To My Soldiering Sisters

You know who you are. The ones they call “special”, but all you really want is to be ordinary. I see you. I see you muscling through each day to create a manageable life for yourself and your family. I see the fire within you that is ignited by the love and determination you have to help your child. I see all the energy you muster up just to get this one child through the day and, yet, there’s also the day-to-day life stuff that needs you: other children, relationships, bills, chores – where will the energy come from? I see your anger and grief when the days have sucked you dry and you haven’t a drop left to give back to yourself. I see you collapse on the couch from total exhaustion, an empty shell, praying that the child will sleep tonight so you can get just enough rest to somehow do it all again tomorrow. I see you clinging to hope like a deflated life jacket. I see you never giving up, even when there’s something deep within you that wants to. I see you celebrating over the teeniest victories because they are actually monumental and only you know the steep mountains you both clawed up to get there. I see you politely digesting the unsolicited advice of others who do not have any idea what your job entails. I see you craving from others simply more understanding, more acknowledgement, more comfort, more breaks. I see the isolation and the loneliness you feel, especially in the company of others whose reality is not yours. I see you educating the teachers, the doctors, strangers, store clerks, hell, even the local police department, relentlessly, over and over, the same story, the same details, because one day they have to get it, right??? I see the effort you put into making life comfortable for those around you, protecting them from your reality. I see your muscles tense when you recognize the signs of an incoming tantrum. The signs that only you know because you’ve been here hundreds, maybe thousands, of times before. I see you patiently helping others who work with your child to navigate those same signs, so often to no avail. I see your frustration when you realize that some people will never get it because it’s not their kid or they think they know more than you or they just don’t care. I see you holding it together on the outside while your throat is closing up and your chest is squeezing tight and you are literally reminding yourself to breathe. I see the cautious relief that comes when a whole day has passed without a meltdown. I see you briefly remembering what it feels like to be relaxed and calm. I see you struggling to stay in that moment of peace as your thoughts pound mercilessly wondering when it will all unravel again because you know it’s just a matter of time until it does. I also see how easy it is for you to list all the ways you are screwing this up. And, I see how difficult it is for you to list all the ways you manage this so gracefully, patiently, masterfully. I see your keen ability to anticipate what will happen next. I see your bag of tricks and countless strategies and your willingness to try anything if it means it might make things better. But, you are just so hard on yourself. Like you’re supposed to fix the unfixable. Or, like this is your fault. It’s not your fault. I see how guilty you feel when you lose your temper. I see you pushing the resentment away like toxic sludge that is working so hard to seep under your skin. I see your suffocating fear of the future and your chronic worry of what will happen when I am gone? I see you planning and arranging for a future without you in it. I see you fighting to remember what joy feels like, fighting for time to yourself, fighting against behaviors you can’t control, fighting not to become hardened by this life, fighting to do better, fighting a messed up system that consistently fails your child…..everything is a fight for you. None of this comes easy. It all feels like treading through mud. Or quicksand. And, to my sisters who do this without a partner or with a partner who doesn’t contribute, I see you carrying the load of 10 people. It’s all on you and you do it and no one understands how. They marvel at your strength. And you say quietly to yourself, but what choice do I have? Yet, I see you making the choice everyday to get up and go through the motions and do it all because your resilience is your superpower, except you’re too busy on the frontlines to have the chance to stop and see that.

My Soldiering Sisters, I see you loving each other. I see you providing around the clock support to your fellow sister mamas who live all over the world, many you have never even met in person, but you know them so well and your heart breaks open for them. I see you cheering each other on, offering survival strategies, working so hard to make life easier for each other because their hope gives you hope and their success is your success. It doesn’t matter if your child is one year old or thirty-five, from this country or that one, firstborn or youngest – you are bonded by something bigger. I see you freely offering each other strength and validation. I see you nodding at each other’s posts, saying, Yes, yes this is my life, too. I see you making each other laugh until you cry. I see you genuinely sorry that anyone else has to endure what has become so familiar to you. I see you exchanging war stories full of sadness and humor, but always real and raw. I see you trusting each other with your stories, like delicate treasures, you place them in each others’ hands and ask to please, please carry this with me because I cannot do it alone. I see you saying again and again to each other You are never alone. I see your vulnerability inspire all of us to just keep going. I see the power of community and love. I see the strength and healing that comes when you pour these two potencies on top of pain.

I see you. I am you. And I love you.

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