“Don’t know if I’m elated or gassy, but I’m somewhere in that zone!”

Never has a Disney quote been more perfect than my favorite line from Frozen is to my day!  I had a business meeting over lunch, during which I ate half a grilled cheese and some tomato soup.  The food was heavy, and my body has been angry with my all day…. my stomach, my blood sugar, everything… but my taste buds still dance when I think of my lunch!  I’m not quite sure if the unusual feeling in my tummy is a result of the food or the amazing news I received during the meeting!  

I’m a big believer in the idea that we put entirely too much stock in false dichotomies.  Example: Margery Kempe was a 12th century British woman who was so over-the-top devoted to God that she would spend days on end sobbing when she merely thought of Christ on the cross.  In my Medieval Lit class, we spent all week discussing whether she was extremely devout or just totally off her rocker.  I spoke up and said, “Why does it have to be either-or?  Why couldn’t she be incredibly devout AND have mental illness?”

Along that line, I submit that elated and gassy are another such false dichotomy.  

I also submit that I think I’m hilarious right about now.

So, with that, I guess I’ll get back to my homewo–… wait, what’s that?  You want to know WHY I’m elated?  I’d be all too glad to tell you!

There’s a place in a nearby town… twenty minutes from the nursing home and maybe 45 from my parents’ house. The center does serve many parents, it welcomes autistic people, their families, and anyone who has any interest in anything to do with ASD.  While it may be small in size, it’s very mighty in its service to our community.  The founder is a woman with a young adult son on the spectrum, and she is so full of vision and heart for the autism community.  I’ve been to the center a few times in recent months.  I especially like the Young Ladies’ Group, where I can chat with some of the older girls and mentor some of the younger ones.  I’ve connected with one of the moms who works at the nursing home where I live, and I love when she pops in and chats with me as I’m waking up at the crack of noon.  I love sharing what I know as a girl with my own share of -isms… that being different is infinitely more valuable than being like everyone else!

I met with Mary, the owner, today, to chat about some ideas she has… like I said, she is a woman with a vision!  She asked if I might be able to work there one day a week to do some office work, especially to redesign their website.  I’ll also be posting photos and announcements to Facebook.  Then, when I’m there, my mom will help out as a volunteer in some other office work.  Mary also had the brilliant idea that I could design some greeting cards with my art and quotes from my writing, and we could sell them at the center.  I spent today putting some ideas together, and I’m so excited to see them in print!

As we were talking, I asked her whether she had thought about having an autistic person serve on her board, to represent the perspective of the people she serves… and she asked me to fill that seat!  One of the strongest attributes in a leader is her ability to work with others and take their thoughts into account.  I’m so honored to be trusted to listen to the ideas of the others in the center and represent the autistic voice to the board.

I’ve been working for the last five years to get to this point… the point of being respected as a true professional in the autism community.  While some of my ideas tend toward the radical side, I try to always keep in mind that not everyone is at the same point on their journeys as I have gotten to on mine; it took me years to get here.  If I want people to come to “see the light,” or, rather, the positivity in autism, attacking and accusing them is not the way to change their minds.  In fact, I don’t think of it as changing minds so much as opening them to the idea that there is another way out there to look at autism, and that this perspective results in relationships based on positivity and respect.

When I’m at the center, I’m not only respected professionally, but my voice is also valued as an autistic person… and as a friend.  As I said to a mom recently, “I no longer see autism as my diagnosis; it’s my community.  It’s how I find my people.”

Thank you, each of you, for taking this journey with me!

(Images below are of my cards… photos and poetry are my own).

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