Over the past two weeks I’ve been extremely busy, each day my tank inching closer and closer to empty. My big plan last night for re-fueling was to sit all alone and indulge in the simple pleasure of watching a movie. No interruptions, no distractions, just me, dog at my feet, cuppa tea warming my hands, and a movie I had been wanting to watch for weeks. Until I interrupted myself. As the movie began, Claire Danes stepped out as Temple Grandin (the main character of the movie by the same name). Within her first sentence, I knew this was something special. I said WITHIN the first sentence, not after the first sentence, within it!
I paused the DVD and popped my head out into the playroom. EVERYONE in my house had to see this! As I hollered for my then nine and 12-year old sons to join me, I caught a glimpse of them peering over their shoulders at me, with looks that said, Are you kidding me? We saw the cover of the movie box, and we are NOT interested. Reluctantly, they left their video game, and at a snail’s pace, ambled past me in the direction of the movie, mumbling something unintelligible all the way. My husband paused the golf channel downstairs, and gave me ‘a look’ as he approached. Was that his “this had better be good” look or his “I’m humoring you” look? Maybe a little of both.
I was very clear: If, after ten minutes, they weren’t thoroughly entertained by Claire Danes and company, they were welcome to leave. Heck, I didn’t want them sulking through a movie and ruining my me-time. As it turned out, not a soul left, with the exception of one trip to the bathroom. As my older son made a mad dash for the restroom, he begged us to pause the movie, to which we all responded with a simultaneous, “Shhh!!!”
Meeting Temple Grandin
Temple Grandin grew up in a time when we knew very little about autism. Her story is one that is truly amazing, inspirational, and the definition of a ‘must see’ film. I won’t give anything away, but do want to share with you something that my older son embraced from the movie in a way that he owned — something Temple’s favorite teacher said, then her mother repeated, and later Temple echoed herself:
In describing Temple, each said she was, “Different, yes. Not less.”
My son liked the way that sounded. Looking over at him in the dark, as he took in the simplicity, yet boldness of it, I could have sworn I saw him sit a little taller. “Different, yes. Not less.”
When you grow up visiting as many doctors as my son has over the years, I imagine you can start to wonder if you’re less than. Less than perfect? Less than normal? Less than… something your peers are not faced with? By the time he was ten-years old, he alone had more “ologists,” as he called them, than most families do, their distant relatives included. It wasn’t until the addition of his hearing aids in the third grade that the first real teasing occurred. Luckily, it has been kept to a minimum, but with the start of each school year there is always that one new student who comes in, and inevitably, makes an insensitive remark. In times like those, remembering, “Different, yes. Not less.” can come in real handy as a mantra.
We Are All Different. Not Less.
Here’s what I believe: We all have our ‘thing’ (or thingS). Your kid may be autistic. He may have ADD, dyslexia, asthma, peanut allergies, warts, be a bed wetter…. The list, as you know, is endless. We ALL have our thing, kids and adults alike.
There are those who deem their particular thing as being better or worse, lesser or more, on some imaginary scale of injustices. But regardless of what our thing is, we have it for a reason. And as I’ve stated before, we don’t always know the why’s and how’s of it, nor do we need to. See, whatever our thing is, it’s there to serve a purpose. We’re supposed to learn from it, otherwise, we wouldn’t have it in the first place. Our thing makes us who we are.
This is where Trust comes in. Surely, it’s the Trust or the Knowing that Temple Grandin spoke of when she stated, “If I could snap my fingers and become non-autistic I would not do so. Autism is part of who I am.”
There is no resistance to What IS in that statement. I hear a person who has embraced who they are and exactly the way they were brought into this world. There simply is no fighting What IS. Now, she fought like crazy for what she believed, and in most cases, fought an uphill battle, especially in the profession she chose. But she didn’t fight who she was or the condition she was labeled with. She never gave up. And she never saw herself as less than. Her Will and her Spirit simply could not be broken.
Look at yourself. Look inward. What is your thing(s)? How about your child? Can you discuss your child’s thing with them? How does understanding your label, yet not becoming it, differ? How have you been able to compensate? Perhaps even excel? To learn? To grow? And after your learning and growing, how have you shared with others to help them on their journey?
If you’re struggling with any of these questions, start with Trusting in a higher power. You are not alone. And you are not less. Simply different. No one else comes with your unique gifts and talents to offer to the world.
Thank you, Heather, Ginny, Robin, and many others who chimed in to sing this movie’s praises and introduce me to Temple Grandin. TLT readers, rent it! You won’t be sorry.
If you enjoyed this article, please click on the ‘Share’ button (or any other button that strikes your fancy). Thank you!! Love, Leslie