Unexpected emotion after visiting an old friend

person driving car during daytime

Today I went to visit an old friend. We had lived in the same neighborhood about 3 years ago. When I drove back home from visiting her, I cried the entire way. I just sobbed and sobbed. It was a little unexpected. Why did I have such an emotional reaction about visiting an old friend?

Two Reasons

I realized that I was crying for two reasons. The first was because this friend (and the other friends that I had in that old neighborhood) represented my former life. My life BEFORE Luke was diagnosed with Autism. These friends reminded me of the time in my life where I felt in control, I felt like everything was going okay, I felt confident in my ability to handle things. All of that changed when Luke was diagnosed and later when he got progressively worse. Honestly, sometimes I still feel like a broken person. I know now that life is unfair. Things can happen that are out of our control. You can be suffering and no one will be there for you. You can get left out and no one remembers you. Bad things can happen.

My old friend represented a life where my son was whole (in what I naively thought “whole” meant at the time). He was a perfectly normal child with limitless potential. This friend and my other friends from that old neighborhood celebrated his second birthday with me. At that time, we were aware that he might be autistic, but we weren’t sure how serious it would be. We were told “mild” autism. Mild autism would be just fine. He would be quirky but able to function. After Luke’s second birthday, things got worse. He still doesn’t speak. None of the therapies have produced tangible results yet. I do still have hope, but I am also trying to accept that Luke may never be able to live on his own. Anyway, I guess I cried so hard because the visit reminded me of what my life once was and what it will never be ever again.

The visit brought up intense sorrow for me. I never wished that Luke would be disabled. I know that it is a great blessing in some ways, but in other ways it is incredibly painful. His disability is rather isolating. Not many of my friends really understand what it is like. (Of course, at other times when I am in a good mood, I think that Luke’s autism is the best thing that ever happened to me and that I am privileged to see life from his unique perspective. But I don’t always have this positive attitude).

I also cried for another reason. This friend had invited me over and made me soup and homemade rolls because she heard that I was sick. And she sent me home with rolls and soup to feed my family that night. All because she cared about me. I cried because I don’t often receive this much kindness. It has been hard to make friends like this in my new neighborhood. The only word to describe my new friends is BUSY. They always seem so busy. Too busy to have any time for me, I sometimes think. So I guess I was also crying because I wish I had more friends and more people that cared about me.

I think 3 years ago, I thought the world was simpler. I thought that I could handle everything that came to me. Now I know that the world is not simple. I cannot judge anyone by their outward appearance. Sometimes we have no idea what is going on inside a person and the hurt and pain they may be feeling.

An Invitation

This friend invited me to come to a monthly girls night where I will see the other old friends that I had 3 years ago. I’m honestly a little scared to go. What if I break down sobbing right in front of them? I know that if I did break down, they would be so compassionate. But no one likes to cry in front of others, do they? No one likes to admit that they have pain and weakness and things broken inside of them.

I think I will commit to going to this monthly girls night, even if I don’t want to go. The price I will have to pay is maybe some negative emotion. I might feel some embarrassment (if I start crying), some sorrow (if I think about my life before Luke became autistic), some jealousy (if I think of how easy my life would be if I had normal kids). But that’s all. It’s just negative emotion. I can handle negative emotion.

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