Day 17: Being the One Who Survives, Being Unexpectable

I am not amazing. I really mean this, I'm not just being self-deprecating... although, I do love me some self-deprecation (I believe that it is almost always guaranteed hilarity and therapy rolled into one.) But that's not what I'm doing here. I really mean that I am not doing anything special here. The kind remarks and encouragement that so many of you have spoiled me with is seriously dumbfounding. I am overwhelmed with how generous you all have been in your assessment of me and my writing and of #AdamsActs. 

I struggle though, because I am such a wicked, deplorable sinner that I want to be real clear that I am no better, no kinder, than anyone else out there. I am just blessed to have this little website, and therefore a platform to stumble through life a little more publicly than most.

In fact, starting #AdamsActs was not really altruistic at all. I started doing these random acts of kindness five years ago because I really couldn't cope with October. I had all these grief triggers and instead of thriving during the month of October, I simply survived.

And that, right there, is it. I survived.

It has taken me a long time (well, five years to be exact) to realize that this is why I struggle every October. Because I was the one that survived.

I don't just miss my brother in October. I miss him all the time. My holiday memories sadden me, because I either remember when he was there, or I remember when he wasn't. Both are so painful. And it isn't just special occasions. I miss him when I pass a Burger King. I miss him when I see a bag of sugar-free candy. I miss him when I feel silk. I miss him when I see the color maroon. I miss him when I smell a wrestling mat. I know that sounds gross, but sweat and wrestling mat is the smell of my childhood. And when I walk into a gym and smell that old familiar stink, I long to relive every match that boy wrestled. I dream of watching him climb yet another podium to receive a medal. I have a visceral longing inside of my soul that reminds me that somewhere deep down I am still that little sister, looking for her brothers hand to hold.

I don't just miss him in October. But, October is when I feel most keenly aware that I survived.

And he did not.

I did not know this at the time, but starting this kindness movement in Adam's memory was my way of attempting to retroactively earn my right to survive. After all, Adam was just so good. He wasn't perfect, I don't mean that. He, too, was a wicked and deplorable sinner... he told me so himself. But, he also told me that he was forgiven. And that the God that forgave him would do the same for me too. And so I accepted his God's invitation to forgive me. I met his Jesus. And I even loved him. But after Adam was ripped from my life so violently, so suddenly... I stopped feeling forgiven. And while I still loved Jesus, I stopped feeling loved by him, like I no longer felt that it was safe to trust him.

And so my love triangle with shame and guilt began. I did not learn about survivor's guilt until I was in college. I had always assumed that it was specifically a feeling for someone who had survived an experience that someone else did not. And that was not the case for me. I was not there the night my brother was shot. Of course I survived. So, survivor's guilt did not seem to apply. But, over the past five years, I have come to the realization that I have been operating in the belief that I must make a significant mark on this world in order to earn my place within it. The funny thing is that when people feel like we have to do or be something in order to feel loved or acceptable, we are way less likely to do or be that specific something. It's simply too exhausting. 

So, we under-perform. We don't apply ourselves. We never really realize our potential. We get close to achieving, and then we self-sabotage because we don't really believe we deserve success. We live with that sense of disappointment in ourselves because, well, we believe we really are that disappointing. 

Because it should have been him.

He should get the degree. He should have the happy relationship. He should be the one with the dream job and the beautiful family. He should get to live his dreams, not me. And so, I have hurt a lot of people throughout the course of my life. Because, it's hard to sabotage yourself, to deprive yourself, to hurt yourself... without also hurting the people who are closest to you. 

And so, no. I am not amazing. I am not an angel. I am not a hero.

I am a survivor.

For Day 17, I picked up London, my 6 year old, from school and I took her out to lunch. She picked sushi and doritos, and Jay (age 3) picked chowder, because my kids are perfectly bizarre. This was a huge kindness to her for a couple of reasons. 1) We RARELY eat out. This family of seven is on a tight budget and paying for the luxury of dining out is an absolute rarity. 2) Only those of you from a large family knows what a treat it is to have (almost) one on one time with your mom when you are one of five kids! She was in heaven. And she was eating doritos with chopsticks. We also purchased a fancy cupcake for the lady who had the gross job of scrubbing down the cafe microwaves. She sanitized the junk out of those things. So, the children abused this cupcake in the check out line (purely out of excitement) and then surprised her with it. She seemed a little confused, then skeptical, then surprised and I think, ultimately, appreciative. That seems like a perfectly reasonable response when you give a stranger a crooked cupcake. When we were leaving the store, London said "I mean, that was so UNEXPECTABLE!" 

Yes. It is certainly unexpectable. I am unexpectable. I love that word because it's a perfect 6 year old blend of unacceptable and unexpected. Losing Adam was both. Being the one that survived, was both. And although I have spent a lifetime feeling guilty about it, I realize now what a waste it is to hold back my potential, to sabotage opportunities, to deprive myself the gift of enjoying every good and perfect gift that I have been given by that same God who has been sweetly forgiving me and loving me all along the way. He has whispered love to me on the darkest days of mourning. He has whispered grace and peace to me during the times that I have been so afraid of more loss that I refused to pray, lest I be complicit in his unpredictable will being done. He has pursued me and spared me and he continues to give me a platform to speak and to write and to tell my story. Even though I am not amazing, even though I am a little unexpectable, he shows me kindness. And perhaps the greatest kindness of all, is that HE chooses to be amazing, through me.

And through you.


Here we have the devolution of the cupcake quality. Jay is slamming the rest of his chips, cupcake still in tact.


Jay is fake eating the cupcake while loudly making cookie monster/eating sound effects.


Cupcake dislodges from protective cupcake stand and remains on side upon delivery.