Easy words to type and say, but, oh so hard to put into practice and live consistently. This week I am constantly reminding and pushing myself to try and live this way.
My daughter, Sophie has left home at the age of nearly 25. It’s been an exhausting rollercoaster – physically and mentally. Of course, most children do leave home and many go much earlier than she has done. And, it’s not like she has never left home before – she has and come back, and gone and come back again – several times over.
You can’t deny her determination to try and break free – you can see her champing at the bit, wanting to go and get on with life and be an “independent young adult” (her words). But, she carries heavy bags that weigh her down and very nearly break her from time to time, and I don’t mean in the literal sense. These are bags full of mental illness (not chosen, wanted or selected by her, then or now) that literally can drag her to the very depths of despair and hopelessness. As she reaches breaking point, I of course offer home, support and love as a haven, as a place to rest, reset and try again. She comes back, with the heavy bags and carries them around at home…..
This time feels different for both of us, more permanent, final, realistic, “come what may”, a better set up, more mature? Not sure really, but I can sense an air “of this is it”, and other than the odd overnight stay, her room will remain Sophie’s room, but somewhere to do the ironing, let the sushine in, look at and over time gradually empty of her.
Although it feels different and more positive than previous departures, I am terrified and scared – that she won’t make it and will need to be retrieved again. I don’t mind the retrieving, it’s the sense of failure in her eyes I can’t bear, knowing there is so little I can do, except to love and gently say “try again next time” when you are ready.
So, in an attempt to make it OK, my natural tendency is to fall back on old well-established habits, focused on trying to control the situation. “If I was you…..”, “well, you’re not – so back off”. Hovering, watching, checking up, suggesting, recommending – none of which of course particularly helps her and in actual fact does me little good really!
Instead, I need to learn to “let go and let be”.
It’s OK for people and Sophie to make mistakes, and in fact, it’s often the right way to learn and grow as an individual. Quite rightly she wants to do things differently to how I would do them, and live her life differently to how I did when I was 25. And – Jo – that is OK, really it is, she has to find her own way, and as my Mum would have said “let her learn to stand on her own two feet”, though one is broken right now, which is adding to my anxiety levels as she hobbles around in a cast with crutches. What if she falls down the stairs, what if, what if, what if……STOP IT!!!
So, here are a few things that I am having a go at to try and learn to let go and let be…. It’s work in progress for sure.
- Distraction therapy is very good, doing more of what I like doing, because I have the time and, well it distracts me. Walking, running, writing, tidying, sorting, working – in no particular order. However, I need more distractions – suggestions please?
- Setting boundaries – around when to visit, catch up, when and what support is needed, how to stay in touch without being overbearing, yet caring and loving. This is a very fine line and needs to be treaded carefully – on both sides. So far, so good……we seem to have found a balance that is working and is not too prescriptive. The secret to success – we worked it out together, not me on my own or Sophie on her own.
- Reclaiming space – my girl is small but mighty when it comes to taking up space around the house, so I have found it strangely cathartic to reclaim, tidy and take pleasure in a new sense of order. Equally, I have at times found myself reduced to tears that it no longer feels like a family home….but then, all “empty nesters” have to cope with that.
- Continue to repeat and focus on some of my well-oiled mantras:
- I can’t fix her, so stop trying to
- It’s OK to hate the illness but love her to pieces and somehow try to separate the two – very hard this one
- Let go!!!! Keep saying it Jo and it may actually happen one day
- Talking differently by stating the obvious upfront, “I know we find this subject (whatever it is) difficult to talk about, so can we acknowledge/accept that and have a brief chat about it, and then move on?” And, yes we can…..
- Learning to laugh together again, well you can’t really learn to do that, but glory be, somehow it’s happening… “what you aren’t wearing knickers!!!!”
- Living in the moment – I can’t change what’s gone before and I certainly can’t say what is going to happen tomorrow. So deal with just today – in all its splendour, madness or whatever shape the minutes, hours and day are taking.
- The worry will never stop. Being a parent lasts forever, as long as your child and you are in this world – accept you are going to worry about them. The worrying starts at about the exact moment the sperm hits the egg and it never goes. It may wax and wane, but it’s there, so accept it and learn to manage it. My Dad, bless his soul was still worrying about me when he was 87 and I was 59!
- Wiser and stronger, I try to remember that my girl is both of these things and has learnt and experienced a lot in her short life. One of my friends said to me, “try not to worry too much, Sophie always works it out one way or another”, and she does and has.
- “Get on with your life Mrs Redman” – words given to me on more than one occasion by medical people involved in Sophie’s care and support over the years. They are the pro’s right? So should heed their advice and get on with my life…… just need to work out what I want to do, and how to do it………