Meet Life Where It Is Right Now

barn-lightning-bolt-storm-99577.jpegIt’s inevitable that our journey on the footpath of our life will find us encountering unanticipated obstacles, detours and outright blockades. No matter how careful our own personal choices, there are things that occur which are absolutely outside of our control. What matters most is how we respond to the unexpected, and what choices we make in connection with that response. This is what makes all the difference.

I’ve struggled to understand why we at times encounter extreme difficulty, and have sought to trace the source of adversity back to an individual or collective choice. Let me be clear from the onset, I don’t believe that any God or God-like being or force manipulates human activity. No God would “take” children from us, inasmuch as he or she wouldn’t “bless” us with children with disabilities. These events are simply part of the natural course of life. Cells and genes develop significant deviations that can cause major disabilities, even cancers and death. There is no “one” responsible for these possibilities. These are naturally occurring byproducts of living in the natural world.

At home, we’ve been tested recently through our efforts to successfully raise a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and Schizophrenia. The challenges are many and varied, whether it be helping her cope with the academic setting at school, or even just trying to help her fall asleep despite having major delusions that someone is going to hurt her. It’s becoming increasingly evident with each passing day that the least restrictive environment the public school setting provides may not be the best place to facilitate her long-term success, and we now have to consider a full-time residential program.

Of course we’re not happy to consider the possibility of our adolescent daughter leaving our home, if even on a five-day basis, especially considering that many outcomes are still unknown. Will she be able to finish high school and go on to college? Will she be able to obtain gainful and meaningful employment? Will she be able to live confidently as an independent adult, able to navigate the unexpected on her own? We don’t know the answers to any of these questions right now. There is no certainty, there is no ground.

What is easy to do in situations like this is wish that our daughter didn’t have to have such a difficult path, or to hope that given a little more time she’ll be able to find success in her current environment. We have our own needs for normalcy, for family togetherness, for a peace that seems elusive right now. But our daughter’s needs are greater than our own, and if we fail to give her what she needs right now, in this moment, her future may be even more uncertain than it seems today. So we have to learn to let go of what we want or hope for, of our own idea of normal, and meet our daughter where she is, to ensure she is provided with the best care and support possible.

This approach can be generalized to all challenges we face. Who’d stand unprotected in a violent thunderstorm, simply wishing and hoping for it to pass, instead of seeking shelter? Likewise, by holding on to an “ideal” of the life we wanted for our daughter, instead of fully recognizing who she is, we may putting off our greatest chance of ensuring her future success and self-protection from the storms she is likely to face later on. It’s by no means easy to accept the struggles that we or our daughter are going thorough, but we can’t change who she is. What we can do is change how we’re responding to her needs. In doing so, we may also be teaching her how to respond to her own challenges, both those within her and those in the world she must live in.

Although it may feel impossible, if we meet every situation and every individual where they are right now, will full acceptance, we may find ourselves more easily making the choices that need to be made.

 

 

 

 

The Staircase

Dream SpeechOn this 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., I’m reminded of one of his many famous quotes, particularly this: “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” While I’d heard this sentence before, I first became aware, I mean fully aware, of its meaning when someone very close to me shared it with me in one of my darkest moments nine years ago. I couldn’t see beyond the difficult nature of my present moment and didn’t see how my life could or would ever improve. My finances were in disarray, my job was coming to an end, I was selling my house at a steep loss, and I was going through a divorce, all at the same time. I didn’t know how I’d pay my bills, feed my children or even put gas in my car. I felt like I was in a deep tunnel with no source of light, with no idea where it ended or where it began.

I was so focused on the negative circumstances surrounding me. I was overwhelmed and anxious. Consumed with worry and the mental gymnastics that accompany that state, I wasn’t able to engage myself in any meaningful action to improve my life. I was frozen by my own fear, stuck and unable to decide what to do. It was when I honestly shared all this with someone that loves me that these words of Dr. King were spoken to me, words that still ring true in my life to this day. In my experience, no aspect of life can be taken for granted. Jobs will be taken away. Homes will be lost. People we love will leave us, either voluntarily or involuntarily. It is our response to these events that makes the difference in how we function on a day to day basis, and our response is shaped by our perspective. If we choose to see nothing but the staircase, the whole big picture of our lives, we may find ourselves collapsing under the weight of it. If we instead focus on putting one foot in front of the other, and just take that meaningful first step toward our future, with faith in our own ability, we may find it easier to move forward.

As a child, I was subjected to the disparaging voices of many adults. These became the soundtrack playing in my head, ultimately turning into the negative self-talk that dogged me for much of my adult life. I’ve had to learn to re-frame the conversations I have with myself. Reciting quotes like the one above as my own mantra (the statements we repeat to ourselves), has helped me to do just that. Now, I’m not going to tell anyone this is easy to do. I understand it takes hard work and dedication to harness our own thoughts about ourselves and our lives. But it is worth it. Just take that first step.