Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thankful Tuesday: Hitting Empty

It was a long weekend. A weekend that ended in me “quitting” my job as organizer, driver, reminder, finder, money lender, food maker to my lovely daughter with something extra, which, during these transition years, seems to be mostly attitude. By Sunday night, I am afraid, I had let her reduce me to tears. There is not much that can reduce me to tears, but my daughter has always been able to find the right combination of obstinacy (on better days, persistence) and mess (on better days, creativity) that will do so. 

I am never proud when I quit (as you can see, I’ve done this before), because I know it won’t last very long. It’s just a last-ditch effort to get a measure of compliance (about doing chores, cleaning up, following through, completing tasks, honouring commitments) or even just a smidgeon of respect. I would never go as far as to expect thanks. Because I am, after all, a mother of a twenty-something year old daughter and we mothers of children of that age have to forgo gratitude (except from fathers/husbands/other mothers/family members) for a number of years as a kind of Buddhist test of detachment. Or maybe it’s our tempting time in the desert. Whatever the metaphor or path, I pretty much suck at the transcendental part of it, and always seem to emerge bruised and dazed instead of transformed. I fear that I will be given the opportunity to do it over and over again until I get is right, and I’m not sure that will be in this lifetime.

And so this is what I began to write Monday morning as I thoughtfully tried to prepare for the Thankful Tuesday blog.    

“I am determined to pull thankfulness from me. Bit by bit, thread by thread, and hope that it is not my unraveling. 

I am determined to find thankfulness within me, underneath the dark place of tears and frustration that is my daily dwelling, and hope that this thankfulness is more than a trite platitude that will wither in the light of day and reason.  

I am determined to let go of this determination, and let all that is wash over me, let the psalms arise from my heart, psalms of joy, of pain, and be grateful that I know that there are psalms that I can let pray for me.”

And then the phone rang.

And I answered it.

It was Alison. Alison whom I didn’t know.  From LiveWorkPlay, an organization that supports people with intellectual disabilities to have a good life with a very person-centred and inclusive approach—saying that there was a spot for Jessie in their Foundations program.

And I laughed out loud and said, “Okay, who is this?”

And it was still Alison, from LiveWorkPlay, only now she sounded a bit confused.

And then I gushed, I think, and said “Really? Are you really sure?”

And when she reassured me that she was really sure, I almost hung up the phone in my excitement to share the good news with all those who love me and are worried about my sanity.

Now the back story of supports for people with intellectual disabilities in our region is rather long, but can be summed up quite nicely as: pretty meagre pickings (unless you have a lot of money and can pay for and create what you want). While Jessie has a good life, it is fraught with certain planning and funding challenges, particularly as much of what she wants to do (and is good at) doesn’t completely exist and needs to be patched together in increments by her parents, whom she resents because she has this burning (and, I keep reminding myself, natural) desire to do what she wants, her own way, without them telling her what to do.    

So, just to make sure you understand completely the miracle that occurred, Alison was offering Jessie a spot in their Foundations program—a program where ANOTHER PERSON would help to plan and support her transition from a school-based to a community-based life. It’s the OTHER PERSON here who is key (just in case you didn’t get the meaning of the caps). There will be a NOT MOM person helping plan, set goals, and connect with community (where she is very connected already, but needs some help managing all her commitments). Some NOT MOM helping her fulfill her dreams and goals, and maybe convincing her that following the actual steps in a recipe is a good idea, that adding events to your calendar is a good idea, that getting up on time so you can eat breakfast before you go to work is a good idea. Some OTHER PERSON drawing supports and community connections together to help support Jessie in her dream of moving away from home. Some OTHER PERSON (did I say that?) doing some of the things that I now do, and doing them with much more cooperation from Jessie, because that other person is not ME!    

As soon as I got off the phone, I called Dan at work and shared the exciting news.

“Look Nan, I know I make fun of it sometimes,” he said, “but do me a favour. Keep going to church.”

We meet with Alison on Wednesday.

In the meantime, I am continuing with the burnt offerings. 


Dawn said...

Hopped over here from Micha's. This sounds huge and wonderful for your family. :)

Nan said...

It could be! Thanks Dawn ... I sure look forward to tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Welcome Jessie, Nan and family. Part of what Allison does is literally to welcome newcomers to LiveWorkPlay; sounds like the first interaction was enjoyable, that's great!

Our approach is to help the community welcome people with intellectual disabilities to live, work, and play as valued citizens. This is not for everyone. It is distinctly and somewhat uniquely "non-programmatic" which you seem to understand quite well from your emphasis on planning.

As opposed to investing in a program approach as we used to do (it has the main positive of strong short-term outcomes) we invest in the individual and their support network, and look to build their social capital with partners and citizens in the community who share our inclusive beliefs.

We used to have "programs" that were routinely described as "high quality" but looking at the real outcomes for the individual, progress towards a more included life was not much in evidence. We looked at the success of other agencies that made such a shift and learned from them.

The long-term potential of our approach of the past 4 years is proving dramatically superior to a program approach because all going well, dependency on us (as an agency) can deliberately diminish over time, and the outcome for the individual is a better quality of life that is more self-sustainable and less systems-dependent.

As I said it's not for everyone but you clearly have an open mind and I wish you a positive first experience when you visit in person!

Nan said...

Thanks Keenan! We had a great time with Allison today (see tomorrow's blog!) and that non-program approach is one that we have always taken with Jessie. We've built and chosen according to her passions and interests and have mostly been involved with so-called generic programs/services. That's where we've found so many of Jessie's champions and places and opportunities for her to contribute.

Anonymous said...

Well then I guess I can truly say "Welcome to LiveWorkPlay!" I had a feeling from reading your blog that this would be a good fit. I am certain we will be learning a lot from you and Jessie!