I love my life and I'm thankful for all that we have, but that doesn't mean that I don't feel a little cheated watching all of the happy families on their holidays on my newsfeed today. I know that things will get easier and our time will come, but today it just hurts.
I posted this on my Autism Bubble Facebook Page today in the middle of what amounted to a pretty impressive pity party. I'd already started writing this post though it's taking a bit of a different angle now, and I meant it. I do love my life and I am grateful for all that we have.
I swore at the start of the holidays that I wouldn't compare our lot to that of my friends' because our world is beautiful, just in different ways. I promised myself that I wouldn't let myself be dragged down by my newsfeed full of smiling families at the front of theme parks, of the updates saying how much fun they were having, nor of the "I'm so exhausted, what a huge day" posts and pictures of their dinners out each night. And I wasn't. I was actually enjoying the posts and interacting with my friends who also work hard and deserve a great holiday.
But today it all got under my skin. I wanted all of that so badly for my family, and I really wanted it for me. And it hurt. A lot.
It's been on my mind a lot lately that we live in a very different world than our friends and family, and it's something that Daddy and I were discussing just a week ago after a rare night out. My wonderful parents had The Bubbly One for a sleepover so that we could go out for dinner, catch up with some family who were visiting from interstate, and have a bit of a sleep-in to recharge for the week ahead. The night out was fun. The Little One slept peacefully in his pram for most of it and we got to talk, laugh, eat our meals slowly and actually be "present" for a full night's conversations. It's the little things that we have come to appreciate in this life of ours, and those conversations really opened our eyes to that. My husband commented afterwards that he feels like we live on another planet to other parents. His cousins talked of cruising holidays, of new cars, of expensive shoes and clothes, of boats, motorbikes and motorhomes- what my husband refers to as "toys", and what he also gets to hear about constantly in an office full of men without the responsibilities we know.
We have a beautiful home, we live comfortably, though with a decent amount of debt, and we're very fortunate to live in a country with very generous provisions for our son compared to what so many others I know receive. But we've made the choice to have me stay at home with the kids, and on a single income we can't afford "toys'- nor do we have the time to use them. After talk about our new (used) car we were asked about the next holiday we were planning and asked had we considered a cruise, and we changed the subject. Our last holiday was a near disastrous weekend away for Mothers Day, and since then we just haven't had the money (or the energy) to try again. We resisted the urge to school them in how different the autism family's life is. We just listened, smiled and nodded a lot, and afterwards in the car we reflected on our life.
Perhaps it was my resolve to see our blessings, but as I said to my husband that night, and as I posted on my Autism Bubble page, I wouldn't swap. I like my life, even with it's struggles. We gain more satisfaction from a followed instruction, or a new word than I would ever gain from having my nails done regularly. A milestone met after years of therapy will trump drinking on a ship somewhere any day, and seeing our son happy, thriving and learning at his amazing school brings us more joy than any of those "toys" ever could. We will have our time one day. We will have opportunities to travel, with or without The Bubbly One. One day we will be able to afford some of those things. But for now, our family is where our happiness lies, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Which brings me back to today. I didn't realise what it was that hurt so much, but my husband did. I ranted and raved about how our family deserves a fun holiday too, and he gently pointed out the one that I wasn't referring to. One of the holidays in my newsfeed was some old work colleagues, and their trip was different to the others: No family, no kids, no responsibilities for a few days. A chance to escape our world and just be me. It wasn't the holiday itself that I was bummed about, it was the loss of a part of me. A younger me, and a more carefree me.
I'm okay with not working and having a career (and that was a big ego boost for me once because I was good at what I did). I'm okay with missing out on holidays and material things. But I'm different now and sometimes I miss the old me. I miss being able to hold a conversation without autism buzzing in my head and whispering in my ear. I miss being able to go somewhere and not see every little thing that would aggravate a sensory issue, or automatically seeking the easiest exit should things go badly. I miss the chance to laugh until I cry with my girlfriends and not have to be the responsible one all the time. I miss just being, not doing and not thinking.
Tonight I am better. I sit in the quiet, with my best friend and soul mate snoring softly on the couch nearby as I write, just to be near me. My boys are sleeping peacefully. I checked them a moment ago, and watched them as they slept, amazed that I have been entrusted with not one, but two boys so precious. Our world is different, changed by the little boys we have been blessed with, and that world has it's triumphs and it has it's sacrifices. But we will travel that world with thanksgiving, and one day, our time will come.