Boy oh boy. Being a disabled parent is tough. Being the parent of a child with special needs is, duh, tough. Sometimes it feels like you have a lot stacked against you. Medical appointments for you. Appointments of all sorts for your special needs kid. Lack of money. Lack of time. Lack of energy. Having to lean too heavily on your partner for too long. Stress, stress, stress! Sometimes it feels like a miracle that you or your partner haven’t lost their marbles, sold everything, and fled north to live a life of solitary freedom with a cabin and thirty-two sled dogs.
It’s super important to feed your marriage and your relationships, and sometimes that feels like just one more thing on your never-ending To Do List, one more chance to fail.
Times like that, you need to invoke the Whimsy Fairy. If you’re feeling craptastic, or you have a kiddo whose needs may spring up and change your plans at the last minute, planning a big date with your partner can be difficult. My approach to this dilemma is two-fold:
- Look for opportunities for joy.
- Let go of the ones that don’t work for you. Run with the ones that do.
The first is all about mentality. In a day full of suck, you have to keep your eyes open and actively look for those moments of joy, opportunities for fun, spontaneous and future possibilities. The cool thing about doing this is that you find it starting to bleed over into the rest of your life. Looking for that silver lining. Rolling with the punches. It encourages a state of mental awareness that allows you to be more present and more grounded. It’s a chosen filter for you to wear. Like sassy sunglasses. Why not?
The second is much, much harder when you’re a Type A New Englander. When I make plans, I like to PLAN. And then keep those plans. I feel guilt if I have to back out at the last minute. So I hesitate to say yes when I know I might have to change it to a no later on. When I do say yes, I then stress out about having plans, which is counter to the whole idea of going out and having fun! This took the equivalent of a cognitive behavior training boot camp to break myself of. Under current circumstances, the only way my husband and I are going to get to go out together is if we make plans, even knowing we might not get to follow through, and if we seize last-minute opportunities, scramble for childcare (ahem, my awesome, amazing sister and parents) and Just. Go.
I was recently handed an opportunity to go on a date with my husband to Foxwoods for an Oktoberfest event. Now, my husband and I haven’t spent any time together at casinos. We don’t gamble much. He doesn’t drink beer. We weren’t going with anyone we knew. We’d need to get a babysitter. I spent the last month throwing up. I was not doing well physically. Cue anxiety! But rules are rules, so:
Rule #1: Met. Saw the opportunity for what it was. A chance to spend an evening with the love of my life.
Rule #2: I took a leap of faith. We made the reservation, lined up child care, crossed our fingers, and went for it. I got all fancied up and had fun with it. I wasn’t feeling 100%. but I was good enough. Hospitality at Foxwoods was lovely, the food was fantastic, my husband found a beer he actually liked at the beer tasting and I found several that were quite yummy. We attempted bowling. Not my strong point! But it was a lot of fun. We made friends with strangers, walked around hand in hand like we did when we were teenagers, and went home tired and happy.
By going outside our daily lives, I fell in love with our marriage all over again. I got to dive deep into us and why we work, and wallow in spending time with the person I love. We saw a new place together, made some new memories, and lived a little. It wasn’t a huge thing, like a cruise around the Mediterranean, but it didn’t have to be. It was a snippet of joy. And those add up. I didn’t know what to expect when we went, and it would have been easy to fall into the trap of waiting for the perfect circumstances to have the perfect date. But you all know the truth. It’s no good to wait when you can seize the moment and grab some joy. We did. We grabbed ourselves some joy. And it was so very worth it.