Ever since I starting blogging, every year on my birthday I try to take the time to write a self-reflective post. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve done this but, the way things have been going lately, this year I think a post like this is more important than ever.
This last year has been full of, well let’s call it what it is … emotional turmoil. In the last year, both Dad and I had our weight loss surgery (well, Dad was October 4, so TECHNICALLY it was outside the window); Big Brother had his Bar Mitzvah; Rachel and Simon graduated from elementary school and started middle school (and everything that process entailed); and Simon qualified for the Autism Waiver (whereas Rachel did not). And these are just some of those emotionally charged events that have been dominating my life for the last 372 days. Each of these had me coming unglued more than once (with some more so than others) and these and several other doubts and worries have been a persistent weight on my mind for FAR too long.
About a month ago, this seemingly never-ending feeling of being beaten down led to me sitting down and talking with someone. I had reached the point where I was desperate for someone to listen and perhaps point me in the right direction so I could finally figure out what I was supposed to do. I needed to finally come to terms with everything that has been happening this last year and find my way back to feeling positive about where we are and the direction that things are heading. After letting me talk for a while, she asked me what I do for myself (rather than what I do to support my family). And, when I couldn’t give a satisfactory answer, she assigned me the task of taking time each day while the kids were in school and Dad was at work to find something to do that was for my personal benefit, not for their’s. She instructed me to spend time each day to take care of myself.
This has been (annoyingly frustrating) VERY difficult for me to do. I notice that when the kids are in school, I am generally just waiting for them to come home. I pass the time in various ways and I’m almost always busy, but there is no direction in anything I do. But for this last month, I have been TRYING to find something that can give me that break and still have a purpose. I haven’t managed to do what she had tasked of me, but I have been doing a lot of self reflection. I have spent time trying NOT to think about my kids and focus on myself (insert guilt feelings galore). I have been thinking about how my life has changed these last 11 years since I stopped working outside the home and became a Stay At Home Mom; and even more so since March 12, 2009 when the developmental pediatrician told me that Rachel and Simon were “clearly on the spectrum”.
I see how much my friendships have changed. I see how I started avoiding most of my friends with kids (which was pretty much ALL of my friends) because seeing their typically-developing children do everything that we parents expect made me only see what I had feared was lost in two of my own children. Because of my inability to look past my jealousy and sense of loss, I allowed friendships to disappear. Some of these friendships were with the people who I had felt closest with and, in their defense, they always tried to help in any way they could. But I couldn’t bring myself to accept that help whether for ego or other reasons, and I allowed them to quietly slip out of my life as they each gave up on me, one by one.
It’s not ALL bad … I also have forged some amazing friendships that have come about BECAUSE of my entry into the Autism parenting world — people who share in the daily struggles that define so much of my life, who understand my worries and fears and can share in my triumphs. And these people helped me to realize that many of those things that I felt were unattainable were still possible … only the scope and timing had changed.
But the truth is there is no balance in my life. Everything is about my kids and so much of it is about Autism.
How does one find balance when it’s been lost for so long? I need to learn to let go of my worries before they infect my kids more than they already have. And what about those friends who I have pushed out of my life? I need to try and reconnect with them. Perhaps those friendships would have ended anyway as we all change over time. But what have I lost by keeping these people out of my life when I needed them most? I deserve to know if these people can once again be part of my circle. And, most importantly, I need to give myself permission to have a life.
One of the things I decided to do was to join my synagogue’s Board of Directors (and for the record, I decided this BEFORE starting this self-reflective cycle). I knew that joining the Board would mean I would also join some of the committees offered within the community. I had assumed that, as I am always so family-focused, I would be joining with groups such as the Religious School Committee or other groups targeting the families in the building. But I am realizing that this is not where my focus should be. The reason it was so important for me to join the Board was because this was something that I wanted to do. Yes, my family can benefit from whatever role I choose to take in this, but this is something that needs to truly be about ME. And, even though this violates what I just said, I think I know how I can make a contribution in a very personally fulfilling way (I’m still trying to figure out the scope and implementation, so please forgive my vagueness).
So, what am I going to do with these realizations? I came up with 2 primary self-improvement goals for the year:
- I need to find something that is truly my own — something that does not have anything directly to do with my kids or with Autism. Autism has become my obsession for the last 9 years, and I don’t think that will ever change — this as a subject has become a central part of my (and my family’s) life and something that I am always striving to understand so I can help my kids learn to be successful. But I need something else to give me other places to put my energy and effort for a portion of every day. Something outside of this obsession so I have positive energy to devote to my family’s needs without any resentment. I don’t really know what that is yet, but I need to find that “something”.
- I need to try to reconnect with some of my friends whom I have been mostly avoiding these last 9 years. I need to see if those friendships can be resurrected because I truly miss these people in ways that I cannot satisfactorily express.
Who knows what will come of these thoughts and plans. I just know that the way I have been feeling these last 6 months cannot be allowed to continue, and the time has come to make things better.
Happy Birthday To Me!