hard is never the only story


I knew I’d write a New Year’s post of some sort. When you write compulsively anyway, the siren song of a manufactured call for reflection is just too much to pass up.

I’ve had no chance to get near the computer for the past few days, but that mattered not. ‘Writing’ to me has become far less a physical act than it is a mental exercise. So I spent the last two nights writing, as it were – toying with words, parsing them, rearranging them and editing them in my head. (In case you ever wondered what I do at two a.m., now you know.)

There was no question of what tone the post would take. There was no threat of it feeling remotely melancholy nor containing so much as a faint sense of nostalgia. Instead, I knew from the start that the post would carry an air of defiance. Of good riddance. Of ‘Hey, 2010, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.’ Of ‘Thank God it’s over’-ness.

2010 was not an easy year for my family. In fact, it was one of the most trying on record. And in a life that’s been anything but a straight line, that’s saying something. I couldn’t – or wouldn’t – or, well, let’s just say I chose not to – write about what was happening in the background of our lives this year. Instead, I kept my focus tight on the main characters in our story, steadfastly shutting out that which I’d deemed inappropriate for public consumption.

So there was little to no mention of the nagging fear that dominated most of 2010. There were no posts about the nearly endless string of sleepless nights, no entries delving into the often painful self-reflection, desperate frustration or overwhelming insecurity that the year’s events precipitated. And yet, that was the year in a nutshell. It would be pretty easy to look back and say unequivocally that 2010 just plain sucked.

I planned to resurrect a favorite quote from T.S, Eliot’s Little Gidding. It’s one that I’ve used before. It’s even the very same one that I put on our Christmas cards this year, at least in part. The one in which I knew some recipients would sense a hint of not yet faint bitterness, while others wouldn’t read into at all.

Last season’s fruit is eaten

And the fullfed beast shall kick the empty pail.

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language

And next year’s words await another voice.

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

I even thought about trying to hunt down the origin of the expression, ‘*%#@ you and the horse you rode in on’ to add a little color to 2010’s grand send off. I mean, if you’re going to do it, might as well do it right.

But then something changed. I don’t know why. I’m not sure exactly when. There was no single, perspective changing event. But I suddenly found my stark, unforgiving memory beginning to soften.

I started to remember that although 2010 was hard – even really, really hard – it had contained some really wonderful moments.

There were watershed moments in which years of work came together and progress – undeniable, real, tangible, HUGE, previously unimaginable progress took shape.

There were blissful moments of unprecedented freedom.

There were cherished moments spent with each of my children, with my husband, with all of us together as a family.

There were walks with friends.

There was a vacation – God it seems like a lifetime ago – but there was a vacation. There was a kite and a beach and laughter. There was a milestone. And then another.

There was a play date and then another play date.

There was a friend.

There was the very first field trip I got to chaperone.

There was a play.

There was a dog. Holy hell, there was a DOG. Who ever would have believed we’d get a dog? Us – a family with a child TERRIFIED of dogs. And not just a dog, but Winston.

There was the Inclusion Committee and the Panel on Learning Differences.

There were revelations realized and bridges both built and crossed.

There was circular gratitude and respect.

There were new friendships forged.

There was Mama camp.

There were long summer days by the pool.

There was a movie – a whole movie in a theater for the first time EVER.

There were new favorite colors.

There were rides on a flume.

There was sisterhood, both familial and chosen.

There was family.

There was the Godspell dress rehearsal and the Mary Magdalene doll.

There was support.

There was faith.

There was friendship.

There was community.

There was love.

Yes, there was an abundance of love.

( ed note: I wish I had the time or the inclination to make links of all those. I have neither, but each and every one of them can be found within the last twelve months of posts.)

So, where will I leave 2010? Where will I end the retrospective and what will I choose to carry forward into 2011?

I’ll leave it at this –

2010 was hard. Yes, I’ve said that repeatedly, but trust me – HARD. Nearly comically so at times. And in many ways I won’t be sorry to see it go. But if I’ve learned one thing on this crazy ride, it’s that as overwhelming as the hard stuff might be at any given time, hard is never the only story. And if we wish the time away and long for nothing but kicking the years in the ass on their way out the door, we might just wind up denying ourselves a long list of really beautiful, life-changing memories.

I won’t miss the lows, but I will carry their lessons as I continue down the road. I will walk into the new year holding them close. But they will not be the only souvenir of the year. They will be right next to the now very long list of good – really good – memories that are also etched into my being. And I will be grateful for the blessings – all of the blessings – of another year in this crazy life.

I wish you and yours happiness, health, peace, progress and joy in the New Year. And God willing, a lot more sweet than hard.

And an abundance of love.

31 thoughts on “hard is never the only story

  1. Hard isn’t the only part at all; but sometimes it’s the prevalent one. This has gotten me through 2010:

    β€œWhen I take a small pebble and place it directly in front of my eye, it takes on the appearance of a mighty boulder. It is all I can see. It becomes all-consuming…when the things you realistically can do to help are done, leave the matter in the hands of the Lord and worry no more. Do not feel guilty because you cannot do more. Do not waste your energy on useless worry. In time…you will find more peace and happiness, will not neglect others that need you, and will be able to give greater help.” – Gordon B. Hinckley

    This speaks to me on so many levels, especially the part about “when all the things you can realistically do are done.” May at least a smidgen of it help you.

    I’m grateful for your friendship on the interwebz. πŸ˜‰ God bless!

  2. I walked a mile with Pleasure, She chattered all the way; But left me none the wiser, For all she had to say. I walked a mile with Sorrow And ne’er a word said she; But, oh, the things I learned from her When Sorrow walked with me.


    And there you have it. 2010 chewed us up and spit us out … but we wear it well, oh yes we do..

    Here’s to the sunshine moments and a 2011 well-lived.

  3. and I’m ending 2010 the way I started it – reading your posts with tears in my eyes, nodding the whole time. I started it with “welcome to the club”, and am ending it with this post. very fitting.
    so glad that you and so many others came into my life this year. made a very hard year for us so much better.
    here’s to many new milestones for us all in 2011.

  4. “I won’t miss the lows, but I will carry their lessons as I continue down the road” – Beautiful, Jess, as is the entire post. I’m definitely keeping this in mind as I amble on down that road. Wishing you a peaceful, love-filled New Year. xo

  5. When we read a person’s blog, we think we know them but we really only see what the author wants us to see. You have shown me a very strong,loving family, all with individual strengths making a whole. Some sorrows and many accomplishments have been shared. Encouragement and, as you said, community.

    I end the year richer for having “known” you through this venue, Jess. You and Luau give hope to those afraid of the 80% statistic (might there be a marriage seminar led by the two of you in the future?). You give hope by sharing Brooke’s progress. How you have plugged Katie in with a sibling support group and have given her Katie Day and the attention she needs are examples for parents with a child not on the spectrum.

    When asked what the most important thing I would tell a person whose child has been recently diagnosed, I always say, “Find community.” Your blogging is a part of the community I sought out.

    Being Isabella’s grandmother is an honor. Being a part of your community is, too. Bless you, Jess. I pray that 2011 brings many more wonderful milestones for your entire family and that you will weather the rough ones together with the grace you have displayed this past year. love, gail

  6. Wow,happy new year to you to, I want to let you know that I’m your biggest fan, a I want to thank you for your time, and experiences that helped to grow and to see my feelings through your writing….Happy New year!!!

  7. Definitely a HARD year and I have no idea what you went through, but considering the way I am ending it, I don’t know whether it will get better, but I think a lot of it has to do with our focus and perspective and that is what gets us to the next day…our focus and perspective. Thank you for being a blessing and support for so many, including me. May 2011 be easier for you and your family this year.

  8. “unequivocally that 2010 just plain sucked”…yes yes yes!! 2002 was my worst year ever until 2010 came along. Farewell to this stinky year and hello to a fresh new start, it can’t possibly be any worse (yes, I know it can, but I’m forever the optimist). Hello 2011!!! As we say in this house to 2010, “don’t let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya”. Yes, I know it’s a script from Hanna Montana, anyone got a problem with that? πŸ™‚

  9. Here’s to a wonderful New Year. I choose to believe it will get better and better for all of you incredible people. Happy 2011!


  10. I hope next year gets better for you, and all is resolved. I hate when people promise me things, so here’s what I’m going to wish for you, something I think all families in our situation often have a scarcity of in our lives. Here’s to simply hoping that 2011 is just fun as hell for you and yours, because you all truly deserve it. That’s my wish, and I’m sticking to it…

  11. Your post sum up my own year, words and thoughts running in my head for the past week when I looked back on 2011. My youngest son has autism. Bobby will turn 18 this year. There is a wave of emotions as I look into 2011 which will be the year of change in my family. My husband and I are still married, were in the 20% of still being together. It’s been a hard ride, one that only another parent in our shoes could fully understand. 2010 ended with something I never in million years thought would happen. Our son shared Christmas with his high school pal and his family this year. James and his family have embraced our son and word can’t describe what our family have witness this year of watching the unconditional love this family offered to our son. James wants to teach Special Ed. and this was due to getting to know our son in high school. Just when I thought, there was no more hope, something very wonderful happened, whether it’s new phases or words or new friends. 2011 will be the year of change …hang there, it truly gets better each year. Love, Tammy – Mom of dealing with autism for 17 1/2 years.

  12. Here’s hoping that 2011 brings you much happiness, laughter, comfort, and joy…am wishing the same for our family here, too. 2010 and the few years prior to that were anything but a cake walk for us here, too.

    Happy, healthy, hopeful 2011!


  13. Jess,
    It has been wonderful having you and your family become part of our lives. I know how much you all mean to Ali.
    When you look back on last year I know you will wonder “how did we do it”, but you did….and now you are looking forward to a New Year. One of my favorite things to live by has always been…when you are in a “good groove” enjoy it because you never know when that will change. Trying to live in the moment has been something I have learned through the years of parenting all of my children, not to mention being married for 28 years. Autism definitely has a way of putting things in perspective.
    I wish you all a 2011 full of joy, but whatever comes your way you will handle it because you have been blessed with strength and love.
    All the best!!

  14. Carol, What a great blog! I could’ve written the same one. It struck me that all of our lives are quite similar really..The unending struggles cloud our view to the ever so sweet blessings. The blessing unmatched by those that don’t know because to feel true joy you need to know true sorrow. My wish for you is that you keep that great attitude and keep a list of those blessings as you and I both know we may need to dig deep and find them. God bless you and your family, Paula

  15. You and I are kindred spirits. I was having exactly the same “epiphany” on Friday (down to the same “Hey 2010, don’t let the door hit you in the ass” comment – I was going to post it as my status!). In one year, I lost my 2 grandmothers, my dad, a beloved aunt, and *almost* lost my sister. In the midst of all of that, my son was diagnosed. Still, I found myself thankful for my life and another day to love the ones who are left. I’m a glutton for punishment, I guess. Blessings to you! May all your efforts to lift us up come back to you 100 fold this year!

  16. This is such a perfect post to usher in the new year. Thank you for inspiring me and helping me through the tough times. Wishing you all the best in 2011.

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