Goethe said, “A useless life is an early death,” and I’ve seen it happen to those dear to me who dreamed of retirement only to find it boring and pointless and ended up dying much earlier than one would have expected on the day they were handed their Gold Watch. One must have a purpose to living or there really is no point.
The Okinawans, one of those lucky people groups from a Blue Zone (one of the 4 areas on the planet where people routinely live actively into their 100s) call this purpose to living, “ikigai,” which basically translates to—”why I wake up in the morning.” Feeling a definite dearth of ikigai in my life is why I started this blog in the first place.
Unfortunately, this pesky little prodigal problem continues to plague me and get in the way of all that good ikigai I’m looking for. There really is little joy in the morning to waking up and feeling sick and terrified about what is going to happen today. There has to be more ikigai to living than “I gotta pee and I wonder what shitty thing might happen today”. I don’t think that this is the sort of ikigai that leads to a long, joyful, productive life. I desperately want to find my ikigai, but every morning when I get out of bed to go try to find it I fall over this big, pointy boulder on my way to go pee. Apparently, I’ve got to get this boulder out of the way or at least learn how to hop over it on my way to the bathroom if I want to get anywhere.
So this morning I spent some time surfing around for information about help for parents of prodigals. Helping my son is now on indefinite hold, so I better start helping myself or I’ll be looking for my ikigai from the inside of a padded room.
She reassured me that we’re doing everything right and we have been up to this point. We can look back and see that we’ve handled this step-by-step without any regrets. She gave me a beautiful gift by telling me to stop feeling guilty and then she said a wonderful thing. She said, “We’re a small prayer ministry and I’m going to call the other members right now to pray for you and your son. Today you rest. We have your back. Do something for yourself. Take care of yourself today and we’ll hold you up in prayer. But today, you rest.” She also said something that I needed to hear. She said, “This is your son’s path and now God is His Father.” That’s a mantra a mother can hang her hat on.
Grace Cathedral Labyrinth View
As I was hanging up the phone with Linda, my son called. He just happened to be walking around Grace Cathedral where he and I visited and prayed when we were together in San Francisco last week. (Funny thing about that cathedral. I had no way of knowing this in advance, but he’s actually staying with a friend right next door to this cathedral. It is the first thing he sees everytime he leaves the house.) We had a warm chat which is especially remarkable since last night we told him that we weren’t going to allow his grandma to rescue him in any way and today I told him that I’m closing his bank account asap, essentially cutting him off from any more money. He took it very well. We expressed our love for one another and I stayed very, very calm. I paid a fortune to learn how to stay rock hard calm like that in the face of insanity and it was worth every penny.
Which leads me to the verse I quoted at the start of this blog about laying a foundation. Foundations are very important and the Bible repeats this principle over and over again. My husband and I have laid a good, strong foundation with this child. While things are looking very bad at the moment, we are clinging to our love and our son continues to respond to us in kind. We’ve made mistakes, but, as the very helpful Linda said as I sobbed, I have nothing to feel guilty about. Human Beings are prone to exert their freewill and my son is exerting his right now. The trick for me is to love him with my whole heart while letting him experience all that his choices might bring. In Prodigal Parenting speak, it is called, “Leaving the Light On.”
One thing that I have had to seriously re-evaluate is my belief that if a kid loved his parents he wouldn’t do this sort of thing. That thought alone has probably caused me more pain than anything else as I’ve continually taken these behaviors of my son’s personally. While there are people who never do things simply because they wouldn’t want to cause their parents any hurt–and I’ve always reached for that as a parenting goal because I thought it would save both my children and me a lot of grief–I’ve had to abandon this completely in light of recent events. No longer can I afford to frame my son in a mindset defined by my own needs and wants. For whatever reason, I believe my son needs this experience, and therefore to try to thwart him from his own destiny is to defy God. Plain and simple. God is His Father now and God will have His way with my son and I have got to step out of the way and seek my own new ikigai while my son seeks his. I cannot be my son’s ikigai anymore than he can be mine.
We pray continuously for a quick end to this ridiculous nonsense. We pray for appropriately painful but non-life threatening or life-ending lessons for our son. And most of all, we pray for our son to return Home soon from this Distant Land. And until that day, my husband and I will stand here together, hand in hand, gazing out onto the horizon waiting to see our son return Home to us knowing with complete confidence that whoever loves the child most, wins.