One of the benefits of living with my brother, David, is he helps me to always be on my toes. Being with him takes me out of my comfort zone and I love every minute of it.
I notice I show my vulnerability much more when I’m around David. For example, we may be in the grocery store or in the doctor’s office and I have to sing in order to persuade him or I have to answer a question or explain something out loud that is more personal than I would like to verbalize because you process information differently than I do, which is why communicating with you is wonderful and unique unto you.
With other people, I become more concerned about what they think about me or how my communication may be being judged by them, even if that judgment isn’t verbalized.
I was just at a local concert, and the auditorium was filled with people. I’m in the front row, and an acquaintance comes over. She tells me good news about her life and I attempt to hug her tightly. She stiffens up and looks at the full crowd behind us even as I just begin to lean toward her. The momentum of the hug already in motion. If this was a class for hugs, I was the enthusiastic student. I think mid-hug that I would rather jump up and down, and wave my hands a bit to show her how excited I am for her good fortune. However, my conscious is saying by hugging her I am totally keeping it cool and together.
Next thing I know, I’m met with a stiff ”reality” or dare I say illusion of concern by my acquaintance. She is afraid of how my actions “look” to the public. I put the remainder of the hug away to be used for my next hugging opportunity.
I wonder why I was so concerned with this “look”? If David was in that moment, he wouldn’t care, he wouldn’t hold back. He would go straight to the hug and even linger. David enjoys being enthusiastic and he is never embarrassed by how he expresses himself. He shines. His way of being brings a comfort level and an invitation for myself and others to shake off the judgment and move or speak the way we desire. David doesn’t compare himself to others. David approves of himself. He is authentic.
While some people may think growing up with a sibling with Down syndrome is difficult, I would say to them that I’ve had those difficult times with my brother, but I can’t ever seem to remember the hard times when the funny, unexpected and beautiful moments seem to have sprinkled themselves all over the life I get to share with David.