Career, Parenting, Autism and Cultivating a Moral Imagination

I’m attending the Aspen Ideas Festival from early in the morning until late at night.  Richard and I have joked that the Aspen Ideas Festival is summer camp for adults, minus the swimming, boating or water skiing activities.  As I am there almost constantly, Emma really misses me.  “Go with Mommy?” Emma asked yesterday morning as I got ready to attend a 7:45AM session on “Our Moral Imagination” with Jane Shaw, introduced by Anna Deavere Smith (I’m giving myself a shameless plug now) who was wearing Ariane Zurcher Designs 18 Kt gold earrings with Australian pearls.

For the Aspen Ideas Festival I am wearing my journalist’s hat.  “Come with me and Granma, Em.  She’s going to drop me off.  Do you want to come?”

“Yes, Granma and Mommy and me, go together,” Emma said, pointing to each of us.

“Right, but I have to go to work, so I’m going to get dropped off and then you and Granma will come back up to the ranch, okay?”

“Yes,” Emma said, but she looked sad.  “Mommy has to work,” Emma added.

I love working.  I’m lucky to have writing and design both of which I love.  My ambition is something I have only recently allowed myself to really appreciate or even recognize.  For years I felt the pull of guilt when I went off to work, and while I still do at times feel that familiar tug, I no longer condemn myself for loving what I do.  Loving work does not take away from the love I feel for my children.  It isn’t either/or.  It’s not as though enjoying a career means I do not enjoy and want to also be with my children.

I spent yesterday going to a number of sessions, the first beginning with the inspirational Jane Shaw who is a British Anglican priest and scholar as well as Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.  She spoke about empathy and asked, “Can we really command someone to love?”  Jane suggested art and poetry are doorways into another’s soul.  I immediately thought of nonverbal Autistic, Amy Sequenzia’s poem, Happy To Be Myself.  Jane spoke about empathy which she described as “a deep responsiveness to that which is different from us.”  I thought of my Autistic friend Ib, whose compassion and empathy is a lesson all humans would do well to learn.  And I thought of Emma.  I thought of my journey from trying desperately to find something that would change Emma’s brain to responding to the little girl who is right in front of me.   A journey that has taken me from striving, to being.

Throughout the day, Jackie texted me photos of Emma.

Emma goes bungee jumping

Emma on top of Aspen Mountain (notice the pose!)

Emma goes bowling

Even when I’m working, I carry both my children in my mind.  I think about them, I wonder what they’re doing.  I hope they’re okay.

“How are we motivated to think about what it’s like to be another person?” Jane asked early in her presentation.  I thought about how for me, it began with tremendous pain, which led me to search, find and finally listen to Autistic adults.

This photograph looking west to the ski area known as Buttermilk, with Highlands to the left was taken from our ranch road when I took Emma out on the 4-wheeler last night.  Or as Emma calls it, “Emma’s red 4-wheeler.”  And she’s right.  It is hers.

8 responses to “Career, Parenting, Autism and Cultivating a Moral Imagination

  1. Looks like she’s having a great time! Love the bungee jumping pic!

  2. I think Brett would love the bungee jumping as well!!! That is awesome! You are so beautiful Emma! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Where’s Autism in the Aspen Ideas? i Have cerebral palsy and live in Aspen Colorado i Have been following your blog for about a month and just realized today that you were doing a blog post from the aspen ideas titled “where does autism in the

  4. Pingback: Where’s Autism in the Aspen Ideas? | Aspen Post

  5. Andrew Stockwin

    New findings published in Pediatrics (Epub ahead of print) by the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders reveal that 70 percent of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) who have a history of severe language delay, achieved phrase or fluent speech by age eight. This suggests that more children presenting with ASD and severe language delay at age four can be expected to make notable language gains than was previously thought. Abnormalities in communication and language are a defining feature of ASD, yet prior research into the factors predicting the age and quality of speech attainment has been limited. `

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