For more years than I can remember, my mother used to tell me the same thing on my birthday:
"__ years ago, you came barreling down the birth canal, blossoming into the world on a glorious wave of bliss."
This phrase, delivered with romantic sentiments and bookended with a fair bit flowery nostalgia, her love for me, and the revery of the unique home birth circumstances of my arrival via candle lit bean bag; has served to remind me over and over again that my life began with the miracle of an orgasmic birth.
Now that I have your attention...
My childhood was shaped in unusual ways, beginning with a sojourn to the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh Ashram in Poona, India in 1980 shortly after my mother began soul searching and embarked on her spiritual journey. Transformed by meeting Bhagwan (commonly known as Osho), she began a holistic massage therapy practice at home and became a student of Oriental Medicine. I attended first a Seek school, and then a Waldorf school; thoroughly rounding out my alternative new age upbringing. Because my mother was always working in the other room with a client, I spent a lot of time entertaining myself with My Little Ponies, craft and cooking projects, or slipping notes under her door asking permission to go to the park or walk to the library. I had a lot of freedom as a child, and became very independent from a young age.
I've always loved food, and was immediately entrepreneurial. At seven years old I was baking muffins by myself, and walking them around the neighborhood wearing a sandwich board offering them for sale. All of this was fueled by the burning motivation to save up enough money to order a forbidden pizza, so very coveted and rare, the holy grail of junk foods. Imagine my mother's astonishment to find her 7 year daughter, armed with the knowledge of a cupcake recipe, had rock climbed to the upper kitchen cupboards to locate the ingredients (while improvising upon what could not be found), turned on the oven (burning off my eyebrows in the process of lighting the gas pilot), baked cupcakes, decorated them, built and colored cardboard sandwich board to advertise them, and had walked around the block going door to door, making about $25 dollars in the process. How could she refuse me a pizza under such conditions? This was the mastery of my plan. Sometimes I had a co-conspirator in these endeavors, my best friend April. Together we were hard to resist.
The 1980s feel so innocent now. It's hard to imagine a youngster performing a such a series of liabilities today -- this is not to admonish my mother for not keeping track of me, as these were different times, yo. I like to reflect on my past because it says something about the cunning and resource we possess as children, which I think that speaks volumes about the human species.
But I digress...
I spent two years in public school before enrolling at the prestigious Albuquerque Academy, where I went from 7th grade through 12th grade. There I earned a nick name that some people still use to this day:
I made a reputation for myself as a theatrical person, writing, directing, and acting in plays and engrossing myself with the eccentric theater kids -- the "Green Roomers," who wore black trench coats and had scandalous parties. I also competed in Speech and Debate, flying all over the country to compete and winning both state and national championships for my Humorous and Dramatic Interpretations.
After my high school graduation in 1996 I decided to take a year off to travel and relax before resuming my education at Hampshire College. During this summer, my mother hosted Ra Uru Hu at our house so he could give a number of presentations on Human Design -- something no one had heard of back then. He sat down with me one afternoon and read my rave chart, which I still have a cassette recording of to this day. I didn't know it at the time because I was too young, but he told me all about myself that afternoon. It would be another decade before the truth of his insights would hit me.
At 19 years old, I went to Maui, Hawaii for the summer before college. It was here that I met raw foods and we fell in love, and have been together ever since. It was all fiery infatuation and starry eyed life long promises in the early days, which eventually gave way to affairs with green chile burritos, french bread and mashed potatoes -- leaving me full of remorse and crawling back to raw foods, begging for forgiveness. Now we've come to an understanding though: an open relationship that's finally become steady and peaceful.
My time in Hawaii was transformative on many levels, as it was here that I began working as a chef for health retreats. My early childhood joy of playing in the kitchen took flight again with my raw food experiments. This began shortly after I started working at The Raw Experience, a cafe owned by Jeremy Saffron and Renée Loux. We had a lot of fun there together, and soon began working with Nature's First Law, another group of rogue raw foodists from San Diego powered by David Wolfe and Stephen Arlin; together we created raw food health retreats. I worked in the kitchen making food for everyone with Renée, and eventually on my own. Soon, we were working with Annie and David Jubb and doing retreats with them as well.
I left Maui when I was 22, after dropping out of Hampshire College to pursue my interest in living foods. I continued to work as a raw food chef, at Quintessence in New York or privately for parties and classes. During this time, I also fell in with a community of communes in the Huerfano Valley of southern Colorado. I spent a lot of time at Libre, a community of artists, situated on 800 acres backed up against the national forest, and it was here that I met my dear friend Waska Lamb, who years later introduced me to the Ashram in Calabasas.
When I was 24, I decided my hippie galavanting was over and it was time for me to go back to school, to learn how to make movies once and for all -- a long held childhood dream. So I began working on my BA in earnest, and three years later I was accepted as a Regent Scholar into the UCLA School of Film, Theater and Television to study filmmaking and screenwriting in 2005. I was the Valedictorian and graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2007, but then stayed for an extra year to complete a second concentration in screenwriting. During this time I wrote my script Spin Cycle, for which I won a Samuel Goldwyn Writing Award in 2008.
Done with film school, I began the hustle that is required of everyone who wants to live in a big city, and worked as an assistant to various producers and entertainment professionals, including a stint at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, which happened to be right next door to my apartment in Beverly Hills. All the while, I continued to work as a chef for both private clients and health retreats, and consult with The Ashram. It was during this time that the message of Ra Uru Hu really began to sink and, and I became much more aware of my design as a manifesting generator.
One moody evening in March at a birthday party for Alan Moyle, I locked eyes with a handsome gentleman across the room, and began a transformative relationship. We quickly fell in love, and when our son Mylo was born the following year, my life changed forever.
There were two soft markers in his structural ultrasound, hydro nephrosis and echo foci, and taken in consideration with my age (31) and the absence of any testing that had been done (the early detection blood test hadn't come out yet), the doctors told me I had a 1 in 400 chance of Mylo being born with Down Syndrome.
As you can imagine, this was challenging news for a first time parent. Mylo's father and I, like a lot of people, wanted our child to be "perfect," and I had put a lot of time an energy already into being a healthy pregnant lady for my kiddo -- eating organic greens, fruits & vegetables, beans, eggs, fish, cheese, fruits, supplements, prenatal vitamins, along with prenatal yoga, walking, going to the gym, etc... I was followed by both doctors and midwives! I spent hours poring over the chat room discussions about soft markers, looking for the outcome that I wanted to hear: two soft markers but not born with DS.
One day my mother called me and said something amazing that I will never forget. She said, "Suzie listen up and listen well: your child is perfect no matter what. Period."
I let the truth of her words sink in, and that was the beginning of my journey into what I will call the radical acceptance of my life. That day, I imagined myself giving birth 400 times. This was easy to visualize because I was learning all about the stages of childbirth through my preparation classes. I thought to myself:
"If just one of those times, he is born with Down Syndrome, then it must be meant to be."
Lo and behold, on March 5th 2010, Mylo Dean Collard made his grand entrance, cancelling my plans to attend the Academy Awards (I had tickets through work at the time, and we had all been joking about how he might make a big splash on the red carpet). I remember those first moments of his life so well, my mother, his dad, the doula and the two midwives (as well as two very transixed cats) all watching and waiting for him to breath. His heart was beating, the cord was pumping, he was small and floppy but clearly alive... just not breathing. We rubbed his little body and talked to him, encouraging him to breath. Finally he got his first kiss from the midwife. After two puffs, he sputtered online. He had all the appearances of having Down Syndrome -- as well as some other possible medical complications so we made plans to go to Children's Hospital Los Angeles to have him checked out.
Upon arrival to the emergency room, I witnessed something no new mother wants to see: your tiny 5 pound baby strapped down, struggling and mewling in protest to the insertion of an IVs along with various other bits of medical flotsam and jetsam - O2 meter, heart rate monitor. Mylo was, and has been, a prime candidate for medical intervention since the day he was born. How perfect I have mused, both then and now: I have spent all my life avoiding and resisting western medicine, while my child's life literally depends on it.
Mylo was immediately scheduled for surgery to correct a malformation of his GI tract -- something that is not uncommon for people born with Down Syndrome. He spent the next two days under the bilirubin lights in the NICU in preparation, unable to breastfeed due to the surgery prep, and I spent the next two days living in the hospital nursing my own wounds of childbirth, storing my milk for the moment when he could finally drink it, and arguing with the doctors about what was and wasn't medically necessary -- and sometimes correcting them when they confused his diagnosis with a different child. As a parent, it pays to be vigilant; but no one wants this sort birth experience.
No one, that is, except warrior spirits.
It was not lost on me that for years, I had driven past CHLA on my carefree drives into Silverlake to party with friends, or for various film shoots. It always seemed so ominous and sad to me that there would a hospital just for kids. And now here I was, with my own child -- the exact sort of person who needed to be in such a place. Did that mean that my own life had become ominous and sad? What unfortunate path through the woods had I become lost on?
I cannot give you the blow by blow of the next few years -- there is too much and it is too painful, so I will condense it into a nutshell so we can get past the nutty and see the bigger picture of the mighty oak tree that grew from these experiences:
Mylo had four surgeries in the first year of his life, while my relationship with his father imploded. I nursed Mylo through those surgeries and struggled to keep my full time job, until everything fell apart. I could not both work and care for my child in the way that he needed to be cared for. There was no daycare in my budget that could provide the specialized services that he required. I found myself with no relationship, no job, no family living nearby, and no car. I went on welfare, and like many other parents, spent years with Mylo's dad sorting out our differences in court. Along the way, Mylo developed Type 1 diabetes, was in and out of the hospital with pneumonia or any number of other infections, and in the best possible way I lost my mind.
Do you know what I mean? I didn't go crazy, although there were some days that seemed right on the edge. I lost my mind the way a car looses a tail by using the diversion of a passing bus. I lost my mind the way a girl looses a sleezy guy at a party. I lost my mind the way I lost the pick pocket who was following me through the streets of Haight Ashbury by ducking into an antique shop.
Everything was so bad, my whole identity so crushed, all of my dreams and fantasies of becoming some rockstar-power-woman-filmmaker were destroyed by the harsh realities of my life; there was nothing more for me than pain in thinking about it all, telling myself sad, crappy stories about how I was failure as a woman because I did not birth a "healthy child." My bandwidth went to pure distortion. Had I continued to think about everything that I was going through -- beyond of course what was required of me in any moment as a response to developing situations -- I would have gone insane.
So what did I do? I made the conscious choice to shift my attention and began focusing instead on my tactile and perceptual experiences, as a means to remain present for the needs of my baby. I had very little money and could not do much. I would take stroller long walks with Mylo and listen only to the birds, or the passing of cars. I washed the dishes, feeling the warmth of the water and the slip of the soap between my fingers. I folded my laundry with a focused intention of doing it as precisely as I could, savoring the texture of the garments. When I drove, I observed the passing of objects as I approached and passed, watching them grow bigger and then magically shrink into the distance behind me. I settled myself within my own body, and began to marvel at my own movements through 3D reality. I began to notice the flock like precision with which perfect strangers will synchronize the speed of their vehicles on the freeway, thrumming together down the roadway in a grand urban opera; feeling the heartbeat of Los Angeles as it pulses through it's daily traffic cycles. Every day I would pick something, anything, to look forward to, even if it was simply walking to 7-Eleven for a candy bar. It was during this time, as all my fantasies died, that my appreciation for the beautiful reality of my own existence awakened.
It was also during this time that Waska reached out in earnest and encouraged me to finish my recipe book No Sweeter than The Ripest Cherry. After I put Mylo to bed, I would stay up late into the night revising and designing the pages, perfecting the recipes. This project provided an outlet for everything else about my life that was beyond my control, and I will forever be grateful to Waska for the life line of encouragement this project provided me. Some days I literally think it saved our lives.
We published the book in 2013, through our newly formed publishing company Honest Abe Press. Later that year, my other dear friend Damian Chaparro asked me to do the menu for Aro Ha, a wellness retreat center he was opening in New Zealand in 2014. These two dear friends have both in their own way, recognized my talents as a chef and called them forth, as a means to sustain me through my darkest times.
Mylo turns seven this year, and my life is once again completely different than it once was. His father and I have found our peace with each other. Mylo is growing stronger and sassier everyday, and is adored by one and all as a constant source of amusement and delight. I have accepted the overwhelm as a condition of my life, as the benevolent pressure that has summoned forth so many diamonds within me. My inner roots have grown deep, and some days I find myself seated with such poise I cannot help but marvel at the future -- the movement of my life. Where is my life taking me? Who am I becoming? What more will I have to offer after another 10 years? These are thrilling questions for me, and in some ways I cannot wait to be 50 -- to be able to observe my collected experiences and distill more truths from them.
I do not know what is in store for me in this life, but I have finally met myself through the experience of becoming Mylo's mother and learned that the great waves of our lives are incredible opportunities to expand our consciousness. Suffering is a profound teacher, and I believe a principal reason we all come to earth. Best suffering in the galaxy! I would not change anything about what I have gone through. I cherish the openings that have been forged within me, the self love I have quested for, and the better person I have become as a mother to my beautiful warrior child.
So there you have it. You've got all the context to make sense of what you will find here on this site. We talk a lot about branding in this day and age, how to market yourself for maximum impact. As a full time caregiver to Mylo's myriad special needs, my opportunities to follow through on my creative endeavors can at times be hindered, so its impossible for me to have any agenda at this point beyond my own authenticity. I am not trying to achieve anything here other than a sharing of my unique self, information, creativity and perspective. So please be patient with my slow progress and my ineptitude with social media -- my first priority is always my son.