Monday, August 4, 2008

Same Kind of Different As Me

By now you know how important Angela Neve is in our life. What you may not know, is that I take piano lessons from her too. Which means, twice a year I play in the recital which she hosts for ALL her students.

It is a moving event on many levels. The students are all shapes, sizes, and skills. Some strum a rhythm on an autoharp; some sing; some memorize; some improvise. All find joy in music. All are given dignity as performers. I was in tears (and I never cry) the first year I saw Angela accompany a young woman in a solo she'd written about "Going to Seaworld." It was profound in its simplicity, honesty, and delivery. Angela has a masterful and instinctive way of honoring and empowering student musicians at every level of proficiency. Her compelling belief in the student and her undeniable joy in participating with them moves everyone as much as (and sometimes more than) the perceptible beauty of any particular piece.

At the outset, it would seem that I--a college educated, able-bodied, mother of 44--would waltz right up on stage, play my Arabesque by Burgmuller, take my bow, then take my seat. No big deal. Well, let me tell you it actually was a big deal.

As previously stated, we all have different strengths. Mine are not performing or public speaking or even music. Three years ago, another grown woman (and my soul sister, dear friend) was also on the program. Being Angela's only neurotypical adult clients (and therefore the only adults in the recital) bonded us in yet another way. It gave us opportunity to commiserate and confide in each other how truly difficult and nerve wracking it is to perform. How is it our boys want to do this? We were sweating profusely, hands trembling from nerves, and at least I was frozen on the bench unable to find middle C. "This is really embarrassing, humiliating in fact. I should be able to do this, shouldn't I? This is not a big deal." The self-talk was not helping. My daughter was mortified.

The second year was easier I must say but, I was still mindful of my choice of anti-perspirant. This year, I had enough wherewithall to analyze my own behavior. Call it functional analysis (which always takes awhile to complete). I realized two things: how the nervousness came from my selfish focus and how much I am just like the "special needs" students.

It's not about me. This is a commonly required reminder right now in our culture. I am hearing it from our pulpit at church, from the podium at Allie's graduation, and from my Beth Moore study. It's not new though. Isn't it the tag line from Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life? What kept me from being a total mess was the fact (or just my perception) that Reid needed a bit of support from me. So, his needs and my maternal instinct saved me from total self absorption. Giving (or better yet, self sacrifice) is actually the antidote for so many modern ailments from depression to anxiety to loneliness.

The other truth is: I was just the same as any of the young kids who sidled up onto that stage and plunked out their pieces before the adoring crowd of family and friends. I love music enough to want to produce some on my own. I can read music but am nowhere near prodigy material. I practice almost every day, especially the day before Angela comes. I feel more motivated to improve when I know a recital is on the calendar. I hope I won't flub up (like last year). I wonder what people think while I'm playing. I worry that I'll blank out and not recognize middle C (again). I enjoy the attention of my husband taking a photo from the front aisle. I feel proud when it's all over. I sigh a deep breath and smile when I hear the applause.

Whether 8 with autism or 43 without, we are so human! We are all growing in grace, poise, ability and self awareness.

I recall a phrase from somewhere in my continuing education as an autism mom that, "kids with autism are more like others than they are different from others." Never was that more obvious than when I waited my turn in the recital lineup.

Off topic, but a fabulous read is the book whose title I lifted for this post. Same Kind of Different As Me is the gripping story of an unlikely friendship between an affluent art dealer and a homeless black man. They could never have predicted how interwoven their lives became. If you have time for another summer read, I recommend it. It is another illustration of how universally human--and alike--we are down deep.

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:5-7

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Philippians 2:5-7

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