Click here to watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.
One day after receiving a request from an editor at HuffPost to participate in a discussion about Stella Young's brilliant talk on Inspiration Porn, I got an email from a reader of my blog. She wanted me to know that she had nominated me for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award. There are no accidents, my friends.
I was touched by the nomination. I am always grateful and honored when I am told that I inspire others. Far more complicated, however, is when they say the same about my autistic daughter.
I am not disabled. I do not carry the weight of the history that my daughter does. I am not thought of as less than. I do not fight daily to be seen as among rather than other. I am not feared nor alienated because of my differences. She is.
Is she inspiring? You bet your ass she is. But am I wary of the WAY in which others derive their inspiration from her? Extremely.
Brooke is not inspiring because she is autistic. She is inspiring because she lives her life in a way that commands respect and demands acceptance.
She is inspiring because she lives her truth. Because she grabs this life by the balls and makes it her own.
She is inspiring because she does not take the path of (apparent) least resistance and succumb to the pressure to hide the parts of herself which might make others, in their own insecurities, uncomfortable.
She is inspiring because she loves every last ingredient in the glorious soup that makes her who she is.
She is inspiring because by living unapologetically she inspires others to do the same. To proudly claim their identities and, in so doing, remove the stigmas that have for so long been attached to them.
I can think of no greater inspiration than a model of self-love and self-acceptance -- with or without autism.
Last year, my daughter inspired me to come out as a bisexual woman even when it wasn't "necessary," when I could have lived the rest of my days in the comfort of invisibility, passing for something more palatable to the mainstream.
She inspired me to live my truth by living hers. To understand the responsibility inherent in my privilege and to use it to dismantle it.
She inspires me to slow down and to shut up. To listen. To connect to people on a level far beyond the surface. To seek light. To laugh harder, love harder and live harder. To ask for what I need without apology and to give what I can without reservation. To abandon pretense and be who I am just as she, so richly, gloriously, beautifully, is who she is.
So yeah, my daughter is an inspiration. One of the best kinds. But not because she's autistic. To say that she is an inspiration to those of us without her challenges simply because she shows up every day is to perpetuate the destructive paradigm of othering and dehumanization.
But to see her in all of her messy, complex, multidimensional glory and to take inspiration from her grace, humor, self-awareness, self-advocacy, self-acceptance, self-love, joie de vivre and incredible generosity? Well, then you're onto something.
Because she is indeed one heck of an inspiration, at least to her mama.
Jess can be found at Diary of a Mom where she writes about life with her husband Luau and their daughters, Katie and Brooke. She also runs the accompanying Facebook page, a warm and welcoming community of 140,000 people, some autistic, some not, all, in their own ways, inspiring.
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