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A very, very special thanks to Kristin Murdock for sharing her story last week as the first post in my guest series, “Squeeze & Space.” If you haven’t read Kristin’s story of love and loss, I so encourage you to check it out. She is a brave soul, and you will be moved by her journey.

This week, I’m bringing you another butt-kicker and warrior sister, Elaine Hamilton. Elaine is a dear friend and the founder of The Soul Care House, a marriage and family therapy practice (and, so much more). Elaine is a licensed MFT and she and her husband, Ken, have two amazing 20-somethings, Katie and Josh.

It is such an honor to share Elaine’s voice with you — a voice that has been healing, nourishing, truth-telling, and so very tender in my own life. With gratitude for her wisdom and her words, here is Elaine . . .

Where are you experiencing THE SQUEEZE?

Living inside this body is a constant challenge.  Dealing with an autoimmune disorder is like carrying around a small child who is incessantly flailing her arms and screaming for no reason at all.  I try to calm her down by staying on top of the things that I know make a difference.  No gluten, dairy, soy or corn.  Lots of rest with some activity, but not too much.  I manage my stress.  I see doctors and take supplements.  I try new things and try to stay positive. 

Some days all the planets align and I feel quite good, elated actually.  I feel free, like a normal person, with a normal body! I imagine myself becoming a tennis player or taking up running. But inevitably some mistake is made and she starts screaming again,  “There was soy in the marinade.  What were you thinking?!” She is relentless and unforgiving. 

More often than not, I am in pain and all of this effort is not enough. I remind myself that I am so much better than I was 5 years ago and of course I am grateful for that.  Back then I thought I was dying.  Today I can work full time and play on the weekends.  This is very good news.  But the truth is that I am also disappointed.  I had high hopes that I would recover completely but it’s not looking like that’s going to happen for me.

On really bad days, I need my people desperately.   I need the ones who love me to remind me that I have made progress, that I’m trying really hard, and that it’s okay that I get sad sometimes because this is really hard.  Hearing that is really helpful.

So I try to hang in there with my flailing, screaming child and nurture her even when I’m angry and tired because she needs it and it’s the only thing there is to do.

Where are you experiencing THE SPACE?

My kids.  I wish I had known 20 years ago that it would be like this some day.  How lovely they would be, how much we would enjoy each other.  Back then it was all diapers and exhaustion.  I worried about everything; that I would ruin them, or lose them or, in a moment of delirium, sell them to the gypsies.  But somehow they made it to adulthood without becoming drug dealers and I can finally see that we are all going to be okay.  So I’m leaning into this new space where there are no more power struggles or sleepless nights and I can breathe again.  And just enjoy them.

For example, a few years ago, Katie and I bought matching camo pants to go paintballing for my birthday.  We got dirty and sweaty and banged up, and it was awesome! After that we pledged to come up with other “camo worthy” experiences.  Since then, us and our pants have gone zip lining, and raced around on ATVs and snowmobiles.  We meant to wear them when we got matching tattoos but were so nervous, we forgot. We regularly have conversations about the next thing we want to do together in our camo pants.  I think that what the two of us have been doing is trying to actively move our relationship to a new place.  We are saying to each, “Isn’t it such a relief to have nothing left to fight over? Let’s just play and enjoy each other!”. Next up, batting cages. 

And then there’s sweet Josh.  Admittedly, Josh has been the easiest child on the planet to parent.  He makes me look like a far better mother than I actually am.  But it is lovely for both of us to be done with conversations about homework and vegetables.  “Can you please eat something besides Bagel Bites??  Perhaps something green,” I begged a hundred times.  These days we talk about his future. We dream together about possible business ventures, things he wants to try or invent, adventures we want to go on as a family.

When he asked me to help decorate his first apartment with him, I was in heaven!  I am obsessed with creating nourishing spaces and thrilled that he wanted my help. We brainstormed for weeks about couches and styles and argued about how many decorative pillows a space needs.  (I said five, he wanted zero, we settled on two.)  I loved that he had strong opinions about his emerging style and a clear vision of what he wanted his space to feel like.  We had a blast picking everything out and putting it together.  And on the day he called me and said, “Mom, I’m on Amazon and I can’t stop buying glassware!” I knew, my work is done here.

This is a magical thing about motherhood.  You orient your life around your babies, you give up sleep, showers, clothes without stains.  You agonize and obsess over them and then one day, the hard work is done and they’re grown.  And you wake up to find these delightful, self-sufficient, funny, loving adults who give you back so much more than you could have imagined and you just can’t believe your luck! 

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