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Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people
Won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

~Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

She thinks I am helping her; really, she is helping me. This invitation to participate in her latest endeavor reawakens a part of me which has lain dormant for so long. It was once a vital part of me but it is not now an integral part of my daily life. It has been, until now, a memory of a dream —a fragment of me in the distant past. The door has been closed, locked, and the key buried deep somewhere.

My seventeen year old niece is a fledgling singer-songwriter. (Click here to listen to a sample; I am not on this recording. You may need to turn up the volume to hear clearly.) She’s gotten some very positive feedback from professionals and is currently working on her first studio CD. She’s also doing her first gig as a headliner in a summer music series of free concerts on the green in the historic section of our town. Her style is in the vein of indie folk pop. I am incredibly proud of her —and, I confess, a tad envious. I joke and tease her, telling her she is living my dream; the dream I was too afraid to pursue.

For some reason, she has decided that her decrepit old auntie has some sort of wisdom to impart and talent to add to her bag of tricks. When she asked me to give feedback and help with some of her arrangements I was touched, flattered really. When she asked me to help her in the recording studio I was thrilled; the experience was a trip down memory lane. When she asked me to perform with her in her concert —so what if it was only for one song —I felt reborn. Rehearsing with her (very young!) band has stirred memories and kindled thoughts.

[Unfortunately, the concert got rained out Thursday night; it’s been rescheduled for next Saturday.]

When I left NYC all those years ago, I thought I had to put away the dream and grow up, be responsible. And I did a really good job of convincing myself that it was all “part of my youthful fantasy.” Niksdad and I got married; we worked hard and saved money, bought a house, and began living the American Dream. I always figured I’d become active in the community theater scene at some point. Then, along came Nik and all thoughts of returning to performing were shoved aside for good. My son needed me and, frankly, I could barely pull myself together in those early days.

Even now, it just isn’t practical; I’m a SAHM to a child with multiple special needs and my husband is going to nursing school —trying to build a new, more secure life for us. I had thought I would patiently wait my turn until Niksdad finished not just his RN but also his MSN and his CRNA. I thought I’d wait until Nik was back in school and on a more regular schedule before I even thought about music and theater again.

Evan’s death struck a chord so resonant inside of me; it shook me to the core of my being. For the first weeks and days afterward, I felt guilty for voicing the thoughts, the fears which arose each time my son spiked a high fever of unknown origin or when he played much more quietly than is his usual mode. I found myself jumping at bogey men in the dark –the dark of night, the dark of my thoughts.

Recently, I had a long, heartfelt conversation with Vicki. We talked about many things including —especially —about Evan. One of the things we talked about which has stayed with me is the certainty that we must live our lives with no regrets. Neither for our children nor for ourselves.

I think about this as it applies to so many things in my life. I spend my days helping my son to achieve his potential but what kind of example am I really giving him to follow? I don’t want him to learn to sublimate all his dreams and desires because of handicaps —either real or perceived. The world will throw enough road blocks in his path; it’s up to me to teach him to forge ahead even when it looks and feels difficult. He taught me that simply through his being; I am obliged to live my life as a reminder for him.

I’ve always fantasized about forming a small combo and performing jazz and standards; though my training is operatic, my love is definitely cabaret. For so long, I’ve listened to my inner critic —the one which tells me I can’t, I’m not good enough, it’ll never work, my family needs me. But, maybe it’s time I pull my voice out of mothballs and give it a good workout. Spend this year getting my chops back and start looking for musicians to jam with —even if it’s only once a month.

I don’t know what it’s going to look like but if I don’t at least try, I’ll regret it. And that would be a waste.

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Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.
~Lao Tzu

Step one — make room:

Dear People-I-Have-Come-to-Honor-and-Respect,

I want to let you all know that I will no longer be participating with
the [names of groups here].

As you know, circumstances change; taking care of my family is a top priority. When I undertook each of those commitments my family was in a very different place; Nik was in school and Niksdad was just embarking upon his new career path. Now, I am home schooling Nik and coordinating his many therapies —to which he is responding very well —and Niksdad’s school and work schedule are quite demanding. He begins his last year of the RN program on August 25th and will be in a combination of classes and clinical rotations Monday through Friday (both days and evenings) in addition to his LPN job on weekends.

As Nik gets more and more active and has significant developmental bursts, I need to create some more specific structure for him so that he continues to progress; he is not the sort of child one can expect to sit and play quietly in a conference room while Mommy is in a meeting down the hall. Our childcare experiment back in April was what helped me to realize that Nik needs something different right now. I do think that some sort of on-site childcare may work for some families and should be offered as an option to encourage more parents to participate.

I did not make this decision lightly; I believe in the work we are doing and I hate to feel I amletting other people down. The truth of the matter, though, is that I would be letting my family down if I made any other choice right now. I firmly believe that advocacy must begin at home and there is much that demands my attention here now; both of my guys need my full support to be successful.

Thank you for all the opportunities you have provided for me to learn and grow as a leader, and to contribute to the success of children and families in our state.

I wish you all the very best,

Niksmom

Step Two — Breathe…

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“It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts.” ~K.T. Jong

“The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.”
~James M. Barrie

I feel there are some things I need to clarify from last night’s sorrowful post.

I feel compelled to mention that, though I live in my hometown, we only recently moved back here; as soon as Nik came off of his supplemental oxygen in April 2005, we packed up and moved across country to be closer to our families and the support system they might offer. While it helps some, it is definitely not the same as the network of friends and face-to-face relationships both my husband and I had back in CA.

I haven’t lived in my hometown in more than twenty-five years; as all things do with time, it has changed drastically. When I left this town all those years ago it was with a giant chip on my shoulder (ah, the naivete of youth) and a desire never to return. Most of my old classmates have moved away; some have even died. The relationships I have formed since we returned have all been with people in the special needs service arena; the parents are, like me, hard to find.

Also, since we moved back here, Niksdad has immersed himself in school —striving to create a better life for us. It is demanding and exhausting for him and, sometimes, lonely for me. Anyone who has supported a spouse going through school will understand, I think. There are no problems, per se, just not an awful lot of energy left to go around. We are both depleted.

While he has been off for the summer, Niksdad and I have helped each other recharge, reconnect, and regroup. We’ve functioned as the great team that we are —we always have been —and he has been highly supportive of me taking time just for myself; for a while I’ve been content to wander alone. Yet, as the start of the school year approaches —the final and most challenging of Niksdad’s program —I realize how much I need from others to help me feel recharged —to be able to keep going when it’s grueling and I’m tired and want to lie down and sleep through it all. It’s been a wake up call for me.

I am so incredibly blessed to have found blogging not only as an outlet for self-expression but as a means of making some deep, meaningful connections —connections I want to nurture as I never have in the past and create real friendships. Those connections are important —vital —to me; in fact, they have helped me reconnect with parts of myself that have little to do with being Niksmom and more to do with simply being a woman.

Still, one must admit, there is nothing quite the same as the warmth of a friend’s embrace be it in greeting, in celebration, or in sorrow.

That is the thing which I lack and which I must now begin to find again.

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