Friday, December 12, 2014

Don't Go At It Alone

Eons ago at another church I attended, this immensely talented woman used to write entire musicals, and in one I had a solo that involved dressing up like a cowgirl. It'd be too difficult to explain this play, but let's just say picture the Island of Misfit Toys from the Rudolph Christmas special, and you'll have a bit of an idea. In this play I was a cowgirl, and I had to get up on the stage alone and sing forlornly a song that went something like:

All alone on the saddle I ride
'Cross the desert underneath the sky
No one near me to hold me down
I ride the saddle alone
...and so on and so forth. When the part got assigned, I remember being slightly miffed, because my character seemed so pathetic -- and because she'd captured my own personality, spot-on.
Yeah, I'm an introvert. I live in my head. I don't mind a day spent alone or eating a meal by myself in a restaurant (with a good book, of course). In a car full of bantering people I might just be gazing out the window, thinking. I think, then speak, and prefer small groups or to chat with one person during a noisy party.
Over time, though, I've realized that introverts still need people. And others out their need introverts and what we have to offer.
This past weekend, I was again reminded.
Friday night. I'd heard about a free event held at a local bounce place for kids on the spectrum. We'd attended in the past and had a lot of fun, but in more recent years I've felt almost guilty for going. My thought was that if my child is not profoundly affected by autism, why take up a slot from people who most benefit from these types of events? My child can go to Bounce Town anytime if he wants with minimal issues. It just felt weird; almost like stealing.
But we went. The place was packed. As always, those attending ran the gamut...from children who had trouble dealing with the noise and crowds and sat hunched in a corner, hands over their ears, to many others like Ethan who you'd have trouble identifying at a quick glance as being on the spectrum.
As I stood while Chloe crawled at my feet, watching Ethan bounce and slide, I found myself in several conversations with complete strangers. I'd forgotten this. I'd forgotten that special needs parents, especially at events like this, tend to jump past the small talk and get down to business. We're all usually so grateful to be with others who understand; who know the lingo and who aren't going to judge anyone's behavior; who are walking out similar stories.
I'd forgotten that events like these are unquestionably not just for the kids. They're for the parents as well. They're opportunities to make connections. And while our stories may not be the same, and I may not have similar struggles as those dealing with more intense issues, I can still relate better than the average parent off the street. Not only that, but I have my brother's history. I have another story I can share, another way to let others' know that I am listening and that I understand.
When did I begin to believe that I didn't need this?
The next day, the kids were with the grandparents and I knew I had to attempt another shopping trip for some dress clothes after a nightmarish experience a few days prior. I had planned to spend the afternoon in solitude, willing myself to buckle down and focus, but at the last minute changed my mind. I texted a friend to see if she wanted to go out to lunch. We met up and it turned out she needed to go shopping, too, so after lunch we braved the traffic and headed back to Kohl's.

Normally I shop like a man: in, grab something, and get the heck out of there. But sometimes that doesn't work. Not when you're having trouble finding something to wear that looks halfway decent and isn't crazy-expensive.

Christine and I ended up spending two hours in the darned store. We found clothes, tried them on, looked in the mirror, and started over again. We helped each other find items and sought each other's opinions. I made the oh-so-vital discovery that I don't need to stay shackled to the confines of the Petite department but can look for possibilities elsewhere.

I still loathe clothes shopping. But I've been reminded that shopping with someone else can make a dreaded experience a lot more fun.

This is not news, some of you may be thinking. I guess I'm talking to the introverts out there. Or maybe those who have convinced themselves that relationships are just, well, hard. I know, I've been there. But really: It's okay to need people sometimes. We don't have to be the cowgirl, always soldiering on, trying to hold the world on our shoulders, convinced that we're just fine, thank you, on our own.

Maybe we are. Maybe we do love solitude and introspection. But maybe there are times we need to crack our world open just a bit and let others in. And in the process, we allow them to see everything we've been holding inside, and all that we have to offer. And what a truly awesome exchange that can turn out to be. 

1 comment:

Tina Marie McGrevy said...

Just found your blog from Love That Max. Great stuff!

I have just recently realized I don't "get out" nearly enough. It happened slowly, over time, but I got tired of making plans and having to cancel at the last minute because of meltdowns, etc.

Just went out to lunch on Wednesday and it was amazing! Funny how we loose ourselves in this special needs world.

Great reminders! Thank you.

Tina McGrevy