Hosted by Erica Jolene with special guest Jenny Park | Transcription HERE
This is a new version of an Afterthoughts episode. This episode includes four different outtakes of conversations that I had with Jenny Park from last week’s episode “Love Needs No Words”.
This episode includes some snippets of our conversation, parts that I edited out not because they lacked in importance. These pieces range from goofy/serious, from light/heavy, and from casual/intimate.
We discuss the Disney songs that get stuck in our heads, the difficult decision to pivot careers, the role our kids play in research, medicine, and science, the ability to communicate without words, and the struggle of navigating anticipatory grief. These outtakes were incredibly vulnerable, revealing, and just really stood out on their own. I will simply be separating them with fragments of music between each. If you listened to the previous episode, you will likely be able to tell what topic we were discussing which led to these outtake conversations. Jenny's account on the story and journey of Josie's life can be followed on Facebook HERE.
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Welcome to another Afterthoughts episode here on Atypical Truth. I'm your host, Erica Jolene. This is a new version of an Afterthoughts episode. This episode includes four different outtakes of conversations that I had with Jenny Park from last week's episode, "Love Needs No Words". This is a very different structure than what I have done before and I'm going to explain why, but in order to do so, I'm gonna have to get real vulnerable with you for a moment.
So, here is the thing, since my children were born, my ability to socialize with people, it kind of went downhill. I used to be an extremely social person, I definitely would have been described as a social butterfly. I was that person who could float around the room and engage with just about anyone. And if you know me, you know this to be true already. Connecting with people, it just came easily for me, and I never really experienced much social anxiety with it. Since my children, and in the days before COVID, I really struggled with severe social anxiety whenever I was in public, or in a group setting, like when friends were gathering or if I was at a concert, or a cookout, or a wedding. I just kind of forgot how to converse with people. It stopped being easy. It started being something that I had to put a lot of forethought and effort into. You know, a lot of it is because I just really didn't know how to handle the very basic interactions. I could sense when someone very casually asked how the kids were doing and maybe didn't want or expect the heavy or, as the show is appropriately titled, the Atypical Truth. In these casual interactions with people, they just kind of wanted a generic response, something like, "We're doing great, how are you doing?". And I have no problem giving that because in many of these interactions, I also don't want to exert the energy of sharing my Atypical Truth. However, there are some situations that take a while to truly know where you stand with all of that. Some friendships where perhaps I thought they were here for the full truth of our situation, but it ended up being too much, too heavy, too dark. And, you know, I totally get that too. I was that friend once as well. I think that's what made it easy about being a social butterfly, I didn't have to connect deeply with people.
Unfortunately, though, as a person who is standing there with a lot of heavy stuff, heavy stuff that has authentically become a part of who they are, I can sense this change in our friendship. Unfortunately, it often isn't sensed until I see the shift in their response that comes perhaps in the form of posturing their body language or a change in their vocal tone. I think you know, the ones I'm talking about - all that nonverbal language that just loudly screams, "I am uncomfortable!" And that, my friends is where my social anxiety kicks into overdrive.
For situations like the one I just shared, it is something that will haunt me all night long, if not for several days following the interaction, all stress constantly over the one thing that I said that was probably just too much. And then these feelings and this stress, it consumes me. The fact of the matter is, I don't know if I'll ever be good at figuring out just how much someone wants to know without straight up asking, "how much do you really want to know? ...because I don't want to lose precious sleep over this conversation." So my default mode for these kind of casual interactions is to just be simple and inauthentic with what is actually going on.
And I think that's okay. Because no, not every acquaintance needs the details. But it is a struggle, because I am proud of the fact that we have survived and thrived, in spite of all the heaviness. And I really want to share that resilient aspect of our lives with others, without diminishing just how hard the battle has been. I think we've earned that.
What I'm happy to share is the fact that there is one interaction, I never have to worry about being too much - and that is the interaction I have with fellow parents of a disabled or medically complex child. Outside of my closest friendships, I know instinctively that when I'm in the company of a fellow medical caregiver, I don't have to filter myself nearly as much. We intrinsically know the weight of each other's lives. And we truly get to relish in the opportunity to let our walls down, get right to the real stuff, and come to the conversation as our authentic-selves. And that my friends, is basically what happened when Jenny and I had our Zoom date.
We were scheduled to talk for an hour, but I don't think we stopped for nearly three. Just as our kids had so much in common, so do we as mothers and caregivers. We really get the opportunity to chat with people whose lives are so relatable to our own. And there's no telling when we would get this chance again. So this episode includes some snippets of our conversation, parts that I edited out, not because they lacked in importance. No, these pieces ranged from goofy to serious, light and heavy and from casual to emotional. We discuss everything from the Disney songs that gets stuck in our heads, the difficult decisions to pivot careers, the role our kids play in research, medicine, and science. The ability to communicate without words. And the struggle of navigating anticipatory grief. I will simply be separating them with fragments of music between each. And if you listen to the previous episode, you may be able to tell what topic we were discussing which led to these outtake conversations. This won't be the structure for every future After Thoughts episode, but it's fun to switch things up every now and again. And I hope you guys enjoy.
What is Josie's favorite movie?
Well, she has several go twos, but definitely Frozen One, Frozen Two, both the Trolls movies. And Moana. If it's up to her, it's usually Frozen. About a week ago I think we watch Frozen One and Two five times, and so I quit offering it to her because I'm like girl, I can't. I can't hear that "Let it Go" one more time. (laughter from both)
Oh, I love that. I'm pretty sure that it's just on repeat in our heads. I wake up in the middle of the night and I hear one of the many movies or shows and at this point we have fun with it. We sing it. We laugh when it happens. But there's also a part of it where I'm like, "My sanity is at stake here."
Yes! It was the same when Noah was little I mean they like the same thing on repeat they cannot get sick of something.
I get it it's comfort shows I have been bingeing Schitt's Creek over and over because it brings me comfort.
See, now I'm a little darker I would rather watch like Dateline or 48 Hours if I need a good comfort show.
Oh, girl, I do that too. (laughter from both)
I love it.
I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one that's into that.
Nothing like a good murder mystery to relax after a long day.
So Jenny, I know that you are an educator, can you tell me about what grade do you teach?
It's kind of funny because I've had to make a huge shift in my career since having Josie. My degree is an elementary education and originally I taught third grade. My dream job, dream age. Loved it. Then I had Josie and realized I cannot go back to a job that is keeping me away from the home 40 plus hours a week, let alone all the things I was bringing home and taking on. So I changed my job to I'm an English interventionist at our local alternative high school.
When I first heard about the position, I was terrified. I mean to go from teaching cute little eight year olds to high school students, in an alternative setting. I was like, "Nope, can't do it." But I realized that this job could provide me with the flexibility that I needed. It's three quarters time. I mean, if I have to take time off, I don't need to write sub plans. For the most part, I can leave my work in the building and come home and be a good mom. And so I teach ninth through 12th graders. And I'm really a support for those kids that can be in typical English classes, they just need more support with their reading and their writing. So I support them in whatever that may look like whether it's in the classroom, helping them during instruction, or one on one time, small group teaching.
It's really been a godsend for me. I've loved it far more than I thought I would I love the people I work with. That's awesome. But I also like the fact that it's flexible. I mean, I've had to take a six week medical hiatus, and it wasn't the end of the world. I couldn't do that if I was teaching third grade. So this is where I need to be where I'm at my life.
I wouldn't care about anyone else around me and how they felt if I was having 200 seizures a day. You know, I would be suffering, but she really does let us know. I'm okay. It's going to be okay. And I've seen that numerous times in the ER, or the hospital where things are so, so bad, but she's in the best mood. She's smiling everyone she's drawing nurses in. I think she can read people's energies and emotions around her. So when we're stressed, somehow her little old soul thinks, "I got to let them know I'm okay. I can do this. I'm okay."
I can speak on behalf of that experience of being that kid in the hospital, not being able to communicate in a typical way. And I fully believe that I have a sixth sense when it comes to body language, feelings, energy. And it really stems from those experiences for me of reading that room, of seeing a certain look in my mom's face and knowing that I need to, in some way communicate, "I'm okay. Don't worry about me." I don't know where it comes from. It happens at a very early age. I think it's just a part of this journey for people who do have to overcome certain obstacles in order to communicate their status, where they are, how they're feeling. Well, it's a gift. Really, it's a gift, in so many ways.
Do you feel like your own experiences as a child have helped you better understand your own kids than what they're going through? On a deep level? I'm sure.
Yeah. Yeah. And it's hard because of that.
I'm gonna cry....
Awww...I'm sure you feel they're suffering there.
So I used to suction myself.
Oh my gosh.
my mom says she remembers walking into my bedroom because she heard my suction machine going off. And I had crawled to the edge of my crib, reached over, grabbed it and started suctioning my own trach.
Oh my goodness.