In the beginning of healing autism, I wanted it to be linear, straight, easy and done quickly. I had no patience, no appreciation for what we were going through. I wasn’t enjoying life, so I wanted this part to be over as quick as possible. Unfortunately, that did not make things go faster—me wanting things to change quickly only made me feel worse.
I only truly noticed how miserable I was when my daughter started doing things and couldn’t fully appreciate them. It’s like my body couldn’t feel happiness anymore. In those moments, my daughter was connecting to me, and I realized that I couldn’t fully connect to her. How funny was that? I was so focused on her connecting with the world, yet as she started to achieve that, I felt disconnected.
My disconnection was because I could not get out of anger, exhaustion, overwhelm and worry. I remember thinking, “This is ridiculous. I’ve forgotten how to feel joy.” Yes, I would smile, but it was a surface smile. My smile would fade as I started thinking about all the other things my daughter needed to catch up on.
So I started to take hikes, and that was just what I needed – to surround myself in the beauty of nature. I was a city girl going out into nature, and I’ve got to admit I was a little scared. I laugh now at my preparedness. I wasn’t going out into the wild, just an hour hike in a state park on a well-defined trail, but I still took a pack containing food, water, and a survival mirror plus, I always told a friend where I was going and if I didn’t call them by a specific time they’d start a rescue.
I think in some way, I was preparing to be lost. And while I did always come back safe and sound, I came back a different person every time. Nature is so healing, and it was the only way I knew how to feel wonder, joy, amazement, and love for an extended period of time.
These hikes are what I used for my body to feel good again. I wanted to feel love and joy, but anytime I looked around my house or any other aspect of my life, I couldn’t feel that. I hiked near waterfalls and fell in love with the sound of the rushing water. I would sit and look at how the water meandered its way through the rocks effortlessly and persistently. I could get that feeling of love and awe in my body again.
Then as I walked away from a waterfall, I would be amazed at how quiet things got again. I always found that interesting – I didn’t notice the waterfall’s noise as I walked toward it because its beauty enchanted me. And when I walked away from it, instead of feeling sad that I was leaving such beauty, I appreciated how quiet nature was again. This was when I started to understand that I could find happiness in any situation, and its also when I began to feel joy again in my body. My mind and my body were in synchronicity.
On one of these first hikes, I came across a tree that grew in an S shape. I had never seen a tree like that before. It literally made me stop in my tracks. I hated how autism wasn’t linear but here I was admiring a tree specifically because it grew so differently.
How did it grow like that?
All the other trees were straight, yet here I was mesmerized by a tree that was not like the others. Of course, I started making analogies about healing autism and how there was beauty in not taking the straight path. This tree brought me a lot of peace. This tree helped me see the beauty in all the twists and turns of healing autism. At that moment, I released my desire to “get this healing thing done” because I could now appreciate all that autism and my daughter were teaching me.
And now, as I write this and reflect on what this tree taught me years ago, this tree is teaching me a new lesson. When I look at all those straight trees, I see the parenting experience I was expecting. Straight. Easy. Quick. Just like everyone else. But I love this curvy tree. It’s different. Unique. Has some type of interesting story that will never be fully known but yet instantly appreciated. That perfectly describes my parenting experience.
This tree first helped me accept my daughter’s different journey through childhood, and now it has helped me let go of some of the sadness around my unique parenting experience.
And now, I hope this tree inspires you to look at the autism experiences in your life differently and feel more love and joy in your life.