I was going to write a blog about blogging, and that blog may or may not have included the list of ideas for blog posts this week running through my head. One such tentative post idea I titled Tri-ing. That title surfaced in my stream of consciousness on Saturday morning as I suffered through my swim. I’ve thought about writing a post about swim training since the elderly man with trim features, who’s always at the pool, said to me, “Wow. You must have A LOT of energy.” I wasn’t sure how to take that: was it a compliment, that my swimming looks robust, full of life? Or a disparaging remark, along the lines of, “I don’t know HOW you swim that many laps in such poor form, being so inefficient.” I’ve chosen to take it as a compliment, and so we can move on.
Then came the idea during lunch out with a friend. This friend is also a cherished colleague and skilled copy editor. She has copy edited my manuscript and will be working with me on a few other projects as well as we grow our careers together, and she brought up “segue”, which I incorrectly spelled “segue way” in another blog post, despite having looked it up. I hadn’t outright asked for her input, but I was more than glad that she told me. Prior to the lunch, my friend had conferred with her husband before bringing the misspelling up with me. Her husband told her explicitly NOT to bring it up with me over lunch, but it was eating away at her. He made her promise. We had a good laugh over that. Then I told her I might have to write a blog post called “segue”, and she shook her head vehemently, and we laughed again, “oh no, no, no!” she said waving her hands, shaking her head in an emphatic no. My friend wouldn’t appreciate the attention, so I won’t do that. Which is a perfect segue into this next bit. The master idea that has floated to the top of this week’s pile (because that IS how you write a blog post!) The role of stories in our life, and a project, Common Threads.
When I say “Common Threads” I want you to think about chromosomes, which are threadlike structures, and the common humanity that unites us all. In a nut shell, Common Threads is a collaborative project, a place for families and individuals with Down syndrome to share their stories that I’ve started through my website. Our stories, and the stories we tell ourselves in our head, define us. When we know each other’s stories, we’re much more likely to feel compassion and understanding for each other. As author/photographer Peter Forbes puts it, “Stories create community, enable us to see through the eyes of other people, and open us to the claims of others.”
When I found out I was carrying a child with Down syndrome, it was words and stories that would mend my heart. It was memoir after memoir that allowed me to process my grief over a loss of normalcy, that showed me I wasn’t alone, and where I was able to challenge my own misperceptions and preconceived notions. I was on a journey: adrift in the sea of my mind, paddling furiously to the island of my heart. “So it is,” wrote Jean Vanier, “that people with intellectual disabilities led me from a serious world into a world of celebration, presence, and laughter: the world of the heart.” Words and stories were the current that took me there, that deepened my understanding of the importance each individual brings to the world.
In truth, today’s blog is mostly a plug for Common Threads! If you have a child with Down syndrome, or YOU have Down syndrome or a sibling or other family member with Down syndrome, and you are Canadian, I hope you will consider submitting your story here. Anyone and everyone can subscribe to Common Threads, to read the stories, or if you don’t want to know when new stories are posted, just pop your head in every once in a while and see what’s going on. At the very least, I hope you will read the stories, which you will see posted in the coming weeks and months, and share them with a friend who may need to read them. In case you haven’t already clicked on one of the casually inserted links above, you can read more about the Common Threads project here.
“There is no greater power on this earth than story,” wrote author Libba Bray. What’s yours?