The Greatest Show on Earth Was An Act
Everyone thought I had it all together. What they didn’t see was my life was chaos. That work/life balance thing – mine was 10% home and 90% work. Chaos seeks balance I guess, so the universe intervened.
Learning to Juggle Autism and Dyslexia
August 5, 2013: I was carrying Zoe on top of my pregnant belly to an evaluation; the baby was due September 11, 2013. This appointment was to find out why Zoe didn’t do what the other kids did.
I thought the two-hour evaluation went well, since my non-verbal child said her first word: bird. Bird wasn’t Mommy, but it was a start. The woman that evaluated my little angel said, “She is at least moderately autistic.”
She then informed me how our life was about to change. “But she said bird,” was all I could say. I dropped Zoe off at at daycare and returned to the office, shut the door, and sobbed.
Less than a month after the diagnosis my son Max started 4K at a new school. I held Max’s hand and introduce him to his new teacher; she would soon tell us he was dyslexic.
And Then Dead Dogs, Narcolepsy, Job Loss, Heart …
The heightened tensions in our fragile household further stressed the daycare person. She accidently left our dogs outside in the heat and one died of heat stroke. The other went crazy and soon followed.
A few days later, in the middle of a contraction, I was trying to juggle my career in the chaos. “Just one more text message,” I said to my husband.
I was 245 pounds after delivering Jack. My blood pressure was high. I was thirty-six years old. At my postpartum check-up, I reiterated my battle with fatigue. I was soon diagnosed with narcolepsy.
A few weeks before Christmas, my job was eliminated. They told me if I signed the separation papers immediately, I could keep my health insurance.
Later that week, I got the call that my mother was in ICU. My stepfather had a heart attack. My father was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and COPD.
The Show Must Go On
You might feel bad for me. The truth is, my story isn’t that uncommon. Everyone is going through some type of difficult experience. I knew I couldn’t juggle any more balls, but there had to be a change.
I was so focused on my career that I did not take the time to enjoy my family. I had four beautiful children, each with their own unique gifts.
I wasn’t the type of person that took first day of school pictures or cried on my kid’s first day of school. I certainly didn’t pay attention to the date that they took their first steps or when they spoke their first words. They were supposed to do all of those things. Well, typically developing children do, but I had a child that was not typical. Instead, I had a neurologically divergent child.
Improve by Small Steps
As I observed Zoe during her daily therapy sessions, I began to notice how complex learning was. The simple act of potty training for Zoe, something that my older children did easily, had to be broken down into many small steps.
I realized life wasn’t just about reaching major milestones. Life was about the many small steps, the journey. So, each time she went to the bathroom and used the potty, we celebrated. I finally learned how to celebrate life. It was so much easier to celebrate in small steps, especially since I avoided doing it for so long.
I eventually found another job. The new job allowed me to work from home, with occasional travel. It wasn’t my dream job, but it helped me manage my new chaotic life.
You Gotta Be You
I also realized that I had always been a helper. God gave me all these skills and I was wasting them away with self-doubt. I had an obligation to share with those in need. I was able to reconnect with my faith through this epiphany.
My faith had been 100% missing from my work/life balance. By adding faith back into the equation, I was reducing the balls I was juggling. I was able to drop guilt and self-doubt. I was headed in the right direction.
I also gained the insight that habits are tools we need to gain new skills. Again, Zoe taught me this lesson. She woke up every day at 7:00am. She went to bed at 8:00pm. She was never tired during the day. Her routine was solid. Zoe started chaining habits together; connecting together each step allowed her to learn things previously unobtainable.
Tightrope Walkers Are Scared – But They Do It Anyway
Shortly after the habit chains principle was integrated into my life, came the awareness that everyone is afraid of something.
I can’t think of a more courageous person than Zoe. She is afraid of cars, and bugs, and dogs, and people. Yet she goes outside every day with them all. She is afraid everything, yet she is strong enough to do them anyway. She is the most courageous person I know, and if she can be brave, so could I.
All these insights gave me the courage to take action. I lost 65 pounds and kept it off. I started by creating positive habits and chaining them together.
The Final Act – Learning to Juggle Birds
On January 4, 2017, I launched a business focused on helping others. I wouldn’t have been able to do this before Zoe changed my life. Now I watch for lessons taught by children; lessons you can only learn by hearing their first words, even if it is bird. Zoe knew it all along; I needed to stop juggling balls and start juggling birds. Darn, that kid is smart.
The Reluctant Ringmaster
See published article on https://www.thiswomancan.org/juggle-autism-and-dyslexia/
See the full story in the new book just released Overcoming Mediocrity: http://ow.ly/8b9n30jmdMo