Lola, despite the sun and relaxation and pretty much 24/7 access to a body of water in which to swim, is struggling mightily with her SPD symptoms. Transitions are hard for her and this absurd cliff-dive from regimented school days to completely structure-free summer days leaves her adrift every year. No matter how much I try to impose predictable mealtimes or down-time in the middle of the afternoon it seems that the lack of scheduled activity pushes Lola to a place of discomfort in her own skin. She fights to put a name to what she is feeling, unsure of what it would take to make her comfortable. She doesn't acknowledge hunger or thirst until it is far past the point of no-return, she flits from activity to activity, immersing herself in one or the other at some point in an effort to simply shut out the entire world around her.
Yesterday she sat by the pool playing games on her iTouch until the battery died. I sat nearby chewing in the inside of my lips in an effort to leave her be, hating the glow of the screen on her face on such a glorious day. I wanted to ply her with a beach walk or a dip in the pool or a shopping adventure and couldn't seem to discern whether it was because I thought it would be better for her to get up and do something or because I hate the notion of her sitting still playing video games on a sunny day in Hawaii. Predictably, she melted down in the afternoon, hot, thirsty, hungry and weepy and I berated myself yet again for not knowing how to help her navigate this move from school to summer. I feel as though it surprises me anew every year and I have yet to feel like I am surmounting a learning curve. Instead it looks like a series of dashed lines all on the same plane, interrupted by the blank space of the school year. But the transition from summer to school is just as difficult and disruptive, the Monday mornings fraught with tears and hysterical pleadings to help get SOMEthing right - her hair, her shoes, the seam on her jeans - me knowing it isn't those things at all but unable to convince Lola.
And yet, the vacation is giving me some solace as well, if only in its distance from 'home.' My mother's husband has been in the hospital since before we left, first fighting a severe infection and then undergoing two surgeries with prospects for a third today. The solace is that, for me, setting boundaries with others who are struggling has never been easy but this, the fact that I am a five or six hour flight away from sitting by her side and the knowledge that both of my siblings are close by, means that I have artificially imposed boundaries. I am learning to empathize and have compassion and hold space in my heart for her as she deals with her fear and the logistical challenges of running his business and their life without dashing in to fix things like I normally would.
The first book I read on this trip was Anne Lamott's "Some Assembly Required" and while I highlighted many, many astonishing bits of wisdom in it, one keeps coming back to me as I check in with my mother via phone every day. "If it isn't my problem, I don't have the solution." While that may sound callous, the truth is that I don't have the solution. I could run around giving advice, searching for answers, talking to doctors and nurses, holding my mom's hand and generally making myself feel better because I have the illusion of "doing something," but in the end, what is going to happen is going to happen regardless of whether I am there or not. I know that offering my mother love and comfort over the phone is better for both of us - we will end up not resenting each other's lack of boundaries - and the outcome will be the same.
And so here I am. In this lovely, lovely place with my family, warts and all. And I shall rub sunscreen on those warts and go forth to enjoy the day, knowing that what happens is all part and parcel of this life of mine and I feel pretty damn lucky.