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Thursday, April 8, 2010

An overwhelming moment, 30 minutes of bliss, and 30 minutes of panic

April 7th, 2010 will be remembered for a long time in my mind. It all started in the morning as, when I got to the office, I had four comments on my blog. As I mentioned in a special edition entry yesterday, I found that Autism Speaks had featured my blog on their Facebook page. This was a special moment.

I went to Facebook and didn't believe my eyes. On top of that the post had thirtysomething comments, so I eagerly clicked on "see all comments" with a sense of terror. Would these people say I knew nothing? I was hoping for the best and knowing I'd see the worse.

Again, as usual regarding these things, I was wrong. The comments ranged from "awesome" to "hope" to "moving" to even, "there needs to be more people like you". Like me? I was in shock as I read each comment and it was too much. I shook and could not stand so I plopped onto my office floor. This moment was far and beyond the magnitude of when I held my book for the first time. You see, anyone, in theory, could write a book. It's not so much to hold it, but rather what the effect it will have on people. Seeing these comments of those who read my story from April 2nd I finally knew, without a doubt, that I had the power to instill hope through my words.

I've had people occasionally say that it is powerful, but wouldn't anyone tell a writer this? One person could always be bias, but having 30 people all say something along the same lines must mean something, right? I finally allowed myself to believe this as I pulled myself up off the floor and sat myself back down and move on as I continued to write my article on the lack of team play.

My day was not over with that revelation that brought about a momentary jubilation. I had found out that I was going to be joining Touch Point's CEO, Ron Ekstrand, at a radio interview that will air on 106.5 the Arch and 101.1 (you may want to check if that's the right frequency) which is the ESPN radio affiliate at 7:30 Sunday morning (April 11th). You should be able to listen live at http://www.1065thearch.com/.

This interview would not have the theatrics that the Paul Pepper show had as this would be 30 minutes instead of 8. The 30 minutes flew by, but I was so at ease. Truly, I was yawning most the time I wasn't talking. When I am relaxed and content, I get in a state where I yawn and become painfully slow in my movements. It's a rare state, but I was there and through the yawns I think I did a decent job. Ron and I covered all the points we wanted and it felt like a natural conversation. You'll have to listen to find out if I'm telling the truth though.

Even after this my day was not over. It was just 12:30 and Ron and I had to get to Jefferson City to attend the Mental Health Champions banquet. I was nominated for one of the prizes, but going into the night I already knew that I didn't win (I would've been disappointed, but I didn't really know I was nominated. They said it was an honor to be nominated so I guess I am honored).

The drive to Jefferson City was nothing short of bliss as I love car trips. I am much more vocal in the enclosed environment of a car and the 100 miles or so flew by. Before I knew it we were at the Kingdom City exit and I requested that we stop at the Petro station because that's the only place I know that sells Red Bull Cola. I actually stopped there on my way to South Dakota in 2008 and because I like routines I must stop there. Whoa, come to think about it, the race weekend that inspired the "Finding Kansas" concept involved a stop there as Greg's trailer needed a new tire and we stopped there coming home.

Sorry, got sidetracked. With the Red Bull acquired it was the final 35 miles to Jefferson City. We made it to the hotel and I was in a bit of a panic. Supposedly my room was reserved, but what if it wasn't? What would happen if I had to call the phone number my dad had given me as my contact? Tense moments ensued as I walked to the counter and asked as softly, and unobtrusively, as possible that I, "think I have a room". I gave my name and it was all set and nothing traumatic or life altering occurred, but a simple task like this created so much stress.

It's not hard for me to go to a hotel and get a room that I don't have a reservation at. The conversation is easy, but what happens when I think I have a reservation is much more difficult. I have to think of all the possibilities that could ensue. If there's no reservation it's either that they have a room, or not. If I go up saying that I have a reservation and I don't the amount of ways to play that scenario is enough that expert strategists could take a week coming up with a plan. I have just myself and a couple minutes to think about it, and it's super intense and very painful.

We had just under an hour before the start of the banquet so I went to my room and got on the computer and did something I hope I do the rest of my life; send thank you notes. To most of the people that commented on Autism Speaks Facebook page I sent a message letting them know how thankful I was that they thanked me. I write without knowing if it is good. I write not knowing if it has value. They let me know that it was good and had value so I thanked them.

The banquet time was near so Ron and I headed to the atrium and to registration. He would be sitting at another table, but I didn't think much of this. I found my table and sat. Then it dawned on me, who would I talk to? Would I talk?

Slowly, the table filled. Common greetings were exchanged and I was silent. I was in "answer of least resistance" mode as I was as uncomfortable as could be. As comforting, and confident, I was during the 30 minute interview I was now in the polar opposite. I was back behind the wall.

I watched in envy as other people smiled as they greeted each other and talked with no effort. I remained in my seat, a silent observer, wondering what it must be like to be like that. I often wonder if people wonder these same things when they see me in a presentation, or hear me on the radio. I began to ponder such things to try and quell the storm of thoughts that was raging regarding the conversations that were going on around me.

The storm lasted 30 minutes, and then one lady at the table asked me who I was and why I was there. I mentioned that I was the Community Education Specialist for Touch Point Autism Services and that was it. She seemed happy with the answer, but I knew now was my time to act. If that was all I said then the rest of the night would be nothing but me in my own thoughts watching the world go by. That being so I uttered, "and I wrote a book".

"And I wrote a book" seems to have a profound impact. I impact is mutual as once I establish I am an author I am able to go into "Alias" mode. An 'alias' only works if the other person knows what alias I am. Once I am established as the "author guy who sure knows a heck of a lot of stuff on autism" is established I am able to slowly morph into the state of Kansas and am no longer paralyzed.

The banquet concluded and a long day came to an end. I don't think I've ever had quite the roller coaster day as this. From being frozen in emotions of overwhelming proportions, to being eerily relaxed at a radio interview, and to once again experiencing the normality of Asperger's. I'm glad though to have experienced those 30 minutes of torture as it keeps me honest. I won't forget who I am, or why I do this. While my stories may be about me, the education learned from it can help all. I must feel those moments of panic, as for me, now, it's all in a day's work.

3 comments:

  1. This is a very compelling look at what is must be like on the "other side of the wall." Thanks for sharing your experiences with the world through your blog. You are helping to make a difference by raising awareness!

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  2. I'm one of those Autism Speaks readers who wants to thank you. I appreciate getting a peak into your thought processes, Aaron. Bless you, gail

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  3. I knew you had something wonderful to say to the world the moment I read the first chapter of your first book. When you explained what 'Finding Kansas' was all about, I remember that I plopped onto the couch in total shock/excitement and wonder. I bet the look on my face was priceless. Your words introduced my 30 year old son to me in a way that he had been trying to share with me forever!

    You are my Idol!

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