Always Strong

This totally isn’t a way I would describe myself on the day to day, even though it’s how others often view me. I do refer to myself as a “gladiator” (thanks, chief) for surviving more than the average 40YO has had to endure in their lifetime to date. But I don’t at all look in the mirror and say “that girl in there, she is always strong.”

Maybe I should.  Maybe … I … should?

In my last blog, you could see that I needed a break from the hustle. Though 2018 was filled with more changes and much self-discovery with my family, my relationships, and my career calling, I couldn’t keep going at the rate that I was. Conversations filled by both laughter and tears with trusted friends reminded me that I don’t need to prove anything to anyone but myself, that I am running my own race, and that is ok to take the time I need to recover. After a rocky end to 2018 and realizing I wasn’t going to meet all the goals I set for myself, I decided on the word “restore” to center me in 2019.

I follow, read and absorb the work of Shellie Hipsky, Donna Anne Pace, Kristie Knights, Kristine Irwin, Jordan Corcoran, Mary Lee Gannon, Lisa Nichols, Dr. Ali Griffith, Rachel Hollis, Jen Sincero, Valorie Burton, David Allen, Steve Harvey, Ashley Stahl, Jenni Schafer, Crystal Paine, and Brene Brown to name … ok more than a few. I share these names so perhaps you can draw inspiration from these folks as well as you move through your own self-discovery and restoration. Oxygen mask … self … first. Google them. Follow them on social media and check out what they’ve done. Discover some awesomeness.

At the end of 2018, after returning to a role I hold so dear, I threw myself into about a million and one things and set so many goals for myself, that I completely set myself up for failure. I wanted to drink more water, workout between the gym and walking at least 5 days a week, excel at my job, support my family, hold down a relationship, read 20 books before the end of the year, blog once a week, write half of my draft for Imprisoned No More, participate in podcasts, write guest blogs when approached, get my finances in better order, do more home repairs, and and and and and and … ARE YOU TIRED YET? I’m tired from typing it.

When you have too many goals, you cannot help but stumble a bit and you end up half-assing everything. And you are SO. DAMN. TIRED. We are human beings living a human experience, and I need to remember that.

And going back to that for a second, I hate half-assing things. I like to whole ass them, thanks.

Anyways, I can tell you this … I have learned, processed, and comprehended important life lessons and found so much strength in my ability to cope, to move forward, to let go of what doesn’t serve me, and to be more gentle with myself.

In a recent text exchange with my boss about another of my son’s public vents on social media (frustrating, but certainly his right), he said to me “you have the resolve of a super hero, thank goodness.”

Deep down … we ALL have the ability to be superheroes. And we need to believe it.

To my readers who love, care for, educate and support someone who impacted in some way by a diagnosis …


I see you, I watch you, I hear you, and I love you, no question. Being a caretaker, being an advocate, and this whole adulting thing to boot? It’s not a simple road.

But … we can keep our cars on this road. I swear to you … you can, you will, survive. If you are reading this, you’ve survived every single day up until now, and I certainly pray tomorrow is no different!

You may not have all of the answers, and you may grow tired seeking them. You grow tired of “what school?” “what therapist?” “what diet?” “what medication?” “what social group?” “what toys?” “what app?” “”what program?” “what job?” “what nurse?” or just … “WHAT NOW?”

I had a lot of “what now?”s this year with Christian. He had many ups and downs between medication and nutritional management, finding stable work, trying to find a place for himself  socially, keeping his moods in check (and some of those moments for us were quite dark and frightening, out of respect I will stop there), and in general, navigating the adult world. It is hard for ANY 20-something, but add autism and a dash of mental health afflictions to the mix, it’s much more complicated no matter where the person falls on the spectrum.

The end of 2018 brought him some new adventures however, in that he obtained his learner’s permit after a year and a half of study and he’s learned new skills while volunteering at Kane Regional Center in McKeesport. Digging deep meeting with his OVR counselor and job coach, he said “I like food service, but I really want to help people. Maybe that’s what I should try instead of working at stores.” He was fixated more on Kane because that was where my father spent his final days, and that is where a friend of mine is a resident at the age of 38. Both as a child and today as a young adult, Christian has thrived on connection and caretaking. He enjoys supporting the activities, running the coffee socials, attending field trips, transporting residents to and from therapy and church services. Staff and the clergymen and women at the center have approached me many times, hugged me and said “We just love our Christian!” He is still hoping to land a position there, but so far, no dice. He had an interview that was “so-so” as he described it, and he hasn’t heard back yet. He’s working with his coach once or twice a week putting in applications and hustling, so I’m hoping for the best. But look at what he’s done – he is volunteering his time – 8 hour days – so he can learn a new trade. Pretty doggone cool, isn’t it?

Yes, I am letting him drive Snowflake (if you aren’t aware, that’s what I named my beloved 2018 white Jeep Renegade which is the vehicle I’ve wanted for years). If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is! He isn’t doing half bad, in fact, if I’m honest I think he picked up road skills more quickly than I did. Of course, he has yet to parallel park and he says that judging the distances for parking is hard for him. The apple does NOT fall far from the tree here, folks!

As for me, my work keeps me busy, but is rewarding even on my longest days. I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflecting and am taking steps towards becoming my best self. I’ve been around for forty years, and I plan to stick around for twice as long … maybe I’ll outlive Betty White (she can NEVER DIE), who knows?! This year is including an abundant load of personal and professional development to truly help me map out what I want to do during my blessed time on God’s green Earth. I was just accepted into a course on advocacy and policymaking, I’m going to be coached by an international mastermind (a once tenured professor who also worked in special ed, so she understands my heart), I’m going to be … PUBLISHED! … in the spring as part of a collaborative book project, will be participating in more podcasts, will be featured in an international magazine (more info on that soon!) and I am determined to finish my book come hell or high water now that I have a better idea of the direction I need to take with it.

But all that being said … I know that I have to recognize when I’m approaching my line in the sand. I may need to take moments – days even – to restore myself. As long as I don’t unpack there for an extended stay, it’s all good.

Always strong … I need to keep reminding myself of this. Even when I … we … don’t feel like we can go on, we can, and we will. I don’t like the alternative, so, I’ll keep … “keeping it moving.” Right, April? I said, am I right?!

I think I have found the phrase for the second tattoo I have wanted for years (if I get over my needle fear). Thanks, Jennifer and Hilary – xoxo.

Until next time, readers … good night and sweet dreams, my well wishes sent with abundant love. I won’t be a stranger. Pinky swear.

Author: Catherine Hughes

Passionate Advocate. Innovative Storyteller. Engaging Strategist. Author. Editor. Blogger.

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