Gratitude, and living vicariously

Trek to Bondcliff 09-04-12A former neighbor and now Facebook friend moved me to tears with a simple comment on a recent hiking post of mine the other day.  “I have climbed sooooo many mountains, vicariously, thanks to you people,” she wrote.   This from a person with so many health issues that she’s wheelchair bound and with the use of just a few fingers on one hand.  Yet she’s among the most avid Facebook posters in my little circle and never fails to email with holiday and birthday greetings.

It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?  The term “living vicariously” is often pejorative.   I remember my own mother castigating some of her peers who rather forced decisions on their kids in an effort to ‘live vicariously’ through their choices rather than free them.  On a more positive note I’ve told many friends how I delight in ‘living vicariously’ through my daughter’s travels and now career exploits – remembering my own early career accomplishments and travels.   Certainly the travels for us is now greatly restricted by autism-driven difficulties in finding care for the boys when/if we’d go on a long trip.   We’ve chosen not to take them abroad (not counting Canada) as they’re certainly unable to appreciate new/different cultures, the time-zone changes further complicates destinations and the cost/benefit ratio to them and us just doesn’t work out.

I write this from our usual end of summer vacation taken largely to fill time while the boys have 2 weeks off from summer session until the fall school year.  We’ve done our usual combo vacation with something for everyone – hiking for us all, motel pools and ocean for J., plenty of restaurants and treats for W., and a few wineries and historic sights for the parents.  I always feel guilty relaxing even while on vacation.  This trip I’ve struggled to let go of lingering dumb work items I wanted to finish before I left but didn’t.  I’ve worked hard to put down the usual feeling that  in relaxing for 3 1/2 minutes, I failed at the cause of curing autism and haven’t helped the boys advance their always limited skills.  My mind wanders to the coulda, woulda, shoulda litany of things I could do differently and better, that would lead me to be a better Autism Parent.

But wait – there’s another perspective.  I just turned around to see W.’s beaming face as he lazes around in bed at 9 am without an agenda, knowing there’s a sizable breakfast around the corner, and time with his favorite pastimes and a car trip to somewhere new in store.  J. is soundly sleeping still but I suspect that suits him quite happily too.   The hubby is regaling me with fun facts about some sights we’re about to see and inlet  geography of these fascinating fjord-like Maine ports and coves that are like Norman Rockwell paintings live.  Last night’s drives to see and plot the semi-fictional second home purchase (“Look!  we should buy that mansion by the sea after I write the great American novel!”) is always fun.

Yesterday’s vistas during this spectacular hike will fuel me, but so it this letting go of agendas, schedules and demands, most importantly my own self-demands to be the Perfect Autism Parent.  Rest and relaxation is so very important for those of us special parents, but for me, sometimes hard to achieve.  It’s about letting go of living vicariously through the multitude of posts from Facebook autism-friends on how they live their lives, how they are spending their vacations, or how they are doing X therapy or Y group in order to fix their kiddo.  Truly I love these people and their stuff on a good day is very helpful to know, but tends to make me stray into the self-flagellation department – particularly during my 3 1/2 minutes of relaxation.  I take great heart in my guys’ marching on up that oceanside cliff walk yesterday, and smiling and stimming with joy that says they took a break for a minute too.

So that you, dear M., my neighbor and friend. It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?