Monday, August 16, 2010

Steen: The Protagonist?

So when I think of myself, I definitely don't consider myself a protagonist. Well, I do, but not a good one. Not the traditional heroine: strong, witty, determined, long hair flowing around her as she defeats the bad guys and apparently doesn't even need her hair in a ponytail?! I never felt as though I fit what the world consideres my roles, wife, mother, pastors wife. I mean, I have facial piercings and wore a mohawk for crying out loud. But I have found strength in that, not being what people assume. It's like my alias. Which FYI is my favorite TV show.

In order to tell you what I want my character to look like (and be the protagonist I know I can be) and what I wish to accomplish in my story over the next few years, I have to tell you a bit about my last few ones. I was married at 20 and preggers by 21. I have always loved and believed in God but it wasn't until my early 20s that I found my own faith and grew into the person God had created me to be. Donald Miller had a LOT to do with that but that is a whole other story. Anywho I had an extremely difficult delivery with my son, Eli, and so when he didn't develop normally I just assumed that the reason was his traumatic birth. It wasn't until he was 2 and a half that we started putting the pieces together. Autism. Bam. My life was changed forever. Normalcy, and the expectation of normalcy, was gone. Good thing I was never a huge fan of normalcy to begin with! By this time my daughter, Peyton, was just born. Sure enough, after a year or two we knew enough to see it coming. At the ripe old age of 25, I found myself with 2 autistic children.

To most people, this would be devastating. It would be tragic. But my life has been far from tragic. It is magical. Thrilling. Exciting. Victorious. It is an adventure! I have lived more story than most people their entire lives! My children, (apart from being gorgeous), are quirky, funny, joyful, LOVING, memorable, smart, and all around incredible. They impact EVERY one they meet. They have taught me patience, understanding, selflessness, trust, and not to take anything for granted. Eli is a genius with technology. He's 7 and can run a imac, macbook, and iphone all at the same time. (He makes videos, edits them, surfs youtube, etc) Peyton is a drama queen that I swear will have her own band were she is the lead singer, dancer, and drummer. God has used them to mold me more into the character he has me to play. But I have a ways to go yet.

The hardest part of having children with autism is that they appear normal. It isn't until they have a huge episode in public or someone tries to have a conversation with them that you can tell something is different. Both of their verbal skills are extremely lacking. We have worked really hard for them to be able to make their needs known with language and we've done well, but other than that, it has been difficult. They do not comprehend abstract thought. Only concrete things seem to register and stick with them. They see a car, they know it's blue, but if you ask why you ride in a car they just stare at you blankly. They can repeat almost anything, but they have a hard time coming up with original thoughts/ ideas. They don't understand the question why. Why they can't, why they should, or why we do. That junk is really hard to teach. They also get very overwhelmed easily, they are sensitive to certain things. So there are places or situations that we have to be very careful with. I don't tend to step out and do new things with them for fear of the outcome.

Thankfully, God has blessed me with an incredible husband who has the determination and drive that I lack. He picks up where I slack and has amazing focus. He's not afraid of stepping out, nor the reaction of the world to our little ones. He is my partner and co-star in this little romantic comedy/ drama/ tear-jearker of a film. I couldn't ask for a better co-star, (I mean, he does look like a cross between Matthew McConn-a-hottie and Bode Miller!)

And speaking of where I lack...

Here is where I, as a protagonist, fall short. I am undisciplined. I lack follow-through. I have great intentions but no determination. I give up too easily. I avoid conflict. There are many therapies that we can apply for, detoxes available, different diets, supplements to give, classes that we could attend, that could help our situation tremendously. I've started SO many of these and just not finished or followed through with them. I could put the kids in dance or theater classes to help them be around typical kids, but I am nervous they wouldn't integrate well enough. I've started different detoxes and quit because it just got too difficult. I HAVE to learn to push through. I am an artist, so I tend to focus on the beauty and acceptance of something rather than the action required to correct it. I find myself accepting the kids as they are and finding the beauty of the autism (which is not all bad), but if I don't push them to grow and learn even more, who will?! I am their only mother, their only shot. The problem with me not being the character I need to be is that it affects more than just me and my story, it affects my children's.

My children require a heroine full of focus, strategy, determination, action, follow-through, perseverance, and structure. They require me to step up and be the protagonist that God has called me to be. To fight for them, and raise them up to be protagonists of their own stories. And let me tell you, they will be HEROIC characters, super heroes even! I might even go ahead and buy them tights. I truly believe that both of them will live full, "normal" lives and function in society as adults. I believe that in the next couple of years they will be in regular education classes with friends just like a typical kid. Their stories will include an autistic diagnose as a child and the overcoming of that obstacle. Their stories will be EPIC. And I need to be who they need me to be for that to happen.

So all that being said, I am hoping that by winning this contest and coming to this seminar, I will gain the knowledge and motivation to learn how to plan and structure my story, and action steps to follow through. At least how I wish it to go :) If I have learned anything it is that we have no control over things, but we have complete control of how we handle them. I mean, shoot, if standing on stage with one of the most influential people in my spiritual walk and telling my story to thousands of people doesn't give me the motivation and accountability to follow through, then I'm just screwed :)

Thanks for taking the time to read some of my story.
And here's to better ones,

Living a Better Story Seminar from All Things Converge Podcast on Vimeo.