I said a final goodbye to my friend Keren on Friday morning at her funeral. I won't go into detail about it here in the event that any of her friends or family that weren't in attendance make their way to this blog, as I don't want to upset anyone further. I'll simply say that the funeral was pretty traumatizing. As a result, I have been trying to recall all of the fun that Keren and I had. Ultimately I have nothing but fond, beautiful memories with her...the only thing that upsets that balance is knowing how much pain she was in and the thoughts of her final burial. In the midst of doing regular life, I am occasionally assaulted by wonderful memories of her. I remembered just yesterday a hilarious experience we shared: It was New Year's Eve 1999, and I had cleaned my house top to bottom in anticipation of a big Y2K bash. The decorations were staged, the food was set and the drinks had started flowing. Keren was helping me in the kitchen when a male friend of my ex, walked into the kitchen. He was looking very stylish in a well-fitted black suit. Keren and I commented on how great he looked (it's always fun to have people get dressed up for a party). He asked if there was anything he could help with. I said, No, but thank you and he turned to leave. When he turned around, Keren and I saw in shock that his entire back was covered in white cat fur. I mean COVERED, as in, one side of his suit was black and the other was completely white. I realized with horror that I had cleaned everything, but forgotten to lint roll the couch!!! Keren and I burst out in laughter. He quickly turned around and asked, "What??!" I tried to contain my laughter while I said, "Here, you've got a little cat fur on your back, let me lint roll that for you!" Throughout the night, everytime I would catch Keren's eye, we would crack up. She was so good like that. She could appreciate the funny things in life. So, this and many other memories will be the sum her for me. I will always remember her, and she will always be able to put a smile on my face.
Losing someone close to you- especially to suicide- makes you reflect on what makes you happy, what makes a person feel fulfilled. In thinking about this, I found some inspiration from what doesn't make me feel fulfilled. I don't compare my life to others. I just don't go there. People's life from the outside may be painting a far different picture than what is happening on the inside. There are a lot of people out there who have more money than me, for instance. It just doesn't do me any good to think about how they might not have to clean their own house, or how getting a babysitter is never an issue about whether or not they could afford it. The reality is, I spent about 8 hours yesterday cleaning and organizing my house. Is the act of cleaning fun? No, not really. In fact, sometimes it outright sucks. However, when I was finished I had an incredible feeling of fulfillment and competence. I did this. All by myself, I did this. Of course, if we won the lottery tomorrow, I might rush out and hire someone to clean my house on a regular basis. I mean, I'm not stupid. Not having to do some of the grunt work can mean more time for the things you want to be doing. What happens when you only have to do all of the things you want to do, though? It seems like it's easy to end up feeling like something is missing. Perhaps this is why the Real Housewives really don't seem happy at all. For me, the answer is in the work. Doing community service, doing your own hard work with the kids, the house, putting projects into your life that require a little back breaking physical work. Because there is nothing like getting through it and saying, I did that. Just me. And damn, it felt good.
I had heard from other parents of kids with Down syndrome that "You will celebrate each milestone even more than you did with your firstborn- you'll see." And they were right! We have to work harder to get there, but the reward is greater too. So, I work harder with Elijah than I had to with Christian for him to achieve his milestones, but is it harder to raise Elijah? Is it hard? No. Not at all. A friend once told me, "You know, you can vent to me about anything. It would be okay for you to just break down and say, 'This is so hard'." I had the sense that she meant to say that I was covering up some hardship about raising Elijah. Putting on a brave face. I answered her simply, "Thank you- I will." I don't need to break down and say that raising Elijah is so hard, because it's NOT. I know that is probably hard for some people to believe. That many believe that raising a child with special needs would be the hardest thing in the world. It's really not. There are things that are hard in my life: finances, changing insurance, paperwork for said insurance, losing a friend, etc. I might break down on any given occasion and say, This or that sucks. It's just hard. I have done that and I will continue to do that. Maybe I am this "Rock" that some of my friends think I am, or maybe...just maybe, it's not as hard as they think.
Maybe at the end of a hard day, the reward...the moment of I did that is worth every moment of hard. Leaving me with...Worth it. Fulfilled. Happy.