“It goes by so fast…”

If I could never hear those words again, much less think them, I would be so very thankful. Google Photos has become my nemesis when I’m premenstrual. It’s the surest way to elicit a crying jag since funerals were invented.

We’ve all heard the sentiment. When we’re a teenager struggling with adolescence and a middle-aged person sighs and shakes their head at us and we want to slap them. When we’re in our twenties and feel as if we’re going to jump out of our own skin with indecision and frustration at the world only to meet the patronizing amusement of our elders. Or when we’re neck deep in newborn insanity and someone knowingly shakes their head at us and ruminates, “Just you wait, it goes by SO FAST…”

Shut up, Janice.

No one that’s struggling wants to hear from you “how lucky” they are anymore than a sunburnt child wants to be offered a hot bath. Just shut it.

Everyone struggles and everyone has sorrows and someone always, seemingly, has it better than yourself. That’s just life. If there’s one thing that I hope to teach my kids, and finally learn myself someday, is that the hard parts should be honored as well.

Huh?

That’s right. I don’t recommend gratitude journals, I don’t tell people to be thankful when they’re despondent (at least I hope I haven’t), and I sure-as-sh*! don’t recommend meditation to a fellow parent who looks as if they haven’t slept since the Obama-era and can’t even manage to string together a sentence because they’re so overwhelmed. You know what I have learned?

I journal about it all. (Sometimes I don’t even journal, I just let myself wallow.) Not a gratitude list, not a countdown to contentment, not a bountiful blessing blog, or any other platitude titled list of alliteration. (Again, shut up, Janice.)

No, I write about what’s hard and what’s been hard earned and what brings tears to my eyes, good or bad. The misery is only there because we compare it to when it was good and remembering and missing when we had it good can make us miserable as well. Because, excuse the cliche, that is life. The sorrows make the sweets that much sweeter.

So what do you say to someone whose parent just passed away?

How do you console someone after their loved one commits suicide?

What can you do for someone struggling with depression?

Is there ever the right thing to say?

Yes, sometimes, nothing at all. Listen, give them a hug, send a gift, offer help but be gracious when they refuse it or resent it, and – again – just listen.

Someone asked me the other day what the hardest part about my kids being diagnosed with autism was. It’s not the first or the last time I expect to be asked. I’ve given different answers over these past three years. It feels much longer than three years because, in truth, it is since I now realize how many people in my extended family and life in general are on the spectrum as well.

The hardest part was me. I had to change. I had to accept a new perspective, a new language, a new terrain. I had to learn about topics that I had never heard of or intended to learn. Why would I need to learn about IEPs and behavioral interventions? That sounded as preposterous as me taking up an interest in thermodynamics or Star Wars. Not my cup of tea.

Interest or not, I needed to learn all about these topics as quickly as a lost hiker needs to figure out how to make a fire as the sun is setting. There is no choice. It was a matter of survival for my kids and our family.

There are moments of resentment. Some admit, some protest to that being the case, some stay in that depressed state longer than they would like to admit, and many of us return to that spot like a needed rest stop that you wish you didn’t have to pull off into. You have to be there, you need to be there, and you hope you can get out as fast as humanly possible.

I’ve been in that state for the past few months. I’m not proud of it and I don’t think I deserve a merit prize for admitting to it but I do think it helps others to be honest about our struggles. It’s not attention seeking it’s offering a lifeline to others so they don’t remain in silence.

It’s ok to admit that things are hard. It’s ok to think about the good times and remind yourself that things will change and to also know that there’s no guarantee as to how long the challenging phases might remain. Because sometimes those phases are the new reality and you have to find a way to make them part of your life. I could list out the acronyms that describe my family in their full alphabet banner but it doesn’t change the fact that I close the door to the world and have to slog through the paperwork, behavioral challenges, setbacks, triumphs, and heartaches largely on my own. It’s ok to admit how hard this is to myself and it’s ok for others to feel comfortable to do so. It doesn’t mean I love my kids any less or more than the next parent but I do know this.

They’ve taught me more about life, myself, and things I never could have anticipated in this world more than anyone I’ve ever known. There’s days I’m exhausted to the point of feeling wounded, sick from my health issues to the point I wonder how I’ll go on and know that I have to, and days where I wish my life was drastically different (there’s some alliteration for those that were waiting to spot any). But if having a different life meant traveling back and removing my kids from my timeline? I would never do it. They’re my favorite people and I wouldn’t trade them to avoid the hard times.

Sometimes, we want time to go fast because we’re in so much pain. That’s only human and understandable. It’s not enjoyable to suffer (unless that’s your thing, no judgement). No one needs to be reminded to feel guilty and be told “it goes so fast”. They need a hug, a kind ear, reassurance, and possibly a baby wipe for what they haven’t spotted on their face yet.

(P.S. If your name is Janice, I’m sorry. I’m a fan of John Oliver and “Janice” has become my catch-all name for someone being judgmental and preachy but I’m sure you’re very nice and good at accounting. Hugs.)