For the most part, I think I do a pretty darned good job of not letting my life circumstances get me down. If I dwell on it----a husband with Young Onset Parkinson's Disease! A daughter with a gazillion medical needs!--it only gets me down...and really, life is good. I try to remember that everyone has special needs of some sort, and that makes me feel better.
I learned this lesson really well a few years ago. A was about 18 months old, and D was 3 1/2. Once a week we would take a free music class that I had found. It was fun to be able to take a class with both my kids. One day, I was in a rare bad mood. I forget now what had happened, but something had happened to make me throw myself a pity party. Perhaps it was raining that day and I had to lug two kids plus A's trach suction machine. Perhaps D was being particularly whiny. Perhaps I had my period and was extra irritable. Who knows? The point was that I was feeling sorry for myself and what life had thrown at me.
In walked a mom that I had never seen before. She was stunning---model gorgeous--and had with her her beautiful daughter. I watched them interact with growing jealousy. Clearly her daughter, who was younger than A, was typically developing. She was walking and talking just as someone her age should. My own daughter had just started crawling, at age 18 months. For some reason that day, it was hard for me to see typically-developing kids in such sharp contrast to A.
"They are so lucky," I thought to myself. "They are so beautiful, so typical, so NORMAL. They probably don't have a care in the world." I even found myself getting angry at their carefree life I imagined they led.
After class, the mother came over and introduced herself. She was really nice, and in the course of conversation she let me know that her older daughter (who wasn't there that day because she was in school) had autism.
Color me stunned.
In an instant, my whole view of her changed. Here was a woman who yes, had a typically developing daughter, but was also walking a different yet parallel path to mine. We are not dealing with autism in my family, but we have struggles just the same. Yet just looking at her, so beautiful and at ease you would never know just what struggles she had.
It illustrated perfectly the old adage: you never know what goes on behind closed doors. People have money troubles, marital discord, work problems, and medical issues all the time. Many are easy to hide from the rest of the world, and unless you KNOW the person, you may never know what demons they are wrestling.
From that moment on, I look at people differently. I know that everyone has issues to deal with. It may not be Parkinson's Disease or a tracheostomy, but it's something. And that is a tie that binds us all.
Ambassador Spotlight: Sarah Kelley
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