Tuesday, September 9, 2014

HAPPY International FASD Awareness Day!

Happy?!? You say?  Yes HAPPY.  Look at any writing on happiness and you will find some version of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s words, "It is by being fully involved with every detail of our lives, whether good or bad, that we find happiness, not by trying to look for it directly."   Or the words of author Jerry Spinelli “Live today. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Just today. Inhabit your moments. Don’t rent them out to tomorrow. Do you know what you’re doing when you spend a moment wondering how things are going to turn out?  You’re cheating yourself out of today. Today is calling to you, trying to get your attention, but you’re stuck on tomorrow, and today trickles away like water down a drain. You wake up the next morning and that today you wasted is gone forever. It’s now yesterday. Some of those moments may have had wonderful things in store for you, but now you’ll never know.” 

Happiness, when studied at any length is almost always found to be caused by a life spent IN THE MOMENT.  This is one of the gifts of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.  Yes, I said GIFTS.   The same neural changes that cause many of the difficulties of life with FASD also help folks affected live in the moment.  And that IS a gift.  They have tremendous capacity for joy “not in another place but this place...not for another hour, but this hour.”*  We seem to spend days and weeks and months and years talking about the challenges of FASD.  But FASD is more than those challenges.  Because FASD IS PEOPLE.  It is the people whose neurological make up is shaped by prenatal alcohol exposure and it is all the people whose lives they touch; the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends, lovers, husbands and wives, employees, employers and coworkers.  And while we spend so much time and energy looking at the pain and problems involved in a life touched by FASD we rarely spend time on the happiness.  So today on FASD Awareness day – I choose to look at not pain but JOY, not challenges but GIFTS. 

When I watch my son lose himself completely in a simple activity like dancing in the bubbles and I hear his unrestrained giggles and I am reminded of the words of Henry David Thoreau “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment….there is no other life but this.”   My boy brings that same capacity for joy to each and every thing that he does.  He can let go of the past, no matter how fraught with fear or anger it may have been, in an instant.  He does not fret and worry over the future.  At 7 he already knows,  “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”** 

I am and will be forever grateful to my son for the way he constantly widens my understanding of life. Learning to see and experience the world as he does continues to force me to step outside my own little box, to truly look for and see the beauty of difference, and to appreciate how rich the full range of human capability is.  Little Man has enriched my life in more ways than I could ever count, including most especially, the numerous people also affected in some way by FASD he has brought us in contact with.  I am proud  of my boy beyond any any means of measuring and I thank God (and yes his birth mom) every day for blessing me with the privilege of raising him.***

*Quote by Walt Whitman
**Quote by Eleanor Roosevelt
*** This paragraph was inspired by something I read by Jess at Diary of a Mom.  I cannot remember which of her wonderful pieces it was but if it sounds kind of like her - that's no accident.  I love her writing and it often lingers in my mind.  You can find links to her work on the Useful Links tab.

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