To read about how the tornado has affected our family from the beginning, click here.
I was driving down the road earlier this week, listening to the radio, and the song "I won't give up" by Jason Mraz came on. I have heard it many many times before on the radio and I have always liked it, but for some reason, on this day, this song really spoke to me. I really listened to the words and in spite of myself, on an ordinary Tuesday morning, tears rolled down my cheeks.
Have you ever found that? That sometimes a song can really speak to you? Can put into words what you can't? Can get inside your head and verbalize things you can't...as if the song was written specifically for the situation you were dealing with, right at that very moment?
I had been planning to write a blog post about resilience. I have been trained through work in a program called RIRO - Reaching In Reaching Out . Its about teaching adults the skills and ways of thinking they need to handle life's challenges with resilience and show them how to pass those skills on to their children.
From the website :Resilience is the ability to "bounce back" from life's inevitable pressures and hard times. It helps us handle stress, overcome childhood disadvantage, recover from trauma and reach out to others and opportunities so we can grow and learn.
"Resilient" people have been shown to have happier relationships and are less prone to depression, more successful in school and jobs, and even live healthier and longer lives
I had been planning out for awhile how to write this post, and I was waiting for the right time. I wanted to explore the topic of resiliency, how it pertained to Jeff and I as adults and what we were doing (both consiously and subconsciously) to instill it in our children, so that they could "bounce back" from this trauma...so that they could one day say that they became who they were in spite of what had happened to them. Not because of what had happened to them. So that what had happened in their lives would not define them or limit them or leave lifelong scars. So that they they wouldn't dwell on the negative. So that the ways we taught them to think about what had happened, they way we taught them to challenge their thoughts, our attempts at teaching them empathy, perserverence and positive ways to face and deal with their problems...would make them resilient...better able to handle this, and whatever else is going to come their ways in life.
And then this song came on the radio while I was driving down the road thinking about how I was going to put that resiliency blog post together.
and it spoke to me
What was it about this song that struck such a cord with me that morning?
It was exactly what I was thinking, exactly what I felt...that no matter what...we were going to stick together and work through this..."cause God knows, we're worth it".
"Just like them old stars, I see that you've come so far....to be right where you are".
I can see how far we have come. I can see it when I read back through this blog series and read what I had written with such emotion. It still makes me cry when I read it and I think....man....look how far we've come. Those posts I wrote while we were in the middle of it are so intense...so full of emotion. I can read them now as an outsider and think "Wow...did that really happen...to us?" I look at our kids, and how far they've come...the school year is almost over now and I remember us all being so raw in September, me crying in the Vice Principal's office as I explained our situation and my fears for my daughter. Lately, she has really been showing me how much she has matured over this past year and I am really, really proud of how far she's come since those days she would sit sullen in the counsellor's office, refusing to talk. Last night I was preparing to teach my first class about blogging - to adults. Makenna could tell I was nervous and with wisdom so far beyond her years, she told me I was going to be fine, going to be great and reminded me that I was used to speaking in public - that I did it all the time for work. When I countereed by reminding her that I work with children, she patted my arm and advised to me to imagine my adult students as "just really tall children". To picture them playing with toys and singing songs with them. And that if I did all that, I would calm down and be fine.
My 7 year old daughter said that to me. And I thought..."Thank God...she's okay."
I remember my heart breaking as I left my sobbing little boy at daycare, day after day...the same daycare he now thinks he could run on his own and loves going to. As a family we have come so far to be right where we are.
"I won't give up on us...even if the skies get rough...."
Literally..."if the skies get rough"...makes me think of all the severe weather bound to come our way again this summer. Makes me think of when the skies did get rough...and how we didn't give up...not on what we deserved and were entitled to, and not on working together to get through it together. Many marriages suffered severely as a result of August's tornado...ours was spared. Its stronger now, because of what it went through. Because of the work we did to save it. Because we asked for, and accepted, help. We got help for our kids when we knew they needed it and we couldn't give it. When I wasn't strong enough to parent properly, those I trusted most stepped in and helped me. And waited for me to work it out. Which I did. As I write these very words the skies are rough right now as the first thunderstorm of the season rolls through. While Jack seemed easily distracted by Handy Manny cartoons, Makenna was much more on edge. We stood at her window and looked out at the sky...a view that is much clearer and far reaching now with the absence of so many trees in this area. We watched the sky quietly...remembering....and breathing....and willed ourselves to remain calm...the first of many similar scenarios to come in this house I'm sure.
"So you know what the scariest thing that ever happened to me was Mom?"
"I think that was the scariest thing that ever happened to a lot of people Makenna...children and adults"
"it's okay to be scared right Mom?"
"Yes Makenna, its okay to be scared"
I won't give up. I will support her through this fear.
"When you're needing your space to do some navigating, i'll be here patiently waiting..."
Because this doesn't go away. It's okay to be scared. It's okay to worry. It's okay to grieve and have bad days. Everyone thinks they are long over it...long past it...until the thunder rolls and the sky gets dark. And if you are freaked out by the weather and weren't directly affected by the tornado, put yourselves in our shoes for a minute. Imagine the shoes of a seven year old. or a four year old.
It's okay to be scared. Its okay to have bad days. Its okay to be sad. It's okay to relive it. You are allowed to feel that and you have the right to all the time it takes to work through it.
"We got a lot to learn....God knows we're worth it....no i won't give up.."
"I'm here to stay and make the difference that i can make..."
Maybe one of the reasons this happened, and affected our lives so deeply, was so I could do what I've done. So I could reach and help others through this blog...so I could attempt to pay it forward to another family struggling and use some of my connections to help them....maybe my purpose in all this is to reach out to others, be a voice and an advocate and bring about something I never could have if this hadn't of happened. And in doing all of that, I am teaching my children about humilty, compassion, empathy, raising your chin, looking your darkest moments in the face and turning them around into something good - all of which in a way I never could have if this had never happened. Teaching them that in this tragedy lies an opportunity for learning, for growth, for making a difference...on whatever level we can. So many people have seized that opportunity out of this tragedy. Jody Armstead, Luke Elliott, Cathy Cove and Elizabeth Bundy-Cooper, Matt Hoy, Francesca from United Way Huron Bruce... the list goes on and on...those people stayed and worked to make the difference they could make...and taught us a thing or two about community spirit, rising to the challenge, and dedication.
"our differences they teach us how to use the tools and gifts we got here, we got a lot at stake..."
Sometimes its takes a situation like this, it takes being traumatized to realize what tools and gifts you have to give. To realize what your purpose is or what you want it to be. Situations like this move us to act. Move neighbours and friends to rise far above the call of duty for eachother. Move strangers to come together to work toward a common goal. To help people they have never met and may never see again. To change lives.
"We got a lot at stake"? Everything was at stake. But what have we learned from eachother? We have learned selflessness, respect, compassion, and so much more...and when we learn that, and put it into practice in our own lives, our children learn it too.
All because of, in our case, a tornado.
"God knows i'm tough enough".
So I have learned.
I am tough enough. And I am working to ensure my kids are tough enough too. To rise above it, bounce back from it, recover from it, and find opportunities to learn and grow from it.
"we didn't break we didn't burn, we had to learn how to bend, without the world caving in, I had to learn what I got, and what i'm not, and who I am"
I swear that was written for me. That line right there sums everything up. I'm not even going to elaborate on that one...it speaks for itself.
Tonight, it thunderstormed as I was writing a blogpost about resilience. My husband was away while I put my children to bed and promised them the thunder and lightning was okay. It was the first time since living back on this street that we've had a severe storm. They both turned the music up in their rooms as a way of coping, while I blogged in my own bedroom as a way of coping. 8 months ago I was hiding in my grandma's basement when it stormed. Facebook status updates from friends all shared a similar tone - uneasiness as the storm rolled through. I didn't check on my kids, I gave them the space to work it out on their own, and waited to see if they would come to me if it got to be too much to bear. And as for me...in the absence of my husband and as rumours of a tornado in Mitchell began (false rumours), I went to my next "go to guy".
Tonight's storm passed, my kids are sleeping and Jeff is home now cleaning up the toy trains. I worked away at writing this and replaying the above song to keep myself on track with the message I wanted to convey.
Despite the fear, the nervousness, the guilt, the anger, the inability at times to let it go...I'm still looking up.
I knew before this tornado ever happened that I was a resilient person. My children will be resilient people too.
We got a lot to learn...I'm givin it all I got...For the sake of my children, and my family, even if the skies get rough...
I won't give up.
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