Countless romantic comedies, books and stories have included the famous line – “It’s not you, it’s me.” We all seem to know this statement isn’t true but rather the nice way to let someone down or to end a relationship without blaming the other person. No one wants to say – “hey baby listen I am just not into you or I met someone else or you are simply not what I am looking for.” These lines have become a punchline in TV shows and movies and let’s face it we have all probably been on the receiving end of something similar at some point in our lives. But here is the thing…….I can honestly tell you without a shred of sarcasm or irony that it really isn’t you…..it’s me.
As a parent of a child with special needs there exists a good amount of denial about the realities of our lives. I work hard to face facts, to accept what is and to focus on the positive while continuing to learn about the ways in which I can help my son grow and learn. Autism is not something to be cured – there is no cure. We focus instead on providing the support, therapies and guidance to allow Charlie to be his best self and to integrate his unique traits and challenges into our everyday lives. While I have come to accept his diagnosis and all that comes along with it, one area that I struggle to come to terms with is the fact that my life is not and may never be the same again. I have always been an extremely social person – I love meeting people, making new friends, spending time with my old friends and family and making plans to get out and have fun with all those people in my life. We all realize that life is busy with careers, children, activities, family obligations and more and it is hard to find time to socialize as much as we may like. For me, this has been challenging. I make plans to go out with girlfriends and cancel last-minute, I am excited for my coffee date with a high school friend who consistently makes the effort to get together with me and I cancel (over and over again). I started working with a life coach to help me focus on setting goals for my own personal and business growth yet wind up canceling our weekly sessions 4 times over 6 weeks. I finally find a trainer who can work out with me at the exact time and location I am looking for while I am usually sitting in my car waiting for Charlie to be done therapy….and you guessed it…..I have to cancel more often than not. See I told you -“It’s not you….it’s me.”
At night, when the house is quiet and I am alone with my thoughts I beat myself up for all of the canceled dates, coaching sessions, training sessions and more. I think about the inspirational sayings I see posted on Facebook that all have the same message – YOU CHOOSE YOUR PRIORITIES, STOP MAKING EXCUSES AND MAKE IT HAPPEN, YOU CAN FIND THE TIME IF IT’S IMPORTANT TO YOU. I think about how I used to be – the career driven woman, the social butterfly, the person who spent time setting specific goals and reaching them because I had the discipline, drive and focus to make things happen. That person seems long gone these days and I often wonder what happened to me in that even the simplest commitment seems challenging to maintain. I wonder what it must be like for my girlfriends – the ones who have been in my life for more years that I can count who are always calling, asking to get together, trying to make plans, asking about a girls weekend away. I wonder what it must be like for my family who want us to visit for a weekend, or take a vacation this summer or ask if they can come help me with the kids. I wonder if my coach or trainer have chalked me up as someone who really doesn’t want to work on making my life better by improving myself and instead chooses to simply make excuses. These thoughts run through my head all of the time because I want them (all of them) to know it is not you….it’s me.
So this post is for you….for all of you who call and leave messages that I never respond to. For the professionals who make time in their schedule to work with me and wind up with an open hour because I simply can’t do it that day. For the friends who try time and time again to hang out with me and probably think I don’t care about their friendship or value our relationship. None of this could be further from the truth. The truth is I need you more than you will ever know. I need you to keep calling, keep trying and keep being willing to accept that last minute change in plans. I need this because right now my life is not my own. Right now, I am thinking about the therapy sessions for our week, the next DR appointment, the upcoming school conferences where instead of one conference with Charlie’s teacher I have 4 meetings that week so that I can speak with the teacher, the speech therapist, the occupational therapist and the behavior consultant. I cancel on you not because I don’t want to spend time with you or learn from you or become better but because I have been on a waiting list for occupational therapy for over one year and they called yesterday with a new opening that I have to take or risk waiting longer. They don’t care that I had plans or something scheduled and frankly neither do I. I do care and get frustrated but this is simply more important. It is difficult to explain to everyone that while I would love for my priorities to be my life, my health, my well being, my social relationships…..my priority has to be my child. I am sure all parents can relate to this on some level.
Being a special needs parent is enlightening, humbling, frustrating and lonely. I read a lot about our world in order to educate myself on how to handle various situations, what we can do to help Charlie and to become acclimated with a world that seems foreign to me even thought at this point it has become our normal. When I read blogs or books written by other mom’s I feel at home, I feel understand and I often feel sad. They all have something very similar in common which is that being a special needs mom is very lonely and isolating. We want to be the type of friend you can count on, we want to go on play dates, we want to find a sitter who can truly manage things for us while we go out for a few hours, we want to have way more free time than we do even though we are technically stay at home moms but it’s just not our reality. Giving you the details on why I need to cancel is difficult because I do not expect anyone to really get what it is like and it might be awkward for you to hear.
I am pretty lucky if I do say so. I am grateful to live with 3 amazing boys and am blessed with a loving and supportive family and group of friends. We have fun, we go out, we do vacation, we live in a wonderful town and want for nothing. In the grand scheme of life, a missed girls night or training session is nothing compared to what so many people are dealing with in their own lives. So yes it can be frustrating to have to constantly reschedule my life or feel a bit alone in my daily world, but it is all worth it because I will never regret or resent one minute spent making my sons life better or easier.
But I just wanted you to know – the amazing, caring, supportive people who have not given up on me, who continue to try and call and reach out – I appreciate you, I respect you and I need you. Thank you for not taking it personally and for knowing it really “Isn’t You.”