Sometimes, when life gets difficult it takes focusing on the simplest pleasures to help you take a step back and see progress. Really, think about that word for a moment. Progress. We live our lives moment to moment, day by day. Yet, our dreams often involve transformative shifts. We want the big changes. But it’s the small, incremental changes that get us there.
Once, what seems a long time ago, I sat in a sterile room, holding my writhing child in my arms. I was physically and emotionally and mentally exhausted; and, had I only known then, he was over-stimulated and unable to cope with all the new things, all the people, and all the ridiculous demands those new people placed on him. After it was all over, the doctor sat across from me, assaulting me with his words. He told me many things that day. One of those things was that my son—the child writhing in my arms—would never practice pretend play. He also told me that I should institutionalize my son.
The child from that memory has undergone some of those transformative shifts we so often long for. He’s now a talkative, happy little boy who seems to be doing quite well in middle school.
He also has a helluva imagination!
Never practice pretend play? Well, he leapt over that hurdle with Thomas the Train. But, now as things seem rather difficult, I go back to that accomplishment.
Today (though, not for the first time), Willy introduced us to his sisters. You see, apparently I gave birth to two young girls that I have never met and cannot see. Katara was my first child, according to Willy, and is now fifteen years old (which means I was fifteen when I had her). She’s also a star on Avatar: the Last Airbender. Holly is fourteen. She is a star on Monster Rancher, the anime show. (Yes, apparently, I am able to bear cartoon characters as well as live, flesh-and-blood children.)
These two young girls are my son’s sisters and they play with him regularly. They’re never mean to him the way his older brother can sometimes be and they never think he’s doing the wrong thing. In fact, Katara was quite helpful today as Willy rowed his canoe across a lake, because Willy was terrified they’d go too far, but Katara wasn’t scared a bit.
Imaginary friends are simple pleasures that some would claim are denied to autistics because of their inability to exercise their imagination—or their entire lack of imagination. I know now that’s just rubbish. But it’s nice to have such a bright, spirited little boy who’s always willing to give me a reminder when I need a lift.
Those big transformative shifts do come. In a way, they’re kind of like imaginary friends—you can’t see them if you look at them straight on. But if you step back and open yourself to the possibilities, then you just might find they were there all along.