As Saint Patrick’s Day approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about luck. Most people think it’s incredibly unlucky that after eight years of infertility, my ex and I adopted a baby girl who turned out to have autism spectrum disorder—a diagnosis that while not the sole reason for our separation after 15 mostly happy years together and 12 years of marriage, was most certainly the final straw for my already overwhelmed (and under-medicated) husband. He moved out three weeks after the diagnosis. A long and chaotic divorce followed.
Instead of a healthy nuclear family with a solid income, I ended up a full-time solo parent of a disabled child. Suffice it to say, autism turned my safe, well-ordered world upside-down in every way possible.
So yeah, I can kinda see how someone might view this as unlucky. Maybe ever seriously, incredibly unlucky. And while I might have agreed with this sentiment while deep in the throes of a brutal divorce with a bipolar alcoholic who was both manic and drinking, I certainly don’t share it now.
Did I think my life would turn out differently? Sure. Would it be helpful to have another adult to split the work? Undeniably. Do I sometimes fall into bouts of self-pity? I hate to admit it, but yes. All that said, I could never view my beautiful daughter as bad luck. Cliches aside, adopting Katie was the best thing that ever happened to me, even if it cost me my marriage, the bedroom furniture, two cars, a kitchen table, and half the pots and pans.
Yes, I lost a lot of money and possessions. But when all is said and done, I kept what was most important: my pets and my child. (I kept the house too!)
Katie makes me laugh every day—even without words—and forces me to view the world differently. She has taught me so much about life and love. She broke my heart and mind wide open, and that has brought riches I never would have imagined. She gave me a new life, a new passion, a new career.
I’m grateful that Katie exposed me not only to profound love and joy, but also tremendous anger, despair, grief, and heartbreak. As a result I have more patience, flexibility, and compassion, but also an enhanced capacity to love in an unconditional way that I never knew or understood before.
Katie continues to teach me the paradox that vulnerability and weakness are our greatest strengths, and that there is incredible beauty in our differences. Diversity is not something to be feared. It is not something for which to be ashamed. Our scars and disabilities make us unique and precious. They make us beautiful. Each of us, even those with autism or other challenges, have gifts to share with the world.
Katie taught me that each of us is here on earth for a reason. Each of us has value.
For this and so much more, I thank my daughter Katie from the bottom of my heart. She is not a jinx or a curse. She is my lucky star, guiding me along a sometimes dark and rough path I never planned or expected, but one I wouldn’t trade or alter for anything in the world.
Until next time,