My daughter gave me a gift on the day she was born. It took me sixteen years to open it. But once I did open it, my life changed profoundly. Chloe came into this world with a bundle of challenges — everything from ADHD to learning difficulties. A whirling dervish of surprisingly destructive energy who refused to wear clothes and keep on her diaper, my sweet girl needed constant supervision just to keep her out of harm’s way and to protect the people and environments around her.
Over the course of her first 10 years, we tried every treatment imaginable and felt we had exhausted the possibilities of western medicine. After that is was more experimental treatments: hyperbaric chambers, celation, elimination diets, more specialists, more books. There was no magic bullet.
And then as my marriage to her father began to unravel, she began to have seizures — full-on, grand mal, foaming at the mouth seizures. No one’s life is without challenge, but trying to find a solution for Chloe, be a mother to my son, and continue to run my business became overwhelming, and I felt like I was slowly losing ground.
There was a day — I don’t know when it was, exactly — that I reached what I felt like was rock bottom. At sixteen, Chloe’s behavioral problems had become so great that the special school I had found for her decided to terminate her enrollment and recommended a residential program for her. Intitutionalization. My world came to a screeching halt.
And I remember trying to breathe deep, stay calm, and wondering how on earth this could be the best thing for my daughter, reeling with bewilderment.
And it was around that time that there was a morning that I remember so clearly. I was walking our dogs early and had just rounded the corner to see the sunrise beginning to glow. A breeze swirled around me and lifted my hair, and the word “sanctuary” whispered in my mind. It captivated my imagination and I found myself wondering what this luminous word could mean to my life and to my business.
As I kept this word in my heart over the next few days, I realized that this concept of creating sanctuary was actually at the very heart of my business as an interior designer. I began to experiment with creating a sanctuary space for Chloe and for myself. I transformed our home and my office into laboratories of sanctuary, trying just about everything that I could to create an environment that would nurture and support not only our bodies, but our spirits as well. And an amazing thing happened: as I created peace around me, I found it inspired peace within me.
And it was through creating and spending time in my sanctuary that I came to realize this additional truth: my daughter’s path is one that only she can travel. My striving, my trying to “fix” her was actually holding her back and keeping me from recognizing the gift that she is in my life. At that moment, everything shifted.
This understanding was a deep change in perspective, and because of that I could appreciate the opportunities that followed. Due to the problems at Chloe’s school, I found out about a new grant-funded program at a local mental health center that specialized in kids that were in danger of institutionalization. That lead us to a school that, had it been custom-made, could not be more perfect for her. Chloe’s sanctuary gave her a place to process her own experiences and emotions, regroup, and present to the world the very best version of herself. And my sanctuary gave me the chance to do the same.
I realized then that sanctuary was not only a tool to survive, but to thrive. And don’t we all want that?