the nest

the nest

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The new normal ISN'T NORMAL.

I'm so disgusted right now. Over and over again it happens. Innocent people are slaughtered right here in the "land of the free". Those who we have elected offer "thoughts and prayers" to those in Colorado Springs, Savannah, San Bernadino, and then go back to business as usual.

Right now I want to be writing about the holidays with my almost adult children. Thanksgiving was a warm up to Christmas and it is an interesting time to be a parent when your children come "home" to visit. I don't want to be talking yet again about the incredible stupidity of the country I live in. WHEN DO WE LEARN?

Yesterday my 16 year old posted the following on her FB page, "I think one of the saddest parts of the San Bernadino shooting today is that I'm no longer surprised by this kind of violence. I shouldn't be used to hearing about shootings. So incredibly sad and WRONG."

This child has grown up in a post-Columbine world. She has been struggling with increasing anxiety since she was 10. On the surface she has little to be anxious about. She is loved, she is beautiful, she is smart, she is kind, she works hard, she lives in a "safe" town with good schools, she is blessed. She has also grown up in a world that seems to be increasingly scary and unpredictable. It is no longer "when is the next shooting going to occur", the question is "where is it going to be today?" Of my three children she has grown up with the most media exposure from a young age. It's everywhere. School is also increasingly stressful (for many reasons) and does not appear to be any safer than any place else.

The facts say that she is still safer in our small town and in her school that in many places. Logic should tell her that she has little to fear and everything to look forward to. Facts and logic mean nothing when you have been in a state of fear and worry throughout your formative years.  Brains developing while under constant state of "preparedness" cannot possibly be optimal. How much of the dramatic increase in depression and anxiety among our children has as much to do with the "marketing" of our dangerous world? When they are bombarded with images of violence over and over, in places that "they could be" why wouldn't they begin to fear for themselves? If the messages they get from the adults in their world be in family members or the talking heads, is that "there is nothing we can do about 'it'" why wouldn't they begin to experience feelings of hopelessness and despair. If you are perpetually in a state of "fight or flight," your adrenaline levels stay high.  They aren't supposed to do this. THIS ISN'T NORMAL. It isn't normal for us to be in a state of "preparedness" ready to react at the slightest threat.

After a rough few days, H was showing signs of her normal, happy, goofy self. She made it through the school day without a text or a call home or a visit to the nurses office. The early part of the afternoon she was a joy. As the day progressed and she saw bits of news, scrolled through Facebook, watch a video on Syrian refugees and followed news reports on the events of San Bernadino, she began to wilt. Her stomach began to hurt, her fears of getting sick increased, her anxiety began to climb through the roof.

Strategies to calm her didn't work and finally her dad ended up sleeping in her room so she would feel safe. This morning despite a night of sleep she was still feeling miserable and stayed in bed. Another day of school will be missed.  How do I know this isn't just some virus? Because it happens with increasing frequency and we have explored all the possible "medical" explanations.  She is dealing with anxiety and physical illness is how it is expressed in her body. THIS ISN'T NORMAL.

At 16 her worries should be few - school, driving, boys, maybe thinking about college, what to wear. She should be spending increasing amounts of time with her friends, moving away from the "nest." Instead she is spending more and more time at home. She doesn't like to be alone at night. She worries about her own safety and the safety of her siblings who have left home. She worries about Syrian children who have nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat. She worries about other vulnerable populations who are bullied and abused. I might be projecting my own worries on her, but she worries about the world she is going to be responsible for. The world that will exist when she is "grown-up."

Right now it is too scary. She doesn't want to grow up. My smart, funny, talented, compassionate child is doing everything she can to not grow up. To not have to "leave the nest." I can't say I blame her. She is coming of age in a world full of hate and violence. A world where money and wealth appears to be valued over people. A world that doesn't seem to care about children or others who need our care.

It would be easy to say it's time to limit her media exposure. Tell her to stop watching the news. Tell her to stay off social media for a while. I want to protect her and surround her in a bubble of Christmas music and cookie baking.  I want to hide her from the world.

While we will have this conversation, I can't protect her from the world she lives in. Social media is a big part of that world and she needs to learn how to navigate through it.  Like her mom, she needs to learn when to "turn it off." We will continue to work with the different professionals in our life who are helping us develop strategies to deal with anxiety. We will breathe, journal, add yoga to our routine, continue to eat as healthfully as we can, find ways to serve others, and try to keep some perspective.

This is all a part of parenting for sure, and I know I have pretty tremendous kids. They all have a strong sense of responsibility to make the world a better place and I know they will. I just wish the world they were inheriting wasn't so f'ed up.

I am angry that instead of the fire drills and tornado drills of my childhood in MN, schools now have "active shooter" drills. THIS ISN'T NORMAL. I am angry that those in a position to learn from other countries who have successfully addressed these very issues, like Australia, insist on spouting the rhetoric of personal "rights" without taking responsibility for the safety of the community. I'm tired that the "rights" of the individual to own whatever gun they want, trumps the rights of my child (and yours) to have a childhood and to feel safe. I'm angry that everything comes back to the almighty dollar and whoever has the most money get's their way.

Like my daughter, I can so easily get overwhelmed by the horror and tragedy. As a grown-up I have to keep perspective. I have to model balance in my life and in my use of and access to Social media. I have to acknowledge that I can't fix everything. I need to take one small step at a time. There is so much good in the world and so many good people doing that good.  We need to see them and be them.  We need to shine a light on those doing good and also shine our own light.

In the Christian calendar we have just begun the season of Advent. A season of waiting and anticipating. We wait for the birth of Christ. The Light of the World. Here's the thing.  The light is already here - it's us. We can't just wait while we share our "thoughts and prayers." WE ARE THE LIGHT. When we accept responsibility for a broken world and dedicate ourselves to loving and healing it, then we welcome the Light. Only then will we truly welcome the Christ Child. Those who hate and condemn and judge seek to put the light out. While we wait in the darkness, we must shine a light.

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