The Alchemy of Experience

Sometimes I barely recognize the person I’ve become. I took this photo just before walking in to confront our respite agency about why they aren’t staffing our hours with competent caregivers. Five years ago I never could’ve imagined dressing in this conservative outfit and coolly and confidently walking into an office to deal with an issue head on, backed by the poise forged from life experience that must, by now, be equivalent to a master’s degree in special needs advocacy and parenting.  

Nothing can prepare you for the paradigm shift that takes place when the doctors tell you that your child has a brain injury and will live a life of disability and hardship. It’s like you’ve been gliding along on a perfect blue bird day on the mountain, making smooth sweeps back and forth across the ski hill, utterly enraptured by the bliss of life. And then, out of nowhere, you catch an edge… 

In the blink of an eye gravity yanks your body out of its’ trance and slams your face into the icy slopes with a surprisingly painful force.  All sense of ecstasy is eliminated and that flawless flow you had been riding is entirely broken.  

This is the perfect analogy for my introduction to motherhood.  And in the beginning, Man did I resist it.  I resisted ALL OF IT.  Vehemently.  I felt numb, depressed and So. Very. Angry.  Panic attacks ripped me from my brief moments of rest. Vivid images of attacking people who commented on Oliver’s differences plagued my mind.  I rehearsed my rants to the police officer that might pull me over for my reckless driving or the well-meaning stranger remarking on how tired Oliver looked.  I felt belligerent and I did NOT care.  After all, life had defeated me.  I felt I was being punished for things I’d done and that I was now a victim of this circumstance.  Still in shock, I intensely grieved the loss of everything we’d dreamt of for our family.  Binge watching Netflix passed my days and binge drinking passed my nights.  But no amount of numbing could heal the sickening despair I felt in the pit of my stomach.  The isolation was all consuming and I had little hope that there would ever come a day when I would feel OK again. But perhaps one of the most nagging fears was that this new path was a dead end, falling off sharply to a life of depression, fear and never becoming who I was meant to be.   

Now, years later, this last fear seems almost laughable to me.  I wonder who I thought I was going to become and how I thought I was going to get there.  Even though these years have brought with them incredible hardship, they have also gifted me a perseverance I’ve never known, a relentless spirit of hope and sense of purpose that, in my earlier days, I could never seem to find. These experiences are growing me up and although I still struggle often, there is an emerging sense of certainty that these hard times are molding me into exactly the woman I have always hoped to become.  

 At certain moments, like the one captured in this photograph, I am struck by all the changes that have occurred within me. They’ve lifted me to this place of, not only acceptance, but also actual gratitude for the many blessings this journey has bestowed upon me.  Despite the fears of my younger years, I AM becoming the woman I’ve always hoped to be and Oliver’s Odyssey is the catalyst.  

  This road, like so many others, isn’t an easy one to walk.  But what I have learned is that no matter how dark your situation feels, there is always a sliver of light just waiting to be discovered.  

So if you find yourself on a dark and winding road, trying to get to a better place… Just Keep Walking.  Put one foot in front on the other and hold on to the belief that, no matter how implausible it may seem, you are moving towards that light.  Refuse the temptation of victim identity and instead use all the pain to transform your life into your imaginations’ most vibrant creation.   

Like carbon that is subjected to intense heat and extreme pressure, over time becomes a diamond, so too can you.  Give in and allow the alchemy of your experience to take hold and surrender back IN to that flawless flow. 

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