Before we left Seattle, I remember having lunch with my then boss and co-workers and we got on the subject of children and parenting. At this time, parenting was a far-off plan for Al and me, not a reality. I remember saying something like, “I think being a mother means sacrificing everything for your children.” In my mind, a good mom was one who put every need of her children before her own. I remember my boss quickly disagreeing, saying her mother did that and it made her a little crazy. Rather, the most important thing was balance. I kind of just disregarded that idea, knowing the idealized Super Mom I wanted to be in the future.
I’ve thought about that conversation many times over this last year. 2010 proved to be one of the most transformative years in my life thus far. It started in January, when I accidentally cut my hair off. I’ve had really long hair most of my life and in January my friend suggested we do a Locks of Love donation. Since they only need 15 inches, I figured I’d get an exaggerated “trim” while doing a good cause, knowing my hair would still be in the middle of my back. Unfortunately, the stylist didn’t know what she was doing, and I left with hair above my shoulders for the first time since I was 10. I was devastated, feeling like part of my identity ended up on that salon floor. Plus, I knew Al would hate it, which he did. This was kind of a symbolic moment, the first shedding of the old skin.
Soon after, at the end of January, I started running. No need to go too far into that one because I did an entire entry on it, but taking up running was a major turning point in my life as a mom. It was the first time since having my children that I devoted time to myself. Taking up something that I really had to dedicate myself to, then following through, was kind of like an epiphany for me. It felt so good to accomplish something I thought I never could, and I am now running FOUR MILES at a time, which is still surreal. I was always that girl lagging behind during the Presidential Fitness Test in elementary school when we had to run a timed mile, and I’d usually have to walk the last lap. I think about that girl on my runs sometimes…
Then in July, I started working again. Money was really getting tight and somehow the stars aligned. During one of Alice’s doctor visits, I was telling her pediatrician that we were finally at a place where I could start looking for work since we had a good aide in place. She asked what kind of work I did, and less than a month later, I was a working girl again! I work during urgent care on evenings and weekends, and I now work between 10-15 hours a week. The schedule couldn’t be better, the work is fun and the people are great. I missed that feeling of doing a job well, feeling like I’m helping people, and adult conversation! Of course, working means less “free” time (whatever that is…) but we’re making it work and I am so grateful.
On top of all of this, I took two vacations this year—just me! In June I went on a girl’s weekend to Las Vegas—the first time I was alone with my sister and girl friends in more than five years. That weekend was all fun, but my other solo trip was truly life changing. In March I went to San Diego to attend the CSUN Assistive Technology conference, and spend time with my very best friends from high school. On this trip, I was fortunate enough to meet Eva from The Deal with Disability and her mom Deena. We spent the afternoon together and in those few short hours, along with many emails back and forth, my heart and mind finally accepted the very real fact that things will be okay. Life won’t be easy, but I will survive, Alice will thrive, and our family will grow stronger. In fact, meeting Deena made me realize that not only will I survive, but I will be sane and still laugh and enjoy life for years to come. Both she and Eva helped me really believe that things don’t have to go downhill from the diagnosis. Looking back to that moment in the neurologist’s office, it was hard to see any direction but down. For a couple years, that’s precisely the direction that our life spiraled.
I can’t attribute the shift to any one of these things, but I can say with all certainty that I’m never going back to that dark place. I remember a well-meaning friend telling me once before Alice was about to start school for the first time that I needed to get my life back. I realize now that being a good mom is most definitely not about sacrificing her own life for those of her family. It may seem like the ultimate sign of devotion and love, but in the end, my boss was right. It’s about finding that balance between providing an environment of love and support, never losing the connection with your partner, and always, ALWAYS being true to yourself. My own life and personal journey cannot come to a halt because I’m a mother. I want my children to enrich my life, not dominate it until I completely lose sight of who I am. I am so happy and proud to say that not only have I gotten my life back… I found myself again!
So, dear friends, this is goodbye. Well, not goodbye, but see you later... on a different site! The truth is, I don’t feel like the same person who started this journal more than three years ago. And rather than transition this journal to something else, I want to preserve it. I want anyone who happens to stumble across this journal to see it for everything that it is: the sadness, the heartache, the tiny miracles that followed, as well as the support from friends and perfect strangers that pulled me along during one of the most difficult times of my life. See, I’m not “Waiting for the Miracle” anymore. I’m grateful to say that I can recognize the miracles that were always there, and the ones that happen every day. The miracle is discovering that your partner is everything they vowed they would be, and more. It’s the people who come into your life at just the right time to help you see things from a different angle and make you believe that you’re not in it alone. The miracle is accepting that life isn’t easy for any of us, and that we can all bounce back from life’s tragedies. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, even if we don’t realize it until years down the road.
I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who ever read this journal and found something useful in it. Thank you to everyone who supported us and gave me virtual hugs when I needed it most. I’ll post a link to the new Family Journal when it’s up, with pictures!! … The girls are growing like weeds, no, that’s not right...like beautiful roses in full bloom in spring. Believe me when I say, I’m one of the luckiest moms on the planet.