I've lost my voice.
No, I'm not sick. I just don't know how to say what's on my mind.
Some things have happened recently that have made me re-evaluate everything that I am and all that I am trying to accomplish. It's not necessarily bad to have your world turned upside-down now and then. It forces you to look at life from a different angle. If you keep an open mind, you learn a lot about yourself--and others.
I'm not going to go into details about what happened. It's not really important. What I will say, is that it made me consider quitting my art project. I almost stopped blogging. I began to feel irrelevant--like there was no way I could possibly make a difference.
All I have ever wanted to do with this project is show the world how I see autism: as something beautiful. Yes, it's difficult and there are days I want to throw in the towel. But there is a beautiful side too. I am not ashamed of my son and never will be. I think autistic kids (and adults) are amazing individuals who deserve to have their stories told.
When I started this, almost 2 years ago, Derek was completely non-verbal. I wanted to tell his story because HE WAS NOT ABLE TO TELL IT HIMSELF. I didn't know if he would ever be able to. And I found other kids who were unable to tell their stories either. Since then, Derek has made a lot of progress. He is speaking some. He is still unable to tell his story, but what about in a few years? Maybe he'll actually be able to write? What then? And what if I'm not telling his story (and the other kids' stories) correctly? What if, 10-15 years from now, these kids resent me for doing their portraits and wish they weren't part of this project? After all, I'm getting permission from their PARENTS, not THEM. They are all under age 18. (Most of the kids are under age 7 and are too young to really understand what I'm doing. If they are older, I TRY to make sure they know what I'm doing and I ask if they want to be involved.)
The kids in the project matter to me. I talk to their parents regularly and follow their progress. I cheer when they do something incredible and I cry when I find out they've had a hard day. They are more than just a "portrait" to me. When I make a new piece, I put my heart and soul into it. As Oscar Wilde said, "Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter."
What scares me the most is the thought that these kids will someday NOT want to be part of this project. What if they think that as a parent, I know NOTHING about what it's like to be autistic and think that only autistics have the right to make art about autism? I have so many questions right now. And no answers.
I never wanted to hurt anyone with this blog or with this project. All I wanted to do was tell our story. Derek's story and Tyler's story and MY story. And maybe, if I was lucky, inspire a few people and give them hope. Having my motives questioned makes me feel sick. I make art for a lot of reasons, but mostly for ME. It's how I cope with life. And why do I blog? It helps me to write down my thoughts. Having followers is a bonus. It's nice to know I'm not alone on this journey. And the comments I get help me get through the rough days. I need this.
Despite the recent setbacks (including multiple rejections from different galleries and some comments from people who made me rethink EVERYTHING), I have decided not to quit. In the past week, I was notified that I've been accepted into 2 gallery shows and I'm also going to be helping with a sensory based art activity for the Autism Society of Nebraska in July. As long as a few people still believe in me, I'm not going anywhere. (What is it they say? "The moment you are ready to quit is usually the moment right before the miracle happens. Don't Give Up.") My son is beautiful, and I love to make art about him. I hope that when Derek is older he isn't upset that I chose to make art about him. I hope he thinks I did him justice in telling his story. I hope all the kids do.
Maybe I'm naive, but I actually hope Derek will be proud to call me his mom...
I cling to hope a lot these days.