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Martha's big adventure -- Mothers can change, too

Back in 1987, when my son, Louie, was brand new to this world, I felt so unsure of myself as a mother that I would repeat over and over again, "He'll grow up in spite of me."

Now, he is 22 years old and there has been a lot of living between then and now.

Along the way, there were particularly large events that created a mark so indelible that anything that happened around them were seen as before or after. In 1990, there was the divorce and moving out of the only house I've ever owned.

I can easily place smaller events right around that and see how well I accepted change and how much I flailed against it.

In those days, I was much more likely to move very reluctantly through any kind of change, which stopped me from evaluating all of my options. I really didn't want to be doing anything, and out of a fear that things couldn't work out, I refused to actively make decisions. It was as if I was trying to avoid blame for the disasters I was sure were just ahead of me.

But, in 2006, I was finally worn out enough and sought to figure out why I never felt peaceful. Anxiety in those days was a constant state of being for me and I was pretty bad about celebrating anything that happened in my life. None of it lessened my fear of just living so none of it was enough.

Books were published and there were articles in major newspapers, new boyfriends, running in 5k races and plenty more. There was a lot of living that slipped through my fingers.

I still felt empty and alone and I looked at others who appeared to be more peaceful and felt they had some secret that created a gulf between us.

The event in 2006 that finally pushed me into seeking help was the discovery that Louie was an alcoholic, and that all of my efforts, that in those days I called "help," weren't going to be enough. I had failed at the one thing in my life that I had thought I was really good at doing, or so I thought.

I am telling this part of our history with Louie's permission and only as a measure of my own growth, because, as it turns out, that day in August, 2006 was the worst and the best day of my life. I finally asked for help and stayed around long enough to figure out how to use what was offered.

Back then, I never understood how much I kept to myself until I started reaching out toward others who were going through a similar life story. Even now, I can suddenly become aware of an old anxiety that I'm still wrestling with all by myself, even though there are places that I have found that I can share and find comfort.

Part of my growth has also been learning how to pray without begging, and then actually accepting the help that was provided. I was equally as bad about acceptance as I was at asking in the first place. I learned that talking about what works isn't the same as actually taking the steps. One is a life in theory and the other is actually living.

This past holiday season, I had the opportunity to hang out with Louie, who is now sober, and his girlfriend, Kathy, and see that we have developed a new kind of normal. There are boundaries now that make it easier to share each other's lives and there is a new respect as well as a lot more humor in our lives.

Best of all, I mostly live in a peaceful state of being these days and have tools and people I can turn to when I slip out of that state. I can recognize that having lower moments is a normal part of living as well. It's a quiet kind of indelible mark that I can place the events of life around and appreciate what has always been available to me. More adventure to follow.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. Ask Martha how to get to your dream and receive a free gift of Martha's new Big Adventure book, "The 3 x 5 Game" -- ww.marthasbigadventure.com/book. E-mail her at: Martha@marthasbigadventure.com.