Where it’s at???
I spent the last 3 days in a leadership training class at work. I am fascinated by human nature and what makes people act they way that they do. This is a group of 15 managers at my company from all over with no relationship to each other, much like the phrases in the Beck song, and we all were there to become better leaders. The feelings I had toward some of the folks initially were not the feelings I had at the end of 3 days. Relating to people in the typical world is natural, easy and ingrained. We did several exercises to “know” ourselves better and I do think I know myself, good and bad, very well. I also know that I am truly a work in progress. The most important thing I have achieved, from a personal perspective, is not to judge people. You truly do not know what another person’s baggage is; they may have tremendous personal struggles but work every day to wrestle them down. I know for me I work hard every day to think about what is good and positive in my life and not feel bad for the things that are tough or challenging. I do feel that it is a choice each day and although I have many days of sorrow and frustration, they are not nearly as many as they could be.
We each had a 360 evaluation done which includes numerical and anecdotal feedback from our peers, direct reports, manager, and clients. I braced myself when I opened the confidential envelope. The info was predictable, I was relieved. I do my typical dance of discounting the praise and sweating the criticism. Ugh. But, the most important thing really is the relating. The fact that people take the time to comment means they care and you can always make progress when that is the case.
Whenever I read a book or take a class where there is self-reflection I cannot help but think about Bryan. I wish I could just get a good feel for what he thinks. I wish I knew how he felt about himself and his autism I know he knows a lot but I don’t know what he thinks about. With Jason he asks questions about my childhood, about my likes and dislikes and he imitates me. Children with autism do not imitate. I know it sounds weird but sometimes you know a child “gets it” when they imitate. I hear Jason say my expressions and use my mannerisms. Sometimes I like it and sometimes I don’t but I know he is understanding and processing. With Bryan, aside from some language improvements the cues are very subtle. I have read lots of books by Donna Williams and have heard her speak. She is a 40+ Australian woman with Aspbergers. I heard her speak about 5 years ago. She explains how she did not speak until she was 9 and all of the things that were going on in her head. Her first book, Nobody Nowhere, was a huge eye opener for me. I wanted to throw it in the garbage and cry at the same time I couldn’t put it down. I did not read the Temple Grandin books first so Donna’s books really enlightened me. It led me to what is Bryan thinking rather than what do I think he needs to do. I felt like a voyeur reading her book and although I have read a few more of her books, nothing touched me like the first one. It opened a door for me that I did not even know was there. Stepping through the door was scary and exciting all at the same time. My boy is in there and he’s thinking and learning and doing. But, that also means he knows he is different and that the world perceives him differently. This is crushing. We all just want to belong to feel camaraderie and connect. Autism is the ultimate disconnection.