V turns 19 today, Sunday, February 9th.
A birthday is a wonderful thing to celebrate . What could be better than appreciating the anniversary of someone’s time being alive and among us? Especially when you’re younger or older, birthdays get a lot of attention. In the middle somehow we focus more on the ones ending in zero.
So 19 seems pretty inauspicious. But when you are poised to fall off a cliff at 21 [when funding for educational services ends] it is a significant high stakes year, which makes it hard to stay present, neither looking back with regrets or forward with trepidation.
In the moment: glad he could celebrate with class on Friday and that we can have a family gathering today.
In the moment: cultivate unconditional love and radical acceptance.
In the moment: choosing a diner to go to that has all the important stuff: good food, a big booth, a short wait, friendly staff, pie. (We settle on the Edison Diner, a sentimental favorite because my parents and aunt and uncle used to occasionally meet as a midway point for dinner, back when it had a salad bar.)
Yet despite how delicious the moment is, I slip into thinking about the future. It’s only natural to project forward for someone who has most of his life ahead of him. I do it all the time for B (admittedly more than I should, in a Jewish mother way that feels like a genetic predisposition), but in the short-term of hoping his future holds the basics: work, friendship, affordable rent, love and happiness. I hope that he will have good health and meaningful relationships down the road. And yet…
I am not preoccupied with his life decades from now. I don’t lie awake at night wondering what will happen if he gets sick in 40 years when I am no longer alive to check in on him. I am not concerned with advocating, planning, implementing and funding a life that will need 24/7 supports for the rest of his life.
This is the physically and mentally grueling job of those of us with young adults with complex needs: summoning reserves of time, energy and faith for yet another major project that needs planting and watering. Trying to reign in thoughts about how unfair life feels, that just as many people around my age are in a position to retire or shift gears and start new exciting chapters of life, I land another big fat work assignment. It doesn’t matter that I feel depleted and ready to resign, turning my focus to writing, breathing new life into long postponed dreams.
This is time-sensitive real time work and putting it off will only add to my stress load. So I’ve started registering for transition planning seminars; researching day programs; making calls to take tours; trying to figure out how to take time off to go see residential programs in other parts of the country I’d prefer V to live, which is another post entirely.
Author/dharma teacher Jack Kornfeld says to treat your wandering mind like a puppy. You don’t yell at it or hit it, you repeatedly say, Come back. Stay. Be in this moment. After decades of meditating, my old dog of a brain is still an untrained pup chasing its tail. I am kind and forgiving and gently nudge it back to now, in this moment in all its loveliness and imperfection. The future will come soon enough.
Back in the moment, gratitude to the waiters who bring an enormous piece of chocolate mousse cake and gather round to sing Happy Birthday. Gratitude to everyone who has wished V well today
Happy birthday V and the millions of other people born on this day. May you all be surrounded by loved ones, or at least feel loved. May you all feel the joy of being alive as you start another rotation around the sun.