As a theater artist, and a writer, my emotions are always right near the surface for me. It's this access to emotions that allows me to do what I do. I'm easily moved by things connecting with me on an emotional level and it's easy for me to make those connections when I am doing theater.
Last year, I co-wrote a piece with Joan Lipkin called "One World". All the performers used our real life experiences to draw on for material to talk about. It's an emotional piece of a story I give, and it took me a long time to fight the emotion back when I give the monologue, but I can keep it at bay now. I've said the words enough. Everything is still real, just not raw like it was when we first started doing it.
I mean, I know me. I can't speak of the story of the death of my cat without crying, and there are many topics which I feel very deeply. I'm rarely caught off guard at my emotional reaction to things. It doesn't mean I'm sad and I hate that it makes some people uncomfortable but it's who I am. I feel deeply, completely and with my whole body. I feel lucky that I can do that.
I think I'm just used to being out there on my own with those emotions. Not like I don't have very supportive friends but there are so many times when I don't have time to be emotional and fall apart. Uh oh, my kid just sliced himself open. Time to head to the emergency room to patch it up.
I don't have time to cry when things need to be done. That's the way it is with being a mom.
When I was told my son had autism, I didn't really believe it. I didn't believe what they were telling me. I pushed down every emotional reaction to it.
It was largely their fault. They told me in the worst possible way. I paraphrase...
"We aren't really sure what his issue is but this is as close as we can come, so we are fitting him in this box."
They led me to believe that it may not be a real diagnosis. They let me be in denial. They allowed me the opportunity to keep him in denial. I joined no support group. I searched out no one with a similar diagnosis. I didn't really tell my family. I glossed over the truth regularly.
Later, much later, as I began to look closely at it, I realized he really was a kid with autism. Middle school and high school came along and teachers began to list for me the things he would never do.
He won't go to college.
He won't be able to have a loving relationship.
He won't be able to have a complicated job.
He will never understand figurative language.
I became very angry with this list. They don't know! He was always a little genius inside that mind. His artistic sense was very strong. He did not have the patience for school and they would never really understand him.
My monologue is this:I will never know if my son was born this way or he became this way. When he was ten years old, he was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder. This is a form of autism. It came with a list of things they said he would never do. I never showed him that list. I burned it, along with the idea that he would ever be limited by someone elses narrow definition of who he is.
Today in rehearsal, as we were playing around with those words and different inflections of that monologue, we decided to try having some of the cast come up behind me and lay hands on my shoulder.
I thought this was a great idea!
And then it happened, the first woman lay her hand on my shoulder while I was saying those words.
I'm afraid those emotions got loose immediately.
What I had never allowed myself at any time was to feel or ask for any support in all of this. There was business to be done. I would go in and routinely fight for my son, fight to get the most of out the IEP. Grieve when his flat affect would cost him job interviews. Rage when teachers would not understand his disability and argue with him about the most mundane things like taking the trash out.
That small moment of support... and where it came from... completely undid me. Those tears fell hard and fast because I pushed them down for years. I did not even know I had that well in there. I did not know I ever needed support, but apparently, I did.
I love rehearsal. I love creating. I'm not going to uncover that anywhere else exactly like that. I know there are so many mothers out there stoically carrying on. Not even realizing they have unshed tears they are saving up in a box for some other day because today, we have to fight this battle and there is no time to cry. And I know, one thing I know for sure, is there is going to be that person in the audience who will connect with that moment. Meanwhile, I am thankful to have found it. It's good to know it is there.