My goal in writing this blog has always been one thing. World domination.
Ok, fine, I’m kidding. But I do want to reach as many people as humanly possible with my words on this screen. I want to talk about capital L Life and connect with like and opposite minded people. Genuine connection. Genuine conversation. I want to talk about Diversity and autism and acceptance, because boy have my boys taught me more about the human experience in ten years than I learned in my entire life before that. I want to talk about the difficulties in accepting the differences in our own selves, because how can we truly celebrate diversity in others, if we hide our own differences in shame? I am a big old work in progress, and I believe examining and understanding our own patterns in life can help us see where we are stuck or holding ourselves back. We all deserved to be loved, exactly the way we are.
I love a good story. Reading takes me places the world can’t or won’t. It takes my brain out of its overthinking circle. When I read, I am free. I love writing almost as much, although it takes more effort. It’s a way to release, to connect, to organize thoughts and to make sense of things that don’t always make sense at first. It’s kind of like working out- I often dread it before, and then once I start I wonder- why don’t I do this more?! When I’m writing, I feel most like me.
When do you feel most like you? I think that holds very important answers to questions we don’t ask ourselves nearly enough.
Recently the boys and I participated in a promotion for our local mall. Basically, we got to go shopping and then I shared about it on social media. Like many of you, I have a love/hate relationship with Social Media. I love the education and the connections it provides, but it also often opens the doors to comparisons that leave me feeling annoyed or less than. It feels like so much of it now is a person selling only a product with an image of themselves or their life in a way that feels incredibly inauthentic. There’s a huge focus on what we look like, what we buy and what our life looks like from the outside in. Much of it is curated to be on trend and on brand, to look perfect and to be aesthetically pleasing to the eye. I love beautiful pictures, but also long for a big dose of reality mixed in.
As I was putting together a reel of our shopping experience, I decided I would enjoy the experience of storytelling through pictures and videos. I’ve always run full speed away from anything remotely “influencer”y. (Ironically, I am easily influenced and let Instagram tell me what I need to buy on the regular.) But over the past several months, I found myself wanting to engage in that realm with my boys.
I didn’t grow up knowing much at all about “Special Needs” anything. When I was exposed, I was uncomfortable. Back then the world rules were- “Don’t stare and don’t ask questions.” There was an unspoken, (and sometimes spoken) message that these people were broken and to be pitied. We mustn’t make them feel worse than surely they are already feeling! Anyone who engaged with these individuals as parents or teachers were “Saints!” and “Angels”!
Fast forward to three months before my first-born son-Greyson’s -Third birthday, diagnosis day. The day I realized we were part of that club, even though we never asked to join it. There was a long parenthesis of time after that contained mourning and fear and deep sadness and loss. We had no choice but to go through the motions of living life. And in doing so I slowly began to realize- in so many ways- that the story I had been sold about Special Needs and Disability was wrong, and that we could still have a beautiful life. I searched online far and wide for someone who could show me- yes, life will be hard, harder than most- but it will also be MORE beautiful too. I couldn’t find it so I began relentless photographing my boys and writing in this blog to remind myself- and to show others, that life is whatever you set out to make it. I wanted the world to see as much good in my boys as I do.
It’s been ten years now. And I’ve forgotten and remembered my purpose too many times to count. I’ve let the world leave me feeling defeated, and confused. The irony is that my boys’ diagnosis isn’t what leaves me gutted- it’s the world who isn’t always accepting of different. A world that loves hashtags about diversity and autism inclusion once a year, and then goes back to being its regular mean girl self when the month on the calendar flips. I’ve realized there are so many more good folks than bad, but like the iconic scene from the movie Pretty Woman says:
Vivian: People put you down enough, you start to believe it.
Edward Lewis: I think you are a very bright, very special woman.
Vivian: The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?
The bad parts are easy to remember.
I wrote about Diversity in Advertising in before it was “on trend” (must be said with a snotty accent) back in 2014 HERE. In it I share:
But the world still needs more real and less perfect. I want to help you show the world what we as their parents already have the privilege of knowing- These are some of the most amazing and beautiful children in the world, and they deserve to be seen and celebrated. These kids struggle to overcome things that come so easily to the rest of us. Things we take for granted. They teach us about patience, hard work, unconditional love and how to find the truest of beauty in the unexpected.
And recently I realized- Being an influencer is actually perfect for us! It doesn’t have to be synonymous with fake and expertly curated. It exposes people to Special Needs in ways I wasn’t growing up. It gives other people with Disabilities someone who is relatable. And I get to control the content making sure it’s in line with things my boys do and love anyway. I can combine my love for telling a story and taking pictures. Here are some outtakes from our afternoon...
I’m trying to learn how to connect with an audience who doesn't often value the art of telling a story in more than one slide or ten seconds.Time Magazine wrote an article You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish.
"The average attention span for the notoriously ill-focused goldfish is nine seconds, but according to a new study from Microsoft Corp., people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the effects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain.
But I’m committed to keep living our story, and to keep sharing it while remaining true to my boys and myself in the hopes that one day the world will see what I see.
Plus, we get to have fun while doing it. I think there are more of us who love a good story here on earth still than we realize.
Here's our final Reel HERE