Not Quite A Mermaid Yet

My brother-in-law and husband working towards their diving certification

“We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world.” ~Helen Keller

This weekend, I learned a few things about myself.

First of all, I learned I am not yet ready to be a mermaid. The dive class Friday night went well for the most part, with my biggest stress coming when we were told we needed to sit underwater with our regulator in our mouth but no mask over our face. This was nearly impossible for me. I’m a fair swimmer, but not a great one. My first experience of swimming was being forced off a diving board into the deep end of a YMCA pool when I was 9. It did not go well. I swallowed a mouthful of chlorinated water, surfaced choking, and decided swimming was not my thing. I eventually learned to swim well enough. And while I passed the 10 minute float test with zero trouble, I remain a 54 year old who jumps into a pool holding her nose. I can swim underwater only if I exhale bubbles from my nose. So, yeah. Sitting on the bottom of a pool with air bubbles rising up from my respirator and hitting my nose was not my thing. I freaked out, inhaled more water up my nose and went home dejected. Still, I rallied and tried scuba class again on Saturday. I had no problem clearing my ears or learning to achieve neutral buoyancy. I loved swimming around underwater at 13 feet and diving for toys. But when it came time to take off my mask, hold it in my hands, swim around, then put it back on, I knew I was finished. I left the class early and alone. I will not be scuba certifying until I get my confidence issues resolved. My mermaid days lie ahead somewhere. Perhaps after a summer of swimming and some private lessons.

On the positive side of this unfortunate discovery, however, is the reality that when I realized I was not ready to meet this challenge at this time I was able to be honest with myself, tell the instructor I was out, and forgive myself for needing a little more time to prepare. I can’t be angry with myself for needing to learn to be a mouth breather. I can be proud of myself for recognizing my limits and being willing to step away until I can make progress with my swimming. This is big step forward for me. Even as it was a disappointment not to be ready to complete the scuba class, it was a growth opportunity I managed. Does it suck not to have achieved this goal as I planned? Sure. But I wasn’t ready. And I’m wise enough now to understand that “not right now” does not mean “not ever.”

Overall, the weekend was a mixed bag. It is difficult for me to admit defeat, even if it is temporary, but I am grateful I was able to acknowledge my current limits and step away. I will get my water issues sorted. I just need to trust the growth process and keep moving towards my goal. Someday I will pass my scuba certification and the accomplishment will be even sweeter for the time I spent working towards my goal.

Be A Goldfish — Slippery And Bold

“She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it).” ~Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

In the Apple TV series, Ted Lasso, the protagonist coach famously tells one of his players that the happiest animal on earth is the goldfish because the goldfish has a ten-second memory. He then tells the young man to “be a goldfish” so he can let go of a negative interaction that happened with a teammate on the pitch a minute ago. That line has become a favorite among fans of the show. It’s so popular you can buy mugs, stickers, and t-shirts with that saying, and it regularly makes the rounds in comments on social media. And I get it. It’s a good saying. I quite like it. I’m not very good with the advice it offers, but I’d like to be.

Today I found this meme while scrolling through my Facebook feed. It offers a goldfish with a different point of view. I like this one too. I’m a little better at being brave than I am at letting go of comments, people, and past events that are no longer important or worth perseverating over. I attribute this to two things. First, I grew up believing I was inherently unlikable, so of course if someone said an unkind thing about me or acted like I did something wrong or suddenly stopped speaking to me, I knew it was my fault. I carried those feelings around like they were a suitcase, handcuffed to me and filled with irrefutable evidence about my worth. Second, to achieve anything when you have low self-esteem, you have to be at least a little brave. It’s a fake-it-til-you-make-it proposition. So, like I said, it is easier for me to be a little brave than it is to forget about a slight.

Ideally, I think both goldfish in this scenario are right. It’s good to let go of junk you are carrying around for no reason because it often says less about you than about the person or situation you are believing rather than yourself. It’s also good to work on your bravery. Although there are some who are born brave and some who become brave situationally, most of us could put a little more deliberate effort into being brave daily. We could stand up for ourselves with our boss or ask our partner for what we need instead of stuffing our feelings or tell the chatty barista that we need a new latte because we asked for oat milk but we got whole milk and, well, that just won’t work. To be so slippery that negativity glides over me like a kid on a Slip-n-Slide and so bold that I can live my truth every moment of my life from here on out, no matter who is watching or commenting, those are my goals. Goldfish are really speaking to me these days.

When I die, if for some odd reason I can’t be cremated, I want the Lewis Carroll saying at the top of this page on my tombstone. I am good at giving myself advice. I’m good at knowing the right thing to do (be it, let it go or be brave), I’m just not great at doing it. I’m just telling you this because I spout a lot of platitudes and inspirational quotes (read: fluffy bullshit) on this blog, and you should know it doesn’t mean I am living it. I’m working on it, but I’m not there. Not by a long shot. So if you’re not there either, that makes you my people. My suspicion is I have a lot more people than I thought.

Keep on keeping on, friends. We got this.

I Am Not On Clearance

Indeed

I first saw the quote above maybe seven or eight years ago. It hit me hard then because I knew that was how I operated. Raised to believe I was something to tolerate, when others didn’t meet me halfway or make much of an effort at all, I went out of my way to keep them around anyway. I didn’t question their lack of effort or their lack of respect for my boundaries because I knew I was a lot to tolerate, and this meant I had to work so they would continue putting up with me.

In the years since I first read the quote, though, I have worked to increase my self-esteem. I have at last come to the place where I am able to see my negative qualities without allowing them to convince me I am worthless or worth less. I don’t want to offer a discount on my company anymore. I have a lot to offer my companions. I’m not especially bad, as I previously thought. I’m especially human. And that is awesome because it means I am like everyone else after all. I don’t have to accept less from others in our relationships. I have agency. I can decide what works for me, and I can let other people walk if they aren’t comfortable with what I need to stay in relationship with them.

So now I am at last in the place in the quote. I am finished allowing people to treat me a level below my worth. I am not on clearance. I’m not handing out coupons. This isn’t Goodwill. If what I want is too much, if you don’t want to make the effort, move along. I’ll be better for it.

This One Time At The Olympics…

Photo by Aditya Joshi on Unsplash

I am not normally a fan of the Olympics. I know. I know. What kind of person am I? But, seriously, I’ve just not really ever cared. I don’t mind watching (I don’t have much of a choice since everywhere you turn, there they are), but if they didn’t come around every two or four years or whatever, I would not be broken up over it. That said, there have been three athletes whose stories spoke to me.

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

First up is Ester Ledescká, the Czech skier/snowboarder. NBC did a human interest spot on her, and she blew my mind. It’s one thing to be a world class athlete, but it’s another thing entirely to be a female, world class athlete who competes in not one, but two, sports. And Ester doesn’t just compete. She wins gold medals…in two sports. It’s awesome. What really spoke to me about the interview with her was when she was discussing how many people had told her she shouldn’t try to compete in two sports. They told her it is better to focus on one. They told her that if she attempted to focus on two she would only accomplish being middling at two sports rather than potentially exceptional at one. They told her it couldn’t and shouldn’t be done. Ester, however, had a the audacity to ask a simple question when people told her it couldn’t be done. She asked them, “How do you know?” And she did it anyway. Damn. I thought about my own life and how many times I listened to naysayers, never once believing in myself enough to stand up for myself and tell them what I knew in my own heart: “I got this.” So often I backed off the courage of my convictions and figured others knew what was best for me. I was wrong. I think every young girl (and boy) should know Ester’s story. Ester is the embodiment of grit, a woman who knew what she wanted, fought for it, worked hard, and did what others said couldn’t be done. She kicks ass.

We are at our most powerful the moment we no longer need to be powerful.” -Eric Micha’el Leventhal

The second outstanding athlete is Shaun White, of course. I have been a fan of Shaun’s since his first Olympic appearance in 2006 in Turin. Shaun White is a walking superlative. He’s a joy to watch, the rare combination of hard work, creativity, enthusiasm, confidence, finesse, and passion. He elevated snowboarding to an art form, constantly pushing himself (and others) to greater heights, literally and figuratively. At 35, he showed up solidly against competitors almost half his age. Yes. He landed in fourth place at his fifth Olympics, but who cares? He’s Shaun White, dammit. What struck me about what I saw of him after his final run, though, wasn’t his graciousness but his heart. After receiving an ovation upon completion of his final Olympic run, after accepting hugs and kind words from each of his fellow competitors, Shaun did something more extraordinary than all of his physical feats. He let the emotion of the day take over, and he cried, not a couple quickly wiped away man tears but actual, ugly-cry tears. I don’t think I have ever been more impressed by him than I was in that moment. He showed his humanity. In fairness, he has cried on camera at Olympic events before, but this meant more. This was a man openly weeping on television for the world to see because he was feeling all the feels. And me being where I am in my life cried right along with him. I’ve got tears just remembering it now. Shaun gave the sport of snowboarding a firm foundation and a heart, and he proved that you can be a man and feel your feelings and show them for all the world to see. And that is a bigger gift to the youth who follow in his footsteps than his Double McTwist 1260.

“Life is not about how many times you fall down. It’s about how many times you get back up.” ~Jaime Escalante

The final athlete who wowed me this week was Mikaela Shiffrin. After falls in her first two events, events where she is usually the one to beat, she was visibly shaken. She was angry at herself, disappointed in her performance, and all-too-aware she was letting people down. But she rode the chairlift to the top of the Super G course and stood at the gate to face her fears. I can’t even comprehend that level of bravery. After her first two events, she could have simply decided not to compete any further. She could have decided that maybe the universe was trying to tell her it wasn’t safe for her to compete. Oh, the voices of self-doubt she must have been battling as she took that ride to the top of the mountain. But she did it. 3…2…1…and she burst from the gate to ski 70 miles per hour down to the finish. And when she finished in 9th place, she wasn’t disappointed in herself. She was ebullient. She was smiling. The relief on her face was there for the world to see. She hadn’t raced that race because she had something to prove to others. She had raced because she had something to prove to herself. She showed up to that race for herself and, in doing so, told the fear in her heart and mind to go to hell. She is so strong. I’m not talking her physical strength (although, holy crap, yas queen, you go, girl). I’m referring to her mental strength, the strength to fall in front of the world and get back up and risk it all again. That is what the world needs to see more of. The strength to look fear in the face and do the scary thing anyway. Mikaela, you are my hero this week. I will always root for you. Not because you’re my Colorado mountain girl, but because you are wicked brave.

I guess my admiration for these athletes teaches me these three things. I need to believe in myself and follow what my heart tells me because it knows me best. I need to be willing to open up, to be vulnerable, and to feel my feelings when they arise. And I need to look fear in the face to make forward progress. This is the way.

Fear, Superpower, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Shakespeare

Photo by Rohan Makhecha on Unsplash

After a long, heartfelt, open discussion last night, I am feeling much better today. Sometimes, you have to face your fears, speak your mind, listen carefully, and breathe through the discomfort of it all to reach a better place. I woke up this morning a little anxious because it’s hard when you’ve opened up and been vulnerable. It’s difficult to know if others were able to see and feel your heart. As the day progressed, though, I became more and more relaxed as a realization sunk in. I’ve spent my entire life giving other people power over me. It started when I was young and I gave up my power because it was a survival strategy. Then I was older and still operating under the rules of that previous paradigm, wanting people to like me, wanting to be fair to everyone else, wanting to be the “good girl” I was told I should be. I stayed in that good girl bubble for a long, long, long time. And then it hit me today. People only have power over me because I have continued to give it away. I can be both a good person and a person who holds her own power. I can help people with love and compassion and not be a doormat. I can listen to and hear people and still speak my truth. I can be and do those things because that is my superpower. So today is a good day because I finally realized I am a goddam superhero.

Now, not everyone is going to get me or like me or agree with my previous statement, and that is okay. Some people may even puke in their mouth a little bit when they read this. And that too is okay. I am not for everyone. But the people in my tribe know my heart and benefit from my light, and those can’t or don’t want to see my goodness may never. And that also is just fine. Whether or not others see my goodness doesn’t determine whether or not it exists. It does. It is always there even when others deny it. As long as I know it, as long as I feel it, as long as I try my hardest every day to be decent and kind while respecting my own choices and gifts and goals, nothing else can touch me. I will make mistakes. I will upset people. I will land in some awkward situations. No doubt. But none of that detracts from who I am. It only proves I am human. But now I am a human with an invisible but powerful cape.

All of this reminds me immediately of Eleanor Roosevelt. She was a brilliant woman. During her lifetime, she dispensed a great deal of wisdom. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway.”

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

“When you have decided what you believe, what you feel must be done, have the courage to stand alone and be counted.”

And the final quote is the one that inspired this blog, Live Now and Zen:

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That is why we call it the present.”

So, put yourself out there. Be vulnerable. Don’t let anyone dim your shine. Own your shit, but own your brilliance too. And if you won’t listen to me, listen to Eleanor Roosevelt or even Shakespeare, who penned in Hamlet:

“This above all: to thine own self be true.”

Go get ’em, Tiger. Or, as my sister says, TOWANDA!

The Beating of My Own Drums Returns

My little corner of the world

I took my first drum lesson five years ago on September 15, 2016. Playing drums was something I had wanted to do since I was a child, and at the ripe old age of 48 I finally decided to go for it. I found my instructor online (the introvert’s way), but I knew instinctively he was the right person for the job because he had previously been a practicing Buddhist monk. It was going to take Buddhist-monk-level patience and calm to deal with my level of anxiety about this big step. I had spent most of my life up to that point purposely avoiding situations that made me uncomfortable, such as learning new skills in areas where I had no knowledge base. Meeting a stranger at a music studio so he could help me learn to play drums ranked about a 10 out of 10 on my discomfort scale. Still, I somehow managed to show up to the lesson, anxious as hell and sober as a judge. I remember that first lesson as an out of body experience. When it was over, I walked back to my car berating myself for being such an uncoordinated, nervous, and uncool dork. These are not things you want a drummer to be.

I persisted with my lessons, though, because Jeff was beyond awesome to me and for me. Ashamed as I am to admit it, there were several lessons in the first year where I got overly emotional when I couldn’t get a beat or fill or technique and wound up teary eyed and too stressed to continue. Jeff, thankfully, did not freak out at this crying middle aged woman and channeled his Buddhist training to help me get to a better mindset. As time went on, I began to believe I could actually learn to play drums. I had no plans of joining a band or performing in front of others. I simply wanted to be able to get behind a drum set, put on some headphones, and play along to songs I enjoy with some level of competency.

In March of 2020, when everything in-person shut down, so did my drum lessons. Jeff set up a situation where we could do drum lessons virtually, but it was not my thing. So, I stopped taking lessons. I told myself I would play at home, but I didn’t. There were four of us full-time in our house then, and taking up space and banging on drums didn’t feel right. When we moved to our new home, my sweet spouse suggested we have a room finished in the basement for my drum set. It was finished in January of this year, complete with insulated walls to quiet my noise. But, I still didn’t play. This is all on me. No one in my family said I should stop bothering them. I just felt awkward about it. Taking up space in my own life is something I have struggled with for years.

Today, though, I decided it was time to do something for myself that benefits literally no one else. I went into that tiny room in the basement and set up my drums. I put a poster on the wall. I dusted off the kit. I found all my drum notation and skill books. I located my metronome and charged my wireless headphones. And then I played. It was rough, but drumming is a motor skill that uses muscle memory, kind of like skiing or riding a bike. It didn’t take long before I was remembering beats and somewhat successfully playing along to some songs I knew well once upon a time. I was still awkward, but it felt good, like coming home.

I have decided to keep going. It’s good for me to keep learning. Jeff taught me how to read drum notation, and I have a plethora of song books to teach me how to play along with the Foo Fighters, Green Day, and Nirvana. Now that I have a tattoo, it seems like continuing drumming is compulsory, right? I’ve got some work to do to turn my little drum studio into my own oasis, but I am finally ready to make it my own.

I may never be a great drummer, but working on the skill is enough for me. It will keep my brain flexible as I age. Maybe someday my grandkids (when I have grandkids) will think I am badass too. That would be kind of cool.

I might need another tattoo, though.

I Am The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog

What? I don't look like a killer rabbit to you?
What? I don’t look like a killer rabbit to you?

Tonight I am celebrating because today I did something way out of my comfort zone. And I survived!

A few weeks ago, the boys’ school hired a company to make a promotional video that would be used on its website. The company planned to interview teachers, administrators, and students. They also wanted to interview some parents. Anyone who knows me knows that I cannot stand to be on video. I hate it. Emphasis on the word hate. Did I mention hate? It makes me so uncomfortable I want to puke. I loathe video chat. I wholeheartedly believe Facetime was invented solely as a torture device. If someone brings a video camera within 20 feet of me, I disappear faster than a case of cheap beer in a college freshman dorm room. I would honestly rather have a full on Brazilian bikini wax by an aesthetician student than appear in front of a camera. When I first saw the email asking for parent volunteers, I immediately resigned it to the Trash folder. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities at the school, I reasoned. There’s no need for you to jump in on this one. I was not going to do this. No way. No how.

But as the week wore on, that email vexed me because I knew I was exactly the kind of person that should be talking about that school. With not one but two sons with learning disabilities there, with our six years’ worth of struggles as we tried to discern how best to help our boys, with the exponential growth we’ve witnessed in them over the past eight months, I was a poster-child parent for this project. I was being a coward and I knew, that like Emmett in The Lego Movie, the self-doubt that plagued me was keeping me from reaching my true potential. I opened the Trash folder, found the email, and responded that I would be happy to help with it. I clicked send knowing that I was doing the right thing. The minute I heard the whoosh sound, I felt the bile rising.

I put the whole thing out of my mind because I figured there was no point stressing about it for weeks. Deep down I knew it would all be fine and that I was doing my usually brilliant job of making mountains out of mole hills. Over the weekend, with the video date rapidly approaching, I made a conscious decision not to think about it. I would not pick out an outfit or practice speeches. I was going into this with the most laissez-faire attitude I could muster. I’ve been working on this skill lately…trying not to borrow trouble. It would all be fine, even if my hair wasn’t perfectly coiffed and I stumbled over some words.

Today was video day, and I went in more or less off the cuff. I had an inkling of things the interviewer might ask. I prepared myself for those questions. I was feeling fairly confident…right up to the point when I walked into the room with the big video camera, boom mike, and lighting set up, and saw a single wooden stool in front of it all. I did my best to give useful answers, but found it challenging to be articulate while I was simultaneously reminding myself not to slouch, touch my hair, or look anywhere but at the interviewer. I’m not sure how long I was on that stool, but it felt like forever. As the minutes wore on, I felt my cheeks turning pinker and rounding the corner to full-tilt-embarrassed red. Finally I gave an answer that seemed to satisfy everyone, and my time in hell was over.

As I was walking to my car afterward, I found myself somewhere between needing a drink to relax and needing a drink to celebrate. I’d done it. And, despite the fact that I was now rethinking every single comment I’d made (on camera about my children in front of school staff, nonetheless), I was proud of myself. I had gone out of my comfort zone and faced a dirty, rotten fear. On the drive home from school, I quizzed the boys about their fifteen minutes of fame and then I talked about mine. I told them how good it felt to do something I really didn’t want to do but knew I should. They asked me if I was glad I did it. At the next stoplight I grabbed the Bunny Buddhism book (I carry it everywhere these days) and shared this:

Bunniness is not learned in safety. One must seek unfamiliar ground and hop without fear.

Like the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog in Monty Python and The Holy Grail, I go forward prepared to leap upon any challenge that darkens my path. There are no fluffy bunnies here. Bring it!

 

 

 

 

Do You Have The Chops?

That's me...jumping over fire at the Warrior Dash (which for me was really more of a warrior partial jog)
That’s me…jumping over fire at the Warrior Dash (which for me was really less of a dash and more of a warrior partial jog)

“Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This morning I found myself reflecting on my post from last night and considering how difficult it is for me to say no. I am getting better at it bit by bit, but it still troubles me that my inability to say no is such an obstacle to maintaining my sanity. Sometimes I’m willing to sacrifice my mental well-being and my free time because the immediate path of least resistance requires me to accept something I didn’t go looking for and don’t really want to do. And I will say yes against my better judgment merely to avoid an uncomfortable situation. Sad but true.

What’s more striking (and sad), however, is how rare it is for me to say yes to a true opportunity that I should embrace when it presents itself. There’s always an excuse as to why I shouldn’t take a risk or put myself out there. And, oddly, it’s easier for me to say yes to something I wholly do not want to do than it is for me to say yes to something that could truly benefit me and that I honestly desire.

With these thoughts in my head I was scrolling through the updates on my Facebook news feed today when I came across this video. Apparently Billy Joel was conducting a Q & A session at Vanderbilt University where he was set to play a concert. Students were taking turns in an auditorium posing questions to the Grammy-Award winning songwriter and performer. When one gentleman found it to be his turn at the microphone, instead of asking a typical question, this young man started with a statement. He told Joel that New York State of Mind was a favorite of his. Then he did something truly bold. With a trembling, tentative voice, he asked Joel if he might accompany him for a performance of that tune. The crowd in the auditorium gasped, presumably jointly thinking “What a presumptuous little creep.” But what happened next was pure magic. Joel agreed. The young man walked on stage, exchanged a few words with Joel at the piano, and began to play a well-practiced introduction to the song while Joel sized up the kid’s talent. Joel then stepped up to the microphone and sang the entire song. Afterwards he applauded the young musician, exchanged a few more words with him, and told the audience to remember the name Michael Pollock. He then paid him what I think is the ultimate compliment. The guy’s got chops.

After I watched the video, I found myself questioning whether I would have the nerve to ask for what I wanted in that same situation. I’m sure there were plenty of other students in that crowd that wanted the same thing Michael did but didn’t have the cajones to ask. Whether because of fear, some notion of the rules of etiquette, nerves, or a myriad of other reasons, they wouldn’t take the risk. Sadly, I’m positive I would not have either.

We often hear the tired cliches: Nothing ventured, nothing gained and You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. We know these statements are true, yet how often do we let our fear rule our actions? There was always the chance that Mr. Joel would have politely and respectfully told Michael he was not interested. But there was also always a chance that he would consent. Michael chose to focus on that potential positive outcome, and he bravely asked the question. It paid off. And now for the rest of his life Michael will remember that he once played accompaniment for Billy Joel to his favorite tune because he was ballsy enough to ask. What a memory he created for his life’s storybook.

Some people are born with chops. It comes naturally to them to ask for what they want and to say no when the feel like it. The rest of us need to earn our chops. We’ve got to work at it. We’ve got to conquer our nerves and our fears about conventionally accepted behaviors and we’ve got to be willing to go beyond them. It’s not easy. But with time and repeated success it does become easier. With that in mind, I have a new goal for myself. I’m going to start working towards my chops. I don’t want to spend my life wondering what if or realizing I let pivotal moments slip by because I was afraid. I may not have been born with balls, but I’m going to acquire some before my time here is through.

Clearer Than A Crystal Ball

Yep. My son is a slacker.
My dyslexic son, the slacker.

My son has dyslexia. I blog about it quite often because I’m still struggling to understand it. If I ever get through the 400 page book I started reading about it, I might know more. But, for now, I’m picking up bits and pieces and starting to get a glimpse into what this revelation means for Luke. There are moments in your life when you’re struggling and something (call it fate, God, the Universe, whatever) gives you a pearl of insight that helps you see things more clearly. I had that experience today.

I was rifling through the papers in Luke’s take-home folder from school when I ran across a reading comprehension page he had done in class. He scored 2 out of 5 on it. This is not surprising given his reading issues and the fact that he’s only been in dyslexia tutoring for about six weeks now. He’s not there yet, so a 2 out of 5 isn’t a problem. He’s working on it. What bothered me about the paper was that in the top, right-hand corner his teacher had penned this comment: “Please read carefully!” When I read that, my brow furrowed. Really, lady? What part of dyslexia don’t you understand? Isn’t telling a dyslexic kid to read carefully a little like telling a blind person to watch where he’s going? It’s not as if Luke doesn’t want to read well. He can’t. It’s his fondest wish to be exactly like his classmates. He doesn’t want to be different. He doesn’t want to read slowly. He doesn’t want to ask for special accommodations or additional help, but he needs to. Chastising my kid for something he can’t help seems a bit unfair. Weeks ago I had a thirty minute conversation with his teacher so she could understand his struggles. Clearly, the information I presented to her didn’t sink in.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that this is what Luke will struggle with for the rest of his life. There is a significant portion of the population that doubts the very existence of dyslexia. These people think that the person with reading difficulty simply needs to work harder. The fact is that Luke doesn’t need to work harder to learn to read. He needs to work differently. That is what the dyslexia tutor is doing with Luke. She is teaching him to read a different way. I’ve already seen a difference. For the first time ever, he’s starting to be able to name rhyming pairs. This is progress. With tutoring like this, the kind that focuses on teaching to the way a right-brained person learns, he will read eventually. He will never be as fast or successful at it as a person without dyslexia, but he will read. And, he will spend his entire life trying to convince people that he really does need the extra assistance he requires. At least through college he will have to undergo hours and hours of testing every two years to guarantee his access to accommodations to help him keep up with his fellow classmates. Dyslexia never goes away, but you’d be hard pressed to convince most people (and most schools, apparently) that this is the case.

Luke’s best shot at success will come from his ability to self-advocate, to understand his issues and to be able to fight for and earn the necessary accommodations to ensure he gets onto a level playing field with his classmates. He’s going to have to be able to look a teacher who tells him to read more carefully in the eye and tell her that he’s reading as carefully as he can because he is dyslexic, and if she would like him to read more carefully he’s going to require extra time. Luckily for him, Luke has loads of self-confidence and charm. He has never been afraid to ask for what he wants or to negotiate to get his way. Those skills will serve him well in the future. As for me, I’m still working on my bravery and my advocacy skills. I’m going to start by reminding his teacher that he’s doing the best he can on his reading and he’ll probably go a lot further if she curbs the presumptive admonitions on his reading papers and sticks to positive reinforcement instead.