Interviewed & Written By: Caela Collins
Fear, a shadow we know all to well.
Something that comes knocking at our door
Regardless of any socially constructed differentiation that would coin any human as “other.”
Fear has no preference or boundaries for human territory.
It is inevitable in all of our lives;
Taking the form of layered mist, concealing the road ahead.
How far can you truly run to safe haven, with shadows attached to your heels?
Running: A survival instinct.
Running puts distance between you and the threat
And in the same stride, running also puts distance between you and the confident gift of faith.
Allow fear to knock on your door.
Give fear a seat at your dinner table.
Look fear in the eyes even if your heart, hands, and voice tremble.
And embrace a sacred space with fear to have a brave conversation.
After all, this is your home.
How close can you truly come home to yourself, while shining your light against the shadows?
Faith: A spiritual instinct.
Having faith in the same God who birthed galaxies, blessed you with the light of hope in the dark depths of a whale’s abdomen, quiet a lion’s roar to conceal it’s snarling fangs, crush venom by the fleshed heel, make giants tumble down to your toes, and effortlessly built the air you breathe.
The very air ironically prickling your nose hairs as you run.
Even though your stomach churns and legs quiver,
You hear God’s words: “Turn back my child.”
Fear is inevitable in all of our lives but Faith is too.
Allow fear to bang against your door.
Tell fear to have a seat at your dinner table.
Hold fear deep in your gaze.
And take up space where fear has no option but to have a brave conversation.
After all, this is your home.
What matters is your execution in how you address the shadow of fear.
Who are you when fear is watching?
How faithful are you in the midst of mist?
-Poem for National Poetry Month: In the Midst of Mist By: Caela Collins
I came across a post today on Instagram that said “Let go of what you think it must look like.” How often do we lean on our on understanding? How quickly do we take a leap of faith over sprinting for the hills when fear is on our heels? If you’re being honest you may be leaning more towards less times than you’d like to admit. I had the opportunity to discuss what it’s truly like to be faithfully brave in the midst of mist with my coworkers and friends, Alison Hollo and Roxy Flores as they detailed their experience with Autism which was described as never truly knowing what’s next but having faith that everything will be okay even in the unknowing.
These women have inspired me and taught me so many lessons just in the 30 minutes we had to talk. They both have a commonality within the month of April: Autism Awareness Month. Alison, Senior Administrator, Office of the Episcopate and Roxy, Receptionist & Administrative Assistant at The Commons both have children with Autism.
As a storyteller there is no rhyme or reason when it comes to highlighting the stories of others; I’m merely a spectator who is often invited front and center to gain a small glimpse into their world. I like to search for meaning in all of the stories that I source. I hope to share lessons and widened perspectives that I know the readers and larger ECCT community can welcome into their homes. Most importantly, I offer an opportunity to merge worlds.
Making plans are quite easy; it’s having overly defined expectations in life that completely get molded into something different which is difficult. The hard truth is that there’s no book you can read to fully understand Autism because it ranges in such a wide variety from person to person. It is a collective of individuals who differ even in language: identity first language (I’m Autistic) or person first language (I have Autism). Identity is personal and boils down to the way a person wants to self-describe.
There’s a level of acceptance that comes along with experiencing Autism because it lacks expectation and embraces what is. It’s a level of acceptance that can beautifully create a ripple effect within the lives around those who don’t have Autism. With that acceptance a lot of things are gained:
- Slower pace *life is more enjoyable in its granular & singular moments
- Growth in Empathy
- More patience
- Higher level of observance
- Open mindedness
The Metamorphosis of Achievements
I urge you to become resistant to what the world has taught you around achievement. When we look at achievements we tend to measure them in an astronomical way because we’ve been ingrained to believe that bigger is better and louder is more powerful but speaking with these two ladies proved how inaccurate that notion is.
When it comes to Autism, you learn that every small thing matters in a major way. Roxy’s 4 year old son recently learned how to wave at people in his own uniquely designed way, with his palm facing his face; it makes her eyes light up and chuckle just talking about it. His quirkiness is an adventurous exploration that reframes a new (and cooler) way to say “Hi.” Alison’s 22 year old son recently learned how to read on his own and although it took a higher level of persistence along his journey, there was no denying the joy that beamed from Alison’s aura when she expressed this achievement. Her son’s determination to unlock the power of words in spite of difficulty affirmed that good things do indeed come to those who build mental strength to endure the hard work of dedication.
What’s beautiful is that through the major feats within their children’s lives, it has reshaped the way they view their own achievements.
- Everything is a celebration or small party where everything you do gets cheered on:
I woke up today, yay! I got to work safely, yay!
Steeped in Gratefulness
Going back to the misconception of bigger being better, I realized the true power in experiencing Autism through the lens of it’s small lessons. The unique nature of people with Autism is so parallel to an art gallery filled with experiential artwork: a range of new ways to experience form. To expand palates that didn’t realize how much starvation of joy took place under the projection of their own harsh expectations. Autism reminds us that we truly have a creative God, one that’s an artist.
There is a joy that comes with the erasure of expectations when you are grateful for singular moments, or like Roxy says “I can’t see further than my nose right now.”
- You don’t take anything for granted anymore because you’re rooted in gratitude. *Alison
Growing into the shoes of a better version of yourself sounds exciting in theory but it’s not a curated path that’s neatly paved and always filled with sunny days. Both Alison and Roxy are still on their journey with Autism but the undertone felt more than hopeful. I was able to see how grounded these women were when placed in positions to stand firm in the midst of mist. They travel forward each day and don’t run away from fear.
Autism is unnavigated territory but much like life, we only know and understand the present. The past no longer exists and the future can’t exist because it hasn’t arrived yet.
- Having a child with autism makes you more aware, forgiving, a better person, grounded, and thankful/grateful.
- Don’t have pity on us – it’s one of the greatest gifts.
- I’m a better person because of Autism.
- Not easy but full of lessons.
- Try not to judge and criticize when you see a parent struggling.
- Be graceful and kind, patient to everyone.
- Interacting with those who are/have Autism make their life more full and make their day.
- Reframe the terms “regular” or “normal” to typical.
- It is okay if your child is born differently – different is not bad.
- It’s a learning process daily versus monthly experience.
- Knowing more people within that community is important, so be open and connect with others who have similar experiences.
Episcopal Resource for Autism:
A worship experience & program that especially supports children on the Autism Spectrum, but children with other special needs are encouraged to attend. hear a bible story, interact in therapeutic arts and crafts projects and share communion in a child-friendly environment.