I read the blog of a local woman in her 40s who has three children, one of whom has autism. It sounds like the sort of empty compliment you'd pay when introducing a motivational keynote speaker or something, but I really admire her candor. She talks about her difficulty connecting with other people, struggling to accept her body, her role in her family as her kids become more independent, and dealing with the minutiae of everyday life.
At the same time, she acts on issues that motivate her, is a self-proclaimed writer who actually writes, and seems to have an incredibly warm and happy relationship with her husband. There's no glossing things over, no melodrama, just the silliness and grittiness and mundaneness of a random Tuesday. Funny enough, I couldn't really imagine clicking with her in person, which in a weird way almost makes me like her more, because she doesn't pander.
I mostly read her blog because I like her perspective on being the parent of a child with special needs. She's open about the struggles and grief that have come with raising her son, but at the end of the day accepts him for who he is. She has educated herself and advocates to get him the services that he needs, but sees many of his behaviors as quirks, instead of acting like children should have their idiosyncracies therapied and medicated and hammered out of them, lest they not be athletic scholars who can play the piano and speak three languages. Basically, she wants him to lead the fullest life that he can, but she isn't trying to fix him. It sounds easy enough, maybe, but I think it's a pretty profound place to be when every day you look at your child and are reminded of what life could have been like for them, and for the rest of your family. She has a lot to teach anyone about accepting and eventually embracing a difficult path that your life can take. Anyone can pontificate about the meaning of life when theirs has mostly been a peach, but of course it means more coming from someone who has actually experienced something besides smooth sailing.
And the thing is that even people who have had mostly smooth sailing still have their own shit, and when you're in the middle of it, no one can tell you that it isn't that big a deal, that it'll work out and not to worry. There are periodically people around you who experience mind-bending tragedy and they provide that occasional contrast for you of what actually is and isn't a problem, but for the most part, you're just wrapped up in where you're at. You're worried you won't get into law school, worried about finding a job, worried about moving, worried that you won't get pregnant, worried you won't find the right partner, worried about getting married, worried about affording retirement, worried about making friends, worried about whether you're doing everything you can for your autistic son, and worried about what his life will be like when you're gone. Worried, as one of my best friends is right now, about your seven-year-old having to wear a heart monitor for a month, and what the outcome of a bunch of squiggly lines could mean.
I try to think of this kind of stuff when I get bogged down with something that isn't really a problem but feels like it in the moment, like when I'm on another date smiling into my salad but fantasizing about being home in bed reading and putting on cuticle cream, when I feel compelled to turn a discouraging evening into a funny story after the fact, like I need to put on a tophat and dance around instead of letting myself feel a little sad (okay, that mental image just kind of cracked me up... in that particular metaphor I think I'm tapdancing to the my little buttercup song from Three Amigos).
There's a tendency of some people to comfort themselves in their own imperfect lives by telling themselves that other people probably aren't as happy as they seem, but I hate that. I get discouraged by other people's misfortunes, about their relationships falling apart. When married men hit on me, it's not a rush of attention; it makes me want to scream because I imagine being the wife of a guy like that in fifteen years. I feel like the more happiness that I see around me, the more likely it is that I'll find it myself, when God knows what you end up with seems to be more of a crapshoot than the result of a well-executed plan.
And despite the shit that I know other people deal with, sometimes I find myself thinking that where I am right now is hard because I'm alone, because my choices don't get a lot of external validation, because dating means constantly auditioning my personality. Don't we all do that sometimes, tell ourselves that our own little foxhole is filled with the most shit? That's when I have to mentally kick my own ass and just get over myself, because life is just too short for the negativity. And trust me, I KNOW how Oprahfied that sounds. But it's true and it's been a pretty profound shift for me. Not that I was ever really an incessant bellyacher, but I try really hard to keep things in perspective, and more than that, I think now I'm starting to understand how important it is to do that, to recognize what I have and how great it is, and not obsess about what I don't have. That's actually been the best thing about getting older, I think, and in a way I'm glad I didn't get everything I wanted right when I wanted it, because I don't think I would have appreciated it.
I mean, don't get me wrong, I still want what I fucking want. I've got more than a little Veruca Salt running through my veins, I can't deny that.