I knew a person who saw her future so clearly. Visions in her head of a life full of simple joy. And there in her visions she was so sure of who she was. She was strong and confident. Her unwavering energy was infectious to everyone around her. She took care of herself. She was fresh and rested and ready to approach every day with comfortable certainty. She was bold; without being overbearing. Cautious; without being reserved. Wandering; without being lost. And there in that life she felt secure and in control; her footing strong and her focus steady. She was ready for anything that came her way.
I knew this person well. She used to be me.
But life has a way of becoming something very different than what we expect it to be. It gives a little, and sometimes it takes a lot. And slowly we start to change. Day by day, and piece by piece, we become the people that our lives needs us to be.
My life has certainly been different than I expected. I have said goodbye to things that I was not ready to lose. To ideas and visions of a different life. A life with less pain. A life with more certainty. A life filled with the comfort and security that I craved. Less heartache. Less fear. Less doubt.
After my son’s autism diagnosis I mourned the loss of a different life. Not better or worse; just different. I mourned things that had never really been mine. Things that were just visions and ideas and hopes for the future. And although they were never really mine; I felt entitled to them. And when they were gone I mourned them fiercely.
Through my mourning I have come to understand that life is one big give and take. We are given things, and things are taken.
I was given the most amazing child to grow and love and nurture. And, none of the things that have been taken along the way can compare to that gift. So, day by day, and piece by piece, I am learning to embrace this journey. I am becoming less of who I was before autism and more of the person I need to be to walk this journey with my son. My incredible gift. A gift worth changing for.
I will not tell you that these changes have been easy. The truth is that this journey brings me to my knees most days. My head fills with fears and doubts about the road ahead. I question my own strength. Because I know that I am strong, but I know that autism is strong too. And it is so much stronger than I want it to be. It matches me blow for blow. And when I go to my knees feeling tired and weak; autism stands strong. It is unrelenting that way.
So I do what this journey has taught me to do; I stand up. I find more strength. More energy. More will to fight another day. I become what I need to be to survive. I become a version of strong that I never knew existed before autism.
I am very different today than the person I was before diagnosis. The person I used to be could not survive this journey. So, I became someone who could.
And sometimes that means I am things that I never imagined being. Sometimes I am unsure of myself. Sometimes I am scared. Sometimes I am exhausted, and I say “no” when I want to say “yes”. Sometimes I am chaotic and unscheduled. Sometimes I am uncomfortable in my own life. Sometimes I am overbearing. Sometimes I am reserved. And sometimes, I am lost.
And somehow despite all of the ways I am different; I still find a way to be ready for this life. Ready for the journey ahead. Embracing life for all of the predictable uncertainty that will cross my path. Because along this journey; the only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain.
I used to be someone different. She was on a different journey, at a different time, with a different purpose. It was easy for her to be brave and confident and unscheduled. Carefree and optimistic about her journey through this life. She used to be me. And, sometimes, I miss her.
Autism takes things. And, it took her from me. And even though she was so many things that I hoped to be; I had to let her go.
I was given my son. The most incredible and spirited and willful little boy. And he is mine. And for him, I became someone different. And together we walk this journey.