Run! Faster! Run until it’s better. Run until I shed the stress and let the day, the morning, the episode, the (fill in the blank) slip off me like beads of sweat. I run sometimes until I cry. When I feel like screaming, I am usually quiet. But when I run, the screams come out through my feet, straight down into the earth. It is often the only thing that works. At the end of the trail where I run, there is a small wooden platform. I sit there and stretch, then I lie back and look at the trees above. No matter what the season, the trees are always there. They reach all the way to the sky (really, they do!) and they are constant for me, a reminder that the earth can absorb my screams, my energy will return, and I can handle the next thing in line. I study the outlines the trees make against the sky and how the light comes through the leaves, and I feel peaceful for a moment.
Now that I am writing again, I have discovered a whole world of blogs out there by parents like me. When I get more tech-savvy, I will post all the links for you. They are each wondrous in their own way, sometimes raw, sometimes touching, sometimes funny. But the thread that appears to be common is the lack of unnecessary “chit chat,” the fact that each piece written and presented appears (to me at least) to be honest, straightforward and real. Now, maybe that’s just because parents of kids with autism don’t often have time to sweat the small stuff. We sweat the big stuff. And on the flip side of the coin, our gratitude and ability to count our blessings is also heightened.
Anyhow, I mention finding those blogs because I was particularly impressed by one essay by a mother
which talked about all of her intense feelings toward her situation. It came with an introduction quite politely warning readers who are on the spectrum themselves to take her words gently and not to heart, for she needed to express the raw things that parents feel sometimes about their kids. I thought it was a beautiful thing, and I applaud her for not only the honest expression, but also for her sensitivity to those who are reading.
I have been thinking a lot lately about what I want to share with my daughter about coping with life. I cannot promise her that she will not encounter hardship, that someone will not try to hurt her, or that there will not be tragedy, sadness or unexpected challenges in her future. I used to think there were certain givens in life, that as unpredictable as it may be, there were some things I could anticipate and count on.
Alex’s diagnosis changed all that. … And so I cannot promise my little girl that she will not one day have a healthy, typical child, who all-at-once slips away from her behind a curtain, taking her on a quest into the unknown to get him back…
There you have all I cannot promise, so the questions then become “What can I promise Hannah about how her life can be? What skills will she need to cope with whatever life hands her? And what might I have been missing before I had her older brother and got thrown into the sea of chaos that eventually led to my finding the life rafts I need?”
Hannah will obviously live her own life, make her own choices, and need to learn through her own experience. I realize I could talk until I am blue in the face about “smart things to do” and it would not really make much of a difference, for it’s not the words I say but the example I set for her in my own life.
So far, here’s my short list of key ingredients for a healthy woman:
• Self-awareness. Knowing her body, feeling good living there. The ability to go inside herself to a calm place at her center. Mindfulness.
• Strength. To trust her instincts. To tune the rest of the world out when the shouts and screams from others seem to demand every ounce of attention. The strength to pause, to consult with herself, and to move from there. My mother used to say “Don’t panic.” I say, “Stay calm.”
• Critical thinking. The ability to think creatively to find solutions. The underlying belief that for every challenge, there is a win-win-win solution and she can find it. Even if that win-win-win means thanking God the day is finally over and knowing that she can rest for a bit before she has to go back to the battle zone.
• Faith. When all else fails, I want my little girl to believe there is something larger than herself watching over her. I want her to feel that she can cry out to the Universe and it will hear and respond. I want her to know without a doubt that life continues on forever and she is part of that never-ending cycle, and as such she matters. She is a “child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; she has a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to her or anyone else, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”