A few weeks ago, a few friends on Twitter were talking about how a certain actor had made their lives so much better, especially during difficult times in their lives – how he served as a beacon of light during dark times, a light at the end of a tunnel that never seemed to end. My words, not theirs as I only managed to glance at the conversation in passing…
I remember reading their tweets and then moving on to other things in my life. Beacon of light, my ass, I scoffed (sorry!). Light at the end of the tunnel, I laughed (sorry again – this is after all, a confession!). Some people…
Then it happened. A few days ago, I must have been in a foul mood because my 3-year old son came up to me and tried to cheer me up. You can never deny how astute children are, because they know exactly what makes you happy. It could be saying “shopping, mama” when you’re grumpy while driving around town running errands when you’d rather be, yes, you guessed it, shopping, mama! Or when you’re lamenting about your boring diet of greens and he comes up to you and says exactly what you’re secretly wishing for instead – “Cake, mama! Chocolate cake!”
This time, my son said one thing that he knew always made me happy (other than shopping and chocolate cake, that is) though I think I’d been in denial about it for, like, the past seven months.
“Richard!” he screeched happily before dissolving into fits of laughter and giggles. When I only made a face, he said it again – “Richard!” – and giggled the way only toddlers can giggle and break down the strongest and meanest of bad moods.
That’s when it hit me. Unlike my Twitter friends who were brave enough to share how one actor had brought them out of the darkness, I’d been in total denial about that one thing. One person did help me drift out of a darkness that lasted almost six months. I just didn’t want to admit it.
You see, in March of last year, my son was diagnosed with autism. And for six months, I descended into a sort of despair that most parents of newly diagnosed children of autism or any type of disorder (I think) fall into (again, I think). My life suddenly revolved around nothing but autism diagnoses, early intervention, traditional therapies, nontraditional therapies, gluten-free, casein-free diets, controversial therapies, sensory integration therapies, and so much more.
It made my head spin, and before long, my library was filled with all books that had to do with autism or sensory processing disorders and their treatments. My Goodreads library made me look like I was either a) a nonfiction addict b) a professional on autism and sensory processing disorders or c) a parent of a child with autism or sensory diagnosis and to be honest, I’d become all three. Even my movie choices had to do only with things that featured information about autism and their corresponding therapies.
I was a fun person to be with those six months, I guarantee you that.
Whenever I sat down to write, I wrote about the darkness and confusion that surrounded me about my son’s diagnosis, or nothing at all – which turned out to be my default setting. I was without words to describe how I felt. I was without pictures to draw. I simply had nothing to write about regarding my beautiful son at all. I simply had nothing to write about, period.
Even after he began to speak more words, and engage me and everyone else in conversation and socialize with adults and the children at the daycare, I hardly noticed. I barely noticed that in time my beautiful son was growing up, following his own timeline and not the timeline as dictated by books.
He was talking, playing, socializing, counting and doing whatever three-year olds did. I just wasn’t seeing it.
I was still sitting in the darkness. Or so I thought.
After eavesdropping on that Twitter conversation, it dawned on me that since September of last year, seven months after my son’s diagnosis – since my world turned dark – something happened. My life did turn brighter after August, when I discovered North and South and found myself inspired by its lead actor, and the messages he wrote to his fans since 2002 or so.*
I began to watch shows and movies, even if I had to go alone. I began to read books that didn’t have anything to do with autism or sensory processing disorders, or their treatments. Most of all, I began to write again, and this time I really wrote. It didn’t matter that I chose to warm up my writing chops by writing fan fiction involving characters that this actor played. It was still writing. And I wasn’t stopping.
As I wrote, and continue to write, stories that include a favorite character this actor has played in the past, my original characters were slowly coming back to life inside my head. Something had been awoken and it wasn’t about to fall asleep and fall into the darkness again.
I know this post has meandered long enough. I never realized how difficult it was to write about this, constantly editing as I go afraid to reveal more than I’d want to reveal to strangers and friends, how hard it is to go back there to that dark time and write about how it all began without realizing how long ago the darkness had actually lifted.
But because my son is astute enough and smart enough (for his own good sometimes) to point out the one thing that his mother has been in denial about, I’m finally going to admit it: my life did change just like my friends’ lives did when they discovered this man’s work.
Like a beacon of light in the darkness (riiiight), like the light at the end of that dark and lonely tunnel (right, right – get on with it), his work and his character did show me the way out. And I never even knew it till then.
But aren’t you glad that now I do. And that I can finally admit it. Sort of. I’ll get around to it. Like this year.
So this is my confession.
Like the lapsed Catholic that I am sitting behind that screen and wondering what else can I say that will shock that poor priest over there and make him squirm at night as he lays his head down to rest, can I just take that one last minute of your time and patience to confess that I discovered Richard Armitage in August 2012, and in doing so, discovered the beauty, grace and marvel that is my son and the strength and wisdom that is in me.