Raising Ava...what doesn't kill you makes you stronger...
sui generis - Unique. [L, "of one's own kind."] The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.
The Gifted Development Center, www.gifteddevelopment.com, has a Tab on the left entitled "What is Giftedness?" I thought it poignant and telling as to Ava's journey, which was/is mine as well. Their introductory paragraph reads: "Every gift contains a danger. Whatever gift we have we are compelled to express. And if the expression of that gift is blocked, distorted, or merely allowed to languish, then the gift turns against us, and we suffer." (Johnson, 1993, p. 15)
Well said! Too bad it wasn't available in the 1970's when Ava burst onto the scene after her ten-month incubation. She astonished family, hospital staff and onlookers by doing a perfect push-up and turned her head from side-to-side with a look of disgust on her face, as if to say, "Who turned on all the lights?" I knew then that I was in for some serious parenting challenges, and I wasn't wrong.
The blind blessing was that I didn't know then the extent to which I would be challenged. Ava exhibited even more
powers of perception, intuition and psychic ability than her brother, Carl. He came with different psychic and artistic talents. Ava often sensed when something was wrong with Carl before I did. When he disappeared without a trace,
six year old Ava was the first person to "see" him. She described everything he was wearing down to his shoes. It was fifteen years later when we it was confirmed to us both that he had presented himself to her that day as if to prepare us for the fact that he was gone.
Although Ava's years between birth and puberty weren't easy, I always felt the extenuating circumstances of my divorce from her dad, Carl's own emotional issues and ultimate disappearance exacerbated her own instability. I often dismissed her early symptoms of separation anxiety and dysfunction as stemming from these outside influences and tried to give her what she needed emotionally by literally spending all my time with her when I
We moved into Mom's, quit my job of twenty years and started my own consulting business so I could be with Ava during her preteen and teen years. After all, it was that age when Carl veered off the right track and she surely had already proven to be a much greater challenge. It was during this time that I decided to home school her. She fought me like a hellcat. She hated me for everything...the divorce, her brother's disappearance, home school, Desert Storm and everything in between.
It was a true test of my faith to keep steady and give her structure along with her rantings, ravings, threats and tantrums. I realized we needed to take our lessons of negotiation up a notch so I told her she could perform her school work any time of the twenty-four hour day that suited her. Every Monday I handed her the weekly lessons. If she got them all done correctly, she could choose between a field trip or lunch at her favorite restaurant on Friday. It gave us a small level of peace.
Socializing was tricky. I couldn't find a single group of kids she liked. In the spring of 1991, I introduced her to my friend's daughter who was an "A" student, cheerleader and all around great kid who belonged to a church youth group. Little did I know that the youth group was infected with an eighteen-year old pedophile. He posed himself cleverly as a big brother type to thirteen-year-old Ava, hitting directly at her greatest childhood pain. She was so starved to have her brother back in her life that she let this creep step in her big brother's shoes not realizing the disaster that would come to her through him. I pushed hard to keep her away from the group but the insistent pedophile won. The instant I saw the traumatized look on my child's face I knew this man raped my daughter.
Ava's anger was so singly focused on me that she refused to speak about the incident. I innately understood her fragility so I didn't push to have the pedophile prosecuted. I truly was afraid she would kill herself if she had to face the humiliation of a trial. She was always a very private person berating me if I spoke too loudly on something she deemed to be a private matter.
By the end of that summer and just six days before my father died, Ava attempted to overdose on nonprescription pills. As much as she hated hospitals and needles, I thought taking her to the emergency room to have her stomach pumped would snap her out of her episode of self-pity and self-destruction. I convinced her to go back into therapy. The therapist she saw recommended group therapy as well. That BOMBED and, as usual, I was the brunt of her rage. She became more withdrawn and bitched constantly about living in Mom's rural area.
My last ex said I liked being shot out of a rocket. He would never understand that I'd jumped off cliffs knowing God was my parachute so many times that it was my norm. So, with God by my side and a nickel in my pocket, I negotiated to buy a house with no money down with 100% seller financing. Ava looked forward to living near kids her age. She made friends and things looked okay for ten minutes or so. Then everything began to unravel...again.
By the time Ava was seventeen-years-old, she had unilaterally decided to quit high school. You might ask WHY didn't I know she had quit school? It was because she got up and drove to pick up her girlfriend every morning like they were going to school. The two had decided to work at a local restaurant instead. I was devastated and was ripe for yet another nervous breakdown. Ava was convinced that she knew everything. I spent the next six weeks selling everything in our house and finding a renter to move in. It was time for me to put the oxygen mask on my own face. I told her to let me know when she was ready to get her life together because she would need to figure out where she was going to live and how to pay for it all. The world would have to teach her what I couldn't.
And boy did it ever. Over the next year or so, the world taught her all sorts of things like how to take her self-destructive nature to a whole new level. She discovered how to make "easy" money as dancer. She learned that cocaine helped her concentrate better, marijuana made her paranoid (more than usual), drinking was her relief from the intrinsic pain in her soul, and she could sign up for college classes and make me think she was going so I would continue to fully support her. This radical self-destructive mode lasted until she was about twenty-four years old when I'd gone as far as a human could go. I let my fury loose on her and said I was through. I was selling out (yet again) and she'd better find a place to live and a legitimate way to support herself.
I fought to regain my own sanity and stability, started working full time again and got into a what turned out to be a long term relationship as Ava worked to regain control of her life. She joined a church and found where she wanted to live near downtown Atlanta. It gave her the community spirit she needed...drum circles and a sense of well-being, friends, renewed love for learning opera, and a job. She still struggled, but not like before. She focused on her studies, got a job, married and got her Associates Degree by 2007. She was finally on the right track. It took every bit of my earnings to support us both in our respective homes but it was worth seeing her blossom in her little apartment that cost twice what I paid for my own home.
Her husband had always planned for them to relocate to Las Vegas, but he went ahead to find a job. Ava expressed her reluctance to move there but, finally in the fall of 2008, she followed. Her husband sat in the truck we had just loaded with her worldly possessions, he impatiently raced the engine. She ran back inside the apartment for one more hug and said, "Mom, I'm afraid to move to Las Vegas." Naturally, I asked why and her answer still makes my heart stop, "Because I think I'm going to die there." I told her, "No, baby; you're going to LIVE there."
The first year in Las Vegas was not just hard...it really BAD. I truly didn't believe she would live through that first year
in Vegas for so many reasons. Just two weeks after moving her to this very strange town away from everything familiar (including drastic time and climate change), her husband left to work in Japan for six months. Her husband's
parting gift was a phone number for a Georgia woman who now lived in Vegas.
When Ava was this fragile, it only took a grain of sand to cause her to fall back into her comfortable, self-destructive behavior. Abandonment was the grain of sand and no matter how many times I flew out there to be with her, I knew it was never going to be enough. Ava quickly became unraveled so much so that she had a hard time grasping the three hour time difference. When she kept calling me at weird hours, I started jokingly calling it Ava Specific Time. It
was now 2009 and her already rocky marriage was getting worse by the day, but in true BPD behavior, she clung to it relentlessly...yet forever tortured by its failings.
It was then that Ava's new Georgia friend helped her gain balance and become aligned with Ava's first tribe. Her tribe accepted her openly and lovingly. She was finally keeping company with an amazing group of performers who were a family to her. It was the emotional nutrition she desperately needed, the salve to the open wound of her failing marriage and tortured soul.
She struggled valiantly to stay in school, study and work such that, by the fall of 2010, she was both recharged with scholastic success but also exhausted her with disaster from her failed marriage. Everything was reaching a crescendo of extremes. Domestic violence combined with intense operatic training had worn her out. In fact, that December, she told me she didn't think she could finish her degree because she was so sick and exhausted. I told her I'd come out to help if she needed me. The next day, the college informed her that she could graduate in two semesters and that if she didn't finish her course work by December 2011, she wouldn't be eligible for any more student loans. It was the best and the worst news. She was excited to know that she was so close to reaching her goal. She pushed hard to be successful by getting domestic counseling, creating study groups and playing as much as possible to relieve the many stresses of her existence.
For graduation, I made good on our promise for her to come home for Christmas. We were both so horribly miserable the Christmas of 2010 that we were determined to have it together in 2011. And we planned every minute to be with each other, close family and friends. It was surreal. She was so calm, more adult-like and confident just knowing she had an opera singing job waiting for her in Vegas even if her estranged husband had emotionally divorced her. However, it took very little abuse for the wheels to fall off the wagon for her sensitive soul...from both work and home.
Ava's gift was music. From very early on, she craved a broad spectrum of it from heavy metal to opera, with opera as her greatest passion. Her voice had a rich, soulful tone that set her apart from others. Ava's dream was to become so famous that she could help save helpless animals from being tortured in labs, circuses or zoos, to feed the children and save them from worldly pains, and give universal love.
When she thought she couldn't hold on any more because of negative, hurtful things people said to her at work those last days, she imploded, unable to cope with a broken heart any longer. The shooting star faded into the darkness of the night.
Even with Ava's great sense of humor, intelligence and ability to love courageously, she felt like she never fit in, not anywhere until she found her "tribe;" the one she had always said would come for her. Actually, she had several of them. She was that complex. Each tribe wholly embraced a part of her uniqueness they understood and appreciated. And in the end, through her death, Ava brought all her Tribes together.
Literally hundreds of people who would have never met had it not been for Ava's love
and appreciation for their own sui generis, found lasting friendships in each other.
Dictionaries will need to add "Ava" to the definition of this Latin term.