May 16, 2013
Listen to Your Mother show. Fourteen of us took the stage, sharing our stories to give "mother's day a microphone."
I live in San Jose, about an hour's drive south of San Francisco, and was full of nervous energy as I drove north on the 101 freeway. I psyched myself up on the drive, talking to myself out loud. I practiced my piece, especially the last line. I didn't want to get choked up on stage. I looked for messages of inspiration in the billboards. One was for an upcoming movie and stated "It's going to be epic." "It is!" I said aloud. Another, for a local hospital, pictured an enormous baby fist. I threw my fist in the air and gave that baby a fist bump as I drove by. "Bam!" I said. "Let's rock this thing."
The last time I was similarly inspired on the freeway was in the mid 1990's. I was a couple years out of college, driving from Berkeley to Palo Alto for a job interview. I drove, south this time, through the tech corridor. It was an exciting time in Silicon Valley, and I felt that entrepreneurial spirit building within me as I passed billboard after billboard for tech companies quite literally creating the future. I got the job that day, doing tech support for a startup called WebTV, despite my complete lack of technology experience. It was a defining time in my life.
Sometimes that drive down 101 seems a lifetime ago. I've been a stay at home parent for six years. We are coming up on the four year anniversary of my son's autism diagnosis. I recently had a round number birthday. It is easy to get bogged down in this life of special needs parenting, to focus on getting through the day and forget to be inspired. To feel like the best is behind us.
Listen to this mother when I tell you it is not. There is something about standing on a stage in front of 300 people and baring your soul. I owe so much to the producers of the San Francisco show, who put their faith in me. They allowed me the opportunity to not just share my story, but also to prove to myself that I have so much more to do. And to the other women in the cast, who shared so much of themselves and reminded me that we can learn from and support each other, no matter how diverse our experiences.
And most importantly, that a good cry, followed by a really great laugh, can get you through just about anything.
Photos courtesy of ZemyaPhotography. Video from Listen To Your Mother will be available this summer. I will post my piece here in the near future.
May 8, 2013
There were good things too. Jelly turned four, and we had her birthday party. I decorated her room with fairy decals while she was at school. I made cupcakes for the party. ("How to Make Fairy Cupcakes, Part 2" will be coming soon. See here for Part 1.) She had a great time. But Moe had a hard time at the party, and Jeff spent much of the time managing him. It put a damper on things. I try not to be resentful.
We had our last rehearsal for Listen to Your Mother and it was nothing short of wonderful. The show is going to be great. I'm getting more blog traffic and opportunities since being selected as one of Babble's Top 30 autism blogs of 2013. And yesterday, I had a job interview. I'm excited about it. I don't know how it will go--it is always so hard to interview over the phone--but it made me realize I do have choices. There is more for me yet.
This autism gig is hard. But as I think about many of the good things in my life--friends, this blog, the opportunity to read something that I wrote in front of a live audience--I am realizing that many of these are not despite autism but because of it. I focus a lot on the opportunities that Moe, or more accurately, Moe's disability, have taken away from me and my family. But there are good things too.
Jeff and I had the opportunity to see David Sedaris live on Monday. Moe was melting down as we were leaving and I was stressed about leaving him, even in the very loving and capable hands of my BFF. I wasn't worried about him as much as the idea of putting her through one of his meltdowns. He was overtired, so we gave him his melatonin early and went. We needed to go out together, to do something normal. We needed some fun, to prove to ourselves that even when things suck, we can still go out and laugh. It felt good.
When Moe is on a down cycle, there isn't much we can do but ride out the storm. It's an appropriate analogy, because much like the weather, these cycles will always come and go. Sometimes I don't recognize myself anymore, I am so steeped in this life of special needs. But I am slowing figuring out how to carry on, to reclaim myself, rain or shine.