The scary “What if…?”
What if this is all my fault?
What if our family is never whole again?
What if drugs (or alcohol or pornography) ruin his life forever?
What if he always hates me?
What if he never comes back?
What if I’m not the right mom for him?
Do these types of questions plague you whenever you have some downtime; you know, when your mind isn’t busy with something else? Are you always thinking about worst-case scenario because you’re just sure your son will keep destroying his life (and yours)? Do you put on a cheery face for everyone on the outside but in the meantime your heart and mind are consumed with all the fears and doubts you have for and about your son?
While there are definitely going to be periods of angst for you as you navigate these turbulent times with your son, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: if you’re willing to “go there” with some of your biggest fears, in an almost magical way those fears will shrink in size and some will even go away completely!
So, how do you “go there”? It’s simple ~ answer the “What if…?” Here’s what I mean:
For as long as I can remember, I’ve hoped for (and worked hard for) a close family as my boys grew up and became adults. I always imagined we would stay connected when we were apart, look forward to and cherish the time when we could all be together, and be there for each other through the hard times and the good times. My dreams for this family closeness seemed to disappear as our son alienated himself from us, hurting feelings along the way, and shutting us out even when we tried to include him.
One day I found myself consumed with the idea that “my family is broken” ~ and after a long walk with a friend I realized I had to answer the scary question: “What if our family is never whole again?”
My answer (which came over a period of time) includes:
Then there will always be a part of me that is sad.
I can’t control everyone else’s relationships so what if I just worry about my individual relationships with everyone and leave it at that.
Even I cannot see into the future. My family may never be how I imagined it but that doesn’t mean we are broken. (And there is a possibility that we could end up closer and stronger in the end.)
I can still enjoy and appreciate the good parts of our family and the times I get to spend with those I love.
For me, answering the “what if” helped the heavy cloud of despair to lift and showed me the parts I do have control over. The idea that my family may never be whole again no longer paralyzes me because I answered the question and can see that it’s not all doom and gloom (even though a part of me may always be sad).
What “What if…?” question is keeping you stuck? I challenge you to ask yourself the question out loud, and then answer it. As you do, you will loosen the hold it has over you and make room for the actual answers to grow into your reality.
***If you need help answering your own “What if…?” question, email me and I’ll help you work out how to answer it.***
QUESTIONS TO PONDER:
When your head is full of judgment for and criticism of you, it’s no wonder the figurative weight you carry can seem almost unbearable.
Last week we concentrated on the “What if” questions that plague us and hold us back. This week I have a different set of “what if” questions for you to consider:
What if you are a good enough mom for your son? Although none of us is perfect, I strongly believe that our kids didn’t come to us by mistake. I also believe that even when we “mess up” our mistakes (and even our flaws and weaknesses) are part of the process of learning and growing. We often mistakenly believe that if we just do this thing called motherhood “right” then nothing should go “wrong.” I happen to believe the “good enough” moms are the ones who continue to show up ~ even when our boys don’t deserve it. The “good enough” moms are the ones who keep loving ~ even if it’s from a distance sometimes. You are “good enough” because you keep loving him even when you hate what he’s doing and how he’s hurting himself and others.
How would your experience in all of this change if you knew you were a “good enough” mom?
What if this all should be happening? With the gift of hindsight, I can see some positive things that have come out of our struggle with our son. I have learned I truly don’t have as much control as I once thought I did. This might not seem like such a great thing but it’s allowed me to see what’s mine to own and what belongs to other people. No matter how much I love someone, spending a lot of my time trying to control how they feel or how they behave doesn’t mean I actually get to decide how they feel or what they do. This realization has freed up a lot of time that used to be spent on guilt, judgment, and criticism. If this was the only lesson I learned throughout this experience (and it’s not!), from where I stand now, it would be worth it.
How would your experience be different if you allowed for the possibility that all of this with your son should be happening?
What if you’re not a victim? I don’t know about you, but when I feel like my son is doing everything to me I feel powerless, like he’s in control and I’m subject to his choices and behavior. I hate that feeling. But as long as I believe he’s in the driver’s seat of my experience, it’s also easy to believe I’m the victim of his choices.
This all changed for me when I decided my son was not going to decide how I was going to show up in all of this. I remember realizing that I was letting someone who I believed was making poor choices determine whether I could be happy or not, whether I could be at peace or not, even whether I was a good enough mom or not. I definitely felt helpless because, try as I might, I could not change him.
But I am not a victim! Sure, my son has brought experiences into my life that I didn’t expect (or want), but he didn’t do any of this to me. Yes, my heart aches for some of the missed experiences and there are times when I’m disappointed but it’s because I love him and want what’s best for him (and I believe I know what that is!), not because of what he’s done.
This may all sound like semantics, but just go there with me for a minute ~ how would your life be better if you aren’t a victim in this relationship with your son?
A PIECE OF MY HEART: Change ~ It happens, even when you can’t see it
I wear a FitBit. I appreciate the reminders each hour to get up and move. I like reaching my “daily step” goal and seeing the fireworks on the screen. And I love it when I check my app at the end of the day and all the different fields are GREEN.
One morning, after walk/running 3+ miles, I looked down at my FitBit to see how close I was to my step-goal for the day… and realized I had forgotten to put my watch on that morning. What?!?! I was so disappointed. All of those thousands of steps would never get counted. It almost felt as though I hadn’t actually gone 3 miles because my watch hadn’t recorded it.
As I realized these thoughts were actually go through my mind I suddenly started laughing because… well… that’s ridiculous. Just because my app didn’t record the steps didn’t mean my feet and legs hadn’t actually taken each one of those steps, and it was silly to believe otherwise.
In the same vein, how many things happen in life that aren’t measured or observed by the human eye, and yet, they’re still happening?
Now, you may be wondering what all of this has to do with finding peace in our relationship with our boys. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes like to take a step back from where I stand right now and remember where I started.
After spending years believing I must not be a good enough mom because if I was my son would be making different choices, I now know I’m a pretty great mom because I can love him (and me) along his journey.
After too much time worrying that my son would always hates me, I now understand that while his struggles with himself make it look like he hates me, it actually says nothing about me. This new understanding has opened up a lot of compassion in myself for him and me… which allows me to be the kind of mom I want to be through all of this.
After being consumed with worry that drugs would ruin his life forever, I have learned that telling him this over and over won’t make him change. When I gained confidence that he knows what I think about this but also realized the choice is still his to make, it was almost as if it gave him some space to make some different choices.
Change can happen… even if you can’t readily see them and even if others cannot see them, either. It’s kind of like a physical goal I’ve been working on ~ to gain enough strength in my arms and core to do three real push-ups in a row. After working on this goal for about a month and not seeing any change in my muscles, one morning I was able to hold a plank (with perfect position!) for an entire minute. Nothing looks different on the outside but something had to have changed on the inside for me to be able to plank for that long.
The “what if” questions from this month are there to inspire some changes in you. Have you answered them yet? (If not, you can find them above!)
I challenge you to do that and I promise there will be some peace on the other side. Always remember ~ Peace is possible… even in your situation.