Plato's Play-Doh

Play-Doh for the Mind

Month: April, 2014

My Interview with Jacqueline Laurita

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Many people who are unfamiliar with the Real Housewives series believe that the women who make up the cast are conceited, selfish and spoiled. One woman, however, is anything but those unflattering adjectives. Her name is Jacqueline Laurita, and I would like to introduce her to those of you who are unfamiliar with her. To the mass that do know who she is, perhaps you will become even fonder of her after perusing this interview.

Jacqueline is a very strong-willed woman who has a magnificent outlook on life. A loving mother who is not afraid to back down from any challenge, she actually takes the time to learn about somebody before passing judgment, unlike many of us. Jacqueline is also very ambitious when it comes to her multiple careers, yet she somehow manages to always make time for her beautiful family.

Jacqueline’s son Nicholas was diagnosed with autism back in 2012 at the age of three, and in the years since Jacqueline has become a leading campaigner for increasing autism awareness. I asked her about views on autism, her goals for the future and how she grew into the amazing woman that she is today.

Russell Lehmann: You are revered for being a thoughtful, down-to-earth woman who loves to give back to the community and spread welfare. Where do these impressive principles and traits of yours stem from, and what have you learned from your experiences of helping those who are less fortunate than you?

Jacqueline Laurita: I think that my parents had something to do with that for sure. I was always encouraged to be honest, stay true to myself and to stay grounded. I think it also comes from my life experiences. I’ve been through a lot in my life and it has always been the support of others that has got me through the obstacles in my life. I want to be there to support others because I know how it feels. Others have been there for me. It’s a way for me to pay it forward.

You exited “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” after season five. What have you been doing with your time since?

I have been enjoying time with my family and focusing on Nicholas’s recovery, writing books on beauty and autism, which are both passions of mine. I help out my husband with his beverage company while also trying to get my beauty website launched (www.altruisticbeauty.com).
I have also been a very active advocate in the autism community by answering emails from families affected, attending autism related conferences, benefits, doing public speaking engagements and writing featured articles for magazines. I will continue to do that.

You have said that early intervention is the key to recovery. For the first half of my life I confounded doctors with my symptoms, until I was finally diagnosed with autism when I was 12. Your son Nicholas was diagnosed when he was three. You are a woman who emits vibes of positivity and optimism. Nicholas is almost five now, and so I pose this question to you:

If Nicholas wasn’t diagnosed for another seven or eight years, and you and your family were left in the dark with no idea as to how to help your son, what actions might you have taken, and do you think this hypothetical situation would have changed your bright and confident outlook on life?

I think that I would have taken each challenge as it came with the best of my ability. Regardless, I would have focused on enhancing Nicholas’s strengths and do my best to give him the tools he needed to get around whatever obstacle or challenge was in his way and to bring out the best in him. I’m all about focusing on the solutions rather than the problems. Otherwise, life can get too overwhelming.

With or without an actual diagnosis, the challenges would have eventually presented themselves and we would have had to address it and find a way to make progress by giving him the right tools he needed in order to thrive.

There is no doubt that the diagnosis definitely gave us more clarity and understanding to what we were dealing with, while also providing us with a better road map of what active steps we could take to help Nicholas, including knowing our legal rights. Regardless, I would continue to try to defy expectations. It’s never too late for anyone to learn and improve. Always believe things can get better, because they can. In coping with anything, it’s all about perception and keeping a positive attitude. Focus on the amazing “abilities” our children have and not so much on their “disabilities”. Everyone has special skills, and everyone has challenges.

Have a clear vision of what you want your future to look like. Believe you can manifest it. Make short and long-term goals while focusing and following through on them with tunnel vision and perseverance. Block out all the negative talk and choose positive thoughts and actions. Have gratitude. Continually try to defy expectations while focusing on the solutions rather than the problems when hitting any obstacle. This will help you achieve anything in life… if you believe it’s possible!

What lessons of life have you learned from having a first-hand experience with autism?

I have definitely learned patience and understanding and what’s important in life. I learned to still remember to make time for myself so that I don’t get too overwhelmed. Those small breaks help me to go back in and fight harder for my child. It’s also important to make special time with your spouse and other siblings that are not diagnosed. The experience has also taught me to be more accepting and understanding of others’ idiosyncrasies. It taught me to have gratitude and celebrate each and every accomplishment my child makes, and not take anything for granted, because I see first-hand how hard he works for those accomplishments.

I myself do not think that autism should ever be fully cured. I believe it is a gift that one must learn to live with. I couldn’t agree with you more when you say Nicholas doesn’t need to be fixed, because he isn’t broken. When did this philosophy of yours come into being and what do you think made you come to this conclusion?

I don’t see autism as being something bad or something to be ashamed of, and I never want my son to be ashamed of it either. It’s just one piece of who he is as a whole individual. He just has a different way of processing things. I know my son is brilliant and I have heard of many well-known successful people at the top of their fields who have either been suspected to have or have been diagnosed with autism. I know it’s a gift, I know my son is happy and I know he loves me. People with autism just learn and view the world differently. Different does not mean bad. It’s just different. When I say “recover” my child, I want him to recover all the skills he lost when he regressed and for him to continue to learn things that will help make his life a little easier in the future. I’m not trying to “fix” him or even make him “typical” but I am trying to give him all the tools I can provide for him to help him to become more independent. If I can do that for him and he is going to benefit from it, then I am going to keep fighting to give him what he needs. His quirkiness makes him unique and adorable and I wouldn’t want to change that for anything. He makes me smile every day. I think everyone is a little quirky. I know I am.

Autism definitely has an ugly side to it, but with that ugliness comes the opportunity to learn and grow in a very unique and special way. When times get tough and Nicholas is having a bad day, do you sometimes wish that Nicholas never had autism? Or would you rather live with the emotional wounds dealt out by the disorder, knowing that you have an ability to be much more insightful about life than the average person?

Don’t we ALL have an ugly side as well as the opportunity to learn and grow? Someone with an autism diagnosis is no different. Autism is not something that I ever wished my child would have, and it’s a different journey than the one I had expected, but it is still just as wonderful. I think it’s difficult for any parent to watch their child, typical or not, struggle with anything, so when Nicholas is struggling with something and is having a bad day, it breaks my heart.

Nicholas has struggles that my other children don’t have, but they each have their own unique struggles in life and have challenged me and themselves in different ways. I’ve hurt watching all of them struggle at one point or another. That’s a parent’s love. We all have struggles, they are just different struggles. You learn to adjust and cope. We all learn, grow and evolve. We all get frustrated with life, we all hurt at times and we all feel joy. Support from others is really important during these times.

I honestly love the journey that my son’s autism diagnosis has taken me on. I have learned so much and I have met so many wonderful, supportive people along the way. My son has brought me so much joy each and every day. All my kids are unique and I love them all.

What is your biggest stress reliever?

Venting to someone who “gets it”, then meditating while listening to positive affirmations. I like going into the Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber to relax and walking outdoors when the weather is nice. Sex works, too. (Laughs)

What do you like to do for fun, and what kind of activities does your family enjoy doing together?

I enjoy our crazy family gatherings every Sunday because they are very entertaining and always a lot of fun. I enjoy date nights with my husband as well as with other couples. We enjoy good food. My kids enjoy watching movies together. We also enjoy hiking. In the summer we rent a beach house with many of our family members. We also do a lot of fun activities in the fall at local farms. Road trips anywhere are always fun.

What do you have your sights set on for the future?

I want to continue to raise autism awareness any way I can in hopes that I can help educate people to be more understanding and compassionate toward others with autism or other idiosyncrasies. Different doesn’t mean bad, it’s just different. Acceptance is so important. Everyone can learn from each other if you allow yourself to be open to it.
I want to make a difference in this world. I have a few things in mind that I’d like to accomplish. I’ll share those at a later date.

I also have several books I’d like to write. Two of them are being written and published right now.

I have a beauty website (www.altruisticbeauty.com) that I can’t wait to launch. It’s definitely taking a lot longer than I thought to get it up and running.

I want my family to stay healthy, happy and very connected with each other. Oh…and world peace.

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No More

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4,026. I have spent 4,026 hours staring at my computer screen waiting to find love, and it hasn’t gotten me one damn thing. I have no friends, okay? I have no social life. I take my college courses online and I work at home, so where the hell am I supposed to meet a woman? I have tried so many times to immerse myself into society and make friends, but every single time it blows up in my face. The harder I try to put myself out there the worse I get hurt.

Perhaps the most infuriating element of being lonely is that people don’t understand how truly devastating and detrimental it is. The pain that stems from it is excruciating. My soul, the very essence of who I am, frenetically writhes as it is cast aflame by the smoldering remains of what my life could have been, what my life should have been, and is stoked by what my life is.

I collapse on the floor and soak the carpet with my tears multiple times a week. I become so enraged that I have to keep myself from literally tearing down my house with my bare hands. LITERALLY. I oftentimes think about putting a bullet in my brain, and wonder at what sweet rest there must be in the grave. I pray every motherfucking day that I’ll meet someone who understands my pain, for I have never met a soul who can relate to me. I suppose this is what keeps my heart beating, because although my life has been absolute shit, I somehow believe that one day I will encounter somebody who can comprehend my fucked-up life. Somehow, someway, I believe.

Since I was 14, I have wanted nothing more than to be in a relationship. Maybe this is the reason that I have spent 4,026 hours (the equivalent of 168 days or 5 ½ months) scrolling through profiles on dating sites and blindly gazing at my inbox to see if I receive a message.

I don’t date for fun. I date as a means of vetting a woman who might be compatible with me, in order to form a relationship that blossoms into something meaningful, something magical, something…beautiful.

As I have already mentioned, I have no connections to the outside world. Therefore, five years ago I took the desperate dive into the shallow pool that is online dating. As a result, I have come away with more head wounds then I ever thought imaginable.

In the years that I have been a participant in online dating, I have gone on dates with dozens of women. It is an exhausting, grueling and arduous practice. To always give every ounce of effort I have in being a gentleman. Always opening every door. Constantly paying for every dinner, movie or other event. Never letting my date walk to her car alone, even if it was a horrible date. Regularly offering my jacket when the woman seems to be cold. At all times initiating the first text to see how their day has been, and yet after all this I seemingly never receive any reciprocity. It’s a full-time job, for the reason that, unfortunately for me, I take this shit seriously. As I said before, I don’t date for fun, I date for substance.

If I am to be completely honest with you, every single woman I have gone out with has turned out to be beyond superficial. To add texture to such a rather audacious claim, allow me to lay bare the performers of this circus I have been trapped in.

 

  • Emma: After having a great first date, she told me that she didn’t want to go out again because she was gay, which she made me promise not to tell anyone. One month later I saw a photo on Facebook she posted of her and a guy, with the caption “I love my boyfriend SO MUCH!!!”

 

  • Angela: She broke up with me, just to text me a week later saying that she wanted to get back together. I texted her back, but was completely ignored. She went on to text me every month or so with such messages as “miss you” or “come on over”, which I obviously never responded to.

 

  • Chantel: We were dating for six weeks when I asked her to be my Valentine. Her response: “No thanks. I don’t see a need for such a holiday. Plus I don’t want to be committed right now”. She never spoke to me again and was in a relationship two weeks later.

 

  • Camille: This woman had a knack for ruining plans. We dated for quite a while, and at one point she had canceled on me four times in a row. So, to make things simple, I invited her over to my place. “I’m really looking forward to it!” she told me. I spent the whole afternoon making my house absolutely flawless and texted her to let me know when she was on my street, which was supposed to be any minute. She texted back “OMG! I totally forgot about tonight!” We never spoke again.

 

  • Candace: We talked over coffee for three hours on our first date. During our conversation, she told me how she absolutely hated it when people purposely ignored her texts. Our date ended, and she told me that she would like to go out again, and I agreed. She never again responded to any of my texts, calls or emails.

 

  • Seven women made it quite clear that they wanted to form a relationship with me, only to go back to their ex within a matter of weeks.

 

  • Nine different women have canceled a first date, a few of them more than once or twice. Some of them gave me a day’s notice, some an hour notice, and some notified me after I had already been stood up. Great, thanks for the heads up.

 

Online dating has become ridiculously polluted by egos, drama and dicks (literally and figuratively). Women will create a profile just so they can get more followers on Instagram. They state that they are by no means looking for a relationship, but that you should message them anyway. I assume they sign up for online dating just to boost their pride, to see how many guys will drool over them and ask them out, even when they are obviously not on the market.

If you are an average-looking woman, expect to receive around 50 messages a day from guys who just want to hook up, and be prepared to receive some unwanted pictures. All of this leaves guys like me, guys who are truly looking for a relationship, almost no chance of finding any success, and yet, I can never seem to delete my profile. Don’t ask me why, but even though I have been to hell and back enough times to accumulate frequent flier miles, I am still an overwhelming optimist, and I always tell myself that tomorrow will be the day when the woman of my dreams creates an online dating profile.

But no more. I am writing this today to tell you that I am deleting my dating profile. I am succumbing to the old adage that true love only comes to those who are not looking for it. Instead of spending hours a day searching for love online, I am going to start immersing myself in public once again, with the hopes of making connections to the outside world. I need to broaden my horizons and expand my worldly experience; I need to take my mind off of finding love and in its place focus on finding individuals who are genuine, grounded and admirable.

I need to stop looking for love, and await the moment when love starts looking for me.