Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Keeping the Plates Spinning, OR, When the Other Shoe Drops

"Once you're a parent, you're the ghost of your children's future." ~ Joe Cooper, Interstellar
Years ago there were programs on television called variety shows. These would showcase various talent from around the world - acrobats, comedians, opera singers, pop singers, Broadway stars, rock groups, animal acts - you never knew what you'd be treated to each week. The closest thing we have to the old variety shows is the Got Talent franchise. I am captivated when a novelty act progresses through to the late stages of these competitions. We are all witnesses to something special as these quirky artists pursue dreams against the longest of odds.

Growing up my favorite of these unconventional variety show performers were the plate spinners. Google this along with the song "Sabre Dance" which these men and women would often choose as accompaniment to their frenetic presentations. The goal was to spin as many plates or bowls as possible on long sticks while at some point also ending the act by gracefully catching each as they fell, moving from one stick after another, normally from right to left or left to right in order, miraculously, hopefully, without breaking anything. Often, to complicate things there would be plates spinning on tables and other kitchen-utensil-related perpetual motion distractions to make us think the hero of the insanity would take his or her eye off the ball, I mean ... plate.

Every now and then a plate would fall proving the person on stage was human after all. We would share in the victory of all or most plates spinning and gently being returned to a state of rest. We would breathe a collective sigh of relief that could be felt around the country.

Years have passed and we no longer see many of these intrepid overly-practiced entertainers. I have found YouTube videos of Chinese plate spinners including one who performs by standing (rolling) on what looks like an oversized fitness ball, as if keeping 6 to 8 plates spinning at one time isn't hard enough. Though the plate spinning act may be a thing of the past, the image remains burned in our collective national psyche and has even become part of our lexicon:
"I can't meet you for lunch today, I've got too many plates spinning."
As our children progress through the various stages of addiction and recovery we can have innumerable plates spinning at one time: the rehab plate, the walking on eggshells in your own house plate, the family budget plate, the detachment with anger plate, the detachment with love plate, the trust plate, the hope plate, the expectation plate - that's just 8 plates, and there's more.

Too often, some plates don't even make it to the stage much less to any part of our performance as parents of addicts or addicts in recovery. Boxed up or perhaps on deck for a spin when time permits, these plates are kept protected from possible damage, remaining in the perfect state as we remember them before The Addiction took over our lives.

Two of these plates are our relationship with our most significant others, and our responsibilities and connection to the siblings of the addict.

Let's focus today on those siblings whose lives were turned upside down by the entrance of The Addiction into our households.

With so many plates spinning we run the risk of taking our eyes off those who are indirectly impacted by The Addiction. We become so naturally and rightfully focused on our babies whose lives are at risk we wrongfully assume their brothers and sisters will see how falling into the addition vortex can ruin lives. We hold our other children to a higher standard nobody could ascend to, we project our addict's worst tendencies, past behaviors and first steps into addiction onto the brothers and sisters, or simply devote all our attention to the addict or recovering addict. We risk losing our other babies. At some point, the other shoe may drop, the sibling may rebel by acting out, or worse, following in the footsteps of the addict stumble into the same rabbit hole.

Or, the perceived pressure to succeed, to "not be another addicted kid," or "failure" may be too much for the brother or sister to bear.

We can remember our journey must remain focused on self actualization and as a part of this we can continue to love, trust (a BIG one) and listen to our children who feel betrayed by their heroes. We can fight our natural tendencies to overcompensate for our perceived failures (hopefully we've escaped Failure Island) and allow our children to know they WILL BE OK and if they fall, we will no more give up on them than we have on their addicted brother or sister. Remember, addiction is a family disease.

Trust, the BIG one, means taking the sibling or siblings out of the box where we have protected and isolated them to keep them in that perfect state of our recollections, and place them lovingly on one of our many life sticks we have become so masterful at maintaining. We've got this. We're practiced at this perhaps more than most.

Our babies may lose some of their pristine sheen, they may become chipped, cracked or even broken, temporarily, but that's all part of life isn't it? We will someday see the plates spinning, all of them different, yet equally cherished. It will be a sight to see.

And our children will remember how we helped them along their way while allowing them to figure life out on their own, chips, dings and all.

I'll be listening for the collective sigh of relief ... and joy.

. . . keep coming back
"People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed. Never throw out anyone." ~ Audrey Hepburn