Hi Aspierations Friends,
The 41st Annual Autism Society of America Conference in Dallas, Texas has now ended. Although I really wanted to attend this year since last year's conference in St. Charles, IL was so meaningful to me and my family, we unfortunately weren't in a financial position where we could swing it in 2010 and still take care of other family priorities. I hope to have a chance to purchase the Audio / Powerpoint Conference recordings when they become available and in the interim, I will start saving money for next year's conference!
Last year's trip was part of a 3 week cross-country driving trek from WA to the Midwest to visit John's large extended family, then to IL for the conference, then to California to visit my parents and then a trip back home. We figured in order to justify the expense of traveling across country to the conference and to make sure we could give the boys a connection with family they don't see often and to not hurt any feelings, we would make sure to see family on both ends and give John the opportunity to introduce the boys to some of his extended family they had never met. It was quite the trip and although I wouldn't personally call it a "vacation" (i.e. somewhere you go to relax, refresh, re-energize and recharge), it certainly was a memorable and meaningful adventure with lots of miles and lots of smiles!
That all being said, I found myself pondering for a period of time today whether not attending the 2010 conference was a mistake, especially since I want to learn everything I can to help myself, my family and my boys. I also have lofty short-term and long-term goals for Aspierations which include published writing and public speaking. For some of my goals to come to fruition, it would certainly be helpful to take part in a conference which gives the opportunity to form meaningful connections with people of prominence, respect and reach in the autism community.
Although I allowed myself to think about that for a few minutes, knowing I may have missed a chance to gain a connection or learn about a person, product, service or company I was unfamiliar with, I realized it wasn't time for a pity party but instead, a positive party! I after all have the power of the internet at my fingertips!
It is time to be proactive, time to seize the day, time to take the opportunity to create higher expectations for myself, my family and for Aspierations. I can help my family and other families with relation to the autism spectrum right here from my computer! Each day I can do something to be a positive advocate. Today that might be blogging, next month that might be doing a web conference or speaking in an Autism Support Group meeting, next year it might be publishing a book and speaking to other Aspies, spectrum travelers and the family, friends and caregivers who support them.
When I considered why I hadn't made it a bigger priority to attend the conference this year, I realized that I was too emotionally caught up with what others in the family would think and say. Finally I can admit this!
I have a tendency to put others needs and opinions before my own and although acting selfless is certainly a fine trait to embody and something that any successful Mom or wife has to embrace at times, you aren't going to get very far in helping to empower or take care of others in life if you don't spend some time being selfish and taking care of yourself too.
I would imagine that parents of special needs children often fight these internal battles. Although it may not always feel possible, my suggestion is to try to make sure to take at least a 30 minute respite care break every day for yourself. For me, my break is often my blogging although sometimes it is an invigorating walk (sans mosquitoes) and when I'm really a lucky gal, it's a sensuous bubble bath with music, candles, chocolate and no other distractions. (Okay, that last part is a fantasy but I tell you guys and gals, I am going to make it happen!!) It can be whatever you want as long as it is something for yourself to recharge your batteries.
Unfortunately, if you're at all like me, sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the thinking that other stuff has to be done first, you don't deserve it or it will happen such and such a time (a time that never comes). Please don't get caught in that trap. You DO deserve a break (and I'm not talking McDonalds), you DO deserve time to reflect, relax and practice your spirituality, you do deserve to sometimes be selfish. I truly believe that if you're going to give 100% for your children and relationships, you have to make sure you're taken care of too. Advocate for others by first advocating for yourself.
So anyway... (I say that stuff above for you as much as to remind myself), when it came to planning to travel to this year's Autism Society of America Conference, I let myself get caught up with settling for excuses and low expectations rather than making things happen with high expectations. It would have been nice to be able to figure out a way to do it all but the fact that I didn't perhaps is more than just fortuitous because here I am today blogging to you. Maybe you are the person I need to reach today. Perhaps something I write will resonate in your life.
To this extent, I have really learned a lesson about self-care and living with ambitious expectations. I'm sure it is one I will repeat again many times in my life but I hope that each time I learn it, I get a bit wiser, a bit more faithful, a bit more confident, a bit more hopeful, a bit more of a powerhouse than a cowardly mouse.
I considered that low expectations are a byproduct of living in a complacent, reactive, status quo, perhaps even faithless, state of being. Personally, I could not imagine being happy living this type of life. When you have low expectations for your life with little hope and faith, it feels like you're always in a survival mode, living day to day.
I considered that high expectations are a byproduct of living a life filled with proactivity, purpose, ambition and passion. It is about looking for opportunities and seizing them even and especially when you're afraid. It's about helping others find their goals, passions, dreams and spirituality and empowering them to embrace what they feel is right. Empowering yourself and using your blessings and skills by paying it forward to help empower others. Falling but getting back up. Keeping your car running on 8 cylinders instead of 4. Being watchful, thankful, appreciative, spiritual and ready to take a risk if you feel you have a calling to do so. Keeping the door of communication and window of opportunity open.
Sometimes I think people are more afraid of success and being happy than they are of failing. I have a lot of fears and some really crazy phobias too but when I'm truly passionate about something, I feel a personal calling, an inspired connection or a need to seize an opportunity, that fear just isn't a mitigating factor in the equation.
I look back at my life and in some of my biggest life-changing moments, I have been in certain odd places at certain points in time which have caused my life to change course in a tremendous, uplifting, emotional and empowering way. In each case what I was doing was somewhat risky and outside what would have been considered my "normal" character. One might ask if it was destiny, free will, serendipity, the hand of God or ??? Good question! To that I would answer, if you'd like to talk philosophy and spirituality, feel free to converse with me! I'm open-minded and open to your thoughts!
I am a constantly evolving student of life and if you read and listened my last blog, you'll know that "Unwritten" is what I currently consider as my life theme song. I'd love to know what is yours!
Although I know we all go through our ups and downs, our cycles of grief and our periods of inspiration, do you have high expectations for your life or low expectations? Do you let your circumstances, friends or family speak for you or do you have the courage, strength and faith to step out and do something absolutely amazing?
I want to be an amazing role model to my sons. I want them to see that having what others perceive as a disability is just a different ability. Where there are challenges, I want them to see opportunity. I want them to feel hope, faith, empowerment, courage and unconditional love!
Aspierations visitors, I invite you to travel that road with me! Google Connect, follow, lurk, whatever but make sure to bookmark my blog and come back because we're in for an incredible journey ahead. It is quite possible that the greatest opportunities in our lives are still ahead of us and I want to make sure I'm on the lookout!
It may be rocky, we may go off course, we may lose our GPS, but we will be traveling for a higher power, a better cause and taking the opportunity to be better people, not just for ourselves but for our children, our family, our friends, our circle of faith and the world.
And by the way, check out my theme song, "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield. Watch the video! Release your inhibitions! Feel the rain on your skin! (And if you don't have rain, move up here to Washington with me!) Get inspired!
Let me know what you think! :-)