Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oxygen Mask

I made a decision to go back to work because I was going mad at home.

It was a selfish decision. It was irresponsible. It was probably shallow too but it was also the best thing that could have happened to our family.

Taking this step was like grabbing the oxygen mask that falls down on your head when there is turbulence during a flight. I don't know about you, but I have always questioned the instructions of the flight attendants. In case of an emergency, you are supposed to wear your oxygen mask FIRST and then assist others under your care with theirs. What??? It never made sense to me that I would put MY needs before the needs of any of my children. After grabbing the "oxygen mask" that literally bumped my head at the beginning of this year, I will never question airline policies again!

Autism was and continues to be a part of who we are as a family but it has stopped being everything we are. The truth is that it has been a slow process to work through, especially for me, since I am, without a doubt, the "soul," and not the head of this family. I did have to work through ALL the stages of grief and realized that after that first diagnosis, this journey will have a beginning, a middle, but not necessarily an end. I like happy endings; I always have. There is no happy ending or a sad one for this story - I have finally learned there is no end. For a long time I kept on hoping for an end of any kind but I know now that there is none and that's OK. In order to keep my sanity, something had to happen - I had to reclaim my own identity so I could help everyone else in this family to find theirs. Working has always done that for me. I am a working woman - it gives me a purpose and helps me get balance.

As it turns out, getting a balanced, stable, mother was all our family needed - It was all that Frankie needed. During the past few months, as things got tougher in school with Frankie, my world kept on getting bleaker and bleaker. Working hard was not paying off and I was falling apart....our family was falling apart. I was really scared to let go but once I did, everyone grew up a little and stepped up to the plate. Once I was out of the picture, everything fell into place - everyone fell into place. It was like stepping back and looking at a work in progress, like a painter might do - sometimes you have to see the big picture from afar and get a new perspective so you can finish your masterpiece - some times you need to get some oxygen first to stay alive and help those who count on you.

I'm grateful for those who encouraged me and told me everything was going to be fine if I did this for myself. I'm grateful for those who told me things would fall into place once I let go. Most of all, I'm grateful for all the positive changes this decision has brought into our lives and for the breath of fresh air that now fills our lungs. There is a way to live with Autism as part of your life, once you HAVE a life - struggling to make sense of it is not the answer, the answer we have found lies in keeping our identities strong for the journey and taking the time to breath along the way. Frankie will find his identity in due time and he will be strong to fight his own battles - he has a few examples to follow...more like FOUR of the them!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Like two drops of water

An awful lot of people I know are getting divorced. The ones who are not, already did and the ones who are still together are not truly happy. The ones who are divorced spend time looking for that one person that would complete them. Some of them have found love; others are still looking.

I am still married but sometimes I wonder until when. I wonder if there is an expiration date for commitment. I have learned that divorce knows no rules - it's not a matter of age or maturity because when I think of all the failed marriages I know of, there are different ages, reasons and situations that contributed to the separation. At the end of the day, the result is the same, a broken family. Once it's all over, there are two people who decided to end something and start all over again. "All over again"...that sounds so hard, especially when you are of a certain age, when you are facing your own "middle life crisis" and you question what you have accomplished and what you have yet to conquer. When it comes to relationships, I used to think the secret for a fulfilling relationship was that "opposites attract" but the older I get I realize that a lasting relationship, is based more on your similarities than in your differences.

I have noticed there is a new trend of emotional and spiritual growth and people are looking to find more meaning in their relationships and are searching for their soul mates, their other half but I don't remember ever taking on that quest when I was younger. I was just looking to find the one guy who had all the qualities I didn't have so he could complete me and we could be a good team together. I found my guy. He is everything I am not. I am everything he is not. Here is the pickle, the older we get, the more those differences that seemed to unite us have now become the very essence of the distance between us. This past year has been a year of growth for me, when I am questioning everything, including my set of values. I have always believed that love was not a feeling but a decision. I decide who I love and I stick to it - here is what I believe: emotions come and go but commitment is the glue that makes a relationship last. Well, that worked for many years until my world was turned upside down and I came to realize there is got to be something else, something more.

Recently, a friend of mine who experienced a painful divorce many years ago, was talking to a friend of his (who is also going through a divorce!) and he was describing his newest relationship. He said that his girlfriend (who is also divorced, of course) and him were "male and female versions of each other" - I listened and watched. I watched my friend and his girlfriend looking at each other in a way I never see two adults do these days. They moved at the same time, they finished each other sentences, they seemed at ease, at peace, they were whole, they were complete. Good for them. I believe in second chances...and a third and a fourth. In a perfect world, you would get it right the first time around but we don't live in a perfect world and making mistakes is the way we humans learn our lessons. But then, what to do? Do you get divorced now or later or NOT? Well, again, I am making a decision but this time, it's also a decision shared with the man who has helped me build this family, our family. I have decided to make a compromise with the adult who now shares my life. I know he will never be the male version of me (ever!), but I choose to try for as long as it is possible, to build him up, to back him up, to help him out and in one word, to accept him for who he is and celebrate what he has brought into my life. I have also decided the best thing I can do for my kids is to love their father and teach them to love him with his qualities and shortcomings because we are not perfect - nobody is.

It's a win-win for everyone because in the end, we are all just looking for love and to be loved. It's really our choice if we go for a second chance or if we give each other another one in the same relationship we once felt was the right match. We can only hope we are not making a mistake but if we do, we just have to try again. We are bound to get it right eventually and when we do, it will feel like we were meant for each other, even if we weren't.