I’m working through a grudge-like attitude. Grudge-like because I usually don’t hold grudges. They aren’t healthy. They aren’t productive. They take up too much time. Plus, the older Ronan gets the less time I have to waste on other’s affairs. I’ve experienced one or two grudges long ago, but that was when I was much younger. The few times a grudge would muscle its way into my thoughts I felt like I had to constantly look over my shoulder. I worried about my next step, afraid of who’d be watching it. Too much thought went into why I was angry at whoever hurt my feelings. I stopped my normal routine to avoid people and uneasy conversations. I rerouted myself through town to steer clear of running into my offender. It took strategy to be a recluse which is quite the opposite of how I’m normally out there living life fully. But, the longer I held onto the bitter thoughts from the grudge, the angrier and more avoidant I became.
I knew I had to stop my destructive attitude because that old phrase “forgive and forget” started to haunt me. It made me pause and wonder, “What in the heck happened in the first place to cause this rotten attitude?!” I didn’t like how I was feeling or living. I needed to end this problem quickly. Once I was able to let the grudge go, and say good riddance to the former friend that caused the unwanted negative emotion, I felt better, stronger and more at peace. I got back to living again. Bygones were forgotten. Life rolled on.
Thankfully I saw that I could still change my attitude for the better. Not everyone is that lucky. Some grudges last for years and years only ending when the other person is in a state of ill-health or on their death bed. When too much time wedges in it becomes too hard to let go of the past and the negative feelings. Instead of cleansing the spirit in an attempt to make amends, a sinking feeling sets in. A lifting of the spirit can’t occur which means a sense of peace won’t be felt. Instead of moving forward, a grudge consumes any bit of happiness that might be trying to break through. Feeling better, stronger and happier are taken over by feelings of being stuck, destroyed, doomed and down-right miserable.
Do you go down fighting or hope someone throws you a lifeline?
I feel like most of the last seven years have been fighting. I’ve been fighting for Ronan to live and to be able to learn. I’m also trying to just let him be—be happy, be healthy, be himself. It isn’t easy to maintain a sense of constant hope and happy when lots of extra stuff gets in the way: the sensory stuff at a dental exam preventing an actual exam, the behavioral stuff that prohibits attending Church as a family, the emotional stuff that shouldn’t bowl me over but does. I guess all that stuff, plus the surprise!-you-thought-you-were-making-headway-but-you’re-not stuff boils inside like a mini volcano waiting to erupt at the worst possible moment. Those are the moments I’d rather skip over, but I end up festering, stewing and boiling because of them. What creeps in? A grudge. I admit it stirs up every emotion. It snuffs every happy, joyful, can’t-believe-it moments. It sits waiting for something to go wrong. It waits to show up after I’m reminded of how far behind Ronan’s development is. It rears its ugly head when Ronan just can’t do what is so easy for so many others. That grudge flashes right before my eyes when I see typical boys doing typical things as they cross my path. Look at those typical human beings with nary a problem! Look at them skateboard down my street. Those typical kids with their cool clothing and fun friends know nothing of what their peer can’t do. Why did normal happen to them and skip right over my son?
Ronan has two major medical appointments coming up. Both scheduled because of his special needs. Both will cost an arm, leg and then some. Both appointments will require great patience on his part. He’ll pay for his fear with many tears as I look on with bravery as I stifle tears of sadness, woe and a little bit of anger in my heart. I could go on and on about how I think Ronan ended up with an arsenal of specialists we see yearly. I could go on and on about how medical appointments and Ronan’s therapy schedule is like a revolving door of busy, frustrated, costly and hopefully hopeful but sometimes isn’t. It requires so much more work than I ever expected. It might sound like I do have some sort of grudge about what happened to Ronan. Well, I kind of do.
Even though I’ve had a few years’ worth of experience as Ronan’s Mom, handling the negatives and the I-can’t-believe-this-is-still-happening emotions remains a challenge. I can’t help but get a little upset when I remember parts of Ronan’s early years were not a struggle. I can’t help but notice his current struggles and how they seriously delay growth and development. I can’t help but reflect on what I would do differently. Daily reminders of how much time we lost with useless therapists, other people’s rotten attitudes and lazy providers sometimes rue the day. Just like with any emotional trauma, I’ve got to learn how to curb those feelings and redirect my emotions. If I don’t, I know I won’t be able to put one foot in front of the other to get through the tough days.
Granted there are times that I am unable to push through the anger, resentment and disappointment on a “woe is me” sort of day. That’s when it feels like the negative side of life purposefully dumps everything out of my usual ‘glass-is-half-full’ outlook. I know I am not alone with these feelings. When I look through my cell phone call log, or peek through my email inbox, I see that I’ve got several lifelines to get me through whatever’s trying to bring me down. They include parents from across the nation and others who are scattered across the globe. Countless people I’ve met who have a child like mine flood my thoughts. Just when I think I just can’t do this anymore I have people to carry me with their thoughts, hopes and prayers. They jump right in to get me through. They make me do what I perceive as impossible. They believe in me, in us as a community and always in our children. Collectively we hold strong to that attitude because if we don’t believe in our children, their lives might crumble, too.
Ronan’s great needs have been here for quite some time. I’ve learned so much from him. I should be used to all of Ronan’s needs by now. None of this is easy. None of it is fair. But, it’s what I have to work through. I will not let my own emotions destroy Ronan’s chance at improving. He’s too important and worthy of every positive emotion and action I can give. As for the negative? I am trying to give up the sad, the angry and the resentment. I have stopped letting the nay sayers poison my thoughts. I have diminished much of the sour attitude that likes to brings me down. I am slowly giving all of that up so I can focus better. Oh, to be only focused on the hope and the happiness my child brings me—what a cleansing that will be! It may take a little bit of time to fully purify my thoughts, but I do believe I can do that. Ronan didn’t do anything to deserve the struggle. He didn’t ask to live a life that sometimes seems impossible to live. As long as I don’t give up the strength he gives me, as long as I continue to lean on the people who are willing to hold my hand as I fight for Ronan, I think we’ll all get to where we need to go. Together we are a force. And, together we will always be stronger because of what happened to our children.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.