Gal Pal Empowerment

There is nothing like getting together with old friends who have known you for years, long before you had children or got married. These folks knew you in your “former life”, when you were young, when life was less complicated, and when you had the freedom to do what you want, when you wanted to. Ahh, the joys of youth and the adventures that were shared! It’s amazing how those precious moments in time can be immediately recalled to the mind’s eye with the fondest of memories. Inevitably, seasons in life come and go and responsibilities replace most of the spontaneity of years ago. Sometimes I think about those old days, ( especially when I’m having a tough week with Brian ) and wish that I could travel again like I used to. It’s ironic to me that my world has changed over the years from traveling internationally to now traveling mostly around town! Of course it’s all of my own choosing and while I honestly wouldn’t change anything -(except of course for Brian’s Down syndrome and autism- if I had a magic wand, I would wave it and banish these disabilities away forever- who wouldn’t want their child’s life to be free of disabilities?) I still don’t want to leave my former life totally behind. It’s still very much a part of who I am today and always will be. So, how does one maintain a balance between both the old and current worlds? One way is by making a point to maintain those valuable friendships from long ago, even if it means getting together just once a year. It is definitely a rarity though – some friends are only meant to be in your life for a particular season in time. People can change for many reasons and are often shaped by permanent, life-altering experiences ( like having a special needs child). Yet, at the core there is still that person who is a unique individual with their own needs that require fulfillment. I have found this especially true of myself in recent years. Special Needs Parents have a life time of care taking ahead of them with their children – this is quite overwhelming for me personally to think about, so I really try to “redirect” myself when I start to go there. It doesn’t mean that I don’t care or it’s not constantly on my mind, but I can’t control the future ( I’ve tried on several occasions and I can tell you with absolute certainty that it doesn’t work!), and I only have this day, hour, moment… I have found renewed sanity when I focus on my own self-care, one moment at a time, with the emphasis on SELF CARE! It is an absolute and daily REQUIREMENT for a lifetime of caretaking. Ignoring our own needs for the sake of our kids or others is actually a disservice to both them and ourselves- you can’t help your children or other people if you don’t take care of yourself- period! We need to somehow negotiate ways and create opportunities for self-care/ respite to happen. It will require planning and help from others. It is not always easy to do and can be difficult to find the help, but I have also found that people in our lives are not always aware of what we need, so we have to speak up and tell them! This is exactly what I told my husband, Jim, hence, the Gal Pal Excursion to Camp Wahoooo last week with my pals from People Express Airlines. I really needed a respite with old friends and a change in my daily routine! Our often repetitious routines can be mentally and physically exhausting; I know I desperately needed to recharge my batteries. Even being on a plane by myself where I couldn’t be reached was a treat in itself, though it took me a while to decompress and relax…

I have had the privilege and joy of knowing my airline girlfriends for over 34 years! Being with these fabulous ladies brings out every playful impulse, belly laughs, and a sense of humor that is so hilarious- I am 20- something all over again! The five of us met in Arkansas last week at our friend’s lake Home ( flying in from 5 different states) and BAM!- talk about immediately connecting just like it was years ago- it is truly a very special gift that we all share. We proceeded to have the time of our lives, exploring new sights, soaking up the sun on a beautiful lake, all the while laughing so hard that my stomach muscles hurt! I am so grateful for these gal pals and the power of our friendships, as this sustains me long after we have parted ways and especially during lonely and difficult times. Loyal Gal Pals can empower us in a variety of uplifting and encouraging ways. Here is what I have learned from mine:

1. Life is short- tomorrow is not promised, so laugh loud and often with all of your heart and soul.

2. You can do anything or go anywhere when someone truly believes in you and what you are capable of.

3. Generosity of heart and a giving spirit knows absolutely no bounds and can never be outdone.

4. Listening to one another and validating concerns, as well as celebrating each other’s accomplishments with genuine support and gladness is a priceless gift.

5. Humor and hope make all of life’s moments more manageable, meaningful and joyful, especially when shared!

Whether your respite is just for a few hours or a few days, make sure to take it either alone, with friends, or whoever you want to spend that time with! You are worth it, you need it, repeat!! All of us need to find joy and laughter in the hardship of raising a child with special needs. It seems paradoxical that this is even possible, but it can be so. We need to become empowered so that we have the courage and conviction to move in the right direction. It can be very difficult to arrange for respite, sometimes we are so tired of being tired, but we must- somehow- for our mental health and sanity. Most importantly, our kids will thank us for it! Until next time, thanks for reading! 😊

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