He is seen

Henry has just turned 6. The party now over, we open gifts as a family in the safe space of our living room. Henry opens a Spiderman toy from his classmate and bursts into tears.

“But he knows I like trains! He knows I don’t like Spiderman! Why would he do this?”

I attempt to gather him into my arms, but he will have none of it. His brain is on fire, reeling from this perceived betrayal. Hot tears spill over his flushed cheeks. I try to explain that his friend’s mother probably bought the present. I remind him how his classmates often draw trains for him at school. They know, I assure him. Still, Henry wails, “But why didn’t he tell his mom? He should have told her!”

The hurt in his eyes is almost too much to bear. To an outside observer it would sound bratty, but I know better.

If you know Henry, then you know how his mind works. You see the anguish on his face, and you know this reaction is more than spoiled selfishness. It’s authentic pain and genuine confusion. His heart is broken.

He longs to be seen.

*****

One day this summer, while driving down a country road, Henry declares, “Mom, this year I want to open my presents in front of my friends.”

“Ok, bud. Remember, if you open a gift you don’t like, you’ll need to keep it in your thought bubble. You’ll need to say ‘thank you’ no matter what. Let’s practice. Pretend you just opened a gift and…”

“No no no. I changed my mind. I’ll open them later.”

I understand we’ve crossed a line; there will be no more talking about this today and maybe not at all.  “Ok,” I say, “we can talk about it another time.”

Though he mentions it only in passing one more time, he is steadfast; he will not open his presents in front of his friends.

On the day of his party, somewhere between water balloons and snow cones, Henry walks up to me. “Mom? I want to open my presents now.”

“Remember the talk we had about it? Can you do it?”

“Yeah. I want to do it.”

So, he does. Henry opens gifts from friends at his birthday party. He smiles genuinely, expresses authentic gratitude, and never tells a friend he doesn’t like their selection. If negative thoughts are in his thought bubble, I see no evidence of them. It’s a morning of birthday wishes come true.

*****

Days after the party, Henry pauses in the middle of play and points to a new train set.

“Mom, remember when (my friend) gave me that Thomas set for my birthday? He thought about me, because I like trains.”

I am transported to that evening two years ago, the evening of inconsolable tears, and I am relieved. He knows now. He knows he is seen. I smile and reply softly, “He sure did, honey. He sure did.”

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New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick­-witted, train-loving, autistic 8-­year­-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.

Letting Go On the First Day of School

This is the photo Henry chose for his first day of 1st grade. Goofy smile. Not looking at the camera. Next to a freshly painted fire hydrant.

It’s not what my instincts would choose. I’d have him sitting on the front porch with his hair parted just right. His smile would look effortless. He wouldn’t wear socks with his sandals.

But he’s never been a “sit on the front porch on the first day” kind of guy. He’s got too much going on in his head to put up with my nonsense.

Some forms of letting go are easier than others. Letting him choose his first day picture pose – or not pose for one at all – has been an easy one.

Others are difficult. I know this; you know this. Trusting God with our children isn’t easy, despite the fact we know he is for us, we know he loves us, we know he loves our children.  Why is it difficult?

I think we hold tightly to our children because, in some measure, trusting God means trusting other people.

Trusting teachers and assistants and principals will have the students’ best interests in mind.

Trusting other children to be kind.

Trusting our children to live with integrity.

Trusting we’ve done our part to raise them well. (Maybe trusting ourselves is the hardest?)

Even for those of us who trust others automatically, this is hard stuff. We value nothing more than our children. Handing them over is more weighty than a truckload of gold bricks with diamonds spilling over the top. So, we may watch them climb the bus steps or walk through the school doors with some reluctance, wistfulness, and questions.

That was me on Henry’s first day of 3-year-old preschool. 4-year-old. 5-year-old. Kindergarten. Only on the first day of first grade did I relax.

Over time, through challenges and even failures, we see God’s goodness displayed in our own lives –  not just played out page after page in our Bibles, which should be enough for us but somehow never is. We’re imperfect humans with spiritual amnesia, after all. But if we live long enough, we do learn. We learn it’s ok to trust. It’s ok to give others responsibility. We really can let our children go. Trusting God completely means realizing he will fill in the gaps and redeem the mistakes.

I know from experience now that things will go more smoothly than I can imagine, but God will be with Henry even when things go badly. I don’t have to be afraid of the what-ifs. I let him go with this prayer:

God, I know you will meet all Henry’s needs according to your glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

In a few weeks Henry will start second grade, and I will snap a photo in the way he chooses. I treasure our first day pictures more than any staged picture we’ve ever taken. In the sweet little back of a toddler, in the smiling eyes of his compassionate teachers, and in the big boy’s smirks and toothy grins, I see the mercies that are new every morning.

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New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick­-witted, train-loving, autistic 8-­year­-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.

Remembering and relearning the lessons I ought to know

Jesus’ rhythm of work and rest was the centerpiece of our church retreat day, capping off a beautiful Lenten season focused on Sabbath. I understood this rhythm. I lived this rhythm. More importantly, I knew the dangers of not living this rhythm. I had 5 minutes to speak, and I knew exactly what I would say.

Yet, as I shared from the podium the story God had laid on my heart, I felt him nudging me.

It can happen again, Meredith. Pay attention. Be careful.

I thought I was healed, whole, and rested, but I still had so much to learn. Several months later I would drive myself to a small inn to spend 24 hours alone. Just me and Jesus.

What I learn, I must relearn. What I teach others, I must reteach myself.

I am not complete. God is not done with me. Even this, I am always relearning.

*****

I feel the nudge again, as if I’m standing in a room full of people with 5 minutes to speak. This time I’m not testifying to the power of Sabbath rest. I’m sharing with you about surrender and trust, and I’m hearing God say it.

Pay attention. Be careful.

But where I am veering off course? My brain plays its movie reel. I watch the days and months roll by, and then I see it:

I live open-handed, releasing my expectations . . . except when I don’t.

When I forget God is always for me, always with me, always 1000 steps ahead of me, that’s when I stumble. My open hands curl into controlling, clenching fists. I wrestle circumstances into what I think they should be. I hurry and scurry and overthink. I listen to more podcasts, watch more webinars, consult more experts, read more articles. If I just consume more, I’ll get it right this time.

(More information leads to better choices, right?)

Sometimes the better choice is to be still. Look. Listen. Remember.

Remember that God doesn’t change. Remember the time he was working for my good, even though I couldn’t see it. Remember the time I thought I knew it all, but later saw the bigger picture.

I want loose strings tied in a tight knot. I want clear direction and a sure path laid before me. I want circumstances to change. I want to know why my soul stirs without understanding where I’m going.

He whispers.

Why are you struggling to understand this on your own? Lean not on your own understanding.

He has proven his love and provision over and over again. Why do I forget? 

Maybe you want answers more than you want me.

I want to know him more than I want anything else, but I am so weak. If I avert my eyes from my Savior for even a moment, even without awareness, my fists curl into false control once again. I do what I don’t want to do.

Thank God, then, for those whispers. 

Abide in me.
My yoke is easy.
Rest.

Answers don’t always come, and they almost never come quickly, but God is still good – he has always been good – and I can trust him with my questions. I can rest in his presence while I wait.

So, I uncurl my fingers and relearn the lesson.

New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick­-witted, train-loving, autistic 8-­year­-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.

He’s not on the same timetable, but he’s growing too.

Because the days of acute stress are over, I can be lulled into thinking we’re a typical family. I can forget Henry’s brain is different than most. I can think we’ve got life under control.
 
(Psst. Control is an illusion.)
 
I forget he needs preparation.
 
I forget he needs a schedule.
 
I dropped him off at a friend’s house and forgot to tell the mom he needed a warning before pick-up time. Let’s just say pick-up wasn’t pleasant.
 
I bought tickets to a baseball game without asking him. He lost his mind with anxiety. I felt like a terrible mother. We didn’t go.
 

I have to stay awake, to remember he is different. Most of the time, however, this isn’t my problem.

I also have to remember he’s a typical boy.

My sister reminded me of this last week, as I watched Henry plunge into the wave pool at an amusement park, staying close to his uncle but smiling all the way. Yes, he was wearing the required life vest, but I know even a life vest wouldn’t have made this happen last year. I can’t believe the difference a year makes.

This year I’m seeing him show more self-restraint.

This summer I’m watching him lose his fear of swimming.

Next week he’s attending his first day camp.

My cautious, anxious boy is growing up.

While we can never grow lax in advocating for his needs, we must remember this: His needs include growth.  In fact, his special needs actually make it more imperative that I focus on this growth.

In the school setting, we know special kiddos are entitled to FAPE – free and appropriate public education. Education should prepare all children for further education, employment, and independent living, right?

So, I have to ask myself what we are doing at home to give Henry the same preparation. Am I nurturing his physical, academic, emotional, and spiritual growth? Am I teaching him responsibility and independence?

Just yesterday I caught myself putting crackers in a bowl for him, even though I instituted the summer snack basket last month. (He’s allowed to grab his own snacks out of the basket, but when it’s empty he is done for the day.) How quickly I can lapse back into old habits.

There were wins, too. He fed the dog without being told. He asked to play outside without my prompting. He handled disappointment with integrity. Yes, I am proud of him. But I can’t grow lazy, because tomorrow will come. Tomorrows turn into years.  He will be 8 on Sunday.

Eight years. Almost 3000 days. What have I done with them?

The hardest days may be behind us, but the parenting is not. God willing, we have many more days to go. God willing, Henry has many more years ahead of him. I pray we will prepare him well.

New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick­-witted, train-loving, autistic 8-­year­-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.

How to Choose a Vacation Spot

When parents who never get a week of vacation suddenly have several nights to themselves, analysis paralysis can set in. What to do? Where to go? Sightsee or relax? So many options!

Keith and I found ourselves in this situation two years ago, when we unexpectedly had a window of time to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. Henry’s needs came first. Once his care was squared away, we had to pick a location.

We wanted delicious food. We wanted connection. We did not want to make decisions. We did not want to tour. We did not want to shop. We needed something simple but not easy to find — deep rest. We chose Zoetry Villa Rolandi on Isla Mujeres, a small island off the coast of Cancun. As a matter of fact, we chose it again this year for the same reasons.

In hopes I can help parents in a similar situation – prolonged exhaustion and decision fatigue – I’m sharing here how we came to our decision to stay at Villa Rolandi.

How we chose our resort

1. Travel time. For various reasons, we could not stay a full week. We knew we wanted to maximize our relaxation time, which meant

– no more than one layover,
– not driving more than 45 minutes from the airport to the hotel,
– and not changing hotels.

From where we live, Cancun requires one layover. Once on the ground, it is a short drive to the private boat that takes us to Isla Mujeres.

2. Activities. We wanted the opportunity for light exercise if we wished, but mostly we wanted to talk and read. We did not want

– loud music,
– dance clubs,
– vendors coming on the property,
– or kids camps.

On our first trip, we enjoyed paddle boarding each day and also riding bikes one day. We also had spa treatments. On this trip we used the paddle boards for maybe half an hour. Yoga and water aerobics are provided every morning for those who wish to participate.

3. Service. We wanted a small resort with excellent, though not invasive, service. We find the staff friendly, warm and hospitable. They will go out of their way to serve you, but they will not intrude on your conversations or hound you to try different activities or drinks.

4. All-Inclusive. This goes back to making decisions. We liked paying one price and knowing we wouldn’t need to make choices once we arrived. Chocolate cake or banana ice cream? Try both! (Spa treatments are not included, just FYI.)

5. Food. We like to eat well. We do not like mediocre hamburgers and fries for every meal. We do not love buffets, though they have their time and place (like meeting Mickey at Disney). This resort fit our bill.

How will you choose?

Our needs may not be your needs, and our needs today may not be our needs next year.  The resort served our purposes in ways others did not for this type of vacation. Other vacations will serve different purposes. Decide what kind of vacation you need now.

What is restful for you? What connects you and your spouse? I know a couple who makes time for ballroom dancing on their vacations. Maybe you enjoy hiking or sailing. Maybe you want sight-seeing mixed in with lounging by the pool.

How much time do you have? Do you want to travel by car, plane, boat, train, or a combination?

What would make your trip unpleasant? While we can’t plan for unexpected problems, we can rule out certain environments or resort characteristics.

Finally, I suggest using a travel agent. Yes, even in a world with Trip Advisor, a good agent can be worth his weight in gold and sometimes can even secure lower prices, all at no additional cost to you.

Happy travels!

New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick­-witted, train-loving, autistic 8-­year­-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.

The right way to raise a healthy eater

We did everything right. And we’ve always had a problem eater.

We fed Henry vegetables and he spit them out.
We hid the vegetables in the fruit and he spit them out.
We introduced foods exactly when we were told.
We made fun patterns on his plate.
We gave options, but not so many as to overwhelm.
We let him see a wide variety on our own plates.

No matter what we did, the list of what Henry would eat dwindled instead of grew.

I thought if I listened to my mother, read the books, and followed the pediatrician’s advice, everything would work out. If I parented the “right” way, he would simply grow out of it. (Even the nutritionist said so. Many toddlers are picky, after all.)

The right way rewards.
The right way is calm.
The right way allows playing with food.
The right way requires a no-thank-you bite.
The right way includes children in grocery shopping.
And my favorite? The right way encourages cooking with children.

(Henry loves to cook. He does not love to eat.)

If all else fails, the right way leads to feeding therapy.

The right way is a joke.

*****

The real right way is to submit my parenting to God every day and trust him with the results. Because the right way of the world? It’s always a formula from a guru.

Recipes Your Toddler Can’t Resist
10 Steps to a Healthier You
Five Ways to Bring Back the Spark in Your Marriage
100 Places You Must See Before You Die
4 Foods to Eat for Lower Cholesterol

Believing the formula may lead to control, anger, defensiveness, defeat and resentment.

Believing the guru may leave no room for God to move.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with advice and certainly nothing wrong with strategies backed by research. I’m a big fan of both. What is wrong is holding tightly to them, wearing blinders to exceptions, and forgetting the limits of our responsibility.

If the answers are formulaic – if a plus b always equals c, then I can manage the outcome. At least, I like to think I can. But the truth is that God is always in charge of the outcome.

I wanted the answers to raising a healthy eater to come from books, and sometimes the only answers that makes sense are the ones from The Good Book:

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment…

We love God more than we love our own agenda.

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-20)

We love Henry through the meal times.

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. (Colossians 3:21)

We do not create strife.

Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. (Psalm 139:4)

We remember God knows our fears and struggles even before we do.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

We know that each person in this family was created on purpose, and God will continue his good work in us whether or not Henry eats vegetables.

*****

What would you like to control? What would it look like to trust God with it instead?

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New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick­-witted, train-loving, autistic 8-­year­-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.

How to Slow Time

slow time

He used to watch Thomas cartoons. Now he watches Jeopardy.

He used to read road signs. Now he guesses Wheel of Fortune puzzles.

He used to fall asleep on my chest. Now he reaches out one arm for a hug.

What do you do when you feel life is passing faster than you can handle? When the days are somehow escaping you?

*****

Last year I had a delightfully ambitious plan for May: grade my final papers quickly and write like heck until Henry was out of school. By the time Henry finished kindergarten, I would have thousands of words written!

The reality?

I volunteered to proctor end-of-grade tests. I volunteered on field day. I had lunch with friends. I took too long to grade my papers. I spent a weekend with a friend on the west coast. (Best decision of the month, by the way.) I blinked and May was over.

I know you have felt the same way at some point. Summer, fall, Advent, Lent… your child’s babyhood or maybe even his teen years… these are seasons we want to savor, but before we know it they are gone.

What do we do?

We awake to the moment. We live fully present.

But I see your eye roll. I hear you grumbling, Meredith, what does that MEAN?

In short, we’re intentional. We slow down.

*****

In an age when people use time-saving apps only to fill their calendars with more activity, how do we slow down?

If we do find our proper balance of activities, how do we then shift our mindset from run to walk, from devour to savor, from endure to enjoy?

You might try one of these ideas.

Leave white space. This year I looked carefully at my May calendar before it began. I did not overcommit. Can you leave some days – or some hours – white?

Pause. Set a timer for every hour (or whatever feels right to you) to take 10 deep breaths. Whisper a short prayer or phrase to center your mind and lessen your heart rate.

Stop multitasking. Countercultural, I know. Perhaps it’s necessary at times, but multitasking should be the exception to the norm. Have you ever driven your car to a destination without any memory of how you got there? Your mind was so busy you didn’t even notice the road! This is exactly how our days become blurs. Doing too many tasks at once is the best way I know to not be present.

Write it down. When your mind seems to be racing, stop and write it down. I keep paper or a small notebook in the kitchen, in my purse, and by my bed. The visual act of “emptying” your cluttered brain does wonders.

Seize unexpected opportunities. One evening last summer, Henry surprised me by joining me on the back porch.  We sat side-by-side on the back porch, listening to the rain and the neighbors’ chickens.  I didn’t hop up to start dinner or unload the dishwasher. I sat with him. And now it’s one of our favorite evening pastimes.

*****

This May I didn’t do everything perfectly. I made too many runs to the grocery store before our annual cookout. I didn’t shop for teacher gifts as early as I would have liked. But this time, I forgave myself these “transgressions” and moved on. No dwelling. No anxiety. No stress.

Practice imperfect progress.

As Erin Loechner says, “Chasing slow is still a chase.”

Try one of these ideas on for size. Wear it a bit, see how you like it. Doesn’t fit quite right for you? Try another. Find your own way to slow down time.

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New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick­-witted, train-loving, autistic 8-­year­-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.

The Cost of Self Care

One of the most tricky, sensitive, and perhaps even controversial aspects of self care is expense. In a closed Facebook group for moms, a friend of mine recently confessed that she has a hard time spending money on herself and wondered how other moms felt about it. The comments ran the gamut, but I noticed every response recognized the necessity of self care, even if they weren’t yet comfortable with the notion or sure of how to budget for it.

I think maybe mamas wrestle with this question too much: Do I really need this?

When a woman has deprived herself of love and care for too long, the journey back to wholeness feels unnatural. She has convinced herself that a real woman needs nothing. This is a mistake.

Do you need a new sports car? Probably not. But what you do need is margin to breathe. You need to be filled up in order to pour out. You need to connect with God and remember both who HE is and who YOU are.  What helps you find this margin? What helps you connect with God? What is life-giving?

I have some of my most meaningful talks with God and best creative insights when I’m walking vigorously in nature, so I do this each day. Maybe you have a membership at Massage Envy so you can have 60 minutes of uninterrupted thinking as well as massage therapy every month. Maybe in this season, all you can do is wake up 10 minutes early to pray before the rest of the house is awake. Whatever the white space is for you, you need it. Take it.

The question that seems more pressing to me is: How much will it cost me to not do this?

If your life-giving activities cost money, it’s certainly not a bad idea to shop around. (Is the $200 massage more life-giving than the $50 massage?) I understand this, as a frugal girl myself. On the other hand, I have been rock bottom in a dry well of exhaustion, so I can tell you with certainly it is worth the cost.

It costs nothing to say, “Henry, Daddy can get your juice,” or “Daddy can give you a bath.”

It costs a few dollars to have coffee or tea in a cozy corner of a cafe.

It costs nothing to browse books in a shop or the library.

It costs nothing to ask a friend for help.

What brings you life? If it’s been so long that you don’t know where to start, here are some ideas.

Laughing at jokes
Watching documentaries
Reading fiction
Painting your fingernails
Relaxing in a hammock
Trail running
Volunteering for a nonprofit
Calling your grandparents
Writing letters
Cooking a beautiful meal
Planting a garden
Coloring with your kids
Sewing, painting, singing, playing an instrument, scrapbooking…

Make a list today of what brings you life. Then, go do one.

New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick­-witted, train-loving, autistic 8-­year­-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.

7 things I learned this spring

1. Chairs matter.  I’ve always wanted to love our screened porch, but this year I actually do. In the last month I’ve spent more hours out there in our new chairs than all the hours of the last 4 years combined. (Well, maybe that’s a stretch, but it’s a lot.)

2. I’m really, truly done with paper calendars. In January I bought a Passion Planner and thought I would organize all my personal goals and work tasks in it this year. I haven’t. I’m still a Google calendar + paper notebook person. What I do love is the front matter of the Passion Planner, so I plan to continue using the goal planning concepts. (It’s a beautiful planner, if you’re a paper calendar person!)

3. I can’t quit pizza. I just can’t. For all my foodie interests, I will never say no to pizza. (Except I will always say no to bowling alley pizza.) It’s my favorite food group, amen.

4. I’m still finding my voice. If my blog is feeling is a bit awkward these days, it’s because I’m in a period of transition with my personal and work goals, and I’m struggggling to find the right tone in my writing. Thank you for continuing to walk with me in this journey. You are my people.

5. Hummingbirds chirp! I had no idea. Did you? I heard them as they were dancing around my petunias.

6. I shouldn’t be surprised when old scars hurt. What I once grieved can still sting for a flicker of a moment. It’s ok to feel the sting and move on. It doesn’t mean I’m not a good mother.

In the early days, every trip to the park and pick-up from the nursery is an opportunity to be reminded that your children don’t do paintings, get invited to parties, or ride scooters. The sheer volume of things to grieve for can seem overwhelming. But as time goes on, these punch-in-the-stomach moments do become less frequent and, in our experience, less potent.

-Andrew and Rachel Wilson, The Life We Never Expected

7. When self-care goes beyond my usual routine, it’s still a bit uncomfortable for me. I learned this lesson on more than one occasion this spring and wrote about one of them. 

Want to read what other writers and creatives have learned? Click here to read more on Emily P. Freeman’s site.

New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick­-witted, train-loving, autistic 8-­year­-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.

When Self-Care is Uncomfortable

After all these years and all my preaching, it’s still hard for me to follow my own advice on one thing. Asking for help.

Last week I hurt my back and have been unable to bend, crouch, or twist my torso. I have to lift my left leg with my hands to just get into the car. It’s a super pretty picture. 

With a Memorial Day party on the horizon, I didn’t know how I would get the house clean in time. Keith suggested we ask our friends for the name of their cleaning lady.  I hemmed and hawed and tried to say I could do it, but in the end I admitted it would be nice to have help.

Here’s the thing.  We’ve previously discussed hiring someone a couple times a year just to do the things we hate, like scrubbing baseboards and dusting crown molding, door frames, and blinds. (I don’t know how often you do yours, but I promise you don’t want to know the last time I did mine.)

Every time, I changed my mind with an inner monologue something like this: Meredith, your body is able and you can do it for free. This is ridiculous. What you may not hear hidden underneath the self-talk is pride-fueled shame. Shame says I don’t need help.

Now slightly injured, all those reasons flew out the window when we welcomed N and her crew into our house. As I showed them the cleaning supplies I whined, “I normally do this myself, but I hurt my back,” afraid they were judging me. 

They cleaned it top to bottom (probably better than I ever have) as I sat on my back porch. I sat there drinking my sparkling water, online shopping, and thinking this was pretty awesome but also uncomfortable. I sent my mother a text: I feel like a slavedriver. Truth be told, I felt a bit like I’d time traveled to the Antebellum South, like I should be drinking sweet tea while someone fanned me. This is just wrong, right? I wondered.

I snuck a few peeks. She’s cleaning my AC vents! Oh my gosh, is she standing on my counter to clean my light fixtures? After the wonderful cleaning goddess and her team left, I opened the fridge. “KEITH! She cleaned our refrigerator shelves!” This morning I walked into my closet. They lined up my shoes. They folded the jeans I had thrown on a chair. Then I went in the laundry room. It’s organized! In 3 hours, 4 ladies did even more than we expected.

Shame turned to gratitude as I realized it would have taken me a solid week to do all of this on my own. With an injury, it would probably take even longer.  (It took me an hour just to pick up Henry’s train creations so they could vacuum.) These ladies performed an invaluable service for us. Allowing them to care for my house was uncomfortable but necessary self-care.

*****

I’ve gotten pretty good at taking care of myself in the last few years. Asking for help shouldn’t be so unsettling.  But here’s the dirty secret: I still carry prejudice against activities that feel “rich.” I push back against materialistic lifestyles and spoiled attitudes. Taking a walk everyday doesn’t sound as indulgent as hiring a housekeeper. 

Let’s put it on the table: This is a weed in my own soul that needs pulling. Prejudice is prejudice. Pride is pride.

This simple thing, this act of allowing someone to clean my home, has me considering what might feel uncomfortable to others. If self-care sounds like a dirty word to you, why is that so?

What sorts of pride might you have?

What sorts of shame?

What sorts of excuses?

“I just don’t have time.” Is that true? Or do you feel busyness is a badge of honor?

“I don’t like manicures.” (That was my first excuse too.) No problem. What do you like to do?

“I have too many children at home.” Oh, boy. I bet that’s tough. Can you and a friend, spouse, or partner get creative with how to make this happen?  

“That’s for people like Oprah.” True, she has more resources, but self-care doesn’t have to be expensive.

“My mother and grandmother never took a moment for themselves.”  I hear you, but maybe they should have. How would their lives and their souls have been different?

*****

Like me, my friend Amy Hoogervorst gets all the reasons you (particularly you nurturing, busy mamas!) resist taking care of yourself. She created 31 Acts of Self Care for the Nooks and Crannies of Your Life just for folks like us. I hope you’ll check it out.  In the meantime, here a few suggestions from me:

  • Turn off and tune out whatever noises are keeping you from hearing your own heart.
  • Keep a gratitude journal.
  • Jot down what other people do to fill your cup. Then do that for yourself.

No two people are identical, not even identical twins, so your self-care routine doesn’t have to look like mine. But if you’ve been resistant to the idea, I hope you’ll consider how you can tend to your own mind, body, and soul. 

New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick­-witted, train-loving, autistic 8-­year­-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.