People stress me out! So WHY do I keep planning new ways to gather people?! People. Make. Me. Nervous. I freak out a little and try to think of ways of canceling! Then I go anyway.
But, what is it about sharing your story that lightens the burden off your shoulders? I think most people know this and seek gatherings exactly for this purpose. Not me. I have hid from people my whole life, until recently. I don’t know when it happened, but I have (subconsciously) decided to need people. Well at least half of my brain has.
You may recall past posts (or not), well, about 6 months ago I started a club. An autism social learning club for my youngest child. Most of the summer we (my autism people) tried a variety of activities for our kids on the spectrum. It was an opportunity for us to get them out in the world doing things they didn’t usually want to. It was not always easy. But when you gather with others who support you, the hard times become manageable. AND the smiles from the kids finally enjoying the new activity for the first time was priceless. AND sharing that with others who knew the value in those achievements was inexplicably awesome! But even though I found this immensely rewarding, I still had my moments of dread. People, even my people, still fill me with that anti-social anxiety. I wish I knew why I was nuts, but whatever…it is what it is. What I realized was that I really like being around these people despite my crazy. I always leave feeling better than I go into it. BUT, because us parents were so busy keeping our kids involved in the activities, (having fun is serious work when your kiddo has autism) there was never enough time for us to talk. So I had this great idea. Yes, another one! A parent social gathering… Not a support group! To me, ‘support group’ had a sad vibe attached to it. In fact I went as far as calling it, the Autism Optimism Society. Besides just being super fun to say, I really wanted the title to say that we were here to be positive!
So why is optimism so important? Well, I personally have to consciously choose to look for the positives every day. I still have some big struggles with my son, but I try to see each day as a another opportunity to get closer to our goals. I know I’m not alone, so I thought maybe we needed like a team. You know, like a cheer squad (except for introverts). So anyway, I try not to dwell on the tough stuff I can’t change. I want people around me who feel the same, otherwise…well there is no otherwise. Church and prayer helps. Eating fatty, salty foods pretend helps. Chocolate, YES. Painting my frustrations is a tangible way to express feelings when I can’t break stuff!!! Sometimes I write a really bad, sad poem. Surprisingly helpful, too. But talking with my people who get it has been something I didn’t realize I would value this much. Maybe that is in fact my prayers being answered.
So anyway, AOS was officially born last week. Our first parent “social”. And after I worried and dreaded and apologized for my lack of hosting skills and nervously chattered on until I settled in, I realized, “man, I REALLY am happy to be here!”. (Good thing I didn’t listen to my annoying side of my brain). We had dessert, and we talked until we ran out of time. And guess what…it WAS totally a support group after all. I could have called it anything I guess, because people do what people do. We share. All the happy and the sad. All the achievements and the struggles. And what’s so wrong with that? Nothing. It was exactly what I needed. And I realized that the optimism I want doesn’t have to come as cheers. I’m optimistic because I know I have support. I’m optimistic because others have walked this path before me and with me, and there is a lot to be learned from them. I am optimistic because even those I envy, have their own struggles. Are mine really worse…or just different? I’m optimistic because inspite of everything, or maybe because of everything, I’m very happy! And my great support system is a huge part of that.
You know what?… I just had another GREAT idea for a social night. I know, I know…
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