When our younger son was diagnosed with cancer last year, not surprisingly, I was terrified. I had no idea what to do or think or say. I was paralyzed.
That first night, I sat there and thought, What do I do now? I realized I didn’t really have any choice what to do. I had to go toward him and his diagnosis, just like I had to do when our older son was diagnosed with autism.
I learned in the process that going toward what scares us is the only way through it. If you think about it, we spend most of our lives avoiding things like this, and rarely does that work out very well for us. We just end up stuck in the same place we always are.
We’re afraid to brave the stores for fear of meltdowns. We’re afraid of trips and being away from home because of all sorts of reasons. We’re afraid of IEP meetings because we don’t know what fights await us. We’re afraid of anything that is unknown to us, which really is just about everything if you think about it.
We also may avoid people in pain. We shrink back from the struggles of others. We go numb to the anguish around us. We protect ourselves from the feelings that come when we share in others’ suffering. I learned about this in the pediatric oncology unit at the hospital. So much hardship, so much loss, so much heartache, so much pain. But also so much hope and strength I never understood before. So much they had to teach me.
We can spend most of our lives avoiding unknowns, and it seems like it doesn’t cost us much. A lot of the time we aren’t even aware we’re doing it.
But it does come with a cost. It comes with a sacrifice of growth and possibility. It comes with a loss of potential and opportunity. We won’t experience the same relationships and depth. We’ll never know what can be if we don’t go toward what we’re scared of.
Easier said than done, I know. But as with many things, what we’re doing right now isn’t working that well for us. Be honest. The better approach is to try something new, something bolder.
You’re an autism parent. You already know how to be bold. You didn’t have much choice but to learn how. Summon that one more time, then again, then again. Go toward something that scares you. Try.
It’ll be hard. Maybe this next time it’ll be a failure. Who cares? Maybe it won’t. It’s highly unlikely it will kill you. Maybe, just maybe, it will transform you. But I do know that doing nothing just keeps you right where you already are, scared and nowhere near where you want to be.
You already have courage. Reach down and get some of it. Then go toward something that scares you.