Catching Up: Our daughter’s life is streaming live with new peace and purpose. Just in the last week, patches of the quilt that I have dreamed of for years are now in place. The first, that she would find a venue to inspire her to resume creating the amazing collages which I used as illustrations in my book, This Crazy Quilt: Parenting Adult Special Needs One Day At A Time (which just received an excellent review from Kirkus Reviews that you can read here). And second, that she would overcome her resistance to performing theatrically, an anxiety that kept this theater loving gal from opportunities at her boarding school and subsequently back home in Connecticut at SPHERE, an organization which offers special needs adults, among other services, the priceless gift of acting as a repertory group in theater and film.
This week SPHERE stepped in with opportunities to complete both patches of the quilt: our daughter will be creating collages for them to use in greeting cards and posters under the direction of SPHERE President Valerie Jensen; and SPHERE has established a weekly improv class led by the same gentleman who ran a weekly music/theater class for Ability Beyond Disability’s day program where our daughter overcame her shyness and put on an hilarious performance as grandma some months ago. The teacher calls her an improv genius.
Life Is A Horse Show: Pegasus, the always giving equestrian therapeutic riding program our daughter attends each week, gave us a heads up on the $200,000 American Gold Cup Grand Prix in Old Salem, New York. Sunday my daughter and I headed there to watch the competition for the cup, the winner of which will go on to the World Cup competition in France in 2014. The day was of that crisp sunny early Fall variety that New Englanders live for, replete in the greens of well-tended grass, medieval inspired tents, delft blue skies with smudges of white cumulus, green, pink, red, white and blue jumps and nuanced hued grey and brown horses topped off by the silhouettes of helmeted riders. All of this visual candy was set against a soundtrack of mini-equestrian girl chatter, dog yips and yelps (the ASPCA had an adoption day there, too) and the loud and hilarious babble of a baby in a stroller perched on the grassy hill where we sat, his oral motor skills the envy of a special needs mom who two decades earlier, learned how important blowing blueberries and producing bubbles were.
Many of the top riders in the world competed in the show and were judged by the number of faults counted against them during their ride: time to complete all the jumps; the number of down posts if any while jumping or refusals, e.g., horses refusing to jump or any other behavioral disobedience. The rider with the lowest number of faults wins, which sounds vaguely like a reality TV dating show competition. Sunday’s winner was Brianne Goutal, an accomplished rider one year junior to our daughter. These equestrians are skilled, practiced and determined. Yet even with all that, they have many “faults.” Posts clatter down, horses refuse to jump, and riders must be patient while simultaneously coaxing their steeds back to the jump to try again, while losing seconds and likely the cup (and perhaps asking themselves, as mothers do, what did they do wrong.)
Faults, Refusals, Obstacles: Raising a special needs child, or any child, includes all of these challenges. Life in general is one giant competition to achieve optimal success against multiple obstacles. In the special needs world we have to do a lot of coaxing, trying again, and need patient acceptance when the horse, oops, child, is fearful or unready to take the leap. Perhaps they don’t have the requisite skills to soar over the highest post or even the lowest post, as their typical peers do. Conventional expectations have to be tossed out if anything good is to happen.
My personal fascination watching horse shows, a world my daughter has gifted me, is the knowledge that the riders and their horses attempt perfection each time, most often failing, yet they come back and try again and again. And the time spent in between is devoted to more training, more practice, more discipline and more dreams. They are a twosome, a team of two, but each may not always be equally committed each time or equally willing or equally able to do their part of the job.
The Guiding Light of Daily Life: We all must work at attaining our dreams, daydreams, visualizations, wishes, hopes, prayers, whatever the terminology. That’s what they are for, providing the guiding light of daily life. I keep dreaming dreams for my daughter (my dreams) and these two recent outcomes are more dreams come true. But it is she who guides me, the dreamer. It is her interests, her talents, her skills that set my dreams in motion. Yet as with the equestrian rider, I must be patient, coaxing, determined yet accepting. It is she after all who has to make the jump.
That’s my self-proclaimed job description, dream implementer. As always, it takes a village to realize these dreams. Thank you SPHERE, Valerie, Ability, Pegasus and most of all, my daughter who inspires me and has the goods to deliver. You really rock my boat.
P.S. I just received a text from my daughter after her first collage making effort with Valerie. I’d like to share it with you:
I had a good time at Val’s
When we got there I worked on my thing
“I’m so glad.”
And worked all day
And worked again
Now I am going to take my meds
And get ready for horseback riding
“I am so proud of you. A real paying job.”
“Are you proud of yourself?”
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2013