Attempting a New Mindset


Saying “I don’t know” has a way of permitting me to stop trying to move that mountain and stick to the idea of moving one rock at a time.

I consider a new year as a sort of invitation to do better. After hearing some New Year’s resolutions, I thought it would only be fitting for me to sit and think about what goals to shoot for this year. It would be great to try and lose five to 10 pounds or finally run that marathon that I’ve been striving to finish for the last decade. But those things seem to fall lower on my list as my family starts to talk about transitions again due to my husband changing jobs and the constant issue of Broden’s ABA coverage (through TRICARE) creating more access to care issues.

Maybe I need to take a step back and make a few changes on perspective. Maybe I need to have a little more faith and worry a little less. I’m not saying that raising a child with disabilities does not constitute the idea of not worrying, but I do think I worry more than I should. I’m learning there is a line between worry and then worrying to the point that it won’t do any good. Should I worry about access to care issues with TRICARE? I think so, but should I worry about where Broden is going to be in five years and we don’t even know where we’ll be living, or what services will be available in that location? Probably not.

What I’m trying to say is that I shouldn’t just say that I’m going to focus on what I can control and let go of what I can’t. I should actually do it. That’s harder. Instead of moving a mountain, maybe I should focus on moving one stone a time. Moving a stone seems more manageable to me right now because the thought of trying to move a mountain exhausts me to the point of wanting to take a nap. I’ll take moving that stone, thank you very much.

I need to tell myself more often that I’m going to fall down. It’s inevitable. There will be days that I won’t make it past the first aisle of the grocery store because Broden has something else in mind— but that is ok. The most important thing is to drive back to the store a few days later and try again. Yes, I’ll most likely have every person at the checkout counter shaking their head and staring at us, but I need to learn not to care so much. Have you caught on to the fact that this has already happened to me before many times?

I’d like to think that I have bad experiences to make me wiser and stronger. My hope is to experience a few good ones once in a while to act as carrots to keep me going. Looking back, Broden being denied FAPE at his local school was a pretty bad experience, but I also think that if we had not experienced those events, we would not know what we know now. Mark and I are stronger and wiser advocates for Broden. My idea of the “carrot” to keep us going is the fact that Broden appropriately protested at his ABA clinic that he didn’t want to pick up his laundry the other day. With me, it’s the little things that matter.

As I meticulously pack Broden’s lunches to make sure he has two choices of fruit and he has enough Neocate packed on ice for the day, I also need to be kinder and more forgiving to myself. I’m not perfect. I do not specialize in special education law and I am certainly not the first one to know if TRICARE is trying to change policy, yet again, to make it more difficult for military families. It’s okay. For today, Neocate on ice is good enough.

I want to hear the words, “I don’t know” come out of my mouth more often. Not knowing what’s going to happen five years down the road is okay. Not knowing what Broden will be doing when he’s 25 is okay. Not knowing where we are going to retire is okay. Saying “I don’t know” has a way of permitting me to stop trying to move that mountain and stick to the idea of moving one rock at a time.

I know the only thing in the way of me taking things in stride is me. L.R. Knost said it best. “Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary.” •
Shelley Huhtanen is an Army wife with two children, one with autism, whose husband is currently stationed at Fort Benning, GA. She is an autism advocate and currently the parent liaison for the Academy for Exceptional Learners.