**Author’s note: If I were to write a letter to autism about how it’s affected our lives, it would read something like this…
My name is Erin, and I am a mom to a little boy named Myles who just turned five.
Myles loves trains, his iPad and Mario Brothers. He has a photographic memory, is a master at mazes and a crazy-awesome whiz at video games of any kind. He has a beautiful mind and creates stories with people and interactions so real you feel like you’re there, in the story. He loves going fast, he loves laughing—he loves everyone. Myles also has autism, and while at first it felt like a curse, I now realize that it’s exactly what I never knew I needed in life—a gifted opportunity to see the world differently—a life of patience, compassion, acceptance, dedication, belief and love unattached to pre-requisites or outcomes.
Autism threw our family into a new reality—one that we certainly did not see coming—with little warning and rocked our world to the core.
At times, I wondered if we would lose our capacity to bend—breaking for good with no hope of repair. My ability as a mother, a wife, a friend and a woman were tested time and time again. I would be lying if I said it was easy, because it wasn’t—and still isn’t. In fact, I think it is safe to say that three years ago was probably the darkest and most challenging time in my life. I questioned what to do and how to make it easier for Myles, while simultaneously wondering, “Why me?”
I questioned whether I had the strength to endure this, and I watched as I allowed you to come between my husband and myself, between me and my kid and begin to dissolve my intrinsic belief, ability and strength.
It’s difficult to say if there was something precise or exact that resulted in the shift, because honestly, I don’t believe there was any one thing. I think it was only later, when I reflected back on what happened on a daily basis, and I realized that it wasn’t as though things got easier or simpler. It just became different, and the only thing I realized that changed was my head. How I perceived things, becoming emotionally detached to the outcome of Myles, recognizing my husband’s response as simply part of his own journey, and for myself, it forced me into a process of self-acceptance that has left me at peace with me—an ability to live life from a place of ease and more balance. Not because the circumstances have changed, but because I choose my practice to focus on the small successes, the intricate beauties of you and what you bring out in Myles, me, my husband and anyone I encounter.
I see the humanness in people because of you—without judgment, but rather, with utter compassion. You make me love people more. Because of you, I look beyond the outside—I look beyond the way people present or the things they say.
It’s like seeing life with one’s eyes closed, listening with the heart. I see people for their intrinsic worth, their heart’s desire and their possibility. It certainly has not been easy, but it’s been totally worth it. You’ve shown me who our real family and friends are—recognizing those who accept without hesitation and those who are concerned about your unpredictable outcome.
You have taught me trust, authenticity and how to be vulnerable—how to ask for help and to feel worthy and deserving of receiving it. You have shown me what true love is all about—a love for self and others that has no pre-requisites and is not attached to outcomes. A love that celebrates every tiny success, sees the beauty in the small things and lives life without the need to know what’s next—being fully present in the actual experience with tremendous gratitude.
It’s certainly not a world of bliss all the time—it is a world based in daily consistent action, loving accountability and a dedication to the process. It is wrought with failure after failure but you have shown me that failure is not synonymous with defeat. That failure is simply evidence that what you tried did not elicit the desired outcome. You have shown me how to remain committed, pick myself up, adapt and try something different—regardless of whether it’s parenting, marriage, friends, family or business.
While I cannot say I am, in fact, happy you have come to live with us—I can say that by embracing you and taking you into our home, as a thread that is woven intricately into our family’s fabric, we now see life through your eyes and realize it is beautiful.
I thank you for being loud in some ways and subtle in others.
I thank you for allowing my son’s amazing gifts to be highlighted.
I thank you for softening my husband’s heart.
I thank you for showing me patience.
I thank you for perspective.
I thank you for showing me how to see the beauty within others.
I thank you for teaching me gratitude.
I thank you for putting a demand on my potential.
I thank you for helping me in letting go.
I thank you for gifting me with a different life.
With much love and gratitude,
Author: Erin Schumacher
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Laura St John Photography