Today’s thought of the day is simple but significant. Live In The Moment. I remind myself to do this almost constantly. Stay in the moment, Susan. Be present right now. Don’t let your to-do list or anxiety or unruly adult ADHD take your brain racing off to some imagined future place or worse, some place in the past. Life is short. Don’t miss it. Stay in the moment. Sometimes it’s tough. I could be having a conversation that’s bothering me, setting alarm bells off in my belly, and my mind wants to run away to the beach or go over my grocery list or whatever. But I need to pay attention to the alarm bells. They are, as my friend Marianne Clyde says, information, and I need that information. Whatever it is my gut is trying to tell me I need to hear. So being present isn’t always easy, but it’s necessary. Don’t miss a minute of today, my friends. Live in this moment. It’s not coming around again.
Like every other kid on the planet, I wanted my driver’s license. It didn’t matter that I was an absolutely terrible driver, the kind that clips corners, hits curbs, and knocks down street signs when making a right, and who has an uncanny ability to make a left onto a divided highway, end up on the wrong side of the road, and come face to face with oncoming traffic. None of it mattered. Not nervousness, nearsightedness, or my abysmal lack of skill was going to deter me. I wanted my license. And somehow I got it. Can you imagine how petrified my parents were?
When my eldest reached driving age however, it was a different story. He couldn’t navigate the high school driving class and I was too busy caring for my husband to call and demand accommodations. And since all my son has ever wanted is to fit in, he was happy I wasn’t on the phone or in the school office making a scene. Instead he dropped the class and we decided to wait until after his dad passed to deal with it.
It’s funny, when Casey was diagnosed we were told he’d never drive. And yet he was driving the farm truck with almost no instruction. He had incredible focus and never drove fast. If anything he drove too slowly and hey, what parent doesn’t pray for that?
When it finally came time to find him a driving school, it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I called school after school and none were equipped to teach an ASD student. One man even said “Oh no, ma’am, we can’t be responsible for that!” My son is not a “that.” He’s a human being who deserves to learn to drive and pass that damn test no matter how long it takes him.
By some miracle we were contacted by the Department of Rehabilitative Services and Case was given the chance to learn to drive at the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center in Fishersville. And we thought we lived in the boonies. This place is no place. And it looks like a psych ward. Case was not happy. I pretended to be happy. Case refused to go. I dragged him there.
He stayed just long enough to get the basics. Then he escaped and showed up at the front door. I said, “How’d you get here?” And he pointed to his friend and replied, “He drove me.” Oh really? I then informed the friend that he would be finishing my kid’s training and getting him to pass the written test. Yes, I paid him, but I wanted to shoot them both.
Since you’ve probably seen my son in town, delivering pizza, you know he passed. What you don’t know is he passed the first time. He still drives a little slowly but he’s never turned into oncoming traffic like his mom has. Recently. Yeah, let’s not get into that.
So what’s the moral of the story?
One, young adults with ASD, don’t despair and parents, don’t give up hope. There are driving schools popping up all over the country that specialize in teaching kids with ALL KINDS of special needs.
Two, if you live in Virginia, Woodrow really does have a great driving program (despite it’s being ugly), staffed by talented, patient professionals, and it’s not your only option. There are other resources available to you. Yes, there are. I found them. Too late for Case but just in time for you.
And three, don’t believe everything the professionals tell you. Just believe in your kid.
We’ve all got something that makes us different, thank God. Can you imagine a world of cookie cutter, Stepford people? Beam me up, Scotty, ’cause I’m not sticking around for that. But we all have things in common, too. I always wish we’d look for the common ground in dealing with people. And believe me, I’m not perfect. I remind myself constantly to do just that.
For example, my eldest has autism. I have anxiety. These are just two things that make us different. There are dozens of others. He remembers everything, I haven’t held a memory in my head for more than 20 seconds in years. I think. I can’t really recall. He’s incredible with computers, and digital thingies like getting Amazon Prime linked to our TV. It’s a miracle! There’s a beam , bringing cool shows and movies – like magic – into my little house! His focus is enviable. It should be patented and sold. We’d make millions. And then there’s me. My adult ADHD has me writing this, responding to work email, and Googling “best cameras for youTube” at the same time. Is it any wonder I’m always tired and he’s so chill?
We are different. And we are alike.
The other night over dinner, completely out of nowhere, he says to me, “You know what kind of days I like the best?” I said, nope. He said, “The days where I don’t spend any money!” I was floored. The kid’s a clotheshorse.
The folks at Amazon and Hot Topic send him birthday cards, for Pete’s sake. But you know what? That’s my favorite kind of day, too. I had no idea we had this in common. We both love Tostitos, can’t add, can quote Tropic Thunder line for line (not something to brag about, but still), and more, so much more. But this new common ground cracked me up and comforted me. He’s not going to put himself – or me! – in the poor house! Praise the Lord!
More importantly it reminded me to see past his autism, and to push our conversations away from the countless soccer videos and Star Wars memes he wants to show me in lieu of talking. Those things are within his comfort zone but clearly, it’s expanding. I need to encourage it. Remind myself of all the common ground my kid and I share and reach for topics that pertain to them.
He is so much more than his autism. I am so much more than my anxiety. We are all so much more than we appear to be. We all need to reach for the common ground that connects us. It isn’t always easy. We may not always feel like making the effort. But when we do, it makes a world of difference. For us, for others. For the world.
My friend Meighan O’Toole of Stuff! Consignments in Gainesville has started a fun new series of events called Extra Stuff! and this coming Wednesday, September 19th, yours truly is the extra stuff. She’s hosting Ladies’ Night at Club Eclipse Restaurant (also in Gainesville) and I hope you’ll join me for it.
There’ll be food and drink specials (i.e. wine!), and I’m supposed to say a word or two. I’m also supposed to do that prior to enjoying a drink special but, well, we’ll see how that goes. (You want me to be thisclose to wine and deny myself some? What kind of savage are you???)
Call (ok, text) your friends and put Wednesday on your calendar. Meighan and Jason Flis, the owner of Club Eclipse, do so much to support our community and in this case they’re throwing their support behind Girls’ Night Out. Yes, that’s a cause. And it’s cause to kick up your heels (or just take the damn things off) and catch up with your girlfriends for a few hours. I hope you’ll join me!
Wednesday, September 19th, 7pm
Club Eclipse Restaurant, 5615 Wellington Road, Gainesville/703-508-9399
(And for your shopping pleasure prior to Ladies’ Night, hit Stuff! Consignments at 7482 Limestone Drive, Gainesville/703-753-2330)