What makes me me what makes you you. — Cat Stevens
Yesterday I was, of course, riding a bike (stationary this time, because it was raining) and Nat’s and my song came on my shuffle. And there it was, all over again, my Nat feeling. Hits me full on, heart and core. A tender pain, sweet, really. I used to fear it, I used to think it meant bad stuff like I’m still grieving. I have said that for years, that the grieving never goes away. But this was different. Not grief. Sweet ache, delicious. I saw his baby head for a flash, blonde and Charlie-Brown round. And I thought, “Yes, it’s true, I have gotten so much out of that person.” Then I thought about how some would find that selfish and say, “He wasn’t put here so that you could learn from him.”
I never said Nat was “put here,” though his name does mean “gift of G*d” in Hebrew (Natan-El). But Ned and I gave him that name. There was no discussion. If it was going to be a boy, it would be Nathaniel. A girl would be Melissa. That was that. Some would ask, “where did you guys get the idea to name him “Gift of God,” though, if not from some Other Source?” Yes, sure, that is a valid question. What makes something right, though? It was simply the right name at the right time.
And Nat is a gift for me. Getting to know Nat and loving him — first blindly and instinctively, mother animal-style, and then, learning his personality and soul, person-to-person — this has been a singular experience. Nat’s existence has shaped me, made me see the world, people, life, in a different way from Before Nat, irrevocably. And how do I now see the world? With compassion. With r achmuni s. A knowledge that things are not exactly fragile, but soft. The ground below our feet shifts, there is no certainty. If we can live with that, we have learned a lot already. If we can find happiness given that, even better. That is what Nat has taught me so far.
The challenge is figuring out if it’s okay the way it is. One specific example of “is this okay?” centers on how much of Nat is the autism, how much is the self. In other words, what parts of Nat’s being were okay to put under the microscope and alter (the autism) and what parts were sacred.
Turns out it’s all sacred! But that doesn’t mean people can’t try to improve and change. Again, because of Nat, I have learned that we are the whole package, but because we are humans with the ability to reflect, we can change aspects of ourselves in order to be happier, to exist more successfully (successful, that is, pertaining to the soul’s achievement, not the wallet’s). So one of my jobs as Nat’s mother has been to help him be his best, most successful self. To help him not fear, to help him understand and finally, to love the world. And in being reflective in this manner for Nat’s sake, I had to learn about that very same thing. You can’t teach unless you understand.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is, my most cherished lesson has been that what makes me me and what makes you you is sacred. The world changes, our actions may be altered; we learn, we achieve — but our souls are just there, and we discover them. We lift our souls and our children’s souls out of the darkness, out of solitude and bring them into the light. Autism can make that more of a challenge. But we are not meant to be solitary and in the dark. So we live, stumble, reflect, and learn. And if we let it, our soul lights the way.