Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Autism Answer: The Picture You Choose And The Picture That Chooses You

When I was a little girl I wanted to grow-up to be a mom and a writer of novels. 

I also wanted to be a woman who could morph into a cat, but that's irrelevant. tee hee!

I would picture myself with noisy, dirty, happy kids who asked me questions about the characters in my books and saw me as successful. When my kids were misbehaving I'd be consistent and kind, respecting them while saying no, and though they'd argue a bit they'd inevitably listen and understand my rules. Even thank me for teaching them my ways. When I imagined my future children they were mostly playing and discovering and following their hearts, and when they were fighting I'd sing a Mary Poppins type song and the room would turn kind and understanding again. I'd go back to writing my books and getting praise from the millions of readers who had adored my characters and story lines--all of which were a part of me.

Well.... that's not exactly what happened! I did become a mom but quickly discovered that fatigue and self-doubt were much more prevalent than the odd spoon full of sugar! And while I struggled to find my footing in the more realistic--yet, also more fulfilling!--world of parenting, writing sat in my heart but fear kept it from finding its way to my fingers. Until one day I had an idea for a movie and sat up all night writing it. The experience was fabulous! And from that moment on I promised myself I'd keep writing. So when my mom offered me the job of PR person, writing emails and articles and press releases... I was thrilled! Writing became my job, and I've been loving it and learning about it with gusto! Of course, I've yet to write that novel. Instead I write about human rights, self-discovery, neurofeedback and play therapy, parenting possibilities, and more.

The picture I chose as a child was a child's picture, and though it was exactly what I wanted it was also without the beauty of life's surprises and my own journey of learning. So now I live in the picture I chose, along with the picture that chose me.

My mom always knew that she wanted to be a famous actress and a mother to many. When she was little her mind overflowed with pictures of the Von Trapp children climbing trees and singing songs while she performed with them as well as solo in movies, and while she taught the world about equality and the magic of the universe.

Well... she had to have a hysterectomy at the age of twenty-three, having only two living children at the time (me and my sister), and so she took a break from acting classes and auditions and movie roles to adopt and raise with love and equality a bevy of disabled and abused children. We were kinda like the Von Trapps with way less money... even performed and played together on a North American Prison Tour! Eventually she helped me and my siblings so much we hardly needed more, and so she wrote songs, inspirational comedy shows, got certified and educated, advocated for neurofeedback, created podcasts and an international reality series, and so much more; teaching the world about equality and the magic of the universe.

The picture my mom had as a child was full of fame and respect and children, but it was without the beauty of struggle and discovery. The picture she now lives in is the one she chose, along with the one that chose her. 

When my second oldest son was small he would tell everyone confidently,"I'm going to be a character when I grow up!" He knew his dream was to be an actor, and everywhere we went he wore his rubber boots and superhero cape, practicing his roles and honing his talent. However a not-so-balanced brain made quite a few things challenging, and so while he worked with intense devotion on his acting, dancing, and other skills we searched for the foods and nutrients that would balance him out--adding, of course, the fantastic tool of neurofeedback. Today my son spends a large part of his time rehearsing and performing on stage, and an almost larger part of his time advocating for organic food and careful educated eating choices.

The picture he had as a child was full of pretend and imagined worlds, but it forgot to include the physical reality of a body needing nourishment to discover superhero strength. The picture he lives in today is the one he chose, along with the one that chose him.

We--myself, my mom, and my son--have always had a pretty clear picture of who we wanted to be, and so it's been fascinating and fun to see clearly that our dreams have come true. Even if they look different than when we once dreamed them.

I also have loved ones whose pictures were less clear, yet they too have grown into their dreams. 

My sister wanted to be the boss, to be seen and respected as a person and not talked down to or belittled as children often are. I'm not sure what her picture was but I'm certain it included clean lines and organized beauty. And I hope it included singing, because man can she sing!! Today my sister has four beautiful girls who are always clean--except when I babysit! She is a producer of still-photo shoots and darn good at it. Being on her set is like being with friends working together on a project of passion, everyone always feels confident and comfortable because it's both organized and relaxed. And when my sister is at home with her girls, she sings!! And it's beautiful!!

I'm betting her life today matches the picture she had when she was a child, but with the business of life also in front of the camera. No longer hiding but fully visible and making for a more rich and real experience!

My oldest son always loved to take toys and furniture apart, only to put it back together again in unique and creative ways. He would direct and--well, boss!--his brothers around while they made traps in the yard, built forts in the house, and choreographed dances for living-room family performances. I'm positive the picture he had in his head was one of him hanging out with friends, telling people what to do while they looked up at him with respect and admiration.

Today he still loves to hang out with friends, and is finding his skill as a film editor and writer. Editing Autism Tips with Tricks for my mom, and writing pieces that expose and share his beliefs about society and freedom. He hopes to one day become a film director and screenwriter. 

The picture he had as a child was born out of a desire to play and create, but forgot to include work, gratitude, and failures that teach. The picture he lives today is very much like the one he chose, along with the picture that chose him. 

I've come to believe that life, or the magic of the universe, will always give you the picture you choose, but along the way will encourage you to add depth and direction to that picture. We can see that as being taken off course I suppose. I could look at the truth that I'm about to turn forty and haven't yet written a single novel, and blame the universe or myself for giving me so many other things to care about. Or I could thank the other things I care about for giving themselves to me.... and I like that better!

Create your pictures with intention friends, and help your children do the same. But don't be afraid to notice all of the surprising details that emerge as it develops. And allow yourself to switch focus now and then. It's really the best way to get everything you possibly can out of the picture!

Both the picture you choose, and the one that chooses you!

Hugs, smiles, and love!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)