In my experience, life’s lessons are never easy. Most lessons take a long time to learn, to make sense, to finally get the “a-ha!” moment; some lessons take a really long time. Lessons are markers along the trail that is my life. Some of the markers have been more obvious than others, and some have remained hidden for years. Many times Jaichima told me in various ways that there would be a time when certain lessons would come for which I would need to do some work in preparation, and that my first duty was to raise Kyle and make sure I supported him before I continued upon my own path. Soon after Kyle came to Arizona, she let me know that it was time for me to go and be on my own, to put in to practice what I knew and prepare to learn more. It was hard for me to step away, but she let me know that there was no other way. Like a fledgling, I was being pushed out of the nest. It was completely confusing to me at the time; only after many years of reflection and long discussions with Rutury did I come to the place of understanding about it.

Even though we didn’t have the constant connection with Jaichima and Rutury, the years in the Verde Valley were peaceful and full of growth for both Kyle and me. His growth was more than the remarkable number of inches that added themselves to his physical frame. In the first six months that he was there, I watched him gather his spirit into himself and his self-esteem grew exponentially with his height.

When he moved from Napa, I made the decision to have Kyle start school in the second semester of seventh grade instead of eighth grade as he had been in Napa. He had skipped a grade in elementary Montessori school giving him the luxury of an extra year age-wise. More importantly, I knew that the past year had been extremely hard for him emotionally, and I wasn’t certain how much of his schooling he had fully taken in. I knew that he wasn’t ready for the rigors of high school, and wouldn’t be in only one more semester. I knew that he needed to have some downtime to re-group and get back on track. I made sure that Kyle understood my reasoning, and registered him as a seventh grader. As it turned out, the amount of time that he was away from school due to his surgery and recovery in eighth grade proved my decision to be a good one. He was able to keep up as I homeschooled him and entered high school right on track.

Despite the traumas of the surgery and the recovery, Kyle embraced his new life and settled in to making friends and excelling in school. I saw the brightness of his personality and his intellect return to him; he became increasingly sure of himself and I was so proud of him when another parent would come up to me at a school function and say, “You’re Kyle’s mom? Oh, I love Kyle!” His friends loved him, their parents loved him, his teachers loved him; and I loved knowing that the love they felt for him was because of the love and joy that he so easily shared with them.

For me, it was a time of not having to feel that I had to constantly be in a protective mode on his behalf. The emotional and legal haranguing with his father was over and all I had to do was support Kyle as he found his path into young adulthood. It was completely freeing for me. For the first time in a decade, I was able to just be with Kyle as I wanted to be, not in reaction or deference to the shenanigans of someone else’s misjudgments. Of course we had our times of discord, as every parent and child will do. (Will rooms ever get cleaned by themselves?) And we had our great adventures, too. Teaching him to drive…a 5 speed manual…was a saga in itself.

We built our little house in to a warm and loving home; we performed wonderful ceremonies as we marked the passing of the years with birthdays and Solstices. By the time Kyle graduated to high school, he was exploring his artistic talents and studying outside the immediate realm of school assignments. He started using an online program to teach himself how to speak Japanese. He and his friends wrote and filmed video movies, one of which was shown under the auspices of his school at the local IMAX Theater.

My explorations were centered in my professional life. After years of teaching yoga and doing both Eastern and Western forms of massage therapy, something greater was coming together in my work. Each day I learned another aspect of how chronic pain lives on in an otherwise-healed body. I read, I studied in classes, but mostly I felt what was going on in the deeper places and tissues of the people upon whom I worked. I was able to get an understanding of the reasons people still felt pain even after the initial problem had been solved. What I didn’t have were the words to express what I knew in a way that would address the emotional component. There was a lot of co-operative care with the staff psychologist at Choices, but what I heard from my clients was that they didn’t want to sit and talk about whatever was going on. They felt better after I worked on them and all that they needed was the release of the emotional energy that I was providing for them. I kept working, kept studying, and knew that somehow I would find a way to blend all the information in to a succinct form of bodywork that would address both the physical pain and the emotional pain behind it.

Kyle’s sophomore year was another great turning point for him. As much as he was studying on his own, as much global information as he was learning, as good as his homework assignments were when I checked them each night, he was failing his classes. His teachers would call me to explain that as much as Kyle knew the information (one teacher told me that Kyle could most likely teach the class without help), and as many tests that he took and got higher grades than his classmates, it still did not make up for assignments not turned in. Assignments that I had seen completed.

Was this rebellion? Anger? Boredom? Some combination of all of them? I tried to address it in every way that I could. Reasoning didn’t work; neither did cajoling or threatening. And to make matters worse, Mike had been calling the school to check on Kyle and was starting to make arrangements to get custody because Kyle was failing under my care and I was obviously an unfit mother. Fortunately, I found a therapist for Kyle that he trusted and he actually wanted to work with. At the end of a few months, we all decided that the boredom that Kyle was suffering under the government’s repetitive “no child left behind” teaching methods and scholastic programs were the root cause of his rebellion. The therapist had the answer to the problem.

As soon as Kyle turned sixteen, he got his driver’s license. He also received a cell phone from me with the admonishment that “there will be no excuses for not being where you are supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there”. And, I learned to breathe differently, and trust that he would be safe. I have said for years that the whole “separation anxiety” syndrome is split: the child does the separation and the mother has the anxiety.

Soon after that, he flew to California along with his therapist and another of his friends who was in the same scholastic predicament. They both sat for the California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE). This exam is not a GED test; it is the bona fide exam that is given to all high school seniors in California before they can graduate. In his inimitable genius way of navigating his life, Kyle did not study for the test and he scored 93%. As a sophomore in an Arizona school with much lower standards than California, he scored higher than many seniors who had been in California schools. He returned to school on the following Monday to show his diploma and say farewell to his teachers.