January 1: Usually at the first of every year, I’m full of ambitions for the coming year. I make long lists of resolutions and dream of all the places I’d like to travel, the books I’d like to read, the things I’d like to accomplish. I do make resolutions this year, but I’m not sharing them on my blog, which I have done the last 4-5 years. I don’t do a yearly recap for 2015, which I have also done these past few years. This year, I just don’t have the energy.
Tonight, while our youngest son, Adam, is crashing in our basement, buried under a mound of blankets and self-pity and depression, we escape the tension in our house to walk through the Meadowlark Gardens Winter Walk of Lights, hoping to find some twinkling of light in the darkness engulfing us.
My enthusiasm for the coming year has been buried under a burden of worry and grief. I have watched as Adam, who was, in the school system’s terms, a “gifted” child — a person I’ve always seen as someone who could accomplish anything in his life — has self-destructed and is crashing in our basement. In the past few months, I’ve watched as he’s alienated everyone he’s known by trying to push his radical ideas down everyone’s throats. He can’t accept people for who they are and is constantly trying to change everyone. He believes he needs to save the world from self-annihilation.
At the beginning of December, his housemates kicked him out of his house in the middle of the night. He suddenly showed up at our house, loaded up with all his stuff, and dumped it all in our house. After he tried to start several businesses that didn’t take off as he hoped, I could see his heartbreak, and his shame, over his failure. He has now given up and crashed in the basement, curtains pulled, curled up in a fetal position, surrounded by darkness. He has lost all his confidence; he’s lost his way. His emotions have taken control of him, and I’m watching him suffer more than I’ve ever seen anyone suffer.
We’re at wit’s end, not knowing what to do. We want him to get help, but he refuses. We know we’re finally at the point where we have to clamp down and initiate what people call “tough love.”
Tonight as we walk around Meadowlark Gardens, we talk about what our options are. We decide to give him 6 months to get his act together. We’ve already told him we want to have a talk with him at 4:30 tomorrow. We need to formalize this so he’ll be prepared, and awake. We will tell him we will move him into an apartment in Richmond, where his sister and brother live, a town full of young people, a great food scene, and urban gardens. After all, he can’t afford to live on his own in northern Virginia, and living in our house is no longer an option. Besides, as he’s alienated all his friends, there is no longer anything holding him here. We will support him the first month, then each month our support will be reduced by 1/6 until he is on his own. We have to co-sign on the apartment and we have to pay a premium so our obligation is no longer than 6 months. After that, we’re cutting him loose.
He lacks a purpose, a work ethic, stick-to-it-iveness, confidence, emotional fortitude. I think he wants to be a success, but he’s too easily defeated. He refuses to go to school, believing instead that he can educate himself. He does a lot of reading on his own, but I believe that lack of a college education will hurt him in the long run. Skipping the whole college experience, one I think is necessary for a young person to transition to adulthood, has thrust him into adulthood before he’s adequately prepared. But of course, he won’t listen to his parents. He knows more than everyone.
I love him so much, and it breaks my heart to see him suffering. I want him to get psychological help, I want him to get on medication, I want him to go to college, I want him to get a job and keep busy and get control of his emotions. But he’s an adult, and we can only sit by and watch while he makes his own decisions. He’s closed himself off to all advice we offer. We can no longer control him, but we can refuse to support him financially. That is our only option.
So, tonight, we go walk around Meadowlark Gardens with heavy hearts, a feeling of gloom and hopelessness all around us. Maybe there is some scant light to be found here. We can lay down what we will do and what we will not, and then we must hand him over to a higher power. We simply have to continue to love him and to trust that things will eventually work out well for him.
On January 8, one week from today, we will move him to Richmond. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that he will get his act together, and find some peace of mind and some successes in his life.