Most weeks, Tena and I spend more than 10 hours out on the trail, often in the dark, talking about motherhood, marriage, meal planning and, of course, special education. We’ve been logging miles together for 2 ½ years and I’m not exaggerating when I say that my mental health is better than it’s ever been. Sharing the day-to-day details of living with another human is a salve and if that human offers respect and wisdom and love along with a listening ear, it’s practically magic.
I’m double lucky, because in this season of life, I have another confidante, Heather, who I’m able to share my worries with, along with my celebrations. She helps me clear my head, especially in terms of my faith and the little daily things that frustrate and threaten to derail me. Mostly we just laugh together and lift each other up with little words of encouragement. Right now, I have all the notes she’s written me tucked into the frame of my bathroom mirror. Sometimes, just knowing someone thinks I’m smart and beautiful gets me through the day.
So you might be wondering what this has to do with advocacy or even being the parent of a child who has a disability. A lot, I think. It is so easy to just hunker down and take care of all the things - school, doctor’s appointments, insurance calls, you name it. You're great at it! As many a mom blog says, “you rock!” But over the years, you can also forget that you’re more than a mom (or dad or grammy or you name it). You might even look in the mirror one day and realize your whole self is rolled up in a tight ball of getting it done. You’ll feel proud that you’ve accomplished so much for your child, but also tired and stressed and on some days, ready to just call it in. I know, because I’ve had those days.
It’s important to know here that I’m an introvert with more than moderate social anxiety. So, cultivating friendships is painful for me. I’m not exaggerating. I was lucky to meet Heather casually at church and then get to know her more and more through the book club that I simultaneously adore and dread every single month. Heather is just warm and open and it’s really hard to not love her. My path to Tena was a little different. I knew I needed some accountability around my health and I knew she was active, so one day I threw a bucket of fear out the window and just asked her if she’d walk to me. The rest is, obvi, history. These two women are my people and they keep me moving forward. Every day is a little easier because I know they believe in me. And they love me. And really, they’re just a text away. And knowing that makes me a better advocate and a better mom and really, a better human. I do more than get by with a little help from my friends. I thrive with a little help from my friends.
Now, get off this computer and go find yourself some people.