You will be beautiful!

Laurence Vollin

La Main à l’Oreille – Antenna Switzerland

In February 2015, I found out that I had a very serious health problem…

For a few days, I could not say anything about it. Then, on a Friday night, we were with my husband in our daughter’s room and without really having decided, I told her the news.

Our daughter Anne-Laure is physical handicapped, with a major intellectual deficiency and autistic traits that generate anguish and self-mutilating habits among others things.

Anne-Laure looked at me discreetly. Lying on her bed, she leafed through a magazine carelessly. I needed support and in her look, I read, “I’m here, you’re not alone, I’m here! My daughter was thus the unique and indispensable witness of this particularly trying moment.

Treatments began and after a few weeks, it was necessary to put into words for my three children, the adventure that began and the various vicissitudes of the experience of my body. With her older sister and her little brother, we talked about my appointments and their effects, quite regularly. With Anne-Laure communication was different. My way of moving myself in life, the energy that I emanated from my care dynamic had seemed to suit her. However, something was lacking and one day I felt the need to put into words what was happening with my appearance.

I walked back slowly into her room; she was lying on her bed. I sat down not far from her. I was at a reasonable distance not to invade her. I had a scarf on my head and, as to her brother and sister, I told her about my short hair, whose precarious existence I hid. At that time, Anne-Laure wore her hair at a medium length. I explained that I did not have enough strength to cut her hair. I must point out that Anne-Laure cannot bear to have her hair cut and that I am the only one willing to risk myself in this very delicate undertaking.

So I assured her that her hair would grow, becoming longer and longer. That we would make pigtails, ponytails… and I repeated to her: “You will be beautiful!”

I reminded her of what would differentiate us: me and my short hair under my great scarves, and she with her long hair. She straightened up and looked at me insistently while I repeated: “My short hair and your long hair, you will be beautiful!”

This scene had unsuspected effects. In the days that followed, we witnessed a significant appeasement of our daughter. She has not been invaded by indescribable anguish without a definite origin.

I have since attempted to analyze what could have modified her state of being.

Foremost, what happens to us distinguishes us from each other. I have a disease I take care of myself. I have my “short hair” and I do what it is convenient. It is only a concern for me. Anne-Laure is not a part of this.

Then there is clearly an “effect of nomination”: “You will be beautiful! “. This nomination is different from all the previous ones. There is: “You are …” which may be different from a precedent: “You are not …” where it’s implied: “You are not like the others; you are not what I thought you would be …” All this unconscious negative consideration.

This nomination has something definitive, there is: “From now on, you are … and you will be …” This is not limited in time, it characterizes the being of Anne-Laure.

Since then, her body seems to have been constituted or reconstituted. She moves much more easily, she accepts being touched and she is no longer distressed about her immediate environment nor does the layout of particular furniture. Her approach to the space is different; she occupies it in a different way.

The other does not overrun her so much, she protects herself from that. She distinguishes the disarray, the weakness of the other and cooperates (the other which is not all knowledge or power). She has developed a calmness, and the feelings of being attacked by the essential gestures of daily life (clothing, toilets …) are now minimized.

She makes progress in her learning.

Aggressiveness, however, remains in moments of frustration; we remain listening to her “no”.

Anne-Laure does not speak, but she has been saying, “wait”, for several months. She uses it very appropriately but also to catch the attention of the other. She asks us to wait but tells us she also waited … “Waiting” becoming “In time”. It is rather her way of making time, to model the notion that escapes her.

Then she calls me, exclaiming joyfully, to me her mother, “Ma, Ma, Ma!”

Translated by Lorena Hojman Davis