Trees are glowing russet, red, gold, and orange, skies have been radiant blue, and it is warm as mellow summer… I just presented at the Denver Marriot for the Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented (CAGT) conference; I was invited back from last year and, as always, I loved sharing my story, jokes, and poi swings routine. This year, the conference theme was “The Many Faces of Gifted,” and my talk was titled, Autistic and Gifted: Finding the Silver Lining. That has been a key to my mom’s work with me over the years—always looking for ways to transform the troubles into something positive…finding the silver lining in the stormy clouds.
I like this newish term, as it applies to me: “Twice Exceptional” or “2E” for short. People say that one of my main gifts is to inspire people and make them laugh, and I’ll be taking my message of compassion to several schools in the next few weeks. I’ll be at my old middle school (Manhattan arts focus), talking to the entire student body, and will also speak at Boulder High School. I think that kids listen better when someone near their age has something big to say, as I do, and for sure I want to help make the world a better place.
Another exciting thing: this fall, I auditioned for the Madrigals Choir at school, and my dream came true—I got in! We rehearse before and after school, three times per week. I love Renaissance music and frequently listen to choral pieces by Palestrina, Dowland, Schütz, Byrd, and others like that. The music makes me feel so much inside, and it can soothe my soul too when things are hard. Like last week, the group was rehearsing after a terribly sad happening. My mom’s best friend, Gretchen, had died that day. She was also mom’s riding instructor and they spent hours together each day working with horses; since I’ve often come along to the barn during the past twelve years, she was also a good friend to me.
Maybe because of my autism, I’ve never before cried around death, not even last month when our sweet dog, Acorn, passed on. My heart was so heavy then, but still the tears stayed away. Over the years, we’ve lost several beloved pets and close family friends, and I’ve wondered whether I unknowingly lock up the feelings to protect myself, whether I’m afraid of feeling too much and might be unable to handle that, or whether I just don’t have those particular brain connections. But when my mom said Acorn’s time had come, my body reacted, trembling so hard that my spoon clattered like a shivering against my breakfast bowl. Then I had some days to adjust to the idea, and Mom coached me to be fully present with Acorn and to let my spirit and prayers keep me connected with her all the way through departure. And I was able to do that like never before.
Then, last week, came the news about Gretchen, and my mom was crying so hard when she told me. The tears burst out of me like a flash flood, and I was hugging my mom, crying hard, feeling her pain so deeply. My heart had such sympathy in it. And then, it was time for a special evening Madrigals rehearsal. The group started with a beautiful sad song by Orlando de Lassus, and in my spirit, I was singing to Gretchen, helping her soul to fly, tears standing in my eyes as I felt the ache of missing her. The text was speaking for me in that moment: “My heart doth beg you’ll not forget, / My heavy heart with sorrow aching, / One last farewell we might be taking…” The music perfectly expressed my feelings, and you might like to listen to it, so here’s a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlqbjDVewVg
Gretchen coaching mom at her first dressage show