Sunday, August 29, 2010

Movie...Two Words....Rhymes With....


                     Raise your hand if you like to play Charades! Ok, that's all of you as far as I can see from here. I know, I know. Some of you would rather have a root canal instead of being made to play Charades. But, didn't you ever go to camp or youth group or family holidays where you had to play? I am thinking how intense and intent we become when we actually play that game. All of us stay poised on the edges of our seats making guess after wild guess as the clues come flying at us-----giving it everything we've got to make sense of/understand/find out what the person is trying to have us know. And we keep at it---scanning our brains for any possible connection we can make with all of those, "Sounds like....rhymes with...four words....three syllables....second syllable.' We are like dogs with a bone---not letting go---nothing getting in our way----to get the "thing" that is being communicated. Are you with me? And it can get pretty competitive as only Charades can get. (Oh, come on! Can't you remember your Aunt Hazelnut trying to act out The Titanic?)

      Yesterday I realized again for the 98th time that Taylor and I talk in a form of  Charade-like conversation all day long. This is a typical conversation for us.
Taylor: Lake. Jet ski. Alabama. Aladdin. Call Joe phone. Murphy home.
Me: Taylor, put on your shoes.
Taylor: Wait wait wait. Lake. Jet Ski. Alabama. Aladdin. Call Joe phone. Murphy home.
Pete and repeat sat on a fence......
     I continue to give him directions and he hangs on for dear life to the clues he is trying desperately for me to hear. "Wait. Wait. Wait, " he implores until I finally stop and truly hear what he is saying. I have things I want for him to do. I am impatient with my own agenda.  He has things he wants to make sure I hear. He needs to know that he is heard.  And by golly, he is relentless.
Me: Oh, so you want to go to the lake in Alabama and see Mary Love and ride the jet ski, take your movie, Aladdin, call Joe on the phone when we get there and leave Murphy at home.
Taylor: Stage direction Taylor nods Yes.
And then---and only then, is he willing to put on his shoes or pour his juice or get into the car. He will not budge until I say back to him or reflect back to him what it was he was trying to tell me---what he wanted me to know about what he needed.
      You and I, I and you---we give clues to other people all day long. And we long for them to pick up on our awkward, veiled, poorly expressed words that somehow link way down deep to what our hearts are feeling---and trying desperately to convey.  And we want them to hear us-----really hear what it is we are saying or acting out or dividing into parts and phrases. "Hear me. I'm giving you clues. I want you to connect with me. I want to know that you've heard what I have said---and what I mean."
But somehow in our very real daily lives, we do are not in Charade-playing- mode, so we tend not to guess with the same fervor and interest we conjure up during  the game. Isn't this backwards? Shouldn't this be the other way around? I mean, like, wouldn't it better if we just realized and acknowledged that all of those around us are trying to tell us something---something important to them--about their lives---inside or out? We get tons of clues----verbal and not-so-verbal--from people we see every day? Would it be safe to guess that they (me/you/they) would really love to be listened to.....and then truly heard?
Gosh, doesn't it feel so so so??......good, so complete, so healing...when we know that the person beside us/close to us can take all of our cues, all of our clues and come up with the response that hits our meaning right on the head?
I love it that Taylor insists that I "Wait. Wait. Wait," until he is fully assured that I "get it." I have to say back to him my interpretation of his words until he is satisfied that we both understand what he wants/needs.
Pretty cool, isn't it?
Wait. Listen. Try again. Wait.
Offer a translation. ("This is what I think I heard you say.")
Wait. Listen.
We just want to be heard.
He does. I do. You do. 
Can we try.....harder....more better?
It's the best kind of love.
One word, one syllable, first syllable:  Love
In life, it rhymes with:  I Hear You. I really hear you.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Beautiful Love

Last night, I was working on my computer in Taylor's room while he was about to go to sleep. Without warning, Taylor hopped up out of bed, came over and gently touched me on the shoulder. In his sweetest, rather high-pitched/angelic--in his, "This is me being authentic and meaningful" voice, he said to me, "Mama bee--u--ti-ful! Mama pre--tt-tie!" I was so caught off guard because he delivered those lines with such conviction and warmth--to me. I looked up at my dear 26 year old son and said, "No, Taylor, I'm overweight. Mama's old and I don't look good. Honey, I'm not pretty." He just stared at me. My words bounced off of him as if he had a protective coating the words could not penetrate. "This does not compute, " was what he might have spoken back to me if he had articulated what he felt. I, on the other hand, was determined to prove him wrong. Within about 8 seconds all of my massive judgements about my physical self came flaming up and hung suspended in my throat. "You're wrong. You're retarded. What do you know about beauty and who's pretty and what the world expects from us?" These thoughts of mine screamed and raged, but they didn't make it out of my mouth. Taylor was not convinced. But, he had set something in motion. Grapple. Grapple Grapple with.
     Who is the judge? Who do you, who do I assign as THE judge that decides who is beautiful and who is pretty--- Or who is whatever.... There must be some body, some one, some thing to which we have all given our power because Lord knows we spend enough time, money, worry, exercise, surgery, media, therapy trying our best to be....beautiful.
      Don't we? Are am I wrong? And with two little bitty sentences this precious living human being touches me and says, "Mama beautiful." AND I ARGUED WITH HIM! And made him wrong---so that I could, so that I could....what??? Be so right about being all wrong about how much I buy into judgements about physical beauty? Let me see now.....he's "retarded" and I'm so darn smart....Something's not right here because he sees beauty and I'm trying to convince him that no he does not see beauty.  After all, what on earth does this fellow know? Does his vote count? I mean as much as yours and mine? Because I've seen Elle and GQ.
I mean....I know what the rules are.  Right?
Stop. Push pause.
      What if we allowed ourselves to bask and bathe in the love that others have for us---with all of our seeming imperfections and flaws. What if we did not treat ourselves so brutally and harshly? (Am I alone in this or are there others of you out there who beat up on yourselves pretty regularly---like hourly?)
         I can honestly say that without exception, I have never ever seen Taylor judge any person----not even one person---based on physical appearance. We have been in physical therapy with severe burn victims, quadriplegics, men with no limbs, all sorts of disfigurements, dirty hair, women with beards, acne, scars, obesity, anorexics---and not even once has Taylor winced, made a face, looked away, made a joke, or compared himself or others to that person. Not once. What he does repond to is love---and being accepted and being welcomed and being acknowledged for being in the room or at the table or right in front of you.
Taylor is right.
What he sees in people who love him is beauty.
Why is that so hard to accept?
Love is beautiful.
Did a rocket scientist have to figure that out?
Taylor is waiting for the rest of us to catch up and catch on.
He knows.
I want to know what he knows.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Emergeny Exits

I guess I'll jump on the Jet Blue/Steve Slater bandwagon here like everybody else.  Come on, folks!  How many times have we wanted to scream, "It's been a great ride!",  grab a beer and slide down that ramp to freedom?  Isn't that right up there with that country song, "You Can Take This Job and Shove It?"  I've been there.  You've been there. The hard part is after we slide and come to our senses and decide we need to make it back up that inflated slide.  Maybe things weren't so bad anyway.  Oops.  Or maybe they were.  Sometimes landing at the bottom of the ramp is exactly where we need to be.  It's a new starting over point.  Time to take off running in a new direction.
    Taylor and I have traveled a whole bunch this summer.  We've flown all over the country on lots of airlines.  He does quite well and I know most of the tricks of the trade now to make flying do-able for us.  When I get to any airport at check in, I immediately go to one of those kiosks and change my seats so we can move closer to the front of the plane.  Three times this summer, an actual, friendly, overly zealous airline helper agent-type, has walked me through the computer steps. 
Here's what's so weird:  Taylor is always standing right next to me.  He is 26, clearly Down Syndrome, has profound speech delay, cannot read, and mostly wants to hug.  So, when we see that the Exit rows on the kiosk computer screen are available, each agent has, with all seriousness, looked at me (and Taylor) and asked, " Is he over 15?" "Does he speak English?" " Could he open the  plane's emergency exit during a flight?"  I am standing there knowing the obvious answer is, "NO" to all of the above, but these agents are asking me these questions.....for real.  So, naturally----because of all of that extra leg room, we (the agent and I) answer "Yes" to all of those life and death questions and click "Continue."   Jumping to the chase:  The agents at the boarding gate are appalled (too strong a word?) and roll their eyes when I explain that one of their own agents helped us make this move. 
So our seats are moved.....again, but closer to the front.  Mission accomplished.
     What has stayed with me in my  love of life's metaphors is how I really love and seem to need to be close to the  emergency exits.  In so many ways, I think I have lived so much of my life planning an escape....from my own life....from situations in my life.  When things get too rough and hard and all gnarled up, my inclination is to emotionally bail out.  There is often that underlying, unvoiced fear that says,  "This is going to be the situation that I won't be able to handle."  And yet, I'm 56 and I've handled every single thing that's come my way.  I wonder then, why I cling to the notion that I need to sit next to the emergency exits in my life.
        What I've come to.....even though I color hair that should be gray and wise....what I've come to, is that I/You/All of us want options in our lives.  We want to know......need to know that in every single situation there is more than one way to think, to feel, to react, to live.  Trouble comes to me when  fear takes over for me and I forget that in all situations, there are options.  Sometimes we have to dig around for them.....or think outside of that proverbial box...or better yet, be brave (with ourselves.)  But there are options.
There are emergency exits for us even if they are not clearly labeled.
We don't need to speak English or really even have to know how to help others slide down that ramp, nor be able to follow the airline crew's directions.
The directions we need to follow are from that still, sure, sacred voice inside of ourselves. 
That voice is always our gateway to an emergency exit---if we need one.
It leads us to our wherever we need to go in this life.
Sometimes it  does help to take a beer along.