Two days ago, we had a birthday party for Alina, who turned five three days ago. Twelve five-year-olds gathered at a gymnastics studio near our house. At one point, my husband corralled all the mommies into the gym to jump into “the pit,” a high jump off a wooden plank into a pool of foam. I wanted to be a team player, doing the cool thing with all the other moms, so I was the second to go, right after a friend of mine, who made it look easy.
Up I went, onto the plank, and suddenly, there I was, high, very high, above the pit, and absolutely terrified. It had looked so easy from the ground! I looked down at my husband, my daughter, the other mothers, and their children, who were all looking at me. I imagined they were wondering why I was taking so long to jump.
I think I had a mild stroke.
But I couldn’t not jump; I couldn’t let Alina down. So I put one foot out in front of me and then the other and then I was falling, my heart up in my throat and my lungs gasping for air because I was hold- ing my breath, puffing out my cheeks like dizzy Gillespie and staying scared the whole long (short) way down. I landed easily, and Alina ran over to help me crawl out.
So I did it. I jumped. I didn’t let anyone down. But I did not enjoy the experience. I resisted it, and I felt my resistance deeply. I held my breath. I did not experience the moment. Afterward, that night, I thought about the experience I chose to have. I knew I was going to jump. I wanted to be “that kind of mom.” But I wasn’t really that kind of mom, because I didn’t have fun. “That kind of mom” actually likes the experience. I was a fake “that kind of mom,” and I knew it.
I thought, that night, about the symbolism for me of that moment, of doing it—sure, yeah, good job, and yay for me—but that I resisted it, so I didn’t enjoy it. I do not want my life to be that way. I thought about being in the playroom with Ben. I thought about playing with Alina. I thought about all the experiences where I am “supposed” to be enjoying myself, but I’m really not because I’m scared, and I’m resisting the experience rather than surrendering and embracing it.
Truthfully, in my life, sometimes I do let go and embrace the fall, and sometimes I don’t, and the difference is between living and resisting life, between living and a self-made purgatory. Life is what is happening now. resistance and fight equal missed opportunities. When I jumped off the plank at the party, that was life, that moment was my life. And I resisted. And I stopped breathing to resist it, to not feel it. I chose fear.
I have a lot of experiences in my life where I have this choice, to embrace or resist. Going back to the gymnastics studio to jump again might not be my first choice for a free moment, but I want to embrace the fall elsewhere in my life. Embrace the opportunities. Surrender and dive in 100 percent—1000 percent! This is it. This is it right now.
So I have a choice. I can choose not to be present. I can avoid. We can go places, check out with electronics, or over schedule. I can stay busy. Or, I can be courageous and grab onto the experience of my beautiful children in their world. I can be with my children when they struggle with their different challenges. I can experiment with play and surrender my comfort. Whether I am ready, good enough, perfect enough, or not—I can show up as their mother and embrace the fall.
(Taken from UNLOCKED: A Family Emerging from the Shadows of Autism, Skyhorse Press, March 2015)