Thursday, February 16, 2017

My thoughts on the book Different by Sally and Nathan Clarkson

I had been seeing the book "Different" pop up in my Amazon things you should buy and in a few blog feeds, and it seemed like something I needed to read.  For me I had been struggling most recently with my oldest son's tendencies toward ADD/ADHD. I wanted to get him tested, but I never did because its a new year and well, I have to ration out the money in the HSA and so its not something in our budget at the moment.  So, I thought reading this would at least give me perspective, but then I started actually reading.

When I dove into the book, I led me back to where I was told I was difficult and different when I was growing up.  As an adult, pretty much every therapist or person I have come in contact with tells me that I am super quirky and well, different. I felt like I could identify with both authors of the book at various times. The mom, Sally, while she loved her mom, always felt off as a kid. And I think that was definitely something that I dealt with, my brain just seems to work differently than my siblings did.  I think that probably was hard for my parents to deal with and I caused a lot of strife, but I don't think I could have changed me in that way to fit in if I had tried with all my might, at least not with some major issues.

One of the main points that I took away from reading this was how even though she was human and failed a lot, Sally tried to truly love her difficult child unconditionally, and to strive to be positive about who Nathan, her son, was as God made him. I think for myself I can so easily see the flaws in myself and in my children, but it takes effort, at least for me, to see them and myself as a beautiful child of God. I mean I know it, but I sure as heck don't act like it at times.  I think I mentioned on twitter that there was one day where I just decided that I was going to tell my kids affirming things that day and not focus on the things that needed correcting.  It was a good day. And while we definitely need to be refined as humans and to keep growing, we also need to know how much we are loved. And maybe this is easier for you to do than me, but I think I just needed this reminder.

Another item that stuck with me was in seeing these children as gifts from God, that they really are their own people that will make their own mistakes and have their own free will.  I think its so hard as a parent to not be embarrassed by your own kids behavioral habits. Sometimes it makes me not want to leave the house. I mean the last time we got haircuts, one of my kids almost punched the hair stylists in the jaw because it was too intense of an experience for him. Of course that was embarrassing.  And its not that kids should be without guiding and disciplining when necessary, its just that they are their own people.  Ultimately, you cannot control them.

I think the last thing is that it feels like we do live in a world where we want to know and be what is normal, this is where I identified with Nathan and his struggle. In wanting to be normal so much, we can miss out in who God really made us to be. While there are definitely times when medicine is useful to psychologically help us function in society, maybe there's a little too much emphasis on being happy all the time. Maybe we just need to feel things and process things and that be okay. Its a weird world to live in where our bodies aren't being used in the same way they were 100 years ago and so perhaps our minds are troubled a bit more, but maybe some of these responses are there to make us be us. Maybe they are there to show us how to love, especially in the difficult times with the difficult ones. I am not by any means saying that medicine isn't helpful to those that need it, I'm just thinking through my own life, processing with help, though slow, seemed to help me in my differentness. So maybe that's just for me, because a lot of times I do not feel that I fit in, but maybe that's what I need and that's okay.

Shannon Evans posted something on St. Valentine's Day about how there is a sense of loneliness that we have that comes from the lack of being understood. Reading "Different" reminded me that while we can do better at trying to understand one another and to love deeply, at the end of the day there is still going to be a hole. A hole that only God can fill and really only fully when we get to heaven where we will be completely understood by all there. So perhaps, that is what I realized through reading this, that it is good to love, that it is good to be understanding, to be patient, to be kind, to be affirming and to strive to do these thing well.  All of this is good.  But there isn't a formula that is going to get rid of suffering along the way, because as painful as it is suffering redeems us through Jesus.  It can point us to love more, to open our broken hearts to grow bigger and point us to Heaven.

Do I often wish that I had had someone growing up like Sally who wanted to understand me more? Yes, definitely.  Would I be me though if I had this? No. And so I'm thankful for the hard and for the fact that my parents tried their best with what they knew to do. I'm thankful for not fitting in and being outside the box. And perhaps my kids will feel this unconditional love of God a little more than I did.  I pray they do, I pray that I can be that example to them even in my failure by humility. I do want them to know they are loved and by God's grace I will try to love them best as I can.

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