Hope – Scratch Your Belly, Shrug It Off, and Head Up the Next Mountain

Published December 17, 2016 by Jen Rosado from MyAlternateUniv

The bear went over the mountain

The bear went over the mountain

The bear went over the mountain

To see what he could see.

But all that he could see

All that he could see

Was the other side of the mountain

The other side of the mountain

The other side of the mountain

Was all that he could see.

 

It’s a simple children’s song, one I remember singing in music class in elementary school. It never held any sort of meaning to me – just a bear going to the top of a mountain to see what was on the other side.

But I’ve been pondering those lyrics since the song popped up in my son’s music playlist the other day. I see that bear’s journey in my mind’s eye, how he struggled up that hill, stopping once in a while to bend forward with his paws on his knees, catching his breath (because he’d be walking upright on 2 legs, of course, like he always did in the songbook illustrations). His heart was filled with excitement, his mind filled with ideas of what might lie obscured from his view – a great unknown. Oh, how he must have anticipated what lay just over the ridge.

Then I imagine him reaching the crest of the mountain and stopping in his tracks to see what he could see, his long, hairy arms dropping to his sides, his shoulders drooping as if suddenly encumbered by an unseen weight. I’m guessing he’d let out a long, frustrated, guttural bellow, the bear equivalent of “WTF”.

All that he could see, all that he could see was the other side of the mountain.

I find myself commiserating with that bear, like I’m standing there next to him, patting his back, saying, “I know it, man. I know it.” And I really do. Because my husband and I have climbed hill after hill hoping this surely will be the one hiding a more tranquil landscape, a proverbial “greener pasture”.

Ever since our son was diagnosed with autism, we’ve attended support groups, workshops, and seminars, spent hours on the phone and Internet, and explored countless treatment options. We’ve brought our son to outpatient OT, speech, and feeding therapy sessions, had him checked for seizures, addressed his GI concerns, attempted several in-home ABA and play therapy programs, brought him for cognitive, psychiatric, and educational evaluations, placed him on medication for anxiety, enrolled him in horseback riding and swimming lessons, and even built him a sensory gym in our guest room.

We’ve climbed every mountain, forded every stream, and followed every rainbow that has crossed our path.

And like that bear, we stand at the top of each mountain and survey a landscape that looks very similar, if not identical to the one we just left.

Are we headed in the wrong direction? Going east instead of west? North instead of south? Maybe we climbed the wrong mountain altogether.

Cognitively, our son is bright. He recognizes his ABC’s and numbers 1 – 10. He knows the names of some animals and the sounds they make. He can sort colors and shapes. He can even recognize some sight words and match them to their correct objects.

Yet he is non-verbal, cannot answer a “yes/no” question or communicate his wants and needs beyond a few picture cards for his favorite foods and activities.

He is 7 years old, but his communications skills remain that of a 15 – 18 month old. He is often discontented, reactive, angry – his behaviors reflect his desperate frustration to understand his world and to express himself. That’s why my husband and I have and will continue to exhaustively search for ways to help him.

We’re not looking for a miracle on the other side of the mountains we climb, just progress – an indication that we’re moving in the right direction, perhaps a few steps closer to a calmer, happier life for our boy.

Sometimes it seems as though he’s made a breakthrough. We pick up speed on the downward slope, and the momentum starts us up that next hill filled with renewed hope, anticipating what lies over the next peak.  But then it’s as if physics takes over – our momentum is slowed by the pull of gravity as we struggle up that next mountain. When we reach the top we see…the other side of the mountain…and more mountains beyond. Our arms drop. Our shoulders slump. We utter assorted curse words in disappointment.

It’s so hard to not get discouraged.

But you remember that bear? All the effort it took him to get to the top of that mountain only to realize there isn’t a land filled with golden honey beyond the crest – just another valley? Well, after taking some time to scratch his belly and gather his thoughts, it became clear to him that he now knew what was on the other side of the mountain, and that knowledge was an accomplishment in itself.  The promise of possibility still lay ahead, so he shrugged off his disappointment and headed off down the other side of the mountain, galloping on all fours toward the next rise. And as the ground gradually sloped upward again, his hope began to grow anew.

“This might be ‘the mountain’. Only one way to find out. Gotta go over it and see what I can see. And see what I can see.“

Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

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3 comments on “Hope – Scratch Your Belly, Shrug It Off, and Head Up the Next Mountain

  • Great metaphor!
    And believe it or not, just last weekend, that song was stuck in my head like whoa. It took me a while to realize I kept making tea and the Sleepytime Bear was on the box, triggering this song.
    Honestly, may we never run out of mountains, because you never can tell 🙂

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