Life Lessons Just Keep Smacking Me In the Face

First off, Happy Fourth of July! It’s been a tough couple of years for the USA, and I hope it ends soon so we can get back to democracy, decency, and justice for all. Oy.

Did you know?

Did you know that I cooked for the Appalachian State University football team every Tuesday evening in 1989-1990? I worked on steak night, so the whole team was always there. Fascinating, right?

While in the kitchen, I worked for a wonderful older gentleman of color, and he absolutely kept me on my toes.

I’d ask him, “Where do you want me to put this tray of green beans? It’s ready to be served.”

“Put it in your pocket.”

He told me to put everything in my pocket: steaks, green beans, dirty pans, you name it. I laughed every time.

Here’s what’s coming up for me right now thinking back to my time with him so many gorgeous years ago . . . he also told me to keep 10 percent of myself in my pocket in any relationship.

I started dating a guy that worked in food service as well and my boss was super sweet about trying to protect me in this relationship. I remember how much I loved working for him and how sweet he was to me.

Again, he’d say to me, “In any relationship, you have to keep 10 percent of yourself in your pocket.”

What he explained was that putting every part of me into any relationship isn’t good for either person. I remember listening to him, but I wouldn’t really soak that lesson in until maybe this month, about 30 years later?

Celebrating Independence For Our Children

My son recently moved to his Dad’s house, and I’m working through that monumental shift minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day.

It’s not been easy for me and I keep wondering . . . did I put too much into my relationship with him? Did I give him 100 percent and forget about my 10 percent? Is missing him this much an indication that I was too close to him? Is my missing him wrong in some way? Did I screw up? If I did mess this whole relationship thing up with my son, how bigly did I mess it up?

Consider those rhetorical question because only I can answer them for myself.

You, of course, have your own experience with the relationships in your life. Do you love how close you are to each person in your immediate family? Do you feel overpowered by someone in particular? Several people? Do you feel joy at just the thought of someone? Are you angry at someone much of the time? Does your stomach tie in knots when someone is coming over–either excitedly or with anxiety? Do you feel free to be who you want to be?

And here’s the deal with autism specifically, as well as any other special-needs person we love, we tend to pour ourselves and our entire lives into our children, sometimes for absolute survival.

What I’m feeling in this moment through this experience is that I’m freaking tired of learning life lessons.

That picture (which makes me giggle) totally encapsulates my current mood for today as I explore this latest lesson. Tomorrow I’ll probably be ready again, but today I need a break.

You can take breaks too.

My son, who is 17 but on the autism spectrum, is making those major leaps into becoming the man he is meant to be.

He’s moving on to walk through the steps he’ll take to be the man that I worked so damn hard to raise.

I want him to be kind, happy, respectful, giving, resourceful, loving, and loved.

I know everything happening here is okay but . . . my sad heart wants to rest. I want to be overjoyed at his accomplishments so far and I want to cheer for him as he takes control of his daily choices. My sadness needs some love and attention right now, so that is what I’ll do.

Emotions are so strong, and my experience has been that feelings not addressed and accepted linger in some super weird ways.

So I’ll celebrate my son’s independence and cheer through my heartache.

We have permission to feel all the feels and I hope you’ll stop and take note of what you’re feeling right now.

The Final 10 percent

The lesson I’m being smacked in the face with right now is to continue to keep 10 percent of myself in my pocket in all of my relationships.

I happily realized that I did, in fact, make tiny increments of separation as he grew up with me as his guide.

The First Time I Felt Free(r) As a Parent

We were at Chick-fil-A having lunch, and Michael was pretty adept at going into the Chick-fil-A playground on his own, though y’all know I watched him like a hawk. If he started to chat it up with anyone, I was in there like a jackrabbit–super fast and with my ears exactly focused on what he might be saying. Oy.

Mason was slower to go in there by himself. He had a difficult go of life with Michael’s outbursts every day, but there was finally that one day when both kids went into the play area.


I sat there with my Chick-fil-A coffee, and I watched them play. I felt an overwhelming amount of elation in that moment. My kids were safe and happy, and I had a quiet moment to myself with a cup of coffee. Pure. Joy.

It was one of the very first moments of separation and independence we were all working toward.

The next more-independent moment was when I got a full-time job. I was able to work anywhere (I just needed internet) and it was truly the best job I ever could have asked for, until it wasn’t five years later.

I drove the kids to and from school and worked at coffee shops during the day. I could go on field trips, attend school functions, and still work an eight-hour day. My attention shifted more to my work and not as much on my kids.

That felt healthy. I was with my kids all of the time, but I had a new thing I was looking at.

And so it goes, today is another day with lots of feels. Today is another day when my son is moving closer to his adult, independent self, and I suppose the same thing is happening for me.

I wonder how you’re doing with your relationships. I hope my relationship shift can shed light on ways that you’d like to make your relationships better for you.

Truth . . .

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.

Maya Angelou

And that’s it. When we learn something new that we know can improve our relationships, I hope we do just that.

It’s a joy sharing my little life lessons with you. I hope they help in some small or large way.

Love, love, love,


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