(part three of the #yearoftheoxygenmask.  It’s a trilogy. I think.)

January 17th, 2012.  10pm

I’m sitting on my bed, waiting for the hair color to set it.

I’m two hours away from turning 40.

I send a message to some friends.  “Quick!  Best thing about being 40. Go.  Before I cry.”

And like the amazing friends that they are, they all jumped in with reasons why their forties have been the best.

And interestingly…their answers were all the same.

Forty was the year that they started really knowing who they were.  They looked in the mirror and saw their true self.  The pretenses were gone.  The need to please everyone was gone.

Forty was the year that they started really focusing on themselves.

One friend said: “You know who you are, what matters and who your friends are.”

And another friend put it, it was the beginning of “me”.

Not in a selfish way, but in a “I’m a person too” kind of way.

I wrote back: “Oh goodness…this is making me happy and teary at the same time. That’s good right? Could also be the hair dye fumes…”

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January 18, 2012 10:40am

My Facebook status: “To my incredible amazing friends who got me over the “I’m 40″ angst…I thank you. So grateful for all the birthday wishes today. Got my birthday hugs from the boys, and hot coffee and a great present from Tim. Forty is pretty good so far…

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January 18, 2012 11pm

I am saying good-bye to my very good friends as they walk out the door.  They are five of the people who know me the best, and they came by for a spur of the moment cheesecake, coffee and chocolate covered strawberry party.  They arrived at 8:30, and we sat at my kitchen table and just talked. And laughed.  A little about autism, a lot about ourselves and our lives.

As I closed the door behind them, I realized this was the first time I had friends over in the evening in almost ten years.  My kids had never slept alone long enough or slept soundly enough to ever have anyone here.

I told Tim a while back that my thirties were about the kids, and my forties were going to be about me.  And him.  Us.

He reminded me that my forties will still be about the kids, Howie in particular.  I know that.  And being their mom is the greatest thing that ever happened to me.

But it won’t be just about them.  It can’t be.

Forty.  I can do this.  This is me.

**********

This is why my friend and I were compelled to start The Oxygen Mask Project.

Once upon a time, a group of special needs moms started talking about their lives.

They talked about how devoted they are to their children and to making sure that their kids’ needs are met.

But somewhere along the way, they had forgotten to take care of themselves.

The Oxygen Mask Project has one mission: to give parents a place to feel supported when they take a moment to catch their breath.  Guilt free.

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January 19, 2012 11:30pm

I’m still awake.  The house is finally quiet.  This has been a tough day for Howie in a string of tough days.  He’s stopped eating, only drinking his yogurt smoothies.  His aggressions have increased.  His behavior is difficult.  I can tell he feels out of control of his body. I think he’s fighting off something.  Or maybe it’s the change in weather.  I don’t know what it is and he can’t tell me.

I want to help him but I am exhausted.

And then I remember the logo from The Oxygen Mask Project:

Tomorrow morning, I’m doing something I’ve never done before.  My friend is coming over with her son to watch Lewis.  I am going out.  Not for an IEP meeting, not for a doctor’s appointment.

For a hot stone massage.

A totally guilty 40th birthday pleasure.

The in-her-thirties Alysia would have never said yes to my friend’s offer to watch Lewis.  I would have been wracked with guilt about it.  My pride would have told me to say no.

Now that I’m forty?

I am taking care of myself so I can take care of my kids.  I need a hour just for me so I can give the other 23 hours of the day to my boys and to Tim.

My friend knows that I will pay it forward.

Because that’s how we take care of each other.

This is what we do.

**********

We hope you join us over at The Oxygen Mask Project if you haven’t already.  Visit our Facebook page and cheer on other moms and dads as they take a moment for themselves.  And check out our blog for all the great posts from parents sharing what they are doing to take a moment just for them.

Let’s take that first deep breath together.

Sleep delays my life (get up, get up)
Where does time go? (get up, get up, get up)
I don’t know
Sleep, sleep, sleepy head (get up, get up, get up)
Wake it up…up (get up, get up)
You’ve got all your life (way up ahead) (get up, get up, get up)” – Get Up by REM

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