I hoped that it would spread, and reach others who were going through their own dark times. And then I watched, amazed, as it did. A year ago I was awestruck as people (besides my mom) visited the blog, and in a matter of 3 days my daily page loads jumped from 67 to 421 to 892. I felt like I had contributed something, and at a time when I was feeling like I had lost some of my own identity (having left my career to manage therapies and appointments), that gave as much to me as any of my words gave to anyone else.
At the time, I was already grateful to be out of the airport, and I’ve spent a lot of the past year trying to spend more time enjoying the present, and less time thinking. (As it turns out, life is sometimes more fun with less thinking.) There didn’t seem to be much point to trying to envision what our future would be like in Holland, or worrying myself with particulars. I had already accepted that life would be different than the one that I had previously imagined, and I decided that while we would clearly have more struggles, we would also have more celebrations . . .and over the past year, we’ve had some great celebrations. First steps, first words, first bizarre adoration (hello, vulture), first glimpses into how smart and funny our girl is . . . we celebrate a new food with the gleeful smiles that some people reserve for opening presents on Christmas morning.
And I’ve enjoyed this about Holland-the joyful appreciation of minor things. I’ve come to welcome the slow pace of changes . . . by the time we got to walking, there wasn’t a little mom voice in my head lamenting, “Oh . . . my baby is growing up too fast! Slow down!” . . . there was just “Go! You can do it! This is amazing!” Progress has been made, and savored. In the airport, we were in a rush---a rush to fix things, a rush to change things, a rush to somehow alter the course of our unplanned reality-----but outside the airport, in acceptance, there is a peaceful happiness. In acceptance, things are . . . well, things are pretty good.
But I didn’t realize that this past year would teach me an unexpected thing about acceptance. There seem to be stages of acceptance, both as clear and as winding as the stages of grief had been.
Stay with me as I leave behind the airport analogy and switch to a harbor town. (I know, I know---Another analogy?! (eye roll) but it’s the best way I can think of to explain this.)
The Boats of AcceptanceIn this harbor town, the families with “typical” kids live on the land, and the families with “special/different/whatever term you’re cool with” kids live on the water. The families who are new to all-things-special-needs, who struggle to see which world they fit into, who still spend a lot of time in depressionangerdenialbargainingwailingpain . . . they sit on the beach. Not quite on land, but not ready to brave the water. And when they’re ready, they get to acceptance. And then they get their boat, to join those already in the water.
As best as I can figure, acceptance starts as a canoe. It’s tipsy, easy to capsize---but you’re so happy to be free from the limbo of the beach and enjoying the water that you don’t care. You paddle around thinking “This is working! I’m on a boat! I’m happy! This water isn’t so bad! “ But every so often you hear people playing on the shore and turn too quickly to see them----or you gaze too long at some kids playing in a soccer game close to the shore and you forget to row----and your boat wobbles and shakes and takes in a bit of water and you think that maybe you need to take a rest on the beach again. Just for a little while.
It’s hard to learn to live on a boat.
It takes some time, but you become a champion rower. You can navigate turns, go superfast or smooth and slow, and the shore hardly distracts you anymore. You think to yourself “There are great things out here on the water. Those land people miss magical moments at sea.” You’re ready to drop your anchor and claim the water as your home.
So, you get a houseboat.
The houseboat of acceptance is strong and sturdy, built to last through the stinging winds and soaking hurricanes that you’re smart enough to expect in the years to come. And the best things about having a houseboat, docked securely at the pier, are the neighbors. You visit their boats and they visit yours, and you talk about the best places to buy rope and other boating things. So many people you might not have met on land, happy to help with ship repairs and barnacle scrubbings. You all have friends on land, but something is different among the camaraderie of people who live on the water---there’s a lot about boat living that the land folks just can’t fully understand. Life on the houseboat is good, you watch the tides come in and out and feel secure and proud . . . until you have to venture to land.
Going to land . . . well, it sometimes sucks.
You’re invited to a birthday party, or decide to take your kid to go visit the new museum, or whatever. You have high hopes. You’re ready to visit with old friends, to catch up. It only takes a few minutes to start noticing all the stuff that’s happened on land since you’ve been gone (they have flat screen tvs now? computers are wireless? what the hell is Twitter?) and suddenly all of the progress that you’ve made on the boat, the stories you were so ready to tell---they all seem very small. So small that you fearfully suspect the land people might put on too-big-smiles and too-cheerful-voices when they say “A new generator? That must be so fantastic!”
You may not be ready to be so close to land just yet.
But you want to shift from land to water, gliding from one to the other, at home on both, like the tides. The houseboat of acceptance, well, it may be home (temporarily? for a few years? forever?) but you watch the waves crash on the shore, stirring up the sand, and it makes you think. The water kicks up the sand and plays with the shells, lingers a bit, and then purposefully moves back out again. Maybe you could, too. Maybe you could join the land folks, move among them, and then return to the water . . . without the weight of misunderstanding/pity/envy/grief?
This is where a year has brought me. The houseboat is easy, the land is still sometimes hard (although there are easier days and harder ones) . . . and I’m ready to start rolling onto land with the waves (some days). I’m not sure how long it will take me to teach my body to switch from sea legs to land legs, and my visits might be short at first, but I’m going to go slowly. I’ve got a lifetime ahead of me to learn. As it turns out, the final, hardest to obtain, boat of acceptance is starting to reveal itself to me, and I don’t think it’s a boat at all.
I think it’s a surfboard.