At age twenty-one I walked into the dining room, locked eyes with a tall, rangy, blue-eyed outdoorsman and fell head over heels in love. At age twenty-three, we got married, and I expected to live happily ever after.
Reality smacked me with a vengeance when our first child was still-born, our second child developed a life-threatening condition that required numerous surgeries, and our youngest child was born with cerebral palsy.
I took care of my family. Loved my husband and children and dealt with so many physical, mental, energy-draining health issues that I lost track of time, lost track of goals and lost sight of me.
One afternoon during a women’s group, the leader handed out sheets of paper and asked us to write down ten things we wanted in our lives. The only stipulation was it had to be personal. We couldn’t add husband, children or job to the equation.
Looking at that little scrap of blank paper, I realized a big chunk of ‘me’ was sleeping. I’d become a wife and mother and forgotten how to be ‘me’.
How many adults get so caught up in work, family, home, and marriage they forget their innermost dreams? How many of us manage to wake up? I’m always surprised when I ask people what they want out of life and they look at me with a blank stare.
Dreams can give direction and best of all, they’re free. But all the dreams in the world can’t help you if you don’t wake up and remember how to live.
I have special needs in my life. I have chosen to be a full-time caregiver, and I’m happy with that decision, but it means I have to make choices. And I have to find balance. Most of all I can’t fall back into dreaming.
It would be easy to say what I want for me doesn’t matter. That it’s enough to take care of my family and my home and my child. Shouldn’t that satisfy me? But it doesn’t. Those are things that are extensions of others. They aren’t the things that define me, as an individual.
I’ve pushed a wheelchair for over thirty years. On the rare occasions when I step out from behind the chair, and go somewhere without my son, it’s not uncommon for people not to recognize me. They don’t really see me. Somehow, over the years I became known as Mrs. Hank or Josh’s mother.
That needs to change. I’ve rediscovered what I want, and I’ve decided to stop dreaming. Dreaming won’t get me where I want to be.
I finally know where I’m going and, in a very small way, how to get there. My path is laid out. Dreams have given me direction, but I’m awake now and focused. I have my eyes on a goal.
I’m stepping away from the wheelchair, not far because my wants and needs must always balance the needs and wants of the people I’m responsible for, but I’m ready to stop being a faceless extension of somebody else.
My name is C. L. Roth. I’ve wakened from my dream and stepped out from behind the wheelchair and am learning how to be ‘me’.