Senior Moments

Conventional definition of a “senior moment” includes forgetfulness brought about by age. I have a new definition.

Senior Moment: n. random incidents of crying brought about by the fact your child is graduating from high school (also applicable to college).

I’m always proud of her. We’ve had our moments of frustration, sure. But when I look at how far she has come, how she has changed and all that she’s accomplished, all I can think is, “Wow. That went fast.” And that knot shows up in my stomach, which moves to my throat. Sometimes the knot stays small, and sometimes it grows and escapes from my tear ducts.

Then the disjointed worries come. Can she handle college? Did I do okay? Is she scarred for life because of something I didn’t do? How much is Asperger’s going to get in the way of everything? How much should I get involved? She’s my daughter, but she’ll be a college student.

I’ve come to realize though that she no longer struggles to the point where I need to “fix” anything. Thank God, she trusts me and will tell me if she’s got a problem and asks what she should do. She doesn’t need or want me to fix it, just point her in the right direction.

Pass me a tissue.

She hugs me good bye and hello.

Pass another tissue, please.

She asks me to proofread her papers.

Yeah, I’m still shocked at that one.

Last month, she asked me to proofread the copy of her testimony for our church’s Youth Sunday worship service. The teens run the service, and some of the seniors speak and deliver a testimony in keeping with the theme. A Bible verse is connected with the testimony as well.

The theme is Diamonds, referring to a worship experience the youth had during a weekend mission trip to Chicago. My daughter and I talked about what diamonds go through to become diamonds: pressure, heat, stress. But we also talked about how the diamonds don’t come out of the ground faceted and sparkly.

It takes a craftsman to make that happen.

She took the idea and worked with it. And a few days later, she gave me the rough draft for thoughts and suggestions.

I read it and I cried.

There’s very little that I edited, because I wanted it to be genuine. She’s not a zircon, after all. She’s a diamond. And not all diamonds are perfect, but they’re still beautiful.

She wound up speaking at all three services. Speaking in front of 150 to 400 people at a time is a big step out of her comfort zone. Doing it three times? That’s dancing into new territory.

Her main topic was weathering her parents’ divorce. But she also talked about how people with Asperger’s don’t weather change well. These were the pressures forming a diamond…along with school, the usual stresses of high school socializing, and trying to find a new normal.

You can hear it in her own words. And as was read at the beginning, her support scripture was Jeremiah 29:11-12…”For I know the plans I have for you…”

Now she’s all registered for college. I am shocked at how fast 18 years went by. I still carry a mother’s fears in my heart…did I do okay? I have my senior moments…I mean, I cried when I picked up her graduation cake at the market. I apologized to the person working in the bakery. She just smiled and said, “I get it. Been there.”

I’m not sure why I started this post. Parents, hug your kids. They have trusted us for a long time and they still can. But we need to trust them too, and reassure them that if they stumble, we’ll help them through. There are plans in place that we cannot see. Plans for a hope and a future.

Snapshot: Waking Up

I had a hard time getting up this morning, and not because I’d been up late watching Star Wars: A New Hope with my daughter. In my dreams I got to spend time with someone I don’t see in person very often. And I didn’t want to go. Usually, I have to force myself to wake up. This time, I forced myself to stay asleep. It was equal amounts sweet and sad, but I’ll take it for now.

As was said in Romancing the Stone, I am a “hopeful romantic”.

Before we go any further…

Sheesh. Half way into January already. Somewhere amidst Christmas, New Year’s Eve, the Sugar Bowl, returning to a “normal” schedule, three snow days, and life in general…I neglected a post I do every year.

The Word of the Year.

My friend Karen C.L. Anderson – writer, blogger, coach, self-acceptance and healing guru – introduced me to this concept several years ago. She discovered it through Christine Kane, an expert in helping women focus their professional lives. Instead of setting a resolution for the new year, a Word of the Year is broader. It gives your year focus, but allows for many ways to make it happen (one destination, many paths).

I find when I don’t choose a Word of the Year, I feel more scattered and at loose ends. And frankly, I’m tired of saying “I’m going to lose 20 pounds” or “I’m going to get organized”, only to get to April and laaauuugh.

There are ways to arrive at your Word. If you go to Ms. Kane’s website, there’s a guide to help you with the process. For me, the biggest help (and biggest challenge) is stillness. Allowing myself time to just be, with no TV, no music, no tech…just comfortable clothes, maybe hot tea, and time to reflect. Not analyze. Reflect. Stroll through the archive of my life and look at things as an impartial but curious observer. The answer doesn’t always come right away. It can take several days and several tries, but a Word comes. And if I keep circling back to it, that’s a good sign.

One of the first times I focused on a Word of the Year, I came up with Fearless. Maybe it should have been “Fear Less”. I’ve always wanted to be “right”, to be the smartest kid in class, to not be wrong or make a mistake. But those desires hogtied me. They kept me from making any decisions. I’d rather sit on the fence than be wrong. So I decided that year to be Fearless.

It was a word I could hang my hat on. When faced with a tough decision, I could pull up one word. Fearless. Don’t be afraid to be wrong. Don’t be afraid to be right. Don’t be afraid.

While it never made things easy, it did help. Instead of a laundry list of failed resolutions and things I wasn’t accomplishing, I could remind myself of one goal. Fearless.

In 2014, my Word was Authentic. I spent a lot of time playing small, keeping my feelings to myself so I didn’t rock the boat, and living other people’s visions of my life. As is written in Ecclesiastes, “there’s a time for silence, and a time to speak.” I spent a lot of time in silence. Sure, I functioned, but mostly I was silent. So last year, I decided to be Authentic. I knew that meant I potentially would shock and irritate people…but is that my problem, or theirs? People who are used to me not standing up for myself or a principle were surprised…and sometimes I surprised myself, especially when that act of courage went well. But I grew. And I’m still growing. Just because the calendar has flipped to 2015 doesn’t mean I’m done with being Authentic. It takes practice. So does Fearlessness, for that matter.

On my refrigerator is a magnet and in my purse a small mirror with the legend “Be Fearlessly Authentic”, courtesy of There’s a Badge for That. Ms. Claire, the owner of TABFT, posted the image on the company’s Facebook page one day. She didn’t know it, but she reminded me of who to be.

Elizabeth Irwin - Fearlessly Authentic

Be Fearlessly Authentic

A few friends were on the receiving end of my quest for Authenticity. I don’t think they’re still honked at me. One actually appreciated the honesty. The expression was necessary, but the execution could have been better.

So where does that leave 2015? Like Fearlessness, Authenticity needs practice. It might take years, but that’s okay. I’ve decided on a new Word of the Year.

Wellness.

For me, this isn’t about living at the gym and denying myself things I enjoy. It’s about living in balance. Not just talking about, but implementing self-care. It means sleeping when I need to sleep. Seeking out good people when I’m lonely. Allowing myself to spend time doing nothing if that’s what fits. Saying no. Saying yes to things that are fun simply for the sake of fun. Eliminating foods that make me feel sloth-like. Trying new things like dance, yoga, and even painting. Making time to do a Bible study, even if I can’t make the class. Expressing feelings, even the “ugly” ones, is a part of Wellness. Listening to music. Reclaiming things I once enjoyed, and finding new things to add to the list.

In my line of work, I see people ailing in body, mind, and spirit. I realize what a short ride it is from well to unwell. In order to be the best that I can be for others – my children, my family, my friends, the people who rely on me – I have to be Well and take care of myself whenever possible.

So what’s your favorite way to practice self-care and wellness? Are you a resolution person, or a Word of the Year person? Do you have a Word of the Year? Please chime in!