April is Autism Awareness month.  This month brings about a complicated whirl of emotions as everything autism hits the news and I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating what my message would be.  On Autism Awareness day, what do I want you to be aware of?

If you asked me 2 or 3 years ago, it would have been a bitter message that ‘everyday was autism awareness day for me,’ and ‘how could anyone possibly understand how hard everyday is by simply putting on a blue shirt?’ See, here’s the thing…Like most, I was making it about me, my feelings, my personal pain. But in reality…none of it is about me!  None of us can possibly relate to others who are suffering a loss, battling an illness or living through a complicated situation. We can only relate to what we live,  what we do day in and day out, and it’s not fair to fault others who don’t have to live that reality. 

As a parent of a special needs child people often ask me, “Is there anything I can do for you?” “How is Ashton doing?” “What do you need?”  The truth is , I don’t want to answer any of these questions, and if I do, I most likely am not going to tell you the truth.

I trust that the questions come from a place of generosity and care, but where would I begin…

Whenever you suffer a trauma in your life, be it the loss of a dream, loss of a loved one, or a cancer diagnosis, you can sometimes feel like you are on an island. How do I relate to everyday life again when my life is different? How do I begin to explain my concerns when other people are concerned with where they are taking all the kids to dinner or who is hosting the neighborhood happy hour? And to be honest…it’s easy to to be bitter and jealous.

And as friends and family members, you probably feel like you are walking on eggshells….should I say this? Will she fly off the handle? Will she ignore me? Will she even answer?

I personally don’t want a hug (not a hugger here ☺) and I don’t really want to tell you how Ashton is doing in school or socially because honestly, it’s hard to talk about.

Through figuring out what Autism Parents DON’T need from others…I have come to realize what parents of special needs children DO need…

When you look at your kids, we need to know that you are GRATEFUL. We need to know that you know what you have. That you can honor and embrace what is ordinary about your life. 

After watching a Brene Brown talk (if you’ve never watched one of her videos before, prepare to have your life changed!), it hit me like a lightening bolt.  That’s it. That’s all we need.  Gratitude. Because through all of our struggles, we are grateful for our unique amazing children.  Life is made up of millions of tiny ordinary moments, and life becomes extraordinary when you remember to find gratitude for every little inch of your world; the good, the bad, the ups, the downs, the planned, the unplanned, the sublime, the mundane…and everything in between. 

I began writing this blog post one evening before bed, and the next morning went to a yoga class. In that class the teacher opened with a quote…”You don’t know what the fire feels like if you stand around it, you have to walk into it to experience it”.  WHOA…Was she talking directly to me?   This has always been the struggle, this was what I started writing about…I always blamed others for not knowing what it feels like!  But ya know what? They aren’t in the fire.  And that’s ok.  They may be in their own fire, but the reality is you just never know; so you stay grateful, you stay open and you stand boldly in your fire.   After all…its the flame of the fire that has the ability to bring light to the darkness. 

Im finally there, and it feels good.