I practice gratitude – Reprised (1993)

Gratitude makes us happy!

I wrote the following Introspective for the P.R.O.S.P.E.C.T.S. newsletter in the summer of 1993. It is remarkable to me how so much of who I am today was ingrained in me during the early years of our daughter’s life. Now, Laura, who was just turning nine at the time of writing this, is 28 years old. 

Please enjoy, “I practice gratitude” – Reprised.

Lately, I’ve been finding myself practicing gratitude … contemplating the many gifts I have been fortunate enough to have received.

The reason for my contemplation? An exercise to counter-balance the despondency that sets in each year at this time.

Each spring, I am, out of necessity, put in the situation of pondering and planning the future of my daughter, Laura … an emotional, almost traumatic exercise for me.

Laura will be nine years old next month, and I wonder often how the years have managed to slip by so quickly without my even noticing.

Because of Laura’s “developmental” disability, I must be forever conscious of where she is, what she is doing. Routine and schedule play monumental roles in Laura’s life, and summer holidays present a considerable challenge for her and for me.

Planning for summer begins right after March Break and continues through the summer until school begins once again in the fall. This planning process takes an enormous toll on my mental, emotional and physical tranquility.

On top of this stress is that caused at this time of year by the planning process that goes along with having an “exceptional” child in the school system. This process, with it acronymous label, IPRC/IEP, forces me to look even further than summer, into the next school year.

This exercise brings lots of tears, since looking out one year leads to reflection on Laura’s future as a young adolescent and even as an adult.

With the word “cutbacks” being the cry on everyone’s lips of late, Laura seems to be at the mercy of the Government that holds the purse strings of her future.

I worry that the bureaucrats will lose all touch with the reality of our lives, and that my beautiful Laura will be left without the supports she requires to lead a happy, productive and rewarding life.

The reality is that no one can or will love Laura as I do – and no one can or will provide for her as I do. What then happens when I can no longer do for Laura what needs to be done?! My dilemma is one I am certain many “exceptional” parents contemplate periodically – thus, the despondency, the tears. And thus, the exercise of gratitude.

When I find myself in the midst of frustration and despair, I make myself remember that for every one thing I provide for Laura, there is equally one thing that Laura gives back to me.

One gift that Laura has given me is that of appreciation. The appreciation that I have for our children, and for all children. (They truly are miraculous little packages, aren’t they?) My appreciation for the many people I have come to know and love. My appreciation for the physical, moral and spiritual support I receive from so many people. My appreciation for the strength I get from so many of these same people. My appreciation for being able to see good in all people, in all situations. And my appreciation for having the opportunity to share with others my perception of the wonderful challenge I have been given, parenting a child with multiple disabilities.

The greatest gift that Laura has given me is the awareness that what we all need most is to receive, and to give to others, good, old-fashioned, non-judgmental, unconditional love.

I am grateful for all these gifts. When I realize how very rich I have become by receiving such gifts, my tears of frustration and despair turn to tears of healing, tears of joy – until the next time.

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