It is not often that I have the opportunity to share the work of someone else in my blog but I was recently asked to write a testimonial for someone which gave me inspiration.
At the beginning of the pandemic, via the internet and social media, I was introduced to a young photographer, maybe just 17 at the time, who took amazing photographs of nature. At a time when all the world was feeling isolated and alone, he created a photo of two waves coming together to make a heart at it’s center. He called it Waves of Love. At the time, in 2020, I didn’t give it much thought. I wasn’t a fan of waves. I grew up on Long Island and I get sea sick just swimming in the ocean. The waves were not for me. Wanting to support this young man, Jared Weintraub, I poured over images on his website (which itself was quite impressive) until I found a piece that inspired me. I immediately contacted Jared to purchase this piece because I knew it would bring a sense of calm to my chaotic life.
Fast forward a couple of years, I had since added another piece to my collection but I was now struggling with a series of unfortunate events going on in my life.
Making a Decision to Help Myself
My son was having a difficult time emotionally; I was overworked and overwhelmed. I just wasn’t happy. Truth be told, I’m not sure that I ever really was happy, this period of time was just so much worse. This was when my healing journey truly began. I had already been doing things on a regular basis to increase my self-care. After I had contracted COVID, I had started going to acupuncture and massage therapy at the behest of a friend. COVID had left me with a ton of pain and perhaps this would give me some relief. I was still needed to care for my special needs kiddo, manage my home, and work a full time job. And then suddenly I was confronted by some emergency issues at my house which required more energy than I thought I had. I was faced with the probability of needing to give up my self-care, I was feeling alone, sick and depressed.
I don’t know what made me reach out to a friend other than the fact that I was completely beside myself but I will be eternally grateful because in the midst of this chaos which I was dealing with, my friend made it ok for me to continue to take care of me. He helped me move forward through my immediate crisis, I kept up with my acupuncture and my massage therapy and gradually, my physical pain diminished. I was going up and down the stairs again and I no longer relied on the rollater to walk longer distances.
I began writing to cope with the stressors of being a special needs parent and began receiving a ton of positive feedback because what I was sharing with others was actually helping people. My emotional challenges continued, as did my low self esteem.
It All Started with a Question
Many have heard this next part of my story but it bears repeating because it recently came up again, in a conversation with another friend. One day, after a particularly difficult morning, I arrived at work feeling flustered and angry. My friend looked at me and asked what seemed like a ridiculously simple question which I had never considered before. [Is any of this in your control? Can you do anything to change it right now?] Of course, the answer was no. And then, [So why are you wasting your day being upset about something you can’t change?] I don’t really know how I responded to him. I said something matter of factly like [it bothers me.] And here it comes, the message that changed my life, [So, you are choosing to be in a bad mood because of something you have absolutely no control over.]
I don’t remember the exact words of the conversation but the intent of the message is forever imprinted on my brain. I. HAVE. A. CHOICE. I can choose to be in a bad mood and be miserable or I can choose to be in a good mood and be happy. No one is doing anything to me. Nobody is making me feel bad. Well, nobody except me. I am allowing circumstances to dictate my feelings. I was 51 years old and for the first time I stopped to consider that I had a choice.
You know, I used to have a Principal, Sherrill Murray Lazarus was her name. Every day on the announcements she would tell the students and staff, “Have a good day or not. It’s up to you.” How crazy is it that it took me almost 20 years to understand the truth in that statement.
It Can’t Possibly Be Just Me
Now, think about your own life as a parent to a special needs child or as a parent to a neurotypical child, if that’s what you happen to be. How often do you let an early morning interaction with your child set your entire day off? How often do you lose sleep over something which happened at dinner which is over and done and was completely out of your control? Maybe your child’s actions were completely out of his control. Yet, here you are, letting them control you.
If you are like I was for all of those years, you are beating yourself up over something you can’t change. Take it from me, your self-esteem doesn’t need that much of a beating.
After this, I made a concerted effort to make a choice each day. My mood improved and I began to feel better about myself. I continued my self-care and my healing journey, each day making choices and seeking out opportunities which would ultimately change my outlook. The overall feeling of negativity I carried around with me became a positive outlook. Suddenly, the glass wasn’t half empty, it was half full.
I soon began to hear comments from my co-workers and friends about how differently I was acting. All because of a choice; a choice I never really knew I could make or knew how to make.
Truthfully, I have been told others had pointed this out to me years prior. I wasn’t ready to hear it. Maybe you are not ready either, but what if you are? What if today is the day you are ready? Make a choice to take care of yourself. Make a choice to let go of what no longer serves you. Make a choice to be happy in your circumstances no matter what they are.
A Bit of Reflection
As I continue to reflect on this transformation, I find myself wondering why it took me so long to “be ready”. It’s a tough question to answer but since I’m all about encouraging self-reflection, I guess I will answer it. The choice is not about circumstances. The choice is directly related to how I feel about myself in those circumstances. Oftentimes, I wasn’t really feeling too good about myself. I might even go as far as to say that I was allowing myself to be miserable because I didn’t deserve to be happy.
As a special needs parent, I am sure I am not the only one to question what I do every single day. Most of the time, things work out ok but when they don’t, regardless of whether or not it is something in my control, that little negative voice inside my head places blame squarely on my shoulders. I start thinking I am a terrible Mom; I believe I make terrible choices; and I believe I don’t have value.
I was lucky because this same friend I have mentioned countless times (who remains nameless out of respect for his privacy) made it his business to check in with me everyday. If he caught me being negative for just one second, he was on it like white on rice. It’s actually kind of funny when I look back on it. But, lets face it, it’s wonderful to have a friend to help you but it’s even more wonderful when you can sustain a positive outlook for yourself.
I found a positive affirmations app called I AM, which flashes positive thoughts my way on my phone every hour. Every once in a while, one would strike me and I would share it with whomever I felt would benefit so that they too might experience the positivity that was suddenly filling my life. This is where I highly encourage EVERYONE to use this app or one like it. We all need positive encouragement at some point throughout the day. There was one affirmation which really struck a chord with me one day early last spring.
It All Comes Back to Love
I was still getting regular compliments from those who were witnessing my transformation. I was more positive, making good choices each day, letting go of what did not serve me, practicing regular self-care and, dare I say, enjoying my life. And then it hit me. Remember the photo I mentioned earlier? The one beautifully crafted by Jared Weintraub? As it turns out, those waves I said weren’t for me, had my name written all over them.
In the time since I’ve come to know Jared, through his work, Waves of Love became the impetus for the creation of a non-profit organization whose mission is to spread love throughout the world. On wavesoflove.com, Stu Weintraub, Jared’s father, writes “We see millions of people around the world becoming “Ambassadors of Love” and helping heal the planet by sharing and receiving heart centered art.” I knew Waves of Love would soon be hanging on my wall. I knew I couldn’t do it right away, but I also knew that having this reminder of giving and receiving love would be an amazing addition to my healing journey. It also is a reminder of the greatest form of love we can receive, agape love- God’s love. Talk about positive affirmation – I could literally imagine waking up and starting each day with this reminder to be love. Through an act of selflessness and love, Stu made it possible for Waves of Love to hang on my wall. I have since purchased note cards and been able to share Waves of Love with others.
The day my fine art piece arrived, I hung it on my wall in a place where I would see it before I went to bed at night and when I first opened my eyes the next morning. When I shared this snapshot with my local friend, I received a text message i will never forget: “There is no one who deserves to have this piece on their wall as much as you. You are loved.”
A few more months into my healing journey, my book, Mom’s Place 4 Grace, was published. I have since received much positive feedback, even from people who heard about the book from others. My response to this was always a simple: Thank you. For me, these two small words were huge because prior to this time, I was never able to accept anything positive about myself. I didn’t believe anything positive about myself. I carried a tremendous sadness with me from the time I was 12 years old. I didn’t believe I could ever be of value or that anyone would ever love me. Becoming a parent to a special needs child did nothing to help improve my self-esteem. I always believed I wasn’t enough for him. Even when people would tell me what an amazing Mom I was, I couldn’t bring myself to believe them. Yet, here I was, just 6 months into an incredible journey, and I could look someone in their eye, hear the compliment without questioning it and say “thank you.”
The Take Away
So why am I telling you this story now? Partly, it’s an illustration for you which shows we never stop growing and changing. Partly, it’s because the better I feel about myself; the more I love myself, the more I can share with others. When you feel good about who you are as a person, as a parent, as a friend you are able to accomplish so much.
I know first hand how hard it is to make the choice to be happy. For the parent of a special needs child, I think it is a hard choice regardless of the baggage we carry. We expend so much energy on our special children; we put up with their negativity, their stress, their fears and all of their big emotions. It all falls on us. Sometimes it falls so hard and so fast I can hardly breathe. But in order to continue to give our children the support they so desperately need, we need to to pour so much more into our own buckets and each other’s buckets.
I have been blessed this past 18 months or so with friends who filled my bucket when I was unable to fill it myself. I found the support I needed to get me through some of the toughest times I’ve faced since becoming a parent. And now, just 1 year after what was a horrific day in my world, I can honestly say that the past has no power over me. I can feel whatever I need to feel about the events of the now, put them down and move forward because I love myself enough to make that choice.
Won’t you join me? Make the choice to put your feelings and your needs first at least enough of the time to fill your bucket so that you can get through each day with a positive mindset. My friends, it is ok to give yourself some grace; it’s even more ok to give yourself some love. When you are feeling good about yourself, it is so much easier to help your child.
It’s also ok to accept love from others. So here is my gift to you. I would like to share Waves of Love with those who respond to me by emailing 3 simple words: “I need love.” to WOLgiveaway@momsplace4grace.com. Don’t forget to include your name and address.
No purchase is necessary to receive your free gift. It may come in the form of a postcard, a poster or a matted print. I want you to know that you are loved. I want you to know that you are valued. Those things can not be bought. That is given freely to you. All I ask in return is that you accept this from me. But, if there comes a time when you are shaky in that resolve, I hope you will return here for a cup of encouragement. In fact, I would love to see everyone take full advantage of what https://www.momsplace4grace.com has to offer by becoming a member today!
You can read more about Waves of Love, Intl. and their mission by clicking here: https://www.wavesoflove.com/
If you would like to learn more about the artist, Jared Weintraub, click on over to his website and check out his amazing collection at https://www.jdwphotoart.com/