Friday, May 9, 2008

All the World's a Stage

I grew up feeling pretty shy and insecure. After watching my grandchildren some who are more like me, some less, I’m convinced that we come into the world wired that way. Two of my daughters have had stage careers, one as a ballet dancer and the other as an actress. I hid behind the curtain at every dance recital of my life.

I look at pictures of me at four, and that slight mistrust of the world on my face is echoed in the face of the grandchild I think is most like me. He’s a tough guy when he’s in a comfortable situation, but it took him forever to get up his courage to walk to the center of the room in Kindermusik to claim the instrument he craved. He didn’t want to ride the elephant at the circus, and chose a seat on the ground floor with me, preferring to watch his cousins take part in the pre-show fun with his Da.

By the time I was grown and had two daughters, I was pretty good at polishing my perfect image, and that of my family, at least in public. We were always clean and beautifully dressed when we went out, even if we were running around in dirty night clothes until noon at home. I really thought that being perfect was my ticket to success that if I was perfect enough, I would get more courage. I would get an A+ in life if I just worked hard enough at it.

Then Walker arrived in all his imperfection. He was a pretty little baby, and people commented that he looked like there wasn’t anything wrong with him at all. As I studied this strange little creature, I began to notice the good things about him. As we began parenting classes, he measured up well when I compared him to the other little ones in the class. I began to brag about him openly to my friends; I began to act as if I were proud of him. And, guess what…before I knew it, I was.

Then one day, I found myself an overwhelmed mother of four children, one with special needs, and I found polishing my perfection entirely too much trouble. And, guess what else…I think people liked me better the less perfect I became. My friends might not have understood all that was involved with bringing up a child who was different, but they certainly didn't exclude me because of it. The love and support of those friends gave me a confidence I had never achieved while I was busy being perfect.
I think that my apparent courage in my handling of having a baby with Down Syndrome might have given my friends the freedom to share the cracks in their own plaster from time to time.

I recently attended a one woman play written and acted by my young friend, Rebecca Fisher. She titled her play "The Magnificence of the Disaster" and believe me, her early life was not just a disaster, but a true catastrophe of huge proportions. What Rebecca did with her story was to turn it into the most wonderful growth experience imaginable. Her play is honest and humorous and tragic, all in exactly the right proportions. (For more about Rebecca's play go to There are also clips on You Tube. It's amazing!)

I hope I’ll always realize that people do the best they can with what they have. I hope I’ll always realize that perfection is an illusion and sometimes not worth chasing. I hope I'll remember that disasters aren't always disasters, sometimes they are magnificent.

Blessings, Janie

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