Friday, 8 November 2013

When All Else Fails, Jump On The Bed

Photo Courtesy of Wayne Pollard

Life can be stressful.


As the glow of summer fades away, replaced by the dying leaves and grey skies of autumn, its easy to feel grey yourself. Hibernate. Cut off the cold and damp of the season. 

But fall isn't truly dreary. Or depressing. 
Its a beautiful, colourful world, inside AND out. 

Stay with me as I recount a tale of autumn, stress and joy,  from just last week.

I recently rediscovered the joy, and stress reducing power, of regular walks in the park. It has been a great help in reducing my stress and keeping me grounded. But the halcyon days of summer are over. They've been replaced by some pretty wet weather, keeping me from my walks, and a LOT of work at home. I usually replace the walks with music as the weather turns. Throw on my dancing shoes and let the beat take me away. But I've been busy. Too busy. And the grey weather just zapped away all motivation to go out. So that respite fell to the wayside as well. This happens with all of us. We get so caught up in our hectic lives, looking after those around us, paying the bills, that we fail to take care of ourselves. Usually it takes something big to make us look after Numero Uno. Maybe we get sick. Or maybe depressed. Or maybe we start dropping the ball and things don't run as smoothly as they should. Whatever it is, its our wake up call.

I got my wake up call last week.

I have had to make some pretty big life decisions in the last few months. Not for myself. For my 20 year old son, Eric. He cannot make these decisions on his own as he has a developmental age of a 3 year old. Eric is Autistic. Because Eric would not be earning a typical high school diploma, and because of his high needs, he was in a specialized class. He has the right to remain enrolled in school, in this class, until the year he turns 21. 

This was to be his last year.

Eric's anxiety has been rampant for the last few years, and separation from me has been , well, lets say difficult for him. We made some gains last year and he managed to get to school on average one day every other week. The other 9 tries over each 2 week period would result in severe anxiety, aggression and horrible stress. For both of us. Still, I tried. And so did he. Together we worked hard to battle through the anxiety, but it was too great a battle. I had to decide whether the benefits of Eric going to school out-weighed the negatives of the all-encompassing anxiety. We simply had reached a point where we had to change our goal. So I made the decision. I pulled Eric out of school. 

No ceremony. No cake and balloons. No cameras flashing. 

Just an email. 

And it was done. 

Had I continued trying (and failing) to get Eric to school he would have descended once again into crisis and have to be hospitalized. I knew I had done the right thing.  It took a week, but Eric finally caught on that his days and nights were no longer about the struggle to get on the school bus. His anxiety in every moment of his day decreased. He began to PLAY. His language progressed, and his aggression had disappeared. 

So why was I sad? 

I knew the answer, but didn't want to admit it even to myself. I had to overcome my own expectation that Eric would have a graduation. 

The party. The pictures. The presents. The gown and hat.

These things would mean nothing to Eric (other than the presents of course! ) But to me, it was a bit of normalcy in a chaotic life. A celebration instead of the daily battle. A public acknowledgement that the struggle had been hard but was now over. A moment to remember. Those moments are few and far between in an autism household, so to realize an expected one has been taken away is like a death. The grief is real. As palpable as the grief of hearing your child's diagnosis and prognosis for the first time. And it makes you relive all the other grief-filled moments. Its a terrible spiral. So I had not been myself. I had just been going through the motions. 


As I was hanging clothes in my closet I found a bunch of crumpled dry dusty leaves inside my dress boots. I got angry. I KNEW it had to be my granddaughter, I was too stressed to be worrying about leaves stuffed in shoes! I called Samantha to my room. I asked her to look in the closet and tell me what she saw. She lit up like a Christmas tree and SQUEALED! 

''YOU FOUND THEM!!!!!!! Do you like my present for you?''

Apparently, she had noticed I had been sad, and since she LOVES playing in the leaves in the fall she had collected these so that I could play in them as well. 

And be happy. As happy as the bright red and yellow leaves in the trees.

I started crying. 

Then I started laughing. 

Sammy squealed some more. 'Nana's laughing again!' She then grabbed my hands and pulled me to my bed. ''Know what else is fun Nana? Jumping on the bed!''

I climbed up and did something I haven't done for decades. I jumped on my bed. Sammy held my hands tight and jumped with me. Eric came into the room, laughed a big belly laugh then joined us. We all collapsed (thankfully the bed didn't!) and giggled ferociously.
I was able to allow myself to grieve for what might have been, and to look forward to what will be. My son had entered the next season of life and I'd been pulled out of my silly funk by a pile of leaves, a precocious 3 year old and good old fashioned horse play.

When it comes to finding JOY , there is no better guide than a 3 year old!

And when all else fails, jump on the bed!

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