Success for me this weekend was hot pink and chartreuse and small piles of accidentally-spilled pixy dust. It was Michael Jackson's Thriller and a platter of bagel bites. It was leopard print and puff paint. It was sending my bride-to-be sister off into the night smiling.
Let me explain.
When I was three-and-a-half, my parents produced an extra tiny, screaming person. I remember thinking she was my new toy, a ragdoll plaything that followed me around like a diminutive shadow. As we grew, as things in my life became more complex and I unknowingly began attributing meaning to sensory sensation, I always had my sister to divert my attention. She's probably still unaware of the crucial role she played when our unit of four maneuvered its way around New York City: me, feeling the inexplicable crush of something undefined, charging ahead of the pack, wide-strided, seeking input and quiet and the eventual close of an event. Her: keeping up with me, talking to me, distracting me from my weighty fear and troubled thoughts.
In December 2012, she got engaged to an adorably charming man, and this weekend, it was my job as Matron of Honor to throw her a bachelorette party. Unable to be blithe and boozy, I proposed a pre-party at a neutral location. I promised mixed drinks, appetizers, and games. And I swore it would be on theme. She agreed, and off I went into planning mode. I selected an 80s baby bachelorette, and I delivered just that. The bar was stocked with candy-inspired drinks and matching sugary garnishes. The food evoked the early childhood our party-goers had to strive to remember: hot dogs in jackets, pizza bagels, spinach dip, mini quiche, pasta salad. For dessert, a traditional bachelorette cake, but slathered with hot pink frosting and featuring a Barbie, thrilled mid-split, on top. My husband, the talented graphic artist, even photoshopped the faces of the bridal party into 80s movies and TV posters. There was a drunken hot chocolate bar. I wore leggings.
My sister was elated.
I spent the first half hour of the evening monitoring myself and greeting guests. I took them on tours of their drink options, slipping Dum Dums into their drinks and Ring Pops onto their fingers. Only once, as I twirled a girl bedecked in tulle and jean, did I feel that good-old detachment sensation of proprioception. Hello, I said to it, calmly. We're fine, I'm fine, feel free to join me. And this all while the music blasted Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. In response, I kicked off my heels and hopped around in theorized excitement, feeling my feet and subsequent joints press against the floor.
At 9:45, I wrapped the girls in their coats and spun them out into the night as they giggled from the drinks and the hot chocolate and the glow bracelets. I couldn't join them at the 80s themed club that served as their second stop. But that was okay. In the past, a party like this would've been followed by a brutal, emotional berating session. I would've asked myself "What's WRONG with you?!" as the last guest crossed the threshold and I locked the door behind her. My chest would've been heavy. I probably would have cried.
There was none of that this time.
I am learning to respect my own boundaries, to push my limits as far as they'll go but stop before I dissolve into a sensory-sensitive heap. I'm no good to anyone there, in that defeated place where sounds and sights hurt somewhere deep within my brain and my body feels as if it's floating above the ground. Instead, I am celebrating the distances I can go, the paths I can traverse. I am working actively to explain this to my family and friends. I am showing them a Rachel - truncated, sure, participating in select activities; different than an average woman with no concerns - but one who is whole, one who is self-respecting. Quality over quantity.
On days like this, with my neon success tucked into my back pocket - a reminder of my dedication and love and strength of character, I am especially proud to be an adult with SPD.