The Macro and The Micro

There is a difference between the macro and the micro. The macro is the big picture. It’s the view of our life from the outside. It’s filled with generalizations. The micro is our life on the inside. It’s the day to day, minute by minute decisions and occurrences that are missed when you only see the big picture.

The macro is the view from our social media feed. It’s the images of Hawaii and hockey games, Globetrotters, and Florida. It’s the smiles and the perception of a normal family living a normal life.

The micro is the structure and planning that goes into every day that allows those experiences to happen. It’s the fallout after a game when he is too tired to regulate his behavior, or the next day when he is so tired that his routine is off and we have to start over from scratch.

The macro is seeing him leave the house with a backpack on his back heading to school. It’s math, and reading, and recess and lunch. It’s a science project or a school play.

The micro is how difficult school is for him and how he only goes for a few hours a week. It’s seeing the extra hours he puts in every day doing schoolwork and how hard he has to work trying to keep up with his peers. It’s falling behind socially and trying to make up for it in other ways. It’s 504 and IEP meetings, and lawyers to navigate a system that was not designed to support his needs.

The macro is a good job with the cool job title and working for a huge corporation. It’s the view from the tower.

The micro is the stress of a difficult job and wanting to succeed there while so much is happening at home. It’s traveling for work and being thousands of miles away, worried that I will be needed. It’s the pressure to constantly perform to keep it all together and an inability to turn it off. It’s the strain that puts on relationships. It’s the fear of it all tumbling down and losing it all.

The macro is the family living in the city, hip and trendy in a condo in the sky.

The micro is why. It’s living in the city to be closer to the hospital and the endless appointments. It’s needing to be closer to a public school that has to take him, whether they can support his needs or not. It’s removing as much maintenance from our lives so that we can fill the moments between appointments with joy instead of chores.

The macro is a kind, generous, happy kid that makes the world around him smile.

The micro is the lonely, sad, tired kid that struggles every day. It’s the kid that takes medicine three times a day that causes depression and behavior issues. It’s the kid that doesn’t have many friends and struggles to learn how to interact with the ones he does have. It’s three years on an impossible diet. It’s having things that he loves taken away because they were meant for a different life. It’s trying to figure out what is meant for this life.

The world around us is filled with these different perspectives. It’s a choice to see the world from above or to get down on our hands and knees to inspect what lies below the surface. Macro is the aggregate. Micro is the individual. Which one you see depends on where you are and which lens you choose to use to see the world.

Moving To Australia

Before my son was born, my wife and I talked about moving to Australia. It wasn’t because we were having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. It was because we had been there on our honeymoon and we loved the experience. The idea of packing up and living on the other side of the world seemed like an amazing adventure.

In a way, it’s the same reason we moved to Philadelphia. While it wasn’t on the other side of the world, it might as well have been. Moving from the suburbs to the city. From the Colorado laid-back mentality to the always-moving city. The people and culture are as different as if we had moved to another planet.

At the time, the logistics of moving were easier. I already had a job, so we only needed to pack and find a place to live. Everything else we could figure out as we got more familiar with our surroundings. But we landed in Philadelphia right before my son’s seizures started. After that, the idea of moving became a lot more complicated.

It’s no longer a simple matter of packing up and finding a place to live. “Everywhere” is no longer the list of possible destinations. Our mindset needed to shift from aspirational to practical. The nature and complexity of my son’s condition mandated more specific requirements.

We would have to research the hospitals in the area to get a feel for their ability to support my son. How good is the medical care? Do they have the testing equipment on site, like a video EEG, or would we have to travel to another hospital? How easy is it to get in to see our neurologist?

We also have to do more research on the schools. In the past, we would have asked about class sizes and the quality of the education. Now, we would need to ask more targeted questions. Can they accommodate my son’s special needs? Can he get a one-on-one aide? Is the nurse familiar with seizures and epilepsy? Will the integrate him or isolate him?

Many of the answers to these questions would remove cities from our list of potential new homes. And there are many more questions to ask, each one shortening the list.

In many ways, epilepsy has taken away choices. Where we can live is one area, but there are so many. It also forces restrictions on what job I can take, what activities my son can do, even what he can eat. I assumed that we could build our lives by picking pieces from an unlimited list of options. But instead of the full buffet, we’re limited to the salad bar.

It would be easy to be resentful. It would be easy to see these limitations that epilepsy has imposed on us make and feel like victims. It would be easy to see only loss. Loss of freedom. Loss of choice. Loss of potential. But being where we’ve been, I’m grateful for where we are. I don’t resent what we don’t have or where we can’t go because I know how special what we do have is.

I still like the idea of an adventure. I still think about moving to Australia. Maybe some day, if we can get my son’s epilepsy under control, we’ll be able to move to have that adventure. Until then, we are exactly where we need to be. The dream of living in another part of the world might seem far away. But the reality is that our journey so far has brought us closer together.

A Night (Or, At Least, A Few Hours) On The Town

Last night, my wife and I we were able to go on our first proper date (it was her birthday) since we moved to Philadelphia and since our family’s journey with epilepsy began. It was only a few hours on the town, but it came after many months of struggle.


One of the challenges that we’ve had has been to find someone to help take care of our son during the day. Up until now, it’s been primarily my wife, with me filling in after work and on the weekends. But my wife has to deal with the brunt of the behavior every day, all day, as well as struggle to find the time and attention to also give to her business, which she can’t do very often because our son needs near constant attention. And so she has bore the brunt of this for our family, sacrificed much of herself and her business, since it started.

As parents, there was no training for how to navigate this new world. We were simply thrust in to it, as was our son. We’re trying to manage his epilepsy and control and direct his behavior, while at the same time simply trying to wrap our head around what is happening and why it is happening, two questions to which we still do not have answers. Like so many families that are going through the same thing, whether it’s for epilepsy or for another condition, the relentless struggle to simply manage the day-to-day is exhausting, and frustrating, and constant. We have both broken many times, only to go to bed, wake up, and do it all over again.

Back when we lived in Colorado, we got breaks, we had jobs that we could focus on, and we went on dates. We had a few different babysitters, some as young as 15 because they only needed to play with our son and put him to bed. But now, a teenager is no more equipped for the situation than we were when we started. We needed someone who could handle the seizures, and keep him safe during an outburst, and that was trained, and capable, and able to handle the stress of working with a “special needs” kid.

While we need someone with a particular set of skills (cue Liam Neeson), our son’s condition didn’t qualify as a medical necessity that required a nurse so, again like many other families, we’re left in the middle…not a medical necessity but more than a parent can handle. If you need assistance, you need to find it yourself and pay for it yourself, too. Both of those obstacles leave many people helpless, in every sense of the word.

We’re very fortunate that we found an amazing caregiver that is patient and that works academically with our son since he hasn’t been able to attend school. But she can only come for a set number of hours a week…enough to help out and give my wife a chance to breathe, but not enough for her to actually catch her breath. We’re grateful the help and for the opportunity to go out for my wife’s birthday, especially since we know that there are other families that are not as lucky.