It’s a long story.
My older daughter and I used to go on a lot of trips together–we called them our Thelma and Louise trips. Sometimes Emma would accompany me on a business trip and sometimes I would surprise her with a trip to sleep with the manatees at Sea World in San Diego. There were lots of memories and red convertibles and laughs in those trips.
And those were easy trips. Emma was a kid I could take with me into an all-day Board Meeting if I needed to, and she would quietly read or draw.
Not so, her little sister Tess.
Raising Emma was like learning from the Buddha. Raising Tess is like trying to parent Janis Joplin. And it’s not just a difference in personality–it’s more than that.
Tess is a brilliant child. She is funny and creative and a great artist and writer. She is loving and adores animals. She is a world class reader. And she is also unable to control her emotions, a panic that looks a whole lot like out-of-control rage, a consuming and loud response to the world around her. She has problems with sensory integration. It is hard for her to make and keep friends. We wonder every year if she can make it through a birthday party. She is disruptive in school because, as every teacher has told us, she’s bored out of her mind. She rages and at the same time asks for help to stop. It is a difficult, important journey, this. We are strapped in for the bumpy ride, desperate to help her. Is it Asperger’s? Is it bipolar disorder? How can we help her? We are not sure.
Tess wrote me this note a few years ago and it broke my heart in two: “I know why Emma can go on trips with you, and I can’t. It’s because she doesn’t have fits.”
After reading that note, I arranged to take her on a business trip with me just to show her she could do it. The night before she was too anxious about it and all hell broke loose. All hell. Every last circle of hell. She had what we then called a “fit” for 3 hours, and finally slept, exhausted, only to repeat it in the morning to the degree that we couldn’t go. I couldn’t take her with me, and had to rebook my own trip. In her mind, it was a confirmation of her inability to do it, of her continued failure. In her mind.
We had created a little book for her–she had written what she expected to do on the trip, and after I came home, I found it. In the second column, she had marked “no” on every single thing she had planned to do. No, she didn’t go, couldn’t go, didn’t get to do those things, a shaky “X” after each one, with tiny tear stains.
The ability to go on a trip with me holds great meaning for this little girl, like an unattainable goal, something she hasn’t been able to meet.
She desperately needs a win.
Perhaps if the focus was outside herself, I thought a few weeks ago. Perhaps if we were going as Thelma and Louise, Jr., in order to show up like magic for someone else, surprise someone, plant some love in the world for someone else. Perhaps then she could do it.
And, so, that’s what we are doing. If the planets align in a way that she can handle, we are leaving tomorrow. A new start for little Tess. A first plane ride, a first time up above the clouds, a first time getting her own refrigerator magnet from a place far away, a first time writing postcards to Dad and Emma and Blue, Perry, Callie, SimSim, and Lester, the pets back home. A first time showing up like magic for someone. And for herself.
A first success. I’m so hoping that will be true. We’re leaving tomorrow with our Pillow Pet pillows and journal and a copy of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, and our cameras, and stuffed animals, and travel vests full of Squinkies, and these t-shirts of awesomeness, a reminder to all of us to plant love and show up like magic for someone.
Want to plant love?
(This model makes me laugh. I feel certain he hasn’t read the shirt.)
It says “I’m planting love… what are you planting?” and the little flower pot says “Show up like magic for someone today.” If you’d like one of these shirts to start your own Planting Love project, send $25 (includes shipping). The number of shirts will be limited and won’t ship right away because they’re still being printed by sweet elves in West Asheville. But you can practice planting love and showing up while you wait for your shirt.
To get a shirt of your own, all you need to do is pick a color, pick a size, and click the Buy Now button. (It’ll ask for your address later.)
My dream is that we all will show up like magic for people in whatever way we can.
Bake bread for a friend who is sad. Send a card for no reason to someone you miss. Call someone you’ve lost touch with. Notice who needs an angel, and be one for them. Surprise someone with an unexpected, simple visit. Show up like magic for someone today. What matters in life is your ability to show up, to deepen and enhance and enlarge the quality of the relationship between you and not you, between you and others, between you and me.
Plant love. Harvest peace.
I hope you’ll show up like magic, friends. Just like magic.
(With many thanks to Elizabeth Zielinski whose gift of Delta miles help close the gap between what I had and what we needed for the trip. To my friend with whom we are staying in the place to which we are traveling that I can’t tell you about and spoil the surprise. To the awesome designer, Mary Campbell, who created the art for the shirts, and to Jenn Forgie at Image Group Inc who, bless her heart, dropped everything to get these t-shirts printed in time for us to wear them for the trip! And to everyone EVERYONE who loves Tess and supports her in her journey.)