"Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well
but the certainty that something makes sense
regardless of how it turns out."
~ Vaclav Havel
It has certainly been a journey; a journey that continues. Yet, I've traveled long and far enough to look back at it and reflect on where I stand now, close to 20 years later. I look ahead and see light, hope and possibility while also acknowledging the inescapable worries and inevitabilities, both real and existential, that will largely be out of my control.
I examine that twisted road behind me. The first time I walked that path was while I was living it. The second time I look at it in my rearview mirror and this is where I create the memories into a story - my story. A story of unexpectedness - an unexpected pregnancy, an unexpected diagnosis, the unexpected shame of divorce and clinical depression. The unexpectedness of starting over again when I thought no one in their right mind could ever love me, nor I them; of finding a soul mate in a long-time friend, and the surprise of three more girls I thought I might not ever have the opportunity to bring into the world.
As I collect the unraveled twine knotted behind me for miles down the road, I re-weave this story and I am in charge of what it all means. I pick up the shrapnel and reassemble the pieces; cracked and broken, worn and weathered. I take those fragments and make something whole. Make something of which to be proud. Something beautiful, original, and strong enough to never break again.
Two decades ago I was a young woman with a history of screw-ups who finally set herself on the right path. I had a life full of expectations and promises made to myself, but nothing at all went as planned.
I've written this before, but I love repeating myself: My life is nothing I ever imagined and everything I dreamed it would be. I wouldn't change it or trade it for the world.
I learned it all with one single soul by my side - my daughter, now racing toward 18 no matter how I try to slow the world on its axis. A silent witness to it all, and my source of growth and inspiration.
I see myself in this picture taken in 1995. A tired, 25-year-old, new mother holding a three week old infant. Because I didn't know or expect to be pregnant as an unmarried woman practicing birth control, I didn't even realize I was pregnant until I was 5 1/2 months along. This gave me exactly 3 1/2 months to get used to the biggest life change I've ever had.
Twelve weeks after this photo was taken, still adjusting to the unfamiliar world of motherhood, I'd be watching my baby have her first, 75 minute long grand mal seizure and be thrust into an even more unexpected world.
I was so full of hope that things would be okay after that first seizure, then the next and the next. So full of hope after she was diagnosed at age 2 with moderate cognitive disabilities and autism. So full of hope that she'd outgrow her epilepsy one day and we'd "save her" from that Autism thing.
Hope died when reality set in years down the road. Or, I thought it died when I had to face the pragmatics of our future. But hope didn't really die, it only changed. Writing my story in this blog and in my near-completed memoir helped me understand this.
I'm still filled with hope, it's just a different kind of hope. It's hope that I will be strong enough to love and lose, soar and crumble, and learn to live big and courageous. I'm filled with that hope because I know who I am and who I love and where I've been and how everything makes sense in a bigger plan. This gives me hope for me, my family, and most importantly for my eldest daughter as we carve out her place in the world and fight for everyone to see and accept her as the lovely soul she is. Hope for where we're going; to know that whatever else life brings to us, we'll find our meaning, re-weave our stories, and always make something beautiful so long as we're all in it together.