I just returned home from a dream vacation to Scotland, my first trip beyond North America. It was so empowering to travel such a great distance. To say I’ve expanded my horizons is an understatement.
Little did I know that expansion would continue when I returned home to find a river running through my garage. A pipe burst in a wall while I was gone, and I wrote most of this from a coffee shop because my water was shut off and a crew of seven ripped out walls, ceiling and a door. The photo above is me in my guest bathroom with the culprit, that bent copper pipe.
In the past, this would have been a catastrophic event. But I’m relatively unaffected. In fact, it’s kind of exciting.
I’ve been wanting to remodel my home for a couple of years, but I’ve never progressed beyond watching Flip or Flop reruns. I’ve been afraid because I’ve never worked with a contractor before.
Now I don’t have a choice. I have to work with a contractor. The universe has a way of forcing you to expand your horizons. Rather than bemoan my misfortune, I’m grateful for the opportunity to grow.
And the great part is, it’s covered by insurance. It's like contractor training wheels.
How did I manage to turn this situation around? The answer to that question begins with why you think we’re here. The meaning of life.
I believe our experiences in this life, on this planet, are designed to refine our souls. And don’t most spiritual belief systems support that idea? Whether you believe in a religion that includes end-of-life judgment, or a religion that includes reincarnation, or even quantum physics, there is one common thread: every day presents several opportunities to shape our destiny.
Here’s a story about the day I first made that realization. It was almost exactly 20 years ago, right after I bought my first new car. It was a gorgeous red Jetta, one of the special Wolfsburg models that were built in Germany.
One day, I was driving around LA and I tried to change lanes as someone else was trying to enter the same lane. I almost hit them. A loud voice in my head said, SLOW DOWN. It was weird, like the voice wasn’t my own thought, but a warning from somewhere or someone else. But, being in my 20s with a kick ass new car that was built to drive on the Autobahn, I didn’t listen.
Less than a mile later, as I was crossing an intersection, an old lady ran a red light and darted in front of me. I couldn’t stop in time and we collided. I had just wrecked my first new car, only four months after I had bought it.
Not long afterward, I realized that had I listened to that voice, I wouldn’t have been in a wreck. Maybe the lane changing incident earlier was a warning. Or maybe it was a test, and the wreck was my big fat cosmic F. Either way, I knew I had been given a warning, and I ignored it. It wasn’t a coincidence.
Ever since then, I’ve looked at delays and unexpected events differently. It’s okay to feel a little disappointment or even anger when things don’t go as planned, but it’s important to let it go and look at the situation from a positive perspective. Whether it’s a red light when you’re running late, a burst pipe while you’re on vacation or a disabled child, there is always a positive perspective.
I don’t know why it’s positive for Tosh that he has autism, but I can say without a doubt that his disability is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Before he was born, I should have developed better organizational skills, the courage to pursue self employment and the patience of an adult. But I didn’t. So, the universe shoved me into the deep end of the skills pool.
Learn this shit, the universe lovingly said. You need it.
So I did. In the process, I’ve become the person I’ve always dreamed I could be. Am I am so thankful!
Changing the way you think isn’t easy, but it gets easier with practice. If you’ve ever successfully changed a habit – like if you've quit smoking or learned to count to 10 before losing your temper – you’re already halfway there. Become aware of your negativity, catch yourself and turn it around.
Here are some positive mindset strategies that have helped me:
Heather Anderson is a blissfully happy autism mom and lover of life in Southern California who is on a mission to help autism parents rediscover their happy place.
Please join me on this beautiful autism journey. The Autism Oasis is a fun, supportive and educational community where your personal development is just as important as your children's. You are more than just a caregiver!