Jan 12, 2012 0 Share

The Year of Wishful Thinking


Collage of pictures of author, with text, "Wishful Thinking."
Photo by Caroline McGraw

This January, for the first time in many years, I feel no need to make a New Year's Resolution. To understand the significance of this, you have to understand that I have made New Year's Resolutions ever since I can remember. Every year, I've vowed to change my life and achieve a laundry list of goals in the process. Because I'm a determined individual, I usually succeed at effecting change. I've published books, transitioned from one role to another, and traveled thousands of miles across the globe, all thanks to past New Year's Resolutions. 

So why the lack of resolution this year? Why the absence of desire? In part, at least, I think it's thanks to Autism After 16. Rather than having a specific resolution this year, I'd like to have a theme, something that informs the rest of my goals. Since we’ve already introduced 2012 as The Year of the Aspie, I'd like to introduce my take on the concept: The Year of Wishful Thinking. To quote that editorial, it's the year of, “I choose to believe it can happen.” I mean this not be naïve, but to be hope-filled. I want permission to be full of wishes again. I want to pay attention to facts and realities, yes, but I also want to let myself dream bigger. It's child-like wonder that I want to recapture in my days; it's confident trust that I want to embody. 

In this theme, I have no better teacher than my family members. First, I think of my brother, Willie. Willie doesn't make a secret of the things he hopes for. When asked, Willie will tell you with confidence that he wants our family to have another dog, and he might even suggest a specific breed. In the same way, Willie used to tell me that he wanted to go back to his former high school. It was a desire that broke my heart, since he wasn't able to stay at the school due to behavioral challenges. Yet even though Willie knew it wasn't likely to happen, he didn't give up hoping. He didn't give up wishing, and I think that's part of why he's able to work at a day support program now. He knows the pain of a dream deferred, and he knows not to take a school or job for granted. 

In the same way, when I felt hope was lost for Willie to live at home safely, my mother and father didn't give up wishing that Willie could still be a part of our family. They spent countless hours (and countless dollars) to help him move through his challenges, and they're still doing so today. When I look at their lives, I see that real love is always like that, always hoping, always persevering. 

My family members are the reasons for my year of Wishful Thinking, but there's a bit more to the story of the picture above. Last year, I attended a seminar wherein participants created collages of images that spoke to them. At the end of the day, I kept just a small corner of the larger whole, the part that was most significant for me. In this part of the collage, I pasted a background with the words “Wishful Thinking” next to two pictures:  one of me a toddler, the other of me as a matron of honor in a 2010 wedding. My 25-year-old self looks like my younger self thanks to the fact that as the wedding party recessed, the guests blew bubbles. When they did, the little girl within the grownup was entranced. Lastly, there's a picture of a piece of jewelry pictured in the corner. It's a necklace by Jeanine Payer, with a gold and silver butterfly pendant. The inscription is a quote from the poet Rumi:  “Dance when you're broken open / Dance when you're perfectly free.” 

That lovely necklace: Over $1,200. Having a family that helps me to believe in dreams come true, in a wish come clear:  Priceless.