Follow up to Because of or Despite: My mom's Reflections
These are the reflections of my mom. Her vulnerability, openness and honesty are so admirable and noteworthy here. If there is anyone else in my life reading this who wants to share, please do and I look forward to your responses. I can even share them publicly if you want to contribute to the story.
I have to acknowledge my mom for her courage. To keep going all that time. To keep loving me. To grow with me and together and to be so committed to knowing that something else could be.
Thank you mom. Immensely.
Oh Livi! Today you share with me that you are at last allowing yourself to process the emotions you stuffed down during the time you left home as a teenager. This is good, I think to myself. As we talk more, you verbalize how good it would be for you to write it all out, and suddenly it takes on the possibility of becoming a blog. You are thrilled! Good for you, I think again, to be able to express it now, let it out, feel it emerge from you, bring it into your consciousness and release it.
And how do I feel?
I am startled, suddenly confronted with the realization that I will want to read it, of course, and once again stand face to face with my own memories of the horror of those days.
Despite talking openly about it as a family, my reaction shows me that I, too, still have some emotions to process. You have asked all of us, your readers, to listen with big ears; my goal is also to respond with a big heart. So, I will take a deep breath and accompany you through each post, thankful that you, my daughter, survived that dark chapter between us; thankful that our family relationships have been transformed; and thankful that you are here to take this brave emotional step towards healing an ancient wound.
Fueled by fear and a fierce desire not to give up on you, I start plotting. Beginning with the night before I had the police come to the house to arrest you, I started plotting “rescue plans” of which I never before thought myself capable. Rationally I told myself these plans could keep you safe. Yet the pit in my stomach told me I was a traitor. I knew that any attempt at an intervention would involve deceiving you, and it went against my deepest core to lie to you. So, I stuffed down my fears, embarrassment, shame, powerlessness, hurt, indignance, insecurities, righteousness, and anger in order to act – to set up the arrest. I had placed all my faith in “logical consequences,” fully believing that allowing strangers to rupture your world by removing you from our home against your will would result in your coming back magically restored and would put an end to what I saw as the chaos raging inside you. What I neglected to see was the chaos in our home and my part in how that chaos was generated in the first place.
Today, when I read your words in Part 1, I am heartbroken for your pain. Masked behind that façade of a rebellious teenager, how did I not see a hurting little girl desperately in need of reassurance from her Mom?
On the day when the call came from school, I felt like a sword pierced my heart. My baby was missing. Immediately I felt the deepest fear I have ever experienced as a mother. And yet immediately alongside it I felt the presence of God, right there, assuring me simultaneously that you would be okay. I took ahold of that hope and clung to it tightly. It would become our most powerful light in the dark days ahead.
Today as I read your description of stuffing your terror during your first days in California, I feel nauseous. How many times did you fear death, and I was unaware? I am struck to be learning something new about you. The girl who always had a solution—or invented one when she needed it—whose friends relied on her to make the plan—had felt terror in realizing she put her survival in the hands of a boy who had no plan. Back then, I didn’t think you could ever be afraid. And so today I shake myself in disbelief, looking back at my own blindness—how could I have missed it? Why didn’t I see through your smokescreen of bravado earlier, many years earlier?
How could I have missed the scared little girl whose trust was broken years ago?
I am so sorry, my baby.
So much sadness and pain in your words describing this day. As you relive your shock and disbelief at being caught off guard, handcuffed, and whisked off from court to Kansas, I am reminded of the painful irony that enshrouded us in that moment. After weeks of fearing you were dead or gone forever, I wanted so desperately to hug you and bring you home; yet I wanted even more for you to become healthy. I still perceived the cause of the chaos as coming from your behavior, rather than a systemic family issue, so I plotted once more to send you away to rehab, to be “healed.” Within 24 hours of getting you back alive, I steeled myself against my overwhelming sadness of giving you up again.
Today in the comments from one of the readers on your blog, you offer me a gift—the gift to look through your 15-year-old’s eyes for insight.
“There are no regrets,” you say.
I see now that regrets come from wishing for what was not. In reality, by acknowledging and embracing what actually happened, we can accept the gifts, even in retrospect!
Today as you recount the gut-wrenching emotions you experienced on the night you surrendered to the little voice telling you not to run, I am struck by 2 opposing emotions of my own: first, a wave of disbelief—even now I am amazed that you listened to that voice; and second, a wave of remorse—how did I unknowingly opt for a treatment that would bring you such desperation? I know we’ve talked about it before, but at times I still struggle with these feelings of guilt. However, something different surfaces for me in this retelling today. It’s the way you mention how you chose to stay, even when it was the only option. You write that once the surrender came, what followed was your commitment to choosing what you would accomplish while you were there; and that was followed by a sense of peace. What I realize for the first time in your words today is that miraculously, in that environment of deprivation which was 100% out of your control, you were choosing the one thing that you could control: your self. And that is when your peace began. It is such a “Landmark” moment!
Before we move on from this emotional recall of one of your darkest nights, I want to acknowledge you for recognizing that voice as the voice of God. At the time, you and I were in such different places with our faith. And yet, despite being literally worlds apart, what we unknowingly shared that night was a moment of faith. When I accepted that I had no control over what was happening to you, no control over time, no control over the criticism of people around me, I remember surrendering to God, being inexplicably drawn to this scripture verse from
Psalm 37, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust that God will act and make your integrity shine like the dawn, your vindication like noonday.”
No wonder! God wasn’t calling me to do something—in fact, He was calling me not to act, just as He was calling you not to go. But what was He calling us to? In retrospect, I believe he was calling us both to trust. To trust in divine inspiration, in divine guidance and grace, in a source of restoration that was beyond our singular wills.
During those initial days and weeks at rehab, when we couldn’t communicate with each other, I remember the horrible longing I felt by being denied access to you. When I read your memories today that ooze with powerlessness and desperation, I am overwhelmed by your sadness. These were not the lessons I thought you would encounter. I am thankful that you are taking this present moment to let yourself move through these emotions and try to release them.
Your words today remind me of a powerful emotional turning point. As the weeks and months passed, despite what they said, I had witnessed your healing, our healing, and I KNEW you were ready to come home. With that knowing came the realization that I no longer needed to look outside for the answer to our healing. Our family had been restored from the inside. On that day, I informed them you were coming home. That was it!
Now when you recount your final morning, the hushed words of the staff, your glimpse of the cake, the sudden realization that it symbolized YOUR freedom, and your tears of joy as you rushed to pack, I recall that simultaneously I was in a rental car, racing down a backroad in Kansas, en route to bring you back. The anticipation was surreal.
Your first days home were a luxury for me, having you physically present and actually wanting to be together. I anticipated you would relish the chance to spend time by yourself. So how surprising it was to find you asking for permission, even to leave the table or use the bathroom, reluctant to leave my side. We cuddled up the first night and then took to camping out on the porch floor for more room.
Now when I read your description of your ongoing sadness during that time, I remember we were both trying so genuinely to create a routine of normalcy. Yet your hopelessness only increased. We talked at night about your feelings. I thought it would bring resolution, but these feelings of defeat, of being more than tamed--of being broken--were new emotions to you and you didn’t know what to do with them.
I know you mention at this point that we moved back to your hometown because I couldn’t find a job in our new town. In retrospect that was true, providing a rationale that you, the school and our family could accept; but today you deserve to know the full story. As I watched you move compliant and lifeless through each day, you were fading away, even your body was slowing down, like your spirit was dying. So I took the risk of moving us back to the town where the original negative influences were present. How could this time be different? By believing that you had changed, that I had changed, that our family had transformed. WE were different now. I trusted prayerfully that would be enough. So, we moved back, and you started the work of reshaping a new identity for yourself.
Our renewed mode of communication gave us the tools to view your diploma as a hidden blessing from your time spent at the detention center, like a revelation of the gift behind the regret. This totally unexpected development would fulfill your longing since early childhood to be independent, the difference being now that rather than running away to find independence, this surprisingly legal option granted you a “socially acceptable” ticket to catapult you on your way.
In retrospect, I see this didn’t happen by magical good luck; it was the fruit of your commitments formed during detention. Today I remember vividly that last line of the quote from Psalm 37…finally your vindication was shining like noonday.
I am mesmerized by the photo you chose for your final piece: you, your sister, and your Dad, together, smiling, genuinely happy, reunified in the Romanian mountains, hearts at peace. Standing there together on the land whose story unites you all by blood. Sharing a recognition in that moment of a common DNA that permeates even into your ancestral memories. Claiming a cultural identity at once unknown yet familiar, now pulsing through your veins, filling your lungs with new breath. The mountain air brings a knowing, and that knowing carries freedom.
This is the freedom that I have longed for, prayed for all these years, for the three of you to experience together. ….
When our family entered an era of strife and sadness surrounding the divorce, that flame grew dim. In the years that followed, we all gasped for air; suddenly stripped of society’s recognition of us as a family, we struggled to redefine our identity.
In retrospect, I see that we all went searching for that new identity in divergent directions.
Over time, we literally scattered to the four winds! You headed west to Australia; your Tata returned east to Romania; your sister moved north, and I relocated south.
During these 20 years of diaspora, I have been holding on to hope for our family reunification through God’s promise in Isaiah 58:12, the same scripture that provided my lifeline to you as a teenager. Calling on God all these years to keep His word, to be the “Repairer of the breach, restorer of ruined homesteads,” meant that I knew I could trust Him to do it; but once again I needed to trust Him to act, in His own time, and when we were ready.
As I write this, I suddenly recall the dream I had before you left for this trip, before I knew of any plan for the three of you to go hiking. In my dream, you, your sister, and your Dad are hiking in the mountains, walking from long distances apart, converging towards each other. And now I realize this dream literally came true last week! Tears of joy and gratitude fill my heart with a deep knowing that God’s promise for our family reunification is taking place.
Returning now full circle to your friend Rob’s question, do you think it is BECAUSE of this happening or DESPITE this that you are who you are now, I gaze upon the miracle present in this photo and let the beautiful truth of your answer sink in,