Spring has unfolded into summer and our family has experienced a waterfall of joys since our dear friend Corrie Aune captured this photograph of our oldest daughter. Joys I couldn’t imagine seven years ago when I discovered the FASCETS Neurobehavioral Model—a paradigm supporting the celebration and accommodation of neurodiversity. There have been harrowing stretches over twenty-three years of parenting when I could only see the smallest bits of life and light.
I’m deeply grateful seasons change. Literally, at the end of summer here in west Texas! (All the lovely prose and poems about the glory of summer were not written by people living at above 100 degrees Fahrenheit for many weeks.) On the cusp of fall, it’s time to savor the culmination of many years of hard work, love, forgiveness, and learning.
The picture looks different for every family, of course. Our summer 2022 album offered up this abundance: our middle daughter’s high school graduation and eldest’s college graduation; my meditation leader certificate from Sage Institute led by my beloved meditation and writing teacher, Sean Murphy; a collaboration with She Writes Press for the September 2023 publishing of my memoir—Tinderbox: One Family’s Story of Adoption, Neurodiversity, and Fierce Love (more on that later!). We toasted one daughter’s new full-time job with Baylor Scott and White Health and her eye on a graduate program in Child Life, moved one into her own apartment and registered her for our community’s college, sent the youngest off to leadership summer camp and received her driver’s license in the mail, and shifted the rooms of our household so it seems we’re living in a new space altogether. In a very peaceful home. I’m astonished and oh, so grateful.
We must consciously push pause to celebrate because all human brains are hardwired to scan for danger; it's helped us survive as a species. No need to beat ourselves up for dwelling on the negative. It's a biology thing. It's a brain thing. With practice and support, we can simply (but not necessarily easily) recognize the thing that drains life in us, allow that reality to be what it is, investigate with gentle curiosity, and not attach to it. This RAIN practice I learned from Tara Brach, PhD is an important part of my work. It creates space for compassionate observation instead of reaction toward ourself and others.
The neural networks that allow us to avoid getting hijacked by suffering get stronger with repeated use. That’s what the practice of meditation is all about. Couple this with mindfulness of subtle sparks of light and life—even just flashes of them—and we build resilience and peace.
Sometimes, eager for the impermanence of suffering, I miss the small bits of beauty embedded in every day. Even the hardest days. The red, cap flowers in my back yard thrive in the heat and are always swaying their hips to attract the hummingbirds that mesmerize me. By grace-filled effort, I can pause to appreciate the dance. I’ve been reminded this summer to take moments whenever I can—with my spiritual director, my meditation mentor, and dear friends—to recount the beauty, joys, and celebrations. Decide to savor them; soak my nervous system in them. It balances out the proclivity to focus on the challenges that still fill many days. Slowly, over the years, my brain is rewiring itself to keep me in equilibrium.
Or at least strengthen the knowing that all things pass. Always. We never know what will happen next, and hope and freedom can live in that.
You might decide to take a moment to celebrate something tiny or tremendous in your life whatever your picture is. Maybe you, too, will one day find yourself under a waterfall of joys!