I don't know exactly when or where I learned to keep feelings inside. You just learn as a child. No crying. Don't be scared. Be strong. Be brave. Be a big girl. And there were many times I didn't feel what I was supposed to feel- brave or strong or ready or accepted or normal or pretty, but I realized if I acted like I did, no one knew the difference. So I learned to pretend. I pretended to feel good enough or smart enough or skinny enough. I've starved and exercised and eaten my feelings while desperately hoping to appear okay to the rest of the world. I realized funny masked pain and funny made people happy, so I learned funny. Like an animal I adapted to my environment.
I still don't always know the appropriate time to act act as if and when it's good to be real. Sometimes you have to be outwardly strong, sometimes it's best to act as if, even if you don't feel it. Sometimes you must take deep breaths and shower and stand and drive and talk and smile and sometimes even wear lipstick when you feel like falling to the ground and disintegrating.
Your son meets the diagnostic criteria for Autism, the nice doctor said. And the way he said it and the specific wording he used was well thought out and kind and appreciated by me in some parallel world. I had no idea that just minutes before, the son I thought I gave birth to was dying with each check I made on a screening questionnaire used to diagnose autism. My previous life in pharmaceutical sales left me well equipped to handle physicians. Hell, I'm surprised I didn't try to talk him out of it -but I didn't have a single thought in my brain in that moment. If he would take back the words, it wasn't real then- right?
And right then it felt like my almost 3-year old son Greyson, was drowning right in front of my eyes and I couldn't save him. I was in slow motion. I failed him. I let him catch autism, a condition with no cure. I was in a room with a doctor and he couldn't even tell me how to fix it all. Greyson had autism and it would never ever go away. Life will never be good again, I thought.
Greyson sat alone on the floor quietly playing with a truck. I didn't cry very much. Just some excess tears with a force so strong they spilled over. I tried to take deep breaths but all the oxygen had been sucked from the room. I too was drowning right there with Greyson. I wanted to give up and stop struggling. I tried to regain my composure because I didn't want to look weak or come undone.
Steel. Strong. Unwavering.
But inside there was only pain. White hot searing pain that left me unable to take an entire breath. My heart fluttered like a hummingbird and my mind checked out. I became a bystander watching a movie of a girl I never wanted to be. I had a piece of paper on the desk in front of me to take notes, pen in hand. When I looked at that paper weeks later to see what I had written, it only contained a few random squiggles. My hand couldn't remember how to tell my mind how to write letters. My head was broken. It matched my heart. I know I was talking with the doctor, but I didn't hear any of the words after that autism one.
I still struggle with needing to be strong. Or at least appear strong. I am strong...sometimes. I also cry and feel lost and hopeless and unnormalish and sometimes come messily undone. One certainly can't cancel out the other. I get my feelings hurt easily because they are so close to the surface, but chances are I won't let you know. You'll have no idea you even phased me. I don't hide who I am when I'm here with you- but sometimes I have to sternly remind myself: Be truthful. Even if it isn't shiny.
But I have to go to meetings and appointments and breathe and smile and make small talk. I have to Mom and be strong when I sometimes want to fall to the floor and give up. I have to expose myself in a world that is sometimes painfully sharp, and in order to function I must somehow be strong. Sometimes I know that's exactly the right thing to do.
16 months ago I heard words that changed everything. I'm not sure how, but somehow between then and now, things started to make sense again. I could finally breathe again.
If I would have fast forwarded to this weekend and caught moments, I would have fallen to my knees and sobbed, thanking God. I didn't know that autism and absolute moments of true bliss could ever coexist.
This weekend we went on a day trip to Pismo Beach, a 13 square miles city in the Central Coast of California. It was our first time, and it was Heaven.
It was at this moment on the boardwalk that he realized that we were at the beach.
Greyson was the beach. He was the sand. He was the sun and the ocean. It was a rare and cherished moment where his idea of happy and my idea of happy, beautifully harmonized together.
Greyson conducted his own musical symphony with each wave of his hands in the powdery soft sand.
I'm pretty sure Parker was a merman in a previous life.
It's one of the best days I've had in a long time. I was sad to go home. It's okay that good days can't last forever though, because it also means that the bad ones can't either.
Love, love, love...
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