I don’t think I ask for much in life right now. I’d like to be able to exercise some, lower my blood pressure, not be as overweight, and generally feel a little better. I just want to be more than an unmotivated sloth when my kids want to do things with me, and I want to be healthy enough to live a long time with them.
I also want to do a better job advocating for autistic kids in our community and state. Our state legislature is making a mess of mental and medical health care. The wait for Medicaid waivers is close to nine years long. Our education system ranks near dead last nationally. I wish I had a lot more energy to participate in changing our state.
I want to be able to help others, be a better advocate, and more effectively stand up for the needs of my own children and children everywhere.
I don’t think I’m asking for much, but these things and others like them are important. But I suck at them right now. And it’s depressing.
And I bet you’re likely in the same boat.
I know the solution is practice and patience. So that’s what I try to do. It’s just hard to be patient when the stakes are so high. Health, advocacy, my children’s place in this world, the needs of everyone all around us and beyond, these are all fundamentally important to what it means to be an autism parent.
For exercise, I’ve started by walking as briskly as I can. I go about a mile or a little more, about the range I can go right now before I get exercise-induced migraines. I feel sorry for myself when I think about how far my body has fallen apart these past couple of years. I don’t want to be like this anymore.
But while I was out walking yesterday, I had a flash of insight. I have to allow myself to be a beginner. I have to accept that I am a beginner. I have to embrace the idea of being a beginner.
Because the way to being anything better is to be a beginner first.
Our son’s Diagnosis Day is coming soon – March 19th to be exact, and yes I do remember the exact day and everything about it. That was the day of absolute beginnerhood. I have never felt so lost as I did that day.
But it got better. It continues to get better. Time passes, we gain experience through practice, we get better at parenting. Admittedly, we weren’t exactly given a choice but to be beginners and start learning from there, but we still did it.
Next time you feel like you suck at something important – regardless of what it is and no matter how long you’ve been trying – just say, “I’m still a beginner, and I’m cool with that. I have a lot to learn. But I will keep trying until I can do it.”
Do the best you can where you are. Don’t judge yourself that you can’t do more. You’re still awesome. Eventually, with time and experience you’ll be able to. Give yourself a break about it. You’ll get there.