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For a while, my life was pretty miserable. My daughter had severe autism. I didn’t smile, laugh, or even enjoy anything. Every possible resource I had went to my daughter—no little treats for myself. No shopping. No eating out. Not even haircuts for a bit. And when I would drive from my house to the supermarket, there was a restaurant that I would pass by. There was a beautiful window with an arch. I would see people sitting at the table, laughing and eating. So different than what my reality was at that time.

Every time I passed by that window, I would say to myself, “When my daughter is better, I will go sit in that window, eat, and laugh.” I didn’t tie any specific goals to when that would be or what would qualify as “better.” It was just something that I would tell myself to inspire me. I wanted to laugh again. I wanted to enjoy life again. Every time I drove past that window I had a choice – look at it with anger and resentment that my life wasn’t great or look at it with anticipation of life getting better. I didn’t need anything else making me feel bad, so I chose anticipation.

A few years later, I drove past that window and realized that my daughter was doing great, things were moving forward with her, and that my life was indeed better. I decided it was time to have a meal at that table, laugh, and enjoy. So I asked my friend to join me, and she said no. I was so hurt. She said, “That restaurant isn’t good. The food is overrated.” I told her I didn’t care about the food and explained how that window motivated me through some tough times. That didn’t persuade her at all. So I let it go because I didn’t want to go alone.

A few weeks later, I asked another friend, and she also told me no. She said pretty much the same thing my other friend said. The food wasn’t good, it was overpriced, blah blah blah. I was hurt again. I explained what it meant to me, and she said she didn’t want to spend the money and was quite adamant about not going there. So I let it go.

Several months later, I drove past that window and became determined to dine there, in that window, laugh, and have fun. So I asked another friend, but I first told him what it meant to me and then asked if he would go with me. He told me the exact same thing that my two other friends said – the food wasn’t good, that it was overrated, he didn’t want to wear a shirt with buttons, blah, blah, blah, but he said if it meant that much to me, he’d go although he really didn’t want to. That was good enough for me.

I made reservations specifically for that window seat. Oooh it felt so good to sit there. I was so happy. I told him the story of how many times I drove past this window and promised myself that not only would my daughter get better but that I would also treat myself for all the hard work I did to get us there. I told him how two friends turned me down to come to this window and celebrate but that they just made me more determined…just like when sometimes things didn’t go well with my daughter…it just made me more determined. We laughed about everything. The waitstaff enjoyed us being there—it was such fun. I felt so satisfied with myself and my actions in life.

We had dinner. I’ve got to admit, my friends were right, the food wasn’t that good. LOL. However, it was not overrated because I was celebrating success! The food was irrelevant. My daughter was doing great, my life was so different, we both were happy, and I followed through on celebrating success. Life felt wonderful.

So do it. Go celebrate. I am sure there is something your child is doing now that people thought could never happen. That changed because of your hard work. Your determination. Your love for your child. You’ve worked hard, celebrate your successes, and be excited for what more will come.

COVID has changed a lot in life. I just drove by that restaurant, looked in the window, and saw a “For Sale” sign. The restaurant has closed due to COVID. I have no idea what will happen to that building. Will another restaurant open there? Will there still be a window seat? Who knows, and that’s how life goes. If I didn’t take the time to celebrate success right now, I would be feeling regret rather than satisfaction.

I am so proud of my determination. I knew my daughter’s life could get better, and I worked relentlessly to make that happen. And I made sure to celebrate success, even when two friends wouldn’t celebrate with me.

I’m sure you’re doing a lot of work for your child. Are there setbacks? Sure. Does everything go perfectly? No. But that doesn’t stop you for long, right? When you get an opportunity to celebrate success, take it. There’s no guarantee of a tomorrow.

Yes, there will always be more to do, but if you don’t reward yourself for your successes, how will you maintain the energy to continue?

This post originally appeared on Navigating AWEtism.