Enjoy the Silence

I’m going to tell you a secret: It’s ok to say no, to put your needs first, to self indulge.

It’s become a morbid joke that when I plan self care time, something bad happens.

Christmas 2019: T got sick for a week.

Christmas 2020: Ma had a nearly life-ending stroke on the first day of my staycation.

Fall 2021: Ma got her autoimmune disorder and her body started attacking her muscles.

Christmas 2022: My sister passed away.

Summer 2023: I got pneumonia.

As I neared my three-day staycaytion last week, I dreaded asking what next: Zombies? Alien invasion? Asteroid?

Well, you’re not going to believe this – the hubby’s grandmother passed away!

The hubby kindly took T with him to the funeral in the East Coast and let me stay home for four days.

“Words like violence

Break the silence

Come crashing in

Into my little world.”

– “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode

It’s ok to say no

Part of me felt guilty for not going, but I had carved this time to give myself a needed break.

When I returned home after dropping them off at the airport, the silence and stillness forced me to confront my thoughts and feelings.

I have exhaustion and shades of PTSD from all that has happened the last few years.

I stayed in bed and on the couch all Friday.

I recently read a caregiver’s post that parenting a child with FASD is exhausting, because we have to be hyper vigilant at all times.

This is true of T from the second he’s up.

My body crashed on Friday, because it was allowed to finally lower its defenses for four blissful days.

I slept for like 20 hours, on and off, and woke up refreshed Saturday morning.

“All I ever wanted

All I ever needed

Is here in my arms”

– “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode

It’s ok to put your needs first

As any parent, and especially of a child with FASD, what I often crave is for someone to put me out of my misery silence.

Yes, silence.

Kids with FASD often exhibit hyperactivity, impulsivity, disregulation – and this can feel and sound loudly chaotic.

My latest struggles with T are the name-calling, the talking back, the screaming fits, and hair-pulling disregulated moments.

During these moments, my responses are often not the best – and it stems from accumulated fatigue.

When my reserves are depleted, my patience, empathy, even temperament go out the window.

Then the guilt of not having responded better eats at me. You can drown out external noise but the internal dialogue is inescapable!

People often forget the caregiver too needs to be taken care of.

So these rare four days to myself – my first genuine alone time since becoming a parent – was a gift.

“Words are very unnecessary

They can only do harm.”

– “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode

It’s ok to self indulge

Waking up to quiet stillness and having this carry throughout the day was strange but welcomed.

I filled the silence with music, TV or movies – and zero human conversation, despite kind offers from friends to hang out.

I watched complete movies, like Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, without interruption or T loudly playing in the background.

I went to the gym to get my endorphin rush.

I soothed with cooking therapy, making myself buttery garlic steak on Friday.

I treated myself for meals I’ve been craving but didn’t have the time to go out and enjoy, like this delicious bowl of pho with bone marrow.

And my first Jollibee meal in a long time.

Jollibee is the only franchise to outsell McDonald’s in the local market. McDonald’s in the Philippines sells fried chicken and spaghetti to compete.

On Saturday, I followed live social media updates of Madonna’s opening night of her long-awaited Celebration Tour in London.

She opened with a fan favourite song she had never performed on tour: Nothing Really Matters. I’ve now watched this clip a thousand times.

On Sunday, my last day to myself, I slept in till Noon. It was a strange feeling, because even when the hubby lets me sleep in, I can’t fully enjoy it, because T is a buzzing boisterous noise in the background.

With 7 hours left before I had to pick up the hubby and T from the airport, I cooked a meal I’ve been wanting to make for a while, Jamaican ox tail, with Madonna playing in the background.

In keeping with the theme of slowing down, I used a recipe that required low simmering for 5 hours.

I’m pleased with the fall-off-the-bone results and it was nice to use spices and seasonings I often don’t cook with, such as rosemary, thyme and browning sauce.

We’re having this for supper during the work week ahead.

For the last supper, I grabbed takeout from a joint I’ve been wanting to check out: a hole-in-the-wall, down the street, once written about by a New York food critic in Gourmet magazine.

Check out this delicious spread of rice, one pound of crispy pork, veggies and soup. All for only $6!

I am very thankful for this gift that the hubby gave me. I love my child, my family, but sometimes, if I’m gonna be in this FASD parenting journey for the long haul, I need to give that love to myself too.

With my head feeling the clearest it has in a long while, my tummy full, my body relaxed, I headed off to the airport.

41 thoughts on “Enjoy the Silence

  1. I think self indulgence – aka ‘you time’ is an essential part of a balanced life diet, to this is fabulous to see – that garlic buttery steak is making me hungry lol 😋

    1. Thanks Cherryl. The steak is so easy to make. The key spices are salt, pepper – and cook it in oil, butter, smashes garlic and two sprigs of Rosemary. Enjoy! 🙂

      And yes, you wrote about slowing down in your recent post. And self indulgence is part of that slowing down ritual. 😊

    1. Thanks Faith. It is a very challenging parenting journey for sure. So we gotta make sure to take time for ourselves too.

      Do you hear much about FASD in your school and community?

      1. It sounds challenging. I have heard of this from the primary section. On my side, I have only had autism and dyslexic learners who are handled by a professional but you still work with them.

    1. Thank you. Peace and quiet juxtaposed with good food and music really is such a blessing. 😊🙏 And yes, I could listen to Depeche Mode all day.

    1. Thanks Gary. Quality time to yourself is so important and yes, well earned!

      And I love Depeche Mode. Anything from the 80s really. And I’m glad T has inherited this love of 80s too – Queen, Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode, Modern Talking, Madonna, etc.

  2. Oh my goodness. So glad you took the time for yourself and clearly put it to good use, Ab. Hugs! Caregivers need to reclaim time however they can. 😉❤️😉

  3. Hi AB, you’ve been through a lot these past few years. I’m so glad to see that you had a real staycation! You deserve it. Sometimes, it’s hard to find the quiet moments to reconnect without ourselves. I’m sorry about your husband’s grandmother. Hopefully, he and T had a safe trip. Make sure you have another self care break planned! BTW, your food always looks so delish! ❤️

    1. Thank you Belle. The hubby and T made it back home safely. I will admit part of me was worried something would happen while they were away but just put it out of my mind to fully enjoy the rare gift of time to myself. 😊

  4. Sorry to hear that the hubby’s grandmother passed away and that your unlucky streak of bad things happening whenever you take some time off for yourself continues. I’m sure it was a tough decision to not go with your hubby and T to the east coast, but it sounds like you made the right call to recognize that you just really needed some time for yourself. That way you can be stronger and recharged for when your family returns.

    1. Thanks Linda. I can’t believe my morbidly amusing luck. 😆 I don’t regret not going, despite the initial guilt. It was what I needed.

      Hope you and K are doing well. I can’t wait to see your Thunder Bay and Neys photos.

      1. Glad to hear. It’s tough to get over the initial guilt, but it’s always good to listen to your body and put your well-being first!

        We’ve been trying to make the most of the fall while the weather is still somewhat nice. We’re actually heading to Point Pelee this weekend for what will likely be our last excursion for awhile.

      2. Thanks! It was a little chilly over the weekend, but it was nice to be out in nature and enjoy the fall colours. It’s hard to believe that the next time we return to Point Pelee, it’ll be with our little tater tot.

      3. Wandering through Canada will be a lot different with a small one but in a good way. I can’t wait to see the updates!

  5. I’m sorry for your and your hubby’s loss. I’m glad you were able to sleep and get some mental health therapy. Those oxtails (and all the rest of the food) looks delicious. I have some in the freezer as I ask for them every year when we butcher the cow, ok not ox tail but cow tail. Anyhow, there is always so much fat I can barely eat them. I even cook them in the slow cooker all day. I may have to try your stovetop method. Also, you are human so don’t beat yourself up for needing this time you had alone.

    1. Thanks Diane. I know you saw it from a different perspective through your work with your clients. It is hard draining work. 😊

      It’s so awesome you get your meats directly from the butcher. I should think about it. The ox tail was definitely a treat. I hear ya on the fatty bits. I cooked mine and put it in the fridge overnight so that the fat could congeal at the top. Then I scraped the thick layer off before reheating and serving the meal. That might help? If you do make ox tail, you’ll have to try Kare Kare, a Filipino version of it made with peanut butter! 😊

  6. Wow, what a list of the unexpected cutting in to the downtime. I’m not surprised that you slept for 20 hours. It’s like we think if we just keep rolling, it’ll be fine. But trying to account for the debits we are continually taking in doesn’t work without the recharge.

    Loved this post and your list of all that you did with your silence. The music, the time alone, the food. And for $6?

    What I loved most is that you know what will recharge you and spent the time according to what you needed – not responding to invitations to friends.

    Sorry for the loss of Hubby’s grandmother. Hope you have a great week with your refilled grace pool intact!

    1. Thanks Wynne. It was a really nice few days. And yes, that marathon sleep on Friday was unexpected but felt really nice.

      The food was really a nice treat. I still can’t get over the $6 meal! 😆 Gonna go be going back for more.

      And yes, the offers to hang out were appreciated but what I really needed was just silence and alone time. It was nice!

  7. I’m a firm believer in finding time off for ourselves, because one can only go so far and give so much before starting to have breakdowns. By having a healthy body and a healthy mind, we can bring a lot more positive impact to the people we love. Society can judge, but they don’t always know better. Btw, the Jamaican ox tail looks really good!

    1. Thanks Bama. I appreciate the kind words. And totally agree that a healthy body and mind – and spirit – are the key to lasting through this long marathon called life and for other loved ones in our life too.

      The ox tail turned out really well. The broth recipe is easily transferable to other types of meat too – thinking of beef cheeks next. 😊

  8. You always surprise me Ab, talk about a throwback with Depeche Mode, lol.
    Sounds like you haven’t had time to grieve your sister or tackle hurdles before another comes. I’m glad you took some time for your self & not to take away from the hubby, but I know you have a lot on your plate. Self care is vital, not only to be at our best to be able to support the ones we love, but also because you deserve it my friend!

    1. Thanks Tammy. I do love 80s music. It is a fantastic era of music! I think your comment about hurdles is an apt one. It’s literally been a long hurdles sprint, jumping over one after another. But glad to have to had the time to just stop and process it all. The silence really helped! 😊

  9. So sorry for your loss Ab. Sorry too that every time you plan some self-care time . . . the world seems to go crazy. As you correctly point out, you need that time. My one bone of contention. It’s not self indulgence. Every parent needs time to recharge and get their batteries going again. Throw in being a parent of a child with special needs, it’s even more of a BASIC need. I’m glad it worked out for you. Sounds like you did exactly what you needed. So happy for you!!!!!

    1. Thanks Brian. The timing is questionable but I do realize that in the grand scheme of things – and everything else going on in the world – I have much to not complain about. So it becomes morbidly humorous instead.

      I do appreciate the comment about self indulgence. I think as parents, special needs of not, we often put our needs last. And that when we do focus on them, it feels like indulgence! 😆

  10. Oh Ab, Great post. When we used to do presentations for families, we would compare the mantra of the flight attendants telling people to put their oxygen mask on first, so they can help others the same goes for caregivers. You have to take care of yourself so that you can help others.
    I have so much trouble saying no. It’s something I’m still working on even at my age.
    I love your blog because it gives everybody the permission to say hey I need some me time. And to enjoy it.

    1. Thanks Vickie for this and for your email too. Hope your RV trip is going well. Confirming I got the comment, although I had to approve this one when I’ve never had to do so before. WordPress acts strangely sometimes.

      Thanks for the kind words. I think you get it with having raised Jess. The flight attendant mask analogy is the best at explaining what it takes to make it through the marathon of special needs parenting and life in general. 😊

      Hope you’re having a great time on your RV trip despite the events happening around the world.

  11. So sorry Ab, for the loss in the family.

    As humans we seem to have the hardest time realizing that we just can’t do it all or be everything for everyone else so I’m so glad that you took the step you needed to do what you needed for you. I sincerely hope that it helps to renew a calmer, focused and less cranky and overwhelmed Ab!

    1. Thanks Deb. I was thinking about the recent caregiver post that you shared, which resonated with me on multiple levels. Respite is so needed for the multi-tasking caregiver. 😊

  12. First off, Depeche Mode? Yes!! I love your line about how people often forget the caregiver too needs to be taken care of, and I’m so happy your hubby give you that gift of alone time to reset, recalibrate, and renew yourself for the days and months ahead. Hopefully, you’ll have the opportunity to offer the same kind of break to your hubby… but “just because” rather than by unfortunate circumstances.

    1. Thanks Erin. Depeche Mode has some great songs. 80s music in general is a great timeless era.

      Yes, the respite was really awesome and giving the hubby a free weekend of errands this coming weekend. Team work makes the dream work!

Leave a Reply