A Toast…To ME…And The “Quest”

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So, here I am 59 years old and back in school…who would have thought! Certainly not I, that is for damn sure. As a stay-at-home mom with two special needs kids; B and I let my professional license lapse as we never thought I would go back to my career. Then during his affair he kept trying to push me to go back to work because a divorce would be easier if there was no spousal support to pay and probably because he was supporting/compensating “affair woman” too. Let’s face it,  all he had done became too much for him to handle, and as he saw it, my working would reduce his burden in so many ways. Of course, I didn’t go get a job because with the boys autism issues, school interventions and all the doctor visits there was just no way to do so… but still he kept trying to push me back into the workforce even though financially it made no sense… at least until you calculated in the cost of the expensive mistress…at which point it made perfect sense.

Needless to say, this “about face” on B’s part had left me feeling vulnerable, scared and rather pissed in the face of a “maybe” divorce. No career, no livelihood … no nothing to depend on except a husband with whom we had made joint decisions for the “good” our family… decisions that he now wanted to abandon or amend. Yep, I could count on him looking out for his “affair needs” but not mine and at my age I found it to be a very nerve wracking thing to have staring me in the face. It was definitely a wrinkle I had not counted on and one which Botox could not cure.

Now that things are better between us I decided that I need to secure “my or our” future… whatever that turns out to be… and so last week I started online schooling. This program will allow me to work from home in the medical field and earn $50,000+ per year. While it is not what I am used to living on it will allow me to take care of my family should the need arise. It will allow me to help pay for college for our kids, would allow B to retire early if that is what WE choose and it will allow me to provide a decent living for myself should I find myself alone.

Starting to plan on a new career is a scary thing and goes against what the lawyers have told me. But I am feeling that I need to step out and take a risk for my own sake and safety. While I would like to believe that B and I are healing our marriage with a two steps forward one step back approach; I also know that the time has come for me to trust in myself again and to find a way to be able to be less fearful no matter what comes my way. If we stay together that would be great but if we don’t I am taking my first scary steps to my own financial independence and to relying on myself alone. And while I am still pissed that I have been put into this position in the first place, at this point in time I find I am grateful to have the opportunity to shape my own destiny even though I do not know what the future holds. This truly is my first step to letting go of fear and trusting in myself, my “maybe” marriage, and what is to come.

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So, here’s to me and the two A’s I have received on my first two tests. I’ve got this and I finally have my own back too. And with the holidays upon us I am proud to say I have given myself the greatest gift of all…leaving limbo by reclaiming my own strength. While I may have been betrayed by others, I will try never to betray myself again and instead will face the world standing in quiet confidence.

So starts a new journey and quest. This tough old broad is ready. Bring it on.

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Resisting Your Impulses

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Throughout my life I have gone through periods of impulsivity. During my teenage years impulsivity reined supreme as I cast off my life as a teenage daughter and tried on a new set of clothes as a 15-year-old “adult” making her own way through the world alone. Sure,  it all turned out okay in the end… BUT… was it the really the best way to go about things? Did impulsiveness help me to embrace myself and my talents, love myself more, while not inflicting unnecessary pain upon my soul as I journeyed? I suspect not. As the years have gone by, I have come to believe that there was a kinder gentler way of leading me towards myself and I suspect I would have found it sooner had I had been less impulsive.

During the past three years,  the “almost divorce” period, I found that impulsivity tried to rear its ugly head once again. Repeatedly.  My thoughts became dominated by:

  1. The things I should do
  2. How I SHOULD react
  3. What I needed to do to not look foolish to myself and others
  4. The steps I needed to take in order to “feel better” again (can you really in this type of situation?) and take back my life from a husband in the midst of a full-blown mid-life crisis.

Yet, ultimately what I discovered was that impulsivity did not allow me to “feel better” again. In fact, it produced the opposite effect. It created both physical and mental chaos. Slowly I came to comprehend that by acting impulsively instead of mindfully, I inflicted deep wounds upon my soul. Over time, I realized if I did not “rope it and rein it in” my suffering would increase exponentially, and God knows, I didn’t need anymore of that!

When I think back to the number of times I almost walked out or threw B out over the past three years…well, it was almost a daily occurrence. But thankfully, during these times I would hear my therapist reminding me (over and over again) how now was the time for mindfulness, discovery and curiosity. It was not a time for impulsivity.  She showed me how “sitting with things” and “seeing what comes naturally” instead of forcing things allowed me to examine my fears and act in ways that I am now extremely thankful for. This is true especially in regards to learning how to let fear pass through me without acting impulsively because of those real/or imagined doubts and anxieties that were hiding in my mental closet.

While I am still working diligently on seeing impulsivity for what it is and reacting appropriately; I have discovered that there is great power and joy in just letting sudden impulses pass by me without acting on them. By observing and not reacting to impulses, I don’t stop the flow of what I need to know from occurring naturally without the roadblocks that impulsivity puts in the way. I can truly say that I have found a greater sense of peace by not bending to fleeting/momentary “desires” or “fears” which I have discovered are actually often only transitory thoughts.  Dismissing impulsivity gives me the ability to postpone the immediate gratification of “action” and instead look ahead to find those things that fulfills me more or improve my life in ways I never dreamed possible had I given into the impulse.

In nine days it will be the one year anniversary of finding out about the affair. I am grateful that I have not let impulsivity direct these past 365 days.  For if it had I would be in a far different place than I am now and while things are not perfect they are much better than I imagined that they would ever have been just one short year ago.

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After The Affair

I was talking with my therapist today. It was exhausting. Almost 60 years of life to look at…some of it not pretty but a lot of it brilliantly played and enjoyed.

After the three years of B’s affair and the “almost” demise of my marriage it has been difficult at times to believe that B has changed and that our life together is stronger too.  The doubts that plague me have swirled fast and furious especially in the first six months after the storm.  The calm surety I have been searching for has been more elusive and more difficult to trust when I see it. Sometimes it appears to me that my life is only an illusion and I am always checking to make sure what I see is real. That process is exhausting and life-robbing. It is not life affirming nor is it increasing my sense of stability.

As I come upon 11 months of “knowing” about the affair I do feel hope and real joy again. The anguish and pain are slowly diminishing. Parts of me have been re-born and parts re-shaped into a better part of my whole. I have grown, explored and examined parts of my life that I saved until “LATER.” Yet, conveniently, LATER never came… until the affair… when I was forced to pick up the pieces and try to rebuild myself and my marriage. And now, believe it or not, at times I am even thankful for B’s affair because it has allowed both of us to evolve and create something different within ourselves and within our relationship. We are rebuilding on something that resembles bedrock and our foundation is no longer sinking in quicksand.

Another tidbit. For years I have not dreamed. Not once. EVER. But in the last month I have had three vivid dreams about B and “the other woman.” All involved water. In the last one, right before I woke up, an image of a goddess came to me and she held her hand out and said, ” Stop looking, It will come to you if needed.” The imagine was vivid, profound and unlike anything I have ever expeirenced before.

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My therapist tells me this is a good thing. That my psyche is clearing things out and washing them away.

I have also been busy creating my therapist provoked artwork. A recent picture is of a bird’s nest filled with various objects along with the words: LEARN, REST and FAITH interwoven into it. She says these are important words for me to concentrate on.

“What is faith?” she asks.

ANSWER

“It is the essence of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Can you see the wind? No? But you can see or hear the evidence of it in the sound of the wind chime or the rustling of the leaves. So REST in the hope that you have for your marriage and have FAITH in the evidence that you are seeing that things are changing for the better. Believe your goddess who is telling you to stop looking for trouble. and to believe that you can LEARN from your past, REST in the comfort of now, and have  FAITH in your future.

AND THEN SHE SAYS

“What if you get the stability you have been searching for your entire life? Will you see it and embrace it or will you run from it?”

GOOD QUESTION…AND FOR NOW…I DON’T HAVE AN ANSWER.

I would like to think that I have matured suffienctly to embrace all that has come and will come my way. Yet, at other times, I am just not sure. Sometimes I still want to just slide down the rabbit hole into another time and place.

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Yet, no matter what I choose I know that I am strong enough and wise enough to handle it because I have lived through the worst year of my life and not just survived but thrived!

 

Pain In The Neck

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For about 25 years I have lived with chronic pain in my back and neck. It was the result of two on the job injuries one of which involved trying to catch and patient and his ventilator as he began falling off a gurney on the way to the shower. This was followed two weeks before or later (I no longer remember) when I caught an old lady who was going down on the floor. Several years later I was in a car accident. All of this has added up to chronic pain in my neck, shoulders, and back. If I don’t go crazy the pain/spasms are manageable but certain things set me off like repetitive bending and sitting for long periods of time. After all these years I have gotten pretty good at knowing where I can go and what I can do without setting myself up for painful back spasms.

Recently, my primary care physician sent me to a doctor who specializes in pain management. He is a nice guy who listens well and treats his patients with care. I had a workup and in the end he thought it would be helpful to have injections in my trigger points to break them up and hopefully provide some relief to the pain. I had had those same injections soon after the original injury and I passed out cold in the doctor’s office so I wasn’t looking forward to the procedure. In fact, I have been dreading it.

Well, today was the day and luckily it wasn’t as bad as it had been previously. I had ten shots in my neck/shoulders and while it made me woozy I am happy to report I remained upright and conscious the entire time!

I am now home with a massive headache and a lot of hope that this treatment will help decrease the chronic pain that I have endured for so long. Living with chronic pain has affected my life in so many ways. It has made me tired, grumpy, and hesitant to do/try things. It has made me uptight and has decreased my self-confidence. Usually I have managed to keep my discomfort under wraps so as not to burden others but not always. Sometimes I just got grumpy with those who love me the most and I am sure it contributed to my “maybe divorce.” I also believe that it is the root cause of my fibromyalgia.

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Happily, today, I truly believe that this time the injections will help. Like so many things going on in my life at this particular point and time, I expect to have a fundamental shift in how I interact with those around me and in how I treat myself if I can decrease or eliminate this pain. I am excited and am blessed that I live in a country in which this option is available to me and I can hardly wait to jump for joy again as chronic pain becomes a distant memory.

Reminder: If a loved one suffers from chronic pain…believe them when they say they are hurting and lighten their load if you can. Until you have endured you will not understand how daily doses of pain effect you and your family. Be kind, be patient, be gentle and ask what you can do to help. Who knows, someday the table may be turned and you will want the support that someone who has lived lived with chronic pain because they will understand what you need and will be there for you. Indeed, what goes around come around!

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Accepting Yourself

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As I work on learning to love myself again; I realize just how much effort it takes. Frankly, it shouldn’t. I am a good person, loving parent and partner, pay my taxes and volunteer. I don’t kick the dog, I praise little kids, and treat people pretty darn well. Yet, somehow, whatever I do or what I say is never enough to erase the tape it my head that says I am not “good enough.” The “maybe divorce” doesn’t help either. My husband’s questionable love for me taunts me with the false belief that if I was really “good enough” I wouldn’t be going through two years of marriage hell when in fact it may have everything to do with him and nothing with me. His fears, his disappointments with himself, his worries that he could die tomorrow and his wondering if this is all there is?

Sometimes I think it was easier to love myself when I was younger. I was naive, granted myself grace because of my youth, and I didn’t have a lot of living and experiences under my belt. With age comes plenty of time to look back over the past and see all that you “should” have done better. All you could have done differently. And as you get closer to death you start thinking about how you want to be remembered and shudder to think of some of the ways you might be.

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As human beings we spend years cultivating relationships. We spend inordinate amounts of our time pleasing others and trying to prove our worth. We nurture those we love and spend time working on issues we feel are important because there are people who are involved that we respect and love. Yet, often we neglect to cultivate the most important relationship that there is…the one with ourself. We forget to take care of our needs, seek out those things that sooth our soul, and refuse to give ourselves the breaks that we grant our friends and loved ones. Finally, I am realizing that the internal relationship we have with ourselves must be maintained, nurtured, and worked on just like the external relationships that we share with others. In fact, we must put more into building the relationship have we with ourself simply because we are 100 times harder on our soul than anyone else. Most often, we are our own worst critics and that criticism that we direct inwards does more damage than anything anyone else could say or do to us.

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When we are in love we love in hopes that it will last forever. When we cultivate friendships we hope that those relationships will be satisfying for each other until our last breath. We accept the flaws that we see in others so willingly; why can’t we do the same with ourselves?

I think it is because we resist acceptance of ourselves because there is nothing we have to do when we truly accept who we are and what is going on in our lives. We think that acceptance is too easy so we attempt to make it harder by telling ourselves we have to change and be something “better.” We have to make ourselves a new and improved version of our old selves to love ourselves and have others love us back. And while change may do us good we still need to just learn to accept ourselves with compassion and love no matter where we are in our journey. No more self criticism and no more beating ourselves up because we should be different than who we find ourselves to be or because we should have behaved differently than we have. If we accept ourselves we don’t have to fix, improve, or do it right all the time. We just have to focus on the here and now and who we are at this moment in time while accepting that we are doing the best we can within the confines of where we find ourselves today. It doesn’t mean that we won’t change it only means that we don’t have to in order to be lovable to ourselves and others.

Of course it is much easier to write all of this rather than live in a way in which acceptance of ourselves is the name of the game. It is hard work. But as we set aside uninterrupted time to spend with ourselves each day concentrating on who we are instead of who we are not; acceptance will creep in slowly until one day we finally understand that we are enough. Period.

So be it!

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Conflict

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When I was younger I enjoyed conflict. It meant that I was letting things be known and getting things done. These days I just want peace. Gone are the days of spending two hours trying to convince B that I am “right.” Gone is the time spent crafting a great argument. I would much rather spend time meditating and sitting quietly than fighting.

Yet, there is something to be said about the positive effects of conflict. During conflict we are often forced to grow, to dig deep within ourselves to find the answers that are needed, and do a bit more in an effort to resolve the issues that are at the root of the problem. Oftentimes, conflict brings us some much needed insight about ourselves and our loved ones that can then be used to find solutions that best fit our mutual needs. Usually conflict forces us to do a bit more thinking, to take action, and encourages us to analyze patterns that are dug up when our nest is disturbed.

Conflict is hard, especially when we as a species, tend to want to chase rainbows and live our lives surrounded by sunny skies. Many of us avoid conflict like the plague. But conflict if managed with mutual respect and sharply attuned listening skills can unearth gems that can change our lives or our thought patterns. So while I am not encouraging anyone to go out and start a fight with their loved one; I am saying that the next time you are in conflict with your loved one try to look for the treasures that conflict can bring. You may find exactly what your relationship needs in order to take that next step by digging deep and listening carefully and in doing so; you might just find the peace that you have been searching for.

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Slowing Down

I have been moving at a  pretty fast pace lately. Whether it be traveling from one side of the country to the other or in my interactions with those I love; warp seems to be the speed at which I move these days. So I was more than a little ticked when my therapist “suggested” that I take more time in all aspects of my life. In other words…

S L O W

I T

D O W N

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When I wrote B that recent letter I shared with you… I was ready to be done that day, move into a new home the next and be in court a couple of weeks later. That is the way I do things once I decide to do them. Final Decision=Changing My Life For Good.  Let’s cut through the crap and start a new chapter. But my therapist says that type of thinking is self sabotaging and creates more pain in the end. Incidentally, B’s therapist also feels this way.images-7

One example she has given me to highlight this type of thinking is that if you are driving 100 miles per hour you are going too fast to see the little important things along side of the roadway. Things that may influence how fast you continue to drive or if you need to stop or slow down. When you are going that fast nothing is crystal clear and everything becomes a blur. Decision making, instead of being thoughtfully planned out, becomes spur of the moment and as a result it creates pain and suffering. To quote her:

“You have to remember that not all suffering is the same. The suffering you may face from leaving before the time is right may be nothing compared to the years of regret you might have because you didn’t take the time to work through the things that needed to be addressed even if that does result in divorce later on. Usually going at a fast rate of speed only leads to serious pain and regret.”

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According to her, speed will destroy what it is I ultimately want to accomplish.

“If this marriage ends due to knee jerk reactions,” she says “then you will not learn to trust yourself or the decisions that you make. Doing that takes thoughtful planning and seeing each part of the decision-making process come to fruition. That’s when trust in yourself begins to build upon itself when you see things coming together because you took the time to do things right and get what you need in the final outcome.”

And so I am trying to slow down and put into place the things that I want and need for my future. Although I do not know what that future holds I want to be sure that when I get there it contains all the things I need to live this second half of my life on my terms and not to be left holding a speeding ticket because I took the laps too fast.

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Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I tell you that I’m leavin’,
You can’t believe it’s true!
You say….
Girl, there’s just no livin’ without you.
Don’t take your love away from me.
Don’t you leave my heart in misery.
‘Cause if you go, then I’ll be blue,
Breakin’ up is hard to do.
Remember when you held me tight,
And you kissed me all through the night.
Think of all that we been through,
And breakin’ up is hard to do.
They say that breakin’ up is hard to do,
Now I know, I know that it’s true.
Don’t say that this is the end.
Instead of breakin’ up I wish that
We were makin’ up again.
I beg of you don’t say goodbye,
Can’t we give our love just one more try?
Come on baby, let’s start anew,
Breakin’ up is hard to do.
Written by Howard Greenfield, Neil Sedaka • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group

 

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I arrived home Friday to a man who was so sweet I wondered where he had been for the past year-and-one-half. Since I had told him that I want him to leave, of course, there has been a change….there always is for this type of thing. I guess it is to be expected. Shaking things up puts the boulders on top until time slowly sinks them back to the bottom. Some things never change.

He missed me while I was on the coast. He believes you don’t let go of something we have had this long. Or so he says. Now when the fear of losing me is closer than he had  ever dreamt. Filling the pill boxes, carpooling, doctor appointments. Is it me he wants or my numerous occupations…nurse, taxi driver, cook, house cleaner, bill payer, laundry folder…the list is almost endless and so is my need to know.

We talk. I am insistent. He is adamant we need to keep trying and he is staying. I suggest that he take my letter to his therapist to see what she says. I tell him I bet that she will say that he should take this time for himself. I also tell him that I want him to give his therapist permission to talk to mine to see if there is any middle ground there. He agrees. We talk late into the night without hurting each other. What do you know!

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The next day we go to lunch and start talking about separation. It is not a pleasant conversation with plenty of “My lawyer said this” and “My lawyer said that.” That little exchange gave us a preview of what was to come and neither of us liked it. Yet, one thing has changed. Paul is noticing that we are apart more than together and he is upset. Asking why one of us is gone so often. He wonders why we have to leave? “Can’t we just be a family again?” he asks. A small earthquake is rocking his world and he feels it shaking the earth under his feet.

Later, we decided to look at our calendars to see what kind of leaving can be done during the month of March.

Shit! I totally forgot that I leave with Gracie on Wednesday on a cross-country trip for a diving meet. Gone until the 7th.

B leaves the 10th for a business trip to Canada and Pennsylvania. He comes back the 17th.

The following week is the Highland Games that we have both committed to.

The next week is our anniversary with a trip to the East Coast to see our son. Neither of us wants to give that up. It should be interesting. Hopefully, we can communicate like the middle-age adults we are suppose to be rather then using our usual two-year-old communcation methods…me,me,me…you,you,you. Never just us.

Now we are into April.  Two more diving meets within the first two weeks and a business trip to Colorado. In between all of this, I am trying to become a volunteer for hospice which will require training.

All of this to say…who has time to break up? Doesn’t mean we won’t. Just means that there is a lot of booked time away from each other this coming month. Yet, Paul is noticing and he is upset. Asking why one of us is gone so often. A small earthquake is rocking his world and he feels it. Deeply.

I think it is just what we need. It may not be my original plan but it’s good enough for now and sometimes that is all you can ask for.

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A Good Book

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I am reading the book Perfume River by Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler. His words flow like a river during the spring rains…rushing and so powerful that they threaten to pull you under. Yet, Butler also knows how to write as if the river is also drying and receding into itself … the author’s words trickling from the pages in a sparse kind of way like the character who finds himself parched and unable to continue his journey.

As a writer I find it amazing when an author can match the flow of his words with the flow of the story. It’s a rarity, that. Most people can write of feelings and place but show me an author who has the gift of using words to match the tempo of the story, like a composer who pens his first notes for each instrument; well, it is a gift to the reader.

I wish I had the ability to match my words and actions with the tempo of storyline that is running throughout my life. Often I feel that my passion is too intense for the scene or that I fall behind not realizing the importance of the moment until it has passed. Sometimes I find  myself experiencing a momentary loss of words as I traverse this life that is mine. Having my emotions and words match what is going on in life often presents a bit of a challenge and I find that sometimes I am missing the perfect words that would complete the chapter in a satisfying sort of way for all the characters in my life.

But if the truth is told,  seldom is the time that we get to write our own life story as we envision it. Often plots are pushed upon us through no fault of our own and characters we never imagined magically appear. We expect a monsoon but get a drought instead. And as we journey through life we often forget that our words set the pace for what happens next, who we become, and the quality of our relationships that we are in.

So today, let us be mindful of the words we are saying and where they might be taking us. Let us craft our words and deeds like the chapter of a good book. And by thinking before speaking, let us be like that author who knows what to edit out to make the story flow. After all, it is our own personal story so its up to us to make it interesting and something we would be proud to let others read.  We may not get a Pulitzer Prize but we will get immense satisfaction in taking the time to craft a life that becomes our own bestseller.

 

 

 

 

Drivers Ed

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It’s early in the morning and Paul is sitting at the table with me, sleep still nestled deep in his dark brown eyes. He is studying for his drivers education test and as I look at the almost 6 ft boy sitting in front of me, I ask myself, where did the time go?

When I first saw the boy in the yellow hat, I knew sure as anything else I had ever known, that he was destined to be in our family. In probably the fastest Korean adoption ever, we were on a plane bound for Seoul within 5 months of turning in our paperwork. It was if the universe knew he needed to be settled.

When we saw him at his foster mother’s house he was a chubby thick-boned sturdy 10 month-old already walking faster than the speed of light. The boy was quick and moved like a prize fighter, bobbing and weaving the entire day. Throughout the apartment the drawers were taped shut an indication of the whirlwind that was to enter our lives.

The day we brought him home, he toddled over to his 7-month-older brother, and swiftly knocked him to the floor. Thus a dynamic was put into place in which whatever Andre had, Paul wanted. It’s a pattern that remains to this day.That first day home I told B, “Mark my words there is something different about this kid.” And there was.

We soon noticed that parenting was harder this time around. First came the tantrums the likes of which I had never seen before. They were like HUGE thunderstorms…in your face, with screaming so ragged and loud that I was sure that eventually the police would arrive at our door. Often Paul would rage uncontrollably for an hours at a time. Obsessions with clocks, then water, then spoons developed which lasted for several weeks and then they were gone as if a magician waved his wand only to be replaced by another. Before the age of 2 we were already consulting with behavioral therapists in an attempt to change the path we were on. It wasn’t until Paul was 5-years-old that we got the autism diagnosis, the Tourette’s Syndrome pronouncement came when he was 7-years-old and the Central Auditory Processing Disorder diagnosis a year after that. Then for two years we had ABA therapists in our home 5 days a week working with both Paul and Andre to help alleviate the most pressing challenges that autism wrought between the two of them. Between weekly hippo therapy workouts, psychologist appointments and daily hour-long neuro reorganization exercises, we barely breathed for 4 or 5 years and when we did it was ragged, coming is fitful spasms, like a marathon runner as he crosses the finish line. Sometimes we were broken and worn only making it through the day because we were on autopilot.

But then, miraculously, things started slowly changing. Fewer tantrums occurred. Less resistance. More control. More sense of responsibility. A new willingness to help out and think of others feelings. Slowly all the years of hard work began to slip into place finally resting where they needed to be and Paul began to mature.

Those younger years were often dark. They were sad. They were scary and they were the most difficult of my life but today I have come out on the other side with a newfound appreciation of my two sons, knowing first-hand all the hard work they have had to put into themselves in order to become the wonderful and engaging people that they are.

These days when I see other parents on the on-line bulletin boards struggling with their children; I try to encourage them and assure them that it does get easier as their kids mature. And when I see their pain and fear sometimes it takes me back to mine. When this happens I involuntarily shudder but then marvel at all that our entire family has accomplished together through hard work, fighting the system, and never giving in/up.

This morning I sit at the table watching as Paul studies for his drivers ed test and I wonder…where did the time go?