Today is my 44th birthday. Henry kind of digs my birthday as 4+4 = 8, and 8 is, of course, his all-time favorite number. This year, I’m turning 44 on 4-4, so as you might imagine, 8-year-old Henry thinks my double 8 day is pretty awesome.
I’ve never been big on birthdays. Well, maybe as a kid doing the slumber party thing with Rick Springfield music blaring in the background I was, but not really as an adult. It is kind of strange for me to think of how old 44 seemed when I was in my 20’s. I don’t necessarily feel much different than I did then, but certainly I’ve lived a lot of life since then. Rick & I are not as close as we once were, but frankly, I may need to add him to my iTunes playlist again soon.
The past few years have sent me down some paths I never envisioned, and in many ways was ill prepared for. While I do my best to maintain my somewhat disturbing sense of humor, there are days that have felt like too heavy a load. While life can throw at me whatever it likes, it feels unfair for my children to have to endure so much challenge. Autism, and how it affects each person in our family has been a big piece of that challenge. As April is “Autism Awareness Month”, I’m taking this opportunity to become more self-aware from my little corner of the world.
Since autism came into my life – almost 8 years ago (wow, there’s that number again!) Tom and I made a decision that while autism may from
now on always be part of our lives, we would not allow it to define our family. I don’t know how well we’ve done with that.
When Elliott was first diagnosed with autism, I could not bear to be around typically developing kids and their families. My grief was so great that I could not bear to witness the kind of life we were never going to have. This is something I’ve never spoken of, because I’ve always been ashamed of it. While people reached out to me, I could not accept their help, and I have many regrets about that to this day. I lost many friendships, mostly through neglect, and in lots of ways, have slowly through the years become somewhat of a prisoner to autism. I am not proud of this, but now I can admit it.
Stress does lots of crazy stuff to our bodies. The past couple of years, I started experiencing health problems as a result of years of worry and anxiety (and let’s face it, a serious love of Pringles). My weight was way ugly, and I just didn’t feel like the Mom I wanted to be, nor the social being that still lurks somewhere inside me. So last October, I had weight loss surgery, and what an amazing learning experience this has been for me. Initially, it was so hard. I had to confront a lot of really icky stuff, and most challenging was the realization that Pringles & I were never going to be close friends again, though every now and then we may say hello as we cross paths at Target, etc.
Replacing Pringles with real people and joining the social world again have been huge lessons for me. Whenever it gets hard, I think about what my kids go through every day, and then it does not seem so difficult. Learning to embrace and face the challenges that life throws at us is
something I’m now trying to do with my kids instead of for my kids. This has been one of the most important lessons I’ve ever had to learn in all of my 44 years, and I’m grateful to have such good teachers!
And just as it is for the kids, my progress is slow, but steady. Like so much in life, it is more about the journey than the destination. What I’ve learned about myself these last 6 months since surgery I would not trade for any number on the scale.
I had a goal on the date of my surgery to weigh 50 pounds less by my birthday, and I’m happy to report I achieved that plus 2. The road ahead is still long, just as it is for our kids, but together we will put one foot in front of the other, and try our best to enjoy the scenery!