On Acceptance, Courage and …

Anyone with any connection to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or 12 step programs in general, has likely heard the following 25 words or something very similar:

“God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.”

This is the famous Serenity Prayer. I feel like I could use some of that right now. OK, let’s keep it real here, I could use a lot of all three. But most of all, I could use a major dose of courage. Because at times like this, it’s scary, in a humiliating kind of way, to take the steps to make necessary changes happen. Or to really accept your vulnerability. To feel that the mask of normalcy you have worked so hard on your whole life is shattering into pieces, leaving nowhere to hide. I have kept beating myself up, over and over again, about some of my shortcomings, since after all, “I’m more than intelligent enough to figure these things out.” And so, I’ve kept trying to keep afloat the ship that is my life, with a questionable degree of success. It has been an endless loop of self-defeating, failed attempts at conquering some areas in my life that, at this point, I’m evidently unable to handle without assistance. So much for being able to “pass” as neurotypical! It makes me wonder if learning to act “typical” so well was that beneficial after all. I guess I’ll never now, but it seems safe to say that it was not without some negative tradeoffs.

An obvious problem is not being taken seriously when finally reaching out for help. Never mind how patronizing, condescending and clueless people can be based on their assumptions. It’s like having a door slammed shut in your face. [RANT ALERT] Do they really think that you are just saying this because, I don’t know, you saw somebody talking on a talk show for a few minutes and “it sounded a little familiar?” Make that almost a dozen books (you might not believe how fast I can go through a book when I’m researching one of my fixations), hours of online testing and many more hours listening to the top experts in the field. A particularly annoying one: “eye contact is also culturally variable!” Like I don’t know that! What they should also know is that you can’t make assumptions and generalizations about other cultures, and force the individual into those boxes. If some cultures consider eye contact rude, it doesn’t imply that all individuals in the culture follow the same customs. Not keeping eye contact was considered rude where I grew up, not the other way around. I blame “progressive” social sciences. It’s amazing how condescending they can be in their efforts to be “inclusive and sensitive.” It has been hurtful and perplexing at the same time, because I realize that on many occasions people meant well. And letting that get in the way of finding the help I need only hurts me at the end. Would other “typical acting” people with Asperger’s feel the same way about this? I would like to know.

But there has to be a better way. There must be! It’s time to leave the hiding places and look for solutions, bracing up for the oh-so-scary changes. Let’s throw in some self-help or something, shall we? Let’s try to put this prayer thingie in “action mode” and fill in some blanks. First, acceptance. Not simply paying lip service to the concept, but truly accepting that this is me, all of it, the good, the bad and the ugly. The alternative has not worked so well, after all. It is so embarrassing! But to keep stumbling over the same bumps, to keep doing things the same way expecting to get it right, hoping for a different outcome, well, that sounds more than a little bit like the definition of insanity so often quoted in these programs, doesn’t it? Next, courage. Truth be told, I’ve been working on it, I wouldn’t be writing this if that weren’t the case. But that’s not enough. How do I find this courage to set me into action? Why should I even bother? What are the options? My mother is probably the biggest exemplar of someone that would not accept defeat . She was “the architect of her own life.” That didn’t mean that she stubbornly stayed course, unwavering, no matter what, but that she kept going and fighting regardless of how many detours and obstacles life dropped in her path. That’s as good a role model as anyone can hope for. I’m pretty sure she knew fear well. But she didn’t let it immobilize her. One of my biggest problems is the tendency to “freeze.” I can’t find a better word for it, honestly. Learning how to get unstuck would be most helpful. Third, wisdom. How do you know the difference? Who do you trust? It’s quite intimidating, especially for someone that might have difficulties reading certain cues, but I think that this is the area were the so-called support network comes into play. Uncomfortable? Yes. Intimidating? You bet. Necessary? Absolutely. I can very much relate to my daughter’s sentiment, when she said to me, after being profoundly disturbed by the changes caused by the remodeling of a neighborhood store, “I don’t like changes in my life!” I must tell myself what I told her: “Change is hard to take, but just like medicine, it can be good for you.”

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