, flawed,busy,cross,sad,angry,awesome,selfish,awesome and awesome.
Jess, I’d dare say you are awesome in your crossness
It is so heartening to hear others be super honest about the mayhem of parenting.