A little over 20 years ago, I began the process of navigating the special education system on behalf of my daughter; and what began as an emotional, sometimes even adversarial, bumpy, always second-guessing and unsettling journey, eventually lead me into a very fulfilling and impactful non-profit career in the disability systems. It’s a vocation that has offered lots of “opportunity” for public speaking (although I never really appreciated it so positively). Over the last 13 years, I’ve presented to thousands of individuals with disabilities, family members, advocates, educators and other professionals, and legislators and policy makers from across the whole country around topics where my insights and experience were appreciated, which were mostly student and family engagement. An ability to share my experiences as a mom with all of the associated emotions, inner conflicts, and insecurity, as well provide practical ideas to make things work better have often resonated with both family members and professionals alike.
There was a certain story that I used to share a lot called the acorn story. And it took place early on when my daughter was beginning elementary school. There was a meeting at school one day, and those meetings generated a lot of stress and anxiety beforehand. I would script in the shower, lose sleep, formulate strategy and defense; and it all sucked a lot of energy. On this particular morning, I pulled up to the school and parked, and as I was lifting my hand to the handle to open the door, fully unconscious but clearly engaged to the noise in my spinning mind, an acorn fell from the giant oak alongside the road and hit the roof of my car. It was so loud! Though I never saw it, it must have been the most giant acorn from a tree on Miracle Grow. I’d never heard anything like it.
It stopped me in my thoughts, and I was suddenly aware of these nasty voices playing in my head. I couldn’t believe the mean things I was thinking about the people I would soon be sitting across the table from, people who had chosen a career in education, taking care of and teaching kids, most of them moms. I had an image of a cross section of my brain (like how it looks when you drop a gobstopper and it cracks perfectly in half and you can see all the colors) with horrible little mean creatures planning their defeat and putting all of those teacher moms in their place. Ick. I didn’t like it. I was not proud of myself. The momma bear was more like a momma jackal, and while it all made total sense, I really did not want to interact that way or let my mind have that kind of power over me. Over the years I worked a bit on it, or at least became more aware from time to time, especially in the shower for some odd reason.
Fast forward to today… If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that now the maintenance of a more positive energy and mindset is something I appreciate and prioritize. It’s neither fake, nor some indicator of my powerful strength, as have both been suggested. I simply try to stay conscious about the things that are good and keep it all more fairly balanced. It has made all the difference in the world; and here’s an example.
Last week, I was out for a walk after shutting down my computer for the day, and as I turned a corner coming back towards my house, an incredible sunset presented in front of me. It was so grand and glorious with its dramatic purples and pinks, that I stopped suddenly in my steps to appreciate it. In the abrupt break of my walking, I became conscious of rhythmic words playing in my head unconsciously that had been keeping time with my steps. Weirdly, it was some lines from a poem I had written – in 2013! – one I’d totally forgotten about (at least consciously). And here it was playing in the background, directing the rhythm of my walk.
A spoiled child…
I am a spoiled child of God.
He loves Me the best.
How else could I have this whole morning?
I walk to the beach.
A bench on the dune.
No one needs me now. Only You.
The ocean sparkles.
Your Love in our world.
Heaven is here pouring over.
You give it all.
Much more than I need.
Vast amounts of gold uncontained.
The Light is too bright.
Love so generous, I’m favored.
Not a bad backdrop for a walk in such a noisy and complicated world. It sure beats acorn meanies…