Lean In

Lean In – I saw this book title in Chapters yesterday. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to have a quick peek, but I have heard about this book in the media. In a nutshell it is a sort of a non-feminist manifesto about women taking charge of their careers and ‘leaning in’ to pursue their goals despite setback and/or ‘mental obstacles’. Having not read the book, I’m pretty ill equipped at commenting on it. At first glance and upon reading a few reviews, I’m not sure I’ll even give it a read. I’m not sure I am the right audience for it. Since Kate has been sick I have not been at work. My career has been effectively sidelined for a more important reason (although one that doesn’t pay as well financially). No amount of ‘surmounting the mental obstacles’ is going to get me back in the workforce at the pace I was going. And believe me, I’ve tried. So why even mention it?  What inspired this post is simply the title of the book, “Lean In”. That statement hasn’t left me for the past few days. Lean In. It’s a synonym for ‘one foot in front of the other’ or ‘just keep swimming’; two other powerful motivating metaphors for me.

Just keep moving forward.

So I’ve been reflecting on why ‘moving forward’ is such an important mantra for me. How does it serve to motivate me? As I look around me, I have set myself up in life to ‘move forward’ to continue to push through. When things get tough, I put my head down and I push through. I don’t look for a way out anymore. Is this a characteristic of the ‘special needs parent’? Has it developed or have I always had it – and it’s simply been challenged and honed even more?

I don’t often look at the awesomeness or the enormity of major challenges in their entirety anymore. If I did, I would feel daunted and worse, desperate. I would be overwhelmed and likely suffer a lot of anxiety. That is not to say I am not aware of the complexity of the challenge or how long it might take to get through, my former ‘policy wonk’ hat won’t let me forget to be aware of the ‘big picture’, but I don’t focus my attention there for long. And when we are in crisis, look out. I have the game face on and I power through. But that surge of adrenaline and focus is finite – and our experiences over the past 5 years have drained my ability to recover from those focussed efforts of intensity and coping with acute challenges.

Caring for a medically complex and special needs child is such a challenge. The enormity, complexity and unexpected obstacles of each day can be overwhelming. If I look at the bigger picture and consider all the things that have such an impact on Kate; her disease, her multiple medical conditions, her regular acute episodes, lack of treatment, no cure, progressive disease, uncertain future, whether she will live to be an adult, what her future holds…and more. The enormity makes me want to curl into a ball and hide in a corner rocking myself. It is overwhelming. It makes me never want to come out of my room. It makes me want to scream.

So I try not to face that enormity. I try to Lean In to the day and tackle what comes my way. Will it be a screaming day? Will she have good energy and we’ll be able to manage the small list of tasks I need to get done that day – or will she be so unwell she can’t go to school? Will there be good communicaiton or none? Will she have a seizure and school will call for me to pick her up? Will she need to go to the hospital that night or early the next morning? Will I be there for 3-5 days? Will the new medication work? Will I hear from the specialists about the bloodwork we are waiting for?

Yes, the questions are endless the enormity is huge. So I Lean In and I push through each moment and I get done what I can get done, one foot in front of the other, I just keep swimming.

And when it all goes off the rails, Kate and I sit and rock. And the best I can, I let it be and let the plans for the day slip away. Because that is all I can do.

There is a lot to be taking from Lean In. It is analogous to not giving up when faced when adversity. It is as simple as that. It’s really not a special recipe. I think I have always had that. My life with Kate has taught me to have that in spades.




  1. Hi Julie, Thank you for a thought provoking and heartfelt post. Recently, I read a book about ageing. The fellow writing it (amongst other stunts), went undercover as an older homeless man. He’s actually 90 and was a former writer for LIFE magazine and a war correspondent. So, he met one woman who was homeless who said, “You can live without money, but you can’t live without plans”. That’s stuck with me and I have been rolling around a post idea about that myself. But I wanted to share with you today because your post is so relevant. Stay safe on the roads today!


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