believe in the power of resolutions, the quiet pledges we make to ourselves to get through hard times, the private mantras we repeat to become our better selves, the words that power us on like The Little Engine That Could puffing “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”
Not long after our son was diagnosed with autism, I resolved that I would make a good life with autism. I cannot fix the date on the calendar, but I remember with clarity my resolve as well as the release and power it gave me.
I was sitting at the computer reading about the hardships of autism on the million plus people with it and their families when I stopped at the word “devastating.” The exact sentence eludes me, but it was along the lines of “autism is a devastating disorder.” I remember feeling angry all over, like I was getting a fast-moving rash – not because I couldn’t relate to the hardship an autism diagnosis brings, but because I was tired of my son being described as “devastated” and me being described as “devastated” because I was his mother. My son was and is a remarkably happy boy in his own remarkable way. And he has brought me much joy. I remember thinking, “I’m 42, I’m middle aged, and I just don’t want to spend the rest of my life devastated. We will make a good life, no matter what.”
I believe this resolution could not have come at a better time for me in my journey raising an autistic child. I needed a positive purpose to hold tight to when so much seemed out of my control. I was tempted to make curing my son my purpose, but it felt wrong – in part because not all kids can be cured, no matter how much energy or money families put into the cause. I also needed something to help me appreciate the child and the life I had at that moment, not an idealized child and an idealized life in the future.
My resolution has helped chug me through many tough days since then, and has helped me realize there is no place for prolonged self-pity in a good life with autism. It helps me keep my balance as I help him learn new skills and still accept him for who he is, limitations and all.
Some days are a struggle. Some days make me soar. And most days I am grateful for the good life I have, for the good life I make.
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