New (Year) Insights

Do you have a resolution for the New Year?

I am continuing to become smarter about my youngest son who has high functioning autism (better known as Asperger’s syndrome) and plan to continue to do so in the New Year. I don’t know that I would call it a resolution per se, but I feel like I’m an ostrich pulling my head out of the sand finally. I think talking more openly about my son being on the spectrum has empowered me to be more open, proactive, and grateful for the information I am coming across — lectures, videos, books — I am not alone in trying to educated myself and am thankful so many others are doing such great work in this space.

One of my son’s spectrum traits comes across in his passion for geography. He is not just interested in geography but fixated on it. He can name practically every country in the world, tell you little known facts and provide insights into the country’s flag, population and more. In his mind, he has already mapped out his future (literally and figuratively). He has had a friend/fiancé since he was 7 and decided when his friend got engaged that they would live in NYC when they get married at 25 (it still makes me smile to think that they came up with that all on their own at such a young age). Since then, his love (fixation) on geography has grown and he has become borderline obsessed with moving to Australia. To a small remote town on the east coast of the country. My husband and I are not sure how he found the city exactly (we’ve never been there), but he didn’t pick it willy nilly. He clearly put some thought into it and has big ideas for this town — he’ll be a teacher, or he’ll build a new building, or maybe be the mayor. At the end of the day, he sees himself positively impacting this town. That’s hard to argue with, however, I had to get my son to think about his girlfriend. He knows he wants to go to this town and live there someday, but what about her. Would she?

“What if she gets a job somewhere else?” I asked him, “Or doesn’t want to live there? What will you do then?” He got sad. He cried and I was sad I’d upset him, but I wanted to make sure he understood in any relationship both people have a say, and where you live is an important decision you have to make together. After he had somewhat calmed down he started saying, “I’m a bad person. I’m a bad person.” This worried me. Why was he saying this? I asked him to talk to me and explain what he was saying. “I just realized that I don’t give her enough of my time,” he said. “Your girlfriend?” I asked. “Yes. The way my mind works, I have these thoughts and I really like thinking my thoughts. And there isn’t a lot of room for me to think about other peoples thoughts. And it’s not because I don’t want to, it’s because my mind really, really, really wants to think about what it wants to think about. Like moving to Australia. I can’t imagine not moving there but I hadn’t thought about her not wanting to move there too, and that makes me a bad person.” Before I could respond he continued, “It’s like if you think of my mind like a pie. I want to think about what I want to think about 95% of the time. That only leaves 5% for other people.” He paused then continued on, “That’s the problem with having friends. I want to have friends, but my mind doesn’t have space for them.” Whoa, I thought, I just got some very valuable insights into my son. I was blown away by his self-awareness and his ability to articulate the way he sees his mind working. I told him as much then I tried to get him to rethink how he could broach the subject with his friend, who happens to be visiting Australia presently. “Why don’t you ask her what she thought of the country? See what you can learn from her about it, and see if she might be interested in living there one day,” I suggested. “And you’re not going to live there for quite a while, you never know where life will take you. Maybe you’ll get a chance to visit there, or maybe even go to school there.” My son seemed to perk up as the conversation went along, “Yes!” he said, “maybe I can visit or spend some time there and check it out. And maybe she can come visit and then we can decide from there.” I loved that he was figuring out how this could potentially work.

My son continues to surprise me. I have thought my son’s relationship with this girl would have ended a while ago, but it’s continued to go on three + years. I know the likelihood that they’ll end up married and living in this remote Australian city is slim, but I love how big my son is dreaming. I love that he is better understanding himself and is willing to share how his mind works, and is open (at least starting to be) that he may have to build some new muscles if he wants to keep this relationship and have it grow.

I look forward to the New Year and the insights I will gain.

What do you hope to gain in the New Year?

I Don’t Wanna

I don’t know about you, but the evening of January 2nd in our house wasn’t pretty. After some time off to rest and recharge, including a visit with family and playing in the snow, we had reached the eve of needing to go back to work and school, and we were all collectively bummed out about it.

“I don’t wanna go back to school,” said my oldest. “Me either,” chimed in my youngest. I’m not particularly excited myself, I thought. It’s hard to let go of the joy you feel from vacation, from experiencing something new (location, activity), or anew (like reconnecting with family and friends). I had to remind myself several times over break to stay in the moment and not let my thoughts drift too far into what awaited for me to pick back up on January 3rd.

On Tuesday morning, we started getting back into our old schedule. While it would have been nice to sleep in later, or have free time to do what we wanted, there was a peace to getting back into our daily routine. I could even see my kids coming to the same conclusion as they started thinking about gifts they had received over break and how they couldn’t wait to show them off. There was anticipation over seeing friends they hadn’t seen in a few weeks. Tuesday morning was turning out to be not that bad.  While we had been dreading going back, the dread was wearing off.

“I know what will help,” my son shared as we were driving to school, “we should plan another trip!” The idea of getting to plan another vacation (even a short one) seemed to put us over the top — we were happy and January 3rd was going to be a fine day (and it was).

How do you help your child transition between something they are enjoying and something they dread?

Happy New Year!

Annual Restart: New Year’s Resolution 2016

Do you have a New Year’s resolution?

I don’t recall making a New Year’s resolution until I was probably a teenager. It seemed rather bogus to me at the time — I have to resolve to do something better? Sounds like I’m not trying hard enough in all aspects of my life, not a good feeling — and being forced to remember that at the beginning of each year, even worse. Instead of being excited for the New Year, I started to dread it. Great, it’s a new year, now I get to remind myself how much weight I should lose, how much more productive I should be, or how much I need to change about who I am. It’s already a blue time coming off the holidays, do we really need to add to it?

Thankfully, I came to my senses in my 30s and realized New Year’s doesn’t have to be about beating myself up in hopes of reaching perfection. Instead it’s an opportunity for me to figure out where I am in life, what I still want to get out of it (for me and my family), and what I think will be most helpful to make that happen.

I don’t think of them as resolutions, but as annual restarts. Just like I let my kids starting everyday anew (which is really helpful, particularly when one of them has a tough day), I look at the New Year as an opportunity to start with a clean slate. With that said, here are some of my restart challenges I give myself:

  • Try one (or more) of the following during the upcoming year: a new approach, conquer a fear, explore a new job field, try something new, make a new friend, see a new place.
  • Remind yourself periodically to be easy on yourself, you’re probably doing better than you think
  • Be more present, this life is short (even if you’re fortunate enough to live a long and healthy one). Always be asking yourself, what do you want to still do that you haven’t yet?

Lists like this make me excited and motivated. I’m not shamed, but inspired.

How do you want to restart the New Year?

Energy Recharge

The New Year has gotten off to what seems like a slower start than usual for me. In years past, I’ve embraced the New Year with a vigor of starting fresh. This year it feels like I’m walking in deep sand and having a hard time getting back to running on all cylinders.

This sluggishness has forced me to rethink my energy levels. Upon reflection, it became clear that I had been going through a long(er) period than normal of giving my energy away and have not done a great job of getting my energy back. It’s easy to get caught in the give-give-give mode. I’m realizing if I don’t start taking back more and soon, there won’t be much more to give. This realization helped me refocus on what I need to boost my levels of energy. I realized I need to put time and energy into my connections, because that’s what really fuels my soul. I made lunch and coffee dates with some friends, and have made time to visit a loved one who is recovering from an accident. I’m looking forward to connecting with my audience during public speaking engagements and through my writing.

These efforts are starting to pay dividends. I’m starting to feel like I’m catching up to the fast(er) pace and am keenly aware I need to continue to include sources of energy to keep myself going without burning out.

How are your energy levels? How are you staying on all the things you have going in the New Year?

New Day, New Year

I was recently catching up with a friend who was sharing some of the challenges her family faced  throughout 2013 including illness and death of several loved ones. She shared, “I can’t wait to have this year behind me,” and with the year she had, I can understand her sentiment.

Talking to my friend reminding me of conversations I have with my children, about starting anew each day and the possibilities that it brings. On days where my boys experience being upset about something and seem unable to control how their emotions manifest: crying, tantrum-ing, fist throwing, kicking, etc., I talk to my children about alternate ways they can express their feelings: ways that will allow them to feel the emotion and work through it, without having to deal with negative consequences (e.g. losing a privilege). It’s not easy–sometimes for them, sometimes for me, sometimes for us both. I continue that while they may lose a privilege that particular day (to help reinforce their need to embrace other ways of handling themselves) that get to start fresh the next day. I do this because it helps my kids understand their are immediate consequences for their actions, and that the punishment won’t drag on indefinitely. There are times when a behavior warrants a multiple day punishment, which we sometimes implement, but my husband and I most often offer ways for our children to earn their privilege back sooner, particularly if our child can demonstrate they are making progress towards mastering a desired behavior.

As we go into the 2014, there is an opportunity for each of us to start anew: in our relationships, in our interactions, and in our responses.

How do you help your children work through their emotions? How do you help them start anew?

How to Avoid the January Blues and the Resolution Cliff

Each New Year I start off in a blue kind-of-state.  The holidays are over, the decorations are down, and the magic of the season is quickly fading away. Top that off with the expectation that each of us are to come up with a resolution to keep during the New Year makes it all the more depressing.

The end of 2012 brought a lot of talk, stress and anxiety around the fiscal cliff and the importance of avoiding it. I offer up that we need to do the same with resolutions. Resolutions tend to involve a lot of talk, which can create stress and discomfort around changes desired in our own lives. Guilt is often the motivating factor. Add that to a difficult task (e.g. get a new job, lose 20 pounds in a month, give up sweets, etc.), and then beat yourself up, or throwing yourself over the “resolution cliff”, when you fail or are derailed early on, is something we should all be trying to avoid.

The New Year is a good time to reflect and think about what’s working in our lives and what isn’t, but I’d suggest we should be reflecting throughout the year, not just at the beginning. Resolutions that require change—job, weight, living situation, relationship, etc.—can be very stressful. Any change can be. Adding new stress to your life when you just got over all the stress that comes with the holidays doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

Instead of resolutions, my husband and I decided to talk about our hopes for the New Year, hopes for our children, hopes for our family, hopes for us as a couple, and hopes for ourselves.  These hopes will require action on our part to make happen, but because we want them to happen, we’re motivated.  Not out of guilt, but desire.

And that’s a much better place to start any New Year.

What are your hopes for 2013?