Tree lights still twinkle and despite the noon hour on New Year’s Day I’m still in my PJs pretending this holiday won’t end. I’m not super-into resolutions but it’s hard to turn a page on a year without looking back, then yearning for what’s ahead. Fortunately it was a rich one, a year-long parade of gifts that glittered from what is simple. Family, friends, travel, and white space around the margins that I don’t usually allow myself in a life too cluttered – self-cluttered – and busy. Accomplishments and growth, too, for the 23-year old autistic wonderboys in my charge – slow but steady and sure.
A friend last night said her 2018 was all about more. More health, more hiking, more trips, more fun. Interestingly I’m the opposite. I want less – and yet they’re two sides of the same coin. Here’s my 2018 to-do list of less, and more. What’s yours?
1. Work. Enough to pay the bills, but without the insanity that often comes with a deadline-driven, highly competitive, how high can you jump profession. Which it is far too easy for me to embrace.
2. Stress. Because sadly I’m a recovering perfectionist who isn’t 100% there yet. (get it?)
3. Skewed priorities. As in, yes it is OK to pursue a non-paying, non-child enhancing, non-responsibility-checklist item as a top priority once in a while. (although I’m still scratching my head as I write this that it’s really OK).
4. Clutter. Am I really developing a neatness gene – ? does autism allow neatness ever?
5. Facebook. I’m considering a social media holiday in the coming week. The implicit braggadocio of the whole thing is annoying, and sets up a false comparison for everything and everybody. Yeah I enjoy preening my sons’ exploits as much as anyone. But sometimes watching everyone else’s wonder-days can divert me from what’s truly important.
6. Fear. I get amazingly caught up in the “is this good enough” or “what will happen if” game that prevents me from much of the below “more” list.
1. Self-care. As in, my #1 priority this morning was supposed to be my stretching exercises which I will get to after 3 other very important priorities for the boys to be squeezed in ahead of them before 4 other things must get done in the next 45 minutes. Can you relate oh autism parent friends.
2. Friends. I’m blessed to have some great ones. When I give myself the time to be a decent friend, everything in my life feels aligned. Like PT for the soul.
3. Community. Autism can be a lonely place, especially when your kiddos’ proclivities aren’t too nice in public, and when lack of respite care forces you to 7×24 child care roles. Thankfully the autism-friendly settings have opened doors as has the tremendous growth in awareness and tolerance. My 2017 included more moments outside our little 4 walls when we tried new things – the special needs choral group, community performances, art therapy, ballet even. Not all of them are keepers but getting out of our cocoon and making us and our autism more a part of the world felt so freeing.
4. Employment-focused development. If I had a bumper sticker in 2018 it would read, “Give autism a job.” And if I have a mission, it’s that. – Unfortunately Jeff and my sideline painting business got sidelined in August when the 2nd and superb job coach of the year went back to college. But as I sit admiring an entire first floor of door jambs and molding glistening white from a fresh coat this year, I know in my heart this business proposition has potential – and that if the fates of employment allow the two of us, I WILL find a way to make this happen. – As for Will, I’m still not sure where his vocational assets lie, and his behaviors like “neatening” surfaces by trashing them have to be shaped before they’re assets not issues. But I know he has them, and as I spent time with him on a cold and snowy Xmas day helping him play puzzles as swiftly as ever, I know he has many assets waiting to be tapped, if I can but find them.
5. Giving back. And not just with money. A very handicapped young woman walked laps with us at the gym a few days ago beamed from inside at a very simple “great job!” remark. Aren’t we all just like that – repaid and refreshed by a simple kindness – and similarly nourished when we pass it along.
6. Journeys. Big surprise: hiking journeys are #1 atop my adventure list, including the vice-presidential traverse we didn’t get to doing last year, assuming my knees can do it, the Grey Knob overnight where we can practice backcountry camping without the hassles, and the winter Grand Canyon trek for my milestone bday in 11 months. But so many other journeys await of the spiritual kind, where the reward is a different kind of world view, and the result in a changed me has just as much power to help my sons, enrich me, and change the world. My 2018 also involves my giving permission to myself to have more of these, especially when it means I give myself permission to do the Less list above, ie less work and less skewing the personal priorities list to work vs. supposed downtime.
Here’s to getting less, more and all that is good in 2018!