Last year, I think it was, I heard an interview with a therapist who gave himself the moniker online “The Angry Therapist”. The Angry Therapist aka John Kim had during his own rebirth had discovered Tumblr one night while alone and angry at all that had occurred in his life – so created a page called The Angry Therapist where he encouraged people to ask him questions that he would answer in a manner he dubs “advice in a shot glass”. This guy is a therapist – and what he did would end up opening doors to books, podcasts, and his own life coach academy. His advice isn’t a gimmick but good solid advice delivered in a shot glass vs long drawn out sessions. I like his bluntness but also how concisely he can bring something up and make you go, ‘wow – never thought about it like that before”.
After hearing the interview, I started following him on social media and getting his daily text messages (that he sends Monday through Friday). I like people who make me think – and he is definitely someone who fits into that category.
For example, he just posted something about ending the year doing the “Three R’s”: reflections, revelation, and resolution. Basically he encourages people to reflect on their year by looking backwards. See what revelations were had about last year – what did you learn or were the takeaways. Finally, for resolution, what things do you need to do to close off ongoing issues or put to bed things so that you can start the year off with a blank slate.
Thinking through my last year and all that occurred, I wonder if it was only one year’s worth of events because it really feels like three separate years occurred. The first 3-4 months, we saw the rapid deterioration of the foster kid’s mental and emotional health that led to a lot of drug use, lashing out, suspensions, and eventually stealing. Ultimately, the state would decide he needs more specialized care than we (or most other foster homes) could not provide. Catching him (red handed honestly) solidified their decision and led to his rapid removal. All of that time really felt like it was a year just in itself. To look back on it and realize that occurred this year makes me realize how much time slows when you are in the middle of a battle of sorts.
The next part of my year was an exhale – a recovery and regrouping after a full year of foster care and nine months with such an intense kid. That part would be rediscovering what normal is as normal had become daily conversations with social workers, therapists, teachers, administrators, and all. Normal had become a constant smell of pot in the house and a safe full of pot we took from him. Normal was anger and constantly being on alert. This part was learning to exhale. Learning to not be on high alert all of the time. Remembering that normal is not smelling pot on the house, not having to worry about a kid being suspended on a daily basis, not having a vice principal on speed dial.
The last part of the year was about transition of a different sort. G is pretty much leaving teaching. He is transitioning into a new line of work which, as he says, has some similarities with teaching without the looming threat of visits from administrators and parents if a kid complains about him. This work transition is also a life one as he and I work opposite schedules – as most parenting falls with me – as most of all the household stuff falls with me now as he focuses on this change. While this change is only about 5 weeks in, it feels like months sometimes. Another weird situation where time does not match the feeling of time.
Also transitioning during that time was my parents deciding to leave their kids and grandkids and move back to the Midwest. I have been out on the west coast for almost 25 years now. The first 15 without them. The next 10 with them. And now we are transitioning back to being without them. This time, my brothers will be here too. That is even a transition. Add into it the transition of being right there to help my parents – and now having to do it from afar.
So what are my takeaways from this year:
1. You cannot help someone who does not believe they need help. Despite all of the bullshit, I still care about the kid. I really do because I understand his challenges given all that brought him into foster care both the first and the second times. He has got quite a hill to climb to get to mental and emotional health. But until he realizes is, he and his behaviors are just on a merry-go-round as he does the same things over and over again and does not get different results. I had to learn to be there for him while not getting on the damn merry-go-round with him.
2. People have battles that are their own. They may sometimes try to toss it onto others, but all you can do is let it lay there on the ground and not pick it up as it is their own. Or another way of putting it – don’t let people hand you their baggage for you to carry — everyone needs to carry their own. In years past, I would always try to at least lighten the load by helping carry. In the end, I usually ended up with the responsibility of the baggage or so it felt. Then I would be left wondering how someone else’s baggage became my problem. This year, I am leaving if someone tries to hand it to me – I don’t take it. I offer support and encouragement and all, but when we part – they take it with them. And for the first time in a long time, I don’t feel bad for not taking it. Fuck, why I ever felt bad in the past, I don’t know. Like #1, the work of deciding to and finally unpacking the baggage being carried around is not mine – it is the other person. Yes, this is another lesson from both foster kids, but I am finding that I am applying it all over the place which has been great for my own mental health.
3. The universe (or God or whatever you believe) will tell you if something is meant to be by making it everything align in a way that makes it impossible to ignore. When G thought about making the career change, it was like the minute he put it into the universe, the universe responded positively. He had people come out of the woodwork encouraging him – guiding him on how to make it happen – offering to help him anyway they can. Each obstacle that arose was almost immediately minimized into nothing. It was truly incredible to see everything come together. And while there are still some struggles sometimes – they aren’t insurmountable. The direction and momentum are both positive.
4. During the year, I continued my photography project I have been doing for a well over a year now but put it on pause. I stressed and fretted that the magic from almost 2 years ago when I started would not be found again. My lesson: I brought the magic – the models just fed off of it. I had not given myself enough credit – crediting the models or the mood or the helpers with bringing it all. What I found – it’s me – it’s the idea – it’s my setup. I need to keep remembering that.
5. Change is constant – laugh when you can. The thing that has truly gotten me through this past year is my team at work. Because they have worked together for so long, they tend to be a bit more laid back with each other. I am happy to be part of that group now because in the days I was the most stress, I would go to work and find myself laughing my ass off about something or another. Sure it was stressful too – but through the laughter I realized how much I wasn’t laughing and how much I needed to laugh. I needed the relief and release.
6. The people you love may disappoint you in their unwillingness to understand or, at least, be supportive of something you are going through. When the foster kid’s issues were peaking, almost my entire family was like “get rid of him” like he was a dog to just be tossed back into the pound. They would get angry and frustrated that we were still trying. They did not understand nor did they want to understand what was happening. He was a bad kid – in their opinion – and it didn’t matter he was abused and that it was adults who have put him on this path. This honestly has gutted me this year – more than anything else. While I know most of it came from a place of love for me, it was hard to learn that the people who taught me people were worth helping were not demonstrating that “worth helping” came with conditions.
So what do I feel I need to resolve before the end of the year –
The big one is the shit with the foster kid. I feel like it is just hanging out there. I feel like he keeps us somewhat attached to it all. His latest thing was on path to get it resolved in some way, shape or form – but it appears to still be in limbo despite all of the evidence and all. Justice does not move quickly.
I have an open thing with my little brother, but I think I need to apply lesson number two to this situation. Not my baggage. Also, natural consequences are a good thing. He is no longer a kid – time for him to grow up. I think it will be interesting to see how not having our parents nearby affects him the most. This I will be the first time in his life where he won’t have them nearby. Should be interesting.
Overall, I’m ready for the new year. Bring on 2020.