Let’s play dominos: How to do more than hope for change.

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It was dark, probably past my usual bed time.

After a long evening at a school event, I drove home two African-American male classmates. I dropped off the first, sitting in the passenger seat, and the second declined to take his friend’s now vacant seat.

“You can sit up front,” I offered cheerfully.

“No, that’s not right,” he replied softly.

My heart ached.

He asked me to wait just a minute as I pulled up to his house and he ran inside. He came back with a few dollars for gas money, pressing it into my hand and insisting I take it. What am I?, I thought. His chauffeur? Aren’t we friends?

My aching heart split.

//

By now, most of America knows what happened in Miami last Monday. Charles Kinsey, a black man, was shot while lying on his back with hands in the air, attempting to calm a nonverbal autistic man sitting in the street. An incorrect 911 tip suggested Arnaldo Rios, the autistic man, was armed and suicidal. Kinsey called out, “All he has is a toy truck in his hand – a toy truck. I’m a behavioral therapist at the group home.”  He pleaded for Arnaldo to be still and continued to cry out there was no need for guns. Apparently, none of that mattered. The officer shot anyway.

At first glance, this was one more in a long string of white officers shooting black men. Later, the officer said he was aiming for the (unarmed, unthreatening) autistic patient. Like that would be better.

I’m not anti-authority or anti-gun. I’m anti-carelessness and anti-ego, and I’m terrified of the trigger-happy.

We talk to Henry about law enforcement, about how they take care of us and keep us safe. About how they patrol our neighborhood to keep the bad guys out. About how he can trust them.

Can he?

Can I? He doesn’t have a paid aide. I’m it. Keith is it. If he has a tantrum in Whole Foods, we are the ones who will be there.

We are long past the point of hoping for change. We cannot trust our loved ones will survive if they #handsupdontshoot. We are now at the point we must act.

I can’t change the systemic problems of racism or ableism, but I can use what I’ve been given to fight for small changes. You can too. We can watch the obstacles fall like dominos.

//

We’ve come a long way since the evening my classmate refused to sit in the front seat of my car. We have a long way to go.

I know I went a little dark and stormy today. This doesn’t feel like delight, does it? So, here’s what I will delight in: the power to act. Here are my action steps. I hope you will act too.

  1. Contact local first responders, encouraging them to utilize training resources such as Experience Autism.
  2. Contact TEACCH and our local chapter of the Autism Society to inquire about a Be Safe Interactive Movie Screening.
  3. Continue to encourage positive, authentic interactions between our family and people of color. No token friends here, but real relationships.
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 9-­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 you feel numb

I want to feel something.

When the nightly news drips with blood, I want to feel. Instead, I am numb.

My mind reels from the inhumane way we are treating each other. Reason and logic tell me the news is barbaric, unthinkable; still, I feel nothing. I am not shocked, nor surprised. I haven’t cried. I haven’t felt the anguish, the pang in my heart others mention. I’m overexposed and desensitized.

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Too many shootings have extinguished my emotional response. 7575 gun-related deaths already in 2016. How can one feel the same punch-in-the-gut shock every time? I pray for a shift in America’s consciousness, yet I don’t have faith my prayers will be answered. I believe we are hopeless here.

This should not be.

I need saving from myself, my inability to believe. Psalm 121 is my answer.

I lift my eyes unto the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth. 

The Lord who made everything, from subatomic matter to Mount Everest, can certainly create a new heart in me. Psalm 51:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. 

So, I pray. I pray for the families of the slain, believing God will bring peace that surpasses understanding through the presence of the Spirit. And I pray for me, believing God can transform me through the renewing of my mind. (Romans 12:2).

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 9-­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.

What You Need to Have the Best Summer Ever

Last year I realized what a lot of people already knew. Summer is a trickster.

She serves a plate of wide-open freedom with a side of strangling expectations.

Other parents ask what camps Henry is doing. None, I answer and then fumble through an unsolicited explanation.

(Why is it so hard for me to remember that “no” is a complete sentence?)

They ask where we’re going on vacation. Well, Georgia, then the beach, then Forest City, then Keith and I to the beach, then I pray we get a month of no highways. 

Wow, you guys are busy, they say. But most weekdays we’re loosey-goosey, I counter.

(Why do I feel they’re judging?)

Why is it so hard to stand firm in our family’s decisions, to not apologize, to remember we made them thoughtfully and prayerfully?

Because I want to manage others’ opinions of me.

Ouch. There, I said it. Picture me wincing as I type these words. I’m ashamed to say it, but there’s the truth. I want you to approve of me. What makes this so crazy, impossibly hard is the fact all of you have different ideas and ideals. One family’s perfect summer is another’s nightmare.

(Obviously, I’m not just talking about summer.)

So, if I want to make Friend A like me, I’ll have to enroll Henry in 5 weeks of Spanish camp. And if I want Friend B to like me, I’ll have to make a fairy garden with him. And if I want Friend C to like me… You get the idea.

Thank goodness, I have a merciful God, a grounding center, to keep me in check. I don’t want to make all those people happy more than I want to plan the best summer for my trio.

In our home, we can’t drift into June expecting everything to be perfect if we figure it out day by day. We don’t work that way. All three of us need:

  1. Daily goals and a loose routine.
  2. Events to anticipate.
  3. Time to nest and decompress.

These are Dangel family truths, proven through time and experience. When I feel flustered, revisiting them usually shows me what is awry.

If we struggle with comparison syndrome or wanting people to approve our plans or even general discouragement, it’s time to think through our family truths. Whether you’re a family of one or twelve, I guarantee you have core characteristics. Want to try? These questions may help:

  1. What makes us happy?
  2. What drains and/or frustrates us?
  3. What do we require to function at our best?

I’m not suggesting we eliminate everything that frustrates and do only what makes us happy. (I mean, there is such a thing as too much chocolate cake.) These are just truths to guide our decisions.

Summer can choke with disappointment thicker than her sticky heat. We don’t have to let her. I wish you the best July and August ever. I hope you love your summer.

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More resources:

If you want to dig even deeper, Tsh Oxenreider suggests writing a Family Purpose Statement. Admittedly, I haven’t tried this, but I think it’s a stellar idea.

Marian Vischer wrote “How to Receive Your Own Summer Life,” a post I think will resonate with a lot of women. Whether you’re tired of looking at others’ vacation pictures or overwhelmed by violent news stories, she writes for you.

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 9-­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.

We need solidarity.

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On Tuesday of last week, between pilates maneuvers, we swapped stories about natural disasters.

I recalled one bad tornado of my childhood. Only one neighbor had a basement, so several families gathered there to ride out the storm. I remember feeling excited – all my friends were there, playing games. Only the parent seemed nervous.  I secretly wished for more tornadoes.

I’ve tried to explain this before, but it always sounds odd to my ears. Does anyone understand what I mean? Do I sound like a crazy fool bent on destruction?

On Wednesday I caught my breath as I read these words:

The sheer predictability of life in an American suburb left me hoping – somewhat irresponsibly – for a hurricane or tornado or something that would require us to all band together to survive. Something that would make us feel like a tribe. What I wanted wasn’t destruction and mayhem but the opposite: solidarity.

[…]

… for many people – war feels better than peace and hardship can turn out to be a great blessing and disasters are sometimes remembered more fondly than weddings or tropical vacations. Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.

-Sebastian Junger, TRIBE, xiv, xvii

//

My first experiences with this seemingly odd solidarity were family funerals. Gathered with folks I didn’t see on a regular basis, eating wonderful food, sharing stories, and even laughing, I felt comforted, happy, and loved. I would wonder why we didn’t do this more often and then catch myself. Oh, right. Somebody died.

I continued to feel this internal conflict over the years:

Watching cliques break open and grieve together after the death of a high school classmate.

Observing the outpouring of love and camaraderie after 9/11. The beauty was almost too much to bear; it seemed our hearts couldn’t contain it.

Passing the hours in the brightly decorated hospital room, where my young friend recovered from transplants for a leukemia relapse.  I saw her in her darkest, bleakest hours, but I remember the time as full of laughs, prayers, family, friends, Andy Griffith, and even a visit from Jeff Foxworthy.

Waiting with loved ones, old and new, as a surgeon operated on the heart of my friend’s days-old daughter. Praying together, believing together. Seeing miracles together.

//

By looking at the problem of how we treat veterans, Junger takes the bold stance that we are not made to do life alone. Even the most introverted among us need people. We need to love and be loved. We need to experience all of life’s feelings together. We need not always be together, not suffocatingly so, but all humans need other humans.

Every technology grants us the opportunity for good or evil. Certainly, the internet has given us much for which to be thankful. Unfortunately, it can also drive us inward. We can have 1000 online friends and none in the flesh. Everything we need can be ordered or summoned at the touch of a button, eliminating almost all human contact. But… is this what we really need?

I don’t think so, and I don’t think you do either. So, here’s what I suggest. In the next week, strive to connect to other people. In real life. Make it your mission to show love, kindness, appreciation, and genuine concern for the people you see each day – the familiar and the strangers. Look for opportunities and they will reveal themselves to you. I promise.


“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, emphasis mine)

Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:13-15, emphasis mine)

“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

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 9-­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.

Doing Good Is Simple: My resolve and my review

“Many so-called Christians are no longer for compassion; the brokenness of the world does not break them. These Christians would prefer to picket all of the world’s problems. They want to be known more for what they’re against rather than what they are for. They carry hate around like a weapon ready to destroy whoever is in their way. In their eyes, the world is black and white, and if you’re on the wrong side, or even in the middle, you’re an enemy not worthy of compassion until you conform to their views. They don’t care about solving problems by showing love, having compassion, and seeking justice.

Often we Christians have become such bad news to those outside of our faith that they cannot even fathom that we serve a gracious God who is full of compassion. In our fight for truth, we have covered up grace. For many, you have to be fully right or you are fully out. But those people are not my people, and those people are not God’s people!”

– Chris Marlow, Doing Simple is Good, p. 106-107

After reading all 204 pages, these are the words I keep thinking about. I don’t want to be known as the graceless so-called Christian who stood against everything and stood for no one. I don’t want to be the person who goes to church and says she loves Jesus, yet lives like she doesn’t know the first thing about him.

Jesus healed, fed, wept over, and died for everyone. He touched the unclean. He befriended liars. He broke bread with sinners. As Marlow says in reference to Matthew 9:36, “Jesus had compassion on the crowd. He could sense their pain and suffering. He did not demand them to change or be different (in this moment). He did not even have an opinion on why they were suffering. He just had compassion.”

Jesus loved first. He didn’t ask the sinners to repent before he loved them. If the King of Kings could do this, I know we can too. Instead of hating everyone of a different opinion or political party or lifestyle, we can love them. We can show compassion for their brokenness, their pain, their illness, or their poverty. I’m as broken as anyone, but my family and my church still love me. My God still loves me. Because I have been loved first, I must love. Because I have been given life, I must give life. Because I have been shown compassion, I must show compassion – even to my enemies.

I have to be honest; I didn’t expect this from Marlow’s book. In the first four chapters, I read about how doing good is not always easy, but it is always simple. I read about how ordinary people can make significant changes in the world by using the gifts, skills, and resources they already have in more creative ways. Rather than feel helpless and throw up our hands, we can do small things that actually help the orphans, the hungry, the slaves. This is such good news! Isn’t this what we all want to hear? That we can really make a difference? That even if we aren’t called to be the CEO, the visionary, or the entrepreneur, our lives are still useful and needed?

Believe me, all of that made made the book powerful enough. I circled and underlined a bunch. But, beginning with chapter 5, “Not Just Good on Paper: Good is People, Not Projects,” Marlow jumps my toes. He challenges me to remember all people are loved by God, and my life will not demonstrate this Truth if I profess to be a Christian but don’t show love:

We can prove truth by showing grace and being broken to a point where our compassion is so deep, our love is so strong, our willingness to lay down our lives for our neighbor, a stranger, the orphan, widow, or alien is so evident that folks have no possible way to avoid a love so deep and meaningful. They must face it head-on.

My prayer is that each of you, my loved ones and my readers, will join me as I renew my resolve to follow Micah 6:8 – do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. I am not suggesting we loosen our morals, but rather that we show the world why we have morals in the first place. There’s a Man behind our why, and his name is Jesus. Madeleine L’Engle wrote in 1980 that “perhaps for our day the best translation of love is the name of Jesus, and that will tell us everything about love we need to know.”

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* I recommend Chris Marlow’s book, Doing Good is Simple, which will be available for purchase on August 2. I know you’ll be blessed, inspired, and moved to action. I am not compensated for my recommendation. I did receive an advance copy to review.

 

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 9-­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 Secret to Better Memories

It’s raining.

Henry and I are on the screened porch, enjoying the moderate temperature and the sound of the rain, waiting on Dad to come home.

The chickens next door are cuddled under the coop; the birds who frequent our feeders are hiding; we haven’t seen the deer all day.

Dusk is calm, cool, and peaceful.

We relax. We giggle. Henry sings a tune. He holds out his arm. “Can I have a hug?”

These are moments I hoped for when summer loomed darkly on our horizon, when the final day of school was drawing near and memories of the last, tumultuous summer threatened to ruin the present.

These are moments I’ve relished all my life and dreamed of sharing with him. Summer thunder. Huddling indoors. Peering out at the sky and trees.

How do we make these memories happen? Do we orchestrate them? Plan them? Organize them?

No, we awake to the moment. We live fully present, keenly aware that all is precious and all is fleeting.

Whatever you are enduring or celebrating in this season, know this: it will pass. Embrace all that you are, all that is here, all that is now. Know that this hour, this day, this summer will not last. It will soon be your memory.

What do you want the memory to be?

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 9-­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 4 Secrets of Greatness (and the hardest one for an advocate)

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Henry and I love reading the adventures of Jack and Annie in The Magic Tree House book series. In the last one, the brother-sister duo was rewarded by Merlin in Camelot for learning the fourth and final secret of greatness. According to Merlin, the four secrets of greatness are:

  1. Humility
  2. Hard work
  3. Meaning and purpose
  4. Enthusiasm

As I waited for Henry to fall asleep, his arms wound around my neck, I pondered the times I’ve had all of these and when I’ve fallen short. Interestingly, in every instance of failure I could identify one or more of the 4 elements lacking.

When I gave a sloppy audition for a piano scholarship at Furman? Lack of purpose and enthusiasm. (I loved piano but didn’t want a piano scholarship.)

When I fumbled through questions about one poem on my oral exam? Lack of hard work and enthusiasm. (Ugh, hated that poem.)

What about relationships? I notice when I’m not exhibiting “greatness” as a mother, wife, or friend, I’m usually lacking humility or enthusiasm.

One of my biggest goals right now is to be a great advocate for folks on the spectrum. I don’t want to be their voice, but I want to help others understand them as best I can. Perhaps I can be a bit of a translator. For example, Henry has a classmate whose mother doesn’t speak English. Her voice is as important as anyone’s, but at times her child must convey her thoughts to others who do not speak their native language. Is he capturing every nuance of his mother’s communication? Probably not, but he’s doing his best in the language that both he and the other person understand. Follow me?

The difference, of course, is that I’m not autistic. Henry’s friend can speak both English and Spanish, but I only “speak” neurotypical. What I can do is try to see the world through Henry’s eyes. Notice I didn’t say I can do it 100% correctly every time; I said try, and I can do that better than almost any non-autistic person I know. Next to Keith, I know Henry best. Herein lies the rub, though. The minute I assume I understand everything, I have lost my credibility.  The most difficult secret of greatness to achieve, at least in the advocacy role, is humility.

In my observations of other advocates, I find hard work, meaning and purpose, and enthusiasm are constants. The inherent passion of an advocate almost guarantees those qualities. What I see more sparingly is a willingness to admit not knowing everything, a desire to know more, and a readiness to admit when we’re wrong.

If I am to be Henry’s best advocate, I have to remember that’s all I am. I am not him. I am his student. Books and lectures and academic studies are also my teachers, but he is my best teacher, if only I will observe and reflect.

I beg you, then, to remind yourself – often – that I am no autism expert. I am simply an eager learner. And while I am as much of an expert on Henry Dangel as one could ever be, Henry is the best expert on Henry.

We’re beginning to see some of this expert emerge, to our great relief and delight. The most exciting statements come out of his mouth, such as why he doesn’t like showers and why he hated the last page of Hello, Wally! when he was 3 years old. The best insights are yet to come. As I read accounts from adults on the spectrum, I smile with anticipation for all the things he will one day tell us. Look out, world. Here he comes.

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 9-­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.

Why I’m a puddle of thanks: 10 months of awesome

As kindergarten ended a couple weeks ago, I am once again compelled to remember, reflect, and give thanks.

He went from writing about and drawing trains exclusively to illustrating other stories as well.

From extreme, crippling, terrifying-to-behold anxiety to calm confidence.

From sitting at his desk during circle time to enthusiastic participation on the rug to age-appropriate antics with his best friend.

From “I miss my 5s school” to “I want to go to a college like my school, because I love Perry Harrison.”

From newly six to almost seven.

I never have the right words to thank his teachers. I try and I fail and I hope that somehow they know, somehow they can read through my effusive thanks and fumbling cards and feel the heart of what I’m saying. That “we couldn’t do this without you” isn’t a trite phrase but the most authentic truth. That the fact they see him in all his glory means more to me than all the money, accolades, or praise in the world. That I will never stop thanking God for surprising us with the gifts of people who love our child.

The gratitude is overwhelming.

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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 9-­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 Reason For Your Guilt

My dear friend and fellow mom asked me, “Why do we have such guilt?”

I believe our guilt, at least in part, comes from our culture’s very mixed messages. Our media outlets say – Indulge yourself! Girlfriend spa day! Weekend in Tuscany! But they also say, in more subtle ways – If you’re not busy, you’re worthless!

When I stop to reflect on these scary messages, I have to remind myself of the same principles I teach my students. One of those is to ask: Who is behind them?

People. Not golden scrolls sent down on heavenly parachutes, just people like you and me. People who are much the same, but also fundamentally different. While a monthly spa day may be great for you, it’s not for me. While a book on the back porch might be restorative to me, it might not be for you.

The coping and healing strategies are different from person to person, as are the reasons for the hustle/stress/anxiety/fillintheblank. I’m a Highly Sensitive Person. I’m easily overwhelmed by sounds like 5 children talking at one time; by attempting to accomplish 4 tasks at once; and by spending too much time in traffic.

You might be easily overwhelmed by a boss who just fired 3 people and thinks you can do all their work on top of yours.

You might be alone, working from home, trying to find a way back into an office so you can meet people. Too much solitude actually drains your energy.

You might be a mom of 6, trying to make it through the day without worrying that you’ve permanently ruined the middle 4 by nursing the newborn around the clock.

You might be the mom of 1, trying desperately to make people understand why you just have 1, only to hate yourself even more for feeling compelled to explain anything at all.

My point? We are all different. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to life, so why do we compare ourselves to everyone else?  Why do we assume someone else’s yeses must also be ours?

Yesterday I read the most eloquent explanation of what I believe is part of the answer:

“We live in an incredible era of opportunity for women. But I think we’ve misunderstood our newfound choice as a people, especially a female people.

We are not choosing anything; we are trying to do it all.”

– Alexandra Kuykendall, author of Loving My Actual Life

I seem to be talking a lot lately about the power of yes and no, and what Kuykendall says is right-on. We must utilize the power to choose. If we don’t? Everyone else will choose for us. The hard truth is that only you can take back your life, refuse to crumble under guillt. As Lysa TerKeurst says, with God’s guidance and strength, we can say no in order to give our best yes.


To think about:

By not saying a strong yes or no, what have you allowed others to choose for you?

Are you making choices or are you trying to do everything?

To whom do you compare yourself on a regular basis? Why? Now think about that person’s personality and life circumstances. Are they exactly like yours? (Hint: almost certainly not!)

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 9-­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.

Crash: When I said the wrong “no” too many times

“When is the last time you did something for yourself?” my therapist asked softly. My brain raced. Um, like what? Brushing my teeth? I told her I really didn’t like manicures and pedicures, if that’s what she meant. Keith often urged me to do the things I love – read a novel, take a walk, grab a coffee, or get a massage – and I always declined.

“Why, Meredith?”

The answer was complicated. How do I explain an entire lifetime of trying to be … be… well, this woman who doesn’t even exist? How do I explain that the mythical woman I want to be doesn’t need help and doesn’t need pampering? How do I say, without offending another woman, that pedicures don’t solve anything?

The woman I was supposed to be was Wonder Woman and Mother Teresa and Princess Kate all rolled into one. I was supposed to be good at everything. My calendar was never too full for one more good thing. Isn’t that what a good working mom does? Doesn’t she brush off the inconveniences and struggles and forge ahead, pushing her toddler’s stroller while wearing her perfect outfit and carrying her designer diaper bag?

(No. Not at all.)

My reserves were depleted. I was exhausted without knowing why. I looked in the mirror and didn’t know who stared back. I looked at my husband and wondered why he loved me. I didn’t know what had happened or who I was becoming. And that terrified me more than anything else.

So, when the therapist suggested I take Keith’s advice and go for a walk or coffee sometimes, I decided to listen. If she was wrong, so be it, but I had to try something.

I went for walks. I told Henry to let Keith pour juice, give him a bath, or change his diaper. I learned to say, “Your daddy loves you too, Henry. You need to let him help you. Mommy needs a break.” Even as I said those words, I felt ridiculous. A break from what?, I wondered. Still, I kept at it, hoping the magic would eventually work. And it did work.

Slowly, I began to feel more alive, more like myself. Most significant to my recovery, perhaps, was saying yes when Keith offered to tuck Henry in bed and send me out for the evening. I might escape to the back porch or I might hide in my bed. It didn’t matter as along as I was alone and, at least for awhile, no one needed me.

The answer had been so simple all along.

Yes.

One little word changed everything. In wondering what was wrong with me, I had considered every other possible angle, from imbalanced hormones to bad influences to poor decisions. I researched new vitamin supplements, pulled away from friends, and even tried a new career. Until that day in the therapist’s office, I never realized all I had to do was change the word I said over and over again.  

While I said yes to everyone else’s needs, I always said no to mine. The gift is that my husband saw it when I didn’t.

Now, if someone asks when was the last time I took care of myself, I can say, “This morning.”

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To think about:

It takes daily intentionality – mental energy, if you will – to maintain balance. Do you have trouble with yes and no? With taking time for yourself?

Who in your life is (or can be) your accountability partner? We all need someone who is willing to call us out, both gently and firmly, when we aren’t being kind to ourselves.

I’d love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments here or on Facebook!

 

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 9-­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.