In the past, during the month of April (which is Autism Awareness Month), I’ve written about our experience with autism—about helping Benjamin as he learns to navigate the world. And I’ve written a lot about ways in which he’s felt rejected by that world and about the importance of teaching our children to be accepting of those who march to a different drumbeat. In the past few months, I’ve written about the pain of seeing your child suffer and the heartbreak of feeling so helpless to stop the suffering. There have been so many times I wished I could rock Benjamin for hours like I used to. When he was small and didn’t yet have the words to tell me what he was distressed about, rocking was our way of connecting. It was something I could do that helped, and sometimes it was just as soothing to me as to him.
So now I want to talk about hope. The last nine months have been the most difficult months I’ve ever gone through, but also the most rewarding. Benjamin’s journey back to wholeness has been arduous, and unfortunately, much of the help from outside sources we were hoping for didn’t happen. So, as when he was small, I’ve often felt as though it was largely up to me (by the grace of God) to help him into the light. So much of our profound journey together would be impossible to describe, so I won’t try. A couple of posts back I wrote this, and it probably describes it about as well as I can:
In Benjamin’s journey back to wholeness, he and I have had a lot of conversations about the importance of being your authentic self, even when people reject that self. Indeed, my children will both tell you that the #1 Mommy maxim they heard from me throughout their lives is the importance of being true to yourself. Hard for all of us, but especially hard for an autistic person like Benjamin. As an autistic person navigates the world, they are constantly challenged to conform themselves to the world in ways that are often difficult and in ways that may not come naturally. So their struggle to conform, yet maintain that inner core of authentic self, can be exhausting. And often discouraging. Benjamin’s working hard to learn that balance.
And in helping him, I’ve often been reminded of my own need to remember the truths I know about myself, but sometimes lose sight of when I let the world pull and push me off balance. That equilibrium is so easy to talk about, but so hard to achieve. And that struggle for balance, as I tell Benjamin, is something we all have in common. It’s something we all share–whether we’re autistic or not. The important thing is to not lose sight of who you are or the sense of your own beauty. And to remember always who you are capable of becoming.
I love the recent picture above, but not because Benjamin is standing beside a fancy car, looking like Mr. Success. (the Infinity was neither ours nor Benjamin’s, by the way!). I love this photo because Benjamin looks so genuinely happy. He was about to head for an interview there—his first—which went very well, although he didn’t get the job.
But he’ll he heading to an interview in Raleigh next week—his first long trip alone and his most promising interview yet (he’s already done THREE phone interviews at the company, so clearly they like him). I’m telling you that because I’d like to ask for your prayers and good thoughts for him, please. We are very excited, but a little nervous, too. It’s a big step for him…and for us.
Benjamin and I recently realized that it’s been nine months since he first got sick. For both of us, his transformation in that time has been so profound as to seem like a rebirth. So with his birthday coming up soon, we talked about how wonderfully symbolic it would be if he ended up getting the job around his birthday, making his recovery period a sort of nine-month gestation.
Four years ago, Ariel wrote a wonderful Mother’s Day tribute to me on the blog she had at the time. I’ve gone back to it during difficult times when I needed help remembering my own worth and value, which means I’ve clicked back to it a whole, whole lot. I love the poem she wrote as a part of it, and have realized that it has meaning now beyond what she intended. Here’s an excerpt from it:
“Both times she gave birth,
she did so naturally. Each contraction
was a fiery push and pull, the urge
to keep us close and the need
to grant us to the world in an excruciating exit.
In Spanish, to give birth is
“dar a la luz,” to give to the light.
When I learned the phrase, I said it over
and over in my head. Voy a dar mi niña a la luz:
I am going to give my child to the light.
I imagined both a sacrifice and offering,
the greatest favor and the greatest risk.”
I’d be dishonest if I didn’t say I’m a bit anxious about Benjamin’s big step next week. But, as I did almost 23 years ago when he was born, I am going to give my child to the light. Benjamin’s birth 23 years ago was difficult and painful, and his rebirth in the past nine months has been often just as hard. But now, as then, all the pain was worth it. Well worth it. And I’ve never regretted it for a second.