Earlier this year, I lost my mom. In the wake of that enormous, indescribable loss, I re-evaluated everything.
I left my job. A job that was not perfect, but one that I was skilled at performing, that provided a creative outlet and wonderful people to be around, and that I usually enjoyed.
We sold our house. The one we worked so hard to fix up. Which looked amazing right as we walked away. I lived with metallic naked-lady wallpaper in one of the bathrooms for 8 years, and honestly after removing it and myself from the premises, I kind of miss it.
We moved 3,000 miles from Seattle, back to the east coast, back to family, back home, back to the baffling popularity of Dunkin’ Donuts, and in some ways for me, back to square one.
It was the right move. A necessary shake-up. We were isolated in Seattle. Although sometimes I secretly want to have another child, I’m 42, Stella is an only, and I think it’s important that she be more closely connected with her extended family. Also, it’s clear that Massachusetts, based on all I’ve read and experienced with Stella thus far, is the best state for educational and other support for autistic children. It’s downright refreshing to be in a state that actually seems to value education, and fund it accordingly.
Uh, no one wanted to be my boyfriend in fifth grade, perhaps due to a lack of social skills and an abundance of mullet.
I am so proud of Stella. She is adjusting to public school, so different, so vast compared with the tiny private school she attended up until this year. It had the world’s most sustainable building, for Christ’s sake, a living science building. This year, her classroom, in a school circa 1954, is a science lab time capsule complete with showerhead and chain at the door in case of toxic exposure to chemicals and whatnot. The building may not be alive but the teachers are amazing, the community is caring, and, heck, the cafeteria meals are made fresh in-house, and never fried. Chicken Shawarma with herbed feta and tomato salad, anyone?
Stella’s transition has expanded my view of what is right for her and what she is capable of handling. A reminder that she is incredibly resilient. I’ve realized that in a large school, with more numbers and diversity, there’s more of a chance that she’ll find her people. I’d never thought about it that way, having been fear-driven, concerned with Seattle’s lack-luster schools, and myopically focused on the advantages of a small, close-knit community. She already has a secret admirer. Really. There is a kid who wants to be her boyfriend, but he’s too shy to talk to her so he keeps sending friends over. It’s all so fifth grade. Uh, no one wanted to be my boyfriend in fifth grade, perhaps due to my glaring lack of social skills and an abundance of mullet.
Horseback riding, therapeutic for now as her legs are still so tight from toe-walking, is taking her to new places. She rides a steady, old-timer horse named Lacey, with feathering, and a bit of stubbornness to match her rider. Stella sees the older girls riding with speed and confidence, and instead of feeling less than, she feels inspired to reach for new skills. Which is so fantastic it blows my worried mind.
Stella and I recently attended an annual small-town community event, and she ran into schoolmates who greeted her with such warmth and enthusiasm, as I’d seen at her small Seattle school. I am working with her school on an IEP, to secure the support she needs, deserves and is legally entitled to receive. I suspect the state may end up paying for a private school education, for a proper fit, but we’ll see. From the Massachusetts state government, I recently ordered a copy of the special education laws, and am equipping myself with the knowledge and context I need to ensure she gets what she needs. Anyone who knows me knows that, like Stella, when I put my mind to something–get the F out of the way.
But to be honest, I’m not adjusting as well. I’m stuck yet adrift. Which makes no sense. I couldn’t motivate my way out of a paper bag, unless Stella or a “glass “of wine beckoned.
I don’t even know why the hell I’m writing this other than to attempt to take a first step.
Being not quite neurotypical myself, to say the least, I struggle with getting up and organized, and engaged and active, unless there’s a writing deadline threatening dire consequences for my finances and professional reputation, a high-stakes basketball game I need to get in top shape for, or an impending tsunami from which I’ll need to run for my life. I have a lot of passion, intellectual curiosity and interests, but lately I leave them to rot on the vine, like the unwanted cucumbers in my dad’s garden (I think we used one of fifty). While I found out that it’s a myth that parents of autistic kids are more likely to divorce, the truth is that we are not always aligned, the stress is rough on us, and we just try to get Stella through each day to the best of our ability.
In other not-great news, I wake up tired every day, and always have. I have to watch out for anxiety and depression, and always have. I find it hard to eat fresh fruit and vegetables, like a three-year-old. I think about my mother a lot, and regret not moving back while she was still with us. I don’t have much of an appetite due to what I refer to as existential nausea.
The employer I left had promised freelance work from afar, but it never really happened. The structure, energy and clarity that employment brings to my life is gone, for now. Funny how almost messing everything up is just the shot of adrenaline I need to not mess everything up. Career-wise, I don’t know what I want to do next, except that it must be meaningful (which is super specific), and so I’m left feeling flat. And not the kind of flat that prompted relentless harassment in middle school. Summer is over so days spent at the ocean or pool are no longer on the calendar to provide vitamin D, a flock of children to hang with, and a place to go. I don’t have a new home of my own yet, so that source of creative energy is gone as well. Boy, I’m a real hoot lately, can’t you tell? YIKES.
I don’t even know why the hell I’m writing this other than to attempt to take a first step. To put a stake in the ground. An SOS on the interwebs (because that’s an effective strategy). But there’s no definitive point from which to launch. I’m full of questions. And Stella will be home from school in a half hour even though it feels like she just got on the bus.
Can I wake up?
Can I write my way out of this?
Can I survive Stella’s upcoming teen years?
Why did I drink so much champagne at the George Strait concert?
Can I get myself to start exercising?
Can I stop fighting with climate-crisis-denying idiots online?
Can I feed myself as well as I feed Stella?
Wait, did someone feed the dog this morning?
Can I forgive myself?
Why is it so hard to care for myself?
Is it too late in the day to make more coffee?
What will it take to change?