I woke up to an empty(ish) house for the second morning today. My five-month-old son and two pups are here, all three sleeping peacefully while a light rain hits the roof.

Ahhhhhhhhh.

I exhale air from the base of my lungs that likely entered my body many months ago. The realization of its exit is both refreshing and torturing. Only now, in this stillness, can I feel how wound up my body has been.

I keep glancing outside to take in the scenery. An even thin layer of clouds covers the sky, filtering the harsh sunlight of the last few days. It provides a gentle grey backdrop contrasted with bright green grass, fresh from the rain. It’s an atmosphere my soul resonates with.

My favorite “chill” album plays in the background while I sip my bougie single-origin cup of Ethiopian coffee. The last time I played it on repeat like this was a few years ago when I escaped to Maine on a solo trip. I had needed a brief getaway from day-to-day life that had become nearly unmanageable.

The trip came a little over a year after our first son joined our home. Becoming a mom for the first time to a kid with seven years of life already under his belt wasn’t as glorious as Instagram made it look. My heart was fully swooned by him – yet that didn’t erase the trauma of his past or present circumstances – trauma that would soon bring unexplored traumas to the surface for my husband and me.

An Explosion Gone Sideways

As we approach the 4th of July, I keep seeing a video pop up that friends are reposting. It is a comical clip now; however, it was not nearly as funny in the height of the actual moment. A family is watching fireworks in front of their house when suddenly, one spews sideways and makes its way toward the group. At first, everyone giggles and casually grabs the kiddos to ensure they are safe, assuming the moment is about to pass without harm.

Then the firework lands underneath the minivan.

The explosion they expected to be contained safely in the sky begins encapsulating their vehicle, which of course, causes even more subsequent blasts. Soon, everyone is running while shooting flames take over the yard.

The video is sticking with me as a visual representation of what life has felt like for our family over the last few years. When we entered adoption, we knew we were entering a season of “explosions.” However, we expected the feelings of love, family, and acceptance to keep the fireworks at a safe distance in the night sky.

If only that’s how trauma worked. 

It didn’t take long for the fireworks to begin shooting sideways into our home, and one explosion led to many more.

This life isn’t my Instagram page. 

While we have many beautiful photos of truly joyful moments, much of our real life involves the sideways explosions of abuse, neglect, addiction, fear, anxiety, and depression.

Sometimes I compare my life to other friends my age who aren’t experiencing the same explosions I am. I become envious and occasionally angry – at myself, my life, and my circumstances.

Then I get a day like today, and I exhale the breath and the anxiety I’ve subconsciously collected throughout many eruptions. I remember that I don’t need to stockpile oxygen. New air will continue to fill my lungs. I don’t need to hold my body together with the tension. I can release it, and my body will stay intact. 

As I glance out the window marked by soft raindrops and take in the beauty of a stormy day, I remember there is beauty in our mess, too.

Both, And – Not But. 

I used to view life through a black-and-white lens, using the word “but” where I’ve learned “and” actually belongs. “My day was good, BUT…” has turned into “My day was good, AND…” One truth doesn’t negate the other.

Explosions still come at moments, AND we are learning to better safeguard ourselves and our house with each blow.

We are often sad – AND we are finding happiness.

We are tired – AND we have hope.

We are spending a lot of money on counseling – AND it’s worth every penny.

We are all hurting-  AND we are all healing.

We are a family in recovery – AND we are proud of that fact.

One of us has moved out temporarily to get the treatment needed to thrive in life.

One of us went to a 30-day trauma recovery center to hit a reset.

One of us is surrendering a lifetime of unhealthy coping mechanisms to find true healing.

One of us is finally beginning to hug and show love unhindered by fear.

One of us is growing up in an emotionally healthy home from day one.

We are all struggling. We are all flourishing. Both are true.

Many homes aren’t prepared for explosions because they don’t have to be – yet. We are becoming bulletproof.

It’s painful, AND our family is sharing all of life. That’s cool.

I LAUGH NOW when I think back to my original vision of our fireworks, beautiful and safe above us in the night sky. Life is so much more complicated-  AND we are experiencing a realm of beauty many humans don’t get to share.

I also realize how selfish my idea of fireworks was. That version left my son in the sky, exploding all by himself. This version is messier for us all, but AND we are all in it. I’d do this a million times over again to keep giving our family each other.

Life is hard. Life is good. Both are true.

So today, I breathe. I reset. I reenter.

Because today is beautiful.

 

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