Month

December 2015

Resolutions

Oh, you guys. You know how I feel about resolutions. You know I believe that waiting until the New Year to make a resolution is entirely unnecessary, and that resolutions often set us up to fail. You know that for me, September is my New Year anyway.

But. 2016 is coming, and I can’t deny that. So. In the year to come?

I resolve to be.

To breathe when it’s easy, and breathe when it feels impossible.

To laugh.

To live in each moment, whatever it may be.

To embrace the love, the bliss, the terror, the sorrow.

To embrace each moment, because each moment is this life.

To know that nothing – not the tide, not the weather, not a feeling, lasts forever.

To remember: this feeling will pass.

To go about my life, whether floating on sparkly white magical light, or plodding through dark black muddy clouds.

To trust the ones who say they want to hear.

To speak my truth when it feels safe and right to do so.

To know that my truth is the truth.

To remember that despite how big a mountain looks, each step counts. One step further from the bottom, closer to the top.

To remember my worth.

To remember that I am deserving.

To float, rather than fight.

To live this next year as I lived the last. With twists and turns and joy and grief and light and darkness.

In this coming year, I resolve to be.

Solstice

 

The Winter Solstice is here.

Oh, how I love this day.

Today, after six long months of turning towards the darkness, we began to turn towards the light.

We gain a minute of light each day – and in a time where life can feel very dark, each minute makes a difference.

The earth begins to propel us towards the light, just as the waves in the ocean propel you to shore. We now ride the wave of the earth, as it cradles us and gently moves us towards hope, and energy, and life.

Happy Solstice.


Towards the Light (author unknown)

By moonlight,
or starlight,
or in the sun’s bright rays,
I journey,
guiding my way
by keeping to the light
as best I can.
Sometimes all seems dark,
then I remember
how the poppy turns its head,
following the sun’s passage across the sky,
then rests in night’s cool shadows,
bowing in thanks
to whatever power
makes the stalk
stand straight and strong,
drawing deep from its roots
a wine dark love.
In moonlight,
the garden glows,
silvering the poppies.
And even by starlight
you can tell shades of darkness
if you try.
So do not lose heart
when vision dims.
Journey forth
as best you can—
bloom when you are able,
rest when you must,
keep your faith,
keep always
towards the light.

Bella

When I notice a behavior in a student, I think about it. I spend time analyzing, thinking, hypothesizing. There’s almost always a reason the behavior is occurring; it’s like a puzzle and I want to solve it.

So I’ve been thinking about Bella, one of my little elementary-schoolers – adorable Bella, with significant communication and social difficulties, among other challenges. A lot of the behaviors Bella exhibits, the things she says, or the games she plays, might remind you of what your preschooler says. But that’s not the concerning part. Bella acts the way she does, because that’s where she’s at developmentally. When a child didn’t yet have language, or any sort of interaction skills in preschool, they never got the chance to go through the phases of sharing, turn-taking, cooperation. They might not have had the experiences of having a toy grabbed out of their hands, grabbing at someone else’s toy, crying because they lost a game, getting angry when they can’t go first. So sometimes, we see those behaviors at age 9, because now they’re there.

Bella has been mean lately, to her friends. And I’ve been thinking – trying to figure out why she’s acting mean. And the other day, I watched through a different lens, and it clicked.

Bella and her friend Nicole came into speech the other day. When I asked how her weekend was, Bella told me that she had gone to a playground with Nicole.

“I went down the slide!” Bella told me excitedly, arms flapping.

“I went down the slide, too!” Nicole added.

Bella stopped flapping. She glared at Nicole. I watched.

“I also swung on the swings,” Nicole said.

Bella slammed her hands down on the table. “I swung on the swings! STOP COPYING ME!!”

Nicole looked at me, and then back at Bella. “I’m not copying you, Bella. We went together! We did the same things together!”

Oh.

When I thought back to when Bella gets upset, the pattern emerged. She gets “grumpy” and gets “Mean Jean” in her head when she perceives a friend to be copying her. And during those times, the friend is not copying her. The friend is agreeing with her, sharing a similar opinion, talking about a shared experience, or adding to the conversation.

While we often see kids get frustrated when someone has a different opinion (e.g., You can’t like tomatoes! Tomatoes are disgusting!), this is a little different in presentation. But it comes down to the same principle – understanding that different people have thoughts in their heads. Those thoughts might be the same as ours or different than ours, but everyone’s brain thinks its own thoughts.

So, I whipped up a social story, and the next time I saw her, she and I read it together:

When we were done, we played with some animal figurines, and Bella processed what we had just read by acting it out. My monkey figurine kept accusing her duck of copying me. Then the bear teacher reminded the monkey that two animals could have the same thought. Then during recess, the monkey and duck talked about movies and games that they liked. They realized that when they liked the same things, it was fun.

It’s a struggle for Bella to generalize much of anything she learns. Chances are good that we will need to read this again, and again, and again. And play, and act it out, and give her chances to practice.

The ultimate take home message – there’s always a why. Bella is not innately a mean kid. She’s not going through a mean streak. There is a reason she gets angry and frustrated about certain things.

There are locks, and there are keys, and some are clear and some are hidden, but we look. We don’t ever stop looking until we find them, put them together, and figure them out.

So, I gave a lecture.

Last spring, my dad and I were talking about all of the lectures that he gives at his store that relate to the populations of ADD/ADHD, Autism, Asperger’s. He casually mentioned to me, “You work with these kids all day every day. I can give all of the information about holistic health for this population, about how to balance neurotransmitters, support digestion, and improve regulation, attention, and behavior – but I can’t speak to the clinical aspect, and you can. It would be pretty cool if you spoke with me one day.”

I agreed, and filed it in the back of my brain. This fall, he told me that he was speaking in December, and it was time for me to co-lecture with him. And what the heck, I agreed.

Last Saturday we gave our lecture. While I wasn’t nervous about the public speaking aspect (isn’t it funny how things manifest – I am so nervous before going to a party with 40 people, but it doesn’t faze me at all to stand up in front of those 40 people and speak), I was worried about wasting people’s time. I’m sure we’ve all been to a conference for professional development where the title looks great, but you end up bored, or leaving and thinking, I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know.

I think that because I live this stuff day in and day out, and have for so many years, it’s such second nature to me – and I forget that’s not the case for everyone. And – it was hugely successful. Parents of our kids came, grandparents of our kids came, adults who were and are our kids came. Most people nodded along, laughed when I attempted to make a joke (which made me want to high-five myself), and asked questions/shared stories both during the question session and privately after.

I was toying with summarizing the lecture here, and I might some day, but for now, here’s the link to my dad’s blog post recap and the (eek!) youtube link, should you strongly desire to watch it.

The point isn’t self-promotion, by any means – so not the kind of person I am. The point is that I did something that for me felt brave. And ended up feeling empowering. I know my stuff. I’m good at my job, I’m good at my work, I can help people understand. And, I’m still learning. Not only did I come away from the experience feeling confident about what I know, I left with that hungry yearning for more knowledge. I love going to conferences, hearing talks, reading books – I want to know as much as I can, because it makes me better at my work, and I love my work.

It’s a really incredible feeling to love what you do.

A year of grief

One year ago today, my mom called to tell me that my grandpa passed away. The month before that had been spent with grenades and bombs and tsunamis as the information had come in – my healthy grandpa was sick, my healthy grandpa had a mass, my healthy grandpa had cancer, my healthy grandpa was going to die within the year, my healthy grandpa was going to die in a few weeks.

We went down to Florida during that month, for one day, to say goodbye, when the call had come in: “If you want to see him one last time, you need to go. Now.” And we did – and I put on a smile the entire day. Trying to enjoy my time with him. Trying to be strong for my Gram. Trying not to fall apart when he looked me in the eye and said, “This is a bad way to go out, kid.” Trying to not die inside when he told us he wished he could be at our wedding. Trying.

And I never processed it. Because two days later was Thanksgiving. And I spent the day putting on a smile. Yes, it was so great to see him. Yes, we’re so happy we went. Yes, it was so meaningful. 

A week later he died. Four days later was the funeral. And six days later was my baby cousin’s Bat Mitzvah. Where, yes, I spent the day putting on a smile. How lovely it is that we can celebrate such a happy occasion. Thank goodness for the happy times. 

Do we sense a theme?

For those next few months, I certainly grieved. But not for myself. My tears, my anxieties, my depressions, my worries, were spent on my grandma and my mom. I cried for my mom, who lost her dad. I sobbed for my gram, who lost her husband. I worried about my gram being alone. I had a pit in my stomach every time I imagined her waking up alone, eating breakfast alone, going to bed alone.

And I didn’t really speak about it. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know how to say it. So it was buried.

And then I was about to get married. And there were seven zillion things to do each day, and I was focused in on that. And I got married, and it was beautiful, and magical, and incredible, and the honeymoon was a fairy tale.

But then things quieted down, a month or two passed, and life calmed down.

And I noticed that I started crying more. And I noticed that my chest constricted and my stomach convulsed each time I called my Gram because I knew I would feel her pain and feel her loss and I was so worried about her and sad for her and I just couldn’t bear it.

I noticed that I felt like I had been punched in the stomach each time I looked at our wedding photos and Grandpa wasn’t in them.

I noticed that in walking around my apartment, I averted my eyes from Grandpa’s paintings on the walls.

I noticed that my voice became flat. That I lost my appetite. That I just cried, a lot.

And by early September, when Rosh Hashanah was around the corner, when in every year past I had felt elated and excited at the thought of Gram and Grandpa coming to celebrate our New Year – I felt dread. Despair. I couldn’t bear the thought that she was coming alone.

What is wrong with you, I chided myself. People lose people all the time. They cope and they deal. It’s been more than six months and you should be coping a lot better now. I then helpfully added, He was only your grandpa. My mom and her sisters lost their father. Gram lost her husband. I have no right to be as upset as I am. And to clinch it, I oh-so-kindly reminded myself, I have friends who have lost their moms or dads this year. They have a right to be upset, but I don’t. Just stop it.

And so, for more reasons and a more complicated back story than is necessary to get into here, I decided it was time to do something about it.

I spent each week crying, sobbing, as we processed the traumatic memories. Florida. Thanksgiving. Rosh Hashanah.

I sobbed, as I told her, “I spent the last year either pushing it down, or grieving for my mom and my aunts and my Gram. But I never grieved for myself, and I’m just so sad, so devastated, so heartbroken that I lost my grandpa. I just miss him, and I am so sad that he’s gone.”

And it got a little easier. I got to a point where I could talk about him, think about him, think about Gram, talk to Gram, without falling apart. But time is funny, and so just a few short weeks later, here we are. We had Thanksgiving without him. And today is the one year anniversary of his passing.

And so now I’m crying more often, sobbing a bit harder. And a year later, it hasn’t really gotten any easier. But I’ve learned:

This is grief. There is no rule book. There is no hierarchy. I have every right to feel however I feel. If I have days where I cry, that’s okay. If I have days where I’m just down, that’s okay. If I have days where I feel fine, that’s okay, too. I don’t have to justify my grief, or the form it takes. It might get easier, it might get harder. And I need to ride that wave – and be where I am. Without judgement, and instead, with kindness, acceptance, and compassion.

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